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#2619: Harold Hongju Koh's press briefing in port-au-pri : Shelane adds

From: chris-shelane <chris-shelane@globelsud.net>

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.

Chris Chapman