Horror Haiti
by Bill West
FrontPageMagazine.com |
March 11, 2004


Less than two months ago the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested and deported Jean-Claude Duperval, a former Haitian army general and a US Court-designated human rights persecutor, who was wanted for mass murder in Haiti. These alleged acts stemmed from the tyranny imposed on the Haitian populace by the military regime that ousted democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Duperval was the last of the infamous “Haitian Three” human rights violators, all former Haitian military officers, wanted for their involvement in committing atrocities in Haiti while in power. The other two, former Colonel Carl Dorelien and former Lt. Colonel Herbert Valmond, had been previously arrested and deported by the INS in Miami and, like Duperval, were being held in the Haitian National Prison awaiting further judicial proceedings in that country. That is, until now.

Recent events in Haiti make it unclear what the future holds for the “Haitian Three” and at least a dozen lower level Haitian persecutors who were arrested and deported from the US over the past three years. The arrests, which occurred in South Florida under what had been the INS’ Miami District's aggressive and successful human rights persecutor apprehension program, were the precursor to the ICE’s national level Operation No Safe Haven. The so-called rebels who have allegedly liberated Haiti from Aristide are mainly former Haitian army members and operatives of what had been the Front for Advancement and Progress in Haiti (FRAPH), a “paramilitary” organization aligned with corrupt military officials whose primary mission was to kidnap, torture and murder political opponents. These are now the “liberators” of a country where even the elected president, Aristide, by almost everyone's account, was at best completely incapable of effectively governing anywhere outside the boundaries of his own presidential palace, and at worst not much better than the dictators he replaced.

From any perspective--political, economic, or social--Haiti is in terrible shape. It is a country incapable of supporting itself agriculturally, or otherwise economically, and it is strategically situated in a high-density drug trafficking corridor. It doesn’t take much to understand why corruption among Haitian government officials has been rampant at every level for a very long time. It is also clear why Haiti has been a magnet for every variation of smuggler, pirate, and thug who happens to ply the Caribbean. All of this adds up to a long-term human rights disaster for the Haitian people. Abject poverty, corrupt government (even when it’s democratically elected), the barest minimum of law enforcement and judicial authority, a steady flow of external dirty money and arms, and a virtually unchecked and often officially sanctioned “rule of the street gang,” has given the Western hemisphere what it now has--a nation is name only, with seven million people, most of whom are uneducated, hungry, in constant danger and fear, and who are always at risk of being the victims of the next group of tyrants and their henchmen.

The leaders of the so-called rebels who, for the moment, tenuously hold whatever reign of power exists in Haiti are former colleagues of the notorious “Haitian Three.”

Reports from the Haitian capital the day after Aristide fled indicated prison guards exchanged their uniforms for civilian clothes and allowed the inmates to flee. It’s unknown at this point if any or all of the “Three” may have been among those fleeing inmates. Given the fast changing situation on the ground in Haiti, yesterday’s war criminal could be tomorrow’s prime minister. Hopefully, the developing international security forces will not allow that to happen; but it is not entirely clear yet who will really be in charge. In the event Duperval, Dorelien, or Valmond were to be free and become aligned with an evolving transitional government, either overtly or behind the scenes, that could spell disaster for anyone in country who had in any way had crossed them. Even with that Troika of Terror free, but on the lam hiding from international peacekeepers, they would have powerful allies among the well-armed and well-placed thugs within Haitian society and they could wreak no small amount of havoc, if they so chose. An important question to be quickly answered is, “Where are the ‘Three’?”

Haiti had only a couple of years of anything resembling hope. It was immediately after Aristide’s return to power in 1994 by the efforts of the US military intervention and the influx of large-scale international aide. Ironically, the one shining example of Haitian judicial process was the trial of the Raboteau massacre defendants, which included Duperval, Dorelien, and Valmond, who were convicted in absentia (because they were illegally in the US, facing deportation) but guaranteed new trials if they returned to Haiti. The trial, covered by the international media and scrupulously monitored by international legal observers, was hailed as eminently fair and a tribute to due process and a milestone for the Haitian judicial system. For a time, the Haitian National Police, under the tutelage of US police advisers, was in the process of becoming something that passed for a police force instead of a force of armed thugs.

For political reasons, the US pulled out of Haiti within a few short years of the 1994 intervention. Without the American military, police and judicial advisers, the institutional degeneration of the police and criminal justice system quickly set in and the corruption spread even more quickly. Somewhat amazingly, relative to the human rights persecutor suspects, the US was able to continue the deportation process to Haiti almost to the end of the Aristide regime, as evidenced by the Duperval removal.

However, in the current chaos that now exists in Haiti, three issues relative to human rights violators should be considered by the United States and international forces about to embark on yet another stabilization and nation building mission in that beleaguered country. 1) Account for the likes of Duperval, Dorelien and Valmond and the several lower level military and paramilitary operatives who had been deported from the US as persecutors and detained by Haitian authorities. 2) Recognize the “rebellion” and the ensuing period of occupation itself will likely result in Haitians committing atrocities against other Haitians and establish investigative mechanisms to deal with such matters once reasonable security and stability are reached. 3) Incorporate, to the extent possible, the ability to investigate and prosecute human rights violations within the framework of whatever new government is established in Haiti. These atrocities are a dark but integral part of Haiti’s modern history. If Haitians are to have any hope of emerging from the evil and despair that has engulfed their nation for so long, confronting their own terror monsters with genuine and lasting justice must be done. Hopefully, the United States and the international community will help that pitiful land do just that.

Bill West retired as the Chief of the National Security Section for the INS in Miami, Florida and is now a consultant for the Investigative Project, a Washington DC-based counterterrorism research institute.

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