Originally: Human Rights Advocates Threatened


CONTACT:  DINA PAUL PARKS,  dpparks@nchr.org – 212 337 0005



New York, February 19, 2003 – This week, a group of Haitian and

international human rights groups, including the National Coalition for

Law Group, the Washington Office on Latin America, and the Haiti Democracy

Project sent a letter to Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide urging him

to investigate death threats made against some of Haiti’s most prominent

human rights defenders.  The threats were made in response to these

advocates following up on reports of growing incidents of human rights


Initial threats taking the form of anonymous phone calls have specifically

targeted NCHR staff member Marie Yolène Gilles and the safety of her family.

Ms Gilles has taken the lead in investigating the assassination of the three

sons of Viola Robert in Carrefour in December 2002.  The callers have also

threatened to burn down Ms. Gilles’s home if she does not stop the


In addition to the threats against Gilles, Pierre Espérance, NCHR’s director

in Haiti has also been threatened by Phénix Valcerin, leader of a so-called

popular organization (OP) from Petit Goâve over radio and television.

The threats came in response to NCHR’s investigation into the killing of

Mickey Fleurilus – another OP member.  The threats were made in anticipation

of a report that NCHR will be publishing on the incident, presumably because

it points to an internal conflict among Lavalas supporters.

Valcerin also demanded that the Minister of Justice revoke NCHR’s license to

work as a human rights organization in Haiti, insinuating that NCHR was

working for the opposition and that NCHR retract any statements not in favor

of the government.

NCHR is concerned that this new wave of threats comes at a time of

increasing instability.  At present, the freedoms of expression and

association are at a high risk, and many other sectors of society —

including members of the press, members of the judiciary, students from the

state university, and the medical staff of the general hospital — continue

to be subject to unchecked threats, acts of violence, and repression.

In addition to the threats to NCHR and the assassinations cited above, the

letter to President Aristide insisted that the Haitian government take

immediate action on a number of other incidents, including:

· the attack against Michele Montas, widow of journalist and political

commentator Jean Dominique, on the evening of December 25, 2002, in which

her bodyguard was shot to death;

·       the confiscation of the passport of investigating judge Marcel Jean

(judge responsible for the case of Amiot Métayer, a fugitive from justice

living in the open in Gonaïves since the jail break that freed him and over

150 other prisoners in August 2002) preventing him from leaving Haiti on a

private trip;

·       the killings of university student Eric Pierre by men who reportedly

fled the crime scene in a Teleco vehicle with an official license plate and

of Romuald Cadet, brother of one of the 7 students in hiding for more than

three months in January and February of this year, and

·       the January attack on demonstrators from the general hospital by

Lavalas OP members followed by demands for medical treatment at gunpoint and

continued harassment.

NCHR has received such threats in the past, some of which were followed by

violent action, making these recent attempts at intimidation all the more

ominous.  On March 8, 1999, Pierre Espérance was shot at in front of the

NCHR office, after receiving similar threats.  His vehicle was riddled with

bullets and he was shot in the shoulder and knee.  To date, there has been

no progress in the investigation of that assassination attempt.

In the letter to President Aristide, the groups strongly urged the

Government of Haiti to give priority to the prompt investigation of threats

received by NCHR staff and that security be provided to their staff and

offices, in particular Espérance and Gilles.  NCHR and other human rights

organizations both in Haiti and the United States believe that the

perpetrators of these threats should be brought swiftly to justice

regardless of their ideological affiliation.  In addition, steps must be

taken to ensure the safety of NCHR staff and other human rights defenders,

as well as all others who exercise their constitutional rights to freedom of

expression and association.

The groups clearly state that such measures, necessary to the strengthening

of the rule of law in Haiti, would send a message that Haitians deserve to

begin to enjoying the rights to opinion and expression, particularly the

right to criticize government policy and to publicly express their dissent

without fear of reprisal.