Events of July 28, 2001 - Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti
National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR)
Platform of Haitian Human Rights Organizations (POHDH)
Lawyers' Committee for Respect and Individual Liberty (CARLI)
The Haitian people, particularly the residents of Pétion-ville, experienced some
difficult hours during the night of July 27 and into the morning hours of July 28,
2001. The first news of the attack reported that a coup d'état staged by
former military personnel had been staged at the National Police Academy. Since
Saturday, July 28 there has been a barrage of differing accounts and conflicting
information, each account more contradictory than the last. This climate of confusion
and diversion was further aggravated by a wave of arrests, and flagrant and systematic
human rights violations in the Central Department. A delegation of human rights
organisations, composed of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR), the
Platform of Haitian Human Rights Organisations (POHDH), and the Committee of Lawyers
for Respect and Individual Liberty (CARLI), was formed and sent out to observe the
human rights situation in the Central Plateau following the events of July 28, 2001.
The following methodology was adopted for the purpose of collecting information on
human rights violations: meetings with judicial authorities, police officers, and
local residents; meetings with notables, victims, parents of victims, presumed
perpetrators, and all others in a position to provide any necessary and essential
information. Given the tense situation that prevailed in the region, it was not
possible to meet with all those involved in the incident. For the purpose of
establishing an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect with the outside observers of
the delegation, a method of open dialogue was employed.
2. Reconstruction of the Facts
The following accounts of the facts were gathered from four cities: Port-au-Prince,
Mirebalais, Belladères, and Hinche.
Port-au-Prince In the early hours of Saturday, July 28, 2001, a round of
shots was heard outside the Pétion-ville Police Station. The shots were more
intense at the National Police Academy on Route Frères, which according to local
press reports, had fallen under the control of a six-person commando. The group,
dressed in uniforms of the former Armed Forces of Haiti (FadH) and armed with weapons
of war, held the National Police Academy hostage for approximately five hours, from
2:00 to 7:00 AM. At around 3:00 AM, Instructors on the scene used their cell phones to
inform the hierarchy of the Haitian National Police (HNP) of the situation at hand.
Likewise, Commissioner Jean Eddy Cantave had time to inform his superiors, specifically
Commissioner Jean Yonel Trécil, about the hostage situation before being shot
and killed sometime around 6:00 AM. The armed group was able to leave the Police
Academy at around 7:00 AM without any difficulty.
Mirebalais. A commando aboard a vehicle descended upon the Mirebalais police
station at around 8:00 AM. One of the two police officers present at the station
escaped into a ravine while the other officer, by the name of Donaïs Bruno
Célusca, was shot and killed. The armed group destroyed means of communication
before taking the weapons of the police station. In all likelihood the purpose of the
raid was to stock up on weapons and ammunition.
Belladères. A commando made its appearance in the town of
Belladères on Saturday, July 28 at approximately 9:00 in the morning. The armed
group fired rounds in the air in all directions before completely taking over the town
until 5:00 PM. In the process of the takeover, one woman was shot in the back. The
priest of Belladères drove her to the hospital in Mirebalais.
At around 11:00 AM, one of the members of the commando went to the “Rotation
FM” radio station where he read a message to the population. He called for the
former military members to join them. This operation, he said, was being carried out
by former military personnel with nothing against the population; they would simply
like to “take back their barracks”. In the meantime, local authorities had
had the time to seek refuge in the Dominican Republic, returning Sunday, July 29 after
the HNP took control of the city.
At around 2:00 PM, a helicopter circled above the city for 30 minutes, after which it
retreated without landing. Around 6:00 PM, two other helicopters came and landed in
the football field, located at the entrance of Belladères. They were carrying
members of the Special Unit, known as the “Swat Team”. The Swat Team
entered the village by the east corridor. At the arrival of the Swat Team, the armed
men left the police station and the city without difficulty.
The repression began when the Swat Team took control of Belladères. They
stopped and assaulted all those who passed in front of the police station and began
searching the homes of certain members of the former FadH and of those close to the
Democratic Convergence (DC). The searches were carried out under the direction of the
elected Lavalas leaders who were in possession of a list containing names of people to
Hinche. The information coming out of Hinche was contradictory at best.
According to the police, the same commando descended upon Hinche. The armed group was
not able to enter the town because four police officers had been stationed at the
entrance of town. In the police account there was an exchange of fire between the
police and the commando. Subsequently, three of the police officers abandoned their
weapons and surrendered at the arrival of the armed men. One officer, Zacharie
Simon refused to surrender and was killed. Allegedly this took place on Saturday,
July 28 at approximately 12:30 in the afternoon. However, the delegation was unable to
find a member of the population to confirm or refute this information.
Following this event, police officers proceeded to arrest Jean-Yves Dumas and
Séraphin Hébert on Saturday the 28th. Hébert was
severely beaten and detained in the police station's holding cell. These arrests
were carried out without warrants and without the presence of judicial authorities.
Further arrests were made on Sunday, July 29 when police arrested Mr. Vièt
Altidor, Esq., Mr. Jacquelin, and Chenet Gauthier who were later released.
The police maintain that there was an exchange of gunfire with Wilner Jean-Louis, a
former military man who had close affiliations with the Democratic Convergence.
According to police, Wilner was found dead as a result of this shoot-out. Police then
sought out Justice of the Peace, Jean Cantave to observe the body of the victim, and
Investigating Magistrate Jean-Claude Cétoute to grant permission to search the
victim's home. The search of Wilner's home revealed nothing suspicious.
The Justice of the Peace, Jean Cantave, could not observe the scene and the body of the
victim as he should have. He was pressured by the agents of the Swat Team who demanded
that he write quickly. “Ekri bagay ou a an abreje, nou prese, nou pa
genyen tan pou nou pèdi”.1 He was not authorized to hear the testimony of witnesses who were on the scene
at the time of the shooting. Furthermore, well before the observation of the body,
police arrested potential witnesses of the so-called “exchange of
gunfire”. The Justice of the Peace was prohibited from searching for more
In addition, a body was found in the Inquite River. Unidentifiable, the man was
wearing a uniform of the ex-Léopard Corps and had two rounds of ammunition
around his neck. In his pockets were 20 Dominican pesos and a copy of the Dominican
national anthem. After observing the body, the police buried him on the shore of the
The police, accompanied by some judicial authorities and members of the ruling party,
had in their possession a list, according to them coming from the National Palace, of
houses to be searched – houses of former military personnel, supporters of the
Democratic Convergence, and professionals. In the process, several people were
arrested, mistreated and detained in the local holding cell.
In the meantime, the Centre de Formation, where the office of the legal
assistance for the Mouvement Paysans Papaye is located (No. 140, Rue Rivage),
was completely destroyed in a fire set by unidentified men. While some rumors
circulated around town, the supporters of the Fanmi Lavalas and the police were
looking for Mr. Chavannes Jean-Baptiste and his supporters.
Seven people were found dead, five of whom were police officers, one former military
and one unidentified individual. They are as follows:
Port-au-Prince, Jean Eddy Cantave, Police Commissioner, Administrator of the
National Police Academy; Lourdes James Bazemar and Michel Milfleur, police cadets in
Mirebalais, Bruno Donaïs Célusca, police officer at the Mirebalais
Hinche, Zacharie Simon, police officer at the Hinche police station; Wilner
Jean-Louis, former military and supporter of the Democratic Convergence, and one
An estimated 18 people were injured during and after the events of July 28, 2001.
Ninety-five per cent (95%) of those were trainees in the police academy.
Several people were arrested and held in holding cells. It is difficult to establish a
complete list of these individuals. However, certain arrests were made late in the
day, outside of judicial norms. The number of people arrested is estimated to be more
than 30. Among them were:
Port-au-Prince, the people arrested are exclusively police officers. They are
Divisional Commissioner Mario Andrésol
Commissioner Jean Yonel Trécil, Director of the National Police Academy
Commissioner Elder Kersy, Coordinator of Instructors
Inspector Max Harry Isaac, Police Instructor
Inspector Florian Dorcé, Police Instructor
Inspector Orival Jacques Joël, Police Instructor
Inspector Billy Lemaine, Police Instructor
Inspector Saint-Armand Frantz, Police Instructor
Belladères, the people arrested are professionals, former candidates and
supporters of the Democratic Convergence, former military and members of their
families. They are as follows:
Mr. Moïse Tout Puissant, supporter of former military personnel
Engineer Nicolas Duccé, former candidate for Mayor of Belladères
Mr. Pierre Emmanuel Théophile
Mr. Romaine Bourssicot, former Deputy candidate
Family and wives of former military personnel
Hinche, the people arrested are professionals, former candidates and supporters
of the Democratic Convergence, former military and certain members of their families.
They are as follows:
Mr. Hébert Séraphin, Coordinator of Espace de Concertation in
Mr. Jean Yves Damus, agricultural technician and iron-worker
Me Viet Alcindor, Treasurer of the Bar of Order of Lawyers of Hinche, Lawyer for the
Mouvement Paysans Papaye (MPP) regarding the case of November 2, 2000
Mr. and Mrs. Pierre Gaston, brother-in-law and sister of the murdered former military
member, Wilner Jean-Louis
Mr. Chénet Gauthier
Mr. Jacquelin, businessman
4. Attitudes of the Authorities
The Inspectors and Commissioner Jean Eddy Cantave informed the police authorities of
the occupation of the Academy by an armed group at around 3:00 AM. Commissioner
Cantave was killed at around 6:00 AM and the armed men left the Academy around one hour
later. Several questions arise out of this scenario:
How can one explain that Commissioner Jean Eddy Cantave was able to communicate with
his superiors while being held hostage by armed former military members? Did these
armed individuals allow the communication between Commissioner Cantave and his
superiors on the outside?
How does one explain that fact that six armed individuals, claiming to be of the former
military, were able to obtain easy access to the National Police Academy? Why
didn't the Compagnie d'Intervention et de Maintien d'Ordre
(CIMO), l'Unité de Sécurité de la Garde du Palais
National (USGPN), or the Swat Team intervene? Did these groups receive orders not
to react, or is it that they were unable to react as needed?
How does one explain the fact that approximately four hours after the police
authorities from le Centre de Recherche Opérationnel (CRO) were informed
of the situation, no definitive action was taken to prevent the armed individuals from
leaving the grounds of the Academy with such ease?
How does one explain the fact that these were police officers from CIMO and/or the Swat
Team who told the Justice of the Peace how to write his report regarding the
observation of the death of Mr. Wilner Jean-Louis? Why did police take control of
eyewitnesses (by way of arrest) of the so-called “exchange of gunfire”
between Mr. Wilner and the police? All this leads one to believe that this is a case
of a summary execution.
In the morning of July 28, police stations across the country received instructions to
take all measures to protect their police stations. Thus, four police officers were
posted at the entrance of the city of Hinche, one of who, Zacharie Simon,
according to police information, was killed because he refused to follow the three
other police officers, who surrendered to the armed commando. Can this not also be
considered a case of summary execution?
How does one come to understand the negligence and laxness of the superior police
authorities in the face of grave danger for the lives of the hostages, notably
Commissioner Jean-Eddy Cantave? Likewise, how does one interpret the behaviour of the
Director of the Western Department, Commissioner Hermione Léonard, who affirmed
to the press that she had seen two armed men (former military) posted outside the
Academy and yet failed to react?
In Hinche the judicial authorities are in a difficult situation with regards to the
equitable distribution of justice in the city. Following the examples throughout the
rest of the country, very few judges appear to be well informed about the role of the
police as auxilaries to justice. This attests to the analysis of the behaviour of the
judge whether Justices of the Peace or Investigating Magistrates. Regarding the
aforementioned events, the judicial authorities did prove a certain complicity by not
having taken their responsibilities in the face of flagrant and systematic human rights
violations committed by police officers. They did not denounce the incident and,
likewise, did not lend their support to curbing the irregularities in procedure
committed by the police. They were complacent toward the police and those who acting
as informants for the police. They never used their authority over the PNH to defer
the suspects to the Parquet within 48 hours following their arrests, as
stipulated in article 26 of the Haitian Constitution:
No one can be held in detention if he/she has not been brought, within 48 hours of
his/her arrest, before a judge called to rule on the legality of the arrest, or if the
judge does not confirm the detention to be justifiable.
Thus, the prolonged detention of people arbitrarily and illegally arrested in the
Central Plateau is in part due to the irresponsible attitude of the judicial
authorities and also in part due to the fear of being incriminated by the elected
officials of Fanmi Lavalas in Hinche as being partisan.
It can be noted that certain judicial authorities did attempt to respond to the
mistreatment inflicted upon apprehended individuals at the hands of the police. In
spite of this timid reaction of the judicial authorities, several people arrested were
tortured regardless of articles 25 and of the Haitian Constitution of 1987 and the
Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man, respectively:
All harshness and constraint that is not necessary to apprehend or hold a person in
custody, all moral pressure or physical brutality, notably during questioning, are
No one shall be subjected to torture, nor cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or
The judicial authorities of the Central Plateau looked on with a passive attitude
towards the arrest of people in the place of others, a practice that is contrary to the
instructions set forth in article 24.3, line (e) of the Haitian Constitution of 1987,
Responsibility is a personal. No one can be arrested in the place of another.
In Hinche and Belladères, family members of former members of the military were
arrested and detained without any intervention from the Parquet to grant them
unconditional release. During the house searches of Saturday, July 28, without
corpus delicti and authorization from present judicial authorities, police
proceeded with arrests. No judge denounced the authoritative and arbitrary character
of the arrests; rather nothing was done to curb the work of the police, including the
questioning that followed the arrests. At the time of their depositions, people had
been in custody for more than 48 hours. Such behaviour does not bring honour to the
judiciary, nor does it contribute to its reinforcement or its independence.
The Aristide-Chérestal government dealt with the events of July 28, 2001 in a
political manner. Without a National Intelligence Service, governmental authorities
did not have access to information that would have allowed them to anticipate the
events of July 28, and respond adequately to the events that transpired. However, from
the morning of the 28th, the government entered into gratuitous accusations
instead of showing its capacity to objectively analyse the situation. This political
approach to the events has certainly complicated the work of the Investigating
Commission. In fact, it can be said that the government provoked a series of human
rights violations in Port-au-Prince as well as the Central Plateau.
5. Attitude of Supporters of the Ruling Political Party
On Saturday, July 28, 2001, Amos Mételus and James Joseph, two Fanmi Lavalas
officials from Hinche, delivered to the police a list of names for the purpose of
searching their homes and for their eventual arrests. Around 2:00 PM, the police,
accompanied by these two officials, arrested Hébert Séraphin, coordinator
of l'Espace de Concertation of Hinche and Jean Yves Damus, without
warrants and without a formal charge as stipulated in article 24.2 of the Haitian
Arrest and detention, except in cases of flagrant offences, shall not take place
without a warrant written by a legally competent civil servant.
According to articles 20 and 50 of the Penal Code, denunciations and complaints must be
brought before the Public Prosecutor and the Investigating Magistrate. The articles
read as follows:
Each person who witnesses an offence, having been at the scene of a crime or
misdemeanour (committed against public security, against the life or property of an
individual) or with a suspect at the time of the offence, will likewise be required to
go before the Public Prosecutor.
Each person who claims to have been wronged by a crime or a misdemeanour, having been
at the scene of the crime, the suspect's residence, or with the suspect at the
time of the crime, can render a complaint, and can file a civil action before the
Spurning these two articles of the Penal Code, Amos Mételus and James Joseph
preferred to play the role of police informants for the purpose of better directing the
operations of the police on the ground, and to further persecute their adversaries,
rather than taking their complaints before the Public Prosecutor or an Investigating
Magistrate. According to the mandated procedure, no one has the authority to denounce
or arrest an individual, except in cases of flagrant misdemeanors with people suspected
of the infraction in question. An arrest facilitated by a list of names given to
police is an arbitrary, authoritarian, and illegal act.
The attitude of those close to power was also observed in Belladères as in other
parts of the country. It must be asked whether these actions are the result of an
excess of zeal or of a covert strategy on the part of a governing party pursuing a
state of authoritarianism.
6. Evolution of the Situation
After the delegation's press conference of August 2, 2001, new arrests were made
and other detainees were released.
In Belladères on Thursday, August 9, Lubéris Reynald, journalist and
Claude François, operator of Radio Rotation FM were arrested without warrants,
and the station was searched without the presence of competent judicial authorities.
The two employees were released that afternoon without having been brought before a
judge. Equally, eight out of eleven people arrested and transferred to Port-au-Prince
were released the same day by the ruling of the Parquet of Port-au-Prince. Similarly
in Hinche, the individuals arrested on July 28 and 29 were released, following an
ordinance from the Parquet of the Tribunal de Première Instance.
In Port-au-Prince, a number of officers of the HNP were arrested and spent several days
in the holding cell or in isolation. Several of them have been released. On Friday,
August 10, the court ordered the immediate release of DivisionalCommissioner Mario
Andrésol, who until Monday afternoon, had not been released in accordance with
the decision of the court.
In light of the arbitrary and authoritarian actions that took place, human rights
Demand the immediate release of all people illegally arrested who at present are still
being detained, in accordance with articles 26,26.1, 26.2 and 27 of the Haitian
Constitution of 1987.
Invite the ruling powers to take all necessary measures to encourage their supporters
to respect the principles of individual freedom, the foundation for a democratic state
functioning under the rule of law.
Encourage the powers that be to create an independent, credible, and honest
investigating commission for the purpose of:
Shedding light on the events of July 28, 2001;
Determining the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the police officers and former
Determining the circumstances around the arrests and prolonged detentions following the
Insist that the governing powers put an end to the politization of the Haitian National
Police, such that it can respond to its mission to serve and to protection the
population in a professional manner.
Insist that the governing powers consolidate the constitutional structures guaranteeing
fundamental freedoms and public security. (General Inspection of the PNH, Scientific
and Judiciary Police etc.)
1 Loosely translated as “write
your [observations] briefly, we are in a hurry, we do not have time to lose.”