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#3690: Campaign for return of FRAPH/FADH papers: update
May 18, 2000
First of all, welcome to everyone new to the Campaign for the Return of
the FRAPH/FADH Documents. The Campaign, launched by Haitian grassroots
organizations, with supporters in over 40 countries, demands the return of
approximately 160,000 pages of documents (including "trophy photos" of human
rights victims with their torturers, as well as video and audiocassettes)
removed from Haitian military and paramilitary offices by U.S. troops in
1994. These documents are the legal property of Haiti under Haitian, U.S.
and international law. They are important for Haitians to establish the
truth about the 1991-94 military dictatorship, and to prepare cases against
those responsible for the regime's human rights violations.
I. UN Human Rights Commission
We have some good news. The UN Human Rights Commission took up the issue
of the Documents on April 19. Adama Dieng, the Commission's Independent,
Expert, made the Documents his first order of business, vowing that "I will
not lie down on this question that preoccupies the government of Haiti and
mobilizes human rights defenders alike in Haiti, the U.S., Canada, Europe and
Africa." He noted the centrality of the Documents to Haiti's fight against
impunity, and ended his speech asserting that Jean Dominique lives on: "he is
in the voice of all the Haitians in love with justice and liberty; he is in
the voice of the human rights defender who proclaims, from the back of this
room, his horror of human rights violations in such-and-such a country, he is
in the resolution that the Human Rights Commission will adopt to look after
the safeguard of fundamental liberties in Haiti and for the return of the
FRAPH/FADH documents for which he always fought." Wish we could have been
Joseph Antonio, Haiti's Permanent Representative to the Commission, noted
in his statement to the Commission, that Haiti's fight against impunity
required international cooperation, and insisted on the U.S.' obligation to
return the Documents, in their integrality, without any falsification.
As Mr. Dieng noted, he had persisted for years in bringing the Documents
issue in front of the Commission itself and the U.N. General Assembly. Each
time his proposed resolution regarding the Documents was not allowed to reach
the floor for a vote. This time, he got halfway there. The Commission was
not allowed to vote on a resolution naming the U.S. and the Documents, but
did pass a resolution requesting "all interested Governments to make
available to the Government of Haiti information and documentation to enable
it to prosecute the perpetrators of human rights violations...." The
Commission also reiterated the recommendations of Mr. Dieng regarding the
fight against impunity, which include his statement on the Documents. If the
Documents have not been returned by the Commission's next session, we hope
that its members will insist on even stronger language.
The statements of Adama Dieng and Joseph Antonio, as well as the
Commission's resolution, are available on the website.
II. Amnesty International Report
In late March, Amnesty International issued a report on Haiti entitled
"Haiti: Unfinished Business." The report noted AI's support for the
Documents' return at the UN General Assembly in November, and put the return
at the top of its list of "Recommendations for American Authorities."
Unfortunately, Amnesty's recommendation was misinterpreted in a newswire
dispatch on the report. The dispatch stated that Florence Elie, the
Coordinator of the Office for the Preparation of the Raboteau Massacre Trial
and Co-Director of the Office of Citizen Protection reported that some of the
Documents had been returned to the Haitian government. Ms. Elie
categorically denies that any of the Documents have been returned, or that
she ever said they had been. The news service has confirmed that it had not,
in fact, spoken with Ms. Elie about the matter. A copy of Ms. Elie's press
release will be available on the website soon.
This is not the first time the Documents have been reported as returned
(the most prominent was Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's April 1998
declaration that "all the documents have been returned to Haiti"), nor is it
likely to be the last. If there is reason for celebration and
demobilization, we will certainly let you know. In the meantime, we request
that you treat reports of the Documents' return with skepticism.
III. The Raboteau Case
The judicial proceedings for the Raboteau massacre continue to advance.
On May 16, the Cour de Cassation rejected the final appeals of the defendants
against the "ordonnance" charging them in the case. That was the last
procedural hurdle before the trial, which is expected this summer.
In other good news for justice in Haiti, the "Philadelphia Ash",
incinerator ash dumped illegally in Gonaives, Haiti, in 1987, finally left
the country for disposal in a landfill in the U.S. in April. This success
involved cooperation and assistance by officials in the U.S. and Haiti, but
the real engine behind it was the persistent campaign by NGO's in Haiti
(notably COPEHDA and Commission Justice et Paix of Gonaives) and in the U.S.
(notably Greenpeace and Essential Action).
IV. Less Good News
Merrill Smith, as Director of Haiti Advocacy, has played a key role in
the Campaign since the beginning. Merrill's contributions include running
the website, coordinating work in the U.S., and providing valuable advice and
counsel. Merrill has recently moved his tenacity on to Lutheran Immigration
and Refugee Services. The Campaign would like to thank Merrill for all he
has done, wish him the best in his new challenges, and request that he still
help us out when he can.
If you would like the French version of this letter, let us know (same if
you would like your name off the list). For more information on the
Campaign, contact the website, http://members.bellatlantic.net/~advocacy or:
in Europe: Haiti Support Group, email@example.com; in Haiti: Bureau
des Avocats Internationaux, 168 Avenue John Brown, Port-au-Prince, phone:
509-245-8550, fax 509-245-0371, email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Everywhere else:
Haiti Advocacy: 1309 Independence Ave. SE, DC 20003, phone 202-544-9084, fax:
202-547-2952, email: email@example.com. This is update #15.
Brian Concannon Jr.