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8116: Amnesty International Report on Haiti (fwd)

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

Covering events from January - December 2000

Head of state: René Préval
Head of government: Jacques Edouard Alexis
Capital: Port-au-Prince
Population: 8.2 million
Official languages: French, Creole
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes


The human rights situation deteriorated sharply, despite some positive steps
towards accounting for past human rights violations. The electoral period
was marred by assassinations of public figures and by violent attacks by
political partisans, most often self-described supporters of the Fanmi
Lavalas (FL) party. Illegal security forces acting under the auspices of
newly-elected local and regional officials emerged. Haiti also became more
isolated from the international community, with the UN announcing its
intention to end its field mission there.


In January 1999, President René Préval failed to extend the mandates of
Haitian parliamentarians. The terms of local officials expired as well, with
the result that until the third quarter of 2000 there were practically no
sitting officials in Haiti, and the president ruled by decree. Local and
legislative elections were eventually held in May 2000, with a reported
29,000 candidates running for 7,500 posts. Turnout, estimated at 60 per
cent, was the highest since 1990. The vote was declared generally peaceful
by observers, with consensus that FL candidates had won the majority of

However, dissension arose over the method used by electoral officials to
determine whether a second round was necessary. International and some
national observers declared the method used at the central level to tally
votes and to determine whether run-offs were necessary in any given race to
be fraudulent and biased in favour of FL candidates. Léon Manus, head of the
Provisional Electoral Council, eventually fled the country for the USA,
where he denounced President Préval for pressurizing him to tabulate results
in favour of the FL party. The Organization of American States pulled out
its election observers before the second round in July in protest. A
modified Electoral Council oversaw the November presidential elections,
despite some domestic criticism and lack of international support. The
international community declined to support or monitor the presidential race
and suspended much-needed aid.

Following a wave of pre-election violence, including anonymous bomb and
grenade attacks that killed two children and wounded a reported 16 people,
turnout was lower than for earlier contests. However, former President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected overwhelmingly. His inauguration was set
for February 2001.

The UN field mission, Mission Civile Internationale d'Appui en Haïti
(MICAH), began work on 15 March. Its human rights advisers, already reduced
in number from the previous level, were not deployed for several months
owing to funding constraints. In November, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan
announced that the mission, which had been present in various forms since
1993, would not be renewed the following year, stating that the UN
contribution would be reduced to technical aid only. AI believed that this
was due to funding or other constraints, rather than to consideration of the
needs of the situation in Haiti. AI expressed great concern at the
discontinuation of a human rights monitoring presence in the field when the
human rights situation in Haiti was more serious than at any time since the
1994 return to democracy.

Violence in the electoral context

A number of electoral candidates, party members and their relatives were
killed during 2000, most by unidentified assailants. Others went into hiding
out of fears for their safety. Two children were killed in grenade and other
explosions in the run-up to the presidential elections; no one claimed
responsibility for these attacks. In addition, numerous arson attacks were
carried out against electoral and party offices. Violence by self-described
political partisans continued throughout the year. Sometimes the police
failed to intervene and on a few occasions appeared to collude in the
violence. In some instances the police were attacked when they intervened to
stop violent demonstrators.

Jean Dominique, a prominent radio journalist and advocate of human rights
principles, was shot dead by unknown assailants outside his radio station,
Radio Haiti Inter, on 3 April. The station guard, Jean Claude Louissaint,
was also killed. A march of several hundred people calling for those
responsible to be brought to justice was disrupted by self-described FL
supporters, as was his funeral. They subsequently burned down the
headquarters of an opposition party and threatened to attack the premises of
a private radio station known to broadcast opinions critical of their party.
That station subsequently stopped broadcasting temporarily because of
security concerns and Radio Haiti Inter suspended broadcasts for one month
after Jean Dominique's death. Investigations were continuing at the end of
2000, although one senator refused to comply with a judicial summons to
testify, claiming parliamentary immunity.

Emergence of illegal security forces

Some of the local and regional officials elected in May and subsequent
run-off elections established illegal security forces, which were
responsible for a significant number of human rights violations. There is no
legal basis or mechanism of control for these forces, and their members are
generally supporters of the FL party to which most elected officials belong.
In some instances officials claimed they were creating the forces to combat
crime and bolster the Haitian National Police, which they accused of being
ineffective; in others, their motivation was overtly political.

On 2 November, three participants and two passers-by were wounded by gunfire
when a meeting of the opposition coalition Convergence Démocratique, and the
grassroots organization Mouvman Peyizan de Papaye, in the town of Hinche was
attacked by supporters of two local FL-affiliated mayors. The same evening,
the house of the regional coordinator of the political party Espace de
Concertation was set alight by armed attackers who forced their way in and
stole radio equipment before setting fire to the building. The mayors
themselves were reportedly present and active in some of these incidents.
Members of the same group had reportedly closed a local court and threatened
several judges whom they accused of belonging to opposing political parties.
AI raised the incident with the Minister of Justice and Public Security, the
President of the Senate and other high-ranking officials, all of whom
expressed concern. The Prime Minister condemned the violence and pledged to
dismantle such illegal forces.

The Haitian National Police

There were several reports of unlawful killings by police. Most of the
victims were criminal suspects. Reports of ill-treatment of juvenile
suspects following arrest were frequent.
A group of 25 children and adult men, illegally and arbitrarily detained in
Petionville in mid-September by unofficial agents of the mayor's office,
were reportedly beaten when they were seized. They were then handed over to
the local police lockup, where they were held in such overcrowded conditions
that several had to be hospitalized. When they protested against these
conditions, they were reportedly beaten by police officers before eventually
being transferred to the National Penitentiary.
The police were repeatedly accused of inaction in the face of politically
motivated violence, and at times of complicity with partisans. In one
October incident in which police tried to intervene during a political
demonstration, a municipal police commissioner in Port-au-Prince attempted
to disarm a well-known FL activist. The police commissioner and three
accompanying police officers narrowly escaped lynching. Shortly thereafter,
five police commissioners fled the country, fearing for their safety in the
light of rumours, apparently unfounded, that they had been involved in a
coup plot.

A rural police presence was under discussion to supplement the functioning
of the Haitian National Police in the countryside. Human rights activists
were concerned that its independence and impartiality should be guaranteed
in light of the repressive tactics of the rural security system under
previous governments, especially given the emergence of illegal and partisan
security forces acting in conjunction with local officials.

In late April, the head of the internal affairs division responsible for
investigating violations by police was removed; a permanent replacement had
not been named by the end of 2000.

Overcoming impunity

Some steps were taken to bring to justice those responsible for human rights
The May 1999 extrajudicial execution of 11 people in Carrefour-Feuilles was
the most serious human rights violation committed by members of the Haitian
National Police since its inception in 1994. Several arrests were made and
for the first time, police officers were brought to trial for human rights
violations. Six of those arrested were released for lack of evidence before
the trial began. Four police officers, including police commissioner Coles
Rameau, were convicted and sentenced to the minimum penalty of three years'
imprisonment and fined. Two others were acquitted.
In October the trial began of those accused of participating in the 24 April
1994 Raboteau massacre. Raboteau, a heavily populated coastal neighbourhood
outside the town of Gonaives, was targeted for repression under the de facto
military government because of its activist past and its residents'
allegiance to ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Sixteen defendants
were convicted and six acquitted. Among 37 others tried in their absence
were former military ruler Raoul Cedras, former police chief Michel
François, former paramilitary leader Emmanuel ''Toto'' Constant and former
military leader Philippe Biamby.

Judicial concerns

The judiciary continued to be largely dysfunctional. Lack of progress in
investigating and trying suspects contributed to severe prison overcrowding,
with an estimated 80 per cent of detainees awaiting trial. In February
Claude Raymond, a notorious supporter of the former government of
Jean-Claude Duvalier, died in hospital after spending six years in prison
without trial. Numerous judicial orders for his release had been ignored.
The Ministry of Justice and Public Security, with input from human rights
and other groups, developed seven draft bills on crucial issues such as
judicial reform, independence of the judiciary and the administration of