Since the fall of the Duvalier regime on February 7, 1987 there
has been made manifest a vehement desire on the part of vast sectors of
the Haitian population to exercise their fundamental rights and
freedoms, which had been denied them in the past, in particular, the
right to organize, the right to run for political office and to be
elected. Following the ouster of the 29 year dictatorship, the Haitian
people wanted and demanded change, an improvement in their deplorable
standards of living, characterized as the lowest in the hemisphere, and
a participatory role in the creation of their future.
The change sought by the Haitian people was slow in coming, and
the anger at the old regime turned to violence against the National
Governing Council (the “C.N.G.”), the new provisional military
government. This violence has been manifested at sporadic, but regular
intervals, as the crucial steps toward democratization were not taken by
the provisional military government until such time as demonstrations
against the government had reached such levels that the very survival of
the government was in question. As the Commission concluded in its last
The Commission concluded that the National Governing Council, at
least for the moment, has managed to quell the ongoing protest
demonstrations that have plagued this Government since it assumed power
having now announced the long-awaited timetable for transition to a
democratically elected government. Underlying problems remain, however,
in that the Council’s acts have no juridical basis. The Council
proposed to function as a government for a two year period without the
creation of the other branches of government. It proposes to pass laws
without the benefit of a legislature and to try persons accused of
crimes under the Duvalier regime without an independent judiciary.
Unless the transition process is democratized and allows greater
participation of the general populace, it is foreseeable that such
protests will continue.
The events which occurred during the period in consideration in
this Report show that greater participation was not achieved and
consequently the democratization process has inevitably been threatened.
The New Constitution
In order to give the State a legal structure it was considered
necessary to adopt a new Constitution. The Constituent Assembly, which
was mandated by the C.N.G. with the task of drafting the new Haitian
Constitution, consisted of 61 members.
Elections for 41 of the 61 Seats on the Assembly were held
throughout Haiti on October 19, 1986. The remaining 20 members were
appointed by the C.N.G. The Ministry of Information informed that 9.2%
of the Haitian electorate participated in the October elections whereas
other sources reported a national voter turnout of between 1 and 5
The C.N.G. had appointed a group of nine “experts” to draft a
Constitution and this Constitution was then to be reviewed by the
Constituent Assembly. The C.N.G. subsequently submitted its own draft to
the Assembly. The Constituent Assembly which began meeting on December
1, 1986, worked on the basis of both drafts.
The work of the Constituent Assembly proceeded on the basis of an
article by article consideration and as the articles were approved they
were published on a daily basis in the press. The public was invited to
debate the articles and to submit suggestions to the Constituent
Assembly. The 61 member Constituent Assembly originally had been viewed
with skepticism but as it demonstrated its seriousness and
responsiveness to its mandate, it won popular support. On December 3,
1986 three representatives of the group of ten Haitian political parties
presented the C.N.G. with a draft electoral decree recommending the
creation of an independent electoral commission.
The draft Constitution included a provision for the creation of
an independent electoral commission, but the March 29th
referendum on the Constitution was conducted by the Ministry of the
Interior, which, opposition leaders charged, remains under the control
of people who were closely associated with Jean Claude Duvalier. A
second criticism of the referendum procedure was the fact that the
Creole version of the Constitution was not made public until March 16th,
two weeks before the vote. For the 90 percent of the population that is
Creole-speaking this was considered insufficient time to discuss the
Constitution and to allow for an informed vote.
In spite of these apparent obstacles, on March 29, 1987 45.4
percent of the 2.8 million eligible voters cast their votes in favor of
the new Constitution. The massive participation of the electorate
surpassed the ten percent expected. Each voter was given two ballots as
s/he entered the voting booth, a white one to cast a vote in favor and a
yellow one to reject the Constitution.
In the new Constitution the Executive power is divided between a
President, who is Head of State, and the Government, which is headed by
the Prime Minister. The President is elected by direct vote to a
five-year term. The President may not serve two consecutive terms nor a
total of more than two terms. The Government is composed of the Prime
Minister, the Ministers and the Secretaries of State, and conducts the
policy of the nation. The President chooses the Prime Minister from
among the members of the majority party in Parliament, and that choice
must be ratified by the Parliament.
The Legislative power consists of a Parliament which is divided
into two houses: the Senate and the House of Deputies. Each house is
elected by direct suffrage: the Senate to six-year terms and the House
of Deputies to four-year terms. The President is not empowered to
dissolve the Legislature.
The Constitution was adopted “to guarantee the inalienable
rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” In furtherance
of these rights, the Constitution abolishes the death penalty and
recognizes the right of every citizen to decent housing, food, social
security, and free education. Moreover, the State is required to provide
sufficient health care facilities to protect the health of all citizens
and in addition, activities which harm the sociological balance are
Several provisions of the Constitution concern the right to due
process of law. Pursuant to the Constitution no person may be
prosecuted, arrested or detained except as determined by law. Except
where the perpetrator of a crime is caught in the act, the State may not
arrest or detain anyone without a warrant or conduct a search or arrest
by warrant during the hours between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. Those
arrested have the right to be assisted by counsel throughout the
proceedings and may not be interrogated outside the presence of their
attorney or a witness of their choice. The State is forbidden to use
unnecessary force psychological pressure or physical brutality during
arrest, detention or interrogation. Within 48 hours of the arrest, the
suspect shall be brought before a judge who shall determine the legality
of the arrest. If the judge concludes that the arrest was illegal, the
suspect shall immediately be released.
The Constitution also creates an Electoral Council, which is
authorized to establish and enforce the laws governing the elections.
The Provisional Electoral Council is to be composed of nine members
selected by various public and private entities. Subsequent elections
are to be supervised by the Permanent Electoral Council which will be
comprised of nine members of which three each are to be appointed by the
Executive Branch, the Supreme Court and the National Assembly.
The Electoral Council is to ensure that all candidates for public
office possess the necessary qualifications. One of these qualifications
is for the candidate not to have been connected with the Duvalier
regime. The Constitution provides that until 1997 the Electoral Council
shall not certify any candidate who is “well known for having been by
his excess zeal one of the architects of the dictatorship and of its
maintenance,” or who is “denounced by public outcry for having
inflicted torture on political prisoners in connection with arrests and
investigations or for having committed political assassination.”
This provision was the best known article of the Constitution and
alone motivated many people to vote for the Constitution. For them a
vote for the Constitution was a vote against the Duvalierist past and
The constitutional conflict and the current crisis
Article 289 of the Constitution provides for the creation of a
Provisional Electoral Council of nine members charged with drawing up
and enforcing the electoral law to govern the next elections (chargé de
l’execution et l’elaboration de la Loi Electorale devant régir les
prochains elections). The members are to be designated as follows: 1)
one for the Executive branch, 2) one for the Episcopal Conference, 3)
one for the Advisory Council, 4) one for the Supreme Court, 5) one for
the human rights organizations who may not be a candidate in the
elections, 6) one for the Council of the University, 7) one for the
Association of Journalists, 8) one for the Protestant religions, 9) one
for the National Council of Cooperatives.
The Council was created following the popular referendum which
approved the Constitution. On May 13, 1987 the C.N.G. issued a decree
which purported to regulate the functioning of the Provisional Electoral
Council (C.E.P.) This decree purported to: “create” an Electoral
Council, set forth in the Constitution, and attempted to establish
guidelines pursuant to which it should act. For example, the decree set
forth a requirement that decisions could only be taken by a two-thirds
vote of the Council instead of by simple majority, and that the
decisions of the Electoral Council be subject to judicial review.
On May 21, 1987 the members of the C.E.P. were sworn in and
officially assumed their functions. On that same date all nine members
signed a letter to the C.N.G. criticizing the C.N.G.’s decree of May
13th and reaffirming the Council’s autonomy and
accountability to no other branch of Government. The fact that all nine
members signed the letter was significant since it included the member
designated by the C.N.G., and the member designated by the University,
who was also considered a candidate of the government. As had been the
case with the Constituent Assembly, the Provisional Electoral Council
had assumed an esprit de corps as a result of its empowerment by the
Constitution and the popular support of the population.
In its May 21, 1987 letter to the C.N.G., the C.E.P. affirmed
that it had been created by the Constitution, and not by the decree of
the C.N.G. Consequently, since the decree violated the spirit and the
letter of the Constitution, the C.N.G.’s decree was unconstitutional
and ought to be repealed. The Council stated that the Constitution
mandates it to prepare the electoral law and not merely a draft of an
electoral law. In its view the document to be submitted to the C.N.G. is
the law which may not be modified by the C.N.G. and which is submitted
to the C.N.G. solely for the formal act of promulgation.
Further, the Provisional Electoral Council stated that it alone
is mandated by the Constitution to take decisions as regards the
constitutional qualifications of electoral candidates and that its
decisions are final and are not subject to judicial review. The
Provisional Electoral Council stated that it alone is authorized to draw
up its internal regulations and its method of voting since the
Constitution declares it to be an independent institution. Therefore,
the C.N.G. decree which requires a 2/3 majority vote in order for the
C.E.P. to take a decision and states that decisions of the Provisional
Electoral Council are appealable to a judicial instance would deprive
the C.E.P. of its independent status. The C.N.G.’s decree, in the
opinion of the Provisional Electoral Council, would place the Electoral
Council at the level of a lower court in the judicial branch, which is
not in conformity with the Constitution, which envisions the Electoral
Council virtually as a fourth branch of government. This provision is
particularly important in light of Article 291 concerning former
Duvalierists. According to the Provisional Electoral Council it is the
C.E.P. which alone determines who fulfills the requirements to be a
candidate for public office.
On May 22, 1987 the members of the Provisional Electoral Council
made public this letter to the C.N.G.; and on May 30, 1987 the first
half of the Council’s Electoral Law was published in the press to
stimulate debate and suggestions from the public. Without publication of
the second half of the law or a final version of the first half, the
Electoral Law was submitted by the Electoral Council to the Ministry of
Justice on Friday, June 5, 1987.
On June 15, 1987 the members of the Provisional Electoral Council
called a press conference to express their concern regarding the silence
on the part of the C.N.G. concerning the promulgation of the electoral
law submitted to the Minister of Justice on June 5, 1987, and to
announce that the elections planned for July could not be carried out.
The dispute over the control of the elections was well on its way to
assuming crisis proportions.
On June 19, 1987 the Centrale Autonome des Travailleur Haitiens
(CATH) called a strike for June 22 and 23. CATH called for the minimum
wage to be increased by one hundred per cent to $6 U.S. dollars per day,
and for the C.N.G. to restrict the importation of shoes, rice, sugar and
textile products, the importation of which was causing serious damage to
the domestic industries.
The proposed CATH strike had no immediate connection with the
electoral crisis, however that same day the C.N.G. issued its own
Electoral Law which did not correspond to the Electoral Law prepared by
the C.E.P. and announced that municipal elections would be held on
August 23. These acts were considered a direct attack on the
independence of the C.E.P.
On June 22 the transport sector completely supported CATH in its
call for a strike and Port-au-Prince was virtually paralyzed. By decree
dated June 23, the C.N.G. dissolved CATH, destroyed its headquarters and
arrested three of its leaders. The political parties and social
organizations united in repudiation of the C.N.G.’s action and the
C.N.G. was called upon to repeal its decree.
On June 29 and 30, 1987 the Coordination Committee of the 57
organizations called a strike to abrogate the C.N.G.’s decree and the
dissolution of the CATH. Four people were killed and at least two dozen
others injured in Cite Soleil in clashes between the army and
anti-Government demonstrators. This second general strike again
virtually paralyzed Port-au-Prince. The C.N.G.’s electoral law was
criticized by opponents of the regime for placing supervision of the
elections in the hands of the Ministry of the Interior, which had been
in charge of the October elections and the March referendum, and it
relegated the C.E.P. to the position of a “filing” office for the
results of the municipal elections and the upcoming presidential and
legislative elections in November.
The political and popular organizations joined forces against the
C.N.G. which they charged with acting a dictatorship. The President of
the C.N.G., General Namphy, sought to allay those fears and in a
televised speech he renewed a pledge to led Haiti to democratic
elections. Since Namphy did not restore the independence of the C.E.P.,
the political leaders called for a renewal of the strikes and the focus
shifted from the independence of the C.E.P. to the larger issue of the
ouster of the C.N.G.
On July 1, Port-au-Prince reportedly looked like a battlefield
after two days of a general strike marked by violent clashes between
soldiers and demonstrators that resulted in the death of 10 persons, 57
injured and numerous arrests. The demonstrators demanded an end to the
C.N.G. On July 1, 987 the strike resumed, demonstrators burned
barricades in the streets, the city of Port-au-Prince was again
paralyzed and the violence continued to escalate with numerous dead and
wounded being admitted into the University hospital.
As a consequence of these events, on July 2, 1987, the C.N.G.
annulled the decree whereby it had tried to seize control of the
electoral process, and Information Minister Jacques Lorthe, who had
taken a hard line position was forced to resign. Two people were
reported shot and killed by soldiers on July 2 in a suburb of
Port-au-Prince, and the clashes throughout the country were said to be
less severe than during the first two days of the strike.
Following the C.N.G.’s restoration of control to the Electoral
Council, the C.E.P. immediately announced that it would begin drafting a
new program for conducting elections.
Jean-Claude Bajeux, a leader of the Group of 57, on behalf of
these organizations stated on July 3 that the C.N.G. should reorganize
itself or resign. He said that the Committee would accept a reorganized
council with two civilians and one military member but as it stood it
was unacceptably dominated by the armed forces. Bajeux stated that
protests would continue until Lt. Gen. Namphy and Gen. Williams Regala
resign. In fact, the demonstrations did continue in Port-au-Prince,
during which soldiers shot straight into crowds and killed seven
On July 4, 1987 the Provisional Electoral Council announced that
it would suspend negotiations with the C.N.G. due to the “barbaric
acts” attributed to the army during the five days of demonstrations.
Over the previous 11 days of political violence 22 persons had been
killed by the armed forces and more than 100 wounded. The suspension of
negotiations between the C.E.P. and the C.N.G. further isolated the
C.N.G. as political, labor and civic organizations called for a strike
until the current members of the C.N.G. resigned.
On July 7, 1987 three leaders opposed to the C.N.G. proposed, at
a news conference, that a new “Provisional Council of Government” be
named to be chaired by Felix Kavanagh, the Vice President of the Court
of Cassation. This proposal did not attract an enthusiastic following.
On July 8, 1987 Haitians returned to work at the end of the 8 day
anti-government strike. Soldiers had killed approximately 22 persons and
wounded 135. The representatives of the group of 57 who had organized
the strike called a press conference in which they decreed a day of
mourning for July 9.
On July 12, the Coordination Committee of the group of 57 again
proposed a “people’s alternative” to the C.N.G., replacing the
current members with representatives of the “democratic sectors” and
a member of the Army general staff. The Coordinating Committee stated
that Monday and Tuesday, July 13 and 14, would be days to organize for
the second phase of the battle against the C.N.G. The Committee called
on the people who represent the C.N.G.—the prefects, magistrates,
commissioners, information agents, members of the Administrative
Councils,--to resign and to come over to the side of the people.
The Provisional Electoral Council on July 14 published its
Electoral Decree and set November 29 as the date for the coming
presidential elections. The new decree provides in Article 88-2 for
“Vigilance Brigades” the role of which is to remain neutral but help
to maintain order, prevent any coercion of voters and to assist voters
in finding their polling places.
On July 15 Haiti was again totally paralyzed by a new general
strike called by the group of 57 which continued to demand the
resignation of the Government headed by General Namphy. Bishop Willy
Romelus of Jeremie joined the strike openly calling on Namphy to resign.
On July 16 CATH resumed functioning with the same executive
committee which had been attacked by the authorities on June 22.
The Coordinating Committee of the 57 organizations decided to
continue for 48 hours the general strike that paralyzed Haiti on July
15, claiming that democracy is not possible as long as “macoutes”
remain in power.
On July 20 and 21 approximately 5,000-10,000 students
demonstrated in Port-au-Prince and in the provinces against the C.N.G.,
and on July 22, a number of women’s organizations took to the streets
On July 23, it was reported that soldiers fired automatic weapons
into the air to disperse thousands of demonstrators in the fourth day of
anti-government protests in Port-au-Prince and that five persons were
wounded by gunfire.
For the first time the Commission received information that
journalists were being shot at, beaten and that their equipment was
being confiscated while they were covering street demonstrations.
On July 24 Radio Soleil reported that many peasants had been
killed in machete massacres in rural Jean Rabel, located 150 miles north
of Port-au-Prince, by former tonton macoutes. The number of dead was
estimated at between 70 and several hundred peasants. Most of the
victims were part of a group of approximately 700 Tet Ansam peasants, an
organization supported by the Catholic Church in favor of land reform,
who were walking towards Jean Rabel to lend support to peasants in
another town whose homes had been burned by the Macoutes. On the way,
they were reportedly ambushed, Thursday July 23, by a group of some 200
men, mostly macoutes, who were armed with guns, machetes and picks. The
macoutes allegedly also went to the local hospital where they killed the
wounded. This cycle of violence lasted from July 24-26. Of the five
persons arrested following the massacre, reportedly none were macoutes.
The military did arrest members of Tet Ansam, including Jean-Louis
Fatine, the group’s coordinator.
The Governmental Investigative Commission, comprised of six high
level civil servants and a military legal advisor, on August 29, 1987,
announced the results of their investigation regarding the death of the
255 persons which occurred during the conflict in the region near Jean
Rabel. Pursuant to this Governmental Commission, two thousand peasant
members of different Catholic community groups had killed dozens of
peasants and burned their homes, citing the “unbridled intolerance of
such peasants.” The Governmental Commission also impugned the failure
of the civilian and military authorities and underscored the
responsibility “and the negligence of the local judicial authorities,
the police errors and the responsibility of the State, which did not
carry out its mission.” It should be added that this Governmental
Commission recommended, however, that a judicial investigation be
carried out to investigate the public declarations of Mr. Nicole
Poitevien, a landowner of the Jean Rabel region, who claimed to have had
“1,042 Communists killed.”
On July 24, 1987 the C.N.G., in an attempt to stop 4 weeks of
violent anti-government protests and demonstrations, issued a decree
requiring that demonstrators obtain a 72-hour prior authorization for a
demonstration and that the organizers of the strikes be identified.
Following the Jean Rabel massacre, the group of 57 called upon
its members to demonstrate against the tonton macoutes and the C.N.G.
Bishop Romelus called upon the C.N.G. to resign and to turn over power
to a government which respects the Constitution.
Following weeks of strikes intended to bring down the C.N.G., the
Government finally promulgated the Electoral Law on August 10, 1987, and
promised the CEP the finances required in its budget. November 29 was
set as the date for the presidential and legislative elections, but no
date was set for municipal and communal elections. The demands for the
C.N.G.’s departure continued and as of the date of the approval of
this Report, it is still not known whether or not elections will be held
in Haiti next November. The Commission, nevertheless, considers that
there are serious difficulties as regards the holding of elections in
the generalized climate of violence prevailing in Haiti.
right to life
As regards violations of the right to life which have taken place
since the approval of the Commission’s last Annual Report, hundreds of
persons have died at the hands of agents of the armed forces since June
29, 1987. In addition, hundreds of persons have been wounded.
Information from the Governmental Investigative Commission gave the
final figure of 255 dead in Jean Rabel. For its part, the Haitian press
has recently reported that the appearance of cadavers on the streets of
Port-au-Prince had become practically a routine occurrence. The
Commission finds that Haiti is currently living under a generalized
state of violence.
The climate of violence is manifested in the fact that the
population of Port-au-Prince does not go out on the street after 9:00
p.m. at night. Both persons and vehicles are the subject of attack,
especially in the popular neighborhoods such as Bolosse, Cité Soleil
and Bel’Air in the capital. For example, on the morning of September
2, 1987 the bodies of Rony Ambroise and Frequenz Charles were found
machine-gunned. An eyewitness declared that they had been taken from
their homes by the police during the night, killed and their bodies
dumped on the road leading to the airport. The Commission has been
informed that the appearance of dead bodies on the streets of
Port-au-Prince has become a daily spectacle.
This climate of violence has also affected the political panorama
of the country. Whereas the elections are scheduled for November, no
candidate dares to organize an electoral campaign and travel to the
provinces since Louis Eugene Athis was killed during a political meeting
at the beginning of August.
On August 3, 1987 Louis Eugene Athis, 46 years of age, the
founder and general coordinator of the Democratic Movement for the
Liberation of Haiti (MODELH) was assassinated together with two of his
companions, Mr. Oscar Dorgevil and Mr. François Jean. Athis had
traveled to Leogane, a town 20 miles west of Port-au-Prince, in order to
hold a political meeting. A group of persons armed with machetes, sticks
and stones, stoned and hacked them to death accusing them of being
communists. An additional companion, Dominique Mercena, was beaten on
the head, arms and left leg, escaped and was able to bear witness to the
events. The Commission learned that the cadavers of Athis and his
companions were doused with gasoline and burned. Athis, who had founded
his party in 1964 in the Dominican Republic, was an active defender of
the rights of the Haitian “braceros” who travel to that country to
cut cane. Athis was also one of the founders of the democratic center,
which is made up of other important presidential candidates such as
Dejois, Manigat and Bazin. His killing can be interpreted as a signal
directed to the politicians in Haiti and it has had the result that no
candidate is currently traveling in a campaign for votes.
As regards acts of violence imputed to governmental authorities
the Commission has received, in general, information from the Haitian
Government, exculpating its agents from responsibility. The conviction
and sentencing of the military officer Robes Metellus for the killing of
a transport worker, Jules Louis, is a notable exception to the above.
But it should be stated that the transport workers staged a 5 day strike
in November 1986 to guarantee that Metellus was put on trial.
Rights and Freedoms
As regards the right to personal freedom, it should be pointed
out that many arrests have been taking place in Haiti due to the growing
political unrest. The Commission has received unconfirmed information
that approximately 500 persons are presently in detention as a result of
the disturbances during the past two months.
During the Commission’s on-site visit it received testimony
from members of the KID (Comite Inite Demokratik), the Committee for
Democratic Unity, that Jean-Paul Duperval and Jose Sinai, both members
of the KID, had been arrested on October 17 when they announced that
they were going on a hunger strike to protest against the conditions in
which the elections for the Constituent Assembly were to take place on
October 19, 1986. Both were detained in Cassernes Dessalines and
released the day after the elections.
The military government has relied on a policy of widespread,
but, in general, short-term arrests to intimidate the general
population, but in particular, those persons whom it considers to be
“agitators” and “subversives.” The armed forces will enter a
home or workplace, without a warrant, search the premises and threaten
the individuals present if it does not arrest them.
Some individuals, especially in the provinces, will be arrested
and detained for several weeks, without a warrant, without notification
of their families, without any minimum guarantees of due process, and
will then be released without charges. Some persons are released from
jail only if they have the money to buy their freedom.
The practice or arbitrary detentions is of particular concern to
the Commission. As the Commission stated in a letter dated March 23,
1987 to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Col. Herard Abraham:
The Commission is concerned, specifically, with the extent to
which fundamental human rights, violated systematically in the past, are
under attack in the present and have not been redressed as regards the
past. We refer to the right of every one to be free from the danger of
arbitrary arrest and disappearance, the right to due process of law, the
right to a fair trial and the right to liberty and freedom from
mistreatment while in detention. The complaints received by the
Commission as regards the “disappearances” of Charlot Jacquelin and
Vladimir David have regrettably been dismissed by the governmental
authorities who have failed to initiate serious inquiries as regards the
fate of these two individuals. The Commission recommends that the
Government of Haiti instruct the responsible authorities to undertake a
credible investigation in each of these two cases.
During the Commission’s on-site visit to Haiti in January 1987
it visited the detention centers Fort Dimanche and the National
Penitentiary. The Commission interviewed detainees who had been beaten,
received no medical care, were starving since they had received no food
and had been locked up incommunicado for months at a time, having had no
contact with a lawyer or judge, etc.
The Commission also interviewed female detainees in the National
Penitentiary. The Commander stated that there were two detainees who had
been sentenced who were presently in detention. One female detainee,
when questioned about the conditions in the prison stated that she could
not respond to that question because it would appear as criticism and
she did not want to rot in prison. Another female detainee, the mother
of seven children stated that she had spent three months in detention in
Fort Dimanche for a murder that she claims she did not commit, but that
she did not have the money to pay a lawyer. After Fort Dimanche she
spent two months in Recherches Criminelles before being transferred to
the National Penitentiary. She responded that she was not mistreated in
Fort Dimanche, except that she did not receive anything to eat. It was
not until she was transferred to the Penitentiary that she had been
given food but the food made her sick. All the detainees stated that
they receive no visits, many claim to have no clothes, and all
complained about the food. Most had never been brought before a judge or
gone through any semblance of judicial process. Some of the detainees
claimed that they had been badly beaten.
With respect to these rights, the Commission, in its March 1987
letter to Col. Abraham stated that:
The mistreatment of prisoners and detainees is an abominable
practice which must be quickly and definitively eliminated. The
testimony received from detainees in Fort Dimanche and the National
Penitentiary confirms that detention commences with a beating, sometimes
to the point of requiring medical attention, that detainees do not
receive such medical attention, that in, general, they receive food once
a day or not at all, most detainees suffer severe weight loss, they
receive no visits, have no access to counsel, are not brought before a
judge, and except on very rare occasions, they do not leave their cells.
The case of Jean Gibson Narcisse, whom the Commission interviewed in
Fort Dimanche, is of particular concern to the Commission and we wish to
receive a full report as to the medical and legal attention he has
received. The Commission recommends further that the Government maintain
a central registry of the names of detainees and the places where they
As regards freedom of expression, during the Commission’s
on-site visit to Haiti, the Commission noted the improvement in the
situation of the freedom of the press. During the crisis, beginning in
June 1987, however, this situation began to deteriorate.
On July 29, 1987 the Haitian Association of Journalists protested
the increasing violence against the press and in the country, following
the machinegun strafing of six of the principal private and religious
radio stations in Port-au-Prince, specifically, Radio Antilles
International, Radio Metrople, Radio Haiti-Inter, Radio Cacique, Radio
Caribe, Radio Soleil (of the Catholic Church). The Association of
Haitian Journalists requested the Commission to return to Haiti and to
conduct an on-site investigation of these recent attacks upon the press.
As regards freedom of residence and movement, an issue of
recurring concern is the attempt of the military government to deprive
certain citizens, who spent many years in exile during the Duvalier
dictatorship, of their political rights and of the possibility of
recuperating their Haitian nationality.
The C.N.G. issued expulsion orders and has, in fact, impeded the
return of one individual who claims that he had attempted to regain his
Haitian nationality. The C.N.G. also attempted to impede the functioning
of the Electoral Council, by disqualifying two of its members, after
the work of the Council had been completed. Fortunately, this
mini-crisis was swiftly resolved by the appointment of two qualified
On July 31, the C.N.G. ordered the expulsion of one of the
leaders of the Group of 57, Daniel Narcisse, who has double nationality,
Haitian and Canadian. The C.N.G. accused him, a “foreigner,” of
interfering in the internal affairs of the country and of being a
subversive. Narcisse declared that he had done everything required of
him by law in order to recover his Haitian nationality pursuant to the
As regards the right to move about freely, in spite of the fact
that Haiti has not declared a state of emergency or decreed a curfew, it
is necessary to point out that the Haitian people are being subjected to
a state of systematic terror due to the constant acts of violence taking
place. Nevertheless, as the case of the attack on the group of priests
following the celebration of a mass near the town of St. Marc
illustrates, this violence does not exclude from its targets religious
workers, foreigners or diplomats.
In effect, on August 23, 1987 a convoy of five automobiles, which
was transporting priests and nuns from the town of St. Marc, was stopped
at a military checkpoint where various soldiers proceeded to inspect it.
Shortly thereafter they were permitted to continue on their way to
Port-au-Prince, when they were again stopped by approximately 40 armed
civilians who proceeded to attack the religious in the first automobile
with stones, machetes and guns. Three priests were wounded. The military
authorities who were a hundred feet away refused to get involved and a
Lieutenant Luberisse was identified as one of the attackers. The C.N.G.
has condemned the attack, but to the present, it has not ordered an
investigation of the facts nor punishment of those responsible.
In conclusion, whereas the constitutional conflict which gave
rise to the present crisis has been resolved with the publication of the
Electoral Law and the C.N.G.’s recognition of the Electoral
Council’s autonomy, the generalized climate of violence continues.
This violence results, in part, due to the failure of the authorities to
control the police, the armed forces, and also its apparent
unwillingness or inability to disarm the former members of the
Volunteers of National Security, the so-called tonton macoutes.
As Pope John Paul II stated during this historic visit to Haiti
in 1983: “Things must change here;” in fact, things began to change
in Haiti when Duvalier departed for France on February 7, 1986.
The C.N.G. which replaced Duvalier and the origin of which still
has not been satisfactorily explained to the Haitian people, assumed
power ostensibly with the sole purpose of leading Haiti to democracy by
means of free and fair elections.
The true mandate of the C.N.G., however, appeared to be the
prevention of a civil war in Haiti. In the early months of its rule, the
C.N.G. facilitated the departure of Duvalierist collaborators who would
otherwise have been made to stand trial for their crimes or would have
been killed. The failure of the C.N.G. to put the old order behind it
and its efforts on its behalf cost it the resignation of its only
independent civilian member. The C.N.G., one month after assuming power
became, already in March 1986 a military, not a civilian-military Junta.
The brief attempt to satisfy the Haitian people’s demand for
justice, and “deshoukaj” (“deduvalierization”) produced a few
show trials but these trials fell far short of an authentic
confrontation and repudiation of the criminal acts of the past. The
hated organization Volunteers of National Security was “officially”
disbanded but no serious attempts were made to effectively disarm these
potentially dangerous, armed civilians. It should be remembered that in
Duvalier’s Haiti no civilian was permitted to bear arms.
In spite of its “provisional” nature, the C.N.G. delayed the
announcement of an electoral timetable until June 1986, when Lt. Gen.
Namphy announced that the country was on the brink of “anarchy”, due
to the on-going protest demonstrations against his Government.
Without a mandate from the Haitian people, the C.N.G. took it
upon itself to create a Constituent Assembly whose purpose would be the
preparation of a New Haitian Constitution. Not having prepared the
country for such an undertaking, reportedly less than 5 percent of the
population voted for the members of this important Assembly.
As a result of the freedom of the press and the political
activity of the members of the media in informing the population of the
progress of the work on this Constitution, a dialogue was established
between the people and the Assembly and suggested guarantees to prevent
a Duvalierist regime from returning to power were written into the new
Constitution. When the people were informed in March 1987 that the
Constitution signified a repudiation of their Duvalierist past, they
voted overwhelmingly in favor of it.
The new Constitution deprived the now discredited C.N.G. with its
only reason for being: the organization and control of the elections.
These elections were now in the hands of the Provisional Electoral
Council (CEP) an autonomous body comprised of representatives of
different sectors of Haitian society.
The C.N.G. attempted to undermine the independence and authority
of the CEP, and consequently brought upon itself approximately 7 weeks
of nationwide strikes and demonstrations, which in the final analysis
called for the C.N.G.’s resignation or reorganization.
By the use of power the C.N.G. was able to put an end to the
increasingly disruptive strikes. In August, the strikes stopped;
however, acts of grotesque violence, such as the hacking to death of the
Presidential candidate L.E. Athis in Leogane and the massacre of
hundreds of peasants in Jean Rabel, recalled the terror tactics of François
Duvalier’s henchmen. The attacks on Athis and on the group of priests
at the outskirts of St. Marc, reportedly were attacks against
“Communists.” Neither Athis nor the priests were communists, but
this persecution of opponents to the C.N.G., labeling them Communists,
is reminiscent of the tactics of François Duvalier’s regime.
The concern expressed by the President of the Commission during
the Commission’s on site visit regarding the democratization process
has been subsequently confirmed by recent events. At that time, the
President stated that he feared that the democratization process might
be derailed due to fundamental weakness and contradictions which had
their origin in the history of the repression and the dictatorship. The
task which is before the Haitian people and the Provisional Electoral
Council is how to bring the electoral process back on track. Given the
generalized climate of violence in Haiti since August 1987, it will not
be easy to re-establish a climate of normality which will permit the
holding of elections. For that reason, and recognizing that power is in
the hands of the National Council of Government, the Commission calls on
the C.N.G. to take all the necessary measures in order to facilitate the
Provisional Electoral Council’s task of organizing and carrying out
the elections so that the Haitian people can elect a democratic
government which will be ready to assume power on February 7, 1988.