Originally: NCHR Staff object of serious death threats
Port-au-Prince, 13 February 2003
Dear Friends of NCHR,
Once again the human rights activists of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR) have become the objects of a serious campaign of intimidation consisting of detailed threats to their personal security and members of their families.
Marie Yolène Gilles, Coordinator of NCHR?s Human Rights Monitoring Program, has specifically been targeted by this campaign, as she is the principal member of NCHR working on the triple murder case of the three young men of Carrefour. Since taking on the case in December 2002, Gilles has been instrumental in speaking out against the Haitian National Police (PNH) officers implicated in the crime (as indicated in an internal PNH report), and in pushing the case through the proper legal channels.
The threats against Gilles are coming in the form of anonymous phone calls to her residence in the evenings. Those uttering the threats warn Gilles that she is too active in the Carrefour case, too close to it. Threatening to burn down her house, they say will take her out if she does not back off.
Within this context it is also important to recall NCHR?s press conference in December 2002 during which the twelve-year-old witness in the Carrefour case named and identified Aspiller Constant as a police informant in the Carrefour area. Within twenty-four hours of that press conference, Mr. Constant was dead. According to witnesses, Constant was taken from his home the night of December 18, 2002, by a group of armed men dressed in black. Sources indicate that PNH officers from BRI (Brigade de Recherche et l?Intervention) are responsible for his murder.
NCHR has been responsible for hiding Viola Robert, mother of the victims, and her family since the case went public. To this day, Robert and family continue to receive threats, via telephone calls and visits to family remaining in Carrefour.
A second wave of threats against NCHR comes following an incident in Petit Goâve early in February this year. After learning of the suspicious death of Mr. Mickey Fleurius on February 2, 2003, NCHR sent a delegation to Petit Goâve to investigate. Results of the investigation indicate that Fleurius, a member of the Lavalas organization RALCAPEG, was murdered by two individuals, one of whom is close to the Lavalas party, according to the testimonies of witnesses in the area. Lavalas members claim that Fleurius was killed by a group of men from Fort Liberté (a suburb of Petit Goâve) whom they claim to be associated with the Opposition.
Deducing that Fleurius?s death is the result of an intra-Lavalas conflict dating back to an incident at the end of December 2002, NCHR conducted an interview with the press to denounce the situation in Petit Goâve, citing the names of those implicated in the murder and indicating that NCHR would be publishing an investigative report shortly.
In a press conference on Monday, February 10, 2003, Mr. Phénix Vilceran, influential member of OP (Organisation Populaire) Lavalas, responded to NCHR?s interview, denouncing the activities of NCHR and insisting that the minister of justice revoke NCHR?s license to work as a human rights organization in Haiti. Mr. Vilceran?s declaration was laced with veiled threats against both NCHR and Mr. Pierre Esperance (director of NCHR), demanding to know who Mr. Esperance really works for (alluding to an alleged connection to the Opposition). Furthermore, Mr. Vilceran demanded that NCHR retract statements and accusations made against OP Lavalas and the Lavalas government.
This recent wave of threats comes at a time when numerous other sectors of society continue to be victims of oppression, acts of violence, and verbal threats ? specifically the doctors, nurses and patients of the Haitian State General Hospital, members of the Haitian judiciary, and students from the Haitian State University.
Threats against members of the medical community began back in the summer of 2001, with the illegal and arbitrary arrest and detention of Dr. Auguste Blondel ? an arrest that was ordered by the current minister of public health, Mr. Henry Claude Voltaire.
More recently, doctors, nurses and even patients became the victims of OP Lavalas oppression following a demonstration on January 10, 2003. Protestors from the Opposition were met by a group of Lavalas supporters and a confrontation ensued. The situation quickly deteriorated and several demonstrators from both sides were injured in the altercation. Injured Lavalas supporters were taken to the emergency room of the Haitian State General Hospital by fellow OP members who wielded their weapons and demanded immediate medical attention for their compatriots. Shots fired in the air and a hovering helicopter above the hospital buildings created a situation of panic throughout the hospital. An apparent calm has returned to the hospital. The hospital has yet to return to its normal mode of functioning, however.
The threats and violence continued with the February 9 kidnapping of Dr. Alphonse Louis. Dr. Louis was beaten and tortured by a group of armed men for the purpose of extracting information regarding the residences of two members of the Syndicat du Personel Infirmier (SPI, nurses’ union). Dr. Louis was eventually released.
Individuals involved in the university movement that began in August 2002 continue to be the victims of violence and a systematic violation of human rights as well. Twenty-seven-year-old Eric Pierre, medical student, was shot to death while leaving the faculty of medicine building on January 7, 2003. To date, no one has been arrested in connection with his murder despite witnesses? testimonies that the attackers left the scene in a vehicle with official license plates and a Teleco (state telephone company) vehicle. According to the license plate number provided by witnesses, one of the vehicles belongs to Mr. Rene Civil, influential and outspoken member of OP Lavalas.
Eric Pierre?s family is now also the object of threats, receiving threatening phone calls that warn of danger should the family try to file a complaint at the state prosecutor?s office in Port-au-Prince. The family is currently in hiding as the threats have driven them from their home.
Additionally, on February 4, Romuald Cadet (twenty-five years old) ? brother to one of the seven of the students of ethnology students in hiding since November 2002 ? was shot in the head and killed by a group of armed men. The men identified Cadet while he was walking with a group of friends near his house in Carrefour-Feuilles. It is believed that the killing has a direct connection to Cadet?s brother?s activities in the university movement.
Finally, attacks against members of the Haitian judiciary are increasing. Investigating judges, state prosecutors, and the doyen of Petit Goâve have been physically attacked and shot at during the course of the past two months. Most recently, on Monday, February 10, members of OP Lavalas in Petit Goâve set up barricades to block the roads and stop traffic in the town. In the course of their activities, OP Lavalas members stopped the vehicle of the Investigating Magistrate, Alex Clédanor, physically assaulted the driver and confiscated the vehicle.
Recently the investigating judge (juge d?instruction) from the city of Gonaïves, Mr. Marcel Jean, was prevented from leaving the country when the minister of the interior ordered the confiscation of Judge Jean?s passport. Judge Jean has been charged with the infamous case of Amiot Metayer, a fugitive of the law since his August 2002 jail break. Judge Jean has been consistent in his attempt to treat the Metayer case with independence and objectivity despite enormous pressure to legalize the forced liberation of Metayer.
The list could continue. Suffice it to say that individuals with power and influence are attempting to silence human rights activists, promoters of change, and those seeking justice and the establishment of a state of law in Haiti. The threats have reached a new level, as lives have been taken.
Precautions are being taken at NCHR to ensure the personal security of Yolène Gilles, her family, and the rest of the NCHR staff.
NCHR will not be intimidated into silence and submission. It will continue to objectively monitor the human rights situation in Haiti, and hold accountable those in positions of authority and power, regardless of the threat that this involves.
NCHR is encouraged by your solidarity and your prayers in this difficult time.
National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR)
9, Rue Rivière