Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti






I, IRA J. KURZBAN, testify that the following is true and accurate to the best of my knowledge:

1.  I am a citizen of the United States and a member of the bars of the United States Supreme Court and the states of Florida and California.  I have been a practicing lawyer in the United States for more than 28 years and I have been recognized nationally and internationally for my legal work.  Between March 1991 and February, 2004, I served as the General Counsel in the United States for the Republic of Haiti. As legal counsel, I met regularly with the last President of the Republic of Haiti, Jean Bertrand Aristide, and addressed a number of internal and external issues concerning the government. For example, as counsel, I represented the Government of Haiti in numerous legal matters in the United States, including contracts with many United States individuals and companies performing work in Haiti for the Government of Haiti. My responsibilities included working with the Steele Foundation, a San Francisco based company that provided security under contract to the President and past President of the Republic of Haiti.
2.  On the afternoon of Saturday, February 28, 2004, President Aristide was informed by the Steele Foundation that the U.S. government had asked it to withdraw all of its personnel from Haiti, and, further, that the U.S. government was blocking the Steele Foundation’s efforts to bring additional security forces to Haiti needed to protect the President.
3.   Also on February 28, in my capacity as counsel for the Government of Haiti, I received a call from Kenneth Kurtz, the president of the Steele Foundation informing me that the Foundation would be unable to send additional security to Haiti before Monday, March 1, 2004 to protect President Aristide.  It was abundantly clear from the conversation that the provision of additional security personnel by Monday, March 1, would be too late to protect President Aristide, who was then under siege by an advancing so-called rebel army and surrounded by United States Special forces troops who allegedly had come to Haiti to guard the United States Embassy.
4.  Previously, the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince warned the Steele Foundation against taking any action designed to bring in a large security force that would fight the so-called rebel army that was advancing on the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. The Steele Foundation was told that its work had to be confined solely to protecting the President’s personal security.
5.  On February 28, the Steele Foundation informed President Aristide that without the additional personnel who were being blocked by the United States at that time, the existing contingent of the Foundation’s security would not be able to protect the President or his wife.
6.  Later that day, February 28, U.S. diplomats informed President Aristide that if he remained in Port-au-Prince, the United States would not provide any assistance when the expected attack by the insurgents occurred, and that they expected that the insurgents would kill him, his wife and many of his supporters.
7.  The President was further informed that he and his wife should not make any telephone calls, because it would be too dangerous.  My attempt and the attempt of others representing the Republic of Haiti at the time to speak to President Aristide were blocked on the afternoon of February 28th.
8.  That night, the U.S. Deputy Charge de Mission (DCM) in Haiti, Luis Moreno, accompanied by a contingent of U.S. troops, met with President Aristide.  Moreno reiterated the expectation that an attack by the insurgents was imminent and that the U.S. would not intervene to protect the President.  He then informed the President that if he left at that moment, the United States would provide aircraft for him to leave, but only if he provided the United States with a letter of resignation.
9.  The President, his house fully surrounded by United States Special Forces, demanded that he be allowed to go to the National Palace to address the people of Haiti. Although Moreno and others told him that he would be taken to the National Palace, he in fact was taken, with his wife, directly to the airport in Port-au-Prince. Again, he was surrounded by additional soldiers, in military combat gear, and placed on an aircraft. He provided Moreno a letter, but the letter was not a letter of resignation. Although the United States insisted that the letter was a letter of resignation when it presented the letter to the OAS and the United Nations, its own translator subsequently denied it.
10.  Once he was placed on the aircraft, President Aristide and his wife were kept incommunicado by United States military personnel, even though the plane was equipped with faxes, satellite telephones, and other means of communication. The passengers were forced to keep the shutters on the aircraft closed at all times. They were denied the right to leave the aircraft when it landed in Antigua and thereafter when it refueled.  The United States military personnel provided the Antiguan government a fraudulent customs declaration that stated there was only cargo on board. Neither the President nor his wife, who is a United States citizen, was told by the United States military personnel where the aircraft was going or when they would land. They were kept as prisoners on the aircraft and were only told a short time before the aircraft landed that the Central African Republic was their country of destination.
11.   As the counsel for the Republic of Haiti, I made inquiries on February 29, 2004 as to the location of President Aristide and his wife. I called the Department of State. The Department refused to inform me as to the location or safety of the President despite my clearly identifying myself as the attorney for the Haitian government.
12.  I am also familiar with the police-supplies embargo imposed on the Haitian government by the United States Government. During President Aristide’s term, the Department of State refused to sell Haiti defensive, non-lethal equipment such as riot shields, tear gas, bullet proof vests and helmets to protect the police. Because the United States dominates the police-supply market in the Caribbean, the government of Haiti was unable to obtain adequate supplies elsewhere.

:                                                                       _____________________________
Ira J. Kurzban, Esq.

January ___, 2006

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