Originally: Letter to Colin Powell
July 1, 2004
The Honorable Colin Powell
Secretary of State Department of State
2201 C Street, NW, Room 7261 Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Powell:
I write to express my deepest concern that the interim government of Haiti is pursuing a politically-motivated campaign to arrest and intimidate Lavalas party members and supporters in Haiti.
Several high-ranking members of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s government, who were also members of the Lavalas party, have been arrested, and many others have gone into hiding out of fear for their lives since President Aristide’s removal. Yvon Neptune, the prime minister of Haiti under President Aristide and a Lavalas party member, was arrested by Haitian police last Sunday, June 27, 2004. Other Lavalas officials who have been detained since President Aristide’s removal include Jocelerme Privert, President Aristide’s interior minister, who was arrested on April 6, 2004.
The arrest of Anne Auguste (So Anne) appears to be another example of the efforts of the Haitian interim government to persecute Lavalas supporters. As you know, Anne Auguste was arrested on May 10, 2004, by U.S.soldiers, acting as part of the Multinational Interim Force (MIF), pursuant to a warrant issued by Haitian police. Anne Auguste is a Lavalas supporter and a well-known community activist who is responsible for feeding many impoverished people and who possesses a long history of working to improve the lives of ordinary Haitians.
While the interim government continues to arrest and intimidate Lavalas party members, it refuses to arrest Guy Philippe, Jean Tatoune and other thugs and killers who took over Haitian cities, burned buildings and freed criminals from jails prior to the coup d’etat and who continue to terrorize local residents. Furthermore, while former death squad leader Louis-Jodel Chamblain faked his surrender and is supposedly in the custody of Haitian authorities, there are numerous reports that he has been seen drinking and socializing outside of detention. In addition, it is rumored that he cut a deal, in which it was agreed that he will neither be incarcerated for the crimes for which he has already been convicted in absentia nor prosecuted for other crimes.
Meanwhile, human rights violations have become commonplace since President Aristide’s removal. Members and supporters of Lavalas have been found shot in the head with their hands tied behind their backs. There are also reports of Lavalas members being placed in a container and drowned at sea. Delegations from Amnesty International, the National Lawyers Guild and Let Haiti Live have documented widespread killings of Haitians who are believed to be Lavalas supporters. None of these crimes have been investigated or prosecuted by the interim government of Haiti.
The efforts of the interim government to arrest Lavalas supporters, combined with its refusal to arrest known criminals who oppose President Aristide or investigate crimes against Lavalas supporters, is having a profound impact on Haiti’s future. Impoverished Haitians, who form the basis of the Lavalas party’s support, are losing faith in the democratic system. Those who still believe in democracy are nevertheless afraid to participate in the political process. Many are already in hiding, and many others may attempt to flee Haiti and enter the United States as refugees.
I implore you to call for the release of Yvon Neptune, Jocelerme Privert and Anne Auguste, and use all available means to persuade the Haitian interim government to consent to their releases. I also urge you to take all necessary and appropriate action to end the persecution and intimidation of Lavalas party members and supporters in Haiti and ensure their safety. Finally, I urge you to demand that the interim government of Haiti arrest and prosecute the thugs and killers who are responsible for so much destruction and devastation in Haiti.
Please give this urgent matter your immediate attention. I look forward to your prompt response.
Member of Congress