A Haitian Protestant minister and radio announcer in Mirebalais, who had the temerity to ask on his show what form of government would be best for Haiti, was severely beaten and left for dead at the bottom of a ravine by Aristide partisans. In June 2003 he made it to Miami and was immediately arrested and thrown into a windowless jail in Elizabeth, N.J. From June to November 2003 he did not see the light of day. He had committed the crime of “fleeing while Haitian.”
The eminent Newark law firm of McCarter English took his case as a pro-bono human-rights case and enlisted the Haiti Democracy Project to provide expert testimony about conditions in Haiti. The project found an independent personality in Haiti, Sen. Serge Gilles, who knew the applicant and his persecution by the Aristide faction, and included this in its testimony. The government accepted the Haiti Democracy Project’s testimony in its entirety without contest.
Haiti Democracy Project associate Arielle Jean-Baptiste then proceeded to Haiti and oversaw the production of affidavits, notarized at the U.S. consulate, of the victim’s wife and of a fellow minister of his church corroborating the political persecution.
Provided to the court, these affidavits were the deciding final factor in the judge’s decision for asylum.
The project’s expert testimony, by executive director James R. Morrell, to the Newark, N.J. immigration court follows:
I am the executive director of the Haiti Democracy Project, a Washington thinktank that seeks to educate the public about the crushing poverty and mounting political repression suffered by the people of Haiti and the need for a more compassionate and effective U.S. policy. Present policy is support for the existing regime in a futile pursuit of ?stability? at the expense of democratic alternatives which exist in Haiti and offer a far greater potential for stability and economic development. The Haiti project was incorporated in the District of Columbia on March 25, 2003. Our board of directors includes a number of distinguished ambassadors with direct experience in Haiti policy-making all of whom agree that the United States needs to make a far greater and more clear-headed effort to correct U.S. policy mistakes that have led to a grievous humanitarian crisis.
The Haiti project has existed for more than ten years. It was begun in 1992 at another thinktank called the Center for International Policy, in Washington, which I co-founded in 1975. In 1993 the Haiti project conducted the diplomacy for the Haitian government-in-exile at a crucial conference held by the United Nations and United States at Governors Island, New York, which resulted in an agreement for the exiled president?s return. Our work at this conference provided the diplomatic prerequisite for the subsequent intervention with twenty-one thousand American troops. The leader of our delegation at Governors Island was former representative Michael D. Barnes, the former chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.
Following this, I became the chief implementer of the Haiti project and during this period we raised grants from the Ford, Winston, Arca, and General Service foundations. I accompanied a number of congressional delegations to Haiti which sought to reconcile the increasingly divergent political actors, as the original democratic movement split into hostile camps.
In May 2000 I was an observer for the Organization of American States? electoral observation mission, serving under Ambassador Orlando Marville, chief of mission, a member of the foreign service of Barbados, and a founding member of this project?s board of directors. I wrote a widely quoted report on this experience for the Center for International Policy entitled ?Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory,? recounting how one faction, which would have won anyhow, committed gross fraud in the vote-counting in order to eliminate any representation in parliament by the other faction, and thereby forfeited the legitimacy of their win. I presented a further evaluation of this matter at the 2001 meeting of the Latin American Studies Association in Washington, D.C.
In 2001 and 2002 I granted interviews to the Miami Herald and Wall Street Journal in which I questioned the large amounts ($5 million) the Haitian government, the poorest in the hemisphere, was paying U.S. lobbyists to press its case in the U.S. government against its domestic political opposition. However, the leadership of my thinktank, the Center for International Policy, unexpectedly became interested themselves becoming lobbyists for the Haitian regime, and I was forced to set up the Haiti project as an independent entity in April 2002.
We had our formal opening on November 19, 2002 at the Brookings Institution. Speakers included Amb. Luigi Einaudi, assistant secretary-general of the OAS; Amb. Roger F. Noriega, now assistant secretary of state; Timothy Carney, U.S. ambassador to Haiti 1998?99; Ambassador Marville, described above; Amb. Jean Casimir, Haitian ambassador to the United States during 1992?95; and Georges Fauriol, vice-president of the International Republican Institute. At our founding board meeting the next day we had Amb. Lawrence Pezzullo, head of Haiti policy for the Clinton administration, 1993?94; and Amb. Ernest H. Preeg, U.S. ambassador to Haiti during 1981?83. Michael Barnes also has returned to the Haiti project as an unofficial counsellor. We also have distinguished Haitian and Haitian-American policy analysts.
Since then the Haiti project has been widely consulted by the major media on issues of Haiti policy and human rights. Our activities have been reported in the New York Times, Washington Times, Associated Press, Reuters, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Times of London, Atlanta Constitution, BBC, United Press International, Toronto Star, Baltimore Sun, South Florida Sun-Sentinal, New York Sun, and Lakeland, Florida Ledger.
We have held a number of high-level forums including:
? community meeting with Haitian-Americans in Montgomery County, Maryland with the head of the Office of Caribbean Affairs at the State Department and the former Haitian prosecutor of that country?s highest-profile political murder
? community meeting with a freshman representative from Maryland, Rep. Chris van Hollen
? policy forum with the exiled police chief of Haiti, Jean-Robert Faveur, who was accompanied by Jan Stromsem, the former director of the Justice Department?s International Criminal Investigative and Training Assistance Program (ICITAP).
The Haiti project has conducted four high-level delegations of business leaders from Haiti all of whom have met with ranking officials at the State Department, White House, Pentagon and World Bank and with leading members of Congress. On September 29?October 1 we took the fourth delegation to meet with seven members of Congress, from Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich., ranking member of the Judiciary Committee) to Rep. Cass Ballenger (R-N.C.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.
II. The Haiti Democracy Project?s Approach to Asylum Cases
In response to requests from eminent U.S. law firms, the project has agreed to provide expert testimony on behalf of qualified Haitian asylum applicants. In June 2003, in response to a request from the Palo Alto?based firm Wilson Sonsini, we testified in San Francisco immigration court, resulting in the granting of asylum to the Haitian applicant.
The reason for our success in this case was that we independently verified the identity and profile of the applicant, corroborating from independent sources in Haiti the story of persecution she presented to the court. The reason we insisted on such independent corroboration is that we are well aware that the majority of arriving Haitians are still economically-motivated and that immigration authorities are confronted with the fact that a number of people will fabricate any story in order to make a case for asylum.
We accepted a second case from a Philadelphia law firm in spring 2003 when we determined that the individual suffered from repression that had been independently documented in the Haitian press.
We declined a third case from Florida in the summer of 2003 when inadequate provision was made for the corroboration exercise described above. We posted on our web page our policy that we would not testify on country conditions alone but would need to corroborate the individual?s identity and profile before accepting a case. This was to insure that the Haiti Democracy Project?s imprimatur would be reserved for genuine victims of political repression.
We accepted the case of Reverend Elbond when the firm of McCarter and English offered a minimal retainer of $500.00 which would partially recover the research cost of testing the applicant?s story. The remainder of the cost, which is considerable, the Haiti project is providing pro bono. Since he claimed that he was a well-known radio announcer who suffered repression in Mirebalais, there was sufficient prominence, indeed considerably greater than our San Francisco applicant?s, to afford the opportunity of independent corroboration.
III. Corroborating Reverend Elbond?s Testimony Before this Court
On September 30, 2003 I personally interviewed former Haitian senator Serge Gilles, following a conference at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a leading thinktank in Washington. At this thinktank the Haiti Democracy Project had organized a meeting of the visiting business delegation mentioned above with Washington policy experts. Senator Gilles sat in on this meeting and I interviewed him afterwards.
Two weeks earlier, I had conducted a preliminary telephone interview with him when he was still in Haiti. This interview established his awareness of Reverend Elbond and enabled this project to accept the law firm?s retainer in this case. The Haiti Democracy Project is indebted to Stanley Lucas, program officer of the International Republican Institute, for arranging this interview.
Senator Gilles is one of the most prominent political personalities in Haiti. Not only was he a senator representing the Central Plateau during 1990?94 (the Central Plateau is the department in which the town of Mirebalais is located), he is the chairman of one of the best-known political parties in Haiti, a moderate social-democratic group called PANPRA. His political party is a member of the Socialist International, which today comprises the ruling party of Germany and the social-democratic parties of the major European and Third World nations. PANPRA has joined the Democratic Convergence, the major opposition formation.
Senator Gilles ran again for senator from the Central Plateau in the legislative elections of May 2000 and his combined ticket won 55 percent of the department?s vote in the first round, positioning him well to win in the second round. However, the ruling party, which controlled the election commission?s counting office, discarded votes received by opposition candidates in order to assure a monopoly for their candidates, and Senator Gilles was eliminated by this fraudulent procedure. The Democratic Convergence, the OAS, the Clinton administration, and election commissioner all called for a correction of this fraud, but it has never been corrected and the illegitimately-elected legislators continue to serve out their terms.
I have known Senator Gilles since 1998, when I met him in Princeton at a conference of the International Peace Academy on Haiti. I met him again in the summer of 2002 at the International Republican Institute. So this most recent encounter was our third meeting. Thus I have had an opportunity to build up a professional acquaintance with him sufficient for me to evaluate his credibility. I turned to Senator Gilles after canvassing quite a number of professional acquaintances in Port-au-Prince, none of whom had heard of Reverend Elbond in remote Mirebalais.
Senator Gilles knew him because he is from the same region, has his political base there, owns land there, has family ties there, and maintains contacts and travels there frequently.
Senator Gilles is of too high a stature in Haiti, and is too well known internationally, to have any incentive for feigning acquaintance with our applicant. He received no financial compensation for the interview, and receives no political benefit from it.
The essential facts that emerged from the interview were:
? Senator Gilles is personally acquainted with Reverend Elbond and knew of his radio broadcasts, specifically ?L?heure de la verité qui affranchit.?
? Senator Gilles knew that Reverend Elbond had had serious difficulties with ?Lavalas,? meaning President Aristide?s ruling faction, and had been persecuted by the Aristide followers. He specifically knew of the June 2003 incident, which he bluntly characterized as, ?They came to his house to kill him.?
? Senator Gilles stated outright, without prompting, that Reverend Elbond would be killed if he were returned to Haiti. When I sought to test this assertion by noting that there were many other independent journalists still practicing in Haiti, he replied that those among them who were anti-Lavalas had been driven from the Central Plateau and were in mortal danger.
On the basis of this interview with Senator Gilles, I have concluded that Reverend Elbond is who he says he is and has not fabricated his story of political persecution. Well aware that Senator Gilles would not be present in court to testify and be cross-examined, I sought to test specific elements of his statement as best I could. And so while I am aware that his interview statements are legally only a pale substitute for his actual presence in court, as a factual matter I regard Reverend Elbond?s statements as having been corroborated. They have met the standard that we in the Haiti Democracy Project have established.
The corroboration exercise which I have described above was the same that our project used in our most recent case in San Francisco, with the law firm of Wilson Sonsini, in June 2003. In that case the judge, in granting our applicant?s request for political asylum, specifically stated in court that our testimony was the deciding factor in his decision.
To conclude this section, in my judgment, based on eleven years of following the Haiti issue and thirty years as a professional foreign-policy analyst, Reverend Elbond would face a serious danger of political persecution if he were returned to Haiti today.
IV. General Human-Rights Conditions
Although, as noted above, this project would not testify on behalf of a Haitian applicant on the basis of general conditions alone, these deplorable conditions form the necessary backdrop for a full understanding of Reverend Elbond?s case. The Committee to Protect Journalists has recently reported that violence against the press is more prevalent in Haiti than in any other country in the Western Hemisphere except Colombia.
All major, professional human-rights reporting agencies, including the State Department, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Sans Frontières, and the National Coalition for Haitian Rights, have corroborated the current Haitian regime?s concerted assault on the independent press, with incidents beginning in the 1990s and gathering force and frequency from the year 2000 to this day. The regime conducts these assaults mainly by using irregular gangs, euphemistically and misleadingly called ?Popular Organizations,? with cute names such as ?Cannibal Army,? ?Red Army,? ?Sleeping in the Woods,? ?Shoot ?Em Dead,? or, in our region, the Central Plateau, ?Put Order into Disorder.? The Cannibal Army, operating in the neighboring department of the Artibonite, declared a veritable war on independent journalists, sending a number of them last year to seek sanctuary in the bishop?s office in the city of Gonaïves. After the bishop felt this exposed him and the church to too much danger, they fled his office and sought help at the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince.
There was a notable spasm of violence against the press on December 17, 2001 in conjunction with systematic assaults on opposition politicians and offices. Some two dozen journalists fled Haiti for the United States and were either granted political asylum or accorded temporary protection.
After the ouster of dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier in 1986, the resurgence of the independent press in Haiti was one of the great conquests of the Haitian democratic movement, along with the constitution of 1987 and pressure for free and fair elections, which culminated in the elections of December 1990. With credible elections not having been conducted since 1995, and the constitution increasingly disregarded, the independence of the press stands as the last great achievement of Haiti?s democratic movement. Little wonder that it, too, is under severe pressure from the recrudescence of the traditional authoritarian presidency.
The two most flagrant acts of violence against the press were high-profile killings in the years 2000 and 2001, neither of which has been seriously prosecuted. In the year 2000, the year in which Mr. Elbond was severely assaulted by a pro-Aristide gang in Mirebalais and left for dead at the bottom of a ravine, Haiti?s most famous and flamboyant journalist, Jean Dominique, was assassinated by gunmen outside his radio station in Port-au-Prince. Two investigating judges were forced to quit the case because of death threats from regime-backed thugs. The third judge, Claudy Gassant, was forced to flee Haiti when his investigations took him too close to top regime figures, including Aristide himself. Judge Gassant has spoken twice, with eloquence, at Haiti Democracy Project conferences this year.
The other flagrant murder was that of Brignol Lindor in the provincial city of Petit-Goave in December 2001. Much like Reverend Elbond, Mr. Lindor conducted a call-in radio program in which he allowed opponents as well as supporters of the regime to exercise their rights under the Haitian constitution to express themselves freely on national affairs. Objecting to this, the local pro-Aristide gang, ?Sleeping in the Woods,? murdered and dismembered Mr. Lindor on the streets of the city while the police looked the other way. As in the Dominique case, no credible investigation has taken place and no one has been credibly prosecuted. As in the Dominique case, the close relatives of the victims have also been forced to flee Haiti.
These two cases sent the message out throughout Haiti that no one was safe and that journalists were particularly targeted. But these high-profile cases were accompanied by a widespread, systematic attack on less-known, rank-and-file journalists such as Rev. Elbond ranging from kidnapping and shooting to a constant barrage of death threats to them and their families.
B. Review of Human-Rights Conditions in Haiti
Although sporadic violence including politically-motivated murders took place in the mid-1990s, the year 1997 marks the beginning of the steady slide into government-directed gang violence that is Haiti?s leading human-rights problem today. By 1997 the democratic movement had split into two components, one of which was oriented around the fierce old-style presidential ambitions of one personality, and the other consisted of a loose congeries of social-democratic parties and civil-society organizations which were weak organizationally and had shallow popular support, but nevertheless did not use violence and were modern in outlook.
The ambitious personality, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, had ties to gangs of poor, unemployed youths who throughout Haitian history have supplied the foot soldiers for various wars for the presidency. Although called ?popular organizations,? by 1997 these gangs had deteriorated into the paid hit men and petty racketeers of Haitian history. He used these gangs in early 1997 to burn tires and break car windows in Port-au-Prince in order to undermine the prime minister and parliament, which were controlled by his political opponents. Responding to the message that violent infighting had returned to Haitian politics, the population registered its opinion of this development by informally boycotting the elections which took place on April 6, 1997. A voter turnout of 5 to 10 percent was recorded. A subsequent government report on this election cited a number of violent incidents and ballot-stuffing, most perpetrated by the Aristide partisans. The report was kept secret by the president, who was a temporary stand-in for Aristide. In 1999 our project obtained a copy and publicized it on our website.
The significance was that given the weakness of Haitian institutions, and the failure of the U.S. occupation of 1994 to stay long enough to strengthen these institutions, the violence by the presidential faction would become the main striking force in Haitian politics. The independent political parties and media rarely used force to defend themselves, nor was another armed presidential faction formed as was so common in past history, but political violence remained a virtual monopoly of the incumbent presidential faction to be used against opposition leaders and independent media at will, restrained only by weak objections from the United States and international community. This dynamic emerged as early as 1997, became more prominent in 1999 and has been the norm since 2000.
Thus to understand the roots of the present violence, of which Reverend Elbond was a victim in 2000 and again in 2003, it is essential to leaf through the pages of Haitian history since before independence and recognize those patterns repeating themselves today. Although the example was set by the French in their flagrantly bloody attempt to suppress the slave insurrection, Haitian presidents and presidential contenders have followed through with numerous wars for the presidency, coups, punitive campaigns, arson, repression, hostage-taking, and killing of prisoners. These have blighted Haitian history for the past two centuries, stifling its development and provoking two U.S. interventions so far. Neither the democratic movement which arose in 1986 with the ouster of Baby Doc, nor the U.S. invasion of 1994, have yet succeeded in exorcising these demons of history.
Resuming our account of the deterioration of human-rights conditions since 1997, the year 1998 was marked by deadlock in parliament and in naming a prime minister as the two factions named above, presidential and parliamentary, fought over the 1997 elections. This prevented the holding of elections in 1998 and led to a situation where the president dissolved parliament in early 1999 to get rid of his opponents, even though no new parliament had been elected. By the electoral calendar only a rump of eight senators was left in parliament after the dissolution. One of these eight was Sen. Yvon Toussaint, a medical doctor representing the Central Plateau (our applicant?s region) and a member of an opposition party. As treasurer of the senate he struggled to keep the senate open and functioning with its remaining members. He encountered death threats and human barricades outside the senate building, but persisted. On March 1, 1999 an unknown person shot him dead at close range. The killing has never been solved. Following this murder, several other parliamentarians of the same party were attacked and reported receiving death threats.
A further incident in 1999 boding ill for the future was the forcible suppression on May 28 by Aristide supporters of a rally initiated by the business sector and attended by several thousand middle-class and rank-and-file Haitians. The police stood by as busloads of thugs arrived and stoned the speakers on the stage. Police beat four journalists and seized their cameras and film. U.S. ambassador Timothy Carney (a founding member of our board) strongly objected.
Another setback was the forced exile of the neutral, professional police supervisor Robert Manuel and the killing of police adviser Jean Lamy. The exile (under death threat) and killing capped a campaign by Aristid partisans to politicize the police. Besides police, human-rights organizations came under attack as Pierre Esperance, director of Haiti-based National Coalition for Human Rights, was shot and wounded on March 8. Summarizing the year, the State Department reported, ?The Government’s human rights record was generally poor, and its overall effort to respect the human rights of its citizens was marred by serious abuses and shortcomings in oversight.?
Similarly, Human Rights Watch reported, ?Mounting political violence in the context of anticipated elections and a notable increase in killings by police marked a year that began with President René Préval’s abrupt dismissal of parliament.?
The above sets the stage for the deadly factional fighting that would victimize Reverend Elbond in Mirebalais in 2000 and 2003. In Reverend Elbond?s department of the Central Plateau, an independent peasant movement called MPP came under increasing repression from the Aristide party and there were a number of violent incidents. Nationwide, pressure from the United States and international community conduced to formation of an electoral commission to hold the long-delayed elections which might stabilize the political situation. But violence continued against opposition candidates, the media, and the commission itself. On October 24, 1999 Aristide partisanss invaded a meeting of the electoral commission and threw bottles of urine. In February, 2000, to the north of the Central Plateau, a political party leader was killed. An independent poll reported that Aristide’s sides would get 33 percent of the vote and the non-Aristide side 35 percent.
Traveling in the Departement du Nord, to the north of the Central Plateau, as an election observer for the OAS in May 2000, I took depositions from local members of opposition political parties alleging beatings of their candidates by the Aristide faction. I witnessed a peaceful crowd of three hundred country people demonstrating at the police station in Milot against an alleged Aristide thug who had badly beaten a woman candidate. Nevertheless, election day itself went smoothly and neither our mission nor those observers in other parts of the country reported violence.
When, however, the electoral commission discarded more than a million ballots for opposition candidates so that only the ruling-party candidates could get in, the political polarization became complete and the ability of Haiti?s fragile institutions to mediate was vitiated.
Hence the deadly tensions that had led a group of Aristide thugs to assault Reverend Elbond in the year would not subside, but would escalate, leading to the situation of mortal threat our applicant faced in June 2003. His only crime was having exercised his rights under the Haitian constitution to speak freely on national affairs. But given the intolerance of the presidential party, even to pose the question Reverend Elbond did?what sort of government would be best for Haiti?was subversive.
Reverend Elbond?s radio station was one of two hundred independent radio stations in the country which carry a mix of music, news, and talk-show programs. Many citizens regard these talk shows as one of their only opportunities to speak out on a variety of political, social, and economic issues. The two newspapers have a circulation of only fifteen thousand and the literacy rate is only 20 percent, making the radio stations the paramount means of communication.
The deterioration in Haiti in 1999 and early 2000 prompted our project on April 25, 2000 to join with national organizations to issue an open statement on the human-rights situation. We joined National Coalition on Haitian Rights, Washington Office on Latin America, Lawyers’ Committee on Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, and the International Human Rights Law Group in deploring the killings and police violence and politicization. Our statement was reported in the Miami Herald, Interpress, and Haitian press. Amnesty International similarly reported on March 21, 2000 in “Haiti: Justice and Liberties at Risk.?
Similarly, the General Accounting Office reported to Congress on September 19, 2000 that the more than $100 million in U.S. aid to the police had essentially gone for nothing as the police became politicized and deprofessionalized. Congress voted to discontinue aid to the government of Haiti until it corrected the fraud in the elections.
On February 5, 2001 the Haiti project joined other prominent human-rights organizations in reporting the violence that dealt ?a severe blow to the observance of civil and political rights in Haiti.? Joining the statement were the National Coalition for Haitian Rights; Human Rights Watch; Rights and Democracy (Canada); the International Human Rights Law Group; and the Washington Office on Latin America.
On March 12, 2001 the International Alliance for Justice for Jean Dominique wrote President Aristide demanding a full investigation and decrying the obstacles created by Aristide supporters. The letter was signed by leading U.S. and international writers and artists. On April 3, a report by the Inter-American Press Association, written by Ana Arana, placed the responsibility for the slaying with the government. On May 18, 2001 the association called on Aristide to provide protection to the judge investigating the murder. However, a Haitian radio station reported that the judge?s investigation would implicate many top Aristide figures in the crime and place Aristide himself closer to the crime than previous reports. Far from gaining protection the judge was forced to flee to Florida. On March 3, 2002 the slain journalist?s widow, Michèle Montas, decried the removal of the judge.
“If they murdered him, they can murder any journalist.” So concluded a report of Reporters Sans Frontières on April 3, 2001, the one-year anniversary of Dominique?s murder. Later, the RSF executive director from France was assaulted by Aristide supporters. On April 28, RSF condemned attacks on three radio stations. On June 22 it condemned an assault on a journalist of Radio Haiti Inter. On January 11, 2002 RSF called for Aristide?s visa to be pulled and his overseas accounts frozen for willfully obstructing the investigation of Dominique?s murder.
On April 9 a former senator wrote that Aristide was preparing a ?low-intensity dictatorship,? with politicization of the police and elimination of the opposition with U.S. support.
Amnesty International followed with its statement in May 2001, ?The human rights situation deteriorated sharply, despite some positive steps towards accounting for past human rights violations. The electoral period was marred by assassinations of public figures and by violent attacks by political partisans, most often self-described supporters of the Fanmi Lavalas (FL) party. Illegal security forces acting under the auspices of newly-elected local and regional officials emerged. Haiti also became more isolated from the international community, with the UN announcing its intention to end its field mission there.?
Political polarization continued with mysterious attacks on the police academy in June 2001 which the government attempted to pin on the opposition, although disgruntled former police appeared to be the source. The subsequent arrests of opposition leaders and violence disrupted what little progress was being made in OAS-brokered negotiations.
To counter his growing negative image in the United States, Aristide invested in a $5 million public-relations campaign?a large amount for a nation as poor in Haiti. Interviewed by the Miami Herald on July 10, 2001, I described the lobbying effort as ?cynical,? adding, ?They could have much more easily resolved this problem by following the electoral laws.”
The June 2001 attacks prefigured a much larger wave of attacks on December 17, 2001 in which opposition political party offices and independent radio stations were assaulted nationwide by Aristide partisans, with one death in Gonaïves and two dozen journalists fleeing for the United States. The offices and homes of many opposition figures and reporters were attacked and burnt to the ground. Decrying the assault on the independent press, on May 13, 2002 Reporters Sans Frontières included Aristide in its list of ?press predators.? ?They order violations of press freedom and have others do the deed. They might be president, cabinet minister, army chief . . .?
Visiting Haiti, the RSF executive director from France was assaulted by Aristide partisans.
On May 28, 2002 Amnesty International reported,
Following the February inauguration of President Jean Bertrand Aristide, there were repeated indications that the police and justice systems were becoming more politicized. The President’s June announcement of a ”zero tolerance” policy towards crime was followed by an increase in killings by police in disputed circumstances; in ”popular justice” killings of suspected criminals; and in attacks by increasingly intolerant partisans of the ruling party Fanmi Lavalas (FL) on perceived opponents, including human rights defenders and journalists. Tensions were exacerbated by an attack in July on several police stations by unidentified and heavily armed assailants, and another such attack in December on the National Palace. The investigation into the murder in April 2000 of prominent radio journalist Jean Dominique and his radio station guard Jean Claude Louissaint was repeatedly obstructed.
On October 26, 2001, in an interview with the Inter-American Dialogue?s Latin America Adviser, I said, ?The Bush Administration should indeed play a more active role; it cannot succeed in Haiti without doing many of the hard things the Clinton Administration did in 1993 and 1994. And once doing them it cannot precipitously leave as Clinton did under Republican pressure; it must pursue a resolute program of nation-building with the United Nations, finding among the Haitians (mostly the opposition) the personnel capable of building a modern state.?
On October 30, 2001 our project joined a letter to President Aristide decrying the death threats made against the National Coalition on Human Rights and other human-rights organizations in Haiti. The other signatories were the NCHR, the International Human Rights Law Group, Human Rights Watch, the Washington Office on Latin America, and the Lawyers? Committee for Human Rights.
The St. Petersburg Times of January 14, 2002 reported, ??The situation called for a long-term program of nation-building to create or restore all of the institutions of government in tandem,? said Haiti expert James Morrell, research director at the Center for International Policy, a Washington-based think tank. . . ?Haiti needs a long-term program of nation-building,? Morrell said. ?You can’t just parachute the president back in as we did in 1994. Once you intervene you have to stay and finish the job.?”
Human Rights Watch summarized the deterioriation in 2001:
Worsening human rights conditions, mounting political turmoil, and a declining economy marked President Jean-Bertrand’s Aristide first year back in office. The investigation into the murder of crusading journalist Jean Dominique reached a standstill, with the judge assigned to the case receiving little cooperation from the police and other government bodies. The work of human rights defenders became increasingly dangerous, as several received serious death threats.
The State Department reported in March 2002, ?The Government continued to commit serious abuses during the year, and its generally poor human rights record worsened.?
On May 27, 2002, a former top Haitian police inspector, Mario Andrésol, reported that it had been his duty to investigate the entourage of drug traffickers and criminals, among them top officials, senators, and police, that were swept into power with Aristide’s inauguration in February 2001. When he did that, he was arrested and nearly assassinated.