Originally: Human Rights Situation Report: February & March 2003
Human Rights Situation Report: February & March 2003
The months of February and March were characterized by a climate of intensifying threats against civil society and an escalation in the scandals involving the Haitian National Police. The country continues to be severely divided into the respective political camps with recurring and often violent confrontations taking place between groups of partisans as the hopes for new elections dissipate.
INTENSIFYING CLIMATE OF THREATS
Human Rights Organization under Attack
Once again the human rights activists of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR) became 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, was specifically been targeted by this campaign, as she is the principal member of NCHR working on the triple murder case of the three (3) young men of Carrefour. Since December 2002, Gilles has been NCHR?s representative on the case.
The threats against Gilles came in the form of anonymous phone calls to her residence in the evenings. Those uttering the threats warned Gilles that she is too active in the Carrefour case. Threatening to burn down her house, they said they would kill her if she continues to speak out against the grave human rights violations that took place. The intimidators took the threats one step further by coming to Gilles? residence on two (2) occasions ? Tuesday, February 11 and Saturday, February 15 ? and firing their guns in the air.
Continued Threats against the Independent Press
Several radio stations and journalists were threatened or attacked during the month of February. The hostile climate towards members of the press has begun to have demoralizing effects as the government refuses to take any steps to prevent this aggression. A number of journalists forced to go into hiding, particularly from the Gonaïves area, have left the country and it is likely that more are to follow as threats to the press increase with the unrelenting political crisis.
Another radio station was forced to close its doors due to rising threats and intimidations. Radio Shekinah in St. Marc closed down following a violent attack on the station?s Director, Pastor Manès Blan. On February 2, at 1:00 am, three (3) armed men entered the radio station and began shooting at Mr. Blan. He was shot twice, once in each shoulder blade. The station had been airing a show called ?le cri de minuit?, which was very critical of the government and current leaders claiming they were mismanaging the country.
A journalist from Radio Metropole in Port-au-Prince became the object of an attack when his vehicle was set ablaze on February 14. Jean Numa Goudou, who often reports on sensitive political dossiers, has been the object of several threats and recently went into hiding. Twenty-four (24) hours before the incident, two (2) unidentified individuals showed up at the house asking for Goudou. The management of Radio Metropole has received threats from the Cannibal Army in Gonaïves but the director has reaffirmed the ?unyielding determination of Radio Metropole to inform [the public] with complete objectivity and honor.? Radio Metropole?s management suspended broadcasting for 24 hours to protest the threats that have been made to the station and its journalists.
A Second Murder in the Haitian State University Crisis
Violence surrounding the Haitian State University (UEH) crisis continued in the month of February with the murder of Romuald Cadet, the 25 year-old brother of one (1) of seven (7) students that have been in hiding since November 2002. On February 4, a group of armed men came to his house, picked him out of a group of individuals, and shot him in the head. Cadet?s death marks the second life lost in the student movement?s struggle for an independent university.
Despite the threats of OP Lavalas, the family of Eric Pierre ? the 27 year old Medical student who was shot to death while leaving the faculty of medicine building on January 7, 2003 ? went to the State Prosecutor?s office in Port-au-Prince along with Lawyer Osner Févry on February 14 to file their complaint against OP leader René Civil ? a suspect in the murder as a witness claims his vehicle was present at the scene of the crime. Aware of the threats against the family, some thirty (30) students from the UEH organized a sit-in in front of the State Prosecutor?s office to show their solidarity and support as well as to provide protection for the family. The group of students was met with hostile Lavalas supporters who surrounded the State Prosecutor?s office and prevented anyone from leaving the building. There were no injuries reported following the confrontation.
According to Hervé Saintilus, president of the Federation of Haitian University Students, there are nineteen (19) students in hiding, six (6) of which have already left the country.
State General Hospital
The State General Hospital crisis that climaxed in January has continued without resolve as hospital employees continue to suffer the tyranny of government partisans. On February 9, Resident Doctor Alphonse Louis of the State General Hospital was kidnapped, beaten and tortured for the purpose of extracting information regarding the residences of two (2) members of the Nurse?s Union (SPI).
Haitian National Police (PNH): Accusations, Violations, and Changes
Another Drug Scandal
Just a few days after the United States accused the Haitian government of not doing enough to fight drug trafficking, the Haitian National Police (PNH) was accused of being involved in a drug scandal that placed some PNH officials in a precarious situation. On February 13, the Brigade for Research and Intervention (BRI), under the orders of Roody Terrassan, carried out arrests of Hermann Charles and Hector Ketan, both allegedly implicated in drug trafficking. Immediately following their arrests, Terrassan and BRI officers took the men to Ketan?s home in Péguy-Ville, a wealthy suburb of Pétion-Ville. According to one (1) witness, it was during this meeting that the special police unit summarily executed two (2) men. Internal accusations within the PNH claim that Terrassan personally involved in the murders of the two (2) men.
Soon after the February 13 drug bust, Inspector Jean-Baptiste arrested Evans Brillant ? Commissioner of the Office for the Fight against Drug Trafficking (BLTS) ? for being implicated in a February 6 drug operation where (1) ton of cocaine was delivered from Colombia. Jeannot Francois, Central Director for the Judicial Police (DCPJ), fled to Puerto Rico in the last week of February after Inspector Jean-Baptiste asked him to write a report on the aforementioned BRI operation ? an operation he claims he was not aware of.
Inspector Jean-Baptiste also arrested four (4) advisors to Jean Nesly Lucien, General Director of the PNH, in relation to their implication in the February 6 drug operation. The same day, General Director Lucien personally sought the immediate release of the men from police custody.
Changes in PNH Leadership
Following pressure from the international community, in particular the OAS, some key changes were made to the PNH force in March. The following is a list of the changes that were made:
1. Jean-Claude Jean-Baptiste replaced Jean Nesly Lucien as General Director
2. Wilson Casséus replaced Alexandre as the new Central Director of the Administrative Police
3. Evans Pierre Sainturné replaced Victor Harvel Jean-Baptiste as Chief General Inspector
4. Jude Perrin replaced Jeannot Francois as Central Director of the Judicial Police
Immediately the appointments sparked controversy among human rights organizations and the international community as many questions abound concerning alleged criminal activity of Jean-Claude Jean-Baptiste and Evans Pierre Sainturné. The latter has been implicated in a 2001 assassination attempt on Judge Claudy Gassant, then Investigating Magistrate in the Jean Dominique murder investigation. Jean-Baptiste has been denounced for his alleged participation in the September 29, 1991 brutal murder of Pastor Sylvio C. Claude.
In 1991, Sylvio Claude was the leader of the Parti Democrate Chrètien Haïtien (PDCH) ? one of the political parties that ran against Aristide?s Lavalas in the 1990 elections. In the late hours of September 29, 1991, as news of the coup d?état against Aristide reached the provinces, Claude was horrifically murdered by a crowd of angry pro-Aristide supporters in Les Cayes. Protestors violently forced their way into the Army post where Claude was being protected, retrieved him and then ruthlessly burned him alive. To date no formal charges have been filed against Jean-Baptiste.
In a separate case, Josaphat Civil, former Police Commissioner of Carrefour, implicated in the December slayings of three (3) Carrefour men, also benefited from the impunity that characterizes the PNH. Instead of being arrested for his alleged participation in the murders, Civil was simply transferred to the police station in Mirebalais.
Police Brutality Against Former Military
On March 25, 2003, NCHR discovered a horrific case of torture and inhumane treatment of an individual being illegally detained in police custody. In what unfolded like a scene from a television drama, NCHR human rights monitors found Serge Etienne ? locked in the Investigation office of a rundown, former sub-police station downtown Port-au-Prince ? by walking through the practically abandoned station, loudly calling out his name and knocking on doors. Through a crack in a door, NCHR caught a glimpse of a severely malnourished and broken man, dressed only in his underwear, too weak to stand.
Following his arrest on February 15, 2003 Etienne was thrown in this dark, rank room, where he was subjected to unimaginable treatment, denied of food, water, light, air and medical treatment for his wounds. A nervous police inspector had been tossing morsels of food to Etienne from time to time, but in essence, Serge Etienne was being starved to death.
NCHR initially became involved in the case when Etienne?s wife came to the NCHR office following a run-in with the police. She was bringing food for her husband when officers began to push her around, telling her to get out of the station. Prior to finding Etienne, the NCHR delegation spent several hours at both the principal station and former station, trying to locate any trace of the man. Serge Etienne?s name did not appear in any police records nor did anyone acknowledge of once having him in their custody.
Upon finding Etienne, quick steps were taken to remedy the situation and to bring his case before the State Prosecutor. Etienne had been arrested in connection with the murder of Justice of the Peace of Belladères, Christophe Lozama, in December 2002. However, given the lack of proof and the illegal and arbitrary nature of his arrest, Etienne was later released from custody. He is currently in hiding.
Cold Blooded Murder in Petit Goâve
Petit-Goâve, an area notorious for a brutal police force, was once again witness to a sickening human rights violation at the hands of this institution with the senseless killing of 21 year-old high school student, Ginette Pierre on March 27. The police were in Pierre?s neighborhood looking for a local Convergence leader whom they planned to arrest, but when they failed to find him, they began shooting into the air as a form of intimidation. Pierre was grazed by a bullet that passed close to her temple causing her to fall to the ground. Believing Pierre to be the daughter of the local Convergence leader that they were after, the officers put their vehicle in reverse and proceeded to run over the young woman?s head, killing her instantly.
In an attempt to appease the family and negate this blatant violation, the government provided funds for the funeral and wake. To date no action has been taken against the police officers responsible for her death to justice, particularly as the family?s silence has already been purchase. Immediate family members of the victims have contacted NCHR and the case is being further investigated.
Police Break Up Women?s Rights Demonstration
Activists and women?s organizations took to the streets of Port-au-Prince on Monday March 10 to commemorate International Women?s Day. The protestors denounced the high cost of living and called for justice in cases where women?s rights have been violated.
Members of the PNH broke up the demonstration claiming that the demonstrators ?weren?t authorized to take to the streets.? The police proceeded to confiscate the keys to the vehicle carrying the demonstration?s sound system and told protestors to end the demonstration. The women continued on, refusing to be intimidated by the police who then ripped out the cords connecting the generator to the sound system, thereby putting an end to the demonstration. Ginette Lubin, the Minister of Women?s Affairs, condemned the brutal, illegal and arbitrary interruption of the women?s demonstration, declaring that women have the right to demonstrate as long as they respect the laws in place.
Illegal Arrest of Carline Simon
A well-known women?s rights activist was arrested on March 9 in the capital of Port-au-Prince without a single charge against her, just one day following International Women?s Day celebrations around the world. In what NCHR believes was an attempted assassination on the coordinator of Fanm Soley Leve, Carline Simon and her husband Serge, a group of armed bandits took them hostage and asked for a ransom of $5000 US for their liberation.
Officers from the ?Cafétéria? police station hurried to the scene and managed to secure the release of the hostages without any violence. Almost immediately after the incident, the Police Commisioner of Cité Soleil intervened and brutally arrested the Simons. After being held in a police vehicle for several hours they were eventually driven to the sub-station and principle police station of Delmas where they were placed in police custody. A delegation from NCHR was quickly dispatched to the station and swiftly determined the illegal and arbitrary nature of their arrests as the no charges had been laid and there were no grounds to hold them on.
Despite an order by State Prosecutor Josué Pierre-Louis for the temporary liberation of the Simons the day following their arrests, Delmas Police Commissioner Emmanuel Monpremier refused to release the couple claiming he needed the green-light from his hierarchical superiors.
It is unclear exactly why Simon and her husband were arrested, but PNH spokesman, Jean Dady Simeon was quick to justify the arrests claiming that. Simon was in possession of illegal firearms and went as far as to say that Simon was transporting firearms and munitions of a battalion. Women?s organizations have denounced the interruption of the demonstration by the police as well as the illegal and arbitrary arrest of Carline Simon and her husband, both blatant human rights violations that are considered attempts by authorities to paralyze the Haitian women?s movement.
Jean Dominique Investigation
Bernard Sainvil, the Investigating Magistrate in charge of the Jean Dominique assassination case, published his investigative report implicating the guilty parties involved in the April 3 2000 killing of Dominique and Jean-Claude Louissaint. The controversial report contained the names of those implicated in the murders as well as those who have been exonerated. Among those named are:
1. Dimsley Millien alias Tilou (of murder) 1. Dr. Alix Charles
2. Jeudi Jean Daniel alias Guimy (accomplice) 2. Dr. Benjamin Délano
3. Philippe Markington (accomplice) 3. Ephésien Joassaint (Lawyer)
4. Ralph Léger (accomplice) 4. Senator Dany Toussaint
5. Ralph Joseph (accomplice) 5. Richard Salomon (Toussaint advisor)
6. Freud Junior Desmarattes (accomplice) 6. Franck Joseph (Toussaint bodyguard)
The accused will be sent before a Criminal court to be judged in conformity with the law.
Human rights organizations, the press, and several political personalities have expressed reservations and uneasiness with regard to the conclusions of the investigation. According to NCHR, the investigative report does not leave room to answer the most essential questions concerning the double assassinations: who planned and financed the murders and why. Five (5) individuals initially implicated in the murders were completely left out of the report all together. Harold Sévère (former Assistant Mayor of Port-au-Prince), Dr. Marie Yvrose Joseph Chrysostome, Dr. Gina Thybulle, Nizar Ibrahim, and Fritz Louis were not even mentioned in the report, and as such were neither exonerated or incriminated in the case.
The investigative report published on March 20, almost 3 years after the murders, has merely accused six (6) men who have been in prison for over 2 years but does not allow for the identification and follow up of the real authors of the crime. Furthermore, upon close examination of the document, issues of conspiracy become apparent. Additionally, Judge Saintvil?s attempts to cover up the names of the true assassins ultimately named President Aristide as the primary murder suspect.
Gonaïves: Metayer and Tatoune
Octélus Dorvilien, the new Chief Judge of the Gonaïves Court of First Instance heard Amiot Metayer?s lawyers introduce an action in habeas corpus on Tuesday March 11, 2003 in order to obtain a judicial decision declaring Metayer?s arrest to be illegal. Metayer, who is accused of participating in the violent events of December 17, 2001, January 20, 2002, and May 2002, made the decision to appear before the courts and declared that it is up to the judicial system to decide whether he needs to return to prison or regain his liberty.
Dorvilien replaces Napela Saintil who was kept from filling his functions after the August 2, 2002 prison break in Gonaïves where 159 prisoners escaped, most notably OP leader Metayer and Jean Tatoune. The fragility of the Metayer dossier has also forced two (2) other magistrates of the Gonaïves Court of First Instance into hiding; both the State prosecutor and his substitute left the country after pressure and limitations were exerted upon them by the current government in an attempt to legalize the evasion of Metayer. Marcel Jean, the Investigating Magistrate in charge of the Metayer dossier, has also left the country due to pressure from the government to legalize the liberation of Metayer. Mr. Morency Joseph has replaced Marcel Jean as Investigating Magistrate.
Gonaïves police authorities have now made it known that they are determined to find Metayer and Tatoune and return them to prison. On March 25, 2003, thirteen (13) people were arrested and several firearms confiscated in Gonaïves as part of an operation led by the police to place the men behind bars once again. Neither of them, however, was arrested.
Rosemand Jean Finally Released
After spending almost six (6) months in the National Penitentiary, Rosemand Jean, head of the movement to reclaim lost money from government-supported cooperatives, was released from prison on March 31, 2003. Arbitrarily arrested without a warrant on 23 September 2002, Jean was accused of possessing illegal firearms and munitions.
Almost immediately following his liberation from prison a press conference was held where Jean made a public statement claiming he would continue to speak out to defend victims of the cooperative scandals. He believes that his arrest proved that the countries authorities were involved in the fraudulent collapse of the cooperatives, of which he was also a victim.
Prison Rape Victim is Released
On February 14, eighteen (18) year-old Natacha Jean Jacques was released from Fort National, Port-au-Prince?s women and children?s prison, following strong protests from civil society organizations. Natacha became pregnant during her incarceration at Fort National while serving time for murder ? Natacha had been arrested two (2) years previous for killing the man who was raping her. Natacha, who was still being held in preliminary detention, became the victim of rape for the second time, this time by one of the prison?s male nurses.
The National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR) came across the case during one of its routine visits to Fort National and began an investigation. Apparently Natacha?s situation was not a secret to the prison authorities or her fellow prisoners. Having gathered adequate and reliable information, NCHR delegates met with prison (DAP) officials. Based on the information, which was confirmed and verified, DAP authorities sought public action against the employee in question.
At present, the alleged rapist is still at large as he went into hiding upon learning about NCHR?s discovery of the situation. A warrant has been issued for his arrest. Natacha gave birth to a baby boy in October 2002.
OP violence in the Central Plateau
For several years the Central Plateau, and the city of Hinche in particular, has been an area plagued with political violence. Recently the Papaye Peasants Movement (MPP), an organization that supports the opposition, has been the object of mistreatment by government sympathizers in the area. In the middle of March, MPP suffered another incident, this time on the occasion of the organization?s thirtieth (30th) anniversary.
MPP?s congress, organized every five (5) years to gather members and supporters of MPP, was planned for March 17-20 2003. As is the custom, MPP planned a march to conclude the congress that would begin at the MPP training center and wrap up with a reading of the Congress? resolution in nearby Hinche. Following the advice of the Departmental Director Emmanuel Orival Gaston who warned of likely security problems, MPP decided to cancel the march and instead planned to read the congress? resolutions over the radio.
Not knowing that the march had been cancelled, members of Popular Organizations (OP) who support the Lavalas government decided to block the road between Hinche and Papaye so as to thwart eventual participants from taking part in the MPP activities on March 20. The road was blocked with old vehicles, and, armed with guns, sticks, and rocks the OP members physically assaulted anyone that attempted the Hinche ?Papaye route. Over ten (10) people were injured in the attacks.