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5332 Raboteau Update, 10/16-20 (fwd)
Raboteau Update, 10/16-20
This week was "International Expert Week" in the Raboteau trial. Monday
started out with witnesses, all from Raboteau, to different scenes of
violence during the operation. As has been the case throughout, the
witnesses were remarkably consistent with each other, and with their own
prior accounts of the massacre, some of which go back to 1994 and 1995.
After Tuesday's holiday, the Court heard a witness requested by a defendant,
a former Corporal who claims he was transferred from Gonaives to the
Anti-Gang unit in Port-au-Prince. The witness believed the Corporal had, in
fact, been transferred at the time, but could not provide an alibi for him on
the days of the massacre, or rule out his participation. The testimony was
consistent with witness statements that the Corporal, as well as others
stationed outside of Gonaives, were sent as reinforcements for the massacre.
Wednesday also saw the appearance of forensic anthropologist Dr. Karen Burns.
Dr. Burns was part of a team of anthropologists who came to Haiti to help
the Commission National de Verite et Justice (Truth and Justice Commission)
in 1995. The team excavated several sites where victims were said to be
buried, including three victims of the Raboteau massacre. The team returned
to work on the Raboteau case in 1997 and 1998.
The anthropologists' work confirmed much of what the victims had said about
the massacre. Two of the remains were found with ropes around their necks,
consistent with witness reports that paramilitaires had dragged the dead from
the water by ropes around their necks. The remains of one victim, later
identified as Frederic Lexeus, indicated that he had been shot from behind
with a high powered rifle. Several witnesses reported that Lexeus was shot
by soldiers with high powered rifles as he fled into the harbor. Buried next
to Lexeus was Claude Jean, known as "Ti-Claude". Although Dr. Burns was not
able to ascertain the cause of Ti-Claude's death, she did note that his cheek
had been broken, consistent with reports that he had been beaten by
paramilitaries and soldiers. Witnesses had reported that Ti-Claude was shot
as he ran from a house where he had spent the night, and the anthropology
team in fact found a key in Ti-Claude's clothes that fit the lock of that
house. The clothes of both Lexeus and Claude were consistent with witness
Thursday started off with the testimony of Dr. Michele Harvey, a geneticist.
Dr. Harvey had worked with the anthropology team in 1997 and 1998, doing DNA
tests to confirm the identities of the remains. By comparing DNA taken from
the teeth of the remains with blood samples from those who could have been
relatives of the deceased, Dr. Harvey was able to conclusively identify
Frederic Lexeus and Claude Jean.
Dr. Harvey was followed by Ambassador Colin Granderson, the former Executive
Director of MICIVIH, the UN/OAS human rights mission in Haiti during the
dictatorship. Mr. Granderson testified about the context of repression
surrounding the Raboto massacre. He noted that military and paramilitary
units, systematically and regularly, throughout the country, violated the
rights of anyone who opposed the dictatorship or advocated democracy. He
noted that the military leaders, despite frequent reports by MICIVIH and
others, did nothing to punish those responsible for human rights violations.
Mr. Granderson also noted that the people of Gonaives, and especially
Raboteau, continued their non-violent resistance to the dictatorship long
after other areas had been intimidated into silence.
Mr. Granderson described how, from October, 1993 through the time of the
massacre, the repression in Haiti had increased steadily in response to
increased pressure on the dictatorship from the international community. He
listed a series of massacres and killings that took place in February, March
and April of 1994, as well as intimidation of MICIVIH until its expulsion in
Mr. Granderson also presented the report of the MICIVIH team that visited
Gonaives to investigate the massacre. The team corroborated much of what
had said: there were several deaths (eight confirmed), several wounded,
dozens of houses sacked, a crowded neighborhood deserted. The team spoke
with military authorities in Gonaives, including the Departmental Commander,
Col. Bellony Groshommes, who claimed that the military had responded to an
attack on the army post in Gonaives. The team noted no signs of an attack
on the post, such as bullet holes. Mr. Granderson also noted that a
delegation from the military high command interrupted MICIVIH's interview
with Col. Groshommes, who was told not to speak any more with the mission.
The same delegation travelled up the road to Le Borgne, and the next day
organized a demonstration against another MICIVIH team investigating another
massacre. Mr. Granderson concluded that the evidence showed that the
Raboteau massacre was planned in advance.
Friday saw the testimony of Colonels Horacio Pantaleon Ballester and Jose
Luis Garcia. Both had been Colonels in Argentina's army, and opposed that
country's military dictatorship. They now run the Centro de Militares Para
la Democracia. They are experts in military structure, and the
responsibility of commanders and subordinates for human rights violations.
They have testified for cases throughout Latin America, and in Europe. The
Colonels explained how the Haitian military during the dictatorship was
expressly structured to repress pro-democracy activists rather than to
fulfill any legitimate military function. They noted that this structure,
and the activities it carried out, violated the army's own regulations, as
well as the Haitian Constitution and international law. Some of the most
egregious of these were the support and tolerance of illegal paramilitary
organizations, especially FRAPH, the creation of other unofficial structures
to hide the military's role in the repression, and the encouragement of
repression at the local level.
The Colonels discussed the criminal liability of the military personnel
charged in the case. They concluded that the operation was planned in
advance, with the assistance of the members of the high command, and noted
that there was absolutely no discipline imposed for those who participated in
the atrocities. They determined that the army high command, and the superior
officers in Gonaives were responsible for all crimes committed during the
massacre. They continued down the chain of command, explaining the basis of
liability for junior officers and enlisted men.
The trial continues to go well from the perspectives of logistics and
security. Many have complained that the Court allows too much arguing by the
lawyers, especially defense attorneys, but there are no complaints that put
the the trial's fundamental fairness in doubt.
There are five prosecution witnesses left, and it is expected that they will
all finish on Monday. The defendants have not listed any witnesses, but all
twenty-two defendants are expected to testify. As November 1,2 and 3 are
holidays, it is expected that the trial will finish the week of November 6.
For more information, check the Raboteau trial website, set up by Michelle
Karshan, the Foreign Press Liason for President Preval, at
http://www.Raboteau.homepage.com. The website has prior updates,
commentaries from several sources, and news stories on the massacre. Also
check Haiti On Line (AOL Keyword "Haiti On Line"), which has news stories and
a copy of the "Acte d'Accusation", the document setting forth the