by Jean-Claude Bajeux,
Executive Director, Centre ?cuménique des Droits Humains (Ecumenical Center for Human Rights)
One of the responsibilities of government is to help the citizens identify themselves and their place in society, by providing all appropriate documentation. It starts with birth certificates and goes all the way to death certificates, and includes all the documents related to the different stages of life. So, from the cradle to the grave, the essential events of one?s life are recorded and authenticated, which constitutes an essential element of life in a society. Therefore, it can be seen how serious the situation is when government itself engages in crime and forgery, and in making people disappear, executing them, and getting rid of their bodies secretly, leaving their families in total darkness, facing the sorrow of the undocumented deaths.
The Nazis had defended their effort to exterminate six million European Jews by creating a set of “special laws,” where the criminals themselves legalized their crimes. In Haiti, the government, turned into a secret criminal, is not as careful: it just exterminates. We experienced it during the twenty-nine years of Duvalier dictatorship. We experienced it during the subsequent years. We experienced it during the time of the coup d?état. And now again, a political movement which claims its origins in the Church, which included priests, theologians, and evangelists, has also started to do just that, transformed by the infernal logic of power at any cost. Just read or listen again to the President?s speech in Martissant. Just read or listen again, after that, to Duvalier?s speech after he ordered the army?s staff to execute nineteen officers at Fort-Dimanche.
According to an article published by the newspaper Le Monde on December 11, 2001, a Haitian policeman acknowledged that he had witnessed about fifty summary executions by a police special team during the course of one month.
“They are generally arrested and detained for a few hours; they are not placed in official custody, as required by the procedure, but locked in a secret place. During the night, one of the service patrols takes care of the cleanup. It has become a routine. I have never been ordered to pull the trigger myself. Some of my co-workers, considered the experts, always volunteered for that dirty job. When I am on duty at night, I find a way to disappear for a while, during the break preceding the deadly rounds. But during two months, I still witnessed – which means that I saw with my own eyes – the execution of approximately fifty persons. ” (Le Monde newspaper, 12/11/01)
In one of its most recent issues, the weekly Haiti-Observateur (November 20 to 27) mentions that a certain D?A? who, according to that newspaper, allegedly participated in the execution of Felix Bien-Aime, came back to Haiti after spending some time in the Dominican Republic. Haiti-Observateur said that Bien-Aime?s car was discovered near Titanyen, but without any trace of the body. The paper then goes on with speculations about different possible locations, including Morne-a-Cabrit or the waters of Lake Saumatre. “The list of victims (missing persons) keeps getting longer. Although some unidentified bodies have been found far away, in the countryside, other victims have been missing for several months, or even years, without leaving a clue?”
“Parents,” concludes the newspaper, “cling to the hope of finding their loved ones some day, as in the case of victims of the Duvalier era who, more than twenty-five years later, are still watching their front door hoping against all probability for the return of a loved brother, sister, or friend who was taken away from them?”
As for the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Church, it patiently documented the corpses left in the streets of Port-au-Prince during the two months of September and October. That document presents such a dry enumeration that it can chill the reader with emotion. Out of seventy-four corpses found in the metropolitan area, sixty-five were unknown while only nine could be identified. In addition, eight disappearances were documented on a list prepared by Justice and Peace. It can be understood why the International Red Cross thought that it was necessary to call for a meeting in Geneva during the month of February 2003 to discuss cases of “disappearances” worldwide.
On the other hand, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights has been working for several years on the problem of impunity. Led by its secretary, Mr. Louis Joinet, that commission wrote a series of twenty-one principles linking the problem of impunity to the silence and amnesia maintained about the fate of victims, stating that the uncertainty thus created is a direct violation of the “right to know,” which is an inalienable right of persons and families, i.e. the right TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED.
Silence and amnesia about the missing persons are the strongest allies of the impunity enjoyed by assassins, who continue to lead a quiet life among us in the same place where they committed their acts. In the case of Haiti, there are still thousands of persons awaiting an official death certificate as well as information about the circumstances of the death of their loved ones, for the period of 1957 to 2002, or forty-five years.
“Never again!” was the cry of 1986. Since then, the site of Fort-Dimanche has been covered with mud, and it is now buried under a shantytown. Today, the disappearances are making a re-appearance, and corpses are being thrown to the dogs again. The Justice and Peace document lists the following cases:
· September 17, 2002 – disappearance of Felix Bien-Aime, Paul Louisiaque, and Dial Normil
· Sunday, September 29 , 2002 – five of the six children kidnapped from their home in Bois de Chene are found dead. The sixth one is missing.
· October 14 – two KID activists are arrested by police at Delmas 4: Mondesir Jean Latouche and David Barjon. They were never seen again.
· October 23, 2002 – disappearance of Paul Voltaire, police officer at the National Palace
· October 26, 2002 – disappearance of Emmanuel Auguste, formerly a soccer player in Aigle Noir.
In its documents, Justice and Peace wonders whether there is any truth in the rumor about a “zero tolerance” team operating in the capital. The statement made by the policeman to the newspaper Le Monde seems corroborated by the following facts:
· September 29, 2002 ? 6 children from Centre Caritas of Saint-Antoine are taken at 4 p.m. Their dead bodies are found at 5 o?clock in different neighborhoods of the capital. They were killed by gunshot.
· September 6, Ruelle Jardine, 3 youth are executed. See Le Nouvelliste.
· Tuesday, October 1, a young man named Ti-Jacques is executed in Petion-Ville.
Similar cases are found in the July-August report of Justice and Peace.
In all those cases, what investigation was ever conducted? What was the follow-up?
What court? What trial? What sentence?
Justice is not just wishes and talks.
Justice is, above all, the result of concrete action by the appropriate authorities. The total lack of such action, in the cases of murders and other forms of violence, explains why the immense desire for justice of the Haitian people is, at last, dissolving itself in an immense cloud of skepticism.
Jean-Claude Bajeux, December 15, 2002