PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Haiti’s justice minister on Saturday accused U.N. peacekeepers of violating their mandate, saying the force blocked police officers from observing a protest in a slum stronghold of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
The remarks could bring a confrontation over areas of responsibility between Haiti’s U.S.-backed interim government and the 7,400-member U.N. peacekeeping force tasked with supporting the government and restoring a stability that remains elusive one year after Aristide fled a rebel uprising.
On Monday, witnesses say, police fired into demonstrators flanked by U.N. troops. The protesters were marking the anniversary of Aristide’s flight and demanding his return from exile in South Africa.
Two men lay dead after the shooting. Police say they fired tear gas.
Justice Minister Bernard Gousse said police who tried to observe another march Friday in the slum stronghold of Bel Air were blocked by U.N. troops.
Gousse said soldiers told police to retreat – a move he called a violation of the U.N. mandate to support Haiti’s police.
“They didn’t say ‘please don’t show up.’ They told police in an aggressive way not to show up,” Gousse told the Associated Press. “This is not in accordance with the (U.N.) mandate and since police weren’t informed about the protest we see this as a breach.”
In a statement Friday, the U.N. peacekeeping mission said police agreed to restrict their presence.
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