By Haiti Democracy Project
Ladies and gentlemen,
Democracy appears to be an optical illusion for Haiti. The closer it seems, the further off
it is in fact. Since the resignation of former president Jean Bertrand Aristide on
February 29, 2004, a new regime was put in place to ensure the democratic transition
and to establish the necessary conditions for the organization of elections in the country.
If the human rights situation during the former regime was appalling, no clear sign of
correcting this situation has been demonstrated by Haiti’s new leaders. Organizations
striving to defend human rights are particularly preoccupied with the laxity with which
the transitional government is handling several cases, such as the illegally armed groups
or the failure of state institutions and MINUSTAH:
I. Armed Groups
Here are the various groups:
a) Former Officials of the Lavalas Government
Former parliamentarians, former mayors, former members of territorial
collectivities in several regions of the country, former members of government
cabinets, and former security guards assigned to members of the deposed
government are still in possession of heavy weaponry.
b) Popular Organizations
Members of the group of Lavalas popular organizations together known as the “chimères” who were supplied with firearms by the leaders of the former
government to quell the rebellion in Gonaives, and the members of the former
military are still armed. These weapons are in circulation in the streets,
predominantly in the shantytowns and heavily populated areas.
Over the last two weeks, the “chimères” have been creating a climate of terror
throughout the country and particularly in the capital, under the label of a new
organization known as “The Headless Army.” They have called their operation
“Operation Baghdad.” The loss of several lives and a considerable amount of material
damage has been reported. At least thirty people have been killed, seven of
whom were policemen in active duty and one a member of the former military.
Some of the bodies were decapitated and then partially burned. Members of this
organization have also looted several stores and burned numerous vehicles. They
claim their movement will continue until the former president, Jean Bertrand
Aristide is returned to power. Lavalas party leaders appear to be backing the
barbarous acts committed by the OP, since not a single party voice has been raised
against this “Operation Baghdad,” which was launched on September 30, 2004.
c) The Former Police
A large number of policemen were revoked after the departure of the former
president, due to their affiliation to the armed gangs, or their connection to acts of
kidnapings or the perpetration of violations of human rights.
This group is also tied to members of USGPN, the presidential guard, who were expelled
after the departure of Jean Bertrand Aristide.
This category of group is also linked to all those who are in possession of un-
registered heavy weapons that are consequently non-recoverable by the government.
d) The Former Military and Members of FRAPH
Members of the former military and paramilitary group the Front for Haitian
Advancement and Progress FRAPH were dismissed from the political scene
after the return of constitutional order in 1994. In the widespread movement to
remove former president Jean Bertrand Aristide from power, however, these
individuals took up their weapons once again. Since then, their demands for the
reconstitution of the Haitian Army, the payment in arrears of ten years of
salary and their pension fund have been unceasing. They are relatively well armed
and could pose a serious future threat to the civilian population, the country’s food
supplies, and particularly to all those who defend human rights and struggle for the
respect of human dignity. Today the FRAPH are exerting serious pressure on the
government of Boniface-Latortue, which from the beginning has been complaisant
e) Armed Gangs
There has been a considerable proliferation of armed gangs throughout the country
since the downfall of the former government. Very few of these gangs are not led by
at least one member from the former public force. As a result, there has been an
increase in the cases of kidnaping and car theft. These acts represent grave
violations against the right to security of person and property.
II. FAILURE OF STATE INSTITUTIONS
1) Haitian Prisons
During the events leading up to the departure of Jean Bertrand Aristide, on February 29,
2004, numerous prison facilities were vandalized. More than three thousand
prisoners are on the run and to date no measures have been taken by the
authorities in place to return these individuals to the control of the judicial system.
Of the twenty-one existing detention centers, only ten are currently
functioning, operating in extremely difficult conditions. There are a lack of beds,
electricity, potable water, and sleeping quarters for prison guards.
Additionally, a new situation has developed, that of holding cells in police stations
being turned into detention centers where suspects spend several days, some even
months without appearing before the appropriate judicial authorities. Alleged
suspects and those who have already been sentenced share the same quarters, which
goes against the norms and standards of detention.
2) The Haitian National Police
The institution of the police is confronted by serious problems. Several
police stations and offices suffered serious damage – some were pillaged and
ransacked and others set on fire. Police vehicles and a significant amount of other
materials were taken by opponents of the former regime.
The institution is also suffering from a lack of police officers, with only three
thousand officers to provide security to a population estimated to at eight
million. A number of district and villages function without any police presence.
Despite the nomination of new leaders to head of the police, and the dismissal of
several police officers implicated in cases of human rights violations, the institution
continues to be faced with the lack of credibility on the part of the civilian population
that still views the police as a group of gangsters, drug dealers and individuals
3) The Judiciary
The judicial system that was used and manipulated by the former government
continues to be dysfunctional. There are several reasons for this: Certain judges
arbitrarily dismissed by the former Lavalas government have not been replaced;
several court houses were vandalized and their doors remain closed; several regions
are still without judicial officials as a number of them abandoned their posts during
the events leading up to February 29, 2004, creating a serious void at State
Prosecutors’ Offices, judicial investigation offices and court houses.
Despite the installation of this transitional government, to date no effort has been
made to fill these vacancies. Several cases are not being followed up on, such as the
cases of journalists Brignol Lindor, Jean Leopold Dominique and his security guard,
Jean Claude Louissaint, the case of the Viola Robert’s children, the case of Father
Jean Marie Vincent, to name only a few. No structure has yet to be put into place to
allow these victims obtain justice.
In its current state, the Haitian Judiciary is far from being a tool capable of putting
an end to the phenomenon of impunity. Or at least the new leaders of the country
are not willing to use it for this purpose. The recent trials that were held from
August 16–20, 2004, are witness to the weakness and inefficiency of the judicial system to
render justice where justice is due, as well as the lack of real will on the part of the
current government to combat impunity—impunity that goes from within the
With regards to the trials held in August, six cases were scheduled to be heard:
• the case of former Colonel Reynold Emmanuel Desnoyer, an escaped prisoner
facing charges in the murder of Me Wilfrid Leger, was remanded due to problems
with the dossier.
• the case of Claude Phéto, an escaped prisoner accused in the murder of police
officer Francine Renard, was not heard by the court, despite a court order from
the Chief Justice of the Court assigning this case for this trial session.
Three cases were heard without the presence of the accused:
• Isidore Oswald, escaped prisoner accused of killing Deputy Louis Emilio
• Alix Lundy, escaped prisoner accused in the murder of police officer
Blaise Preneur ; and
• Henry Claude Mesidor, Adophane Metus and Denise Enesto, escaped
prisoners facing charges in the premeditated murder of Louisana Jean.
Only one case was heard with both parties present — the case of the State versus
Louis Jodel Chamblain and Jackson Joanis in the murder of businessman Antoine
Izméry. Both men were acquitted of the charges by a judicial decision rendered, despite
noticeable deficiencies, such as the absence of material evidence, the absence of
witnesses for the prosecution, the rejection by the Chief Judge and Council for the
Defense of the request of the State Prosecutor’s Office to remand the hearing.
In the days following the Chamblain-Jackson trial, a new situation developed for those
defending human rights. Three principal human rights organizations became the
target of the country’s authorities who used the judicial system as a tool of persecution.
Consider the following:
• A subpoena, dated August 26, 2004 from the defense lawyers of Chamblain and
Jackson, on behalf of three of the fourteen members of the jury, and from
the Ministry of Justice, for Viles Alizar (NCHR), Renan Hédouville (CARLI),
Elifaite Saint Pierre (POHDH), regarding their criticism of the Chamblain-
•A court order from Chief Justice Jean Joseph Lebrun, dated August 30, 2004,
requiring the accused to appear before the correctional court on September 1,
2004—a court that in our view is partial and not independent.
•.A summons from Chief Justice Jean Joseph Lebrun for myself, Pierre
Espérance, Director of NCHR-Haiti, dated August 31, 2004, regarding a report
entitled “Justice: The First Criminal Trials in the Post-Aristide Era Stirs up Wide-
Spread Indignation,” published by NCHR on August 30, 2004.
• An intermediary ruling by the correctional court, demanding the presence of the
defendants in court
These are the principal public weapons being used by the authorities in place to
silence the most prominent human rights organizations in the country who refuse to
accept the agenda of the transitional government to exonerate those who committed
crimes and human rights violations during the coup d’etat years (1991–94) and to
only prosecute those implicated in crimes, acts of violence and human rights abuses
under the previous regime.
The United Nations’ Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) has replaced the
multinational force of June 1, 2004, which comprised some 3,300 American, French,
Canadian and Chilean soldiers. MINUSTAH ought to be comprised of 6,700 blue
helmets and 1,600 policemen, yet today it operates with a strength of 3,092 blue
helmets and 600 police officers.
While this is not its full strength, MINUSTAH has taken on the arrangements of
important material and logistical means as a response to how poorly the Haitian
National Police are equipped. MINUSTAH’s mission, as its name indicates, is to
stabilize the country based on a plan of security — in other words, to define a strategy in
concert with the relevant authorities to disarm all illegally armed groups, reinforce the
police, create a favorable climate for holding democratic, honest and free general
elections at the end of 2005. Despite this, armed groups are growing all across the
country, in full view of and to the knowledge of everyone. They are creating a climate of
terror by calmly and coolly raping, killing, stealing and burning. The Haitian
National Police have been held up by their own weakness both in numbers and
in means, and thus do not have the capacity to block these bandits who identity
themselves as Lavalas and claim responsibility for these acts of terror witnessed in the
capital. Up to October 5, 2004, MINUSTAH appeared lax and indifferent
towards the armed bandits’ actions. Such a situation forces the rather perplexing
question, What exactly is the true role of MINUSTAH with regard to the country’s safety
measures? Indeed, several sectors of the nation have been criticizing MINUSTAH’s
ECONOMIC, SOCIAL, AND CULTURAL RIGHTS
The socioeconomic situation in the country is very serious, especially as far as food,
health, and the environment are concerned. This is attributable to the immeasurable
damage wreaked by the tropical storm Jeane on the Northwest and Artibonite
populations the night of September 19, 2004. This storm has only served to dramatize
the situation which faces the Haitian people. The populations in the regions affected by
this tropical storm which resulted in approximately three thousand deaths and
disappearances and nearly three hundred thousand disaster victims, now live
in a dehumanizing situation of extreme poverty. One must remember that Gonaives
has been the most affected region with approximately three thousand deaths or
disappearances. The entire city of Gonaives was flooded. The damage caused by this
flooding is the result of past and present leaders’ lack responsibility towards the
environment, which has never been treated as a priority. Our environment presents an
upsetting spectacle. Our rivers have not been built into canals, our hills have not been
reforested, the open drainage system has not been cleaned out, our roads are rutted, and
piles of refuse are all too common a sight not only in the streets but in the public
Illiteracy, lack of potable water, lack of adequate health care, horrible working
conditions and unemployment prevail. The unemployment rate is increasing, adversely
affecting the capacity of parents to send their children to school as school rates rise. A
child wishing to attend sixth grade in a private school must pay an entrance fee of 1700
Haitian dollars and a monthly fee of 200 Haitian dollars.
At the same time, access to public schools is becoming increasingly difficult, despite
conditions stipulated article 32.1 of the Haitian constitution of 1987 stating that
education is the responsibility of the state and that free education must be made
available to all.
Today in Haiti, to be the recipient of health care has become a luxury. The consultation
fees within private hospitals are exorbitant and public health centers and hospitals and
not available or accessible to everyone. Furthermore, the quality of care they
provide is inadequate.
Seven months after the departure of Jean Bertrand Aristide, the human rights
situation in Haiti remains precarious. The leaders of the transitional government have
not broken with the past autocratic and authoritarianism of Aristide years. Impunity,
insecurity, corruption and influencing of judicial authorities, illegal and arbitrary
arrests and detentions, prolonged pre-trial detention, overcrowded prisons, the
denial of justice, and kidnaping remain.
Haitian human rights organizations, such as NCHR and POHDH are not and will not be
intimidated by the actions of politicians. We will continue to promote fundamental
human rights and defend those rights and the universal ideals of democracy for the
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