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#1378: Human Rights Watch on the Situation in Haiti (fwd)

From: Max Blanchet <MaxBlanchet@worldnet.att.net>

HRW World Report 2000


Human Rights Developments

Mounting political violence in the context of anticipated elections and 
a notable increase in killings by police marked a year that began with 
President René Préval's abrupt dismissal of parliament and unilateral 
naming of a new prime minister and cabinet. Increasing political 
intolerance was apparent in several violent protests by supporters of 
former President Jean Bertrand Aristide, as well as armed attacks on 
political figures and a leading human rights activist. Meanwhile, a U.S. 
cut in special funding forced the six-year-old United Nations (U.N.)/OAS 
International Civilian Mission (MICIVIH) to close five offices and 
dismiss half its monitors, and the Clinton Administration announced the 
impending withdrawal of the 450-person U.S. Military Support Group in 

Killings attributed to the Haitian National Police (HNP), after dropping 
for two years (with fifty-nine reported in 1996, fifty-three in 1997, 
thirty-one in 1998, and just three from January to March 1999), jumped 
in the second quarter of the year, with fifty killings reported, 
according to the U.N./OAS mission, including the first cases of 
disappearances followed by execution since the end of military rule. 
However, in the following three months, just four cases were reported.

On May 11, a police operation in the Carrefour-Feuilles section of 
Port-au-Prince left eleven men dead, most of them shot in the head while 
in police custody. The first three victims were said to be suspected 
criminals handed over to police by citizens' groups; a justice of the 
peace called in to certify those deaths witnessed police shoot eight 
others, unarmed neighborhood residents. Port-au-Prince police 
commissioner Jean Coles Rameau, a former military officer implicated in 
earlier abuses who commanded the operation and may have joined the 
shooting, fled the country, but was arrested in the Dominican Republic 
and swiftly returned to Haiti. The government created a special 
commission of three judges to investigate the killings. 

Police were also responsible for a pattern of apparent summary 
executions of presumed gang members involved in killings of police 
officers. The remains of fourteen bodies were found in Titanyan, an area 
north of Port-au-Prince that was an infamous body-dumping ground under 
military rule, and investigations indicated that many of the dead were 
probably gang members from the Fontamara neighborhood arrested and 
disappeared in Croix des Missions after the killing of an agent with the 
HNP's Company for Intervention and Maintaining Order (Compagnie 
d'Intervention et de Maintien de l'Ordre). HNP searching the area had 
shot and killed two young people and then arrested eight others who were 
never seen again. A so-called vigilance brigade made up of police and 
armed civilians killed a number of suspected thieves from Cité Soleil in 
May and June, with four mutilated bodies found in Titanyan, and two 
blindfolded ones near the Batimat building on the edge of 
Port-au-Prince, another site used during the military government.

Police beatings of suspects in custody increased, according to the 
U.N./OAS Mission, from 284 reports in 1997 to 432 in 1998, and 103 in 
the first three months of 1999. In most cases, authorities failed to 
sanction the officers involved or take effective action to prevent 
further abuses. The HNP Inspector General's Office, whose mandate 
covered investigations of human rights abuse, was increasingly occupied 
with combating drug trafficking and other criminal activities by police, 
but launched investigations into the most serious abuses and continued 
earlier investigations. The courts continued to lag behind the police in 
investigating and prosecuting police officers remanded to them, but a 
few cases moved forward in the provinces. 

With the appointment in March of a new justice minister, human rights 
lawyer Camille Leblanc, there were signs that long-stalled justice 
reform was beginning to stir. The School for Judges (Ecole de la 
Magistrature), which graduated a first class in 1998, but then failed to 
follow up the next year, held competitive exams to recruit a new class 
that was set to start in November 1999. The long awaited court for 
minors was inaugurated on May 21, although it shut down in July and had 
not reopened by late October.

The largely dysfunctional justice system produced a prison population 
where 81 percent of approximately 2,700 detainees were awaiting trial. 
In mid-1999 at the National Penitentiary, the U.N./OAS Mission found 173 
detainees held in pretrial detention since 1995 and 1996, some lacking 
dossiers. Judicial proceedings at all levels continued to be 
problematic, with vague and incomplete dossiers sent to examining 
magistrates, empty or missing police reports and significant 
irregularities during criminal court sessions.

Especially alarming was a refusal to carry out judicial release orders 
for certain long-term pretrial detainees, mainly former members of the 
Armed Forces of Haiti (Forces Armés d'Haïti, FAd'H) or associated 
civilians accused of plotting against state security or related charges. 
These include Evans François, the brother of coup d'état leader Michel 
François, ordered released in May 1997, and former Gen. Claude Raymond, 
jailed since July 1996, released in November 1998 but immediately 
rearrested on new charges. Prominent right-wing attorney Osner Fevry, 
detained in March 1997 for assault and ordered released the same month, 
was imprisoned until December 1998. Others with pending release orders 
as of mid-August were individuals accused in the 1987 Gonaïves toxic 
waste dumping and the 1987 Jean Rabel massacre, and a former judge 
detained without charge or trial since October 1998. The Port-au-Prince 
state prosecutor of several years, Jean-Auguste Brutus, was directly 
responsible for most of these cases, but his stance, the U.N./OAS 
mission wrote in its Human Rights Review for April-June 1999, 
"increasingly appears to benefit from the support, tacit or otherwise, 
of his supervising authorities." Justice Minister Leblanc replaced 
Brutus in October. 

After a two-year delay, the government in June 1999 approved regulations 
spelling out acceptable prison conditions and disciplinary guidelines 
for dealing with inmates. Under the renamed Penitentiary Administration 
Management (Direction de l'Administration Pénitentiaire, DAP), 
conditions improved generally, but mismanagement and suspected 
corruption still led to food shortages, malnutrition, and poor medical 
care at some facilities. The National Penitentiary opened a new 
three-story dormitory building in March, enabling the separation of men 
facing minor charges from those accused of more serious crimes. The 
penitentiary director and seventeen guards were dismissed in December 
1998 for alleged involvement in prisoner beatings, but there were few 
such allegations in 1999. The DAP appointed the first inspector generals 
for the prison system in March 1999.

Justice Minister Leblanc made a priority of moving forward the 
long-delayed judicial proceedings in the 1994 Raboteau massacre, where 
Haitian military and civilians, many of them in custody, allegedly 
killed some fifteen people. In October, the investigating judge issued 
indictments charging Gen. Raoul Cedras and other high-ranking officers, 
all or most of whom were living outside Haiti, with intellectual 
authorship of the killings. The trial was being portrayed as the 
centerpiece of the battle against impunity. In the South Department, a 
few such cases moved forward, with a former FAd'H member sentenced to 
five years of imprisonment and a fine for a January 1993 incident of 
illegal arrest and torture.

With support from the recently created Committee to Bring Duvalier to 
Justice, four Haitians who had been imprisoned and tortured in the 1970s 
filed complaints in a Paris court on September 10, 1999, against former 
Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier for "crimes against humanity."

The Office of Prosecution and Follow-up (Bureau de Poursuite et Suivi) 
created by the Justice Ministry in 1998 to distribute reparations to 
groups that suffered violence or property damage under the military 
cited housing, schools, and legal and economic assistance to victims as 
the priority targets for its U.S. $3.75 million 1998 budget. In July 
1999, the Ministry began disbursing funds to 914 victims of the 1993 
fire in Cité Soleil, believed set by the paramilitary Front for the 
Advancement and Progress of Haiti (Front pour l'Avancement et Progrès 
d'Haïti, FRAPH), with each receiving 27,000 gourdes ($1,687) to rebuild. 

On January 11, 1999, President René Préval dismissed the entire Chamber 
of Deputies and all but nine Senate members, asserting that their terms 
had constitutionally expired, even though elections for their 
replacements, scheduled for December 1999, had not been held. Haiti had 
been without a fully functioning government since the June 1997 
resignation of Prime Minister Rosny Smarth and the search for a 
successor had dragged on, with continuing disputes over the April 1997 
elections. Opposition leaders called Préval's January 11 move, which 
also ended the terms of local elected officials, a "coup d'état against 
parliament" and filed suit with the Court of Cassation, but the court 
decided it lacked jurisdiction. At this writing, no new parliament was 
expected to be seated until the legislative elections.

Several violent incidents followed the dismissal of parliament. On 
January 12, gunmen shot and wounded the president's sister and killed 
her driver. On March 1, Senator Jean-Yvon Toussaint, one of the nine 
remaining senators and a member of the opposition Organization of People 
in Struggle (Organisation du Peuple en Lutte, OPL), was assassinated in 
an ambush. Three former OPL deputies sought refuge in the residence of 
the Chilean ambassador and then left the country in April following 
threats and attacks on one of their homes.

In March, Préval appointed a new government headed by former Education 
Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis, and announced agreement on a new 
Provisional Electoral Council (Conseil Electorale Provisoire, CEP). The 
CEP scheduled elections for December, but then delayed them until March 
2000. Political parties expressed fears for election security after the 
resignation in October 1999 of Secretary of State for Public Security 
Bob Manuel and the assassination of former Col. Jean Lamy, an Aristide 
associate rumored to be likely to succeed him. In separate incidents, 
two CEP members and two leading OPL figures sustained armed attacks in 

Popular organizations linked to the Fanmi Lavalas party of former 
President Jean Bertrand Aristide were implicated in some violent 
protests. At a May 28 rally against violence called by the Chamber of 
Commerce with the support of many other private sector and popular 
organizations, protesters associated with the party threw urine-filled 
plastic bottles and chairs. Police failed to intervene to stop the 
violence but cancelled the rally shortly after it began and dispersed 
the crowd, mistreating four journalists in the process. Rumors that 
police were responsible for the April 20 killing of a Fanmi Lavalas 
activist sparked several days of violent protests calling for the 
resignation of the police chief and secretary of state for public 
security. The U.S. International Republican Institute (IRI), whose 
programs had encouraged political parties not associated with Fanmi 
Lavalas to unite, closed its Haiti office in June following threats and 
intimidation of its staff by gunmen who claimed to be supporters of the 
former president.

For 1998, the U.N./OAS Mission reported ninety people killed in 
sixty-one lynching incidents, a drop from 1997's 152 victims of 
eighty-eight incidents. Most victims were suspected criminals or accused 
of sorcery. Twenty-four incidents with thirty-two victims were reported 
from January to June 1999, and police efforts prevented others. 

In August 1999, Haiti submitted its first report in nine years to the 
U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. It had yet 
to make a report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination 
against Women; its first was due in 1982. Campaigns by women's groups in 
the last few years helped increase awareness about violence against 
women, but there were no institutional mechanisms to assist victims or 
prevent violence. Kay Fanm (Women's House), which ran the only women's 
shelter in the country, received an average of twenty women per month. 
Children's rights advocates prepared a draft Code of the Child, aimed at 
increasing legal protection of children and bringing national law into 
harmony with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but without a 
parliament this and many other bills could not be introduced.

Defending Human Rights

Gunmen driving a car opened fire on March 8 on well-known human rights 
activist Pierre Espérance of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights 
(NCHR), also treasurer of the Platform of Haitian Human Rights 
Organizations. Espérance was hit in the knee and the shoulder. In 
February and June, human rights groups found anonymous leaflets on their 
premises threatening them and their staff by name. 

The Role of the International Community 

United Nations

The U.N. police training and monitoring mission known as MIPONUH (with 
279 officers from ten countries) was unlikely to be renewed at the 
November 1999 expiration of its mandate, due to opposition within the 
Security Council, chiefly from China and Russia. The so-called Friends 
of Haiti (the United States, Canada, France, Argentina, Venezuela, and 
Chile) sought U.N. support for a new mission, perhaps under General 
Assembly authority, focused on police and justice reform. The Secretary 
General's independent expert on Haiti, Adama Dieng, visited the country 
twice and submitted a thorough report to the U.N. Commission on Human 
Rights. The special rapporteur on violence against women made her first 
official visit in June, and was expected to issue a report. 

United States

The United States criticized Préval's shut-down of parliament and used 
promised funding for the holding of new elections to press for 
resolution of the contested 1997 vote. Washington continued to hold 
160,000 documents seized from the Haitian military and the paramilitary 
group FRAPH during its 1994 intervention, maintaining that it wanted to 
hand them over to the Haitian government but only after blacking out the 
names of U.S. citizens, a condition the Préval government rejected. 
FRAPH leader Emmanuel "Toto" Constant, who claimed to be a paid CIA 
informant under military governments, continued to live and work in 
Queens, New York, after being given refuge from deportation or 
extradition, apparently on condition that he not speak about his U.S. 
connections. Former Haitian army colonel Carl Dorelien, who was living 
in Florida and who attracted attention after he won a Florida lottery 
jackpot, revealed to the Boston Globe in May 1999 that fifteen 
high-ranking Haitian officers, including most of the high command, were 
allowed to emigrate to the U.S. after Aristide's return. Congressional 
Republicans withheld $1.6 million dollars in U.S. funding to the OAS for 
the U.N./OAS human rights mission, causing major cutbacks. Under 
pressure from Republicans and the Pentagon, which argued that security 
risks to the troops had increased, the Clinton Administration announced 
the planned withdrawal of permanent U.S. military forces from Haiti some 
time in 2000. The troops kept a low profile recently, engaging in 
engineering projects and medical care, but their purpose was understood 
as deterring potential violence. The Haitian parliament in 1998 passed a 
law barring foreign troops on Haitian soil, and the response to the U.S. 
announcement was muted.