REPORT ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN HAITI
178. The many raids that took place between 1991 and 1994 resulted in the destruction of more than 250 houses by fire, the slaughter of livestock, and crops destroyed.
179. Many peasants were mistreated and harassed. Concordant testimonies from reliable sources confirm that there were summary executions of persons sought out by the Armed Forces of the de facto regime, and rapes of women who refused to give information on where the persons sought were hiding.
180. Since April 7, 1994, the Haitian Armed Forces have maintained a state of siege in this area, prohibiting access to it by the Civilian Mission and journalists.
181. Alarming testimonies from varied sources, as well as the visit that the Civilian Mission was finally able to make, April 27-30, made it possible to establish the nature of the crimes committed.
182. On April 8, 1994, a large-scale military operation began in the area of Petit-Bourg-du-Borgne, Port-Margot, and Ravine-Trompette, with movements of armed groups from Cap Haïtien and Limbé and a convoy of ambulances going toward the area. On April 9, 1994, a commando of about 300 heavily armed men, including the Captain of the Limbé District, various section chiefs, attachés, and members of the FRAPH in Borgne, attacked Bassin Caïman in the Boucau Michel section of Borgne and neighboring localities.
183. The attack started toward 10:00 a.m., with the burning of six houses in Petite Rivière and Tripot. On the road from Collette and Bassin Caïman, they burned down 35 houses belonging to 17 families, destroyed about 50 gardens, and killed or stole more than 150 head of livestock.
184. During these operations, many women and children were raped. More than 200 peasants had to pay extortion of 50 to 2,000 gourdes. Various illegal and arbitrary arrests took place, including those of the Mayor of Borgne, Bélizaire Fils Aimé, who was held incommunicado.
185. The rights to freedom of expression and of assembly are enshrined in Articles 13 and 15, respectively, of the American Convention on Human Rights, and are intimately conected under the plan of repression pursued by the de facto regime in Haiti, which undertook the task of persecuting any form of political organization and popular grassroots groups and of keeping a grip of steel on the communications media.
186. The soldiers who assumed power following the overthrow of the democratic regime exercised extraordinary censorship on the communications media, along with the cancellation of any possibility of holding meetings of any type.
187. Many attacks on the right of expression and the right of peaceful assembly were brought to the attention of the IACHR and the OAS/UN International Civilian Mission. Members of popular organizations were the first victims of such violations. The repression was so systematic and reached such a level of brutality that Aristide's supporters and all those who desired a return of the democratic order often seemed to give up exercising their rights for fear of reprisals.
188. The repression of the freedom of the press is particularly illustrative: several Haitian journalists were murdered during and following the coup. Others are missing, presumably dead. Six radio stations were permanently silenced, and at least 30 journalists fled the country in August 1994. In addition, foreign journalists were routinely expelled from the country for the smallest gesture that the soldiers of the de facto government deemed inappropriate.
189. In a decree issued on August 2, 1994, the illegal de facto government warned the communications media that the military authorities would take measures against the transmission of "alarmist and tendentious news," especially information from embassies (most particularly that of the United States), and seized the opportunity to reiterate the warning formulated in May that foreign journalists would be deported if they were found within a radius of three kilometers from airports, military barracks, border posts, police stations, and other strategic sites.
190. A paramilitary group called the Haitian Resistance League, closely linked to the Haitian security forces, warned owners of communications media about the transmission of statements by antimilitary groups. Haitian television crews and interpreters working under contract with foreign journalists were warned by the government that they could be accused of working with the enemy.
191. The Commission considers that the control the de facto military government tried to impose on the people resulted in a severe wave of oppression. The main victims of the oppression were members of people' organizations endeavoring to exercise their fundamental rights; journalists and the communications media in general. Merely doing their normal work placed journalists in imminent danger of reprisals in the form of detentions, beatings, and even death. The mere suspicion of belonging to or being affiliated with an organization regarded as supporting President Aristide was also sufficient reason to be detained.
192. Below are presented a few of the cases received by the Commission during its on-site visits in May and October 1994 on the right of expression and assembly:
193. On September 5, 1993, he signed a press release published by the Fort St. Claû Platform, calling on General Cédras and members of the Senate to respect the Governors Island Agreement, which was broadcast by various radio stations in Haiti.
Armed civilians immediately started to look for him at various places in Port-au-Prince. Finally, on September 7, he was held by three attachés as he returned home. He remained detained in prison a whole day, during which he was severely beaten. On February 11, 1994, following statements on the radio, Adner D'Haiti was again arrested and beaten by attachés.
Thibault Jm. Mozart
194. President Aristide's press officer prior to his overthrow and currently a member of the Belle-Anse Foundation, he had been appointed by the Foundation to collect information on human rights violations in the Belle-Anse District. On May 13, 1994, he was arrested by a soldier named Abessis Noel and taken to the barracks, he was received by the commander of the Military District of Fliotte, Oreste Séripahen, who questioned him on the support that Aristide was receiving. In view of Jm. Mozart Thibault's refusal to talk, the commander ordered that he be beaten on the ears. As a result of the mistreatment to which he was subjected, Mr. Thibault has hearing problems and difficulty controlling the modulation of his voice.
195. A 27-year-old journalist, who was reported missing on August 4, 1994 by Radio Tropic FM, the station where he was working. His family and colleagues at work saw him for the last time on July 31. His last radio program was broadcast during a ceremony organized by the military authorities. Ocean had been detained by soldiers in 1993, accused of distributing leaflets supporting deposed President Aristide.
196. A delegate of the Savane Peasant Movement for Social Development (MPSDS), on July 15, 1993 he was at a meeting of about 50 persons in the Pandiason shanty town in Hinche, which was interrupted by a band of armed civilians who arrested half of the participants. On August 20, while participating in another meeting, he was again arrested by armed civilians.
On September 15, 1993, during a meeting of his association at which plans were being made for the return of Aristide, the local section chief came to interrupt the meeting, and various participants were beaten. On December 27, 1993, during reprisals carried out by FRAPH in Cité Soleil to avenge the death of Issa Paul, Marcelin Clotaire was arrested and taken to the Anti-Gang Brigade, where he was severely beaten.
Franze Lamisère and Gérald Duverger
197. The persecution of members of an ecological organization, the National Union of Progressists for Reforestation and the Environment (UNPREN), of which Mrs. Lamisère is a member, began on July 25, 1993 with the violent interruption of one of its meetings by order of section chief Vancol Adam.
On October 26, 1993, when Mrs. Lamisère was at another meeting, it was interrupted by armed civilians who pursued them to their own homes, attacked them and their family members, and ransacked their houses. Delegate Gérald Duverger, who was also at the meeting, was severely beaten and taken to a location where he was left for dead. As they were threatened with death, the organization's entire leadership was forced to remain in "marronage."
Mr. Destaul and Natacha Destaul
198. A member of the Young Peasants' Movement (OMJPC) in Côtes de Fer, Mr. Destaul was presiding over a meeting of the OMJPC on October 30, 1993, when suddenly various soldiers and armed civilians erupted in the church where the meeting was being held and at which his wife was also present. Mr. Destaul was beaten and taken to the Côtes de Fer barracks, where he was held for three days before being freed on November 1, 1993. In prison, he was informed that he had no right to hold a meeting on that day. Although Mr. Destaul obtained treatment for his wounds once he was freed, he still has deep scars from the mistreatment and blows he suffered.
On November 2, he was accused by a military commander of burning down his house, an incident in which the soldier lost a son. In reprisal, various soldiers and armed civilians then burned down the offices of the OMJPC and the home of Mr. and Mrs. Destaul. After that Mr. Destaul was in clandestinity, or "marronage."
In February 1994, seven soldiers and armed civilians went to Mrs. Destaul's home asking to see her husband. As he was not there and despite the fact that she was seven months' pregnant, she was beaten and lost consciousness.
199. As a member of the Federation of Young Patriots of Jean Denis (FJPJ), of KODET, and of KONAKOM, he was subjected to constant persecution by soldiers.
Arnaud Elisias was always involved in the defense of peasants and in the organization of popular demonstrations. He also devoted himself to distributing pamphlets in public places in favor of Aristide. He constantly defended peasants against abuses by the local authorities and was therefore not allowed to live in the region of Jean Denis, Petite Rivière, in Artibonite, Section I of Bac Cousin.
Arnaud endured the murder of his son, and both his wife and his sister were raped on two occasions. Since the coup d'état of September 1991, he has had to remain in clandestinity. The last act he has had to endure, as reported to the Commission, was the burning of his house and the murder of his brother, Olden Elisias, at the hands of soldiers as he tried to prevent them from getting into the house.
200. The repression carried out by the de facto regime was not limited to physical persecution of citizens and brutal attacks against the personal integrity of those who opposed the regime. It also involved the destruction of whatever few belongings they owned.
201. The right to property is set forth in article 21.2 of the American Convention on Human Rights, which states: "No one shall be deprived of his property except upon payment of just compensation, for reasons of public utility or social interest, and in the cases and according to the forms established by law."
202. The numerous cases recorded by the Commission show that frequently the military or armed civilian oppressive forces, acting under army orders, destroyed the homes of persons sought (usually supporters of President Aristide), as part of the terrorist policy. These actions produced heartrending situations in which the father had to abandon his family and go into hiding, and the family was left completely abandoned, without housing to shelter them.
203. The Commission observed that it was the practice of military and paramilitary forces to sack their victims' homes before burning them to the ground. Along with these abuses of property rights, the commission learned of cases in which the "section chiefs" seized the land and crops of victims when they had to go into hiding "marronage" (clandestinity).
204. In that regard, the officials of the illegal de facto government and the armed civilians of FRAPH frequently used the destruction of the homes of opponents of the regime as a repressive measure.
205. The following are some of the cases reported to the Commission.
206. On June 10, 1992, armed civilians attacked him while he was at a sports center with other persons, accusing him of being a Lavalas member. After beating him savagely and believing him to be dead, his attackers tried to hide his body.
On October 30, 1993 he was arbitrarily arrested and had to spend the first three days of his detention without food. He was accused of being a member of the AJPS (Association of Young Underground Progressists), a group that works in favor of Aristide. His house was burned down, and he had to abandon his wife and children, hiding constantly, seeking refuge in churches until he was again arrested on March 23, 1994 for distributing photographs of Aristide.
Leroy Charles Vigne
207. Following the overthrow of President Aristide, numerous members of the Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP) were arrested, beaten, and murdered. However, MPP member Mr. Leroy Charles Vigne managed to escape during the night of July 1, 1993 from soldiers who were trying to arrest him. When they could not find him, they looted and destroyed his house. Since then, Mrs. Leroy Charles Vigne and her five children had no home and feared for their lives in view of possible reprisals by the soldiers.
208. On December 27, 1993, the corpse of FRAPH treasurer Issa Paul was found in Cité Soleil. FRAPH members then accused Ryfelle D'Haïti of being responsible for the murder, because he was a member of a popular organization that had published a communiqué criticizing the army. He was arrested and beaten, as was his wife. Thanks to a sergeant's intervention, they were freed. However, all his belongings were burned. On the same occasion, more than 200 homes were burned down in the Cité Soleil slum during acts of reprisal carried out by FRAPH members.
209. Since September 29, 1991 when the Armed Forces overthrew President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the Commission has been observing the human rights situation of Haitian refugees. In each of its special reports on Haiti covering the periods of 1992 and 1993, the Commission devoted a special chapter to the subject.
210. The repression against the Haitian people started immediately after the coup d'état and took the form of murders, abductions, tortures, and politically motivated arrests. The systematic human rights violations perpetrated by soldiers caused a massive exodus of Haitians, primarily from the sectors that backed President Aristide. Thousands of Haitians fled the country, escaping from the severe repression across the border with the Dominican Republic or aboard small, unsafe boats headed for the United States. Other boats headed for The Bahamas, Belize, Cuba, Honduras, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela, where their passengers sought asylum. Many of these boats were intercepted by the United States Coast Guard Service, while an incalculable number of them sank, and their passengers drowned.
211. In its last report, the Commission pointed out that over 41,000 Haitians had been intercepted, 30,000 of whom were returned to Haiti. The practice of interdiction and forced repatriation by the United States has been the target of constant criticism by nongovernmental organizations for the defense of human rights. The latter have argued that this practice violates international law, specifically the provisions of Article 1(A) of the United Nations Protocol relating to the Situation of Refugees, to which the United States is a party and in which a refugee is defined as:
and finally, Article 33 of the above-mentioned Convention of 1951, which states:
212. Human rights groups that defend refugees' rights have argued that the practice applied also violates United States law, which prohibits "refoulement" or the forceful return of persons genuinely fleeing the persecution to which they are subjected in their country of origin.
213. On June 21, 1993, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the President's power to repatriate aliens without papers who had been intercepted on the high seas was not subject to any restriction and that the right to be not subjected to "refoulement" applied only to aliens who were physically present in the host country. In this respect, some organizations concerned on human rights, alleged that those persons who were intercepted in international waters were bereft of any juridical remedy, and unless the legislation in force were amended by the Congress, the Haitians would continue to be repatriated without being granted a hearing to present arguments in their quest for asylum.
214. In early-February 1994, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide announced that he would denounce the agreement that permitted the United States to repatriate, without process, Haitian refugees intercepted on the high seas, citing the clause that provides for denouncing of the agreement between the two countries, with six months' advance notice. President Aristide's communiqué was issued after four corpses of Haitian refugees, including two children, were found on the beaches of Florida.
215. The criticism by certain domestic sectors in the United States against President William Clinton's policy of intercepting and returning "boat people" to Haiti intensified in early-1994. In March, a group of congressmen, particularly the Black Caucus members, artistes, and leaders of the Black movement in the United States, launched a campaign to obtain a change in the United States Government's policy. The group described President Clinton's policy as racist and asked for the removal of Lawrence Pezzullo, Special Advisor on the Haitian crisis at the State Department.
216. On April 11, the Executive Director of the TransAfrica group, Randall Robinson, began a hunger strike in opposition to the policy of summary repatriation of refugees. Also in April, President Aristide maintained his criticism, accusing the United States Government of implementing a racist policy by returning Haitian intercepted at sea to their country of origin without giving them the option of requesting political asylum.
217. During its visit to Haiti in May 1994, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights received complaints from a number of people who were victims of human rights violations, including extrajudicial executions after being returned to Haiti from Guantanamo. Amnesty International recorded some cases, including the following:
218. Oman Desanges, founder and chairman of the neighborhood committee, the Association of Young Progressives of Martissant (Association des Jeunes Progressistes de Martissant). A few days after the September 1991 coup, soldiers tried to detain him, and in February 1992, he fled in a boat with his family. The U.S. Coast Guard intercepted and took a number of Haitians to Guantanamo, where some were selected to enter the United States for processing their request for asylum.
In spite of this, and apparently due to a mistake, Oman Desanges and several members of his family were returned to Haiti in May 1992. On January 26, 1994, the body of Oman Desanges was found near the Port-au-Prince international airport. His arms were tied, a rope was around his neck, and a red scarf bearing the words "President of the Red Army" and "Indigent Lavallassien" was wrapped around his arm. His eyes had been torn out, an ear had been cut off, and his stomach was split open. Two days before, a group of soldiers and attachés had taken him into custody from his home in Martissant, Port-au-Prince. Apparently, while he was detained, they had blinded, beaten and knifed him, and then had shot him to death.
219. At end-April, there was a change in President Clinton's policy, when 411 refugees intercepted four miles from the coast of Florida were admitted to United States territory. However, it was not until May 8 that President Clinton announced that the United States would not systematically return all refugees intercepted at sea, and a system was established for interviews to be conducted aboard ships of the United States fleet to determine if the Haitians qualified, as required by international law, for political refugee status. Interviews would be conducted by representatives of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service, assisted and supervised by representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Persons who did not qualify would be returned to Haiti. At the same time, the United States Government continued to ask Haitians to make their requests for political asylum in Haiti.
220. As part of the United States Government's change of policy, Democrat and former congressman William Gray was appointed Special Advisor and Secretary of State for Haitian Affairs, replacing Lawrence Pezzullo.
221. On the other hand, the United States Government began a campaign to ask other countries to accept Haitian refugees or allow interviews to be conducted on their territory. Members of the "Friends of Haiti" group, composed of Argentina, Canada, United States, France, and Venezuela, and countries of the Caribbean and Central America were solicited in this respect. The Turks and Caicos Islands announced they would receive some Haitians. The United States Government indicated it would pay the expenses that this would incur for governments which agreed to cooperate.
222. The new system of processing refugees was initiated on June 16, 1994 aboard the United States ship, "Comfort," in the bay of Kingston, Jamaica. The system adopted increased the possibility of acceptance of Haitian refugees much more than anticipated. Originally, the United States administration thought that approximately 5 percent of the persons intercepted would be sent to the United States. However, the real index was about 30 percent. Similarly, the procedure on board the United States ship, "Comfort," was much longer than foreseen, and intercepted Haitians who did not qualify to leave for the United States were not immediately returned to Haiti. This created the impression in Haiti that the number of persons who succeeded in obtaining political asylum was greater than it really was.
223. In a short space of time, the number of intercepted persons spiralled upward. On June 28, the United States Coast Guard intercepted 1,486 Haitians, and on the same day President Clinton announced that the Guantánamo military base would once again be used to process refugees. On July 4, 3,247 refugees were intercepted, and the number of Haitians intercepted in only 11 days thus rose to about 10,000. According to information from the State Department, between mid-June and July, 20,190 Haitians were intercepted.
224. A large number of Haitians went to the Dominican Republic, and in May it was estimated that half a million Haitians were residing there illegally after fleeing the difficult political and economic situation in Haiti. The tension created by the massive exodus led certain sectors to propose the creation of refugee camps for Haitians.
225. The military authorities in Haiti tried to control the departure of refugees, apparently in an effort to reduce the threat of an invasion. In May, ilegal de facto President Emile Jonaissaint announced that anyone trying to leave by boat would be imprisoned. Subsequently, numerous incidents were recorded of attacks, arrests, and torture by soldiers against persons who were trying to flee the country. During the night of May 16, soldiers surprised about 200 people who were trying to leave from Trou Chou Chou, Petit Goave; 50 of them were taken to prison. On May 22, a group of 30 persons who were preparing to board a boat were attacked by uniformed men in the Ti Guinée slum, Petit Goave.
226. In view of the enormous flow of refugees, on July 5, the United States Government announced that it would no longer consider persons intercepted at sea as candidates for political asylum in that country. Only persons who managed to obtain the status of political refugee in Haiti would be accepted on United States territory. Refugees intercepted at sea would be accommodated at Guantánamo military base or at other refugee camps, where they would stay until other countries accepted to receive them or until a final solution was found to the crisis.
227. Since the Panamanian Government changed its mind about receiving 10,000 refugees who were to be installed on a deserted island (San José), the United States Government made great efforts to find countries in the region that would accept to offer "safe havens" temporarily to Haitians. However, 13 Caribbean Heads of State meeting in Barbados declared their opposition to the United States proposal to set up camps in the region to receive refugees.
228. The massive exodus of Haitians was the cause of a large number of deaths. On June 30, about 30 persons died by drowning when shots were fired from a police boat on a boatload of refugees, causing panic on board. On July 4, about 150 Haitians died when a boat carrying 320 persons sank near the coast of Saint Marc.
229. On July 20, President Clinton's administration announced that the number of boat people had declined dramatically. Of the 16,000 refugees who had been accommodated at Guantánamo military base, 2,000 preferred to return to Haiti.
230. A problem which arose after the imposition of the total embargo and the suspension of flights to Haiti was the impossibility of leaving the country for those persons who had submitted to the process of selection in Haiti to obtain asylum in the United States. On August 18, the spokesperson for the American Embassy in Haiti declared that 894 persons who had completed the required procedures could not leave the country. Up to end-August, the United States Government managed to obtain permission from the de facto authorities for 91 persons to leave Haiti in a bus that took them to the Dominican Republic. Subsequently, the de facto authorities accepted the departure of two buses per week.
231. The situation of the refugees accommodated at Guantánamo was becoming increasingly tense. On August 13, hundreds of refugees tried to flee following four hours of protests. The demonstration was called to demand that political asylum in the United States be granted or that the United States invade Haiti to end the crisis. The Haitians also demanded better living conditions in refugee camps.
232. Of the 16,000 Haitians accommodated at these installations, more than 750 participated in the disturbances. About 120 managed to scale the fence around the United States base and plunged into the bay, apparently hoping to swim to another place on the island of Cuba. During the demonstration, 65 persons were wounded, including 20 United States soldiers. After the incident, about 329 refugees involved in it were isolated in another location at the bay.
233. The future of the Haitian refugees became more uncertain since, with the decline in the number of intercepted persons, the problem became less urgent for the United States authorities, and the idea of establishing refugee camps in other countries came to be considered as too expensive and not very practical. In early-August, the massive exodus of Cuban refugees toward Florida led the United States Government also to accommodate at the Guantánamo military base all the Cubans who were intercepted at sea.
234. At end-August, the search for "safe havens" for the Haitian refugees was linked to the search for havens for the Cubans also. On August 24, the United States Government announced that Suriname, Saint Lucia, and Dominica had agreed to receive Haitian refugees. Honduras had previously accepted a few Haitians.
235. Following the occupation of Haiti by the Multinational Force, the Haitian refugees accommodated at Guantánamo began to return to Haiti. Within a few weeks, about 3,000 Haitians were repatriated. This time, the refugees returned voluntarily; most of them were tired of living conditions at Guantánamo. However, some stated that they had agreed to return after being informed that everyone would be repatriated.
236. Among the refugees who returned, 1,000 were recruited for the new Haitian police unit called the "Public Security Corps." Recruits received three weeks of training at the Guantánamo base itself. In mid-October, the United States authorities indicated that about 10,332 refugees remained at Guantánamo and that by end-November, all would have returned to Haiti.
237. In early January 1995, Haitian refugees still in the Guantanamo refugee camp began to be repatriated against their will.
238. The international community's reaction to the problem of the massive flow of refugees in the wake of the military coup in Haiti was characterized by lack of coordination. In general, throughout most of the period during which the crisis lasted the countries affected by the exodus were obligated to struggle with the problem individually according to their political and economic capabilities. At no time, except toward the end, when the United States was compelled to seek the support of other countries to take in refugees intercepted at sea, were any attempts made to coordinate the policy toward the Haitians in order to lighten the burden of the countries most affected by the problem. Consequently, countries such as The Bahamas had their public assistance services overwhelmed by the massive influx of refugees. This situation caused serious human rights problems, with a large number of persons being interned in refugee camps lacking the minimum infrastructure to properly house them.
239. The Commission would like to observe that the member countries of the Organization of American States have an obligation, whenever a major crisis such as the present one occurs in the hemisphery to confront the resulting problems jointly. The refugee question gave rise to grave human rights problems that demanded positive action from all States subject to the obligations enshrined in the Chart of the Organization of American States, the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and the American Convention on Human Rights.
240. On October 15, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide returned to Haiti and resumed his administration after a three-year exile. Upon his arrival at the National Palace, he gave a speech to a crowd of cheering well wishers in which he thanked the foreign forces for their assistance, and asked that an end be put to violence, saying: "Vengeance, no; Violence, no; Reconciliation, yes."
241. On that same date, the United Nations Security Council confirmed resolution 944/94 of September 29, lifting the economic embargo and other coercive measures imposed by the UN. The OAS likewise lifted the sanctions it had imposed since October 11.
242. A few days after his reinstallation, President Aristide took important steps to rebuild his country: The Haitian Senate approved a draft law to dismantle the paramilitary groups, banning them and any armed forces not provided for in the Constitution.
243. On October 24, President Aristide appointed as Prime Minister Mr. Smarck Michel, a businessman and close supporter, who was minister of trade and industry in the Aristide administration in 1991. In his general policy statement to the Haitian Parliament, Mr. Michel said that the three principles of the government would be "democracy, justice and tolerance."
244. As part of his political program, President Aristide met with leaders of all political parties in the country to discuss the schedule for the legislative elections in December. Although initially President Aristide had favored the establishment of a Provisional Electoral Council, most of the leaders at the meeting supported a Permanent Electoral Council. However, establishing a Permanent Council would require postponing the elections until the laws required by the Constitution had been enacted. In a compromise effort, it was decided to designate a Provisional Electoral Council to organize the legislative elections in 1995.
245. Accordingly, the Provisional Electoral Council was established on December 20, with nine members, three selected by the President, three by the Supreme Court (Tribunal de Cassation) and three by the Parliament.
246. In late December, the OAS Secretary General, Dr. César Gaviria, submitted to the Haitian Government an OAS proposal to provide immediate support to the government, including immediate as well as short and mid-term cooperation measures to provide support in the following areas: governance, human rights, elections; and institutional building, and strengthening of democracy.
247. Once President Jean-Bertrand Aristide had returned, a process of fundamental changes began in Haiti, especially in relation to the human rights situation. Nine days after the democratic government had been reinstated, the Commission carried out an observation visit to Haiti and was able to note an especially significant change, contrasting with the situation observed on the previous visit in May 1994. The departure of the dictatorial regime put an end to the climate of terror and violations that existed in Haiti. In Port-au-Prince and in some of the major urban areas, people now enjoy the freedom to express their support for the constitutional regime. The freedoms of expression, of the press, and of association have been restored. The Commission also observed a resumption of political activity in many areas of the country.
248. Despite the significant changes seen during the Commission's visit, on October 24-27, it was clear that there remained serious problems inherited from the military dictatorship. One of the most difficult tasks of the transition to a civilian society with a constitutional culture is the disarmament of paramilitary groups. During the military dictatorship, paramilitary groups were armed; they were responsible for numerous violations of human rights. In the weeks prior to the arrival of the Multinational Force, the military dictatorship had publicly declared its intention to distribute arms to irregular forces. To date, the Multinational Force has confiscated what seems to be a relatively small quantity of arms, and there are reports of arms caches that have not yet been located.
249. According to information provided to the Commission, the Multinational Force destroyed the Haitian Army's heavy artillery that was used in the 1991 coup d'état. However, the arms and apparatus of the dictatorship remain critical factors in some areas of the country where the Multinational Force had not yet established its presence. During its last visit, october 1994, the Commission obtained evidence of the existence of a state of insecurity in the areas of Artibonite, Jacmel, Petit Goave, and Desdunes, to mention only a few examples. One of the signs of insecurity is "marronage," as well as the continued displacement of persons. In some Départements, section chiefs continue to function although they had been involved in human rights violations.
250. Persons who met with the Commission during the on-site visit, who represented a wide range of positions and opinions, agreed that the disarmament of paramilitary groups was an essential step and a prerequisite for the restoration of a civilian society based on the rule of law.
251. Two of the most serious problems in Haiti are the lack of a legitimate police force and the absence of an adequate and efficient judicial system. The Commission pointed out at the time that: "Public order relies on the presence of the Multinational Force (MNF). Although the moderation and civility demonstrated by the Haitian people thus far have been extraordinary, the MNF, on occasion, has found itself drawn into a police function for serious and urgent situations. There has also been an anomalous situation in which known Attaches and Macoutes have been apprehended by the MNF and turned over to the Haitian police, who have released them. As a result, the system has not yet been able to begin to deal with those who might have been implicated in international crimes and crimes against humanity".
252. During its stay in Haiti, the Commission listened with satisfaction to the plans for the creation of a Police Academy as a means of training professional cadres. However, it noted that there was immediate need for a police force and a judicial system operating independently and efficiently. It was therefore essential, apart from the undertakings to build permanent institutions such as the establishment of a neutral police force, to deploy a provisional force immediately. Such a force should have legitimacy and satisfy the needs of the people in regard to public order. The Commission also pointed out that the Haitian Government should apply the strictest criteria when selecting police officers, it being understood that in a constitutional system the police should come under the orders of the civilian authority.
253. By late December, the Interim Public Security Forces trained by the International Criminal Investigation Training Assistance Program (ICITAP), under a bilateral agreement between Haiti and the United States, selected approximately 3,000 men.
254. The personnel was selected from the FADH by a Haitian committee composed of four colonels and headed by the new Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, General Bernardin Poisson. The classification process was questioned by some people's organizations, such as "Justice and Peace" (Justice et Paix) in Gonaives, which claim that known human rights violators have been accepted. On the other hand, there has been criticism that rejected military personnel have not been given the possibility to defend themselves.
255. President Aristide has placed the Public Security Forces under the command of a three-member commission, headed by Major Dany Toussaint, which is under the Ministry of Justice. The Interim Forces have been deployed in ten cities, in addition to Port-au-Prince, and have visited over 120 localities. However, they have not been deployed in some areas of the north and southwest. The Law on the creation of a Civil Police was adopted later on December 23, 1994.
256. Similarly, despite the fact that a start was being made to implement plans for restructuring the judicial branch, there was an urgent need to have training programs for establishing a provisional judicial system, in this way placing emphasis on human rights, the integrity of persons, and support for constitutional government and justice.
257. The Commission considers it necessary to know exactly what happened during the military dictatorship and, in particular, to relate in detail the human rights violations to which the Haitian people were subjected, so that Haiti can reconstruct its society and its government. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court on Human Rights have argued that in cases of human rights violations, the government has the obligation to investigate, establish liabilities, and publish its conclusions. The absence of juridical procedures to carry out this task not only represents a violation of the American Convention on Human Rights, but is also a serious obstacle to the healing of the society's wounds, through truth and reconciliation. There are many models, both national and international, for complying with this obligation, but the Commission does not suggest any particular one. The Commission reiterates, however, that the investigation of human rights violations is a responsibility that can never be given up.
258. The Commission hopes that the Haitian Government will take steps rapidly to establish, by law, a National Committee on Compensation, made up of eminent Haitian jurists, to receive complaints from Haitians who were subjected to human rights violations. Complaints were received that some subjects involved or closely associated with the army illegally seized items of private property, whereas the right to property is also protected by the American Convention on Human Rights. It is necessary to hear the complaints as soon as possible and establish the compensation to which those acts give rise. Any new committee, like the judicial system that is being established, should use creole as its working language.
259. On November 22, 1994, the OAS/UN International Civilian Mission published a communiqué announcing that it had resumed its activities as of October 26 and pointing out that in less than one month, 800 persons had presented themselves to the Mission to provide their testimonies on human rights violations or to request medical or legal assistance. The Mission indicated that the information received made it clear that the human rights situation had improved considerably, and numerous persons displaced within the country who had been forced by the repression and the climate of insecurity to abandon their homes were gradually returning to them. The sectors that suffered from the coup d'état were appealing for lawsuits to be brought against the perpetrators of human rights violations.
260. The Civilian Mission also indicated that in spite of the presence of the Multinational Force, a certain level of political violence had prevailed until end-October 1994. Without having totally ceased, violent incidents had declined since then. The Mission also collected testimonies on acts of violence committed by partisans of the President of the Republic against members of the Haitian Armed Forces, FRAPH, and auxiliaries, particularly during the week following the President's return. Cases of arson, looting, and destruction of homes and shops were also reported to the Mission. The constitutional authorities reacted rapidly to these acts by denouncing them, taking the measures required by the circumstances, and recommending reconciliation.
261. The IACHR was informed about recent human rights violations, including the murder of four persons in Carrefour Rocher, Chenot, a municipal section of Marchand Dessalines, on October 9, 1994. Human rights groups pointed out that the "section chief" Paul Onondieu opened fire on pro-Aristide demonstrators, wounding several persons, who were then finished off with machetes. The Commission was likewise informed of the subsequent killing of an "attaché" in vengeance for the above incident.
262. Later, three civilians and two Haitian soldiers were killed in a confrontation on October 12 in Montagne Terrible, a municipal section of Saut d'Eau. It was reported that the two soldiers, who were from Saut d'Eau, Semelis Louisant and Jean-Colin Antenor, arrested several Aristide supporters when a hostile crowd confronted them. The soldiers were killed by the crowd after they opened fire and wounded two persons, known as Ti Bien and San Fanmi.
263. On October 15, some Haitian soldiers in Anse d'Hainault under the orders of Lieutenant Lom fired on pro-Aristide demonstrators, killing Brunache Klarenase, a 15-year-old. Likewise, Lieutenant Pierre Joseph Mesadieu, the army post commander in Cabaret, opened fire on a crowd of pro-Aristide demonstrators on October 15, killing Jean Smith, 22, and wounding a 15-year-old youth.
264. The Second Deputy Mayor of Mirebalais, Cadet Damzal, was killed during the night of November 4. His decapitated body was found the following day in a river on the outskirts of the town. To date, despite investigations by the Multinational Force, responsibility for this murder has not been determined. Cadet Damzal represented the FNCD, a pro-Aristide electoral coalition, and he recently had been helping victims of abuse to bring suit and obtain compensation.
265. Recent information shows that in Port-au-Prince, there is one murder almost daily. Unidentified groups are obtaining goods and money by extortion from local merchants, while other criminal groups erect roadblocks to stop vehicles and rob the passengers.
266. In the interior of the country, there are one or two victims of common violence daily. In some departments, continuous abuses by the section chiefs are reported, and there are bands of former "attachés" or FRAPH members, which are particularly active in the Artibonite region. Old land disputes are also the cause of violence.
267. Until the January 12, 1955 incident in which two members of the United States Special Forces were attacked at a roadblock in Gonaives, with one of them and one of aggressors killed, there have been virtually no incidents against international personnel since September 24, 1994, the date of the confrontation between the Multinational Force and the FADH in Cap Haitien.
268. The Report of United Nations Secretary General Boutros Ghali of January 17, 1995 points out that "the relative security now enjoyed by the Haitian people is very fragile," and regarding the acts of violence recorded in Haiti, he states the following:
"Although there is no evidence that these criminal acts are politically motivated, they are often committed by groups armed with high caliber weapons, including automatic weapons, which indicates a probable link with the old paramilitary networks. Whatever their motivation, these acts of violence affect security and might have a destabilizing effect if they are not controlled."
269. One of the most serious problems inherited by the constitutional government of Haiti from the military dictatorship is the judiciary. The chronic incapacity and ineffectiveness of the administration of justice worsened during the three years of the illegal government of military leaders who overthrew President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1991. This period was characterized by systematic repression and domination of the members of the judiciary.
270. Among the priority objectives of the democratic government, supported by the international community, is reestablishment of social and public order; and in order to achieve genuine protection of the rights of citizens, the judiciary must be overhauled as soon as possible, to ensure that those guilty of criminal acts are brought to justice.
271. The Commission has continuously monitored the human rights situation in Haiti and has found that among the rights violated in the country, the right to a fair trial and due process are of primary importance, since the victims of the violations described in the previous chapter could not find a judicial organ that would protect their rights. In this way, the military and their auxiliaries violently oppressed the people with complete impunity.
272. While the Haitian Constitution and some laws provided for respect for individual rights, actual practice has been another matter. A number of obstacles, both economic and political, prevented the judicial system from meting out impartial and equal justice. The lack of independence of the judiciary and the military's control over judges, their presence in the courts, and their constant intervention in judicial processes constituted continuous pressure, preventing any initiative of the courts against members of the armed forces, paramilitary groups or other supporters of the illegal de facto regime.
273. Often judges refused to initiate preliminary investigations into cases out of fear of reprisals by the military, who threatened them and their families with death or with removal from their posts. Some judges were murdered, and others were detained or beaten, which caused members of the judiciary to go into hiding ("marronage"). In the rare cases where judges ordered an investigation or the arrest of a suspect, the military or the police simply took no action. Instead, they threatened the victims's families to discourage them from having recourse to law.
274. The problem of the lack of an effective judicial system is closely related to the lack of an independent police system that inspires confidence in the people and enforces the decisions of the judiciary. Since the 1991 coup d'état, the judiciary was directed by the military, who installed most of the justices of the peace, judicial officers, including administrative staff, and quasi-judicial personnel such as the section chiefs. More specificially, the section chiefs, who operated at the community level in rural areas (where 75% of the Haitian people live), took upon themselves powers far beyond their mandates and virtually established their own local government system, performing the functions of the police, the public prosecutor's office, and the courts, and collecting illegal taxes from the people.
275. Another factor adding to the malfunction of the justice system is the economic problem. The lack of material and financial resources helped to impede the exercise of justice since most of the courts do not have basic supplies for their work, such as legal texts, file paper, telephones, etc. Moreover, the low salaries of judges and justice officials explains the magnitude of the corruption problem in the judicial system.
276. Another problem in the judiciary is that justice is not administered in a juridical manner. This is due to the fact that most of the judges and judicial officials have not received legal training, and have been appointed on the basis of political or social standing. This explains why the Haitian judicial system is compared to a market where everything is for sale and everything can be bought. People must pay to avoid being sent to or to get out of prison, and even to send someone to prison and make sure he stays there.
277. The absence of professionalism in selecting and training members of the judiciary, together with the corruption prevailing in the system causes both improper enforcement of the law and application of the law in violation of the Haitian constitution. The number of judges who still respect professional ethics do so at the risk of the consequences they must face.
278. In the present situation, there is no court that inspires confidence in the Haitian people that their civil or penal disputes can be settled. The judiciary's lack of credibility sometimes caused the Haitian people to take justice into their own hands. However, such actions were violently repressed by the armed forces.
279. With the return of the democratic government, plans and programs have been initiated to reorganize the judiciary. However, there is an urgent need for training programs to set up a provisional judiciary to deal with the people's current problems while the judiciary is being reformed and a new police force in the service of the law is being established.
280. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights considers that genuine reform of the judicial system requires emphasizing the legal and moral character of the members of the judiciary, their commitment to human rights and their support of the democratic regime. Financial support from the international community is essential to achieve this important task, and the United States, France and Canada, as well as the UN and the OAS have expressed interest in helping to rebuild Haiti's legal institutions.
281. One of the activities for the defense and promotion of human rights carried out by the Commission is the observation of such rights in penitentiary centers. During all of the visits made by the Commission in Haiti following the coup d'état, it inspected the situation in the prisons and the legal status of prisoners, except for during the visit of May 1994, when the military leaders did not authorize entry into any detention center.
282. During these visits, the Commission observed that the procedures and conditions of detention violated the norms stipulated in both domestic and international law. Although there are 15 prisons in Haiti, many detainees were held at military barracks or posts throughout their incarceration. In its report covering 1993, the Commission indicated: "Numerous persons are illegally detained and held for long periods of time, in some cases up to two years. Conditions of imprisonment in the prisons, which are administered by the Armed Forces of Haiti, remain bad. Commission members who visited some of the prisons observed overcrowding and signs of malnutrition among some of the prisoners. They also heard of prisoners being subjected to mistreatment and beatings by prison guards."
283. During its on-site visit in October 1994, the Commission visited the National Penitentiary Center in Port-au-Prince and traveled to the prisons in the towns of Saint Marc and Gonaïves, where they met with officials in charge of the detention centers in question and spoke privately with prisoners. It requested direct information on the juridical situation and the hygiene and nutrition conditions for detainees, as well as on prison conditions in general.
284. In the three detention centers inspected on October 25, 1994, the Commission observed that the Multinational Force was in control of the prisons. However, Haitian Army officials were in charge of the prisoners.
285. The IACHR delegation which visited the National Penitentiary Center in Port-au-Prince met with Major Serge Justafort, an official of that prison, who stated that about 186 prisoners were there at the time, only 28 percent of whom had been sentenced. He indicated that on October 15, with President Aristide's arrival, there was a mass escape from the Central Penitentiary, when about 300 prisoners managed to flee. Justafort pointed out that most of the offenders were sent by the Anti-Gang (Investigation Service) [Brigade] and that prisons came under the authority of the "Grand Quartier Général" [Military Headquarters].
286. The Commission was able to verify that there was no separation between prisoners who had been sentenced and those who were in preventive detention. As for prisoners who were minors, Major Justafort stated they were picked up by the social system. However, during the visit, the Commission met a boy who said he was 14 years old and had been imprisoned since the age of 12.
287. Major Justafort explained that the budget was not adequate to feed the prisoners, nor did it manage to cover health expenses, which was why the prisoners did not receive medical assistance. He added that staff in charge of the prison changed constantly, and this caused instability in prison administration.
288. The Commission asked about disciplinary measures in the prison and was told that the measure most widely used was that of keeping the prisoners in their cells for the whole day and suspending visits. In extreme cases, they were taken to an isolated cell.
289. The Commission met with three groups of prisoners: women, soldiers, and common offenders. The three groups were accommodated in an old building in insanitary conditions and separated in different sections. The offenders in the three groups all complained about the following: 1) the lack of food, since they were fed only once a day, and they pointed out that the guards often stole the food that family members brought for the prisoners; 2) the lack of hygiene, since the only source of water was a tank located on the patio, which was used for drinking, bathing, and washing clothes; 3) the lack of medical assistance was also a motive for general complaint; and 4) everyone complained about the fact that they could not see their family members since, because of the breakout that occurred on October 15, 1994, visits had been suspended.
290. About 90 percent of the prisoners stated they had not been sentenced. Many of them had been arrested six months earlier and some had done up to 22 months without a judicial decision having been taken. The military prisoners stated they had been accused of desertion, indiscipline, or political crimes and were requesting a presidential pardon for all of them.
291. With respect to the prisons at Gonaïves and Saint Marc, the Commission noted the prisoners' overcrowded situation in insanitary, poorly ventilated cells and a total lack of hygienic services. The prisoners' ages ranged from 16 to 63, and there were generally more than 25 prisoners to a tiny cell.
292. The Commission was informed by the offenders themselves that they received no food whatever from the prison authorities. Some complained they had not eaten for several days. A number of them showed their emaciated bodies, while others stated that their family members brought them food, which they sometimes shared with others who had nothing to eat. Drinking water was a scarce resource.
293. The prisoners did not have access to any medical service. The Commission spoke with a young man who showed his infected hand and with two others lying on the ground, who affirmed they had been sick for three days and had not received any medical treatment. The IACHR President asked the commander of the prison to ensure that the sick persons were examined and taken to hospital. A request was also made to remedy the lack of food for the prisoners.
294. On the other hand, the Commission noted that family members were permitted to visit, and there was no evidence that women and men were detained in the same prison quarters.
295. Upon the Commission's arrival in Haiti, it was informed that various prisons in the country had been opened or that prisoners had escaped a week before the restoration of the democratic regime. At the time of its visit to the detention centers, the Commission verified that prisoners had been arrested October 15-25 for common-law offenses. Up to that date, they had not been taken before a judge.
296. During the on-site visit in October, the Commission was informed of the existence of numerous prisoners detained by the Multinational Force in the days preceding the occupation in Haiti. The Commission met with military officials of this institution, who indicated that, at the beginning, 150 persons had been arrested; many of them had been freed after their cases were investigated, and others had been handed over to the local authorities. At that time, there were only 37 prisoners at a Center of detention situated near the airport.
297. The Commission was informed that the policy of the Multinational Force was not to intervene as a police force in internal Haitian affairs, except in those cases that represented a threat to the Multinational Force, or when a serious crime had been committed under Haitian law. To that end, the peacetime rules of engagement (ROE), which went into force on September 21, 1994, during the civilian-military operation in Haiti, stipulate the following, among others:
298. Regarding the conditions of inmates, attorneys of the Multinational Force told the Commission that, in such cases, the international principles of humanitarian law in the Geneva Conventions apply. Visits of families and attorneys are allowed, as are visits of the International Committee of the Red Cross. This was corroborated by various sources, including families of some inmates.
299. Finally, the Commission was informed that detainees would be handed over to the Haitian judicial authorities, once the justice system was in a position to take adequate and efficient action.