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#5138: Haiti's Raboteau Massacre Trial Begins Sept. 29th in Gonaives! (fwd)

From: MKarshan@aol.com

Release Date:  September 24, 2000
Contact:  Michelle Karshan, Foreign Press Liaison
Telephone:  (011509) 228-2058


On September 29, 2000, the Haitian government will bring to trial its biggest 
human rights case, the Raboteau Massacre.  There are 58 defendants in the 
case, ranging from low level soldiers and paramilitaires, up through the 
military and paramilitary leadership.  The latter group includes the coup 
leaders Raoul Cedras, Michel Francois and Philippe Biamby, the military high 
command, and Emmanuel Constant, the head of the paramilitary organization 
FRAPH.  Twenty-two defendants are in custody, the highest ranked Captain 
Cenafils Castera, the commander of the Gonaives military district.

The trial is expected to last about six weeks taking place in Gonaives 
approximately 3 hours north of Port-au-Prince.  The case is based primarily 
on the eyewitness testimony.  Forty-five people have filed formal complaints, 
and dozens more have come forward with first-hand reports.  These witnesses 
will be buttressed by testimony from international experts in forensic 
anthropology, genetics, military organization, and human rights, as well as 
documents from the Haitian army archives.  The prosecution did not have 
access to the "FRAPH/FADH Documents", 160,000 pages of materials seized by 
U.S. forces from military and paramilitary facilities in 1994.  The U.S. 
government has refused to return the documents, despite repeated requests 
from the Haitian government, joined by members of the U.S. Congress, the 
United Nations, and human rights groups throughout the world.

Background: In the early hours of  April 22, 1994, soldiers and 
paramilitaries raided Raboteau, a seaside neighborhood of Gonaives, attacking 
the area's resistant, but unarmed, population.  

The attackers forcibly entered dozens of homes, beating and arresting those 
found within, including the elderly and small children.  Many people were 
arrested and tortured, others were tortured or humiliated on site.  Some were 
forced to lie in open sewers, or out in the hot sun for hours, some were 
forced to tear down a house with their bare hands.  Those who fled to the 
sea, Raboteau's traditional refuge, were shot at, some were killed.  

Although six murders are sufficiently documented to be part of the 
prosecution, it is likely that many more were killed.  The military 
authorities prevented the victims' families from retrieving bodies from the 
sea or burying them, so some bodies may have floated away, while others were 
reportedly eaten by animals on the beach.

The Raboteau massacre took place during a particularly harsh period of 
Haiti's brutal 1991-94 military dictatorship.  As the international community 
tightened sanctions against Haiti in the first half of 1994, the army 
responded with attacks on areas of non-violent resistance throughout the 
country.  Gonaives, especially Raboteau, had always prided itself on refusing 
to accept the dictatorship, and in calling for the return of democratically 
elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.  The Massacre was intended to 
terrorize the area's residents into abandonning their democratic hopes.

For further information, please contact Ms. Karshan at mkarshan@aol.com

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