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#5253: Massacre witness hearings open in Haiti (fwd)

From: nozier@tradewind.net

Wednesday, 4 October, 2000, 10:11 GMT 11:11 UK 
 Massacre witness hearings open in Haiti
 By Central America correspondent Peter Greste (BBC)	 

A court in Haiti is to begin hearing witness testimonies on Wednesday
into a trial that the Haitian Government has described as critical to
the country's emerging democracy. The former military leader, Raoul
Cedras, is one of 58 defendants into what has become known as the
Raboteau massacre, which took place in April 1994.But prosecutors say
the case has been hampered by the fact that at least 22 of the         
defendants are being tried in abstentia. The basic facts of the Raboteau
massacre are simple enough. Early on 22 April, 1994,a group of soldiers
and civilian paramilitaries raided the seaside slum of Raboteau, in the
city of Gonaives. The attackers forced their way into dozens of        
homes, beating and arresting those they found inside. Some were tortured
on site, forced to lie in  open sewers; others were shot as they tried
to flee.

 Coup plotters

 According to court documents, at least six people were murdered, though
human rights lawyers says that anywhere between eight and 15 people
died. Prosecutors say the attack was part of a broad plan to crush
opposition to a military coup led by Raoul Cedras.Mr Cedras is just one
of the 22 defendants being tried in absentia. The list of his          
co-defendants reads like a cross-section of the coup government        
and includes everyone from low-ranked troops to Mr Cedras'co-leaders,
Michel Francois, and Philippe Biamby, and Emmanuel Constant, who headed
the civilian paramilitary movement known as the Fraph.The fact that the
trial is happening at all is unprecedented for Haiti's shaky justice
system. It is the first time members of the Haitian high command and
paramilitary leaders have been tried for human rights violations
committed under the coup. According to a spokeswoman for the current
government, it is also critical to documentingthe history of the coup. 
The spokeswoman, Michele Karshan, says it is a chance to reveal the
truth about human rights abuses committed during one of Haiti's
darkest periods and to give its victims a chance to put the past behind
them. "This is all about justice," she said. "Without the trial, Haiti
can never move