By Tamara Luisce, UNU-IAS
One of the biggest challenges that the United Nations has had in the past decade has been the peacekeeping operations in Haiti. The United Nations Stabilization Mission In Haiti, better known as MINUSTAH, for its acronym in French, began operations in Haiti in 2004. MINUSTAH has been highly criticized not only by local groups in Haiti but also by multiple countries and international watch groups. The main criticisms mentioned are the irresponsible use of force, rape and the cholera outbreak of 2010.
On 15 November 2017, the United Nations University Headquarters in Tokyo hosted a screening of “It Stays With You: Use of Force by UN Peacekeepers in Haiti”. The screening was followed by a conversation with Co-producer and Co-director Siobhán Wills, Professor at Ulster University’s Transitional Justice Institute. The event was very popular and many people attended the screening including many diplomats and most of the UNU-IAS postgraduate students and researchers.
The documentary premiered at FOKAL Cultural Centre, Port-au-Prince, on June 2nd, 2017 and showcases the impact of MINUSTAH’s offensive stabilisation operations in the Cité Soleil commune in Port-au-Prince. The documentary contains multiple interviews with affected locals that narrate their experience. Expert commentary from local and international groups is also provided. The impact of the violence, as well as the aftermath and the lives of the survivors in the past 10 years, is at the centre of the discussion. This documentary raises important questions about accountability from the United Nations Peacekeeping operations.
The format of the documentary is simple yet powerful. There is no narrator or introduction. From beginning to end, survivors are narrating their experience from their homes in Haiti. One can witness the conditions in which they live and see their family members around them. In several occasions, survivors point at the exact locations in which gunshots were shot and victims were murdered. They also show their wounds and scars and the destruction left behind. Experts discuss several issues on accountability and narrate the actions that led to this predicament. One of the key factors or conditions that drove this excessive use of force and was discussed by one of the experts is the training given to Brazilian peacekeepers. The expert mentioned that these peacekeepers were being trained to intervene in Brazilian slums or Favelas were many gangs are highly armed. In Haiti, this training translated into excessive use of force, to say the least.
Following the documentary, Professor Siobhán Wills received many questions regarding the making of the documentary and also on the response from the United Nations. During the making of the documentary, MINUSTAH staff and other relevant UN agencies were unresponsive to the filmmaker’s interview requests. On October 15, 2017, MINUSTAH ended its term in Haiti and was replaced by MINUJUSTH, established by Security Council resolution 2350 (2017) for an initial period of six months.
A portion of the documentary is freely available on its website, itstayswithyou.com. There is also a contact form to submit questions and requests to the filmmakers.