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About the Project

Funder: AHRC – GCRF
Awarded: 64,753.84 GBP
Duration: 1/08/19 - 30/06/20
Staff Involved: Siobhán Wills, Cathal McLaughlin (QUB)


In addition to peer reviewed academic articles, the AHRC project AH/N00793X/1, produced a film using participatory practices, 'It Stays With You: Use of Force by UN Peacekeepers in Haiti' which presents testimonies of survivors whose loved ones were killed or injured by MINUSTAH during heavily militarised law enforcement operations targeted at gang violence. The film has been shown internationally (see for details). It was screened as a side event at the Human Rights Council session in July 2018 and has been selected for the Amnesty International Film Festival, France, 2019.

On 26 June 2018, we received an email from Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, in response to nine months of emails to him and a visit by us to MINUJUSTH (the UN mission in Haiti that replaced MINUSTAH) seeking an investigation. Lacroix thanked us for drawing his attention to the issues raised in the film, assured us that the United Nations (UN) is taking the issue seriously and that he will respond with further details in due course. We believe it is important to continue to raise awareness and press for an investigation up until the UN provides a public response that addresses the concerns of those affected.

Therefore, we plan to expand our impact and engagement activities internationally, focusing in particular on Brazil because militarised law enforcement operations similar to ones conducted by MINUSTAH in Haiti have recently been undertaken in Brazil's favelas and refugee camps leading to deaths and injuries - and to a perceived lack of accountability for the actions of the armed forces.

The Port-Au-Prince Rio Connection

Brazil contributed the commanders and most of the troops to the UN mission in Haiti. It has been argued that MINUSTAH provided the opportunity for 'acquisition and/or improvement of skills and knowledge related to social control and pacification, which could be adapted and executed in any other (urban) context'.'

The Vila Cruzeiro operation in 2010 is one example of a law enforcement operation in which dozens of bystanders were killed.

The commander, General Sardenberg, served in the first Brazilian contingent and more than half of the 800 members of the Brigada de Infantaria Paraquedista were Haiti veterans (Harig, 2015).

The right to public security and justice branch of the NGO, Redesdamara, based in the Maré, reports that in 2018, 19 people were killed through interventions by state actors in Maré and that at least one person was killed in every police operation. Militarised interventions have increased markedly in 2019 under Bolsanaro’s government.

In the first six months of the year there were 21 military police interventions in the Maré community alone as compared with 16 in the whole of 2018. The Minister for Institutional Security since January 2019 is General Heleno, MINUSTAH’s first force commander, who was in command during the heaviest intervention in Cité Soleil, Operation Iron Fist, in which MINUSTAH fired 22,700 bullets, 79 grenades and 5 mortars in a densely populated neighbourhood where many people lived in shacks built of salvaged metal.

The US Embassy in Haiti acknowledged these homes were easily penetrated by bullets resulting in many ‘unintended deaths.’ Heleno has praised the ‘flexibility’ of MINUSTAHs rules of engagement and demands similar flexibility to deal with gang crime in Brazil. He is also seeking immunity from prosecution for Brazilian military police, arguing that Brazilian law enforcement agents need similar immunities to those of the UN mission, MINUSTAH.

Project plan

We will work with our project collaborators to screen the film It Stays With You: Use of Deadly Force by UN Peacekeepers in Haiti, and discuss the issues it raises with communities affected by similar operations. Our first screening is in the Centro de Artes da Maré - Redes da Maré in the New Holland neighbourhood of the Maré community at 2pm on Monday 14th October.

Using participatory practices, we will produce a new film about security operations in popular neighbourhoods of Rio de Janeiro and expand our website with filmed testimonies, focusing on survivors and medical professionals.

We will use the film and website to raise awareness of the right to life violations by the army and police in Brazil and to highlight the connections with MINUSTAH - and to pressure the UN to promulgate standards designed to ensure that both the UN and its member states comply with human rights standards in all militarised law enforcement operations.