This volume was donated to LLMC to enrich its on-line offerings and
for purposes of long-term preservation by
Columbia University Law Library
Return to the Darkest Days
Human Rights in Haiti since the Coup
National Coalition for Haitian Refugees
Physicians for Human Rights
December 30, 1991
Introduction 1 Casualties are High 2 Medical Consequences of the Repression 4 A Nation of Refugees and Displaced Persons 5
Targets of the Repression .
Aristide Ministers Sought .
The Arrest and Beating of the Mayor of Port-au-Prince.
Peasant Resources Are Destroyed .
One Rural Town's Experience .
Repression During the November OAS Visit .
Mid-December Violence .
Return of the Tontons Macoutes .
Restoration of the Section Chiefs .
Attacks on Popular Organizations .
Attacks on Priests and Nuns .
Crushing the Independent Media .
The National Penitentiary .
De facto Prime Minister Jean-Jacques Honorat Justifies Coup .
United States Policy .
. 16 18
This report was written by Anne Fuller, associate director of the National Coalition for Haitian Refugees, and Amy Wilentz, author of "The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier" and a consultant to Americas Watch. An investigative team including the authors and Steven Oliver, M.D., Department of Medicine, Georgetown University and a consultant to Physicians for Human Rights, visited Haiti from December 3-10. Dr. Oliver also contributed to this report, which was edited by Kenneth Roth, deputy director of Human Rights Watch, the parent organization of Americas Watch. Dr. Paul Beach provided invaluable assistance in Haiti.
The mission upon which this report is based was the first by independent international human rights groups since the coup d'etat that overthrew elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on September 30. The team met with representatives of Haiti's leading human rights groups, interviewed eyewitnesses to the violence that accompanied the coup's early days, spoke with refugees from the countryside living clandestinely in Port-au-Prince, with doctors and nurses from Haiti's central public hospital and other facilities, interviewed the Mayor of Port-au-Prince, Evans Paul, who has been living in hiding since his release by the army in October, talked with a local elected official from Port-au-Prince, leaders of neighborhood committees in the capital, priests and lay people associated with the Ti Legliz movement, university students and members of the National Student Federation. They also met with U.S. Embassy officials, and with acting Prime Minister Jean-Jacques Honorat and visited Haiti's largest prison, the National Penitentiary.
Our mission could not have been accomplished without the courage of many Haitians who came forward to speak with us despite the danger to themselves. In particular, we thank the Platform of Haitian Human Rights Defense Organizations, which has provided essential and reliable information on human rights conditions since the coup. The members of the Platform are:
The Alternative Justice Project (PAJ)
Justice and Peace Commission of the Roman Catholic Church
The Commission for Legal Assistance of the Haitian Religious
Legal Assistance Group (GAJ)
Center for Economic and Social Research and Training for
Karl Leveque Center
Karl Leveque Cultural Institute
Office of Research for Development (BRD)
Legal Aid Agency of the Haitian Association of Voluntary
Americas Watch and the National Coalition for Haitian Refugees have been monitoring human rights in Haiti since 1983. This is their fifteenth report on Haiti, the first with Physicians for Human Rights.
Americas Watch was established in 1981 to monitor and promote observance of human rights in Latin America and the Caribbean. The chair is Peter Bell and the vicechairs are Stephen Kass and Marina Kaufman. Its Executive Director is Juan E. M~ndez; Associate Directors, Cynthia Arnson and Anne Manuel; Director of San Salvador Office, David Holiday; Representative in Santiago, Cynthia Brown; Representative in Buenos Aires, Patricia Pittman; Research Associate, Mary Jane Camejo; Associates, Clifford C. Rohde and Patricia Sinay.
Americas Watch is a division of Human Rights Watch, which also includes Africa Watch, Asia Watch, Helsinki Watch, Middle East Watch, and the Fund for Free Expression. Robert Bernstein is the chair of Human Rights Watch; Adrian DeWind is the vice-chair; Aryeh Neier, executive director; Kenneth Roth, deputy director; Holly J. Burkhalter, Washington director; Ellen Lutz, California director; Susan Osnos, press director; Jemera Rone, counsel; Joanna Weschler, Prison Project director; and Dorothy Q. Thomas, Women's Rights Project director.
Established in 1982, the National Coalition for Haitian Refugees is composed of 47 legal, human rights, civil rights, church, labor and Haitian community organizations working together to seek justice for Haitian refugees in the United States and to monitor and promote human rights in Haiti. Its executive director is Jocelyn McCalla and its associate director is Anne Fuller. In addition to periodic reports on human rights in Haiti, the National Coalition for Haitian Refugees publishes a monthly bulletin on human rights and refugee affairs. It is available upon request.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a national organization of health professionals whose goal is to bring the skills of the medical profession to the protection of human rights. Its executive director is Jonathan E. Fine, M.D., its associate director is Susannah Sirkin, and its president is H. Jack Geiger, M.D. P1HR works to:
o prevent the participation of doctors in torture, other serious abuses or
administration of the death penalty;
o defend imprisoned health officials;
o stop physical and psychological abuse of citizens by governments; and
0 provide medical and humanitarian aid to the victims of repression.
Other reports issued on human rights in Haiti include the following:
Physicians for Human Rights, Haiti Since Duvalier: A Study of the Prisons, forthcoming. Americas Watch, the National Coalition for Haitian Refugees and Caribbean Rights, Haiti: The Aristide Government's Human Rights Record, November 1991. Americas Watch and the National Coalition for Haitian Refugees, In the Army's Hands: Human Rights in Haiti on the Eve of the Elections, December 1990. Americas Watch, the National Coalition for Haitian Refugees, Caribbean Rights and the International Commission of Jurists, Reverting to Despotism: Human Rights in Haiti, March 1990.
Americas Watch, the National Coalition for Haitian Refugees and Caribbean Rights, The More Things Change. .Human Rights in Haiti, February 1989. Americas Watch and the National Coalition for Haitian Refugees, Terror and the 1987 Elections, November 1987.
Americas Watch and the National Coalition for Haitian Refugees, Haiti: Duvalierism Since Duvalier, October 1986.
Reports on abuses against Haitians in the Dominican Republic include the following:
Americas Watch, the National Coalition for Haitian Refugees and Caribbean Rights, HalfMeasures: Reform, Forced Labor and the Dominican Sugar Industry, March 1991. Americas Watch, the National Coalition for Haitian Refugees and Caribbean Rights, Harvesting Oppression: Forced Haitian Labor in the Dominican Sugar Industry, June 1990. Americas Watch, the National Coalition for Haitian Refugees and Caribbean Rights, Haitian Sugar-Cane Cutters in the Dominican Republic, November 1989.
Reports on the treatment of Haitian and other asylum seekers in the United States: Physicians for Human Rights and Minnesota Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, Hidden from View: Human Rights Conditions in the Krome Detention Center, April 1991.
Copies of these reports are available from:
485 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10017
(212) 972-8400, fax (212) 972-0905
National Coalition for Haitian Refugees 16 East 42nd Street, New York, NY 10017
(212) 867-0020, fax (212) 867-1668
Physicians for Human Rights
100 Boylston Street, Suite 620, Boston, MA 02116
(617) 695-9041, fax (617) 695-0307
The elected government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was only the first casualty of the brutal military regime that took power in Haiti on September 30. Not content simply to seize the reins of government, the army has embarked on a systematic and continuing campaign to stamp out the vibrant civil society that has taken root in Haiti since the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship nearly six years ago.
The coup itself marked only the beginning of this crusade. In the ensuing three months, with ebbs and flows but largely without pause, the army has hunted down a broad range of people perceived as threatening its aspirations to power. Some of these were marked as Aristide supporters. Others were deemed to resist military rule. But such open opposition was hardly necessary to become the army's victim. Many of those targeted were nothing more than members of popular organizations. But in the army's evident quest to return Haiti to the terrified paralysis of the Duvalier dictatorship, the independent collective activity represented by these once blossoming popular groups is seen as an incipient threat to army control. The prospect that the military regime might be compelled through international pressure to accept a return of the Aristide government has only redoubled the army's efforts to wipe out the popular organizations that had given the Aristide government a base of support on which to attempt to exert civilian control over uniformed forces.
The list of the army's victims reads like a glossary of the many dynamic and outspoken organizations that had come to populate the Haitian political landscape in recent years. The many lively and combative radio stations -- the main form of communication with Haiti's dispersed and largely illiterate population -- have been silenced, or reduced to innocuous programming. The spirited trade unions and popular organizations have been neutralized, with their leaders arrested or in hiding and their members too terrified to assemble. Entire neighborhoods -- especially those poor and populous shantytowns in Port-au-Prince and across the country that voted for Aristide almost unanimously and that have filled the ranks of popular organizations during the past five years -- have been targeted for particularly brutal and concentrated attacks.
The goal of the repression is twofold: first, to destroy the political and social gains made since the downfall of the Duvalier dynasty; and second, to ensure that no matter what Haiti's political future may hold, all structures for duplicating those gains will have been lain waste.
The tools of repression are drawn from Haiti's darkest days. In the period immediately following the coup, massacre and widespread killing were the order of the day. Since then, the techniques have become more refined but remain similarly brutal. Selected assassinations, disappearances, severe beatings and political arrests continue. Common people are arrested merely for having photographs of President Aristide in their homes or for the possession of pro-Aristide literature. All of these abuses are
committed with impunity, as Haiti's justice system has ceased to function and its nominally civilian government maintains no control whatsoever over the thugs in uniform. Several of those we interviewed who lived through the brutal regime of Francois Duvalier (1957-1971) said that they felt this repression was "worse than Papa Doc."
As Haitians began in early November to flee this violence and persecution in large numbers, the Bush Administration changed from an outspoken proponent of human rights and democracy in Haiti to a shameful apologist, in a desperate attempt to stem the tide of refugees heading for the Florida coast. Immediately after the coup, the Administration condemned the army's action, spoke out forcefully against military abuses, and actively supported the Organization of American States (OAS) in imposing a trade embargo pending restoration of the Aristide government. One month later, the Bush Administration responded to the influx of refugees with a radical shift in its human rights policy. Evidently fearful that continuing honest and outspoken criticism of military abuses in Haiti would jeopardize the legal defense of its interdiction efforts, which had come under challenge in U.S. courts, the Administration stopped public criticism altogether. Since late October, Haiti has been immune from censure by the State Department on human rights grounds.
Worse, in mid-December, the State Department's Asylum Office issued a fraudulent opinion asserting that political persecution of Aristide supporters had ceased. The aim was to discourage asylum officers from liberally granting refuge to the fleeing Haitians an act inconsistent with the obligation under international law not to return anyone to a country where he or she would face political persecution (nonrefoulement). The effect was to provide rhetorical cover to the army's ongoing campaign of repression
-- relieving the pressure to curtail the violence at precisely the moment when, as the embargo tightens, the military is most susceptible to international pressure.
Casualties are High
We returned from Haiti unable to provide exact statistics on casualties since the coup. Casualty figures in Port-au-Prince are notoriously difficult to substantiate and therefore susceptible to political manipulation. Casualty figures in the Haitian countryside do not exist.
Still, educated estimates can be made by those familiar with the Haitian political and medical terrain. Generally reliable Haitian human rights groups have estimated that at least 1,000 people were killed in the first two weeks of the coup and perhaps another 500 after that.
[CHADEL, the human rights group formerly led by de facto prime minister JeanJacques Honorat and still run by his closest advisers, including his wife, estimates some
200 post-coup deaths in October. Given the testimony we heard from medical personnel, priests, neighborhood committee members and peasant leaders fleeing the violence in the countryside, we distrust the lower figure given by CHADEL and the de facto government, although it must be pointed out that 200 is a higher casualty figure than has been cited during almost any political upheaval in Haiti since the days of Franqois Duvalier.]
Most casualty statistics available in Haiti come from the State University Hospital. It can safely be assumed, however, that coup victims in great numbers were unable to seek medical assistance in hospitals because of lack of transportation and fear of further violence en route. Indeed, many poor neighborhoods were targeted by the military (because of a perceived allegiance to President Aristide), and even in the best of times the poor are hesitant to seek professional medical attention because of the expense of transportation and medicine and because of a customary reliance on more available traditional remedies. Further, during the first week after the coup, the situation on the streets of Port-au-Prince was so violent that even doctors associated with the state hospital failed to arrive to help in the emergency, in spite of the fact that virtually all of them own private cars. In addition, the two ambulances sent out by the State Hospital to gather up the wounded were fired on during the coup, and one ambulance driver subsequently died of his injuries.
During the week after the coup, the State University Hospital was in complete disarray, according to a member of the Union of Nursing Personnel (Syndicat du Personnel Infirmire). "We could not count the number of wounded arriving," she said, both because there were so many and because no administrative staff was present to keep full records.
Only four doctors, three nurses and two orderlies were working in surgery during the earliest days of the coup. A nurse told the delegation that those who could not be saved were sent away or allowed to die on hospital grounds.
After a week, the State Hospital reported 88 deaths due to political violence. One witness we spoke to, however, who was delivering medical supplies to the State Hospital at 9 AM on September 30th, reported seeing at least 50 dead and another 100 or so with serious bullet wounds. ("The corridors," he reported, "were full of blood.") Port-au-Prince's private hospitals also reported numerous deaths from political violence during the first week of the coup.
Foreign journalists saw and filmed a common grave near Port-au-Prince filled with at least 12 bodies that had been riddled with bullets. Another foreign journalist saw the bodies of five young men, their hands tied behind their backs, who had been deposited at the side of the National Highway to rot. The history of Haitian paramilitary practices leads this delegation to believe there may well have been other such sites.
In Cit6 Soleil, a vast neighborhood of slums on the edge of Port-au-Prince, according to testimony received, from 50-150 people were killed by soldiers on the night of September 29-30. At least 30 people were also killed there on October 2, ostensibly in reprisal for the lynching of two soldiers.
In the Lamentin zone of Carrefour, a populous town just outside the capital, 30-40 people, including children and the elderly, were slain by soldiers on October 2. Uncorroborated reports from a neighborhood committee in Carrefour-Feuilles (Port-auPrince) estimated the number of deaths in that zone at 70-100 in the months since the coup.
Medical Consequences of the Repression
Since the coup d'etat, there has been an alarming deterioration in the already abysmal state of health care in Haiti. Critically necessary medical and public health services have disintegrated, and shocking abuses of human rights have occurred within hospitals and other medical facilities. During the first 48 hours of the coup, soldiers fired on ambulances, along with any other traffic that hazarded its way along Port-auPrince's virtually empty streets.
Physicians reported that soldiers fired in the area of the State University Hospital for four days, intimidating health care workers and the wounded. Several physicians have been arrested and jailed because of their support for the Aristide administration (Aristide's government included a number of prominent physicians, and doctors were numerous in his circle of well-known supporters). Some physicians have had to flee their homes with their families. One doctor associated with Aristide reported, "I have received phone calls from unknown people who say 'We have information. They are coming for you,' and then I take my family and we must go to another house that night." The homes of other leading physicians have been searched under the pretext that arms caches are reportedly hidden there.
During the initial days following the coup, conditions at the State University Hospital in Port-au-Prince, the country's largest public hospital, were alarming. Although drugs necessary for treating trauma victims are always in short supply, this lack was compounded by an inability to venture into the streets to get more pharmaceutical supplies because the streets generally were too dangerous, and because soldiers were firing all around the hospital.
Wound infections were rampant. Patients with gunshot wounds developed osteomyelitis (a chronic and sometimes life-threatening infection of the bone) because of the unavailability of antibiotics and a shortage of skilled staff and wound dressing materials. Many medical personnel who would have been present under normal conditions were unable to get to the hospital because of conditions of insecurity in the
streets. During the first two weeks after the coup, the outpatient facility, which was responsible for first aid and triage, was operating with only 25 percent of its staff present. An independent review of emergency medical needs' estimated that at least 70 percent of the serious trauma cases admitted (virtually all wounded by gunshot) died for lack of intravenous fluids, blood for transfusion, and proper or even reasonable postoperative care.
On September 29 and 30, soldiers occupied the hospital, roaming its wards and corridors, discharging their weapons outside the orthopedic operating rooms and in other areas, and conducting searches that went so far as to enter the surgical operating areas.
In rural Haiti, evidence has begun to appear of intimidation of rural health-care workers who have been hounded from their jobs and often, from their villages. One example: In Mar6cage, near Thomonde, the military destroyed a health clinic and the health staff was forced into hiding. In areas like this one, there are no other health services available to most Haitians. In places where the repression is most severe and where rural health clinics have come under attack, group immunization programs have been halted because soldiers have made a practice of attacking any organized meeting of rural people.
A Nation of Refugees and Displaced Persons
The coup has forced tens of thousands of people to leave their homes, creating a large population of internally displaced persons as well as refugees on the high seas and in the neighboring Dominican Republic.
In a concerted military action in Cap Haftien between September 30 and October 9, more than 600 people were forcibly evacuated from their homes in a pro-Aristide slum called Cit6 Lescot. Ten were killed in the operation.
Beginning in the second week after the coup, apparently after hopes that Aristide might swiftly return were smothered, thousands of people began to flee the pervasive violence of Port-au-Prince, seeking refuge in the countryside from the ubiquitous Portau-Prince military. Loss of jobs and fear of economic hardship were probably a contributing factor in this exodus. There was a smaller, but significant movement by leaders of grassroots peasant and church-based organizations to the city, where they
"Inventaire des Besoins en Medicaments et en Material Medical d'Urgence des
Institutions Sanitaires," by the Bureau d'Appui 4 la Cooperation Canadien, November 1991.
could be better hid. By December, diplomats were estimating that 250,000 people had fled Port-au-Prince for the countryside.
It was in early November that a wave of boat people, taking to sea in leaky boats, began to be intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard. By late December, nearly 8,000 had been interdicted. Less noticed has been the equal or perhaps higher number who have fled east over the border to the Dominican Republic. (This flight to the Dominican Republic is the more remarkable because only last spring and summer the Dominican authorities embarked on a massive campaign of indiscriminate round-ups and deportations of Haitians.)
Targets of the Repression
Since the coup d'etat, the violence of the repression in Haiti has been too widespread for us to catalogue every incident about which we have received testimony. The following cases seem particularly important or emblematic of the larger picture:
Aristide Ministers Sought
The de facto government has issued warrants for the arrest of President Aristide and Rend Prdval, his prime minister. The authorities charge that Aristide and Preval are responsible for the September 29-30 assassinations of Sylvio Claude, a conservative populist politician, and Roger Lafontant, a former head of the feared Tontons Macoutes paramilitary police. The evidence presented in support of these charges is highly suspect and some sources believe that the army is the culprit in both killings. The facts remain elusive.
Warrants have also been issued for the arrest of Jean-Robert Sabalat, Aristide's highly respected foreign minister and the former head of the Electoral Council, and for Frantz V6rella, Aristide's minister of public works, on the grounds that they are undertaking terrorist activities. (Fragmentation grenades were allegedly found by soldiers in the house of a friend of Sabalat's, but no real evidence has been brought forward to warrant the arrest of either minister.)
While President Aristide was whisked into exile during the coup d'etat, the members of his government being sought by the de facto authorities are still in Haiti.
* The Arrest and Beating of the Mayor of Port-au-Prince
On October 7, Evans Paul, the mayor of Port-au-Prince, went to the airport to meet with diplomats from the Organization of American States during the OAS' first negotiating visit to Haiti. He was also planning to fly to Venezuela with other Haitian political leaders for talks with Aristide.
Paul was waiting in a room of the airport with three politicians and a small group of nervous soldiers when General Raoul C~dras arrived, with more troops in tow; this group of soldiers was extremely angry at the mayor because he had publicly called for Aristide's return. What Paul describes as about 100 soldiers began to agitate against him. A major moved Paul into a small room to protect him and locked the door. But before long, the soldiers forced open the door and dragged Paul out.
"Dozens of soldiers began beating me, with the butts of their rifles, revolvers and with their fists," Paul told our delegation. "'We're going to take him to Parliament and force him to accept [Joseph] Ndrette [as president],' they cried. 'We'll kill him at the Camp d'Application. We'll crush his testicles.' These were the kind of threats they shouted.
"In the bus they continued to beat me and when we got to the Camp d'Application, I thought it would be the end. But all the officers protected me. The soldiers were furious."
Paul asked to speak to the angry crowd of enlisted men. At first the officers refused, but eventually they accepted the idea, he said. Bloodied and bruised, he started to talk from a window of the barracks. Whether because of Paul's famed eloquence or not, the soldiers eventually calmed down.
Some time later that same night, a colonel had 12 soldiers bring the mayor up to the barracks in the wealthy Port-au-Prince suburb of P~tionville. They took the opportunity to renew the beating during the 45 minutes it took to reach the army post there. In PMtionville, soldiers sent Paul into a small cell that already had some 25 persons in it, most of them accused "zenglendos," or Duvalierist criminals. The soldiers knew that when these men realized who Paul was, they would attack him as an official of the government responsible for their arrest. But Paul managed to negotiate a settlement with his cellmates, and he was left alone.
After an hour, a lieutenant came to say that there were no charges against the mayor, and that he was being held only "for his own safety." Paul was let out of jail at 1 AM in the morning on October 8, while a shoot-on-sight curfew was very much in effect. Nonetheless, he managed to find a place to spend the rest of the night, and went into hiding with fractured ribs, back and eye injuries.
Peasant Resources Are Destroyed
Throughout the country, food-storage silos belonging to peasant groups have been pillaged and destroyed. Livestock have sometimes been slaughtered: Within the first two weeks of the coup, a group of soldiers and armed civilians in Marecage, a village near Thomonde in the Central Plateau, slaughtered all the pigs that had been supplied to local peasant groups by a Haitian nongovernmental organization, the Ecumenical Self-
Help Service (Service Oecum6nique d'Entraide, or SOE), in an effort to reintroduce Creole pigs into the country. (Haiti's Creole pig population was eradicated in 1983 in a U.S. government-sponsored program aimed at wiping out the swine fever virus before it could spread to U.S. shores. Demands for new pigs of that same breed have been at the top of the list of priorities of peasant groups in Haiti since 1986.) An SOE leader described the slaughter as "a symbolic killing of peasant grassroots organizations."
* One Rural Town's Experience
In the town of Ranquitte (North Department), the crackdown began in midOctober, with soldiers arresting some 40 local leaders and peasant organizers.
Most of those arrested were released after two days when they agreed to pay their military jailers a bribe that averaged about $20.
Then, on November 8, targeted repression started up again. An organizer with a Ranquitte peasant movement who is now in hiding in Port-au-Prince told us what happened to him:
"At five in the morning, while I was sleeping, [two soldiers, one in
uniform, both of them known to our informant] knocked on the door of
my house. My father answered.
"They said, 'Where is [using his nickname]?'
"'He's not here,' my father told them.
"So they said 'Open all the doors.'
"I tried to slip out to another house but on my way I ran into
another soldier, who knew me by sight, and he was armed with a lot of
weapons, and I was arrested."
Our informant's father was also arrested, both of them without a warrant. Both were accused of preventing children from going to school. At the time, the military government hoped to gain face by presiding over a "normal" opening of the school year, but throughout Haiti, as a sign of their opposition to the military regime and out of fear for their security, most parents kept their children home.
Among the six people arrested on November 8 in Ranquitte were three women, including Sister Loretta Philistin, director of the town's school. In the makeshift jail -- a small house rented by the army for this use, as is common in rural Haiti Corporal Jean-Claude Alexandre ordered Sister Loretta to strip, and threatened her with violence if she refused. Only when the sergeant stepped in, did the corporal relent.
During their interrogation several of those arrested were asked to give the names of all members of local peasant organizations. The six were freed provisionally by a justice of the peace who had just come back to office after having been dismissed under
Aristide. In order to gain their liberty, they had to pay $370 plus two gallons of gas and a case of motor oil (This represents a fortune in rural Haiti, where a peasant's annual income is usually around $100-$150.)
Our informant fled to Port-au-Prince after the sergeant and six former Tontons Macoutes came to his house on November 13.
Repression During the November OAS Visit
Opponents of the coup made several attempts to protest publicly while an OAS delegation was in Haiti from November 10-13 discussing possibilities for ending the crisis. All these efforts were crushed. Supporters of the coup, on the other hand, were allowed to demonstrate in large numbers in such militarily sensitive areas as Haiti's International Airport, where they shouted at the OAS delegation and spray painted antiAristide slogans in English on the airport walls. Later, similar crowds threatened proAristide Haitians who came to talk with the OAS delegation at a hillside hotel, beating on their cars and shouting threats against their persons.
The student union FENEH (FWdration Nationale des Etudiants Hailiens) called for a meeting and press conference at the FaculM des Sciences of the state university that was intended to end in a public demonstration. The building was surrounded by soldiers, and approximately 130 students were arrested, beaten on the spot and again while in custody at the Investigations and Anti-Gang Service of the police.
Some fifty students were then transferred to the National Penitentiary. Several students reported that while at the Penitentiary, they were questioned by the wife of de facto prime minister Jean-Jacques Honorat and promised their freedom if they taped recorded statements for her program on the Catholic Church's radio station, Radio Soleil, saying that they had not been mistreated. [For many years a respected member of the Haitian news media, Radio Soleil lost credibility among the Haitian people after the coup d'etat because it continued to air the program "Honneur et Respect" produced by CHADEL, Honorat's former human-rights group. Soleil also lost standing with Haitians because it attacked the defunct Aristide government on human rights grounds without condemning the violent abuses of the current military regime. Thus, the fact that Radio Soleil was permitted to broadcast at times when all but the state run radio were harassed off the air was no mark of the military regime's respect for an objective media in Haiti.]
On November 14, Civil Court Judge Jean Bien-Aimd ordered all the students freed immediately, agreeing with their lawyers that they had been arrested illegally. This was not followed, however. At the Anti-Gang Service, Captain Jacky Mitton told the students' lawyers, "It was the police who arrested them; it's up to the police to free them." Those held in the National Penitentiary were freed within eight days of their arrest. A small stream of the others may have been released because of connections in the army or payments made to soldiers but the whereabouts of at least 30 remain
unknown, and it is suspected that they are incarcerated in various notorious police lockups around Port-au-Prince [see The National Penitentiary, below].
The de facto government alleges that all students who were arrested that day have been released, although Ramon Guillaume, the head of the de -facto government's Human Rights Bureau, acknowledges that some "false students" (or agitators) who were arrested on that day at the Faculte may still be in custody. None of the students has been charged, and none has been permitted to see a lawyer.
Also on November 12, a symbolic funeral Mass in memory of the victims of the coup, was held at the Church of St. Gerard in the Carrefour-Feuilles zone of Port-auPrince (a pro-Aristide neighborhood). The Mass was used by the military as an excuse to begin a round-up in the densely populated neighborhood. Scores were beaten and arrested, with soldiers arriving at houses and simply pulling out all the young men they found present.
A boy of 13 told us he was arrested, beaten by a crowd of soldiers, and jailed. Later that night, he alleges, he witnessed the massacre of some twenty young men, and was then asked to identify other Aristide supporters from Carrefour-Feuilles. He was released after payment was made to his jailers. We have no independent corroboration for the boy's story of a massacre, but his own beating, arrest and release have been confirmed by witnesses.
* Mid-December Violence
A new upturn in violence began with the December 10 abduction of radio station director, F6lix Lamy, by armed men. (See Crushing the Media, below.) During the weekend of December 14-15, on the eve of the anniversary of Jean-Bertrand Aristide's election with two thirds of the popular vote, soldiers searched various poor neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince, confiscating scythes, machetes and any tool that could conceivably be put to violent use. Poor and populous neighborhoods such as Citd Soleil, Carrefour, Martissant, Solino, Carrefour-Feuilles, and Delmas, were also terrorized by machine gun fire.
During the same weekend, Aristide supporters were rounded up all over the country, but especially in the highly politicized Artibonite Valley. Some fifty young people said to belong to the MOP, Movement to Organize the People, were arrested in Arcahaie. Other arrests were reported in Marchand Dessalines, in Petite Rivi6re de l'Artibonite, in Ddsarmes, in Ennery (where the rectory was hit with bullets), and in Verrettes. A priest reported on the Voice of America that 48 people had been arrested in GonaYves.
In Pignon in the North department, parliamentary representative Astrel Charles, a member of PAIN (National Agricultural and Industrial Party), was assassinated by a
local military official. Two other deputies from the National Front for Democracy and Change, a coalition party that supported Aristide's presidential candidacy, were targets of military sponsored attacks (see Restoration of the Section Chiefs, below).
* Return of the Tontons Macoutes
In mid-December, a pirate radio station, calling itself Radio VSN-57, began broadcasting explicit threats against Aristide supporters and community organizations. [The call letters and numbers of the new station refer to the Volunteers for National Security (VSN), the original name of Francois Duvalier's notorious paramilitary police, the Tontons Macoutes, and to 1957, the year in which Duvalier came to power)
On the evening of December 15, a spokesman claiming to represent the Tontons Macoutes called on "all Tontons Macoutes" to mobilize against supporters of ousted president Aristide.
The spokesman said: "We need to neutralize. all those who organize the chaos in this country. For this reason we have to find them. and crush them. When you do find them. you should know what to do. Go and do your job. Crush them, eat them, drink their blood."
The speaker then read out the names and some addresses of more than 100 individuals, including priests, journalists, business leaders and political activists, as well as personal friends of the exiled president. This was followed by similar advisories and threats against some 150 small community organizations whose addresses, phone numbers and regular schedule of meetings were broadcast.
Radio VSN-57 has continued to broadcast intermittently, although Haiti's traditional radio stations remain intimidated into silence. When called before the Haitian Senate in late December to hear criticisms of his human rights record, de facto prime minister Honorat refused to condemn the broadcasts. In fact, the state-run Radio Nationale has re-aired the lists in the guise of reporting the Radio-VSN broadcasts as news.
* Restoration of the Section Chiefs
Along with the Tontons Macoutes, we have seen the restoration of another key repressive institution, the rural section chief (chef de section).
Under the Duvalier dynasty and after its fall, the section chiefs, who ran Haiti's smallest political divisions of which there are more than 500, were infamous as exploiters of the peasantry. The section chief was often a member of the Duvaliers' paramilitary force (the Tontons Macoutes) and was the sole authority and leading police figure in the area. Extortion, illegal confiscation of property, illegal arrest and detention, and rape
were among his methods of governance. The chiefs, who were equivalent to rural sheriffs, were integrated into the Haitian army, and for decades were the absolute rulers of rural Haiti.
Under President Aristide, the section chiefs were disbanded as a military force, and many retired into private life. Under the de facto military regime, however, although the force has not been formally reinstated, many of these vastly unpopular men, along with their legions of deputies, have returned to lead mini-repressions against the local popular and peasant organizations that have long opposed the chiefs' autocratic rule.
Under Aristide, the section chief's ostensible role as arbiter and guiding hand began to be taken up by the members of each section's elected three person CASEC or Administrative Council of the Communal Section. Our delegation heard several reports of post-coup intimidation of CASEC leaders by the returning section chiefs. In some sections, CASEC leaders were hunted out of the area; in others, their houses were searched and pillaged.
In mid-December, section chiefs returning to power in three towns were responsible for attacks on elected deputies who served in the Legislature in Port-auPrince:
o On December 15, Astrel Charles, the deputy from Pignon, in the North Department, was shot and killed by former section chief Ilium Pierre. Charles was a member of PAIN (National Agricultural and Industrial Party).
o On the same day, in Plaisance (also in the North Department), the home of Deputy Jean Mand~nave was burned down by a former section chief, along with the homes of 60 of his constituents. Mand~nave is a member of the National Front for Democracy and Change (FNCD), a coalition party that supported Aristide's presidential candidacy.
o In Rossignol, a village near Grande Saline in the Artibonite Valley, the section chief led a rampage of violence against constituents of FNCD Deputy Samuel Milord, killing at least two people, arresting 15 and burning down some 30 houses.
* Attacks on Popular Organizations
The army has targeted popular organizations throughout the country, including the Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP), the Konbit Komilfo, the Labadie Youth Movement, the Planters' Defense Group of the Artibonite, the Autonomous Confederation of Haitian Workers (CATH), the literacy project ALPHA, the Movement of Young Peasants of Lascahobas, and the September 17 Popular Organization. Groups associated with Caritas, the Catholic Church's relief organization, and with the popular
Ti Legliz Catholic Church movement have also been singled out for attack. Members of these organizations have been threatened, arrested or forced into hiding after their offices were raided and destroyed by soldiers.
* Attacks on Priests and Nuns
At least fourteen priests and nuns associated with the Ti Legliz movement have been intimidated, and at least six have been arrested and released in what seems to be a pattern of harassment. The church in the town of D~sarmes long a gathering place for peasant organizations has been declared off-limits by the military for meetings and Mass. Just days after our delegation left Haiti, three young men who worked for the Bishop of J6r6mie, Willy Romelus, were arrested by soldiers at the Bishopric. On December 14, the car and personal belongings of Bishop Emmanuel Constant of GonaYves were searched three times by soldiers ostensibly looking for weapons.
An incomplete list of those clergy arrested and released includes Father Eddy Julien, an assistant to Bishop Rom~lus of J6r~mie; Father Exilien Pierre of Bas Limb6; Sister Loretta Philistin of Ranquitte; Father Clrism6 in the Grande Anse; Father Marc Fivez of Thomassique.
Among those harassed are: Father Antoine Adrien of Pont Sonde; Father William Smarth of Pont Sond6; Father Acnys Desrosin of Plaisance; Father Vernet Luxana; Father Emile Gousse of Aquin; Father Joachim Samedi of Jr6mie; Father Yves Voltaire of Maion; Father Marcel Boussel of Ballon in the Plaine du Nord, a Belgian who is the former director of Radio Ave Maria in Cap Haitien; Father Yvon Joseph of Cap Haitien; Father Yvon Massac of Fermathe.
Crushing the Independent Media
Under the de facto regime, Haiti's most important news organs -- its independent radio stations have been terrorized into effective silence. Setting the tone of the repression, on September 30, Jacques Gary Simeon, the head of Radio Caraibes and a journalist noted for his editorials ridiculing certain police and military figures, was beaten and later assassinated.
Military attacks on stations, as well as assassinations, arrests and torture of journalists, silenced these once powerful voices in the first days of the coup d'etat. Radio Antilles Internationale, Radio Cacique, Radio Caraibes, Radio Haiti Internationale, Radio Lumire, and Radio M~tropole all have been attacked and forced to cease broadcasting. Journalists who have been arrested since the coup include Herald Gabiliste, Jean-Pierre Louis and Paul Jean-Mario of Radio Antilles; Fr~re Roday and a reporter known as Philiare of Radio Cacique; Mich6 Sully of Radio Galaxie; Michel Favard and Nicolas Sorenville of Radio Nationale; Fernand Billon of Radio Soleil; Masner Beauplan of
Collectif Kiskeya in Hinche; and Jean-Robert Philippe of the Voice of America. Other journalists have been physically assaulted or threatened by soldiers, or denounced on the reconstituted state-run Radio Nationale, including Thony Belizaire of Agence FrancePresse; Sony Bastien and Lilianne Pierre Paul of Collectif Kiskeya; Jean-Laurent Nelson of Radio Plus and an officer of the Association of Haitian Journalists; Edwige Balutansky of Reuters; and Marvel Dandin of Radio Haiti-Inter.
On November 9, Paul Jean-Mario, a reporter for Radio Antilles in Petit Goave, a town 20 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, was arrested while covering a demonstration. During the Aristide administration, Jean-Mario had apparently angered officials in the Petit-Goave area by his reporting on corruption scandals. (In the wake of the coup, his home and the home of his parents in Petit Goave were burned down.) Jean-Mario was charged with setting fire to the police post in Grand Goave, not far from Petit Goave, and was imprisoned in the army barracks in Petit Goave. There, he was tortured by soldiers who put him in the "toad" position (le crapaud), in which a victim's neck is tied to his legs and he is beaten on the back and buttocks for long periods. After great efforts by his lawyer, Jean-Mario was moved from the prison to the Petit Goave hospital on December 10, more than a month after his arrest. But on December 16, soldiers returned Jean-Mario to the Petit Goave prison, complaining that security at the hospital was inadequate.
On December 10, F6lix Lamy, the director of Radio Galaxie -- which was one of three stations that had timidly begun to give news again and which had reported on a possible rebellion within the army was kidnapped by uniformed soldiers, and has not been heard of since. In the weeks following, only the military-backed Radio Nationale was on the air.
The National Penitentiary
We were allowed to visit Haiti's largest prison, the National Penitentiary, where we learned that many leading Duvalierists, including at least 10 who had been condemned to life in prison under earlier governments had been freed during the first hours of the coup d'etat.
Those freed or permitted to escape included Col. Samuel Jeremie, who was found guilty of torturing a man to death in 1984 at a personal "prison" he maintained, and who was condemned to life in prison in 1986.
Of the 22 men found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment for the January 7,1991, attempted preemptive coup d'etat against then President-elect Aristide led by former Tontons Macoutes chief Roger Lafontant -- only seven remained in prison at the time of our delegation's visit. Two of the 22 coup plotters, Roger Lafontant and Alphonse Lahens, are known to be dead. Lafontant was shot to death in his cell,
probably on September 29, under conditions that remain obscure. Lahens died of natural causes.
Two others charged but not yet tried for their role in the coup, Serge Beaulieu and Marjorie Robbins, were also freed.
Other well-known members of previous regimes who were arrested and accused of various crimes during the Aristide period were also freed. These included: Anthony Virginie St.-Pierre, Minister of Information under Gen. Prosper Avril; Isidore Pongnon, former commander of Fort Dimanche; Daniel Narcisse, who also served in the Avril government; Major Wilner Louis of the Haitian Marines; Antonio Paul, brother of the late Col. Jean-Claude Paul and Carmen Christophe, a former mayor of Port-au-Prince.
On December 24, the Haitian authorities made their de facto policy official, announcing a Christmas Eve amnesty for all prisoners convicted of political offenses during the period that began when President Aristide was elected on December 16, 1990, and ended with the September 30 coup d'etat.
The decree also provided for a reduction in sentence for Luc D6syr, a former secret police chief who was convicted of torture and several killings in 1986, and sentenced to life at hard labor. His sentence -- which had already been reduced to thirty years by the military dictatorship of Lieut. Gen. Prosper Avril is now further reduced to five years, effectively freeing him immediately.
During our visit to the National Penitentiary on December 7, Capt. Serge Justafort, commander of the prison since October 2, told us that there were 520 inmates, including 27 women. This is a steep drop from the more than 1,000 reported in the first week of September, by a United Nations expert who visited the prison.
Explaining the drop, prison officials told us that some accused petty criminals had been freed after spending several months in prison. Inmates, however, told us that on September 30, soldiers had come into the prison and selected certain "big shots" political prisoners and politically well-connected common criminals -- to be freed. This would seem to confirm the testimony of neighborhood residents who were watching the prison on the first two days of the coup, who told journalists they believed the prison was empty because they saw so many prisoners streaming out of it.
[Although the prison was less crowded, several prisoners told us that conditions had sharply worsened since the coup, with inmates receiving only one meal of corn meal porridge per day, whereas under Aristide food had been relatively ample.]
While we encountered a few people who had been arrested for political offenses since the coup d'etat, we believe that most of these are being detained at other jails in the city. For instance, some 30 university students who were arrested on November 12,
are still in custody, according to one of their lawyers, Camille Leblanc. Perhaps another 40 young persons who were arrested along with the students are also believed to remain in detention in various infamous police lock-ups around the capital.
Leblanc's efforts to see his clients or to have them transferred to the National Penitentiary, where conditions are far better than those in the lock-ups, have failed to date. One official told Leblanc that some of the students were being held at the Penitentiary, but none has been identified there, and none came forward during our delegation's visit to the prison. When Leblanc went to the Anti-Gang Service (a police unit in Port-au-Prince) and asked for individuals by name, he was told that they were not there.
Another of Leblanc's clients is Paul Laroche, a Port-au-Prince literacy worker, who came in for a particularly severe beating by some 25 to 50 soldiers when he was illegally arrested during the night of October 15. Afterwards, he was brought to the State Hospital, where he required an emergency intestinal resection (removal of a portion of the intestine). Although Laroche was never charged, he remained in custody for almost two months. After being remanded to the National Penitentiary, where we saw him in the infirmary, he was not permitted to see a doctor. On December 13, Laroche was provisionally freed. His condition remains serious.
Attorney Leblanc has urged the Port-au-Prince prosecutor -- who, according to the Constitution, has jurisdiction over the prisons -- to visit the various detention sites and inspect the conditions there. This has not been done.
De facto Prime Minister Jean-Jacques Honorat Justifies Coup
It may hide behind the facade of a civilian government, but the military is very firmly in control in Haiti.
Jean-Jacques Honorat, the de facto prime minister and former executive director of the Haitian Center for Human Rights (CHADEL), seems to have no authority over the military, and he acknowledged in an interview with our delegation on December 7 that even General Raoul C6dras, one of the masterminds of the coup, is not fully in charge. "I cannot say that he has total control of the situation," Honorat said of C~dras.
Yet Honorat does not disapprove of the turn that events have taken in Haiti during his time in office under the military regime. The closest he came to condemning the regime's human rights abuses was a tut-tut or a regretful shake of the head.
He claimed that attacks on progressive leaders, movements, and membership throughout the country are not systematic. He asserted that Catholic priests arrested and released since the coup d'etat were guilty of some offense such as "manufacturing
Molotov cocktails" or being a "druggist [drug trafficker]" or "contrabandist" that justified the arrest. Honorat said that each such case was an individual incident treated on its own merits. In general, he cited personal "revenge" as the motive for the nationwide repression currently under way.
Rather than call the coup d'etat a coup d'etat, Honorat blames the Aristide government for its own overthrow, and says he prefers to think of the coup as "an accident due to the infancy of Haiti's democratic structures. On December 16, 1990, people came to power who were not democrats. There was systematic disrespect of human rights. The coup was provoked by the comportment of those in power. It was a reaction by the social body politic, and force had to be exerted by the only part of the social body with arms: the army."
Honorat contends that his government is constitutional. He suggested to us that in the days following the coup d'etat, Aristide's prime minister, Rene Prdval, effectively vacated his office by not showing up before the parliament. This theory disregards the fact that the prime minister's life was gravely threatened at the time. In fact, Prdval could not go out, and in any case, failure to come before the legislature is hardly evidence that an official has vacated his office.
"So parliament had to fulfill a vacancy under the constitution," Honorat continued, explaining how he ended up prime minister, "and that is what they did on October 8 [the date of his taking office]. It was perfectly legal and in strict conformity with the constitution. I felt I had to defend my nation against injustice, and therefore I accepted a position [the office of prime minister] that is totally against my concept of my life. I have never wanted to be in politics. But because of the OAS illegal intervention, my country was exposed to civil war; indeed, it is still exposed to civil war. After all, I am a patriot. There is no relation between the government formed on October 8 and the coup d'etat."
In addition, Honorat offered these thoughts:
* On democracy: 'There is no relationship between elections and democracy."
* On elections: "Elections are not the only or the best criterion for democracy. Hitler
was also elected."
On Aristide's electoral margin of victory: "Sixty-five point seven percent of what?
Where are the results of the election of December 16? Where and when were they
On the post-coup return to power of Haiti's much feared rural section chiefs: "No
society can exist without police."
On military violence: "At the grassroots level, revenge is being taken and we are fighting that. We met with the council of bishops and the hierarchy of the army to combat it. But yes, they [section chiefs and landholders] are taking revenge on
those who were persecuting them."
"During nine months [from Aristide's election up to the coup d'etat], the military
was systematically persecuted."
"At the grassroots level, the military are very arrogant now, just as the priests were for nine months, and the TKL [base ecclesial communities, or lay groups, of
the Catholic Church], believing they could do anything."
On the internationally respected and nonviolent Papaye Peasant Movement: "The
MPP has been involved in terrorism."
On widespread reports of violence: "The international press, the French embassy, they have created this bad image of Haiti we are seeing today in all the media.
This country has been under an international wave of press defamation. I have
one word for it: racism."
On the events of November 12, when a meeting of about 130 students was broken up by the army and all participants arrested, many of them beaten and then held without charges: 'Two hundred students: What kind of students? During this socalled meeting car windows were broken, young children leaving school for the day were beaten. These so-called students were involved in acts of vandalism.
Those who were involved in vandalism were beaten, yes. Of course you should not be beaten in police custody, but police brutality is not specific to Haiti; I saw
the videos of what happened in Los Angeles, for example ."
On soldiers firing their guns in and at the State Hospital: "For ten gourdes anyone
can buy a military uniform in the marketplace."
United States Policy
Since the September coup, the Bush Administration generally has been forceful in its support for and continued recognition of President Aristide as the sole legitimate Haitian head of state. Statements condemning the coup were issued immediately by the U.S. Embassy and the State Department on September 30. On October 1, the day after the coup, in an important symbolic gesture, President Bush accepted the credentials of President Aristide's appointed ambassador to Washington, Jean Casimir, who had been a leading figure on the electoral council that organized the December 1990 election. President Bush told Ambassador Casimir that "despite the events of the last two days, the United States continues to recognize President Aristide as duly elected president of
Haiti," according to a statement released by the White House. 'We condemn those who have attacked the legally constituted democratically elected government of Haiti, and call for an immediate halt to violence, and the restoration of democracy in Haiti. We will be working closely with the OAS to bring that about," the White House statement read.
One week later, however, the Administration began sending mixed signals on Haiti, based, according to The New York Times, on Administration officials' "concerns over [Aristide's] human rights record." But whatever reassessment of U.S. policy was considered soon gave way to a return to a pro-Aristide position. In late October, the Bush Administration took additional steps to isolate the military junta. On October 29, it suspended all trade with Haiti, excluding basic foods and medicines and commercial flights, and ordered home all nonessential U.S. government employees and their dependents.
The Administration's efforts to halt the flight of Haitian refugees appears to have colored its human rights advocacy in Haiti. Haitians began fleeing by boat in large numbers approximately one month after the coup, as widescale acts of political violence continued and the prospect of President Aristide's quick return to office dimmed. At the same time, the Administration stopped publicly criticizing human rights abuses under the military regime. Since the U.S. imposed economic sanctions on Haiti on October 29, no public denunciation of human rights abuses has been made by the State Department or the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince.
The timing of the sudden silence left the impression that the Administration was more concerned with avoiding lending support to the growing number of Haitians claiming to flee political persecution than with pressing the military regime to stop the violence and killing.
We recognize that one element in this silence may have been the U.S. Embassy's diminished capacity to monitor the human rights situation. With Embassy staff reduced to "essential" personnel out of concern for their safety, an Embassy official told our investigative mission in December that the Embassy lacked the capacity to investigate human rights violations and was dependent on reports of abuses received from others. This diminished capacity to monitor the human rights situation calls into question assurances repeatedly given by the Administration that Haitians, if forcibly repatriated, would not face political persecution. Indeed, the decision to define Embassy personnel assigned to monitor human rights as "nonessential" suggests that the Administration quite possibly does not attach importance to learning the full extent of political persecution in Haiti.
Moreover, subsequent developments suggest that the Administration may be allowing fear of an influx of Haitian refugees to influence the veracity of its human rights reporting. On December 13, the State Department's Office of Asylum Affairs part of the Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs issued its first opinion
on human rights conditions in Haiti since the coup. The opinion is important because it is used by asylum adjudicators in assessing Haitian claims to be fleeing political persecution. The opinion flies in the face of extensive evidence of ongoing persecution of perceived military opponents and Aristide supporters by asserting: "[Alt this time we have no reason to believe that mere identification of an individual as an Aristide supporter puts that individual at particular risk of mistreatment or abuse."
The State Department opinion also claimed: '"There is no indication that persons returned [to Haiti] by the U.S. under the interdiction program are detained or subject to punishment by Haitian authorities." As noted, such a statement is suspect in light of the Embassy's diminished capacity to monitor even the general human rights situation in Haiti, let alone to engage in the difficult task of tracing returned Haitians to ensure that they have not suffered persecution as a result of their flight.
More important, the statement is inconsistent with interest shown by Haitian soldiers in the political activities of returned Haitians, as detailed in a State Department cable describing the December 3 voluntary return to Haiti of seventy-three Haitians who had fled by boat and who had been housed temporarily in Venezuela after interdiction. According to the cable, soldiers rather than customs officials questioned the returning Haitians and thoroughly searched their persons and luggage. The cable recounted: "Soldiers told Embassy staff they were looking for 'everything' and that they read repatriates' letters and papers to find anything 'compromising.' Repatriates reported [that soldiers] questioned them to determine whether they are politically active." The cable describes the repatriates then being taken to police headquarters before, according to the police, being released.