REPORT OF THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION
Mr. Nicolas Estiverne, a candidate for the presidency of Haiti, was
declared persona non grata by the Haitian Government on Tuesday January
13, 1987. By letter dated January
14, 1987, he presented his case to the Commission.
The facts of his complaint are as follows:
On or about May 13, 1986, I began a campaign for the presidency of
Haiti by making an open declaration of my plans to the press and the general
public with the techniques that I used such as radio commercials, TV
commercials, radio talk show appearances and traveling constantly around Haiti,
I became a very popular candidate and the people began to express their desires
to see me win the upcoming November elections.
However, throughout the campaign, I questioned strongly the present
government’s legality, its competence and its accounting system.
As you are probably aware a new Constitution is being written and
discussed. Article 16 of the
proposed document states that: “any
Haitian who had become naturalized in any foreign country can regain his or her
civil and political rights if after moving permanently to Haiti, he or she makes
a personal declaration to the Minister of Justice within one year stating the he
or she desires to regain such rights.”
I came to the United States in 1969 with my permanent visa.
After being drafted into the U.S. Army where I served honorably for 2
years, I became a United States citizen by naturalization.
You have to realize that at that time, Baby Doc was President-for life. I then went to school and became an attorney with a fairly
good law practice in New Orleans, Louisiana.
But when Baby Doc left in February, I felt that it was time to pay my
dues to Haiti. I went back with the
intent to renounce my U.S. citizenship and to regain my Haitian citizenship.
The order of expulsion was dated January 13, 1987, issued by the Ministry
of Information and Coordination, and published in the daily newspaper Le
Nouvelliste on January 14, 1987. It
expelled Nicolas Estiverne, “of U.S. nationality, because of his undesirable
conduct which was of such a nature as to compromise the social and political
This was the first expulsion to take place following the departure of
Jean-Claude Duvalier, ex President-for Life of Haiti. It was announced on January 13, 1987, on the Haitian National
Television channel (Tílívision Nationale) 24 hours after Mr. Estiverne had
made certain declarations against the C.N.G. also on television.
The Haitian press suggested that the two events had a cause and effect
Reportedly, Mr. Nicolas Estiverne had declared on television and radio
that Gen Namphy had a secret plan to take power. Mr. Estiverne had stated that during Gen. Namphy’s recent
visit to the United States he had had two meetings, the first, Miami to which
nine persons were invited, and the second in Washington, to which 13 persons
were invited. And that that the
purpose of these meetings was to launch a plan by which Gen. Namphy would step
down from power towards May or June, and declare himself a candidate for the
By cable dated February 2, 1987, the Commission requested the Haitian
Government to present whatever information it deemed appropriate with regard to
this case pursuant to Article 34 of the Commission’s regulations.
By note dated February 17, 1987, the Col. Herard Abraham, Minister of
Foreign Affairs, informed the Commission that is cable had been communicated to
the appropriate authorities and that a response would be forthcoming.
By noted dated March 9, 1987, Mr. Estiverne requested that the Commission
impress upon the Government of Haiti the necessity of an accelerated response
given the fact that the presidential elections had been set for November 29,
1987, and the people who intend to vote for Mr. Estiverne would be left without
By note dated March 17, 1988, Col. Herard Abraham, the Minister of
Foreign Affairs, transmitted to the Commission a letter No. DG-87 MJ.SCGE/35
dated March 5, 1987, from the Haitian Ministry of Justice, which set forth the
reasons for Mr. Estiverne’s expulsion from Haiti.
This document addressed to Col. Abraham from Mr. Francois Saint-Fleur,
the Haitian Minister of Justice, states that Mr. Estiverne:
during his stay in the United States, he renounced his Haitian
citizenship. Upon his return to
Haiti, after February 7, 1986, he has not made any declaration renouncing his
foreign nationality while running for the presidency, without awaiting the
provisions to be established by the new Constitution which would set the
conditions pursuant to which foreigners of Haitian origin may take part in the
next presidential campaign.
Aside from his untimely and premature declaration of his candidacy, he
has assumed the right to make particularly defamatory public statements, on
television, regard the current leaders of the country.
He has forgotten himself to the extent that he has made threats tending
to upset the public order.
Taking into account that he is a foreigner Mr. Nicolas Estiverne’s
behavior can be considered as gross interference in Haitian affairs, indeed, an
attack on national sovereignty. Consequently,
the expulsion measure taken by the Government is completely legal since it is in
conformity with the powers of a Sovereign State.
The pertinent parts of this response were communicated to Mr. Estiverne
by phone and subsequently, by letter, dated April 7, 1987.
By letter dated June 24, 1987, Mr. Estiverne presented his observations
to the response of the Haitian Government as follows:
I had received your letters containing my complaints against the
Haitian government’s violation of my rights.
I must inform you that the answer given by the Haitian government is
outrageous. Considering that Haiti
had just liberated itself from a dictatorship, it is obvious that the intent of
this new regime is not noble at all. The
same things that the Duvaliers killed people for are now reasons for expulsion
of Haitian citizens from Haiti. Freedom
of speech has never existed in Haiti and still does not exist.
The government complained about my statements against the present regime
as if my statements were not truthful.
At the time of my candidacy, there were not laws prohibiting anyone
from being a candidate and the government never sent me any warnings about any
violation of the laws of the country. The
only thing that took place is that I denounced a scheme that the President of
the Council of National Government had in order to usurp the power, and when the
plan was revealed by me, they got angry.
I strongly object to the government’s contention that I renounced my
Haitian citizenship. My roots are
still in Haiti, I own property there and my parents are buried there.
How in the world could I renounce anything about my Haitian background.
I am a naturalized of the United States and I am proud of it.
The only thing the Haitian military dictatorship has to say is that they
are trying to exclude from Haiti anyone who can be a real challenge to them; and
I fit that category.
I am therefore requesting from the Haitian government the right to
return home and to see my family, and to make public the restitution of such
rights to me. Otherwise, once I am
in Haiti, an accident may happen to me, as it has been the case for many
citizens who have tried to challenge the government.
By note date July 30, 1987, the Commission transmitted the pertinent
parts of Mr. Estiverne’s observations to the Government of Haiti, requesting
that it submit any further observations within the ensuring thirty days.
On August 27, 1987, the Commission received an additional communication
from Mr. Estiverne. Mr. Estiverne
transmitted to the Commission the copy of a letter that he had sent, dated
August 20, 1987, to Mr. François Saint-Fleur, the Minister of Justice, pursuant
to Article 286 of the new Constitution of Haiti, whereby he requested the
Haitian Government to restore his nationality.
In that letter he indicated that since May 21, 1986, his address in Haiti
has been Ruelle Alerte No. 111 in Port-au-Prince, and he attached a copy of his
birth certificate to the letter, which documented that he had been born in Saint
Marc, Haiti on October 11, 1944.
By note dated September 25, 1987, the Commission communicated this
information to the Government of Haiti.
By note dated September 30, 1987, the acting Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Col. Jacques Joachim, transmitted the following text in response from the
Minister of Justice, without, however, including a copy of that note.
The text of this note, dated September 31, 1987, states:
The observations formulated by Mr. Nicolas Estiverne are without basis,
if it is true that Haiti has just freed itself of a dictatorship it cannot be
admitted that this dictatorship has been replaced by an anarchic system, where
chaos rules and where the lawless, in disdain of the law, incite citizens to
acts of violence, leading the country to disorder and to insecurity.
The Expulsion Order of the National Government Council which was taken
on January 13, 1987, against the U.S. citizen Nicolas Estiverne, was designed to
guarantee internal security, peace, order and respect for the laws.
This response of the Haitian Government was communicated to Mr. Estiverne
on November 4, 1987.
That the Constitution of Haiti, approved by a national referendum on
March 29, 1987, and, in force, provides in Article 286 the following:
Any Haitian, who has adopted a foreign nationality during the 29 years
preceding February 7, 1986, can, by a declaration made to the Ministry of
Justice, within a period two years from the date of publication of the
Constitution, recover his Haitian nationality with all the advantages deriving
therefrom, in conformity with the law.
That Mr. Nicolas Estiverne, by letter dated August 20, 1987, to Mr. François
St. Fleur, the Minister of Justice, attempted to regain his Haitian nationality,
pursuant to the procedure set forth in the Constitution.
The Commission considers that, by carrying out this constitutionally
prescribed procedure, which has not been subject to any supplementary
regulations, Mr. Estiverne has exhausted his domestic remedies.
That Mr. Nicolas Estiverne was not permitted to regain his nationality
and the he has been deprived of the possibility of regaining his nationality and
participating in the political life of his country for reasons invoked by the
Haitian Government which have never been subject to judicial review.
That this case fulfills all the admissibility requirements set forth in
the American Convention on Human Rights, however, since Mr. Estiverne is not
interested in a friendly settlement in this case the procedure set forth in
Article 48 (f) of the abovementioned Convention is not applicable.
That this case involves the substantive right set forth in Article 20 of
the American Convention on Human Rights, in particular, paragraph 3 thereof,
which provides that “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality
or the right to change it.”
That the facts of the case reveal that Mr. Estiverne had left Haiti for
the United States and became a United States citizen because he did not wish to
live under a dictatorship, and that the Duvalier dictatorship perpetuated itself
in power as Francois Duvalier’s son, Jean-Claude, was designated to succeed
the father and was subsequently designated president-for-life by the Haitian
That upon the departure of Jean-Claude Duvalier from Haiti on February 7,
1986, Mr. Estiverne made plans to return to Haiti, with the intent of renouncing
his U.S. citizenship and of regaining his Haitian citizenship.
That in spite of the fact that Article 286 of the Haitian Constitution
sets forth a simple procedure for the recuperation of Haitian nationality for
persons of Haitian origin who changed their nationality during the Duvalier era,
Mr. Estiverne, who followed the requisites of this procedure, was not permitted
to recover his Haitian nationality.
That, in addition, on January 13, 1987, an order of expulsion was issued
against Mr. Estiverne, because of his “U.S. nationality, and because of his
undesirable conduct which was of such a nature as to compromise the social and
That Article 22, paragraph 6 of the American Convention on Human Rights
provides that “An alien lawfully in the territory of a State Party to this
Convention may be expelled from it only pursuant to a decision reached in
accordance with law.” The facts
reveal that Mr. Estiverne was not given a hearing, administrative or judicial,
in order to defend himself against the charges motivating the expulsion by the
That the facts reveal further that the summary expulsion of Mr. Estiverne
was motivated by political considerations.
Mr. Estiverne alleges that his expulsion from Haiti was a measure taken
to silence his criticism of the alleged political ambitions of General Henri
That Article 13 of the American Convention protects the right of everyone
to freedom of thought and expression and that this right “includes the freedom
to see, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of
frontiers, either orally, in writing, in print, or in the form of art, or
through any other medium of one’s choice.”
The Haitian Government, in its response dated March 5, 1987, from the
Ministry of Justice termed Mr. Estiverne’s public statements “defamatory”
regarding the political leaders of Haiti at the time.
Any abuse of the right of freedom of expression, which may be considered
to threaten the national security or public order, is subject to vindication by
means of a suit pursuant to the libel or defamation laws of the domestic legal
system. Such a remedy was not
available to Mr. Estiverne.
That Article 23 of the American Convention provides that every citizen
shall have the right “to vote and to be elected a genuine periodic
elections.” That Mr. Nicolas Estiverne sought to recuperate his Haitian
nationality, and had returned to live in Haiti, in order to participate in the
political life of the country, and to run for the presidency of Haiti, an
opportunity denied to Haitians during the previous 29 years. The Haitian Government, again in its response of March 5,
1987, from the Ministry of Justice, stated that Mr. Estiverne:
“Upon his return to Haiti, after February 7, 1986, he was not made any
declaration renouncing his foreign nationality while running for the Presidency,
without awaiting the provisions to be established by the new Constitution which
would set the conditions pursuant to which foreigners of Haitian origin may take
part in the next presidential campaign.”
By expelling Mr. Estiverne, however, the Haitian Government preempted him
from recuperating his Haitian nationality, pursuant to the provisions of the new
Constitution which did not enter into force until after it was approved by the
national referendum on March 29, 1987.
That Article 25 of the American Convention provides that:
Everyone has the right to a simple and prompt recourse, or any other
effective recourse, before a competent court or tribunal for protection against
acts that violate one’s fundamental rights recognized by the constitution or
laws of the state concerned or by this Convention, even though such violation
may have been committed by persons acting in the course of their official
That Mr. Nicolas Estiverne was deprived of a “simple and prompt
recourse” in Haiti to protect his right to change his nationality and thereby
recuperate his Haitian citizenship (Article 20), the recuperation of which would
have entitled him to participate in the political life of Haiti and to run for
the presidency, a right guaranteed by Article 23 of the American Convention.
Mr. Estiverne was also deprived of the procedural guarantee of a
“simple and prompt recourse” to challenge the order of expulsion issued
against him on January 13, 1987, which deprived him of the substantive right to
live in Haiti and the right not to be expelled therefrom unless “pursuant to a
decision reached in accordance with law” a right guaranteed by Article 22,
paragraph 6, of the American Convention. Mr.
Estiverne was deprived of his right to live in Haiti without the minimal due
process guarantees inherent in a judicial or administrative procedure which
could have afforded him the opportunity of having been informed of the reasons
motivating his expulsion, prior to the actual issuance of the expulsion order,
and of having had the opportunity to defend himself against the charges
presented against him.
And lastly, Mr. Estiverne’s expulsion from Haiti, allegedly motivated
by his criticism of the current political figures in Haiti, if true, deprived
him of a procedural recourse to defend the truth of his statements in a libel or
defamation suit, and is tantamount to an illegitimate interference with his
substantive right to freedom of expression (Article 13 of the American
INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS,
To declare that in the present case the Government of Haiti has violated
Articles 25 (Right to Judicial protection), 13 (Freedom of Thought and
Expression), 20 (Right to Nationality), 22 (Freedom of Movement and Residence)
and 23 (Right to participate in Government).
To transmit this resolution to the Government of Haiti and to the
Petitioner and to publish it in its Annual Report to the General Assembly of the
OAS, in accordance with article 63 (g) of its Regulations.