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8208: Statement by Global Exchange regarding Avril arrest (fwd)

From: Moira Feeney <moira@globalexchange.org>

For Immediate Release:
Wednesday, June 6, 2001

Contact: Alvaro Rojas, 415-255-7296 and alvaro@globalexchange.org

Arrest of Former Haitian Dictator Prosper Avril Marks an Important Step
Toward Ending Impunity for Human Rights Abusers

Statement by Global Exchange Haiti Coordinator
Moira Feeney

The recent arrest of former Haitian dictator Prosper Avril marks an
important and long overdue step in Haitišs journey to end impunity for human
rights abusers. Avril is one of the highest ranking former military officers
ever to be arrested, and his arrest sends a loud message that Haitians have
not forgotten the crimes of the past and are ready to take action against
criminals like Avril.

>From 1988 to 1990, Avril led a brutal dictatorship responsible for, among
other crimes, numerous murders and the regular use of torture. Despite his
murderous past, Avril has enjoyed protection from the US, Israeli and
Colombian governments, allowing him to evade prosecution for his crimes and
enjoy impunity at the expense of justice.

Avril was arrested pursuant to a 1996 warrant that accuses him of the
illegal arrest, detention, and torture of Evans Paul, Serge Gilles, Marino
Etienne, Jean-Auguste Mesyeux, Gerard Emile Brun, and Fernand Gerard
Laforest during his rule. The proof behind their accusations is concrete:
Avril proudly displayed the bloody faces of these torture victims on
national television.

The Avril arrest is just the latest in recent advancements in the Haitian
peoplešs struggle to prosecute human rights abusers. The convictions in the
Raboteau and Carrefour Feuilles trials‹the first successful human rights
trials in the countryšs post-coup period‹showed that Haitišs growing human
rights movement is prepared to aggressively pursue former criminals.

Now, in the context of these new human rights victories, itšs important that
the US take a constructive role in promoting justice in Haiti. In the past,
despite US federal court rulings against Avril, the US government has
interfered in attempts by the Haitian National Police to arrest the former
dictator. The US government should now return the 160,000 pages of documents
illegally taken from the FRAPH paramilitary offices in 1994 by US troops.

Global Exchange is active in Haiti, Colombia, Palestine, California, Mexico,
Brazil and other conflict regions.  Our human rights programs provide
critical support for movements struggling for democracy--while educating the
United States public and encouraging our government to break ties with
repressive regimes. ###