AS the countdown begins for exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's scheduled Oct. 30 return to Haiti, the international community is increasing pressure to ensure a smooth transition from military to democratic rule.
Perhaps the most visible sign of this will be the presence of 567 United Nations Police Monitors (UNPM) and a 700-man military construction unit. On Sept. 23, the UN Security Council unanimously approved Resolution 867 that calls for immediate deployment of this 1,300-man team. They have a six-month term at an initial cost of $55.2 million.
UN Special Envoy Dante Caputo, coordinator of the UN Civilian Mission here, will also oversee the Technical Mission. Mr. Caputo mediated the Governors Island Accord, the agreement that provides specific steps to return a democratic government to Haiti, which was signed by the head of the Haitian Army, Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras and Fr. Aristide July 3.
Caputo says the aim of the mission is to ``... maintain peace. It is of a strictly technical nature corresponding to the Governors Island Accord, and not, in any sense, anything other than a mission of assistance.'' US troops to leave this week
US officials announced Tuesday that some 600 military engineers, medical, and civil affairs specialists will begin moving to Haiti this week. Their work will focus primarily on reparation and construction of roads, schools, and clinics. Two US ships carrying the soldiers and heavy equipment are expected to arrive in Haiti by Oct. 11.
``If the boats come with anything other than equipment for construction, we will not accept it, and this government will resign,'' said Prime Minister Robert Malval, replying to accusations that the mission is an intervention force.
Many Haitians are eager to see the improvements promised by the military technicians. But some human rights groups have expressed concern about the UNPM who are slated to begin their work with existing members of the Haitian police.
There is currently a bill in parliament to create an independent police force, which is a requirement of the July 3 accord. But neither house has been able to reach a quorum to discuss the bill that would transfer the police from the Defense Minister's jurisdiction to the Justice Minister's.
The UNPM are to work with the Haitian police at all levels ``to provide guidance and advice, monitor the conduct of police operations, and ensure that legal requirements are met and police actions correctly executed.'' Their training will be conducted by ICITAP, the International Criminal Investigation Training Assistance Program of the US Department of Justice.
``Training without accountability and an end to gross abuses is simply not enough to ensure respect for human rights,'' Human Rights Watch wrote in a Sept. 15 letter to the US Justice Department. ``The State Department has promised that participants in the US programs will be vetted to exclude human rights violators, but we are unaware of any practical program for doing so. The task of purging the Haitian Army is particularly urgent because violence is accelerating against Aristide backers who dare to express their support publicly.''
Haiti's Justice Minister Guy Malary said he would consider Human Rights Watch's recommendations and ``... try and catch human rights violators and bring them to justice. But for that we need reforms in the justice system, which doesn't answer to the current demands.'' Continued violence
The UN has registered 50 killings in Port-au-Prince in just the first three weeks of September. That does not account for a much higher percentage of disappearances.
``Attaches [armed civilians] have been more aggressive over the last three weeks,'' said Civilian Mission Director Colin Granderson. ``The UNPM are coming into a very difficult situation. We're at the final moment of our crisis. The people responsible for the aggressions are aware of the stakes. Passion and tension are rising versus a period of reconciliation.''
``At least half the enlisted men are probably engaged in human rights violations or drug trafficking,'' says a diplomat who is working closely with the UN team. ``But we are not teaching them techniques of abuse. We'll be teaching them proper behavior.''
The first group, 50 Royal Canadian Mounted Police, will arrive Oct. 7, followed by another 50 on Oct. 20. France, Italy, Tunisia, Venezuela, Argentina, and Austria have expressed an interest in the mission, but their participation is not yet confirmed.
The UNPM will wear the uniforms of their countries, along with the UN badge and blue beret. They will receive several weeks of training in Haitian history, language, and culture before they begin field work. After they have established headquarters in the capital, they will open offices in the countryside.
``Initially, we will not be armed,'' explained Canadian Jacques Lemay, Commissioner of Police for the UN Civilian Police. ``We will advise and guide the local police force in their daily activities. If we witness violations, we report them to our representatives and wait for instructions from the UN as to what kind of action they wish us to take, if any.''