“BAI considers that the Moïse/Lafontant Administration is obliged to bring . . . colonel [Gabriel] to justice so that he can answer for his actions . . . ”
Jean-Robert Gabriel served as Secretary of the General Staff for the Haitian Armed Forces (FADH) and as a public spokesperson for the Cédras regime, which ruled Haiti for three years characterized by rampant human rights abuses after staging a military coup in September of 1991. After democratic government was restored in October of 1994, Gabriel was convicted in absentia by the Court of First Instance of Gonaïves for his role in the Raboteau Massacre. In spite of the conviction, Gabriel was appointed assistant chief of staff G1/G3 in the recently reconstituted FADH. BAI sharply criticized the appointment and called for Gabriel’s arrest.
March 14, 2018 BAI press release in response to Gabriel’s appointment to the reconstituted FADH
“BAI is not surprised that, in disregard of the rights of the numerous innocent victims of the bloody coup d’état of September 30, 1991, Mr. Jovenel Moïse assumed the responsibility of naming a “haut Etat-Major” composed of individuals with a sulfurous history, including Colonel Jean Robert Gabriel, army torturer, convicted in absentia at the Raboteau massacre trial in Gonaïves on November 16, 2000.”
May 6, 2020 BAI letter to the Haitian Ministry of Justice and Public Security (jointly repeated with the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (le Réseau National de Défense des Droits Humains, RNDDH) on May 16, 2020)
“The BAI further requests the Ministry of Justice and Public Security to instruct the Port-au-Prince Government Commissioner to order the judicial police to seize another former fugitive, who now takes up residence at the Ministry of Defense: Jean Robert Gabriel – a member of the so-called General Staff of the Armed Forces of Haiti (FAD’H), characterized by grassroots civil society as a “Rose” army in the service of the “legal Bandits” regime of the Haitian Tèt KaleParty (PHTK) of Mr. Jovenel MOISE – for the purpose of delivering him, too, to face justice in Gonaïves.”
Top Leader of Cédras Dictatorship and Architect of Human Rights Abuses
Gabriel was one of the top leaders of the Cédras dictatorship. He served as one of only six members of the FADH high command (General Staff), which planned and ensured the execution of the regime’s policies – the head of an army that was described by experts as a “criminal enterprise” that “was organized for repressing civilians, rather than for any legitimate military purpose.” The practices thus presided over by Gabriel included murder, rape, torture, forced disappearances, and countless other crimes that left as many as 4,000 Haitians dead and hundreds of thousands fleeing the country. Gabriel’s centrality to the Cédras coup and dictatorship can also be seen from his inclusion among just 29 military officers who were sanctioned by the United States as part of its first round of sanctions against the junta. Gabriel also acted as a spokesperson for the dictatorship and served on the regime’s delegation to the 1993 UN-mediated negotiations over reinstating the ousted democratic government.
Convicted for Role in Raboteau Massacre
Gabriel was prosecuted for his role in orchestrating the Raboteau Massacre. He was convicted in absentia – along with 36 others, who collectively included the entire leadership of FADH and FRAPH (its paramilitary counterpart) but had fled Haiti before the trial. Under Haitian law, defendants convicted in absentia are subject to arrest upon their return to the country, with the choice of accepting the conviction or demanding a new trial.
Returned to Military Authority Without Accountability
In March 2018, Gabriel was appointed assistant chief of staff G1/G3 in the FADH, which had been demobilized in 1995 but was recently reconstituted under President Moïse’s Administration. BAI sharply criticized the move as giving Gabriel a platform to “resume military barbarism and show disdain for the legitimate rights of the Haitian people.” The Moïse administration has nevertheless persisted in claiming that the convicted Gabriel had been vetted along with all FADH members and “is clean of human rights violations.” There is an isolated and unconfirmed report claiming Gabriel obtained a reversal of his conviction on a purported legal technicality.
BAI renewed its criticism of the government’s failure to hold Gabriel accountable in a May 6, 2020 letter to the Haitian Ministry of Justice and Public Security, which reminded the government of its duty to arrest Gabriel according to Haitian law and the Raboteau verdict. On May 16, the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (le Réseau National de Défense des Droits Humains, RNDDH) joined the BAI in its message.