Let Haiti Live Coalition

Volume 1 | Edition 1 | May 1, 2004

Introduction to the Report
The human rights situation in Haiti is complex and evolving, with many groups bearing responsibility for and falling victim to violations. It is clear, however, that widespread human rights violations have occurred since the removal of the elected government from office on February 29, 2004. The Haiti Human Rights Report, a weekly update on the situation of human rights in Haiti, has as its purpose to provide reliable, current information on the situation on the ground. The availability of high quality information is circumscribed by high levels of insecurity, continuing repression, constraints on communication, and a limited presence of human rights workers on the ground; however, greater information allowing for a more complete assessment of the human rights situation will be included in the weekly reports as it becomes available. The report is not a political publication and material of a political nature will only be included insomuch as it is directly related to human rights. The first edition of the report focuses on human rights violations against civilians that have been documented since February 29. Subsequent editions will explore other areas of concern in greater detail and will provide greater information on areas outside of Port-au-Prince as it becomes available.

An Overview of Human Rights Threats
On February 29, 2004, a three-week long insurrection resulted in the removal from office of elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Leaders of the insurrection included Jean "Tatoune" Baptiste and Louis Jodel Chamblain, both convicted in 2000 for their role in the 1994 Raboteau Massacre as leaders of FRAPH (Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti) and other plotters of former coups including Guy Philippe. During their insurrection, rebels liberated all of the approximately 2,000 prisoners throughout the country; some released prisoners joined the armed movement against the elected government. According to Amnesty International, groups and individuals posing a threat to human rights include Chamblain, Tatoune, and others who were engaged in human rights violations during the 1991-'94 coup d'état; released prisoners, armed gangs from across the political spectrum, former soldiers and paramilitaries, and former police officers and section chiefs, who are known to have committed serious abuses of human rights in the past. Amnesty noted with alarm that, "Members of the abolished Haitian Armed Forces and former paramilitary leaders convicted of past human rights violations are emerging as new actors in Haiti's political scene and have taken control, especially in areas where state authority is weak or absent" (Amnesty, April 8, www.amnesty.org).

Reports from Around the Country
Human rights groups have been especially limited in their ability to travel outside of the capital, particularly to the rebel-controlled North, and to investigate specific claims of abuses. More reports will be made available as the situation permits individuals to travel outside of the capital and to conduct further investigative work.

Raboteau Judge Brutally Assaulted
Judge Napela Saintil, the judge who presided over the Raboteau Massacre trial in 2000 was severely beaten on March 30 in his home by heavily armed individuals. He had been receiving daily death threats from unidentified individuals who criticized him for his role in the trial during which rebel Louis Jodel Chamblain was convicted in absentia (InterPress Service). Homes of victims of the massacre have been burned and many are now in hiding.

Lafanmi Selavi Incident
Members of a human rights delegation from the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) were told by some grassroots leaders on March 30, 2004 that they had seen "four men bound, lying face down, and shot dead in the back in front of Lafanmi Selavi, an orphanage and school founded by President Aristide in Port-au-Prince shuttered since February 29" (NLG). Immediately after, the delegation went to the site of the alleged incident and found it closed off and surrounded by police. The police insisted that no one had been killed and that the men were under arrest for trying to steal a generator from the site. They did admit that shots were fired at the men and one was hit and hospitalized. The policeman advised the delegation to go to the local police station. Some blood was found at the site and a delegation member found a spent bullet. The chief at the police station informed the delegation that the men were under arrest but would not state where they were being held (National Lawyers Guild Report, April 2004, www.nlg.org).

Amnesty International Reports from Port-au-Prince
Amnesty International reported that that the driver of a former Lavalas deputy died on April 4 after being attacked in Martissant area of Port-au-Prince. The assailants have since visited his home to look for his wife and threatened to kill her and burned down the house. She is now in hiding. Amnesty also reported that two members of the grassroots organization KOMIREP were kidnapped in Martissant on April 4 and their whereabouts are still unknown. Amnesty also spoke with a young woman who was being threatened by a police officer accused of gang-raping her in November 2003 that has recently been released from prison. Threats have also been received by the organizations supporting her (Amnesty, April 8).

Cadaver Disposal in Port-au-Prince
During its investigation, the NLG Delegation visited the State Morgue in Port-au-Prince. When questioned, the director of the morgue refused the delegation's request to view the cadavers and to review the record books. He did, however, admit that "many" of the several bodies brought into the morgue are those of young men who had been shot with their hands tied behind their backs and plastic bags over their heads. The director insisted that only 8 bodies were in the morgue, but morgue workers later told the delegation in confidence that there were over 50 bodies in the morgue and that many bodies were continuing to come in with their hands behind their back and bags over their heads (3/31/04).

The director did admit that on Sunday, March 7, 2004, 800 bodies were "dumped and buried" by the morgue and another 200 bodies were dumped on Sunday, March 28, 2004. He estimated that the average number dumped is less than 100 per month. The bodies dumped are those that have not been claimed by relatives because they can not afford to pay for a funeral or are afraid to claim the body. The normal waiting period for bodies is 22 days, but the Director claimed that the morgue was dumping bodies within 5-6 days because of a problem with the refrigeration system at the facility. The delegation heard many reports that relatives were afraid to claim bodies of Lavalas members for fear of being identified as having a Lavalas connection.

Reports of Cadavers Burned at Piste D'Aviation
The NLG Delegation also investigated reports from several witnesses that 40 to 60 bodies had been brought in trucks to a field near Piste D'Aviation, bordering the Delmas 2 neighborhood of Port-au-Prince on Sunday March 22, 2004, along a road to the airport. On Monday March 23, 2004, the bodies were reported to have been moved away from the roadside to a more remote field and were burned. The delegation observed the massive ash pile and pigs eating flesh of human bones that had not burned. The group photographed fresh skulls and other human bones, some still tangled in clothes or with shoes and sneakers nearby. The delegation observed that the fuel for the fire was misprinted Haitian currency.

Reports from the Central Plateau
Many reports of human rights violations have emerged from the Central Plateau. The Plate-forme des Organisations Haïtiennes des Droits Humains (POHDH) reported that the population of Savanette had suffered from numerous abuses committed by armed civilians and former soldiers acting arbitrarily as law enforcers. (AlterPresse). The Associated Press and Reuters reported on April 26 that armed groups believed to be under the command of former Haitian Army Master Sergeant Joseph Jean-Baptiste burned town two police stations before Chilean troops arrived to secure the city. Reuters also reported that the headquarters of Fanmi Lavalas in Hinche was burned down by the rebels.

Continuing Repression in Petit Goave and Grand Goave
The NLG Delegation observed and photographed many homes in Petit Goave that were destroyed by arson after February 29. All of the homes that had been burned were owned or occupied with families associated with Lavalas. Their occupants had fled to the mountains. Houses destroyed included those of a member of the House of Deputies, local elected political and civil leaders, and student leaders. The homes of family members of these groups were also burned. As of the delegation's visit, there were no police in Petit Goave and the town was being run by a man named "Ti Kenley." The delegation was later informed that more Lavalas homes had been burned on April 1 in retaliation for the delegation's investigation the previous day.

In Grand Goave, the delegation also found that there were no police officers. The town was being controlled by a group of men receiving orders from former members of the military. The men were observed riding in a vehicle with "FADH," the acronym for the Haitian army, on its side. An April 19 news article stated that the systematic repression against Fanmi Lavalas militants was continuing. Many Lavalas party members have taken refuge in Port-au-Prince and teachers, lawyers, and other professionals were reported to be in hiding (Agence Haitienne de Presse).

Les Cayes
The NLG visited Les Cayes and found that the town was being controlled by "Ti Gary," a militant opponent of Lavalas. In an interview with the delegation, Ti Gary admitted to having committed at least 5 public executions of thieves during the month of March. He cited the lack of a functioning police as his justification for the executions. Some of the police from the town had returned to their posts but they were subordinated to uniformed former military officers who had also returned.

The Miami Herald reported on April 11 that despite the present of French troops, the rebels remain a powerful force. The rebels still held the main police station and as of April 11, had not asked the rebels to leave. There have been many reports of more than 20 Lavalas members being placed in a container and drowned at sea (Miami Herald, April 11).

As of April 11, Port-de-Paix remained controlled by about 40 rebels who admitted to targeting Aristide supporters in interviews with a foreign journalist. The journalist reported that rebels have been patrolling the streets and arresting and jailing criminals. One rebel was quoted as saying that the main objective of the rebels was to find Aristide supporters and put them in jail. The rebels stated that most Aristide supporters in the city had fled or had been killed in the uprising (Ottey, Miami Herald, April 11).

Human Rights Violations against Civilian Groups: An Ongoing Crisis
Extensive evidence exists that since the departure of the elected government from office on February 29, 2004, numerous violations of the human rights of the civilian population have occurred. Violations are numerous and cannot be attributed to a single group of actors; however, some trends have emerged from investigations conducted in March and April.

Delegations from Amnesty International, the National Lawyers Guild, and Let Haiti Live (LHL) have reported independently on a systematic campaign of repression against the civilian population. These groups each found extensive evidence indicating that many of the victims of threats and violence are supporters of the elected government of President Aristide, members of the Fanmi Lavalas political party, elected or appointed officials in the organization or Lavalas party, employees of the government, or members of popular, grassroots organizations. Leaders of many popular, or grassroots, organizations have been killed or threatened and many are in hiding (For a full copy of the Let Haiti Live Observation Mission Report, see www.haitireborn.org).

During its investigation, the NLG Delegation met with several members of popular organizations, none of whom were living at home. All were in hiding many knew others who had been killed or who had disappeared. Investigators found that persons from areas outside of the capital were in hiding in Port-au-Prince and had not seen their families since March 1, 2004. Others from the capital had gone into hiding in the mountains, taking spouses and children with them. According to the persons interviewed, former militaries and supporters of the political opposition to the elected government continue to visit the homes of popular organization leaders that have not been burned to keep them from coming home and to intimidate neighbors. Many grassroots leaders have had their homes destroyed by arson. The majority of the arsons occurred in the first week of March, but continued during the NLG delegation. The threats have been carried out by former militaries and FRAPH members as well as other supporters of the former political opposition (NLG). These reports were corroborated by Amnesty International, which heard reports that several escaped prisoners were working with the Haitian Police and the multinational interim forces to identify Lavalas members in poor neighborhoods (Amnesty, April 8). As part of the campaign of terror, radio stations call the names of people who have been "blacklisted" each day at 4pm. These individuals must then go into hiding or face arrest or executions. One grassroots organization interviewed by LHL provided a copy of one of the daily lists of names, with markings next to the names of those who had already disappeared.

During its stay in Haiti, the Let Haiti Live Observation Mission spoke with many members of popular organizations, the large majority of whom were still in hiding. Individuals interviewed expressed a sense of fear for their lives and described incidents that they had either witnessed or had heard described. Please note that the following accounts are unverified:

In Carrefour, about thirty [Lavalas] members disappeared. In Cap-Haitien, they dropped Lavalas members into a hole and killed them. In Port-au-Prince, young militants were killed and buried in the city because they were part of LavalasÍ We are in hiding. There are graver cases than what you see here today, but they couldn't come and are in hiding. (journalist and member of a popular organization)

The Haitian people have been hit hard. Those of us from Bel Air, we are prey for former soldiers and police. We easily can be picked up by press who work for opposition. The press is used to call names of those to be killed. Example: on 3/12, during the night the white men surrounded the area and killed many people. Two bodies were taken by those hiding and watching. One was born in 1974, so both these men were young men and now both are dead.

They put a bag over your head and you're gone. 2004 is worse that 1991 because there are a lot of different factions killing people é former military, FRAPH, most of the foreign militaries in this country are killing people. In the Central Plateau: when they arrest Lavalas supporters, they dig a hole, put dry leaves in the hole, and then burn him alive. Former military take away the bodies after they kill people, or from the hospital, and you never see it. I was hit in the head by a revolver. They beat me so much that even today I can't hear well. I never know when they'll pick me up. Once they do, I'm dead. They know us [Sept 30 members] very well, they're looking for us hard and fast and we are all in hiding.

People are dying. Everyday in Carrefour, they are finding bodies everywhere.
What is happening in the provinces: people can't meet, they kidnap or arrest them. Hospitals have been closed, so if you are shot on the street, you can't get treatment. I haven't seen my 2 kids. Former military are in Bel Air on a rampage. Since we can't get clear communication but learned they arrested [a member of our organization] and other supporters, these are kidnappings.

I am sorry I am the only one here but a lot of my colleagues are in hiding or dead.

A common theme expressed by those interviewed by the LHL mission was the parallels that existed between atrocities perpetrated during the 1991-1994 coup d'état and those currently being perpetrated. Many members of the grassroots organizations were victims of human rights violations during this period and expressed a feeling of increased vulnerability because of their political involvement in the years that followed. Individuals noted repeatedly that former members of the same groups, including the Haitian army and the paramilitary group FRAPH that had been responsible for violations during the 1991 coup period were again carrying out violations.

Many of our sons were forced to rape us by FRAPH. Some of us have babies from former FRAPH members. I was raped at 7 months pregnant and my friend who was traumatized by seeing this is now paralyzed on one side of her body. This time it's worse because back then we had human rights groups to help us; now we don't even have that. Those who raped us before are now forcing us into hiding again (member of a group of rape victims from the 1991-'94 coup d'état).

We have been victimized many times because we are ones who fight and speak out. All of us women here had a petition sent around the country to remove the military. Now we have to hide. It took a lot for us to come here today. Everyone knows us and is looking for us. They are looking for all members of [our organization]. We have to move around constantly (member of a group of rape victims from the 1991-'94 coup d'état).

Our situation is difficult was since Aristide was removed, we are threatened and forced to hide. Several students have disappeared. I live near the former Army members and don't really have the human rights organization to turn to because they are bought off.... We can't go to school or the press, we must hide and have to carry ID so if we are killed you can identify us. Even our parents are kicking us out because of fear. In Carrefour, we stand there with our two hands and don't know what to do.

The Multinational Interim Force and Human Rights Concerns
The stated mission of the Multinational Interim Force is to "restore security" in the country; however, some reports suggest that the presence of the forces has not only reduced insecurity but in many has cases contributed to it. A 3,600 member multinational force is present in the country; however, its activities have been limited geographically and many areas of the country remain under rebel control.

Many persons interviewed by the LHL mission stated that they did not feel that the presence of the Multinational Interim Force was contributing to their security. There are confirmed reports of U.S. Marines shooting Haitians who failed to stop at security checkpoints, which has been attributed by some to communication difficulties. Conrad Tribble of the U.S. Embassy offered an example of one incident: "In front of the Teleco building last week they shot a car because it was driving high speed towards the checkpoint. It could have been a communication problem." LHL reported hearing stories of individuals from both pro-Aristide groups and the former political opposition being shot by troops because of a failure of communication.

Delegations heard reports of many more killings than those which are attributable to communication errors. Many described operations where the Marines were working together with groups persecuting members of Lavalas. The delegation also raised questions about the constitutionality of actions by Marines, including arrests and home searches. Organizations from different sides of the political debate interviewed by the LHL Mission acknowledged hearing reports that the U.S. Marines have killed many more people in the neighborhood of Bel Air, an area known for its strong support of President Aristide. Anne Hastings, Executive Director of FONKOZE, informed the LHL Mission that her employees had told her that the American troops "have killed far more than the six people reported in the press. Many, many more." Camille Chalmers, Secretary General of the Haitian Platform to Advocate for an Alternative Development (PAPDA), also said that he had heard "that sixty people died in one day in Bel Air," adding that "the multinational forces cannot provide security. They increase insecurity with their tanks and their missiles." A representative from Lavalas interviewed by LHL claimed that, "The Marines have a list and are looking for party membersÍ.We can interview at least fifty parents in Bel Air whose children have been taken by Marines." His statements were echoed by many others interviewed by the group.

These claims have yet to be investigated further. Human rights organizations visited by the delegations have thus far indicated an unwillingness to investigate the events, citing political differences as their reason for not having access to neighborhoods where these events have occurred. When the LHL Mission asked Conrad Tribble of the U.S. whether he would be willing to suggest a small-scale investigation into the rumors of what happened in Bel Air, he stated that, "There is nothing to investigate."

The Interim Haitian government has thus far shown an alarming lack of commitment to the protection of the human rights of civilians. In a March 19 address in Gonaives, Interim Prime Minister Gérard Latortue praised rebels, including Tatoune and Chamblain as "freedom fighters," stating that in the United States, "They thought the people in Gonaives were thugs and bandits, but they are freedom fighters" (Reuters). The government has not yet acted to arrest convicted criminals involved in abuses from the last coup d'état or return all prisoners to jail. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch alike have criticized the interim government for what they describe as "one-sided justice." Although Latortue has denied that partisans of Fanmi Lavalas are being persecuted, he reasserted the determination of his government to fight those he labels "chim╦re." He is reported as having said that his priority is arresting the "chim╦re," rather than convicted rights violators still at large. He stated that the government willnot direct its attention to the cases of convicted violators until this task has been completed (AHP, April 19).

A Critical Examination of the Human Rights Response
A theme to emerge from conversations with people who had been victims of serious human rights violations in the past and whose lives were most in danger was the sentiment that human rights organizations were not acting to protect the rights of all Haitians. Many people from grassroots organizations being targeted in the campaign of terror and whose names have been read on the radio expressed their feeling that they have no human rights organizations to which to turn. One person stated, "These systematic human rights violations have been happening since February 29 and human rights organizations haven't said anything." Another added, "I have no human rights organization to turn to" (LHL). Many interviewed by the delegations emphasized that human rights organizations had not only failed to assist victims but had instead contributed to the climate of terror existing in the country.

Conrad Tribble from the U.S. Embassy assured the LHL Mission that "there are very active Haitian human rights organizations funded by the U.S. to deal with abuses on both sides of the spectrum." Haitians from both sides of the spectrum challenged his statement, insisting that an unrecognized human rights crisis was occurring in the country. Camille Chalmers of PAPDA, an organization that publicly called for the resignation of Aristide, stated, "Human rights organizations here must document what is happening. The reprisals and tortures from those criminals and international forces."

Le Comit╚ des Avocats pour le Respect des Libert╚s Individuelles (CARLI)
The NLG Delegation met with two human rights organizations to understand the role that they were playing in responding to the human rights crisis. The Comit╚ des Avocats pour le Respect des Libert╚s Individuelles (CARLI) maintains an International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) and USAID-sponsored telephone "hotline" for victims of human rights abuses. CARLI then publishes a list each month of the names of alleged "abusers" using conclusory language condemning the person for their crimes, which are typically murder and calling for their immediate arrest. The delegation found no evidence that CARLI conducts any investigation before condemning the named person, and the person "condemned" to the list is never contacted to respond to the allegations. Although CARLI insisted that it conducts a thorough investigation of the 60 to 100 monthly calls it receives and verifies beyond a reasonable doubt the accusations before naming the condemned, the organization has no full-tim staff, there are only two lawyers at the office, and all are volunteers (NLG).

CARLI's February list contained the names of approximately 85 people against whom calls were made in February and their political affiliations. All were Lavalas supporters or police. Prior lists observed by the delegation also contained only people named who are deemed by the list to be Lavalas supporters. Completed "hotline" intake forms observed used terms such as "a supporter of the dictator Aristide." CARLI leaflets issued to the public to publicize the "hotline" are written in French, not Creole. More than two-thirds of Haiti's people do not speak or read French. CARLI insists that it will investigate cases involving Lavalas victims, but admits that none have come forward.

CARLI gives that list to the police, other government agencies, USAID, and the U.S. Embassy, and other copies are distributed to the public. Names from the lists have been read on the radio as part of daily announcements of individuals accused of crimes. The NLG Delegation met with people who are now in hiding because their names appear on the CARLI list. All deny being involved in any human rights abuses, and insist that the list exists to serve the political ends of the opposition to the elected government and to instill fear.

The Let Haiti Live mission met with a student leader who had gone into hiding after his name was read on the radio. Frantz Elie Legros, a student from Carrefour, was included in a weekly list of alleged human rights abusers compiled by the CARLI hotline. Pamela Callen, deputy director of the U.S. Agency for International Development, explained that the CARLI hotline is supported by her agency. Unknown accusers called the hotline and claimed Legros was handing out weapons in Kafou. It was this charge that put him into hiding initially. According to the Haitian Press Agency, CARLI issues a list to the press each week of all those accused by anonymous callers to their hotline. Essentially, this hotline is a key part of the terror campaign (LHL).

It has been reported that Radio Caraibes repeatedly informed the public that Legros was being held at the Faculty and asked that the police go there to arrest him. This is an incitation to violence, and other students from the other parts of the university campus went to join those waiting for Legros at the Law Faculty. Recent reports note that Legros is still facing difficulties. There are reports of other similar incidents where radio announcers have served as informants for groups carrying out executions and political arrests.

vNational Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR)
The National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR) is a well-funded human rights organization with offices in Port-au-Prince and New York City. The organization purports to be a neutral human rights group and to take all cases regardless of political affiliation. The Let Haiti Live Observation Mission and National Lawyers Guild Delegation met separately with staff from NCHR.

When asked by the NLG Delegation if they would investigate 1000 bodies dumped and burned by the morgue over the last few weeks at the burial site Titanyen, the director of NCHR denied knowing about these events and dismissed them as untrue (NLG). NCHR also denied claims about dumped bodies at Piste D'Aviation. When shown photographs taking of ashes and fresh human skeletons, the director of NCHR informed the delegation that the General Hospital regularly dumps bodies at the site.

The delegation also noted that while the organization had posters accusing Aristide and members of his government of human rights violations and calling for their arrest and imprisonment, there were no similar posters calling for the arrest of convicted human rights violators including Louis Jodel Chamblain and Jean "Tatoune" Baptiste. NCHR has acknowledged the threat posed by these individuals but dismissed the suggestion of creating other wanted posters.

NCHR characterized the human rights situation in the country as follows:
Since the change in governments, NCHR and POHDH have recorded a decrease in the number of human rights abuses and common law violations being reported. This is not to say that violations in both senses are not still occurring, but rather that the cases are more isolated than before." ("Boniface-Latortue: The First 45 Days, April 15, 2004, http://www.nchrhaiti.org/article.php3?id_article=161).

This statement stands in stark contrast to reports made by delegations who during their short stays, discovered significant evidence of an increase in human rights abuses.

NCHR made the following statement regarding the arrest and prosecution of Lavalas members:
It is important not to consider the arrest and prosecution of members and/or supporters of the Lavalas party who have been implicated in human rights violations and/or infractions of the law as political persecution. Those who break the law and/or commit serious human rights violations must be brought to justice, regardless of one's political affiliation (NCHR Press Conference).

While the arrest and prosecution of all individuals who have committed crimes is necessary to bringing an end to impunity in Haiti, the circumstances surrounding these arrests warrants further investigation. During its visit to Haiti, Amnesty International questioned Marines guarding prisoners about the legal context of the arrests of Lavalas members being held. Amnesty found that Marines were unable to provide an adequate response to these inquires (Amnesty, April 8). The activities of CARLI and other groups suggest a need to investigate further the constitutionality of arrests being made.

The Haiti Human Rights Report is a publication of the Let Haiti Live Coalition. The purpose of the report is to disseminate information on the human rights situation in Haiti. It is not meant as an exhaustive catalog of all human rights violations occurring in Haiti. Submissions, subscription requests, comments, and requests for verification of materials may be sent to haitihumanrights@yahoo.com. Submissions will be reviewed for authenticity and investigated for corroborating evidence before being published in the report. The editor reserves the right to make final decisions on materials included in the report. For more information about the Let Haiti Live Coalition, visit www.haitireborn.org or email info@haitireborn.org.

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