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#5119: A washingtonpost.com article from firstname.lastname@example.org (fwd)
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Wanted Haitian's Quiet Life in U.S. Draws Criticism
NEW YORK –– Life is quiet for months on end at the charming white house with the broad shaded porch on a lovely, leafy block in Queens. A Haitian man named Emmanuel "Toto" Constant lives there, and, by all accounts, he wishes just to be left alone.But he's got enemies. Sometimes they drive by and throw rocks or bottles, smashing the picture window. Small crowds gather, too, shouting, "Murderer! Murderer!" When they learned this summer that he worked at a real estate office, picketers hounded him out of that job.Constant is one of Haiti's most-wanted men, an alleged death-squad leader implicated in at least 50 killings but living in the United States with apparent impunity.In an era when the freedom of torturers and killers is being challenged from Argentina to Bosnia to Rwanda to Chad, Constant's is perhaps the most fraught and embarrassing human rights case facing the U.S. government.He is not an Augusto Pinochet, the Argentine dictator, nor a Radovan Karad!
zic, of Bosnian war crimes infamy. What he allegedly is, though, has outraged human rights activists for years. Constant, by his own admission, was a CIA informer in Haiti at a time when his shadowy outfit wreaked havoc in what President Clinton called the "reign of terror" of the 1991-94 military regime.But the Clinton administration has harbored Constant for five years under an unprecedented special agreement that critics attribute to his CIA connections. Human rights activists and some legal activists have called for Constant to be jailed, prosecuted, deported or extradited, as the U.N. Convention Against Torture requires. But U.S. officials have suggested that Constant's life could be in danger were he returned to Haiti, where political instability is deepening, and that Haiti's justice system is not capable of prosecuting Constant effectively or fairly, despite $45 million in U.S. judicial reform aid since 1995.That contention will be tested later this month. Constant!
and the rest of the old military junta are to be tried, albeit in absentia, for murder and torture.The case centers on an April 1994 massacre in the Haitian community of Raboteau, where 20 people were killed--shot, beaten, even drowned--as they ran into the sea to flee attackers. Constant's paramilitary unit, known by the acronym FRAPH, is accused in the killings, along with the military. Among the 59 defendants in the case are Gens. Raoul Cedras and Phillipe Biamby, the military rulers of that era. They live in Panama, which has refused to extradite them to Haiti.Constant, 43, who agreed to be interviewed but never followed through, recently was quoted denying the allegations of violence against him."I heard somebody was comparing me to Nazis," he recently told Newsday, a Long Island newspaper. "I was shocked to hear such a thing."Constant remains a rallying cry among some Haitian activists here, but there also is ambivalence in the community about how justice can be!
st be served in the case. "He should face his victims" in a trial in Haiti if that's the only way, but preferably in the United States, said Jocelyn McCalla, executive director of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights.Though he is the kind of alleged criminal that the emerging body of international and domestic human rights jurisprudence is intended to handle, the only law under which Constant could be held criminally liable in a U.S. court is the November 1994 legislation that implemented the U.N. Convention Against Torture. But his alleged crimes occurred before that date, and the law is not retroactive.Like a Houdini of human rights abusers, Constant has managed repeatedly to stay ahead of the law."He's infamous and immovable," said Gerald Gray, acting executive director of the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability, which tracks human rights abusers in the United States.Reed Brody, advocacy director of Human Rights Watch, has investigated Con!
stant's background and says, "It is indefensible that a man credibly accused of the worst atrocities should be . . . shielded from punishment by the U.S. government."Officials of the Justice and State departments would not discuss Constant's case publicly. Immigration and Naturalization Service officials would say only that a 1995 deportation order issued against Constant remains active but unexecuted, based on the State Department's foreign policy considerations in the case.Constant's rare status is shared in only one other case: that of six Irish Republican Army men whose deportation proceedings were suspended in 1997 because of State Department concerns for the Irish peace process, INS officials said.With the Raboteau trial to start soon, Ron Daniels, executive director of New York's Center for Constitutional Rights, wrote Attorney General Janet Reno last month to ask that she allow Constant to be deported. She has not responded.At this stage, though, it is not clea!
r whether deportation is even possible, because Constant's case remains in the courts. He has appealed to the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals to overturn the deportation order altogether, saying that he would be tortured, even killed, if he were sent back to Haiti. His argument is based on the U.N. torture convention, which holds that everyone should be protected from torture, even an alleged killer.Constant's impunity continues even as Washington is beefing up its detection and removal of human rights abusers in general. About 100 cases are under investigation, immigration officials said. Earlier this year, in a crackdown on human rights abusers, a dozen people were deported on technical grounds such as visa violations. Immigration law allows limited grounds for deporting human rights abusers. The Clinton administration is crafting legislation that would broaden the criteria for their deportation.Asked whether the Constant case undercuts the legitimacy of the Justice De!
partment's human rights push, James Castello, an associate deputy attorney general, said: "We've sent a clear signal in general, in the department, that we are taking this seriously, that we are going after human rights abusers, and I would hope that people would take that seriously."In addition to hosting Constant, the United States is withholding thousands of pages of Haitian documents that could help Haiti prosecute him. The documents are from the headquarters of both FRAPH and the Haitian military. U.S. troops seized the documents during the 1994 intervention."Basically, the U.S. government carted away the entire contents of the military and paramilitary headquarters," said Brody of Human Rights Watch. "We know from contemporaneous accounts of journalists that these included trophy photos [of torture victims] and tape recordings and files."Noting that the documents may include receipts and logs, a senior U.S. diplomat who served in Haiti said, "There may be no smokin!
g gun in them, but they might help make a case to put somebody at the scene at the time something happened."Though the documents are Haitian, the United States has refused to turn them over except in censored form, in order to protect the identities of some people with ties to the United States. Haiti has refused such conditions.The son of an army general under dictator Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, Constant is a product of the bloody struggle in Haiti over the rise of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Aristide, a leftist priest, won the presidency in 1990 elections but was overthrown by Cedras and Biamby within months.Constant sprang to international prominence with a televised challenge to the U.S. Navy. In October 1993, he and his FRAPH members, all armed, massed on the Port-au-Prince docks to stop the USS Harlan County, a warship, from steaming in. The Harlan was ferrying support troops to begin the process of reinstalling Aristide. Constant and his cronies appeared to be a vi!
olent menace that day, so President Clinton ordered the Harlan to turn around and steam home.Among the atrocities that Constant has been implicated in was the torching of the Cite Soleil two days after Christmas 1993. According to Brody, witnesses said Constant was present there when more than 30 people were killed and more than 1,000 homes were burned down in the pro-Aristide hamlet.The United States invaded Haiti in September 1994 and put Aristide back in office. Cedras and Biamby were flown out on a U.S. military transport and settled in Panama. Constant fled to Puerto Rico, then entered the United States that December.Warren Christopher, secretary of state at that time, branded Constant a threat to U.S. foreign policy. Immigration authorities jailed him, and an immigration judge ordered him deported.But Constant played the CIA card."I was meeting with the CIA on a regular basis," he told CBS's "60 Minutes" in December 1995. "We had an understanding. We had an all!
iance. So if I am guilty of those crimes that they are accusing me of, the CIA is also guilty."Pressed to confirm Constant's story, Christopher was quoted at the time as saying, "The United States has frequently tried to get information from some people who we wouldn't want to be partners with, and I think that's in that category."Constant has been here ever since, with his deportation deferred in an unprecedented State Department settlement that set him free from jail in June 1996.He must check in weekly with INS officials here in Manhattan, and he is confined to New York City, with trips to Newark to see his attorney, Jean D. Larosiliere. He cannot travel to Montreal to visit his children who are in school there; they come here.Larosiliere, a former federal prosecutor, likens Constant to the character Blanche DuBois, in "A Streetcar Named Desire," saying he is dependent upon "friends and family who are still loyal to him and help him out with handouts."Though Const!
ant--under the special 1996 deal--can "self-deport" to a third country, Larosiliere said the United States remains the safest option, despite the periodic attacks on the Constant home.