Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

RABOTEAU VERDICT IN HAITI “A LANDMARK IN FIGHT AGAINST IMPUNITY”, BUT CASE NOT YET FINISHED

20 November 2000RABOTEAU VERDICT IN HAITI “A LANDMARK IN FIGHT AGAINST IMPUNITY, ” BUT CASE NOT YET FINISHED, SAYS UN INDEPENDENT EXPERT

The United Nations Independent Expert on Haiti, Adama Dieng, said
today the Haitian justice system had taken “a huge step forward” with the
completion of the trial in relation to the 1994 Raboteau Massacre.

According to Mr. Dieng, the case was the longest and most complex in
Haiti’s history and was the first to make extensive use of expert testimony
and documents from the military’s archives. The trial, which lasted six
weeks, ended on 9 November. The jury found 16 of the 22 defendants in
custody guilty of participating in the massacre, an attack by military and
paramilitary units on pro-democracy activists under Haiti’s 1991-1994
dictatorship. Most of those convicted were found guilty of murder or of
being an accomplice to murder. Thirty-seven defendants who failed to
appear for trial, including Former Lieutenant General Raoul Cédras, were
convicted in absentia by the trial judge on November 16, 2000 and sentenced
to life imprisonment. The Court also issued a civil damages judgment
against the defendants for 1 billion gourdes (about $43 million).

But the Raboteau case was not by any means finished, Mr. Dieng added.
“The Haitian justice system must continue to pursue those convicted in
absentia. In the event that they are arrested and returned to Haiti, they
must be given a new trial as required by Haitian law. Countries where the
fugitives may be found, especially Panama, the United States, Honduras and
the Dominican Republic, should cooperate with Haitian authorities to arrest
and extradite them”, he said.

The Independent Expert also reiterated his call to the United States,
which seized 160,000 pages of documents from Haitian military and
paramilitary facilities in 1994, to hand over those documents “without
exception or delay”, as well as any other evidence it possessed that shed
light on human rights violations under Haiti’s dictatorship.

COMMUNIQUE DE LA MICAH

La Mission Internationale Civile d’Appui en Haïti (MICAH) a suivi avec intérêt les assises criminelles qui se sont tenues à Gonaïves depuis le 29 septembre dernier, à l’occasion du procès de l’affaire de Raboteau, tout comme elle l’a fait lors du procès de Carrefour Feuilles.

La MICAH est d’avis que la tenue de ces deux procès représente un effort de l’appareil judiciaire haïtien en vue d’assumer pleinement son rôle dans le processus d’édification d’un Etat de droit, d’une société juste et démocratique. Ces procès constituent un pas significatif dans la lutte contre l’impunité que réclame tout le peuple haïtien, et apportent la preuve que l’appareil judiciaire haïtien est en mesure de juger efficacement les auteurs de crimes et autres délits punis par la loi et de violations des droits de l’homme, en général, dans le respect des garanties inscrites tant dans la Constitution de 1987 que dans les Traités internationaux dont Haïti est signataire.

La MICAH note avec satisfaction les progrès réalisés dans le déroulement du procès de Gonaïves par rapport à celui de l’affaire Carrefour-Feuilles. Nul doute que ces procès feront date dans les annales judiciaires haïtiennes. Il convient maintenant de poursuivre les réformes nécessaires du système judiciaire afin d’assurer une même qualité de justice et une égale protection devant la loi pour tous les citoyens.

La Mission espère que cet effort de l’appareil judiciaire se traduira également par la prise en compte du droit des familles des victimes à des réparations adéquates, ce qui contribuerait à consacrer l’égalité des citoyens devant la loi et l’existence et le fonctionnement d’une justice accessible et équitable pour tous.
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(Unofficial translation from French by Charles Arthur for the Haiti Support Group):

The UN International Civilian Support Mission in Haiti (MICAH) followed with interest the trials which were held in Gonaïves since last 29 September in connection with the Raboteau incidents, just like it followed the earlier Carrefour Feuilles trial.

The MICAH believes that the conduct of these two trials represents an effort by the Haitian judicial apparatus to fully assume its role in the process of the construction of a state of law, of a democratic and just society. These trials constitute a significant step in the fight against the impunity which affects all Haitian people, and is proof that the Haitian judicial system is able to effectively judge the authors of crimes and other offences that contravene the law and violate human rights, and, in general, in respect of the guarantees laid down in the 1987 Constitution as well as in the international treaties to which Haiti is a signatory.

The MICAH notes with satisfaction the progress made in the course of the Gonaïves trial compared to that of the Carrefour Feuilles trial. There is no doubt that these trials are a milestone in the annals of Haitian judicial history. It is now advisable to continue the necessary reforms of the judicial system in order to ensure the same quality of justice and an equal protection from the law for all citizens.

The Mission hopes that this effort of the judicial system will also result in the taking into account the right of the families of the victims to adequate reparations, which would contribute to the development of citizens’ legal equality, and of the existence and operation of an accessible and equitable justice for all.

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