Haitian Judge Ezekiel Vaval convicted eight police officers on Thursday for their participation in the shooting and killing of at least 10 prisoners after the January 2010 earthquake [JURIST news archive]. The judge also found that six other police officers were innocent. One of the convicted officers fled the country before the trial and was convicted in absentia. The officers were accused of murder, attempted murder and other crimes during a prison riot in Les Cayes. The decision was based on numerous witness testimonials. The sentences range from two to 13 years of hard labor. Twenty-one other officials fled before the trial, and the court plans to try those officials in absentia in the near future. Haiti has been criticized [text] in the past for its failure to investigate and convict officials for human rights violations.
The trial was initiated after a spokesperson for the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti [official website] announced [JURIST report] in 2010 that it launched an investigation into the shootings. Haiti faced difficulty in maintaining [JURIST report] law and order during the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. Numerous prison inmates of the main prison in the capital Port-au-Prince escaped [JURIST report] when it collapsed during the earthquake.