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6911: Six International Human Rights Groups Issue Statement on Haiti (fwd)

From: Jocelyn McCalla <JMcCalla@nchr.org>

February 5, 2001
Haiti held elections on November 26, 2000, that ushered in a second
Jean-Bertrand Aristide presidency. Unlike the 1990 vote, however, Mr.
Aristide's election came amidst widespread doubts about his own and the
Préval government's commitment to democracy, political disputes over earlier
parliamentary elections, low voter turnout, virtually no competing
candidacy, and an international community disinclined to support the new
Haitian leaders. During the period preceding the presidential vote, a spate
of pipe bomb explosions, government attempts to suppress dissent or
otherwise intimidate its opponents, the assassination of Jean L. Dominique,
Haiti's most prominent journalist, and manipulation of the May 2000 vote for
parliament, dealt a severe blow to the observance of civil and political
rights in Haiti. 
With an eye toward the incoming Bush Administration, President-elect
Aristide indicated his agreement with a series of Clinton Administration
sponsored measures that if implemented might trigger the release of US and
international aid. These measures include cooperation on drug and migrant
interdiction, establishing a new provisional electoral commission, putting
ten disputed senate seats to another vote, and police and judicial reforms. 
President-elect Aristide agreed to reach out to the opposition in setting up
his administration, but has done so on terms they find unacceptable.  For
their part, the leading opposition coalition has continued to call for
completely new parliamentary and presidential elections, rejecting
meaningful compromise.  The Convergence appears resolved upon establishing
some sort of shadow government by February 7. 
The period ahead is likely to be a difficult one.  The United States,
Canada, France and the UN Security Council have called on the Haitian
government to revise the results of the May elections.  The European Union
and Canada are reviewing their assistance programs to Haiti.  The U.S.
Congress has codified a requirement that aid may not be provided to the
Government of Haiti until there is a satisfactory resolution to the May
elections. United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has recommended that
the current UN civilian support mission in Haiti (MICAH) not be extended.
It is clear that the international community is exhausted with the seemingly
endless political crisis in Haiti.
President-elect Aristide's stated commitment to remedy Haiti's current
problems will only be meaningful if it is borne out by genuine reform
efforts.  In the hopes of furthering this goal, we suggest prompt adoption
of the following measures as necessary steps to implement an agenda for
democratic and human rights reform in Haiti. 
(1) All Haitian political leaders should denounce and renounce the use of
violence for political gain now and in the future.  Mr. Aristide, as
president, bears particular responsibility to take clear steps to distance
himself from those who use violence in his name.  His government should
conduct a thorough review and investigation into political violence in the
year 2000, and arrest and prosecute those believed responsible.  In
particular, it should provide all necessary resources and support to the
investigation and resolution of the murder of journalist Jean Dominique. 
(2) Efforts to reach a compromise between Fanmi Lavalas and the opposition
should continue.  The problem does not lie in a lack of mechanisms.  In
addition to the work of the Organization of American States and the Lissade
Commission, recent initiatives have been taken by the government of the
Dominican Republic and Haitian civil society.  Negotiations might lead to
new second-round elections in the case of the May parliamentary elections,
and to a new vote for the virtually uncontested eight senate races held at
the time of the November presidential vote.  Any new balloting must be held
under the auspices of a independent electoral commission and monitored by
credible international and national organizations. Once the government is
formed, a permanent electoral council composed of respected, credible and
competent individuals should be established and provided with all necessary
support to establish its independence and restore confidence in Haiti's
electoral process.
(3) The Haitian government and all authorities must allow full freedom of
expression and association for all political sectors, civil society, human
rights organizations, and the media, and take steps to prevent and punish
efforts to silence critics or chill free speech.  
(4) The Haitian government should build on the two major trials of human
rights abusers held in the year 2000 to develop a judicial system protective
of fundamental human rights and independent of political influence.  The
long-awaited trial of military and paramilitary forces for the 1994 Raboteau
massacre and of police officers in the extra-judicial killings in
Carrefour-Feuilles in 1999 were marked by thoroughness and attention to the
rights of victims and defendants.  A review of killings in police custody,
followed by appropriate measures, including the arrest and prosecution of
officers believed to have committed homicides, should be high on the new
Haitian government's list of priorities, and will contribute to restoring
confidence in the force. 
(5) New appointments to the judiciary and the Haitian National Police should
be carried out in a professional, transparent fashion, with positions are
assigned on the basis of merit rather than political affiliation. Leaders of
the Haitian National Police should inspire popular trust and confidence in
their ability to protect the citizenry from criminality and confront growing
problems of abuse, politicization and corruption in the police force.
(6) Official government accountability and oversight mechanisms, such as the
Office pour la Protection du Citoyen, should be provided with the funding
and support required to fulfill their mission in an effective, professional
and independent manner.
Recommendations to the United States, Canada and the international
(1) The international community should press the government of Haiti to act
decisively on the recommendations we set out above.  Should the government
of Haiti fail to demonstrate a clear commitment to upholding and
strengthening democracy and the rule of law, members of the international
community who have played a key role in Haiti over recent years must
consider implementing a range of policy options including: providing foreign
assistance only through non-governmental channels; excluding Haitian leaders
from gatherings of the region's democratic leaders; invoking the Santiago
Declaration; and denying visas to members of the Haitian government and
parliament, when the OAS electoral monitoring mission has clear and
convincing evidence that they obtained office via fraud.
(2) Holding the government of Haiti accountable for human rights violations
is first and foremost an obligation of the people of Haiti. Should an
international human rights  presence be maintained in Haiti, it should first
and foremost seek to assist local human rights groups to develop greater
capacity to advocate for human rights.  However, an international human
rights mission must also be able to act rapidly and publicly on behalf of
victims of human rights should a crisis situation arise which threatens the
personal security and ability to function of Haitian human rights
(3) Donors can and should withhold assistance from governments that do not
meet basic standards of democracy and human rights.  We do not, however,
favor the possibility raised by some U.S. policymakers, of imposing further
economic sanctions on Haiti.  Given the poverty of the majority of Haitians
and devastating impact of the 1990-1994 embargo, we are concerned that
blanket economic sanctions would further damage the economy and aggravate
the desperate conditions of the majority of Haitians.

James R. Morrell, Research Director
1755 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036

Jose Miguel Vivanco, Executive Director, Americas Division
1630 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20009

Gay McDougall, Executive Director
1200 18th Street, NW, Suite 602
Washington, DC 20036

Jocelyn McCalla, Executive Director
275 Seventh Avenue, 17th Floor
New York, NY 10001

Warren Allmand, P.C., O.C., Q.C., President
1001 de Maisonneuve Blvd. East
Suite 1100, Montreal, Quebec
Canada H2L 4P9

George R. Vickers, Executive Director
1630 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 200
Washington, DC 20009
Washington Office on Latin America