Election 1984, Duvalier style : a report on human rights in Haiti, based on a mission of inquiry / Americas Watch, Lawye...


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Election 1984, Duvalier style : a report on human rights in Haiti, based on a mission of inquiry / Americas Watch, Lawyers Committee for International Human Rights
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N.Y. : Americas Watch, 1984


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1984: Duvalier


A Report on Human Rights in


on a Mission

of Inquiry

Americas Watch
Lawyers Committee for International Human Rights

March 1984



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Copies of this report are available for S1.50 each from:

Americas Watch
36 West 44th Street
New York, NY 10036

Lawyers Committee for
International Human Rights
36 West 44th Street
New York, NY 10036

o 1984 by the Americas Watch Committee and the Lawyers
Committee for International Human Rights

All rights reserved
Printed in the United States of America



Introduction ................................. 2

Mission Findings ............................. 4

Background .................................. 8

Recent Deterioration in Respect for
Fundamental Human Rights ................... 9

Opposition Political Activites: The Case of
the Haitian Christian Democratic Party ..... 11

Conclusion ................................. 16

This report was prepared by Michael S. Hooper, Esq.,

Executive Director of the National Coalition for Haitian

Refugees. It is based upon a week-long visit by Mr. Hooper

to Haiti in January 1984. This was Mr. Hooper's seventh visit

to Haiti. He was accompanied by Brenda Pillors, an aide to

Congressman Edolphus Towns, who represented the Congressional

Black Caucus Task Force on Haitian Refugees. Mr. Hooper and

Ms. Pillors met with Haitian lawyers, human rights advocates

and several former political prisoners, including Sylvio

Claude, who was detained under house arrest. They also met

with representatives of the United States Embassy and other

foreign diplomatic personnel in Haiti. Requests for

meetings with Haitian officials, including the Haitian

Secretary of the Interior, Roger Lafontant, and the Minister

of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Robert Estime, were refused.



In 1983, the Reagan Administration placed increasing

emphasis on elections as a crucial indicator of a country's

respect for the fundamental human rights of its citizens.

Regrettably, this emphasis was sometimes accompanied by

reduced concern for traditional human rights indicators, such

as respect for the right to life, freedom from arbitrary

detention, humane treatment of prisoners, and freedom to

express one's views. While this broader development is cause

for serious concern, we nonetheless share the Administra-

tion's view that the holding of meaningful elections is one

important criterion in any human rights evaluation. It is in

this context that a human rights mission, sponsored by

Americas Watch and the Lawyers Committee for International

Human Rights, was sent to Haiti just prior to the legislative

elections held on February 12, 1984.

This report examines the environment in which these

elections occurred. Were political parties permitted to form

and function in Haiti without harassment? Could parties and

citizens communicate their views through public assemblies?

Was the press free to disseminate information and to cover

all points of view? These questions seemed important

because, as Secretary of State George Shultz recently


said about proposed elections in Nicaragua, "an election just

as an election doesn't really mean anything .The important

thing is that if there is to be an electoral process, it be

observed not only at the moment when people vote, but in all

the preliminary aspects that make an election really mean



We found that the circumstances in which elections were

held in Haiti, in Secretary Shultz's words, involved a

denial of "all the preliminary aspects that make an election

really mean something." Among these circumstances, we note:

On October 9, 1983, Sylvio Claude, President of

the Haitian Christian Democratic Party, and several

of his party members were detained incommunicado for

the sixth time in five years. On November 14, 1983,

Mr. Claude was severely beaten, as he had been on

several previous occasions. His detention without

explanation followed the announcement that his party

would contest the municipal and legislative

elections. Through arrests, detentions without

explanation, beatings and other official harassment,

the Haitian Christian Democratic Party and its two

newspapers (Conviction and Verite sou Tambou) have

been effectively eliminated.

Throughout November and December 1983, law

professor Gregoire Eugene, the head of Haiti's only

other opposition party, tried unsuccessfully to

obtain a visa to return to Haiti to contest the

election, as President-for-Life Jean-Claude Duvalier


had assured all citizens they could. Dr. Eugene had

been forcibly exiled from Haiti along with some 25

other journalists, lawyers and politicians in

November-December 1980. This mass exiling, illegal

under Haitian law, followed a secret police crackdown

in November 1980 that resulted in the arrest without

explanation of approximately 135 people.

* Press freedom and freedom of expression do not

exist in Haiti. Despite specific guarantees under

the Haitian Constitution and international law, no

opposition or independent newspapers, magazines or

radio broadcasts are allowed in Haiti. Freedom of

the press is curtailed by state security legislation

and a series of press laws that include a highly

restrictive act passed in September 1979 and amended

in March 1980 providing for prior censorship and

harsh penalties for those deemed to have insulted the

Duvalier family, the government or its allies. Under

these circumstances, it was impossible for candidates

to discuss issues important to the elections or

for citizens to learn of differing views. In

fact, except for the publication of brief

biographies of the candidates, there was

virtually no discussion of issues during this



* The actual arrangements for the February 12,

1984 legislative elections permitted widespread

fraud. Persons could register in the same

district under more than one name. After

registration it was possible for a candidate's

organization to "buy up" a number of voter

registration cards and simply vote them on

election day.

* On election day, February 12, 1984, there were

309 candidates for the 59 legislative seats in

the Haitian Chamber of Deputies. Of those

candidates known to knowledgeable observers,

none were considered opposed to or even

independent of the Duvalier government.

However, United States diplomatic personnel

asserted that one candidate was independent

of the regime, and repeatedly cited his candidacy

as evidence that these elections were

-legitimate. This candidate, Serge Beaulieu, ran

against the incumbent in the small city of

Cavaillon in southern Haiti. Embassy officials

said that the fate of Beaulieu's candidacy would

indicate whether the Haitian government was

actually making a serious effort to conduct

meaningful elections.


In fact, Beaulieu's "independent" campaign was

continually harassed. In the days just prior to

the election, his headquarters were twice

ransacked. He and some of his supporters

were threatened with arrest. Beaulieu's car was

riddled with bullets and he was forced eventually

to seek sanctuary in a convent the day before the

elections, along with a Newsweek correspondent

whose driver and translator had been arrested

earlier that day. Beaulieu was not elected.

Several days after the elections, newly appointed United

States Ambassador Clayton McManaway was quoted as saying that

the elections were not democratic. He added, "we were

disappointed that in some areas such as Cavaillon and Gros

Morne the electoral process was not respected, that some

candidates were not allowed to freely campaign, and that in

some instances foreign observers were restricted in their

access to the electoral process."



Throughout its history, Haiti has been ruled by

authoritarian governments and has suffered political

instability, serious human rights violations and economic

deprivation. The "Duvalier Era" of two successive

Presidents-for-Life, now in its 27th year, did not initiate

economic dislocation, poverty, starvation and disease, and

the family is not the first ruling elite to pursue policies

that neglect the most elemental needs of Haitian citizenry.

What the Duvaliers have added has been violent political

repression that has instilled stark terror in the Haitian

people. Francois Duvalier's Ton Ton Macoutes are the

notorious symbol of this system of terror. This unpaid force

that preys on the population economically as well as

politically has all but eliminated the rule of law through

extraleqal executions, torture, arbitrary arrests, prolonged

detentions, and other gross human rights abuses.

When nineteen-year-old Jean-Claude Duvalier formally

succeeded his father in 1971, there was no meaningful

distinction between the total personal power of the Duvalier

family and the Haitian government. The legislature merely

rubber-stamped bills handed down by the President-for-Life.

The press was the mouthpiece of the national Palace.

Opposition political groups and labor unions were completely

crushed. Corruption was, and is, pervasive.



The crackdown on journalists, lawyers and human rights

activists that began in November 1980 continues unabated.

Independent journalists and politicians have been imprisoned,

forcibly exiled or silenced; human rights groups have been

forced to disband or to go underground; and an informal and

infant trade union movement has been crushed. The official

and semi-official Haitian security forces have continued to

arrest or detain without charge or explanation persons

perceived to be opponents by the Duvalier government. In

August 1982, a series of arrests occurred in Port-au-Prince

that resulted in the detention without charge or explanation

of some 35 persons in one of Haiti's political prisons.

Well-known lawyers, engineers, and economists were included

among those held incommunicado and naked in isolation cells.

Several were threatened and physically abused.

In late 1982 and early 1983, the Haitian government began

a campaign of intimidation against the Catholic Church. Just

prior to the meeting in Port-au-Prince of the Central American

Bishops, and after the announcement of the visit of Pope John

Paul II, the secret police detained without charge a young

Catholic lay worker, Gerard Duclerville. Twice he was

severely beaten during interrogation in the Casernes

Dessalines, and at one point the Government announced that he


iad died. He was finally released on February 9, 1983 after

:wo and a half months of imprisonment. No explanation was

given for his detention, torture or eventual release. The

newly-appointed governmental Commission on Human Rights

neither investigated this incident nor issued any statement

of concern at the time that Duclerville was being repeatedly

and severely beaten.

In March 1983, the government detained at least eight

other persons incommunicado. They have yet to be charged,

and Haitian authorities have not officially acknowledged

their detention. Authorities refuse to confirm their


On May 9, 1983 five persons "suspected" of being

affiliated with either the Haitian League for Human Rights or

the Haitian Democratic Party were detained without

explanation or charge and held for over three months.



On October 9, 1983 Sylvio Claude, President of the

Haitian Christian Democratic Party, and three or four other

party members were detained without charge or explanation in

the Casernes Dessalines. This detention represents the sixth

time in less than five years that Claude has been imprisoned.

Claude was held for most of this period incommunicado, and

was denied all visits and any contact with lawyers from the

Haitian League for Human Rights. Food provided by his family

was withheld from him, and he was forced to live on the

meager prison rations of watery corn meal and bread served

once a day. As has occurred in the past, Claude was severely

beaten on November 14, 1983.

Viewed in the context of Claude's previous detentions,

this incident exemplifies the Duvalier regime's complete

intolerance of opposition political activity. In the

legislative elections held in Haiti in 1979, Sylvio Claude

was a candidate in the Mirabalais constituency. He ran

against Mme. Rosalie Adolph, who, with her husband, headed

the Ton Ton Macoutes under Francois Duvalier. During this

time, meetings of Claude's supporters repeatedly were broken

up by military police and the Ton Ton Macoutes. Claude's

candidacy was declared illegal and he was interrogated,


tortured with electric shocks and beaten senseless in the

Casernes Dessalines by Lt. Mont Desire and Lt. Julien, both

under the command of Colonel Jean Value, Chief of the Service

Detectif. Colonel Albert Pierre also participated.

Following the demand of the Haitian League for

Human Rights that Claude either be charged before a judge or

released, Claude was initially released, but then was re-

arrested and forcibly deported to Colombia on May 5, 1979.

He was allowed to return to Haiti some three weeks later, but

again was detained without explanation for several days upon

his return.

On August 26, 1979, known Ton Ton Macoutes in civilian

clothes infiltrated and disrupted a meeting of the Haitian

Christian Democratic Party. The Haitian government used this

"disturbance" as a justification for the arrest of Claude and

many of his party members. Claude subsequently was held in

prison without charge or explanation under harsh conditions

for more than three months.

On November 28, 1980, the Haitian military police

undertook the mass arrest of perceived opponents of the

Duvalier government. Within several days, more than 100

persons were detained and imprisoned without explanation and

formal charges. All of those who were arrested were

initially held incommunicado and none was allowed access to

lawyers or visitors. Following their arrests, these people


iere first taken to the Casernes Dessalines for inter-

.ogation. In early December 1980, sixteen of these

detainees were forcibly exiled from Haiti without ever having

)een charged with any crime or given any explanation for

:heir imprisonment or expulsion.

One of those arrested was Haiti's only other opposition

political leader of national reputation, Maitre Gregoire

Eugene, leader of the Social Christian Party and publisher of

the monthly periodical, Fraternite. Approximately 30 other

sympathizers of Claude's Haitian Christian Democratic Party

were also arrested, and some were eventually charged and

tried in August 1981. A number of those arrested in

November 1980 are still held in the National Penitentiary

without charge or explanation.

On August 26, 1981, nearly nine months after the mass

arrests of November 1980, the government of Haiti brought 26

persons to trial before Judge Menan Pierre-Louis in the

Central Courthouse in Port-au-Prince. Eleven of the

defendants were members of the Haitian Christian Democratic

Party- (PDCH), including Claude. Two others were journalists

imprisoned during the mass arrests of November 1980.

The trial, which violated a number of procedural rights

guaranteed by the Haitian Constitution and international law,

lasted for nineteen hours on a single day and night. All of

the defendants were sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor,

and the other four sentenced to one year in prison. The


Haitian League for Human Rights labeled the verdict a

"judicial scandal of unbelievable proportions," charging that

no credible evidence had been presented by the government. On

February 26, 1982, the Court of Appeals announced that it had

overturned and annulled the lower court's decision due to

procedural flaws and a technical sentencing error. The

retrial of the remaining twenty-two defendants -- whose date

was never publicly announced despite repeated requests from

the defense lawyers and international legal organizations

-- took place on August 27, 1982. It occurred in an

atmosphere of armed intimidation, with up to 60 security

police bearing rifles and submachine guns posted in front of

and inside the court. Many family members of the accused

were barred from the courtroom, and one of Sylvio Claude's

sons was physically ejected from the court in the presence of

an international legal observer. According to members of the

Port-au-Prince Bar who attended the trial as observers (but

did not represent any of the parties), the vast majority of

the men who packed the large courtroom were security force

members or their relatives and friends, all dressed in

civilian clothes.

Throughout the trial, the government prosecutor shouted

down the defense lawyers and the defendants. The government

prosecutor also frequently shouted at the presiding judge,

Theophile Jean Francoise, and often appeared to intimidate

him. Throughout most of the last five hours of the trial,


(which ended at 6:50 a.m. on Saturday, August 28th), a

majority of jurors were asleep, as were the court clerks

responsible for transcribing the proceedings. With no

mention of prosecutorial misconduct or the lack of credible

evidence against the defendants, all were found guilty as

charged and sentenced to the maximum of six years in prison.

On September 22, 1982, the 25th anniversary of the

"Duvalier era," President-for-Life Duvalier granted all

twenty-two defendants' request for amnesty. The defendants

have been allowed to return home, but some cannot leave their

homes and all are under constant surveillance.

As noted above, Claude was harassed by the security

forces continuously following his presidential pardon and

release from prison. Claude was never allowed to resume any

political activities, and was even prevented from sustaining

his family economically. In February of 1983, Claude was

threatened by security force members so frequently that he

chose to flee Port-au-Prince and go into hiding to protect




Applying the criterion articulated by Secretary of State

Shultz, the February elections in Haiti were not meaningful:

"all the preliminary aspects that make an election really

mean something" were strikingly absent in the period

preceding elections. The only two opposition parties in

Haiti have been decimated. The leader of one -- Sylvio

Claude -- was arrested and beaten in the months leading up to

elections. When the leader of the other -- Dr. Eugene

Gregoire -- sought to return to Haiti from his forced exile

in the U.S. so that he could contest elections, he was barred

from entering the country.

Continuing arrests and detention of persons perceived to

oppose the Duvalier government have fostered a climate of

fear in which the democratic process has little meaning. And

had meaningful electoral choices been available, the Haitian

citizenry would have been hard-pressed to make informed

choices since press freedom simply does not exist in Haiti.

SUnder these conditions, the recent elections in Haiti

were a mockery of the democratic process.


The Americas Watch is a citizens organization that

promotes human rights in all countries of the Americas and

strives to make human rights a significant component of U.S.

foreign policy. Founded in 1981, its Chairman is Orville H.

Schell and its Vice Chairman is Aryeh Neier.


The Lawyers Committee for International Human Rights is

a public interest law center that promotes compliance with

internationally recognized human rights law and legal

principles. It was founded in 1975. Its Chairman is Marvin

E. Frankel, its Executive Director is Michael H. Posner and

its Deputy Director is Diane F. Orentlicher.