Human Rights Situation Report:  October, November, & mid-December 2002

 The human rights situation in Haiti is rapidly deteriorating as the  political and economic crises have reached a new level of severity and  violence.  Many had hoped that the Lavalas government would apply OAS  Resolution 822 and begin working to establish a true democracy and state of  law in Haiti.  It has become apparent that those hopes were in vain.

Included in the resolution was the formation of the Provisional Electoral  Council (CEP) to be charged with planning local, municipal and legislative  elections for the first half of 2003.  Given the current state of the  country, forming a CEP seems virtually impossible as the majority of  societal sectors have lost complete faith that current government will be  able to create a secure environment in which to hold the elections.

Nationwide Demonstrations and Political Unrest 
For the past three weeks, demonstrations and protests have been a daily  occurrence across the country, in Jacmel, Mirebalais, Cap Haïtien, Gonaïves,  Petit Goâve and Port-au-Prince. The government has responded with extreme brutality.  Passive anti-government demonstrations, in many cases led by  student movements, have been violently interrupted by pro-Lavalas groups and  a clearly untrained police force.

Cap-Haïtien  The new wave of anti-government demonstrations started in the northern city  of Cap-Haïtien on the anniversary of the Battle of Vertières, the decisive battle in the fight for Haiti’s independence.  On Sunday, November 17, 2002,  tens of thousands of demonstrators (some say upwards of 60,000) gathered in  a passive march escorted by the police to protest the Lavalas government  during the “Weekend of Unity” celebrations. Himmler Rebu, former military  general and one of the demonstration’s organizers, called for all people who  are disconcerted with the current government to speak out and protest  through passive demonstrations. The march itself unfolded without any  violence, but partisans of the Lavalas government reacted in the days  following with threats to a number of politicians who had participated in  the demonstration.

Gonaïves: “A Lawless Jurisdiction”  The majority of demonstrations and tension has been focused in Gonaïves.  Students and other groups such as the Union Citoyenne des Gonaïves (UCGO)  have demonstrated calling for the president to resign, claiming that Haiti is exhausted from the present “dictatorship”.

Amiot Metayer, the fugitive leader of “Cannibal Army” has resumed his former  role of violently defending the Lavalas government breaking up any  anti-Lavalas protests. Jean Tatoune, tried and convicted for his  responsibility in the Raboteau Massacre of 1994, has continued to be the  primary leader of anti-governmental demonstrations in Gonaïves.   Since  then, the two groups have been attacking one another.  On December 1,  2002, Metayer and his group attacked Jean Tatoune’s group in Upper Raboteau,  setting fire to more than thirty homes in the area.

As the Investigating Magistrate Marcel Jean describes it, Gonaïves has  become “a lawless jurisdiction”.  Gonaïves has become a jurisdiction of  total anarchy under the direction of Metayer, and the “Cannibal Army” is  terrorizing and imposing its law on the population under impunity and in the  name of the Lavalas government.  Metayer has gone so far as to openly thank  the government for his liberation from prison.

Lascohobas (Central Plateau)  On Thursday November 28th, Justice of the Peace from Belladères Christophe  Lozama died after being shot following a conflict between members of the opposition and Fanmi Lavalas.   Early that day, Judge Lozama left his  jurisdiction of Belladères, accompanied by several influential members of  Fanmi Lavalas, employees of Belladères City Hall.  The group of men, twelve  in total, traveling on motorcycles, came across a demonstration of  opposition partisans in the town of Lakolin.  The group of demonstrators was disbanded.

Arriving in the neighboring town of Poulie, Judge Lozama and his group  discovered a meeting of opposition members in a local home.  After an  exchange of words, the two groups began firing on one another.  It was  during this exchange of fire that Judge Lozama was shot and killed.

Saturday, December 7, a group of men, accompanied by men dressed in black  CIMO (Corps d’Intervention de Maintien l’Ordre) uniforms, entered the town  of Poulie.  Composed of significant Lavalas leaders and headed by Minister  of the Interior’s Amos Metéllus, the group proceeded to ransack several  homes in the area and assault of number of residents, all in the presence of  a Lascahobas Justice of the Peace.

The violence continued on Tuesday December 10, when a group individuals  dressed in black entered the local police station, taking police firearms  and releasing four individuals being detained.  One individual was  killed as the men made their way into the station.  The group proceeded to  take a police vehicle, accompanied by a police officer who drove them out of  Lascahobas.  Having reached their destination, the vehicle was set on fire.  Later that evening three individuals believed to be police informants,  were killed in Poulie.  It is believed that these executions were planned  and carried out by this same group of men that made an appearance at the  police station earlier that evening.

Port-au-Prince  On Friday November 22, all activity in the capital city of Port-au-Prince  was brought to a standstill when pro-governmental demonstrators violently  took over the city.  Popular Organizations (OP) groups close to the Lavalas  party placed blockades and burned tires at strategic points throughout  Port-au-Prince to prevent all activity in an attempt to protest the  anti-governmental demonstrations that were flaring up around the country.  Police vehicles and some vehicles with “official” license plates were seen  aiding the demonstrators by delivering tires to be burned.  Some of the  demonstrators also went as far as to throw rocks at vehicles that attempted  to circulate in the city.   The police present on the scene did nothing to  control the chaos and destruction.

The unrest carried over into the month of December.  December 3, 2002 marked  the 1st year anniversary of the brutal murder of journalist Brignol Lindor  in Petit Goâve – a day still very vivid in the minds of the Haitian  population.  At a mass for Lindor held at a church in Pétion-Ville, Lavalas  supporters were present even before the ceremony began to intimidate those  attending the mass by shouting and throwing around tracks and photos of  Aristide.

A passive march in the streets of downtown Port-au-Prince was planned for  later that morning.  When the demonstrators arrived at the meeting place,  Lavalas partisans were already there, prepared for a confrontation. March organizers had planned the march in collaboration with the police who were  prepared to provide security for the demonstrators.  However, when the time  came, pro-Lavalas individuals attacked the protestors with sticks and rocks,  at one point spraying urine on the protestors, all under the passive eyes of  the police.  The march was canceled.   Subsequent attacks were made upon a  number of university faculties in the city.

A protest of a different sort was held the following day on Wednesday,  December 4.  Instead of taking to the streets, anti-government protestors  responded by staying home in what was called a “general strike”.  Gas  stations were closed, as were banks, schools, grocery stores, shops and  restaurants in silent protest against Aristide.  Surprisingly, the day was  not marked with violence.

As a result of the violent confrontations that have taken place over the  last several weeks, numerous student protestors and other individuals  questioning the leadership of President Aristide have gone into hiding,  following further attacks and persecution.

The Shameful Behavior of the Haitian National Police (PNH)
  The actions of the Haitian National Police (PNH), specifically those of  specialized units, have been abominable throughout the past weeks, as PNH  officers have continued to be the source of serious human rights violations.  Despite a few isolated incidents, PNH officers bounce between extremes,  either crushing passive demonstrations with brutal force, or standing by  doing nothing as aggressive Lavalas partisans attacked anti-government  demonstrators.

On November 20, thousands of students in Petit-Goâve joined together to  protest the rising fees for school registration, the high cost of living,  government corruption, and the lack of electricity.  The protest slowly  evolved into an anti-governmental demonstration.  As the students approached  the town square, they were met by a squad of CIMO (Corps d’Intervention de  Maintien l’Ordre) officers who opened fire on the demonstrators.  Nine students between the ages of 10 and 23 were injured by police bullets. PNH  authorities defended the actions of their officers in Petit-Goâve declaring  that the students were planning to lower the flag in front of the Police  Station to half-mast.

In contrast, PNH officers did nothing to stop any of the violence and  destruction when pro-Lavalas groups took to the streets on November 22. To  justify the lack of action by the PNH in the violent pro-governmental  demonstration authorities pointed to the supposed spontaneity of the  movement and claimed that they didn’t have time to respond.  Said the  director of the PNH, “We were caught off-guard.”

Threats to the Independent Press 
The climate of unrest and violence is having a direct impact on the Haitian  independent press.  Over the course of the last two weeks of November,  journalists and radio stations have been verbally and physically under  attack.

Members of the independent press in Gonaïves, in particular, have become  targets of threats and acts of intimidation committed by members of Amiot  Metayer’s “Cannibal Army”.  In one incident, a radio station, Radio  Etincelle was set on fire.  Seven journalists from various radio  stations in the area went into hiding on November 22, and were eventually  evacuated out of the area by the Haitian Journalist Association (AJH) with  the collaboration of the PNH.   They are currently in hiding in  Port-au-Prince.

Radio journalists in Cap Haïtien have also been feeling the pressure. Radio  Maxima, received an ultimatum a few days after covering the massive protest  on November 17th threatening that it had forty-eight (48) hours to shutdown  and cease all programs.  If the station did not comply, it would be  destroyed by fire.  The director of Radio Maxima, Jean-Robert Lalane, claims  that General Director of the Ministry of the Interior, Angelot Bell, is  ultimately to blame for the oppression as he made threatening statements on  the air at nearby Radio Africa FM.

The government has yet to denounce any of these politically motivated  threats or acts of violence against the independent press.

 Politically Tainted Justice 
The struggle to create an independent, objective judicial system in Haiti  continues as several judicial cases remain blocked and tainted by political  influences.

Prosper Avril  On October 22, 2002, the Court of Appeal in Gonaïves rendered an order for  the immediate release of former army general and ex-president Prosper Avril  who has been detained in the national penitentiary since his second arrest  on April 15, 2002 on false charges revolving around the Massacre of Piatre  of 1990. Earlier this year, Judge Kesner Noel came forward to denounce  government officials that had coerced him into signing the warrant for  Avril’s arrest.

Shortly following the decision, Deputy State Prosecutor Ricquet Brutus  publicly declared that the State Prosecutor’s office of Port-au-Prince does  not have the capacity to comply with the decision.  To date, the judicial  decision has yet to be executed and Avril remains in custody at the National  Penitentiary.

Brignol Lindor Assassination
  December 3, 2002 marked the one-year anniversary of the death of Petit Goâve journalist Brignol Lindor.   On October 27, 2002 two more  individuals were arrested in connection with the murder, one of whom is  a member of Domi nan Bwa, the popular organization close to the government  who carried out the execution.

Earlier this year, Investigating Magistrate Fritzner Duclair, in charge of  preparing the case, failed to implicate the government officials who called  for this appalling crime, further tightening the noose of impunity that is  strangling the country.   Family members and members of AJH (l’Association  des Journalists Haïtiens) are appealing the decision.

Guacimal case  On Monday, December 2, 2002, the final two Batay Ouvriye workers  arrested and detained following a violent confrontation between union  workers and their employers in the town of Guacimal last May, were released  from prison in Grand Rivière du Nord.  After spending more than six months in prison, Mr. Urbain Garçon and Mr. Jéremie Dorvil were the last of  eleven individuals to be released following significant pressure from  the National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR) and other human rights  organizations.

The release of these two men mark a significant accomplishment both for  human rights organizations as well as the Haitian judicial system that,  despite a lengthy timeframe, assumed its responsibility in rendering justice  to Mr. Garçon and Mr. Dorvil.  This said, however, the human rights  community continues to be troubled by the fact that those responsible for  the deaths of two Guacimal residents who were killed during the  confrontation have yet to be held responsible for their crime.

 Police Brutality, Zero Tolerance And Disappearances
 A number of severe cases of police brutality have recently surfaced,  attesting the reality that Haitian police stations are being used as torture  chambers.  The latest cases are from Carrefour, a suburb in the metropolitan  area with a police force notorious for its cruelty.

During a routine visit of the sub-police station of St. Charles, Carrefour,  a delegation from the National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR)  discovered a twelve-year-old boy, Willio Jeune.  Arrested on November  30, 2002, for a crime committed by a relative, Willio was taken to the  sub-police station and brutally beaten with an iron rod by a police officer  and employee of the station.  Willio’s back was torn open and as he was  denied medical treatment of any kind, the wound quickly became infected.

Willio was released shortly after NCHR’s intervention.  As a result of his  testimony regarding his treatment, Carrefour police officers quickly sought  out Willio later the same day.  Fortunately they were unable to find him as  he is currently in hiding.  NCHR continues to be involved the case.

 During the night of December 9, 2002, police officers broke down the door of  Mr. Pierre Voltaire Leblanc’s home in Carrefour.   The two (2) officers  proceeded to beat Mr. Leblanc in the face before taking him to the St.  Charles sub-police station.   Mr. Leblanc was arrested without a warrant, at  approximately 10:00pm both blatant violations of the Haitian Constitution of  1987.  Mr. Leblanc was later released on December 10, following a visit with  a Justice of the Peace and a delegation from NCHR.

A mother lost three of her sons in a single incident as PNH officers ruthlessly took the lives of three young men during the early morning of  December 8, 2002.  According to the only witness, twelve-year-old Jean Roland Nozil, three masked men dressed in black, with shirts marked  “Police”, entered the home where the boys were sleeping.   The officers left  with three men and told Jean Roland to hide on his bed.

Officers at both the principal police station and sub-police station of  Carrefour deny any arrests during the night in question, and claimed not to  know anything.


The bodies of Andy Philippe (20 years old), Angelo Philippe (22 years old),  and Vladimir Sanon (21 years old) were eventually found at the State morgue  in Port-au-Prince.  All three (3) had been shot.

  The past few months have also seen the rise of a disturbing phenomenon, that  of disappearances.  The Konvansyon Inite Demokratik (KID), a political party  of the Opposition, has been particularly affected as four (4) members have  gone missing since June of last year.  Vanel Pierre and Patrick Jonais were  arrested on Sunday June 10, 2001 by PNH officers and taken to the Delmas  Police Station.  The two (2) men have not been heard from since. Since that  date, no contact has been made with them.

More recently, two (2) KID members, Mondesir Jean-latouche and David Barjon,  have been missing since their illegal arrest by the PNH on Monday October  14th, 2002.  These latest disappearances come almost one (1) year after a  KID member, Severe Ceneque, was severely beaten by the PNH during his arrest  in the northern community of Plaisance.  Ceneque later died in police  custody, as a result of his injuries.

Emmanuel Auguste, a former soccer player with alleged political ties, was  arrested on October 26th in Carrefour by a unit of the PNH.  Officers in  charge at both the principal and sub-police stations in Carrefour deny ever  having Auguste in their custody; however, Auguste’s mother delivered food to  her son at the sub-police station the day following his arrest.  Despite  continued efforts by family members and human rights organizations in  particular NCHR, Auguste has yet to be found.

Equally mysterious is the disappearance of Paul Voltaire, Police  Commissioner of the Palace National Guard.  Voltaire was arrested when  leaving work on the evening of October 23rd, 2002, and has not been seen  since.

Felix Bien-Aime, Paul Mousac JEAN and Dyal Normil, reported missing early  September 2002 are still missing at the time of this report.

October 2002: Prisoners Rights Month
Within this turbulent context, NCHR and the Direction de l’Administration  Penitentiaire (DAP) celebrated a successful month with its national  prisoners’ rights campaign.  Under the banner of “All people have rights,  prisoners are people”, NCHR and DAP spent the month of October visiting  several prisons across the country, making prisoners aware of their rights  and responsibilities while creating awareness on the societal level about  the conditions in Haitian prisons.

The current problems within the penitentiary system are many. The majority  of prisons have small cells, are without a courtyard, and do not offer a  secure environment for neither the DAP agents nor the prisoners.  The  campaign has also revealed serious cases of injustice as a result of  incompetence on the part of certain judicial authorities.  The prison  population continues to grow as prolonged detention constitutes a chronic  problem within the system with over eighty-two percent (82 percent) of the  incarcerated population awaiting judgment and only eighteen percent (18 percent)  having been tried and sentenced.

In total, fourteen of the nineteen prisons were touched by the campaign.  Prisoners in six prisons received special human rights  presentations, followed by the distribution of 400 Health Kits donated to  NCHR by the Mennonite Central Committee .   Radio interviews and special  radio talk shows were conducted throughout the month.

 The campaign concluded with a large celebration at the National Penitentiary  in Port-au-Prince on International Prisoners’ Day on Sunday,  October 27, 2002.  President Aristide attended the celebrations.  In the  days following the celebrations, a judicial commission was established  (composed of state prosecutors, judges, and a DAP representative) charged  with dealing with cases of prolonged detention.  Within the first week,  twenty-four individuals were released.

 General Situation 
The Autonomy of the Haitian State University (UEH):  In a drastic turnaround at the end of November, the government withdrew its  July 27th decree which had ousted the independent UEH executive council and  had replaced it with a temporary management commission with Charles Tardieu  at the head.

Peaceful demonstrations held by students and professors supporting an  independent UEH throughout October and November reached a peak in intensity  with two (2) demonstrations in the middle of November.  On Wednesday the  13th and again two (2) days later, hundreds of UEH students accompanied by  members of the former Executive Council were escorted by police to protest  Tardieu and the temporary management commission, the Minister of Education  Mrs. Célestin Saurel, the Lavalas Government and the changes that had been  made to the University.  The protestors made it clear that they would  continue to demonstrate “passively but with determination” until their  demands were met.

The Executive Council was invited to meet with President Aristide on  Wednesday November 20th to discuss the situation.  Following the meeting,  and without discussing any changes with Minister of Education Saurel, the  Secretary of State Communications Mario Dupuy, that the she would receive  instructions for the cancellation of the temporary management commission  which she had organized.  Minister Saurel read her letter of resignation on  the radio the following day.

The first move of the new Minister of Education, Marie Carmelle Austin, was  to reintegrate the former Executive Council as the head of the UEH.

Within the past several months, three government ministers have  resigned.  In addition to the recent resignation of the Minister of  Education, both the Minister of Negotiations and the Minister of Justice and  Security stepped down from their government responsibilities.

Economic Situation 
As questions abound as to whether the current government can keep the  political situation under control, Haiti’s economy has recently hit a low  point that is worse than anything the country has seen since the return of  constitutional order in 1987.

Rumors that the government was planning to nationalize all US dollar  accounts caused panic, resulting in the severe devaluation of the gourde as  people began withdrawing money from their US accounts.  In a matter of days,  the value of the gourdes dropped from 27 to 40 in relation to the US dollar. The devaluation of the gourdes threatens to devastate a country already  stricken with absolute poverty as prices for basic food items has increased  twofold.

Violence in Fonds Baptiste
A land conflict that has been causing problems for almost eight years in  the rural mountain community of Fonds Baptiste has continues claim lives.  On Sunday December 8, three police officers and one civilian were killed.  Reports surrounding the incident are conflicting, requiring further  investigation.  NCHR plans to dispatch a delegation early in the New Year.