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8103: FWD - The Case Against Avril, from President Aristide's Press , Liason (fwd)

From: Racine125@aol.com
Press Release:  June 1, 2001
Contact:  Michelle Karshan, Foreign Press Liaison
for President Jean-Bertrand Aristide
Tel.: (011509) 228-2058, Email:  mkarshan@aol.com


Arrest of Prosper Avril

On Saturday, May 26, 2001, officers of the Haitian National Police arrested 
Prosper Avril in Petionville.  The arrest was made pursuant to a valid 
warrant, in French and in Creole, issued by Juge d'Instruction (Investigating 
Magistrate) Gerard Gilles, on March 27, 1996.  The warrant accuses Mr. Avril 
of having arrested, tortured and injured Evans Paul, Marino Etienne, 
Jean-Auguste Mesyeux, Gerard Emile Brun, Serge Gilles and Fernand Gerard 
Laforest, and cites articles 254 and 255 (assault), and 289, 291, 292 and 293 
(illegal arrest and torture) of the Haitian Penal Code.  The
alleged crimes took place in 1989 and 1990, while Mr. Avril was head of a 
dictatorship in Haiti.

Pursuant to article 26 of the Haitian Constitution, Mr. Avril was brought 
before the Chief Judge of the Port-au-Prince Court, Ms. Lise Pierre-Pierre, 
on Monday, May 28.  Judge Pierre-Pierre, after reviewing the case file, 
determined that his arrest was legal, and confirmed his continued detention. 
The Prosecutor's office also took the opportunity to question Mr. Avril 
regarding additional allegations of his involvement in a plot against the 
security of the state.

The Haitian Code of Criminal Procedure provides that prosecution for the 
crimes of which Mr. Avril is accused must be commenced within ten years of 
the date the crimes were committed.  The prosecution against Mr. Avril was 
commenced by this office on March 26, 1996, approximately six and one half 
years after the earliest alleged crimes.

One of the victims, Evans Paul, has stated to the press that he no longer 
desires to pursue this case.  Although Mr. Paul has not communicated that 
desire to this office, a victim's withdrawal does not preclude prosecution.  
Under the law of Haiti, as of  many other countries, criminal activity is 
considered an injury to public order, as well as to the victim.  The state is 
free to pursue its interest in restoring public order independent of the 
victims interest in pursuing his case.  Mr. Avril, in an April 1998
letter to Mr. Paul, admitted "moral responsibility" for the incident in which 
Mr. Paul,
Marino Etienne and Jean-Auguste Mesyeux were injured.

Another victim, Fernand Gerard Laforest, died tragically in 1999.  His 
survivors have the right to pursue both civil and criminal cases on his 

Lawyers for Mr. Etienne and Mr. Mesyeux, have contacted this office to 
express their strong interest in pursuing the prosecution of Mr. Avril, and 
in pursuing civil claims against him.

As Judge Gilles is deceased, this office has requested Chief Judge 
Pierre-Pierre to assign a new investigating magistrate to continue the 
pretrial proceedings.

The six victims listed in the arrest warrant also filed a civil suit against 
Mr. Avril in Miami, Florida.  The court awarded the victims $41,000,000US in 
damages, and found that "Defendant Avril bears personal responsibility for a 
systematic pattern of egregious human rights abuses in Haiti during his 
military rule of September 1998 until March 1990.  He also bears personal 
responsibility for the interrogation and torture of each of the plaintiffs in 
this case." Paul v. Avril, 901 F.Supp. 330, 335 (S.D. Fla 1994).