(Webmaster’s note. The paragraph referred to below in the Haiti Democracy Project report has been removed.)

 

 

  The Haiti Support Group is an association of individuals who support the Haitian people in their struggle for justice, human rights, and participatory democracy. It is a solidarity group based in the United Kingdom. The HSG was launched in June 1992 in the aftermath of the military coup d’état that overthrew the democratic government.

 

 

Haiti Support Group press release – 17 January 2003

 

Subject: The continuing circulation of the erroneous report on Radio

Metropole regarding the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ remarks about

Haiti on 4 December 2002


In the absence of any retraction or apology from Radio Metropole regarding

its 4 December news item entitled, “U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights’

Warning to the Haitian Authorities”, and in view of the fact that the

incorrect information contained in this report continues to circulate, the

Haiti Support Group believes it is necessary to set the record straight.


After consulting with the UN High Commission for Human Rights and having been

provided with a transcript of the exchange between the Radio Metropole

journalist and Mr. Vieira de Mello – the United Nations High Commissioner,

the Haiti Support Group is in a position to make the following points:


1. The original Radio Metropole report stated that Mr. Vieira de Mello gave

an exclusive interview to Radio Metropole’s correspondent in Geneva.


In fact, no interview took place. The Radio Metropole correspondent was

present during a press briefing by the High Commissioner for some 40 UN

Geneva-based journalists from international media on the morning of 4

December 2002 in Geneva. During this meeting the Radio Metropole

correspondent asked one two-part question about Haiti. After the press

briefing had finished, the Radio Metropole correspondent asked the High

Commissioner if he could include and assimilate what he had said in reply to

a question about the situation in Côte d’Ivoire and apply it to Haiti. The

High Commissioner said he could go along with reference to the general

principles. It seems that on this basis, the Radio Metropole correspondent

put together a number of different statements about different situations in

order to concoct an ‘interview’.


2. The original Radio Metropole report stated that Mr. Vieira de Mello

“strongly condemned the violent dispersion of an opposition rally by regime

supporters in Port-au-Prince, on Tuesday, December 3, 2002.”


In fact, the Radio Metropole correspondent asked the following question,

“Three weeks of continuous demonstrations against the government have been

violently repressed. I would like to know your position on the side of human

rights in relation to the systematic violation of human rights in Haiti by a

state that calls itself democratic”, and Mr. Vieira de Mello replied that his

position was “identical to that that I have taken, for example, in the case

of East Timor, which I know better than Haiti, in relation to the events that

took place in Dili, which is to issue, for a start, a categorical

condemnation of violence of this type, and, in particular, of violence that

targets civilian targets. And, as you know, Louis Joinet, who is the special

expert on Haiti, has made a long and very detailed declaration on this issue.”


3. The original Radio Metropole report accurately detailed Mr Vieira de

Mello’s remarks condemning attacks on journalists, and accurately reported

his vow to “continue to work with journalists’ associations so that this

issue is treated with the seriousness that it deserves by all international

bodies notably the Security Council.”


4. The original Radio Metropole report stated that Mr Vieira de Mello

threatened to take the question to the International Criminal Court that will

meet next March and indicated that this Court would “look into everything

that is happening”, and that Mr Vieira de Mello had invited the Haitian

authorities to remember the work carried out by the criminal tribunals for

Yugoslavia and Rwanda, underlining that “violations of journalists’ rights

fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court”.


In fact, Mr. Vieira de Mello did not say these words in relation to Haiti,

and did not invite the Haitian authorities to remember the trials in relation

to Yugoslavia and Rwanda. These words were in fact in response to a question

from another journalist about the situation in Côte d’Ivoire. The Haiti

Support Group has since been informed that although Mr Vieira de Mello had

indeed told the Radio Metropole correspondent that he could go along with

reference to the general principles about Côte d’Ivoire in relation to Haiti,

he had not imagined that the two replies would be “confused in such a way”.

When questioned by the High Commissioner’s spokesperson after the Radio

Metropole report became public, the Radio Metropole correspondent apologised

for the ‘misunderstanding’, and blamed his editors.


5. The original Radio Metropole report stated that Mr Vieira de Mello ended

his remarks by reminding the Lavalas government leaders that “everything they

do is being recorded and that, sooner or later, those responsible will end up

before the International Criminal Court, unless they are prosecuted in their

own country.”


In fact, once again, Mr Vieira de Mello did not say anything of the kind

about Lavalas government leaders, and the Radio Metropole version was

concocted on the basis of remarks about a different country.



In view of the very great discrepancies between the Radio Metropole report

and Mr Vieira de Mello’s actual remarks in response to the one question about

Haiti, the Office of the High Commissioner decided to publish on the front

page of the “News page” of UN High Commission for Human Rights website a

Clarification on Haiti” which remained on the site for the entire month of

December. 


These are the facts as they are known to the Haiti Support Group.


We regard the errors as especially important, and in need of correction, in

the context of the pre-eminent position of Radio Metropole as a primary

source of news about Haiti both locally and internationally.


In the first case, for example, we were concerned to see that the original

Radio Metropole report was picked up and regurgitated, complete with a whole

slew of new errors and fabrications, by Radio Signal FM. Its 4 December

broadcast included the following news item: “The Brazilian (High Commissioner

for Human Rights in Geneva) Viera de Mello has said what happened in the

capital yesterday was unacceptable, especially the serious threats against

freedom of the press. He could not tolerate the police who, he said, showed a

passive response to groups of individuals who inflicted violence on peaceful

citizens who wanted to take part in a march. He compared the Haitian police

to a government gendarmerie because of its attitude. Viera de Mello

threatened to take the case in front of the International Criminal Court in

days to come, which he suggested would have serious consequences for the

Haitian authorities.”


Little if any of the above is in fact true.


In the second case – the repercussions of the Radio Metropole’s report

internationally – the Haiti Support Group is concerned that a paper written

by the Washington-based Haiti Democracy Project entitled, “The U.S. Policy

Imperative in Haiti, and How to Achieve It”, dated December 9, 2002, and

published on December 28,  2002, ( see

/policypaper5.htm) contains the following

paragraph:


“Finally, though,–just last week–the UN’s High Commissioner for Human

Rights, Sergio Viera de Melo issued an unusually stern warning to all those

currently abusing their powers or prerogatives in Haiti by wielding violence

as an instrument of politics, with full impunity. Clearly angered by the

violent dispersion of a peaceful protest march a day earlier, the High

Commissioner minced no words in an interview with Haiti’s Radio Métropole,

predicting the future involvement of both the Security Council and the

soon-to-be launched International Criminal Court in bringing resolution to

the persistent crisis–and justice to the perpetrators of human rights

violations. “Everything they do is being duly recorded,” he cautioned Lavalas

powerholders, “and, sooner or later,” he promised them, “those responsible,

if not judged by a national court, will be so judged by the International

Criminal Court.”



While the above may reflect the original Radio Metropole report, once again

it in no way represents the remarks made by Mr. Vieira de Mello.



The Haiti Support Group calls on Radio Metropole to issue a public retraction

and an apology for its error-stricken report, and for all those who have

wittingly or unwittingly relayed the erroneous information to advise their

readership of the facts.



The transcript of the December 4th press briefing by Mr. Vieira de Mello that

includes his remarks about Haiti can be viewed on the UN High Commission for

Human Rights website at: http://www.unhchr.ch/news/pb412.doc.