REPORT ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN HAITI
TO LIFE AND HUMANE TREATMENT
The Right to life is recognized in Article 4 of the American Convention
on Human Rights in the following terms:
Every person has the right to have his life respected.
This right shall be protected by law and, in general, from the moment of
conception. No one shall be
arbitrarily deprived of his life.
In countries that have not abolished the death penalty, it may be imposed
only for the most serious crimes and pursuant to a final judgment rendered by a
competent court and in accordance with a law establishing such punishment,
enacted prior to the commission of the crime.
The application of such punishment shall not be extended to crimes to
which it does not presently apply.
The death penalty shall not be reestablished in states that have
In no case shall capital punishment be inflicted for political offenses
or related common crimes.
Capital punishment shall not be imposed upon persons who, at the time the
crime was committed, were under 18 years of age or over 70 years of age; nor
shall it be applied to pregnant women.
The Right to humane treatment contained in Article 5 of the cited
Convention, resolves the following:
Every person has the right to have his physical, mental, and moral
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading
punishment or treatment. All
persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with respect for the inherent
dignity of the human person.
Punishment shall not be extended to any person other than the criminal.
Accused persons shall, save in exceptional circumstances, be segregated
from convicted persons, and shall be subject to separate treatment appropriate
to their status as unconvicted persons.
Minors while subject to criminal proceedings shall be separated from
adults and brought before specialized tribunals, as speedily as possible, so
that they may be treated in accordance with their status as minors.
The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of Haiti, in Articles 19, 20, 25,
and 27 establishes the guarantees regarding the right to life and the humane
treatment. These articles said:
The State has the absolute obligation to guarantee the right to life,
health, and respect of the human person for all citizens without distinction, in
conformity with the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man.
The death penalty is abolished in all cases.
Any unnecessary force or restraint in the apprehension of a person or in
keeping him under arrest, or any psychological pressure or physical brutality,
especially during interrogation, is forbidden.
Any violation of the provisions on individual liberty are arbitrary acts.
Injured parties may, without prior authorization, appeal to the competent
courts, to bring suit against the authors and perpetrators of these arbitrary
acts, regardless of their rank or the body to which they belong.
The right to life is sine qua non for the enjoyment
of all the other human rights. It
is recognized in the American Convention of Human Rights (Article 4) cited
above. Haiti has been a state party
to the American Convention since September 27, 1977.
The right to life in Haiti, however, has been violated numerous times
over the years during the eras of François Duvalier (Papa Doc),
Jean-Claude Duvalier (Baby Doc), and their successors in power.
The special report issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human
Rights in September of 1988 carefully documented many of these violations in the
latter period, that is, since February 7, 1986, when President for-Life,
Jean-Claude Duvalier's government collapsed and he and his closest
associates went into exile.
Since the publication of the Commission's 1988 report on the human rights
situation in Haiti, official violence in general has continued unabated and the
right to life in particular has been routinely violated.
These violations are endemic in the sense that they occur with frequency
in the capital, Port of Prince, as well as other urban centers throughout the
Republic. The countryside too has
been the scene of much repression, mostly aimed at agricultural cooperatives,
peasant movements, and their leaders. Much
of this violence arises from land disputes, a chronic problem in the hinterland
So too, the forms of violence, sometimes leading to assassinations,
varies from incident to incident. To
such an extent is this the case that the word "insecurity" has entered
the Haitian vocabulary to describe the constant state of fear and instability
that permeates Haitian society.
Victims have been killed by uniformed soldiers as well as paramilitary
forces, heavily armed, and dressed as civilians.
Sometimes the killings appear to take place with the acquiescence of the
Army or police who fail to intervene to protect individuals.
Motives range from robbery to silencing witnesses to suppressing
political or media spokesmen. Personal
vendettas also play a part in a situation where impunity is generally the norm.
More often than not, victims are killed by gunshot although death by
beating is not unknown.
What follows is a partial list of violations of the right to life that
illustrate the general description just provided.
It should be noted that all of the deaths mentioned here are quite
recent. These prima facie
violations are grouped in the following manner:
the first category includes killings done by Army soldiers.
The second, those committed by Section Chiefs with the assistance of the
Army. The third, those perpetrated
by the police. Fourth, murders
committed by paramilitary groups, possibly Tonton Macoutes.
Within these categories, there are cases in which the apparent motive of
the murder has been brawl, robbery or debts.
However, the purpose is to show that independently of the motive, the
agents of the armed forces and police has acted with impunity and violating
fundamental rights of persons.
Killings done by Army soldiers:
Herold Lewis was killed on February 3, 1989, by gunshot by a member of
the Army Leopard Corps, named Llerisson Juste, in an argument over a girlfriend.
Lazarre Lewis was killed on March 1, 1989, by Corporal Exant Jerome over
a small debt owed by the victim to a relative of the killer.
Jerome was reportedly arrested but it is not known whether he was ever
processed or whether he remains in detention.
The violation occurred in the capital.
Iramis La Croix was shot and killed on March 9, 1989, by a soldier during
a street argument on a main thoroughfare in Port-au-Prince.
La Croix's killer was then shot by another soldier during the dispute.
Gerard Laforest had been head of the State Lottery.
The day before his murder, April 1989, a soldier guarding a lottery
drawing tried to change a number drawn and a shoot-out ensued.
This was televised nationally. Laforest,
an anti-Duvalierist, was known for his honesty and his efforts to
eliminate corruption in the lottery system.
He was shot and left in his car. A
soldier named Celidon Watson was arrested but the case has not been processed.
Justin Ocanne was shot and robbed on April 4, 1989, by a soldier in
was a moneylender.
Regis Charlot was a student and Koyo, Tito, and Ti Simon were peasants.
On May 1989, they were involved in trying to reclaim land from a former
Tonton Macoute named Charidieu Joseph. When
Joseph complained to the Army in St. Marc, a group of soldiers was dispatched to
the scene and killed the four victims. Local
peasants subsequently attacked and killed Joseph's mother, Jeanette Dor.
This was following by an Army attack on the peasants whose homes were
burned. A number were wounded by soldiers.
On May 7, 1989, Corporal Maxo Crib shot Delbau LeBlanc, three times in
the head, when he intervened to protect his elderly father who was being beaten
by Corporal Crib.
Gilles Charles was shot On May 27, 1989, by two soldiers who had broken
into the studio of Radio Men Kontre. Charles
was ranting but did not threaten the soldiers.
The radio station later protested by going off the air for several days.
Michel Jean Ronald was shot to death on July 7, 1989, in the Bourdon
neighborhood of the Capital. A
witness indicated that one of the killers wore a military uniform.
It is believed that he was eliminated for having been a witness to the
election day massacre of November 29, 1987.
On July 11, 1989, Joanis Malvoisin was shot (and later died at a
hospital) by a group of soldiers from the Petite Riviere barracks. The
leader of the squad was Corporal Wilfred Pierre-Louis.
The attack occurred in the victim's home. It appears that the killing was part of a larger repression
of local peasants in the Savien section of Petite Riviere de l'Artibonite, led
by Section Chief Jean LaCoste Edouard.
On September 1, 1989, Jean-Robert Dorvil was taken by soldiers from
his home in the Correfour neighborhood at night; his body was found the
following day, bullet ridden.
Daniel (last name unknown) was killed on September 6, 1989, by Sergeant
Seymour Séide when he intervened in a fight with the Sergeant's cousin.
When the fight ended the Sergeant returned with a group of armed men.
The victim was also robbed of $60 according to his mother.
Jean Fleriste was beaten to death on October 18, 1989, by soldiers who
accused him of being a subversive in the Ferrier neighborhood of the town of
Saul Saint Come was killed and robbed of $2,000 by soldiers at 1:00 a.m.,
at Boudette-Petite-Place, on November 12, 1989, in Marchand
Charles (last name unknown), along with Jaures Celeste and Mercidieu
Gregoire, were arrested on November 18, 1989, by soldiers led by Corporal Smith
and Attaché St. Gel at Petite Riviere de l'Artibonite and accused of theft.
Beaten severely, Charles died at the local military post on November 25.
Benicier Rene, a leader of the Regional Organization of Planters in
Arcahaie, was shot in the chest on December 7, 1989, by men in Army uniforms at
his home in Arcahaie. He died of
Norvillen Maxime was arrested on December 14, 1989, as he alit from a bus
by Corporal Raymond Cadet and a man known only as Jose.
Taken to the Limbé Army base, he died on December 20.
His relatives state that his body showed signs of torture.
Jean Wilfred Destin, a popular radio satirist known as Ti Will, was shot
three times and killed on January 16, 1990, by three plainclothesmen following a
sarcastic evening broadcast over Port-au-Prince Radio Cacique, in
which he had poked fun at General Prosper Avril's trip to Taiwan.
b. Killings committed by
section chiefs with the assistance of the army:
Ogenio Benoit was shot on May 3, 1989, by Edouard François, the Section
Chief of a town called Lestage. Benoit
was shot while trying to flee from a voodoo session which had been interrumpted
by an infuriated François who was subsequently given Army protection.
Onondieu François and Jean Robert François were peasants involved in a
land dispute. On June 4, 1989, Section Chief Archange and his assistant
Vercy Dorcé shot them and wounded five others.
Later they burned down 28 peasant homes. No action has been taken against the perpetrators.
Wisly Laurius was murdered on June 8, 1989, by Section Chief Chrisner
Adrien in the Basse-Terre area of Marchand-Dessalines.
The 20 year-old victim was involved in a land dispute.
No prosecution has been undertaken.
Wilson Richardson was shot and killed, on October 12, 1989, in a land
dispute by a group composed of Charidieu Joseph, Section Chief Hyppolite Pierre,
Second Lt. Ernst Cadet, and four other soldiers in the Pont-Dujour area of
n March 12, 1990, according to testimonies taken by the special
Commission during its on-site visit to Haiti, the local Section Chief of
Piatre, accompanied by a policeman entered the area and killed a peasant who was
involved in a four-year old land dispute with a large landowner named
Nadal. Thereafter, the residents of
Piatre avenged the peasant's death by killing the Section Chief and policeman.
When these events became known, another group of peasants from a
different nearby locale called Deluge went to Piatre to threaten peasants
residing there. The Deluge group
was thereupon repulsed by the inhabitants of Piatre. The former group then withdrew only to return accompanied by
between 30-50 uniformed soldiers who proceeded to attack the Piatre
peasants burning their homes, a total of 335 residences, and killing eleven
peasants including children, and wounding an unknown number of others.
In addition, the Piatre peasants' cattle were slain and their crops
burned. The beseiged peasants then
fled for their lives. The
witnesses/survivors showed members of the special Commission a large number of
spent cartridges that had been fired upon them by members of the Army.
The special Commission visually verified the destruction of the peasants'
homes and other property.
The Army version of these events, however, is entirely different.
Officers claim that they intervened merely to separate two warring groups
of peasants and that no one died in this action.
Killings perpetrated by the police:
Ernest LeBlanc was killed on August 25, 1989, by the Anti-Gang
Investigation Unit agent Claudy Joachim when he left the courthouse in
Port-au-Prince after paying a fee to the court clerk.
The victim had been sued for a personal debt.
Francky Jean-Louis was killed on September 21, 1989, by three
plainclothes detectives when he became involved with the arrest of a street
vendor. Jean-Louis was 30
d. Killings committed by
paramilitary groups, possibly Tonton Macoutes
Telison Releus was killed on May 9, 1989, by a group of armed men in the
Duval neighborhood of Croix des Bouquets near Port-au-Prince.
The victim had worked for the Electric Company.
His wife was raped and his small daughter was shot in the leg.
Samson François was shot on a public street by three armed men on June
16, 1989. Later the same day three
armed civilians grabbed another young man for no apparent reason and shot him
three times. These murders occurred
on busy Port-au-Prince streets.
A witness identified one of the men as Aji Mal, a former local government
Gregory Delpé was murdered on July 5, 1989, at his home at night.
The victim had been a student leader and his brother heads a political
party. The perpetrators, dressed in
civilian clothes, accused the victim of opposing the Avril Government,
threatened the rest of the family and stole $4,000 from the family grocery
business. The prosecutor closed the
case insinuating that it was a family affair.
Elie Antoine and Cédul Ernéus were killed on July 10, 1989, in an armed
attack by 20 men at 2:00 a.m. in the Cite Soleil section, known as Cite Carton.
The victims died in their homes of gunshot wounds.
No investigation is known to have been conducted.
Philippe Smith was killed on September 24, 1989, while defending his
mother who was being attacked by four armed men.
The mother was seriously injured. The
victim was a 22 year old plumber.
Vilme Eliazar was stabbed to death on October 6, 1989, by unknown
assassins after a protest against the general state of insecurity by the
Catholic Church's Justice and Peace Commission, of which the victim was a
Israel Isophe, Verel Isophe, and Dragus Lorneus were killed in Drouillard
outside of Port-au-Prince on November 17-18, 1989, for putting
up pro-Manigat posters. The perpetrators, dressed in civilian clothes and driving a
gray truck, beat and shot to death Israel Isophe and Dragus Lorneus.
Verel Isophe was dragged by a rope around his neck behind the truck until
he was dead. The killings appear to
be politically motivated.
Col. André Neptune was a veteran officer of the Haitian Army.
On January 19, 1990, was shot and killed along with his wife and servant
at approximately 8:30 p.m. Col.
Neptune's body was left near the home of opposition leader Hubert de Ronceray.
Following Col. Neptune's murder a 30 days state of siege was imposed.
More recently, in the week just prior to the downfall of the Avril
government, press reports indicated that 20 more persons died at the hands of
the Armed Forces and more than 100 were wounded, mostly during street
demonstrations against the government.
To a great extent the violence of the week of March 4-11, 1990, was
prompted by the killing of a schoolgirl, Rosaline Vaval, by a soldier's stray
bullet in the town of Petit Goave. From
there the street demonstrations throughout Haiti grew to the point that General
Avril was forced to leave the country.
Besides the numerous violations of the right to life detailed above, the
recent history of Haiti is replete with the violation of the related right of
Typically violations of the physical integrity of persons in Haiti
consists in the wanton beatings and flailings of soldiers, police, Tonton
Macoutes, and rural section chiefs perpetrated against individuals for
political, personal or venal motives alike.
Literal stompings into submission are hardly uncommon in a virtually
This is not to say that more systematic forms of premeditated torture
have been superceded. On the
contrary, prisons and jails are sites in which coercion, confession wrenching,
and general information are squeezed from helpless victims not unlike the manner
in which this was done in the times of Papa Doc, his son, and their successors.
What follows are graphic examples of these practices:
Naly Beauhanais is the president of the Public Transportation Workers
Union. On January 12, 1989,
following his arrest at 5:00 a.m. on a day designated for a general strike, was
taken to an Army camp near Lamentin and beaten for an hour with clubs and gun
butts on his ears, head, and buttocks. He
was released on January 31, having never been charged with a crime.
Jude L. Jean Jacques, the youth leader, was shot at 6:00 a.m. on the day
of the national strike, January 12, 1989, by uninformed men.
This occurred in Port-au-Prince.
He later recovered from his shoulder wound.
Ernst Charles and Vaudre Abelard, leaders that had helped organize a
demonstration by the Association of the Revolutionary Unemployed were taken on
March 4, 1989, to Fort Dimarche, where they were beaten, and released after a
few hours. They later had to go to the hospital for treatment.
Fred Pierre, Alzy Henriot, Gabriel Dugne, and Rony Serat belong to the
Popular Literary Movement. On June
17, 1989, they were arrested by soldiers in Limbé, badly beaten, and released
the next day. Henriot's arm was
Thomas Odena was arrested on June 19, 1989, by Section Chief Merilien
Pierre for his work in Konakom, the National Committee of the Congress of
Democratic Movements. During his eight day detention he was hit 30 times with a
On June 29, 1989, Lyonel Theodore and Paul La Roche, two organizers of a
market protest in Port-au-Prince were arrested, beaten, and released
after several hours by a judge.
Prudent Juste and Luxine, Cedieu, Lousine, and Moise Eltiné belong to
the Labadie Youth Movement in the Artibonite Valley.
On July 10, 1989, they were arrested in Labaret by six men dressed in
civilian clothes, including the Section Chief named Recevé.
They were held for 23 days at the Petit-Riviere jail. While there they were subjected to a torture called the
"Piquet" which consisted in standing on their toes and leaning against
a wall supporting their weight with two fingers.
When the prisoners moved from that position, they were subject to a
beating. All five were beaten
regularly with sticks. Their
torturers included one Sergeant Alexis and one Corporal Smith.
Following his arrest on August 1, 1989, Jean Robert Lalanne, a leader of
the National Popular Assembly, was suspended around a pole and beaten to a point
where he lost count after some 40 blows. Major
Coulanges Justafort was present along with five other soldiers.
A man named Phonor administered the beating. After his release the following day, Lalanne had to be
Celifaite Dumesle, a member of Tét Kole, a national peasant movement,
was arrested on August 2, 1989, by a Section Chief of Cabaret, one Anovil St.
Vil, who personally kicked and punched him during his detention.
He was later beaten with a night stick by soldiers at the jail in Jean
Rabel. Never charged with a crime,
he was released at the end of August.
Inalia Analion, also a member of Tét Kole, was beaten to the point of
bleeding by Lt. Adrien Saint-Julien during her arrest on August 2, 1989.
Never formally charged, she was released at the end of August.
Florvil Guillaume who was involved in a land dispute in the Sixth
Communal Section of Petite Riviere de l'Artibonite, was arrested and severely
beaten on August 18, 1989, by the Section Chief's assistant, known simply as
Senor. He was held for four days.
On September 26, 1989, Guito Geauvy was arrested and shot in the hand by
a soldier named Raymond Fenelon for supporting a general strike.
On November 1, 1989, Jean Auguste Mesyeux, Evans Paul, and Etienne
Marineau, three political opposition leaders, were beaten terribly following
their arrest and then shown, battered and bloody, on national television.
Their treatment included kicks and stomping while handcuffed.
Night sticks were used on the soles of their feet, their kidneys and
testicles. Their noses were burned
with lighters. Their torturers
included General André Jean-Pierre, soldier Jean-Pierre Bismark,
and Second Lieutenants Délius Joseph, Fritz Pierre, and Faustin Miradieu, all
of the Presidential Guard. The
beatings lasted hours over a period of days.
Paul suffered five broken ribs and a crushed hip.
One of Etienne's eardrums was punctured and he suffered a broken finger.
His injuries made it impossible for him to stand.
After three months of imprisonment, the three were released.
Louis Jerome Michel was attacked and beaten by three unidentified men on
November 5, 1989, following a radio interview in which he told of the killing of
his younger brother earlier in the same year by a soldier dressed in civilian
Faya Jean-Baptiste was robbed of a small portable radio and beaten
by soldiers of the Presidential Guard in front of the National Palace on
November 14, 1989.
On November 15, 1989, Soland Cameau, Nelson Ceramy, Orelus Bernard, and
Camille Marceau, four peasant activists, were arrested and charged with being
communists. They were beaten and released after 14 days of confinement.
On December 1, 1989, Robert Pierre-Louis was beaten by a group of
soldiers belonging to the Presidential Guard for allegedly having criticized
Patrick Beauchard, a former Sergeant in the National Army and leader of
the coup that overthrew Gen. Namphy, was arrested on December 13, 1989, near
Petit Goave by members of the Presidential Guard.
Later his sister reported on Radio Antilles that her brother had been so
severely beaten that his face and eyes were terribly swollen, and that among
other things, he could no longer see out of one eye as the result of having been
hit by a gun butt.
Lemoine Auguste was arrested on December 15, 1989, by Section Chief
Carobert Deronville in Grand Plaine area of the Isle of Gonaive.
He was severely beaten for "having criticized the government."
Wilfred Pierre was arrested and beaten on December 16, 1989, by a
policeman named Paul Pierre-Louis in Costa, the Third Communal Section of
Les Anglais. The problem grew out
of a dispute at a cockfight. Pierre
was set free several hours later.
Jean Charles Mayol, leader of the November 28 National Progressive
Movement, was police arrested on December 19, 1989, in the Artibonite Valley,
beat him at the Marchand Dessaline jail and robbed him of $30.
He was freed on December 26. He
stated that he had been accused of carrying a machete which he was using to work
Dr. Louis Roy, the 74 year-old constitutional lawyer, was arrested
at his home on January 20, 1990, by an Army captain and two soldiers.
He was taken to the police station where some thirty soldiers were
beating a large number of persons. Dr.
Roy himself was hit about the ears and punched in the face.
Later he was exiled to Miami.
Herbert de Ronceray, the president of Mobilization for National
Development, was arrested at his home along with 20 fellow members on January
20, 1990. Soldiers outside kept
guard while "civilians" handcuffed him.
His arrestors broke his glasses, beat him on the chest and head and poked
him in the eye with a lit cigarette. He
was later sent into exile.
On January 20, 1990, Michel Legros, a member of the League to Install
Democracy in Haiti, was arrested at his home, severely beaten, and sent into
Dr. Sylvan Jolibois, a political leader of the Jean-Jacques
Dessalines Nationalist Sector, was arrested at his clinic on January 20, 1990,
by plain clothes police and taken to the National Penitentiary.
His beating was so severe he spit up blood.
No reason was given for his arrest.
He was later released.
On January 20, 1990, Fernand Gérard La Forêt and Marie Denise Douyon
were stopped at a police checkpoint on the road and accused of carrying weapons.
They were taken to the Anti-Gang Investigation Service of the
Police, questioned and beaten. La
Forêt's hands and legs were tied together to form a circle.
He was then hung around a pole and his back was whipped. This lasted three hours.
Thereafter he was denied food and medical treatment for a number of days.
His companion, Marie Denise Douyon, was beaten about the head and body
aggravating a pre-existing ovary condition.
She is still recovering.
Serge Gilles, an intellectual and leader of the Nationalistic and
Progressive Revolutionary Party, was detained at his home along with several
colleagues on January 20, 1990, by six heavily armed men dressed in civilian
clothing without a warrant. Thrown
on the floor, he and his company were kicked, beaten and otherwise brutalized in
front of his wife and two children. His
home was sacked. Transported to the
Anti-Gang Investigation Service, Gilles received a blow on his ear that
ruptured the eardrum. After 30
minutes in a cell, they were delivered to the local police who treated them
correctly. Major Clerjeune
apologized for the "mistake." The
apology was reiterated by Colonel Romulus and the men were released.
Joseph Fernel Manigat, a political leader of the Alliance of Popular
Organizations, was detained on January 22, 1990, in Cap Haitien, taken to the
police station and severely beaten. When
he was released on February 1, he gave a statement over Radio Metropole
describing how he had been hit some 40 times about the head with a stick,
seriously injuring his left ear.
On January 25, 1990, Dicertain Armand was arrested along with a number of
fellow Christian Democrats by civilian and military officials including the
Mayor of Thomazeau and his assistant named Kesner Pongnon and Rossuel Février,
respectively. While still at home, Armand was tied up and hit with a gun
butt. He was later released.
The rights to life and humane treatment have been repeatedly violated in
Haiti during the period covered by this report up until the time of the
installation of the new civilian Government of Ertha Pascal Trouillot.
These violations were committed mostly by elements of the Haitian Army or
paramilitary forces acting in collusion with the Armed Forces or with their
acquiescence. Substantial numbers
of paramilitary forces known formerly, rural section chiefs frequently commit
abuses of these rights in their treatment of peasants and peasant leaders.
What emerges then is a clear picture of institutionalized violence
practice by the very forces whose obligation it is to preserve the peace and
protect citizens from violations of the right to life.
The same conclusion can be reached with regard to the phyical integrity
of citizens. The institutional
forces consisting of the army, the police, the section chiefs and their para-military
henchmen, far from assuring humane treatment of prisoners, are chronic
violations of this basic human right.