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5375: Update on Raboteau Massacre Trial/Oct 23-27 (fwd)
This week saw the close of the prosecution's case, and the testimony of half
of the defendants in custody.
Monday's highlights were victim Deborah Charles, and former soldier David
Senatus. Deborah who was 18 at the time, tried to escape the attack by
running to the water and jumping on a small fishing boat with several others.
Soldiers and paramilitaries in another boat opened fire on them. The men in
the boat jumped into the water, but Deborah and her friend Rosianne Prophil,
who could not swim, stayed in the boat and were both shot several times in
Senatus was a soldier in the Gonaives barracks, and a Raboteau resident. His
superiors ordered him to help seek out and kill some of the pro-democracy
activists in the area. When he refused, he was deemed unreliable, and was
transferred away from Gonaives until after the massacre. Senatus provided
evidence that the Raboteau massacre and similar operations were planned in
advance, and also demonstrated that it was possible for a subordinate to
refuse an illegal order.
The final prosecution witnesses, on Tuesday, were Rosianne Prophil and Amio
Metayer. Rosianne confirmed the testimony of others about the attack on the
boat, and testified to her injuries and the perils of seeking healthcare
during the dictatorship. She fled hospitals in Gonaives and Port-au-Prince
when soldiers came looking for her, and had to obtain treastment for her
serious injuries clandestinely. Metayer, known as "Cubain", was a leader of
the pro-democracy movement in Gonaives. He testified to the high price he
and his family paid for his convictions: his two brothers, his father and his
pregnant sister were all arrested and beaten at one time or another during
the coup, and on April 18, 1994, soldiers and paramilitaries sacked his
house, and burned all his family's belongings in the street.
The first defendant, Captain Castera Cenafils, testified on Tuesday
afternoon. Castera was the head of the 10th Company in Gonaives, the unit
that manned military posts, fulfilled police functions, and provided half of
the rapid intervention force. Several witnesses, including a justice of the
peace, had testified that Castera was on the scene of the massacre, directing
the operations. Castera admitted his presence, but said his troops responded
in self defense to an attack on the Raboto military post. He claimed that
there were no deaths other than one or two "terrorists." He said that
investigators (including MICIVIH and the U.S. Embassy) who reported no signs
of an attack on the post did not look in the right place for bullet marks.
He said the witnesses who had testified that there was a massacre, including
the Raboteau victims, the forensic anthropologists, the military experts and
the head of MICIVIH, were all part of a plot to persecute him. Castera did
note that no soldiers were killed or hurt by the attack, and that his forces
neither arrested any "terrorists" nor recovered any of their weapons.
Much of Castera's testimony was shown to be inconsistent with previous
statements to the investigating judge in 1998 and to a military inquiry
commission in 1994. The commission was dispatched by the High Command a few
days after the massacre, and included several high ranking officers. Many
of the commission's interviews are consistent with victim testimony at the
Wednesday started with defendant Jean Pierre, alias Tatoune. Tatoune was a
hero of the popular resistance to the Duvalier dictatorship, but by his own
account he had taken the side of the military during the 1991-94
dictatorship. He was reported to be active as a paramilitary in brutalities
on both April 18 and 22, and is accused of two murders and several attempted
murders. Although he had admitted his presence at the scene to the
Commission National Justice et Verite in 1995, in court Tatoune contended
that he was out of town working during the massacre.
Wednesday's second witness was Lieut. Wilson Casseus. Casseus was accused of
several beatings, and the sacking of houses. He denied participation in the
massacre, and claimed that he was out of town at the time. His time on the
stand, which extended into Thursday morning, centered on a letter of excuse
he purports to have written to explain his absence from the post. He admits
that the excuse in the letter: that he was elsewhere in Gonaives at the time,
was an untruth, but he maintained that he really was away from the barracks,
in Port-au-Prince during the massacre.
On Thursday afternoon, Sgt. Amazan Jean-Libert, Adjudant Fenelon Gesner, and
accused paramilitary Orleus Frage testified. All three claimed they were
elsewhere, but none had a witness or other evidence to confirm their account.
Four more defendants were heard on Friday, three of them accused
paramilitaires, the fourth a Corporal. As on Firday, all claimed an alibi
without any proof thereof.
It is expected that the testimony of the accused will finish on Tuesday,
October 31, or Monday, November 6. As November 1 and 2 are holidays in
Haiti, and November 3 is a holiday in Gonaives, final arguments and the
submission of the case to the jury will take place the week of November 6.
Overall, the case continues to go well. The most frequent criticism heard is
still frustration with the quarrelling among the lawyers, and the consequent
slow pace, but there seems to be a broad consensus that the case has been so
far fundamentally fair to both defendants and victims. The victims feel they
have been given an opportunity to present their case, although their past
experiences with the judiciary make them still nervous. Lawyers for all
sides have criticized adverse decisions by the judge, but agree that the
judge has maintained a neutral courtroom. Logistical support for the case
continues to be excellent.
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