It Stays with You: Use of Force by UN Peacekeepers in Haiti

Directors: Cahal McLaughlin, Siobhán Wills

Rating: 5/5

It Stays With You was showcased at the 2018 CaribbeanTales Film Festival and is a dark dismal documentary about the unseen side of United Nations peacekeeping efforts. The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, also known as MINUSTAH, an acronym for the French name, was a United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti that was in operation from 2004 to 2017. The mission’s military component was led by the Brazilian Army, and the force commander was also Brazilian. In December 2006, The MINUSTAH entered a community in an operation that was meant to target gang members, who were terrorizing areas in and around Port – Au Prince.

The raid was lauded as successful the following day, as there were no casualties to the MINUSTAH team. However, the raid resulted in the deaths of 20-something residents including women and children, and the destruction of property, leading to homelessness and loss of livelihood. The dead and injured were unable to be treated at nearby hospitals because the staff had vacated the premises earlier. There were numerous preventable deaths and infections that occurred. The UN and MINUSTAH as well as the Haitian government at large has to date offered no form of apology to the members of the community or provided assistance to the victims.

The first half of the documentary features victims who were present that night. They all have harrowing tales of seeing their friends and family members gravely injured or mortally wounded before their eyes. They describe the panic, fear, and desperation they experienced. In the second half of the film, there are scholars, lawyers, and politicians giving their insights into what led to this botched operation and examining the aftermath. A number of points were brought up including the fact that policing a region where the demographic is poor, often uneducated, marginalized, and speaks a language that is different from the security force, all combine to create a perfect storm so to speak.

The residents in the community were not treated with dignity before, during, or after the raid because of who they were and the limitations and disrespect placed on them by society and the very organization that claims to be working on their best interest. The UN is lauded with providing assistance to those in need and being a beacon of goodwill and virtue. However, this film sheds light on what can go wrong when help is offered out of context, without regard for the lives of those who cannot fight for themselves and the chilling nonchalance with which the end product is regarded. The UN failed, murdered with impunity, and left a community shattered.

It Stays With You is a fitting title for the tragedy which befell that community in the wee hours of
the morning. The lives of those involved were never the same. The physical and emotional scars
are as fresh as the day they were inflicted. The documentary is harrowing; it is grim, triggering
but in a sense inspiring. The community members have carried on living life in the only way they
know how. Never forgetting the events of that night and the people they lost. In the face of such
darkness, resilience brought them through as it will in the many years to come.

This documentary is not for the faint of heart so be warned that there is graphic content. That being said, it is a must watch film for those who are interested in Human rights, international law, politics and policy, classism, racism, and those interested in dissecting hidden aspects of humanitarian aid missions.

Nekisha M.

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