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#2884: 1963 International Commission of Jurists on Duvalier

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

What follows is an additional answer from an
impeccable source - The International
Commission of Jurists - to the neo/crypto
Duvalierist revisionists/apologists who have
been trying to rewrite history about François

This document came out in the summer of 1963.
Diederich and Burt quoted it in their book "Papa
Doc: The Truth About Haiti Today", McGraw-Hill,
1969, pages 256-257.

I obtained the document from ICJ and translated
it into English.

2, Quai du Cheval-Blanc, Geneva, Switzerland

		August 5, 1963

		Press Release

The socio-political Situation in Haiti

The International Commission of Jurists appeals to all
individuals capable of providing a personal and direct
testimony or unpublished documents on the current situation in
Haiti, and invites them to make themselves known to its
General Secretariat, 2, Quai du Cheval-Blanc, in Geneva,

	The tension that emerged at the end of April between
the Dominican Republic and the Republic of Haiti has, for the
first time in many years, brought to the attention of the public a
country that had kept until now a low profile. It is a fact that the
Republic of Haiti, geographically located between countries in
which prevailed the dictatorships of Fulgencio Batista and
Rafaël Trujillo, has lived for almost 6 years under a dictatorship
at least as tyrannical and bloodthirsty.

	The International Commission of Jurists had not waited
for these recent events to turn its attention to Haiti. Last year, it
began to collect first-hand testimonies and documents on the
socio-political situation in this country. It became clear based
on these first elements of information that human rights and
fundamental liberties were totally ignored by the Government of
President François Duvalier. The Commission wanted,

however, before passing judgment on the regime, to check its
documentation through an inquiry in the country. Towards that
end, the President of the Commission sent on April 11, 1963,
a personal letter to President Duvalier, asking him to authorize
the sending of a group of observers to Haiti who would gather
information on the situation. Not having received a response to
this letter, Mr. Bose restated its contents in a telegram to
President Duvalier dated May 30 1963, and in a letter dated

July 11, 1963. These new démarches did not get an answer
either. The President of the Republic of Haiti having thus
willingly rejected the opportunity offered to him to meet with
qualified and impartial observers and to put aside possible
misunderstandings, the International Commission of Jurists
deems it proper to comment on the information that has come
to its attention.

Socio-economic conditions

	We do not intend to dwell on the socio-economic
conditions in which more than 4 million Haitians live: suffice it
for us to recall a few facts and statistics widely disseminated
by the media in recent weeks. The Republic of Haiti has
received since 1954 from the United States financial aid
estimated to be 53 million dollars and loans from the United
Nations amounting to 15 million dollars. In spite of this
assistance, which is considerable when compared to the
annual budget of the order of 28 million dollars, the economy of
the country is shrinking and the standard of living continues to
fall. The annual per capita income is one of the lowest in the
world: $75.00, while the average for Latin America as a whole
is $307.00. Illiteracy is approximately 90%, one of the highest
rates in the world; and infant mortality approximately 50%.

Political institutions

	We do not want to dwell too long on the structure of
political institutions. Let us simply recall that following the
period of troubles that prevailed after the end of President
Magloire's mandate in December 1956, Doctor François
Duvalier was elected, or more exactly put in power with the
assistance of the Army in October 1957. The two chambers of
Parliament, invested with the power to change the constitution,
adopted in December 1957 a new constitution to replace the
constitution of 1950, but retained its main features: bi-
cameralism and the preeminence of the presidency. In April
1961, President Duvalier decreed the dissolution of the
National Assembly and the Senate and modified unilaterally
the constitution by instituting a single chamber called the

Legislative Assembly. The term of the President itself was
scheduled to end on May 15, 1963. We know what infantile
stratagem Doctor Duvalier used to maintain himself in power:
at the end of April 1961, the election of the Legislative
Assembly took place; there was only one candidate - the
candidate of the party in power - for each seat; the President
had his name printed on each ballot, right above the name of
the candidate running for the indicated seat; at the moment of
counting the ballots, the government proclaimed that the
presence of the President's name on each and every ballot
cast was proof of the electorate's will to reelect Doctor
François Duvalier for a new 6-year period starting on May 15
1963. As that date became nearer, many foreign observers
wondered how events would unfold; they wondered if such a
shameless violation of the constitution would not provoke a
strong reaction on the part of the opposition; but, President
Duvalier had at his disposal the means that we will examine
below to keep the opposition at bay and he was able to defy
Haitian and foreign public opinion by declaring himself
reelected for a new term.

	We need to take a closer look at the system put in place
by President Duvalier in order to bring the 4 million Haitian
nationals to the most absolute subjection.

	The constitution voted in December 1957, like the
previous constitution of 1950, is patterned after the most
authentic of democracies. It involves a declaration of individual
rights and fundamental liberties, provides for the election of the
president and of the chambers by the people and sets up a
judicious equilibrium among the branches of government. In
fact, the state of emergency proclaimed at the beginning of
1958, has been prolonged ever since without interruption,
thereby bringing about the "suspension" of constitutional
guarantees. The President has obtained, first from the two
chambers and next from the unique Legislative Assembly, the
broadest powers to enable him to govern by decree. The only
legislative election to have taken place under the new regime,
namely the elections of April 1961, was a farce, the candidates
of the so-called "democratic" party, that is to say the party of
the government, being the only ones authorized to compete for
the 58 seats to be filled. The separation of the branches of
government is a constitutional fiction, the reality being the
concentration of all instruments of coercion in the hands of the
head of state.

Individual liberties

	We will see further below, when we deal with the role of
the police in the Haitian State, the fate reserved for the most
fundamental of rights, the right the Universal Declaration
defines in Article 3 as the right any individual has "to life, liberty 
and personal safety."

	The freedom to come and go must involve, according to
the terms of Article 13 of the Universal Declaration, the right for
any individual to "leave any country, including his or her own,
and to return to his or her own country." Haitian law violates this
principle on both counts because a Haitian national a) cannot
leave Haitian territory without an exit visa; b) once outside,
cannot return without an entry visa. This provision is all the
more paradoxical since nationals of many countries such as
the United States, United Kingdom and France enter Haiti
without a visa and can leave without any formality. Furthermore,
this provision is applied with extreme rigor: requests for visas
remain unanswered for many months in the files of the Police
and to the extent the same procedure is applied to requests for
entry visas, any trip abroad becomes an adventure whose
developments are unpredictable.

	The freedom of conscience and of religion consecrated
by Article 18 of the Universal Declaration implies that Catholic
Church, to which belongs the population almost in its entirety,
has the right to exercise its ministry "through teachings,
practices, worship, and the implementation of its rites." In fact,
President Duvalier saw the Church as the only organized body
capable of resisting him and has multiplied the persecutions
targeting the bishops. The first victim was Monsignor François
Poirier, Archbishop of Port-au-Prince, a French national, who
one day witnessed the invasion of his residence by a heavily
armed police contingent and was, without warning or courtesy,
taken to the airport and shipped out of the country in the first
plane to leave the country. His assistant, Monsignor Rémy
Augustin, first bishop of Haitian nationality, experienced the
same fate a few months later as he was expelled from the
country in the company of four other catholic priests. The
Catholic newspaper La Phalange, which was the most
important daily newspaper in the country, was seized on order
of the President in January 1961, and its editor in chief, a
priest of British extraction, expelled. The violence of these
persecutions have prompted the Holy See to excommunicate
President Duvalier who, nonetheless, continues to attend the
more important functions of the Church.

	Freedom of the press is practically nonexistent, even
though no legal text exists that provides for any sort of
restriction or censure. In spite of this lack of legal means, the
government has at its disposal sufficient material means to
bring to an end at its sole discretion the publication of any
periodical: it has in fact used such means to wipe out any
velleity to criticize or to oppose. We saw that the daily La
Phalange was confiscated. The offices of the newspaper Le
Patriote were blown up in broad daylight and its editor in chief
mistreated by the police. The offices of the newspapers
Indépendance, Haïti-Miroir, Mopisme Intégral, were ransacked
by the police and many of their contributors arrested. Lastly, in
spite all the government's efforts to cover up the scandal, the
foreign press disclosed the facts surrounding the Madame
Yvonne Hakim Rimpel affair - Mrs. Rimpel was the editor of the
women's weekly Escale - including her kidnapping at night
from her home by the militia, her raping by her kidnappers in
the presence of her grand daughter, her torturing and her
abandonment in the belief she was dead on the outskirt of
town. In addition, the government distributes to the docile
newspapers the generous subsidies without which they could
not survive.

	The freedom to form and join unions, consecrated in
Article 23 (4) of the Universal Declaration, disappeared upon
the rise to power of Doctor Duvalier. The most important union
of the time, the National Union of Haitian Workers, affiliated to
the International Confederation of Christian Unions, was
dissolved and its archives confiscated. Sometime later, the
government tried to set up under the same name an
organization over which it had complete control. The
International Confederation refused to recognize it and instead
accepted the affiliation of a new union created in exile by
former leaders of the National Union who had fled to New York.
Of the two main leaders, one, Dacius Benoît was arrested,
tortured, and killed; the other, Lyderic Bonaventure, escaped
miraculously to an attempt on his life and today lives in exile in

Political rights

	Political rights inscribed in the constitution are
practically nonexistent: what does the right to vote mean when
only one candidate supported by the government is offered per
seat to the choice of the electorate? What does the election of
representative assemblies mean when they are drained of all
of their powers to the benefit of an self-appointed head of

	Only freely organized parties could constitute an
opposition. In Haiti, the only party with a legal existence is the
"democratic" party of the President. The communist party has
been banned since 1936. The mildly progressive Democratic
National Union has brought together segments of the
opposition underground but the brutal repression in fact makes
it impossible for it to carry out any activity.

The equilibrium among the branches

	The Legislative assembly has given up the totality of its
prerogatives to the benefit of the executive branch through the
process of delegating its powers. Only the judiciary branch
could act as a counterweight to the executive. In fact, nothing of
the sort is taking place and President Duvalier has succeeded
in reducing the courts as well as the lawyers to a state of
complete subjection.

	A) The judiciary

	In the Haitian judicial system, the nomination of the
magistrates is the responsibility of the executive, in fact of the
President of the Republic, because the Minister of Justice is
himself a tool. The only prerequisite is a law degree, a
university title with little value. There is no test or entrance
examination and no institution such as the Superior Council of
Magistrates or the Judicial Commission in certain English-
speaking countries, whose intervention in the selection
process puts a break on the arbitrariness of the executive. In
similar fashion, the promotion of magistrates is left entirely to
the discretion of the head of state: this is a most important
matter given the hierarchical nature of the judicial organization
which include a court of cassation (the highest court), four
appellate courts, 11 middle tribunals (de première instance)
and tens of lower courts. In recent years, the government has
instituted the practice whereby magistrates are forced to sign
a letter of resignation with the date left out as a means of
keeping them more tightly under control.

	Armed with these powers, President Duvalier carried
out a purge of the judiciary. Many advisors to the highest court
were dismissed, notably Messrs. Théodore Nicoleau and
Emile Saint Clair. In 1959, the head of state attended the
official ceremony inaugurating the new judicial year; in his
speech, the president of the highest court had the temerity to
stress the necessity to have an independent judiciary; he was
quickly dismissed. His successor is no doubt more docile for
after the "reelection" of Doctor Duvalier, he declared publicly
and officially that the whole operation was perfectly proper in
the perspective of the law and the constitution! It is well known
today that most magistrates, especially at the higher levels, are
completely subservient to the government.

	B) Lawyers

	The legal profession is patterned after the French
model, the lawyers practicing at a tribunal or an appellate court
forming an independent "barreau" which elects its own head. In
theory, such an individual (bâtonnier) is freely elected. In fact,
in 1961, lawyers in Port-au-Prince elected to that position one
of their members known for his integrity and independence. At
the behest of the government, the highest court annulled the
election and maintained in this function the previous head
whose term was about to end after he made to the government
all the necessary pledges. As for lawyers who would not yield
to the government's tyranny, we will see below the means used
by the government to break their resistance.

The Police

	One might have noted that in our very rapid survey of the
judicial system, we did not mention the existence of any
special military or political laws or administrative detention
procedures. The absence of such laws or procedure is not a
sign of liberalism, far from it! It simply means that the
government has given itself more reliable and expeditious
means to get rid of its enemies. This comment brings us to the
examination of the institution which is the linchpin of the Haitian
political system: the police.

	In Latin America, it is a common occurrence for
authoritarian regimes to rely on the support of the army. As a
matter of fact we saw that in 1957 Doctor Duvalier was elected
thanks to the very strong backing of the army. He no doubt felt
that the institution that had brought him to power could become
a danger: in recent years, one of the major thrusts of his
policies has been to dismantle the army and to deprive it of its
resources in men, equipment and finance to the benefit of the
police. The army has been reduced to approximately 5,000
men. The president has changed the high command on 5
occasions, closed the military academy, and dismissed many
officers in order to replace them with more pliable individuals.
Equipment, guns and ammunitions are distributed to the
military with parsimony, the bulk of the resources being
reserved for the police.

	The segments of the police that report to the President
and only to the President are three in number: (a) the
presidential guard, about 500 men in all, which provides
security to the national palace; (b) the militia which numbers, it
is estimated, about 8,000 men who wear a blue uniform; (c)
and the most fearsome element, a king of parallel or secret
police, without uniform, whose size is not exactly known but is
estimated to involve several thousands men, and whose
upkeep costs are hidden in fictitious budgetary accounts: we
are talking about the legendary tontons macoutes, many of
whom are recruited among common criminals. It is estimated
that it takes about 15 million dollars to run these various
elements of the police, or a little more than half the budget. It is
estimated that the United States has provided more than one
million dollars in arms and ammunitions to equip the Haitian
army, but that these arms and ammunitions were in fact given
to the militia and the tontons macoutes.

	The methods of the police are simple. In civilized
countries, the police cannot interfere with the life, freedom and
property of citizens without the approval or control of the
judiciary. In special periods, one admits (while deploring it) that
certain organs of the executive, albeit at a very high level, can
take the decision to arrest and detain without prior judiciary
approval: this is administrative detention that one strives to
contain with certain controls and guarantees. In Haiti, things
are less complicated: militia and secret police agents have
carte blanche to arrest, jail, question, torture, and kill any citizen 
without a written order. They can act, not only on the basis of
orders from superior authority, but of their own volition, which
means they can practically on the basis of their whims dispose
of the life, freedom and property of their fellow-citizens. One will
not see in Haiti spectacular political trials: things happen more
discretely and those who have the misfortune to be targeted as
adversaries of the regime or simply as suspects vanish without
traces. Given the practical impossibility of establishing the
exact number of such disappearances, one estimates that
several hundreds were the victims of summary executions.

	The International Commission of Jurists can give a few
precise examples of police action on the basis of first-hand
testimonies from trustworthy individuals.

	Among political personalities at the highest level, we will
mention Mr. Clément Jumelle, who ran against Doctor Duvalier
for the presidency in the election of 1957; hounded by the
police and wounded, he took refuge in the Embassy of Cuba
where he died of his wounds; while his family was taking his
coffin to the cemetery, the cortège was broken up by the police
who confiscated the body and buried it in an unknown place.
Two brothers of the victim, Messrs. Ducasse and Charles
Jumelle, were themselves machine gunned to death by the
militia on August 30, 1958; the first had been minister of the
interior and justice and was a well-known lawyer. The fourth
brother Gaston Jumelle and their four sisters were arrested
and spent many months in jail. In October 1959, six senators
were dismissed; 5 of them succeeded in finding refuge in the
Embassy of Mexico and leaving the country later; the sixth, Mr.
Yvon Emmanuel Moreau, was arrested and simply vanished.
The Port-au-Prince barreau was very hard hit. Among the
victims of the militia and the tontons macoutes, we mention the
names of Maître Clairveaux Rateau, who disappeared in 1959;
Maître Emile Cauvin, former bâtonnier and considered the first
lawyer of Port-au-Prince, who was arrested in his home in April
1961 and never been seen since; Maître Emile Noël, shot
dead by the police; Joseph Pierre Victor, who disappeared the
morning after he had defended in court the Banque de
Colombie against a member of the militia. Let us mention also,
among those killed or those who vanished after their arrest,
Doctor Georges Rigaud, Doctor Watson Telson, former
Senator Frank Legendre, Messrs. Antoine Templier, Yvon
Martin, Louis Charles, Anthony Roland, Antoine Marcel,
Télémaque Guerrier, Augustin Clitandre, Francisque Joseph,
Luc André, and many more. Let us mention the poet Jacques
Stephen Alexis, arrested in April 1961 and about whom we are
without news since, and the young Eric Brière, aged 17, who
was tortured to death by the head of the tontons macoutes
inside the national palace. At the beginning of this year, about
20 young men were arrested for having scribbled on walls
graffiti alleged to be subversive; two or three weeks after their
arrest, we knew that 8 of them had been killed in jail and we
had no news of the others.

	We would need to mention the many cases involving
people arrested without reason, jailed, mistreated or tortured
and released only after many months in detention. Many were
paying for having involuntarily bumped into a militiaman in a
crowd, or having passed the car of a police officer. Many
lawyers also were rewarded with many weeks or months in jail
for their independence judged to be too bold; many bear the
indelible marks of the torture they were subjected to. We need
to mention the abominable conditions experienced by
"suspects" in detention: for the police has its own jails which
are not under any supervision. We would need to mention
those expelled from the country and who managed to survive
as a result. This is the case of Senator Jean David, who in
June 1959 had raised in session disturbing questions about
public finances: he was immediately arrested, taken to the
airport by an armed escort of 20 militiamen and expelled on
the first plane to leave the country without seeing his family. In
September 1959, the Senators Jean Bélizaire, Luc Stéphen,
Jules Larrieux and Thomas Désulmé were dismissed from the
Senate. Sensing they were in danger, they took refuge in the
Mexican Embassy where they stayed 4 months before they
could leave the country. Many prominent jurists were forced to
go into exile: among them, Maître Emile Saint Lot, former dean
of the Law School, Maître Luc Fouché, Maître Alphonse
Esmangart and Maître Joseph Dejean, former ambassador to

	Let us note that the all-powerful police is not afraid to take on
foreigners. A Frenchman, a member of the UN aid mission in
Haiti, was attacked and seriously wounded by the tontons
macoutes. The British ambassadors Simmons and Corley-
Smith were practically expelled in insulting manner.

Embezzlement of funds

	To conclude, we will mention the means developed by the
President to secure, with the assistance of the police, extra
budgetary resources. Towards that end, he has created two
organizations. One is the office of "Economic Liberation"
which forces mostly middle-class people, state employees and
employees of the private sector, to buy "on a voluntary basis"
treasury bonds and tickets of the national lottery. The other is
the "Movement for National Renovation," (MRN in French)
whose direction was entrusted to the chief of the tontons
macoutes, Luckner Cambronne. MRN is supposed to manage
a fund with which to finance public works of a general interest,
the most important of which would be the construction of a
modern city to be called Duvalierville, but whose construction
has been stopped for more than a year. The most important
task is to keep feeding MRN's coffers. For this, Luckner
Cambronne and his men have carte blanche. Transformed into
tax collectors, they tax at their sole discretion businessmen and
merchants: such people regularly receive the visit of armed
policemen who extort voluntary contributions which can be as

high as many hundreds of dollars. A consul of a European
country had his diplomatic status stripped for having refused to
contribute 5,000 dollars. A group of Italian businessmen was
recently summoned to police headquarters and asked to give
10,000 dollars. MRN has installed tolling stations on certain
roads and has gone as far as taxing Vodou ceremonies. It is
estimated that MRN brings in on average 10 million dollars
yearly to be used in theory for development projects. But these
being purely fictitious, it is easy to imagine the ultimate fate of
the MRN funds.

	This element underlines the special character of the
dictatorship of President Duvalier. There are in today's world
many authoritarian regimes. Generally, these regimes serve
an ideology. The abominable tyranny that crushes in Haiti
does not even have the excuse of being at the service of an
idea; its only objective is force the country to pay regular
contributions to insure the future of those currently in power.


The International Commission of Jurists will continue to monitor
with the greatest of care events in Haiti, and will endeavor to
complete its documentation with the information that will come
to it, notably in response to the appeal that appears at the
beginning of this press release.


	The International Commission of Jurists is an apolitical
NGO who has consulting status (Category B) vis-à-vis the UN's
Social and Economic Council. It represents 40,000 jurists,
magistrates and law professors in more than 60 countries. Its
main goal is to define, sustain and promote the progress
through practical action of the Principle of Legality and to help
implement it in its practical applications - institutions,
legislation and procedures - in countries where it is
recognized, and to get it accepted where it is not yet

	The Commission has published, in addition to its
regular publications, special reports relating to the Primacy of
Law in South Africa, Cuba, Spain, Tibet and Hungary. It has
sent observers to Spain, Portugal, South Africa, Cuba,
Ethiopia, Israel, Turkey, Berlin and the Dominican Republic as
well as to other countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and