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#2732: Fwd: NCHR Statements on Haitian Elections and the Diallo Verdict (fwd)

From: McEddy Masson <mceddy2268@hotmail.com>
From: Jocelyn McCalla <JMcCalla@nchr.org>

Dear Friends,

We issued two statements today regarding two matters of great significance
to Haitians in the US and abroad. You can find these statements on our web
site. They are included below. You may refer others to our site or visit
yourself. The address is www.nchr.org <http://www.nchr.org> . We would like
to get your feedback. Please send us your comments, or suggestions at your
earliest convenience.


Jocelyn McCalla
Executive Director
National Coalition for Haitian Rights

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Wednesday, March 01, 2000

For Additional Information, Contact:
Patrick Gavigan (Ext. 19)
Jocelyn McCalla (Ext. 17)

REGISTRATION PERIOD <http://www.nchr.org/hrp/electionspost.htm>

As Haiti lurches toward its most important elections since the ballot that
brought Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power as the nation's first
democratically-elected president in 1990, ongoing problems with voter
registration efforts have led the National Coalition for Haitian Rights
(NCHR) to recommend that the Provisional Election Council (CEP) delay the
March 19 vote for an addition month to ensure that all eligible Haitians
have an opportunity to obtain a registration card.

Registration was originally scheduled to begin on January 10, the date the
parliamentary election campaign was officially launched.  However,
administrative problems at the CEP forced a postponement of registration
until January 24; even with this delay, none-the-less, registration only
began outside Port-au-Prince on that date and did not commence inside the
capital until early February. Further poor planning by the CEP resulted in
the opening of only 3,500 registration offices around the country (as
compared with 10,000 for the 1997 elections), leading to immediate
complaints that many areas of the country were underserved, including
popular neighborhoods like Cite Soleil in Port-au-Prince. Finally, the CEP
botched the organization and delivery of the cameras, film and lamination
materials necessary to produce the cards-many, if not most, registration
offices ran out of materials after just a few weeks of operation and
suspended work or closed completely.

An NCHR visit to Haiti last week confirmed the widespread reports of
administrative chaos in the voter registration process.  A random survey of
25 registration offices-including the six offices set up in Cite
Soleil-found 17 closed (including 5 of 6 in Cite Soleil) for lack of
registration materials and 8 still open and functioning, although with most
of those running low on film and plastic for the cards.  Those offices that
were open appeared to be functioning smoothly, although election workers
admitted that poor training got them off to a rocky start when the offices
first opened and demand for the cards was unexpectedly high-much material
was wasted until the staff learned how to use the cameras and lamination
systems correctly, and the delays and mistakes contributed to frustrations
generating unruly lines.

Nevertheless, enthusiasm for obtaining a voter registration card seemed very
high among the voting population, largely, however, as a result of a
widespread desire of many Haitians to obtain their first photo
identification card of any kind.  Accordingly, the inability of many to find
a registration office has led to widespread complaints and street protests
in the capital and several areas of the country.  And some political
groups-particularly former president Aristide's Famni Lavalas-are already
using the registration problems as a pretext to threaten to claim that the
elections were not fair if their candidates do not do well.

Given these circumstances, NCHR believes that the CEP should postpone the
March 19 election date for one month to enable the largely-ineffectual
institution to extend registration opportunities to all Haitians who wish to
obtain a voting card. Recognizing its registration stumbles, the CEP has
already agreed to keep its voting card offices open until March 3, but the
additional week is not enough time to mitigate the problems that have
plagued the process to date.  An additional month will give the CEP time to
open new registration offices and to launch a long-delayed registration and
voter-education campaign.  The CEP has proven administratively unable to
organize any part of the voting process competently in a short time period,
and opening new offices and distributing additional materials to existing
offices long closed will take time.

One additional month added to an election-organizing process already plagued
by a year of incompetence and delays is a necessary last step to avoid the
worst outcome of what promises to be under the best of circumstances a messy
election.  If the vote is to be seen as fair by all parties, then all
parties must agree that the registration process has been fair, that all
candidates' supporters have had a chance to obtain a voting card.

One additional month should also give the political candidates time to turn
away from the unending silly charges and countercharges over conspiracies to
steal the elections and focus on the dire issues facing the country.
Regardless of the admittedly-huge turnout to obtain voter cards, voters have
been given no reason to date by any of the candidates or parties to turn out
and actually vote-and with no reason to vote, those holding the coveted
photo identification cards will carefully guard them, ignore the bickering
candidates, and stay home on election day, just as 95% decided to do so in
the last ballot organized in 1997.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Wednesday, March 01, 2000

For further Information, Contact:
Jean D. Vernet (ext. 14)
		Merrie Archer (Ext. 18)

		Diallo Verdict Likely to Heighten Fear of Police
		Among Haitian Refugees and Immigrants

In the wake of the verdict exonerating from any wrongdoing all four NYC
police officers who shot and killed Amadou Diallo on his doorstep,  the jury
and the prosecutor are each blaming each other for the shocking acquittal.
The reality is that Mr. Diallo, a black immigrant from Africa, ended up on
trial and was found guilty of the failure to react promptly to the officers'
commands. The presiding judge instructed the jurors to "look at it from the
officers' perspective."

Had the jurors been instructed to look at the killing from an immigrant's
perspective, they might have reached another conclusion. "They would have
perhaps realized that immigrants' verbal and bodily communications can be
widely misconstrued by American citizens whose world vision, knowledge and
tolerance of other peoples remain rudimentary at best," said Jocelyn
McCalla, Executive Director of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights,
adding "Mr. Diallo could have been a Haitian refugee."

The verdict does not bode well for New York's Haitian immigrant and refugee
population. Already subjected to harsh punishment under the terms of the
1997 immigration law which mandates automatic detention and deportation for
convictions as minor as turnstile jumping, Haitians must now contend with a
ruling that, carried to its ultimate conclusion, puts them at the mercy of
the police. "Since these officers were not found guilty of negligence or
lack of judgment when they pumped 19 bullets into Mr. Diallo's body (out of
41 fired), their colleagues on the NYC police force may now feel virtually
immune from prosecution for lesser infractions and may be emboldened to act
regularly with impunity," said Mr. McCalla.

The National Coalition for Haitian Rights joins with others in expressing
our sorrow to the Diallo family. While we also join calls for a police
department review of the policemen's actions and a federal civil rights
prosecution, we firmly believe that much needs to be done to improve
relations between the residents of New York City and its police force. This
includes increased community oversight of police activities, more frequent
exchanges between the police and its immigrant communities, independent
review mechanisms whose conclusions and recommendations must have the force
of authority. Additionally, we urge Haitian refugees and immigrants to join
with us in demonstrating their support for police reforms, to educate
themselves about their rights and obligations in this metropolis and to
otherwise become organized to exercise oversight over the force that is
supposed to make life in their new home a welcoming one.

(Please add information about the rally on Thursday and where to get
additional information about that)

** END **

The National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR) is a non-profit,
non-governmental organization which aims to promote and protect the rights
of Haitians in Haiti and the United States.  Our Legal Education and
Assistance Project (LEAP) is designed to foster better relations between the
Haitian community and the NYPD by holding the law enforcement agencies
accountable for their actions and by bringing awareness of rights,
responsibilities and cultural values to Haitian refugees and immigrants.

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