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#2619: Harold Hongju Koh's press briefing in port-au-pri : Shelane adds
From: chris-shelane <email@example.com>
Keywords FRAPH, FADH, Harold Hongju Koh
I tried to contact Hongju Koh when he was in Haiti to ask him about the
FRAPH / FADH documents, because he did comment on Haitian radio that US law
expressly forbade the US government from returning the documents intact,
complete with names of US citizens. I didn't manage to talk to him but a
USIS spokesman summarised Hongju Koh's reasoning for me.
The law referred to is the US privacy act; this forbids the government from
revealing information about anyone who is either seriously ill, dead or
accused of a crime (I'm paraphrasing the USIS official here), without the
consent of that person or their next of kin. To my question of how the
documents came into US hands in the first place (or rather, the legality of
how that happened) the official said that Hongju Koh's reasoning was that
Aristide requested that the US dismantle the FRAPH, and that it was during
this process that the US, 'whether they liked it of not', came into
possession of the documents, and that from that moment on, it was unable to
return them in violation of the privacy act.
I asked whether Aristide also asked the US to dismantle the FADH, but the
official said I should refer that question to Hongju Koh.
For me there are still many questions outstanding here. For example, in
dismantling an organisation, is one obliged to confiscate its documents and
take them out of the country? Surely they should have been restored to the
Haitian government. Also there is the question of the status of the
'invasion' in international law. It was a UN-sanctioned operation, so all
actions carried out were surely in the name of the UN and not the US. Does
that not imply that, even if there were an argument for retaining
possession of the documents, they should have been handed over to the UN,
or at least be treated under international and not US law? The privacy act
would then be circumvented as it would not be the US who would be returning
the documents, but the UN.
Hongju Koh's personal staffer in Washington is Robert Ward, telephone 202
647 1423, in case anyone wants to ring him.