[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
#1085: CBS 60 minutes 11/14/99 (fwd)
firstname.lastname@example.org Jim O'Hanlon
CBS 60 minutes
Haiti 5 years and a Billion Dollars Later
MIKE WALLACE: Five years ago, Pres. Clinton spent $1 billion when he sent
some 20,000 American troops down to Haiti to restore the government of
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who'd been overthrown by his own army. But to make
sure that investment wasn't wasted, the US has spent millions more in foreign
aid to help that Caribbean nation's fledgling democracy learn to observe the
rule of law. Fact is, the US has spent more money in the past five years
trying to establish the rule of law in Haiti than anywhere else in the world.
But today, with the last US troops about to leave, questions are being asked
about how wisely those US tax dollars have been spent. So we went to Haiti
to see what the US has gotten for its effort and its money.
The short answer: not very much. At first glance Haiti seems as lawless as
ever, dead bodies again being dumped on the streets of Port-au-Prince with
police nowhere in sight. Assassinated just this year: a Haitian senator and
the leading candidate to supervise the nation's police. Meanwhile, Haiti's
courts remain chaotic and overwhelmed, and the jails are bursting with people
never convicted of a crime, while drug traffickers roam free, turning Haiti
into a major conduit for illegal drugs entering the US. Former Justice
Department attorney Maurice Geiger, an expert on court reform, went to Haiti
four years ago to help a US government contractor launch a justice reform
program there. But today, Geiger is one of that program's harshest critics.
MAURICE GEIGER: Democracy is not a walk in the park, right? I mean, it's a
lot of hard work. The only thing is, Mike, we all make mistakes, but healthy
people and healthy institutions try to learn from those mistakes. And here,
it seemed to me that when they made those mistakes, they just keep making
them over and over.
MIKE WALLACE: To learn what went wrong and why, we took a look at the
justice reform program, one of the most vital projects funded by the US
Agency for International Development, or USAID. To help with our
investigation, Maurice Geiger took us to the national penitentiary, which
houses about half the nation's prisoners, many of whom are supposed to get
legal help paid for by US tax dollars.
How many prisoners in here?
MAURICE GEIGER: About 1,800. It was built for between 300 or 400 here.
MIKE WALLACE: These cell blocks hold pretrail detainees, those still awaiting
trial. In the whole penitentiary, nearly nine of every 10 prisoners have
never been tried.
And they live here?
MAURICE GEIGER: Yeah. Well, they can't even lay down to go to sleep, there
are so many. They take turns.
MIKE WALLACE: How long have you been there?
Prisoner 1: I've been inside since 1996
MIKE WALLACE: Three years? Do you have a lawyer?
Prisoner 2 No. None of us have seen a lawyer.
MW: We heard the same story everywhere we went.
MAURICE GEIGER: You have to understand, Mike, there's virtually no such
thing as bail in Haiti. So if you're accused of a crime, you're going to go
to prison to await trial.
MW What crime are you accused of?
Prisoner 3 To this day, I have no idea.
MW This teen-ager said he's been behind for two years, since he was 15 years
old. Many of these young men, who may very well be innocent of any crime,
remain suspended in bureaucratic limbo, where prison files that should show
why they were jailed in the first place are either lost, contain no
accusation of a crime, or simply never existed. And this is called pretrail
detention: three months, nine months, two years, three, four years --
We reported what we had seen to Phyllis Forbes, who, for the past two years,
has run USAID's office in Haiti.
I spent two or three hours today at the national penitentiary.
PHYLLIS FORBES: Right
MW: It was disgusting.
PHYLLIS FORBES Right, but --but you got in.
MW: The stench was unbearable.
PHYLLIS FORBES Yeah.
MW: Some of them say--and I have no reason to disbelieve--have been there
two, three, four years in pretrail detention. Why?
PHYLLIS FORBES Justice isn't working right.
MW They don't have lawyers.
PHYLLIS FORBES Right.
MW Is this justice?
PHYLLIS FORBES You went to the jail. They let you in. We know who's in
there. They get food from their families. Most recently, the --the minister
of justice is-- has been sending doctors in. This is definitely better.
MW They don't have lawyers.
PHYLLIS FORBES Well, you know, I --I can't answer that. I--I--I don't know
what their situation is; I don't know which prisoners you were talking to.
So I don't know if that's true or not.
MW But prompted by our interview with Mrs. Forbes, her office did its own
investigation of the national penitentiary, and they confirmed what we had
seen. Of those in prison at the time of our visit, only about 3 percent had
received lawyers through AID, though they say the percentage had been much
higher. So who specifically was supposed to be providing these prisoners
with lawyers? It was the firm, Checchi and Company, a Washington, DC-based
consulting firm that AID had selected to lead its justice reform program in
Haiti. Michelle Jacobs now oversees the program.
MICHELLE JACOBS: I have an MPS degree in international agriculture from
MW And you are not a lawyer?
MICHELLE JACOBS And I am not a lawyer.
MW Jacobs thinks the legal aid program has worked just fine.
MICHELLE JACOBS Yes, it has been a success. Looking strictly at numbers, we
accepted about 15,000 prison cases.
MW What they say is they've done a very good job on getting people out of
jail who don't belong in jail.
MAURICE GEIGER: Well, if that's what they say, that's just nonsense. It's
not at all uncommon to spend a year or two years waiting to be tried for a
case for which, if you're guilty, you'd only go to jail for 30 days.
MIKE WALLACE Geiger, whom Checchi calls a disgruntled former worker, says he
quickly concluded that the firm simply wasn't right for the job.
MG Well, I don't think they understand the subject matter of judicial reform.
MIKE WALLACE And yet they got the contract.
MG Well, that's right. And I--and I don't think...
MIKE WALLACE from USAID
MG And I don't think that the USAID mission here understood the subject
MIKE WALLACE Geiger couldn't believe it when he heard about plans to
computerize the Haitian courts, many of which have no windows, no doors, no
telephone lines, no electricity.
MG We obviously thought that was stupid and said so.
MIKE WALLACE The computer enterprise never saw the light of day. And while
outside evaluators did approve of some of Checchi's work, they questioned the
company's efforts to help Haitian courts track their cases. Without a good
case tracking system, prisoners, like the pretrial detainees we saw at the
national penitentiary, get lost in the system, leaving them stuck in jail
with no way to get out.
An outside evaluation team found that Checchi apparently did not carry out
what USAID intended.
MICHELLE JACOBS An outside evaluation team said that?
MIKE WALLACE Yeah.
MICHELLE JACOBS Can you give me the quote from the outside evaluation team
MIKE WALLACE The evaluation team found that the Checchi system does not
monitor the progress of a case through the criminal or civil process as a
true case tracking system.
MICHELLE JACOBS We were at the very beginning of this work. And we did
not-- at that time, anyway-- we certainly would not dispute the fact that we
had a long ways to go. We had just started.
PHYLLIS FORBES They have definitely improved the case-- the --the
record-keeping. I can show you pictures of what these courts looked like
before the Checchis been working at it.
MIKE WALLACE Oh, be careful...
PHYLLIS FORBES Why?
MIKE WALLACE Mrs. Forbes-- we can show you pictures
PHYLLIS FORBES You went and spent
MIKE WALLACE ...of case management. We visited one of the busiest courts in
Port-au-Prince, the only such court in a neighborhood called Carrefour,
serving nearly as many people as live in the city of Miami. We asked the
clerk there to show us his case management system, and he did. Checchi and
Company calls his filing system a success.
Files, without numbers, stuffed into drawers -- I mean, it-- really, a little
bit like a short-order kitchen where the chef has gotten mixed up.
MICHELLE JACOBS Yes, well, no doubt there--for us, the P-a-P is always by
far the most difficult place. There's shortages of everything, including
clerks, including judges. So what you see is not necessarily surprising.
MIKE WALLACE Maurice Geiger says he's not surprised how Checchi and Co's
record-keeping system turned out, given the background of the man who helped
set it up. His name is Jim Smith, a mysterious figure who, to the surprise
of nearly everyone who met him, wound up as a top executive for Checchi in
Haiti. By all accounts, Smith was friendly and a hard worker, but...
MAURICE GEIGER: He didn't know anything about judicial reform. He didn't
know much about Haiti either. So I-- I didn't know why he was in that
MIKE WALLACE When Geiger voiced his concerns about Smith and where the
program was heading...
MAURICE GEIGER: We were told just shut up, and "It's none of your business."
MIKE WALLACE Well, that just made Geiger even more curious. Who exactly was
this American teaching Haitians about justice? So Geiger did what no one at
USAID or Checchi had bothered to do. He investigated Smith's background and
made a stunning discovery.
MAURICE GEIGER: He had been disbarred from the California Bar. And he--he
had been disbarred because he had been convicted of several felonies, and the
felonies were defrauding the United States of America.
MIKE WALLACE So how did a man who defrauded the US government and had been
disbarred-- he has since gotten his license back-- how did he end up on the
US government payroll, teaching Haitians about justice reform? The only
USAID official who would talk about it was Mrs. Forbes. She was not there
when Smith was hired.
You know about his background. Do you know about his history?
PHYLLIS FORBES I-- I can tell you what I know.
MIKE WALLACE What do you know?
PHYLLIS FORBES What I know is that he worked for the civil-- civil affairs.
He was a ret- reserve Army officer.
MIKE WALLACE He was a convicted felon...
PHYLLIS FORBES Mm-hmm
MIKE WALLACE ...who was disbarred....
PHYLLIS FORBES Mm-hmm
MIKE WALLACE hired by Checchi...
PHYLLIS FORBES Mm
MIKE WALLACE ...for a major job in the justice reform program of Haiti.
PHYLLIS FORBES Mm-hmm
MIKE WALLACE I mean come on.
PHYLLIS FORBES Well...
MIKE WALLACE Mrs. Forbes says Smith kept his background a secret from
Checchi and USAID
MG When we learned of Smith's background, we gave the information to USAID
in Washington, and they told us, "Don't tell USAID mission in Haiti and don't
tell Checchi. We will check this out and figure out what's going on." The
we assumed that he would be gone within a few days.
MIKE WALLACE But nearly four months later, Smith was still on the job.
Finally, Geiger told Checchi and Co about Smith, who was forced to resign.
Later, we learned that it was USAID which had asked that Smith be hired in
the first place.
MIKE WALLACE AID declined to talk to us on camera about why they wanted
Smith hired or why they told Geiger to keep Smith's felony a secret. Mrs.
Forbes says the Smith fiasco should not obscure AID's achievements in Haiti,
such as training and educating judges.
PHYLLIS FORBES I think Checchi's done a very good job.
MIKE WALLACE And under very difficult circumstances, she says, including
having to work with an unstable Haitian government and a society with no
PHYLLIS FORBES They do not yet have justice, though they have more of it than
they had four years ago.
MIKE WALLACE Bill O'Neil used to run the United Nations human rights mission
in Haiti. He's worked in some of the world's most trouble spots.
You know Haiti... poverty, violence, brutality, corruption, disease. Is the
justice system really at the top of the Haitian citizen's agenda?
BILL O'NEIL: Surprisingly enough, among the Haitians I deal with, it is.
MIKE WALLACE I might -- if I were in their shoes, I might have other things
at the top of the agenda, like food, a house, schools.
But the Haitians I know all say the number one thing they want is justice.
People looking in, why should it make any difference to them whether or not
there is a justice reform in Haiti?
MAURICE GEIGER: Well, for a couple of reasons, but if no other reason,
because we're paying the bill. And I think most Americans work hard for
their money and therefore work hard for their tax money. And they are
willing to help poor nations wherever they are, but they are not willing to
have the money wasted. I think that's what they wouldn't like.
MIKE WALLACE USAID is now selecting a contractor to run the next phase of
the justice reform program in Haiti, scheduled to begin in January. And
Haiti's justice minister, Camille LeBlanc, says that this time he wants the
Haitian government more involved in the program.