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24505: Fuller: comments on Griffin report (fwd)

From: Anne Fuller < affuller3@yahoo.com>

On the report for the University of Miami by Thomas

The report by Thomas Griffin of his November 2004
human rights investigation in Haiti has elicited a lot
of comment in the United States-favorable columns in
papers in Houston, Miami and most recently,
Philadelphia.  Opinion here in Haiti is so polarized
that the report is either hailed or dismissed, though
few people have read it.  It offers ammunition for
both viewpoints.

The photos from the public morgue and the General
Hospital are truly shocking and unfortunately real and
undeniable.  The reports of summary executions in
Belair have been documented by others as well.  The
portrayal of UN forces is harsh and somewhat unfair,
but not so different from what you hear many Haitians

But the report is blemished.  The extremely upright
human rights group CARLI denies four rather
significant assertions the report attributes to it.  I
must presume that language problems are part of the
problem.  But Griffin's eagerness to blame the
US-government funded NGO IFES for so much of what has
happened in Haiti is another aspect.  Griffin seems
ready to credit CARLI as long as it declares its wish
to refuse funding from IFES.

It is always legitimate to inquire into the funding of
a given organization, but it's a cheap shot to tar a
program -IFES here--for the source of its
funds-especially when the same rigor is not applied to
other groups.

Which brings me to a major complaint I have about the
report's impartiality: Griffin, whose own credentials
are impressive, doesn't identify the members of his
team, leaving this reader wondering what their
connections might be.  The director of the University
of Miami School of Law's Center for the Study of Human
Rights, which published the report, is a former lawyer
for Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide.  And
Griffin thanks by name only one foreign human rights
lawyer, failing to note that she too worked for the
Aristide government.
And I really must object to Griffin's only sources in
IFES (two unnamed employees and a disgruntled former
program director) and in the electoral council (the
disgruntled former president)!  If you want to feature
opinions like these you absolutely have to get the
front door version as well.
I showed the report to a couple of non-violent
community activists from Cite Soleil and they agreed
with much of what Griffin wrote-more than I had
expected.  The situation is terrible and has been so
especially since the beginning of October.  No traffic
goes in or out except by boat.  Everything is
expensive.  People perish from their wounds because
they fear to seek medical attention.  Schools have
timidly reopened since January -- but several churches
have totally closed up.  Many areas are nearly empty.
They also agreed that Labanye has a "special
relationship" with Andy Apaid of the Group of 184 and
thus the government, though they could not say that
Apaid encouraged Labanye's violence.
But they shook their heads in disbelief at the
description of the Lavalas forces in Cite Soleil as
pro-democracy and the September 30 march as peaceful.
Griffin describes a gang congealing to protect Cite
Soleil from Labanye's gang-but these gangs have been
fighting each other for quite a few years.  In January
and February 2002, for instance, dozens of people died
at a particularly violent moment in gang fighting in
there.  Labanye and Dred Wilme, both with Aristide at
the time, were top gang leaders then, too.

As for non-violent pro-Aristide forces in the popular
neighborhoods of Belair, Lower Delmas, Martissant and
Fort National, I will say that it is hard for most
Haitians to believe that they exist.  People as a
general rule are terrified to enter these
neighborhoods, and have been since early October.
Many police have also been killed since October, there
and elsewhere- 40 is a number mentioned by government
officials.  People are fed up with the violence in
general and as happens elsewhere, tend to forgive the
police for giving at least as good as they get.
Griffin seems to have little historical perspective.
He portrays Haiti under Aristide as a much better
place to live than Haiti today and I'm afraid that's
hard to demonstrate.  The generator at the morgue was
also out of order for weeks in earlier years.  The
General Hospital has failed to treat the poor sick and
wounded for decades.  That these terrible things
continue under the interim government is shocking.
The solutions will come hard.  One thing I'm sure of
is that Haiti needs political stability and the time
and the will to build institutions.  I hope that's
where things are headed now-through the essential step
of good elections with broad participation by all
political sectors.