Originally: Briefing to Haiti Democracy Project
From left: Amb. Lawrence A. Pezzullo, Amb. Ernest H. Preeg, Pierre Esperance
Briefing of Haiti Democracy Project delegation by Pierre Esperance, director, National Network for the Defense of Human Rights, February 19, 2005, at Hotel Montana. The National Network for the Defense of Human Rights was recently renamed from NCHR, National Coalition for Haitian Rights.
(The gist, not verbatim.)
The NCHR had never called for Mr. Neptune to be put in jail. But he was prime minister and went to St. Marc with a lot of attachés. He gave a speech in English, saying they needed to reestablish the authority of the state. Forty-eight hours later came the massacre. The local people said fifty people were killed. The NCHR documented twenty-seven. There were a lot of rapes.
Ambassador Carney said that people in the U.S. Congress would say, “Poor Neptune.”
Mr. Esperance said that those who called him a political prisoner had no respect for the victims. In St. Marc there were two groups. There was Bale Wouze (“Clean Sweep”). There was Ramicos, in opposition to Mr. Aristide. There were a lot of demonstrations in Haiti against Mr. Aristide at that time. In St. Marc it was split between Bale Wouze and Ramicos. The rebels took the police station in GonaVves. The attachés from there scattered. The Aristide government wanted to retake GonaVves, but couldn?t, and St. Marc was strategic in this struggle. On February 7, 2004, Ramicos chased out the police from St. Marc. On February 9, Mr. Neptune reoccupied with the CIMO (Corps d?Intervention et de Maintien d?Ordre?police SWAT team) and the attachés. On February 11, the Bale Wouze worked with the police on the massacre.
The NCHR went to St. Marc on February 12?13. The NCHR had a lot of problems operating under Mr. Aristide yet it had respect from the police and attachés. It went with other organizations such as the PAJ program of alternative justice, journalists such as Métropole and Kiskeya. Nancy Roc also went to St. Marc
Mr. Boulos asked what would happen if Mr. Neptune were released.
Mr. Esperance said that if a judge in St. Marc did it, it would be accepted, but if it were done under international political pressure it would not be accepted. Mr. Neptune was not in jail because of his political beliefs. One needed to respect the victims. It was better to try to help the St. Marc judiciary try the case. All perceived the past president was pushing judges, forcing them to leave the country, this wouldn?t be accepted.
It often happened in Haiti that those who were responsible for crimes were portrayed as victims.
Ambassador Pezzullo noted the need to move on in this case. The case needed to be tried. Judgment needed to be rendered. He realized how difficult that was in Haiti. But international pressure to move it was reasonable. The elections were coming up and it would be useful not to have this case hanging around as a pretext.
Ambassador Carney noted the saying, Justice delayed is justice denied.
Mr. Esperance agreed with these thoughts.
Ambassador Carney said that also there would be the pretext that they were victimized by the new system.
Mr. Morrell noted that the obstacles to holding a trial in Haiti had come out in the Chamblain case last summer.
Mr. Esperance noted that Mr. Chamblain was still in prison on a second charge. But his case was not like Mr. Neptune?s, which was further advanced.
There was, nevertheless, Mr. Esperance went on, a great difference between the Aristide period and the current. Mr. Aristide used all the government?s authority to repress all opposition. This government did not use the police, guns, and judiciary against the opposition. But this government did not connect with the population. It had done nothing to improve the general condition. The justice apparatus that was corrupted under Lavalas was still weak. The government from the get-go did not pay attention to security and was too close to the ex-military. It was clear that people were in prison for a long time without trial, yet they were not political prisoners. He would be glad to publicize it if anyone came to him with a case of a political prisoner.