By Joseph Guyler Delva
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Aug 7 (Reuters) - Two Haitian policemen were severely beaten by U.N. peacekeepers in Haiti’s largest and most violent slum, a local municipal official and witnesses said on Thursday.
They said the seemingly arbitrary attack on the plainclothes officers, identified as Osnald Denis and Donson Bien-Aime, occurred on Wednesday in Cite Soleil, a teeming warren of shanties on the south side of the impoverished Caribbean nation’s capital.
Cite Soleil Mayor Wilson Louis, in an account supported by several witnesses, told Reuters about 10 Brazilian members of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Haiti took part in the beating.
"I can confirm that the two policemen were severely beaten up by Brazilian troops of the U.N. mission here," Louis said.
"We deplore and condemn this behavior and those at fault should be punished," he added.
Eyewitnesses said the U.N. troops ordered the policemen to leave the area during a security operation along narrow streets and back alleys once the fiefdom of armed gangs whose leaders were mostly loyal to ousted former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
The two policemen had properly identified themselves but were beaten, one of them into unconsciousness, after refusing to leave the area, said one witnesses, who gave his name as Maxon Edouard.
Louis said the policemen were being treated for their injuries in a local hospital and senior Haitian police officials had no immediate comment on the incident,
But U.N. spokeswoman Sophie Boutaud de la Combe said the incident was under investigation and vowed that appropriate sanctions would be applied if the allegations of abuse and excessive use of force were confirmed.
The U.N. peacekeeping force — currently 6,800 troops and nearly 2,000 police — returned to Haiti after Aristide was ousted in an armed rebellion in February 2004.
President Rene Preval authorized the peacekeepers to launch a crackdown on Cite Soleil’s notorious gangs to pacify the slum shortly after he took office in May 2006. (Editing by Tom Brown)