Human Rights in Haiti – August 2001 Report
The month of August was an active month for human rights organizations throughout Haiti as the country experienced a wide spectrum of events that reflect the struggle for the development of a state of law and the respect for fundamental human rights. The month was characterized by a continued wave of political and civil human rights violations, primarily in the form of arbitrary and illegal searches, arrests and detentions.
Surrounding the Events of July 28
As family and friends laid to rest the police officers slain on July 28, 2001, the official investigation into that violent weekend continued. Police in the Central Plateau and Port-au-Prince continued to arbitrarily and illegally arrest and detain people they suspected to be connected to the attacks. Among the people arrested were the Divisional Police Commissioner of Port-au-Prince, along with his wife and driver, and the Director of the National Police Academy. Two journalists from a radio station in Belladères were also arrested. It has been reported that police assaulted the journalists during their arrest.
Police and judicial authorities continue to violate articles 24.1-24.3 and 26 of the Haitian Constitution that stipulate conditions for arrest (warrants, etc.) and require that detainees to be brought before a judge within 48 hours, respectively. Furthermore, police are in violation of article 24.3 line (e), forbidding the arrest of one person in place of another, when they arrested the wife and driver of the Police Commissioner of Port-au-Prince.
The Police Commissioner, his wife and driver, in addition to a number of the people arrested, have since been released.
Mouvement Paysan Papaye (MPP) members continue to report experiencing pressure and intimidation from the police and Fanmi Lavalas supporters in their communities. Likewise, a number of former military have fled to the Dominican Republic, seeking asylum from potential oppression in retaliation to the attacks.
An official Investigation Commission, composed of the Secretary of State for Public Security, the State Prosecutor, the Inspector General of the Haitian National Police (HNP), the Chief of the Cabinet of the Director of the HNP, and a former general of the ex-Forces Armés d’Haiti (FAdH), has been created to examine the events of July 28. The inquiry of the Commission has been specifically focused on the Haitian National Police, in search of a possible collaboration in the attacks. In a public address, Aristide called for an open investigation, conducted in a legal manner that respects fundamental human rights.
A report submitted by the Commission towards the middle of the month concluded that the events of July 28 was an attempted coup d’état, orchestrated by former military with the compliance of the police and other individuals. It recommended that the government consider the needs of the HNP in light of having lost five officers.
Jean Dominique Murder Investigation
The investigation in the double murder case continues to slowly move forward as Investigating Judge Gassant filed an ordinance requesting that the umbrella of immunity protecting Senator Dany Toussaint be lifted. According to article 25 of the internal rules of the Senate, all senators are covered by parliamentary immunity except in cases of flagrant offences. This is the first time in Haitian history that a request has been made to lift parliamentary immunity.
Some of Senator Toussaint’s actions have increased suspicion as to his actual involvement in the murders. Before the ordinance was made public and presented to the Senate, Senator Toussaint was somehow able to appeal the ordinance – an ordinance of which he had not officially been informed. Furthermore, he conducted a parallel investigation to the official one, without any legal foundation or authority.
Dr. Alix Charles who was arrested last month in connection with the murder investigation, with a valid warrant issued by Judge Gassant, was questioned and later released.
A SWAT team illegally searched the headquarters of KID (Konvansyon Inite Demokratik), one of the political parties within the Democratic Convergence. The search, authorized by a Juge de Paix after it was conducted, resulted in the confiscation of several weapons, and the detention of six KID members. Police claim that KID did not have permits for the weapons in question, and thus was in illegal possession of them. Leader Evans Paul, who arrived on the scene minutes after the SWAT team left, contends that the “search” was in reality an assassination attempt on his life. To date, two of the members arrested have been released.
This month marked the 3rd anniversary of the assassination of Father Jean Pierre-Louis and the 7th anniversary of the assassination of Father Jean-Marie Vincent. Both men were actively engaged in the struggle of Haitian peasants and the socially marginalized. In both cases, the state has failed to appoint an Investigating Judge to begin official inquiries into these deaths. Human rights organizations strongly urged judicial authorities to appoint judges to begin investigations into these cases, so that justice may be served.
Freedom of speech and expression continues to be threatened as several journalists from various regions of the country report receiving death threats this month. In a specific incident, CIMO officers illegally raided and searched the home of the family of Donald Jean, a journalist for Radio Vision 2000, who fled the country several of months ago in fear for his life. After finding nothing in the home, the officers fired a number of rounds into the house. Without a warrant, the officers proceeded to arrest Donald Jean’s younger sister, Nerlande Jean. Witnesses claim that Ms. Jean was assaulted at the time of her arrest. Ms. Jean was later released and claims to have been sexually assaulted while in police custody.
380 illegal Haitian immigrants living on the British island of Provencial, were arrested and deported to Cap-Haitien on the north coast of Haiti.
The ramifications of Aristide’s zero tolerance policy continue to surface across the country. In Gonaïves, a young man was lynched and burned by members of the local community. He was accused of holding up a currency exchange booth with a weapon. Two other men with the victim at the time were able to flee the crowd.
©2002 NCHR -- ALL RIGHTS RESERVED -- Last updated: 01 May 2007