By Haiti Progress
Jun 3, 2006
One Brazilian and two Canadian police officers working for the United Nations Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH) were convicted of crimes against humanity by a 12-member jury during the fourth session of the International Tribunal on Haiti, which took place in Montreal on May 27.
Canadian Police Chiefs David Charles Beer and R. Graham Muir are respectively the former and current commissioners of the MINUSTAH’s Police Division in Haiti, known as UNPOL. Brazilian Capt. Leonidas Carneiro Junior commanded a UNPOL base in the Belair neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. All three were charged by the Tribunal’s prosecution team with command responsibility for massacres and killings carried out by UNPOL troops in Belair between June 2004 and February 2006. Leonidas was further charged with personally carrying out the execution of an unarmed man on Rue Tiremasse in Belair on the night of Sept. 28, 2005.
The verdicts bring to ten the number of officers and officials of the U.N., Haitian National Police (PNH) and paramilitary groups that Tribunal juries have convicted, from 26 indicted, over the past eight months.
Over 300 people crowded into an amphitheatre at the University of Montréal for the four-hour session, at which live and videotaped testimony was presented. The presiding judge was former Haitian ambassador Benjamin Dupuy, assisted by judge William Sloan, head of the Canadian chapter of the American Association of Jurists, and by Lucie Tondreau, a Haitian activist lawyer based in Miami, FL. Human rights lawyer Brian Concannon, Jr. was the investigating judge.
MINUSTAH’s two top civilian and military leaders – Chilean diplomat Juan Gabriel Valdès and Brazilian Lt. Gen. Augusto Heleno Ribiero Pereira – were previously convicted by a jury during the Tribunal’s first session in Washington, DC on September 23, 2005, along with former Haitian Police Chief Léon Charles.
“Never doubt the importance of what is being done here,” said former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who heads the Tribunal’s Commission of Inquiry, formed to investigate human rights crimes. “This Commission, and this Court, intends to seek the truth about the summary executions, about the unlawful use of deadly force, about the excessive use of force, and about the deliberate effort to destroy popular movements, and to hold those responsible accountable.”
Clark said that over the past two years, the Haitian people have been “facing the whole world that is dominated by wealth.” Since the Feb. 29, 2004 coup d’état against former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, “they’ve been up against the United Nations itself, which is acting subservient to the will, primarily, of the United States,” he said.
Clark asserted that the U.N. had been given the mission “to destroy the popular movement and the popular opposition, and to systematically kill its young leadership. The Stephen Bikos of Haiti had to die because they were committed, they were courageous, they were intelligent, and they wouldn’t be stopped. We think they have failed. But we have to remember. We thought they had failed in 1990. We thought they’d failed in the second election of President Aristide… But unless this Tribunal can bring to justice some of the people that seem so high and mighty, so immune to accountability, then how long will this last election [of President René Préval] have any meaning, whether it is taken over from within, as has too often happened, or from without?”
Independent Vancouver-based journalist Anthony Fenton took the witness stand and was questioned at length by lead prosecutor Desiree Wayne about Canada’s role in the 2004 coup, which he has researched extensively.
“It’s quite striking because Canadian development assistance to Haiti was gradually reduced over the years preceding the coup d’état,” Fenton explained. “Back in 1997-98, you had $44 million in disbursements by the Canadian International Development Agency [CIDA], which is the Canadian counterpart to the U.S. Agency for International Development. These went down to the lowest point in 2001-2002 to under $19 million. In fact, these disbursements to Haiti were cut in half in a two-year period from 1999-2000 to 2001-2002,” when Aristide had just come to power for the second time.
Fenton outlined how the Canadian government funneled money through and to Canadian “non-governmental organizations” to subvert democracy in Haiti and helped plan Aristide’s overthrow with a high-level secret meeting in Ottawa in 2003. He also gave information about police commissioners Beer and Muir, about Canadian investments in Haiti, and about the collusion of various Canadian agencies with those of Washington before and after the coup.
The prosecution also presented a half-hour of videotaped testimony from six victims and witnesses from Belair, who detailed how UNPOL forces had carried out arson, beatings and killings in the hilltop slum. Presented by assistant prosecutor Kim Ives, the video testimony was collected by the Commission of Inquiry in October 2005.
The UNPOL cops came into the house where Peterson “Dan Serré” Venord was sleeping with his girlfriend, one witness explained in the footage. “Peterson spoke to [Captain] Leonidas and said ‘Don’t kill me, I’m a former policeman.’ Léonidas said. ‘No, you are Dan Serré’ and shot him dead… They had that exchange, and Léonidas shot him in front of everyone.” Léonidas later boasted about the killing, the witness said.
The identity of the witnesses was not revealed by the prosecution to protect their security.
During its second session in Boston on Nov. 19, 2005, a Tribunal jury convicted U.S. Brig. Gen. Ronald Coleman and Haitian Police Chief Jean-Michel Yves Gaspard for massacres committed under their command in Belair and Carrefour. Two “rebel” leaders, former Haitian police chief Guy Philippe and former FRAPH death-squad No. 2 Louis Jodel Chamblain, were convicted during the Tribunal’s third session in Miami on March 11, 2006.
In one major development, Investigating Judge Concannon indicted former Haitian de facto Prime Minister Gérard Latortue and his Justice Minister Bernard Gousse for their role in encouraging, commanding and overseeing some of the worst violence committed during the coup by the PNH.
The Tribunal casts a spotlight on the question of justice in Haiti, where hundreds of political prisoners still languish in jail and human rights criminals still walk the streets.
The International Tribunal on Haiti was formed by a series of Latin American and Haitian solidarity organizations last year. Haitian Resistance in Quebec, the Canada Haiti Action Network and the Quebecois Committee to Recognize the Rights of Haitian Workers in the Dominican Republic (CQRDTHRD) helped organize the Montreal session. A delegation from the New England Human Rights Organization for Haiti drove up from Boston to participate.
The jury deliberated for over 40 minutes before rendering its verdict. When jury forewoman, Darlène Fabienne Lozis, read guilty verdicts, the hall erupted in applause. The jury also made two recommendations: that the prosecution in the future provide proof that it has notified those indicted of the charges against them and that the investigation into the Feb. 29th coup continue.
The multinational jury, equally divided between men and women, included a nurse, a unionist, a teacher, an economist, a community organizer, and a researcher. Their decision was unanimous.
The proceedings were conducted primarily in English, with simultaneous translation via headsets into French. However, the presiding judges opened the session in French, explaining the purposes and conduct of the court.
The International Tribunal on Haiti is now planning to hold its fifth session in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in September. The Tribunal will present the evidence it has collected to the courts in Haiti and petition for justice. If the Haitian courts prove unwilling or unable to take up the case, the Tribunal will submit its findings and the names of those convicted to the International Criminal Court in The Hague for prosecution.
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