Originally: Hundreds rally during funeral
PORT-AU-PRINCE — Swooning and falling to their knees and chanting slogans condemning both the police and President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, hundreds of mourners Wednesday made their way to a cemetery with the bodies of three brothers allegedly executed by police last month.
”Three bodies, one mother!” shouted the marchers, sweating in their heavy white or black suits and dresses as they marched to the capital’s National Cemetery under a hot tropical sun.
‘I’m taking my sons to the National Palace to show Aristide their bodies! Down with Aristide! I’ll yell `Down!’ until they kill me, I don’t care!” shouted Antoine Philippe, a driver and father of Andy, 20; Angelo, 22, and adopted son Vladimir Sanon, 21, as he walked in front of the three hearses.
During the night of Dec. 7, Philippe’s sons were taken from their Carrefour home, on the outskirts of the capital, by heavily armed masked men wearing police uniforms, the family said. The next morning they were found dead, with bullet wounds in their heads, at the State University Hospital morgue. A Dec. 20 police report named three police officers as ”principal suspects” and implicated Carrefour Chief Josepha Civil.
Civil was removed from his post but neither he nor any other officer has been arrested, police and human rights groups said. Police Inspector General Serge Simon said a second investigation being carried out by the internal affairs department is still in process.
The Haitian police have repeatedly been criticized for summary executions, beatings and tortures. During a presentation at the Organization of American States headquarters in Washington last fall, Haitian human rights representatives reported 38 cases of ”police brutality” during the first six months of 2002 alone.
Last month, a Miami woman filed a complaint before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, alleging she was hurt by police in her family’s Petionville home in July 2000. Uniformed men entered, demanded money and jewelry, then tortured Marie Carmel Moise Bley for two hours, the complaint says.
Bley, a journalist then trying to revive a magazine targeted at Miami’s Caribbean community, was burned with a hot iron to the point that she passed out.
She filed a complaint in Haitian courts, but it went nowhere, said her attorney, Pedro Martinez-Fraga of Greenberg Traurig.
More recently, the National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR) has investigated the beatings and burnings of victims as young as 12 inside police headquarters.
This week, Viola Robert, the mother of the three victims remembered Wednesday, blamed the police for her sons’ deaths.
”The police are the authors. That’s why they don’t arrest them,” Robert said, during an interview on Tuesday. She has been in hiding since mid-December when she began to receive violent threats.
”I want justice, but I don’t think I will get justice. Aristide won’t give us justice. A lot of us don’t believe in him anymore,” she said, even though she bears a scar where she was bitten when she defended Aristide to a woman who supported the 1991 coup d’etat against him.
”The police have failed in their mission,” said NCHR’s Marie Yolene Gilles. “Rather than protecting citizens, they are eliminating them.”
At Wednesday’s funeral, Gilles read a statement condemning police as ”assassins” and ”thugs” and lambasting state authorities for refusing to authorize autopsies of the three young men until last week.
”What kind of society is this!?” she said.
”The Haitian people are thirsty for justice! The Haitian people want another kind of society!” said Rev. Max Dominique during his funeral address.
Dominique, one of four priests who celebrated the Mass, used to march side by side with Aristide in anti-army protests in the 1980s, but on Wednesday he did not mince words, accusing Aristide’s government of human rights abuses.
”The police special squads remind us of the death squads of the 1960s!” he said. “It makes us remember the death squads of the coup d’etat!”
Herald staff writer Marika Lynch contributed to this report