Washington: Haitian police killed several unarmed inmates in a prison in Les Cayes, one week after the January 12 earthquake, and blamed the massacre on a prison ringleader, The New York Times reported after investigating the deaths.
According to a confidential UN report and testimony of former inmates, prison workers and relatives of the deceased, the daily said the prisoners were not armed at the time, were made to lie down and were shot.
Police said they found the bodies after storming the prison to quell a riot and blamed the murders on a ringleader, identified as Ti Mousson, who they claim shot fellow inmates who refused to join him in fleeing the compound.
Mousson is now at large, the daily said.
The alleged police massacre took place one week after the earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince and its surroundings killing as many as 300,000 people, but left Les Cayes largely unscathed though with its population unnerved.
Two cooks who were inside at the time of the prison unrest said they saw no bodies when police stormed the compound. Former inmate Kesnel Jeudi said police made prisoners lie down and "while the prisoners were lying down -- they began firing."
Jeudi told the daily the police shootings involved some settling of scores: "There were people they selected to kill."
Most accounts put the number of dead from 12 to 19, with up to another 40 inmates wounded. The bodies were buried in an unmarked, common grave, the daily said.
"For four months, American and United Nations officials have made no public comments about the killings at Les Cayes, saying they were urging the Haitians to handle the matter themselves," The New York Times said.
After pressing US officials on the issue, it added, the United Nations mission chief in Haiti, Edmond Mulet, ordered the UN police commissioner there to begin an independent inquiry.