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9137: Haiti Ten Years After the Sept 30, 1991 Coup d'etat - Part II , (fwd)

From: MKarshan@aol.com


The Restoration of Democracy and Justice

The Haitian government created the Commission Nationale de Verite et Justice 
("CNVJ" or "National Truth and Justice Commission") to establish the truth 
about the coup regime's crimes, lay the foundation for future prosecutions 
and to help begin the process of  reconciliation within Haitian society.  The 
CNVJ report, submitted in February 1996, included a global analysis of the 
repression, special investigations into the most serious violations, 
including massacres, media repression and systematic politically motivated 
rape, and a series of recommendations.

As the government recognized that there could be no reconciliation without 
justice, it implemented a series of initiatives to promote prosecution of the 
coup era's worst human rights violators.  Under international pressure, 
President Aristide issued a limited amnesty decree.  The decree covers only 
the act of the coup d'etat of September 30, 1991 itself, not any of the 
murders, rapes and other tortures committed over the next three years.

Justice Under Democracy

In November 2000, the U.N. Support Mission to Haiti affirmed that two recent 
landmark trials "prove that the Haitian justice system is capable of 
effectively prosecuting" human rights cases, "while respecting the guarantees 
of the 1987 Constitution and international treaties to which Haiti is a 
party."  This about-face from the situation ten years before was the fruit of 
long-term investments in developing the judiciary, as well as intensive 
efforts on particular, symbolic cases.
Long Term Improvements

One of the most important long-term investments was professionalizing the 
judiciary.  The Ecole de la Magistrature, or Judicial Academy, was organized, 
and two classes have completed the training cycle, with a third class 
underway.  Although the Academy's full impact will not be felt until 
graduates work their way into all levels of the judiciary, some graduates 
have already made their mark in high profile cases.  Judicial salaries have 
been raised, along with performance expectations.  Under-performing judges 
have been replaced throughout the country.

There are new or rebuilt facilities for all of Haiti's trial courts.  
Judicial officials for the first time have a minimum of   materials, 
including legal texts, file cabinets and office supplies.  A long-term 
judicial reform project is underway.  The project's preparatory commission 
has filed two reports, and there have been conferences for soliciting the 
views of judges, prosecutors and others.

For the first time in Haiti's history, the rights of the accused are 
generally respected.  The vast majority of those arrested are done so 
pursuant to a warrant in French and Creole, and are brought before a judge 
within 48 hours.  As with any criminal justice system, the rules are not 
perfectly respected, but those arrested or detained illegally can and do file 
a  habeas corpus petition.  Judges routinely grant the petitions, and order 
those detained improperly released.

The oppressive military prison system was replaced with a professional 
civilian penal administration, the Direction de l'Administration Penitentiare 
(DAP).  Prison escapes and brutality are almost non-existent.  Prisoners are 
documented from entry to final departure, and the records are available to 
lawyers and human rights workers.  A Code of Prison Regulations has been 
prepared and published to inform prisoners of their rights.

Court proceedings are increasingly conducted in Creole.  Trials are often 
well attended, and generate significant public discussion of the issues 
raised.  Programs on justice are some of the most popular and frequent TV and 
radio offerings.  

Non-governmental organizations devoted to justice have flourished since 1994. 
 They include grassroots, women, lawyers and human rights groups from across 
the political spectrum, some supportive of the government, some critical.  
They operate freely, monitoring human rights, advocating for justice and 
continuing the democratic struggle.

Prominent Prosecutions

The most tangible evidence of the system's progress has been the trials in 
the Carrefour Feuilles and Raboteau massacre cases in late 2000.   Each in 
its turn was the best judicial proceeding in Haitian history.  Each was 
conducted mostly in Creole, and broadcast nationally on television and radio.

The  trial  of  the  Carrefour Feuilles Massacre -- the May 1999 execution of 
eleven people by the current police force -- showed the justice system's 
willingness and ability to punish even top police officials.  The case 
proceeded with unprecedented speed, from crime to sentencing in fifteen 
months.  It also reached higher than the arm of justice had ever previously 
gone: among the four convicted of murder were the then current police chief 
of the capital, Port-au-Prince.  The trial was monitored closely by civil 
society and international observers, who declared it fundamentally fair to 
victims and defendants.
The trial of the Raboteau massacre -- an April 1994 military/paramilitary 
attack on a pro-democracy neighborhood under the dictatorship -- showed the 
justice system's ability to investigate past atrocities and successfully 
prosecute a complex case.  After six weeks of trial, the court convicted 
fifty-three soldiers and paramilitaries for the attack, including the 
dictatorship's top military and paramilitary leaders, and acquitted six 
defendants.  Certain military officers and paramilitary leaders who refused 
to attend the trial after notice were convicted in absentia, but extradition 
requests are prepared.  One member of the military high  command, Carl 
Dorelien, was arrested for deportation by the U.S. Immigration and 
Naturalization Service in June 2001.  Also convicted for the massacre was 
Emmanuel Constant, the leader of the FRAPH paramilitary group.  Constant was 
ordered deported by a U.S. immigration judge in 1995 for his death squad 
activities, but continues to live freely in New York.  

The Raboteau trial benefited from special initiatives, but it also reflected 
underlying improvements in the justice system.  Both the trial judge and the 
chief prosecutor had profited from post-transition training programs to move 
far up the judicial ranks.  The judge had graduated at the top of the first 
class of the Ecole de la Magistrature.  Two assistant prosecutors made their 
mark in the Carrefour Feuilles trial, and brought this experience to the 
Raboteau trial.  One had recently returned from a year at France's Ecole de 
la Magistrature, and was named academic director of Haiti's Ecole.  After his 
performance in the Raboteau case he was named chief prosecutor in 

Challenges Ahead For Justice

The troubled system that took centuries to install cannot be overhauled in a 
few years. Some changes will be generational, as police, judicial officials 
and lawyers educated in democratic    principles gradually replace those 
vested in the old ways.  Others will require massive investments in training 
and material support, and improvements in management structures.   All will 
require experience, sincere efforts to provide justice, and learning from 

The Haitian justice system's largest challenge is dealing with the rising 
caseload.  The caseload has outpaced the system's improving capacities since 
1995, due to an exploding urban population, increased police efficiency, and 
an increase in citizens resorting to formal justice.  The result is an 
unacceptably high rate of pre-trial detention (about 80% of prisoners), and a 
clogged civil docket.  The justice system needs to increase the pace of 
improvements, especially in human resources.

The justice system needs to make greater strides in the fight against the 
corruption that has historically plagued it.  Corruption has declined in the 
last five years, due to the substitution of more professional judges and 
prosecutors and some enforcement efforts, but these  initiatives must be 

The most visible challenges to the justice system are high profile 
assassinations, especially the cases of businessman Antoine Izmery, Minister 
of Justice Guy Malary, activist Claudy Musseau and Father Jean-Marie Vincent 
during the coup, and more recently the killing of popular journalist and 
pro-democracy activist Jean Leopold Dominique on April 3, 2000.  Notably, in 
the Dominique case, dozens of witnesses and suspects have been interviewed, 
and six suspects are in prison.

The prison system's principle challenge is overcrowding.  The police force's 
ability to arrest and the DAP's ability to hold accused criminals has 
outpaced the judicial system's ability to process them.  As a result, the 
prison population has tripled since 1995, while the budget for food and 
healthcare has remained stable.  As foreign aid for the prison system 
subsides, these shortages are exacerbated.

Security Under The Dictatorship: Organized Insecurity

Throughout Haiti's history, the military has reduced security more than it 
has guaranteed it.  Soldiers traditionally preyed on the population, 
controlled or overthrew civilian governments, and diverted resources from 
important social programs.

Although the 1987 Constitution requires a civilian police force, security in 
Haiti before 1994 was provided by the army.  The army had some units that 
tended to concentrate on police matters, but there was not a professional 
police career track or highly specialized units.  The army's methods were 
brutal, often without any relation to the formal justice system, and police 
work was closely connected to the military leadership's political activities.

The de facto dictatorship magnified these tendencies.  Over 5,000 people were 
murdered for political reasons in three years (by comparison, about 3,000 
Chileans were killed by the Augusto   Pinochet dictatorship in Chile in over 
a decade).  Hundreds of thousands were beaten, raped or otherwise tortured.  
The U.S. Coast Guard intercepted over thirty thousand refugees fleeing by 
boat in the first year alone, and countless others drowned trying to escape.  
The violence led to over 300,000 internally displaced citizens.

The targets of the repression included anyone involved in activities that 
could be considered popular organizing or democratic.  Journalists were 
intimidated, arrested and killed; radio stations were destroyed.  Everyone 
involved in peasant organizations, whether it was for economic, religious, 
social or political activities, was similarly targeted.

Where the Duvalierists and their allies had waded in the drug trade the coup 
d'etat leaders jumped in headlong, making Haiti a major transshipment point 
for Colombian cocaine.  In a single case in a Florida federal court, Marc 
Valme, the commander of the military's airport company, was convicted, coup 
leader Michel Francois was indicted (Honduran authorities refused an 
extradition request), and army chief Raoul Cedras was implicated for cocaine 

Security and the Restoration of Democracy

Haitian governmental transitions were historically accompanied by extra 
judicial killings, by either the government or the populace.  Haiti avoided 
both types of violence in 1994 by insisting on formal justice, and making 
concrete efforts to provide it.  A government campaign   encouraged the 
citizens to seek justice in the courts, and to cooperate with the 
Multinational Forces.  Although many were frustrated by the slow pace of the 
judicial process, seeing many of the worst offenders in jail facing serious 
charges helped convince the population that formal justice was possible.

Upon the return of the constitutional authorities, the military was quickly 
demobilized.  Security was provided in part by the international community, 
especially the UN civilian police mission and the international military 
forces, and in part by the Interim Police Force made up of former vetted 
soldiers.  Security was also provided in large part by the Haitian people who 
remained resolute in their determination to bring peace to Haiti.

Security Under Democracy

The demobilization of the hated army has been called the most significant 
step forward for democracy in Haiti in the 20th century.  Opinion polls 
called it the most popular act of President Aristide's first term.  It is 
impossible to overestimate the army's oppressive weight on Haiti's civil 
society.  Its elimination was an enormous windfall in the struggle for 

Without the army, there is no organized political violence in Haiti.  All 
citizens, especially journalists and politicians can exercise their right to 
speak unhindered, and especially to criticize the government and its 
policies.   Now, the government is able to allocate its scarce resources 
according to democratic criteria: for education, healthcare and economic 
development, without giving the military its 45% share.

In place of the army and with the assistance of the United States and other 
members of the international community, Haiti developed a civilian police 
from scratch, the Police Nationale d'Haiti (PNH).  Although the PNH suffers 
from scarce resources, inexperienced management and general growing pains, it 
has made remarkable strides.  The PNH is deployed throughout the territory, 
with stations in every municipality, and substations in most other populated 
areas.  Its investigative units have a scientific, record keeping, research 
and investigative capacity well beyond anything previously known in Haiti.

The PNH's drug unit, often working closely with the U.S. Drug Enforcement 
Administration (DEA) and the U.S. Coast Guard, has intercepted over 4 tons of 
cocaine and 5 tons of marijuana headed to the United States since 1997.  It 
has arrested over 2,000 suspects, including 50 Colombian nationals. So far 
this year, two American nationals have been arrested and turned over to U.S. 
officials for prosecution.  The drug unit participates in regional 
interdiction operations, including April 2001's "Operation Conquistador" 
coordinated by the DEA.

Challenges For Security

Crime in Haiti is below that of many of its neighbors, but it is still 
unacceptably high to most Haitians.  The increase in common crime that 
inevitably accompanies a democratic transition has not spared the country, 
and the developing civilian police force has struggled to keep up.  Although 
police manpower is still low proportionate to the population, crime has 
dropped significantly since a new police leadership team was installed in 
March 2001.  The police force needs to build on these gains, and to prevent a 
resurgence of crime.  

A second important security threat is the transshipment of drugs. Haiti is 
unfortunately situated on a straight line from cocaine's supply to its 
demand.  According to the The Economist, U.S. consumers pay over $55 billion 
per year for the transportation and distribution of illegal drugs.  This is 
more in a day than the Haitian government can afford in an entire year for 
all of its police, prison and justice activities combined.  Drug money is 
highly corrosive to Haitian society: smugglers can easily outbid the 
government for the loyalties of police, judges, prosecutors and other 
officials.  Narco-corruption leads to more generalized corruption, breakdowns 
in discipline and a loss of respect for the rule of law.

Despite the overwhelming economic power of the drug transporters, the 
government of Haiti is fighting trafficking, with the many courageous police 
officers, judges, prosecutors and other officials who value honesty and 
respect for the law over short term material gains.  The fight is being waged 
on the ground by the PNH's drug unit and on the seas by the Haitian Maritime 
Police.  It is being waged in financial institutions through Haiti's new 
money laundering laws and other regulations on money transfers.  It is also 
fought through international cooperation, such as the Maritime 
Counter-Narcotics Agreement allowing the U.S. Coast Guard to pursue suspected 
traffickers in Haitian waters.

Not all of Haiti's security threats are civilian, as there are those unable 
to gain power by the ballot who would still do so by the bullet.  In November 
2000, a group of former soldiers, some of them high-level PNH officials, were 
caught planning a coup.  On July 28th of this year, a group claiming to be 
former soldiers attacked Haiti's police academy and four police stations, 
killing five policemen before escaping.  An investigation of those incidents 
by the justice system is under way.

Although the Haitian government and the vast majority of the Haitian people 
are committed to keeping the army abolished, some political parties and other 
groups have called for its return.  The Constitution, which recognizes a 
military force, must be amended to settle the issue definitively.  This can 
only done by resolutions passed by consecutive Parliaments.  The government 
intends to submit an amendment abolishing the army to the current Parliament 
before the end of its session and to ask the following Parliament to ratify 
the amendment as soon as possible.


Haiti's democracy dividend has been generous to date, but the work is far 
from complete.  Now that democracy and basic liberties have been established, 
the Haitian people and its government must, and will, continue the struggle 
to protect the hard-won gains and to ensure that all Haitians receive the 
minimum material goods for a dignified human existence.  

 The next phase of the struggle is not without its challenges, but Haiti's 
past is full of triumph over difficulties, many seeming insurmountable.  From 
independence in history's only successful slave revolt, through liberation 
from twenty-nine years of the Duvaliers to the unprecedented democratic 
progress since 1994, the Haitian people have continued to defy the odds, and 
continue to struggle with tenacity and unity of    purpose.


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