Trenton Daniel and Susannah A., Miami Herald
March 15 2004
Freed Rights Abusers Back in the Streets
GONAIVES, Haiti – The notorious Jean Tatoune is wanted for the massacre of at least six people here, but he’s not hard to find. Just ask around Gonaives’ seaside slum of Raboteau.
Though Tatoune was sentenced to life for the 1994 killings, he walks the streets openly, a commander of the rebels who helped drive President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from power.
”We’re the ones making history,” said Tatoune, whose real name is Jean Pierre Batiste, standing on the dusty streets of the slum, surrounded by admirers and children.
Tatoune is only one of several hundred convicted and suspected criminals — from common murderers to former dictators to army human rights abusers deported from Miami — who escaped from prisons in the last months of Aristide’s rule. Most fled Feb. 5-29, as the rebels opened the prisons and police fled.
As Haitian police and peacekeeping troops from the United States, France, Canada and Chile try to restore security, recapturing the escapees and bringing them to justice will prove problematic, police officials and human rights groups say.
There’s former Gen. Prosper Avril, Haiti’s 1988-90 military ruler, jailed for a massacre in 1990, now reading novels at his home in Port-au-Prince, according to his son.
Also free are three former officers in the brutal military dictatorship that ruled Haiti from 1991 to ’94, who were found in Florida, deported home and convicted in the same Raboteau massacre as Tatoune:
• Gen. Jean-Claude Duperval, once second in command in the army, then captain of a tourist boat at Disney World in Orlando.
• Col. Hebert Valmond, former chief of military intelligence, later a Tampa security guard and Evangelical preacher.
• Col. Carl Dorelien, former army personnel chief, found living in Port St. Lucie after winning $3.1 million in the Florida Lotto.
Dorelien was rumored to have been spotted eating an omelet at the capital’s high-end Montana Hotel just days after Aristide resigned and fled the country on Feb. 29.
The three were among 37 convicted in absentia for the Raboteau massacre in a landmark trial — the first to bring to justice a large group of former Haitian soldiers and paramilitary supporters for human rights abuses.
Among them also was Louis-Jodel Chamblain, a former paramilitary leader and now a top rebel leader. He fled to the neighboring Dominican Republic to escape the trial and now walks freely about the capital with a pistol in his waistband,
Avril’s son, Gregor, told The Herald his father did not escape but was released on the orders of National Penitentiary director Clifford Larose at 7 a.m. on the Feb. 29 — two hours before the rest of the prisoners escaped.
Gregor claimed a judge had ordered his father freed in 2002, but Aristide had forced Larose to disobey the order. Larose could not be reached for comment.
Tatoune was one of the key leaders of FRAPH, a paramilitary group that supported the 1991-94 military dictatorship and was blamed for killing scores of Aristide supporters.
He was convicted in 2000 for the Raboteau massacre, which human rights groups allege left at least 20 dead, although many of the bodies were never found.
Tatoune’s friends broke him out of the Gonaives prison last year, and now that a ragtag bunch of rebels control this port town, where a U.S.-led peacekeeping force has yet to arrive, he is free to walk its streets.
He’s not the only one. More than 1,000 inmates at the national penitentiary in the capital fled on Feb. 29 after they heard radio reports of Aristide’s fall, setting trash fires in their cells and snapping open the prison’s metal gates.
”The gates aren’t strong enough to keep more than 10 people from rattling and breaking the locks, and so
everybody escaped,” Prison Inspector Olmaille Bien-Aime said.
Recapturing all the prisoners is a task far tougher than Haiti’s barely functioning police force can begin to handle. Port-au-Prince Police Commissioner Claude Moise Marckinsky keeps a bulletin board in his office with the mug shots of 60 convicted drug dealers and murderers who escaped on Feb. 29.
But with not enough policemen to patrol the capital, he admitted that he had no plans to seek out the wanted men. They will commit new crimes, Marckinsky said, and will then be rearrested.
Recapturing human rights violators like Dorelien and the others would also require ensuring that they receive fair trials, advocacy groups say, because Haitian laws require anyone tried in absentia to be tried again once captured.
Brian Concannon, an American attorney who helped Haitian prosecutors on the Raboteau trial, said justice was unlikely to prevail in the current chaos. “I’m sure that the ones with the guns and money will call the shots.”