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9488: HAITIAN COALITION CALLS on haiti's president to ensure safety of human rights advocates (fwd)
From: Merrie Archer <MArcher@nchr.org>
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Merrie Archer
HAITIAN COALITION CALLS on haiti's president to ensure safety of human
NEW YORK, October 30, 2001 -- The National Coalition for Haitian Rights
(NCHR), in response to a communiqué received this morning from the NCHR
Haiti office in Port-au-Prince (inserted below), is calling on the President
and the government of Haiti to ensure that threats received by the staff of
NCHR Haiti and its partners in the Platform of Haitian Human Rights
Organizations are immediately investigated and the perpetrators brought
swiftly to justice. This recent wave of threats was made following the
publication earlier this month of an open letter from NCHR Haiti and the
Platform to the Haitian National Police, condemning those police activities
that politicize public security and undermine the rule of law in Haiti.
"We will hold the Government of Haiti directly responsible if any harm comes
to these human rights defenders, their families, supporters or allies,"
stated Jocelyn McCalla, NCHR's Executive Director. "We expect those who call
themselves Haiti's leaders to immediately take any and all measures
necessary to ensure that all Haitians enjoy their constitutional freedoms of
opinion and expression, particularly the right to question government policy
and to express dissent publicly without fear of reprisal."
In a letter dated today, co-signed by several human rights organizations
including the Washington Office on Latin America, Human Rights Watch and the
Center for International Policy, NCHR informs President Aristide of these
developments and urges him to personally oversee the resolution of this
grave matter. We invite all members of the human rights community to
demonstrate their concern for the safety and welfare of activists in Haiti
by writing to the Government of Haiti and other key bodies. A draft letter
and key contact information are available on NCHR's website at
Through out the last several months, NCHR and members of POHDH (Platform of
Haitian Human Rights Organizations) have received numerous death threats.
Earlier this month NCHR published an open letter to the Superior Council of
the Haitian National Police, condemning its politicization and severely
criticizing its practices. Not afraid to speak the truth, NCHR named names.
As a result of speaking out, Pierre Espérance, NCHR staff, Simon St. Hubert,
Serge Bordenave and other members of POHDH are once again receiving death
According to NCHR contacts with close connections to the police and
governing party, the above-mentioned individuals and staff are on a list for
elimination. Sources say the threats began after President Aristide met
with members of the National Police, calling for action to be taken against
the officers mentioned in NCHR's letter.
NCHR has received such threats in the past. In June of this year, Pierre
Espérance defiantly denounced President Aristide's zero tolerance policy.
In response to this, René Civil of JPP (Jan l'Pase l'Pase) and Paul Raymond
of TKL (Ti Komite Legliz) publicly called for the government to apply zero
tolerance on Pierre and other human rights organizations.
In August, Pierre Espérance received several calls on his cell phone. The
callers warned that if NCHR did not close its mouth on the Jean Dominique
case, Pierre would be eliminated.
On March 1st, 1999, NCHR, POHDH, and organizations within the Platform
received threats in the form of tracts that were distributed around
Port-au-Prince, again warning NCHR to keep silent. On March 8, 1999 a group
of men attempted to carry out these threats. Pierre Espérance was attacked
on his way to the NCHR office. His truck was riddled with bullets and
Pierre was shot in the shoulder and knee. Even while Pierre was in the
hospital, he continued to receive threats. To this day, nothing has been
done in terms of investigating this assassination attempt.
Throughout 1999, threats circulated around town. Tracts were distributed
that contained the addresses of schools where NCHR and POHDH children
attended, vehicle descriptions and license plate numbers.
Despite these serious threats, the bottom line is this: NCHR will not be
silenced. The truth must be spoken and justice must be sought. Until the
rule of law is established and the fundamental rights of all Haitians are
respected, NCHR will not surrender the fight. The future of a democratic
Haiti depends on this.
The National Coalition for Haitian Rights is a nonprofit, nongovernmental
organization that seeks to promote and protect the rights of Haitian
refugees and Haitian-Americans under US and international law, and to
advance respect for human rights, the rule of law and support for civil and
democratic society in Haiti.