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Posted Saturday, July 28, 2007
In Haiti, a sharp increase in lynchings and other mob attacks
By The Associated Press

The top U.N. official in Haiti denounced a sharp increase in lynchings and other mob attacks, including the killing of two innocent men as they traveled to a wedding.

At least six people were killed by mobs in a single week in different attacks this month, according to the U.N. mission's human rights section. At least 105 people have been reportedly lynched in Haiti since 2005.

"There have been a very large number of lynchings in the past months and weeks. We do hope this will not become a trend," Edmond Mulet, the special U.N. envoy to Haiti, told The Associated Press Friday in an interview.

He blamed the rise in part on a lack of confidence in Haiti's notoriously corrupt judicial system, which keeps hundreds of people imprisoned without trial while others who can afford a bribe walk free.

"You have cases of gang leaders being released after paying judges," Mulet said. "The population knows, so they're fed up ... and they take justice into their hands."

Lynchings have become more common especially in rural areas of the Western Hemisphere's poorest country, where police presence is thin and courts barely operate.

Mulet described an incident from earlier this month when two men traveling to a wedding near the coastal town of St. Marc were mistaken for kidnappers who had abducted several people the night before. A car knocked the men off their motorcycle and a crowd beat them to death with rocks and sticks.

Police arrested 10 people in the killing. All but one was later released.

Thiery Fagart, the head of the U.N. mission's human rights section, said his office interviewed witnesses to the attack and found that "perfectly innocent victims were targeted."

"It is extremely alarming," Fagart told reporters.

Mulet said the U.N. mission will launch a campaign to remind people that lynching is a crime, and is urging church leaders to denounce the practice.

About 9,000 U.N. peacekeepers are in Haiti, deployed after a 2004 revolt ousted former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

The U.N. mandate in Haiti expires in October, but the Security Council is certain to renew it.

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