NCHR denounces the scandalous character of the Decree of 31 December 2003

In a decree of 31 December 2003, President Jean Bertrand ARISTIDE has decided to fully and totally pardon forty-two (42) condemned prisoners and to commute the sentence of sixty-six (66) others. However, an additional ninety (90) more presumed criminals ? whose dossiers are still being investigated at the Cabinet d?Instruction or are being treated at the offices of the State Prosecutor of Port-au-Prince or certain Justices of the Peace ? have been accorded full and total amnesty.

Although Article 146 of the current Constitution bestows the President of the Republic with the right to pardon and commute sentences in all cases in which a judgment has been rendered, Article 147 literally specifies that: « One can only accord amnesty [to those who have not yet been tried and sentenced] in cases of political matters and within the limitations of the Law ». However, [in direct violation of the law] the Decree of 31 December 2003 states

the sole motivating consideration as follows: « the President of the Republic has decided to use his grand goodwill with regards to some accused inmates and prisoners that have been sentenced according to common law by taking measures of clemency in their favour. »

It is clear that this decree is unconstitutional and that the partisans of those in power continue to benefit from official impunity. As an example one could quote the case of police officer Jean Robert LUBIN of the Brigade of Research and Intervention (BRI). His case is still being investigated and he is on the list of the ninety (90) presumed criminals who will be accorded full and total amnesty. In a spectacular case of manslaughter, LUBIN killed Marc Jacky Obed Scotty during the carnival festivities in Jacmel on the morning of 24 February 2003. The list also includes drug dealers and other dangerous men who are presumed and/or accused criminals. One could cite the following examples:

Mercilia PAUL, Jean Bernard EXCELLENT, and Marcel EXCELLENT, who  murdered Mr Arnoïs Excellent, partner and father respectively, in Bongat (of the commune of Kenscoff) on 22 March 2003, This crime was committed with unprecedented violence as the victim?s tongue was ripped out, his throat slit, and his toes and fingers cut off;

Digging into it to  Learn more, we see that the motive of the crime was the victim?s refusal to sell for the benefit of his partner and two (2) sons a hectare of land which has a current estimated value of a hundred thousand (100,000) American dollars. After an intervention of Father Excellus Jean Rilus, vicar of the parish of Pont Sondé and a nephew of the victim, the suspects were arrested and imprisoned by the Assistant State Prosecutor, Riquet BRUTUS. However, despite the numerous efforts of the parents of the victim, the case would never be fully investigated before the accused were set free by the President of the Republic;

According to the testimonies collected by NCHR, Jean Bernard and Marcel Excellent are currently armed and threatening to kill their grandparents, Mr and Mrs Télicier EXCELLENT, respectively 90 and 88 years old, in order to obtain the title deeds of the land of their victim. The vicar of the parish of Pont Sondé has received the same threats.

Michelin NEPTUNE tragically murdered Canadian citizen Jacques ARSENAUD at Delmas 31, Rue Hatt #5 in July 2003. His case was referred to the Office of Investigating Magistrate Eddy DARANG, but he too, was on the list of those who have been accorded full and total amnesty.
It is remarkable to find that certain people who were arrested in December 2003, could benefit from the clemency of the President of the Republic during the same month, i.e., only a few days after their arrest. This is the case for:

·        Pierre  BONHOMME, arrested on 9 December 2003 for illegal possession of firearms; and

·        Abner JOURNAL, arrested on 18 December 2003.


However, not a single political prisoner has benefited from the clemency of the President of the Republic.

Also, one should not forget that other police officers who are close to those in power, have been involved in criminal acts but still walk the streets. One could quote the cases of:

Négupe SIMON, Police Commissioner in Hinche, who shot and killed in cold blood Mrs Fernande JEAN on 22 October 2003 ; and

Josaphat CIVIL, Ménard MEDAT, Pierrot GIVENS and Augustin PIERRE, all involved in the assassination of the three (3) sons of Viola ROBERT. (See NCHR?s Open Letter to the CSPN of 28 October 2003.)
The behaviour of the Chief of State lends credibility to the thesis that the government would have organized some sort of escape from the National Penitentiary: six hundred fifty-four (654) prisoners ? some of them dangerous criminals ? have managed to leave the biggest penitentiary center in Haiti without any difficulty and with the alleged objective of having more thugs available in the streets to counter the anti-governmental demonstrations.

Of those who escaped, one can name the following:

P      Harold BAZILE, aka ?Une balle à la tête?, murder;

P      Yves FLORENARD, involved in the attack on SOGEBEL;

P      Alex, known as such, aka ?Dominicain?;

P      Lereste SAMDY, aka ?Gros Samdy?;

P      Jean Daniel JEUDI, aka ?Guimy?, arraigned in the murder of Jean L. DOMINIQUE;

P      Jean Romane LOUIS, involved in the murder of Dr Harry Bordes;

P      Wenson JEAN BARD, aka ?Toupak?; and

P      Grégory ZEPHIRIN, arraigned for illicit trafficking of narcotics.

Everything indicates that the escape was probably planned in advance. The following facts are conclusive:

Certain detainees have left with the keys of certain cells. The prison administration has been obliged to buy new keys;
Many prisoners calmly walked out through the main gate, while others cleared a wall that separates the prison from the Collège Bird and the Presses Nationales;
Since the week of 20 December 2003, there had been a persistent rumour about a spectacular escape from prison ? even to the point where a unit from the Intervention Group of the National Police of Haiti (GIPNH) intervened to reinforce the security staff. This vigilance nevertheless turned out to be insufficient;
On the day of the escape, twenty-five (25) police officers were responsible for security. This is a normal number of security staff for this prison. The problem seems to be that the police officers of the Directorate of Penitentiary Administration (DAP) displayed great negligence;
The majority of the escaped prisoners were in the corridor of the Hall district. This clearly implies the complicity of the police officers, as it is not at all advisable to have so many people in the corridor of Hall, and especially during a period of festivities;
The Corps for Intervention and Maintenance of Order (CIMO) arrived on the premises 40 minutes too late; and
The escape took place at the moment when the music group « Grolobo » and a rara band passed through the area: the former on the Rue des Casernes, and the latter on Rue du Centre.
By according amnesty through the Decree of 31 December 2003 to those having committed grave breaches of the common law, the Chief of State has diverted the principle of amnesty from its objective. It has often been stressed that after troubled times amnesty can play a historically important role on a social and political level, as reconciliation and clemency can restore peace and quiet in the minds of the people. Today, however, these minds are haunted by the idea that the indulgence of the Chief of State has been bought by drug traffickers or the thought that official impunity is given to undeserving criminals as well as multi-recidivists close to those in power. The idea of pardon or amnesty has been perverted.

NCHR, well aware of the unconstitutional and scandalous character of the Decree of 31 December 2003, asks the Chief of State to revoke this decree.