Journal reconsiders article about Haiti rights abuse
A British medical journal is investigating whether an author of its current report about abuses in Haiti was too close to her subject.
(AP) -- The British medical journal The Lancet is investigating an alleged conflict of interest by an author of a report that claims 8,000 people were slain under Haiti's interim government.
A critic of the study accused one of the report's authors of being a supporter of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whose ouster following a violent uprising led to the installation of the U.S.-backed interim government that ran the country from 2004 to 2006.
Astrid James, a deputy editor of The Lancet, said Thursday that the journal is investigating the allegations ''as quickly as we can'' but still stands by the report, carried in the current issue, which also said up to 35,000 women were sexually abused while the interim government ruled.
''We're obviously concerned by what we've heard and we're conducting our investigation, and we have asked for more information from the authors,'' James said from the journal's London headquarters.
The journal began its inquiry after learning that Athena Kolbe, one of two U.S. authors of the report, had volunteered in 1995 at an orphanage founded by Aristide and has written in various publications in support of Aristide.Kolbe, whose full name is Athena Lyn Duff-Kolbe, is a researcher at Wayne State University in Detroit. She denied any conflict.
''There is no bias whatsoever,'' she said. ``We did absolutely nothing wrong.''
The report blamed half the killings and rapes on criminals, but said Haitian police and anti-Aristide gangs were also involved and that U.N. troops had threatened civilians. The study indicated that no killings and few rights abuses were committed by supporters of Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas party -- despite claims to the contrary by international and local human rights groups.
Kolbe said the report is not suggesting that Lavalas supporters didn't commit killings.
''We know Lavalas supporters and U.N. troops committed killings, but their numbers were not broad enough to be detected in the study,'' she said.
The report used a random sample method to question 5,720 Haitians in Port-au-Prince about their experience after Aristide's ouster.
Kolbe said she got to know Aristide when she volunteered 12 years ago at an orphanage and has ''very warm feelings'' for the former president.
''That does not by any means mean that I'm a Lavalas supporter,'' she said.
The researcher said she didn't disclose her ties to Aristide with The Lancet, saying ``I didn't see it as relevant.''
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