Recent violations of human rights in Haiti : an update of the June 1980 report of the Lawyers Committee forIntl. Human Rights submitted to UN, ECOSOC resolution 1503 (XLVIII)

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Recent violations of human rights in Haiti : an update of the June 1980 report of the Lawyers Committee forIntl. Human Rights submitted to UN, ECOSOC resolution 1503 (XLVIII)
N.Y. : Lawyers Committee for Intl. Human Rts, [1981]


General Note:
General Note:
Rpt. To UN, 1982

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The Lawyers Committee for International Human Rights

36 West 44th Street, New York, New York 10036 (212) 921-2160



vin E. Frankel Park Avenue v York, New York 10022



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This summary of events in Haiti describes recent

incidents that have contributed to the continuing erosion in the protection of basic human rights in that country. Since November 28, 1980, a wave of detentions, illegal under Haitian law, has resulted in the imprisonment without charge of over 100 persons including virtually all human rights activists, independent journalists, radio broadcasters, and independent politicians in Portau-Prince. This complete breakdown in the rule of law in Haiti has removed any remaining credibility from the Government's program of "liberalization," so strongly emphasized since 1977.


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The following information is intended to supplement

the June 1980 Report of the Lawyers Committee to the United Nations entitled "Violations of Human Rights in Haiti." The conclusions of this report and a summary of the December 1979 Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States are attached as Appendix A and B.


Beginning on November 28, 1980 approximately 100 persons including virtually all Haitian human rights activists, most independent journalists, and many defense lawyers were detained and imprisoned by the military police without explanation. The basis for, and conditions of these detentions, are illegal under both the Haitian Constitution and relevant international law. None of those who have been arrested have been formally charged with any crime or allowed access to lawyers or visitors and all are being held incommunicado. All were first taken to the Cassernes Dessalines, a national prison in Port-auPrince for interrogation. Beginning on December 2, 1980, a total of sixteen of these persons were forcibly exiled from

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Haiti without ever having been charged with any specific crime or given any explanation of their imprisonment. These persons include, among others:

Gregoire Eugene founder of the Haitian Social Christian Party, publisher of the influential magazine Fraternite, and a professor of civil and constitutional law;

Jean-Jacques Honorat, lawyer, author and founder of

the Haitian Institute for Technology and Animation, a nongovernmental economic development project;

Pierre Clitandre and Jean-Robert Herard, respectively, the Editor and Political Editor of Le Petit Samedi Soir Haiti's most respected opposition weekly;

Richard Brisson and Michele Montas, respectively, Program Director and Reporter for Haiti's largest independent radio station Radio Haiti Inter; and physicians Dr. Gregoire Eugene, Jr., and Dr. Nicole Magloire. Clita~pdre and Brisson were beaten while detained, and all were imprisoned without explanation and held incommunicado.

Most of those who were arrested were not exiled, and many remain incommunicado in prison without explanation as of February 22, 1981. For example, Lafontant Joseph, lawyer and General Secretary of the Haitian League for Human Rights was held in cell No. 5 at the Cassernes Dessalines for


approximately six weeks without explanation and was severely mistreated while incarcerated. With one notable exception, all of the most respected independent newspaper editors and writers, and radio station owners, managers, and broadcasters were illegally detained beginning on November 28. (Jean Dominique, owner of Radio Haiti Inter fled to the Venezuelan Embassy, and is now in the United States.) Effectively, the following newspapers and radio stations have thus been closed down as of the date of these arrests: Radio Haiti Inter, Radio Metropole, Radio Cacique, Fraternite, Le Conviction, Le Petit Samedi Soir, Regard, Coquerico, and Inter-Jeune.

The only official explanation for these arrests was given by military police chief Colonel Jean Valme, asserting that all those arrested are part of a communist conspiracy. Under the Haitian "Loi Anti-Communiste," virtually anyone who expresses opinions that are not supportive of the Duvalier government can be charged under this provision. The Anti-Communist Law provides in part that persons who have made 'any declarations of belief in communism, verbal or written, public or private' or propagated 'communist or anarchist doctrines by conferences, speeches, conversations, by leaflets, posters and newspapers' will be charged with crimes against the state, tried by a military court and if convicted may be 'punished by the death penalty.'


On January 14, 1981 the Department of Foreign Affairs of Haiti circulated an explanation of these mass arrests to most foreign embassies in Port-au-Prince. This communication asserts that many of those arrested have purportedly committed "terrorist acts" including "arson," advocated the "pillage of commercial establishments", "assassination" and "the kidnap of diplomats." Absolutely no evidence is presented in this official communication or in the government controlled press to support any of these general accusations.

On September 28, 1979, the government enacted a restrictive new press law that requires registration and approval of all persons by the government before they can work as journalists, prior government approval of publications before they can be circulated, and a number of generalised provisions making it a crime to insult the President-for-Life or his family. Following worldwide protest, this law was amended on March 31, 1980, but none of the provisions mentioned above were substantially modified. Despite numerous constitutional guarantees to the contrary, these press laws, and various state security provisions including the Anti-Communist law, have resulted in a complete denial of basic freedoms of speech and press to Haitian citizens.



The Re-Arrest of Sylvio Claude

On October 13, 1980 Sylvio Claude was again arrested

at his home in Port-au-Prince. Claude, founder and President of the Haitian Christian Democratic Party, was taken to the Cassernes Dessalines (a prison in Port-au-Prince) where he was held without warrant or charge and denied access to his lawyers and other visitors. Claude's wife and daughter were also arrested without charge, though they were later released.

Claude's detention constituted his fourth arrest in the past 21 months. He was initially arrested on February 19, 1979 after he had declared his candidacy for the Legislative Assembly in the country's first elections in two decades. Following his arrest-in February, Claude whose candidacy had been declared illegal, was severely beaten and tortured with electric shocks by Government Security Forces. He was held for two months without charge before he finally was released and exiled to Colombia in May.

Following his return to Haiti, he was arrested twice more in retaliation for his work with the Haitian Christian Democratic Party.

Three days after his arrest in October 1980 Claude was

brought before the Commissariat de Police. Though never formally


brought before a juge d'instruction, as required by Article 17 of the Haitian Constitution, he apparently has been charged with violation of Articles 28 and 38 of the Press Law. These charges related to material published in Claude's newspaper La Conviction which the Government believes to be violative of Haiti's new press law. Despite international attention regarding his case, Claude has continuously been denied access to his attorneys from the Haitian League for Human Rights. There is considerable concern that Claude has again been subjected to torture and physical abuse during his most recent detention.

On October 27 Claude's daughter Marie-France Claude, a

Vice President of the Christian Democratic Party was arrested and taken to Cassernes Dessalines. According to reliable reports as many as 39 people from Claude's party were arrested at the same time in Port-au-Prince. The identities of at least five of these individuals are known: Ebenezer Jean, Ernest Benjamin, Augustine Auguste, Raoul Acean and Jean St. Lieu. All are apparently still under detention. As of February 22, 1981, Marie-France Claude was still being held incommunicado, and has not been charged with any crime.

Government interference with Sylvio Claude and the

Haitian Christian Democratic Party is part of a broader pattern of governmental intolerance of political activity.


Commenting on the effect of pressure against Haiti's only other opposition political parties in 1979, the IACHR Report noted:

The Haitian Christian Democratic Party of
June 27, founded by Gregoire Eugene, has
since ceased active operations because of
government harassment, according to
Eugene. (IACHR Report At p. 70)

It also reports that the Parti Democratique ceased its

operations in 1979 when its leader, Rene Deravine, was exposed to significant government "pressure."

In an effort to effectively maintain control, in September 1979 President Duvalier publically called his Security Forces back to their position of official prominence. On September 22, 1979 he told them:

"Men and women of the Militia, you are
the linchpin of my government, the major
force on which I can base myself."

Six weeks later on November 9, 1979, approximately 60

Tonton Macoutes (Security Force Personnel) dressed in civilian clothes, violently disrupted the first public human rights meeting ever held in Haiti. The meeting which was organized by the Haitian League for Human Rights was held at a churchschool run by the Peres Salesiens. At the meeting which was attended by more than 1000 people, Prof. Gerard Gourgue,


Chairman of the League, was scheduled to speak on "The Political Atmosphere and Human Rights." As he began to speak, the Security Force members charged the podium and began to beat up both participants and observers. According to one account of the incident:

Several men leaped to the stage, ripped
Gourgue's speech from his hands, and beat
him with their fists and feet as he fell
to the floor.

In all more than 100 people were injured, including representatives of the United States, French, Canadian and West German embassies.

Another observer who witnessed the raid described those who were involved:

The 60 or so attackers, many of them middleaged, began shouting "Jean-Claude Duvalier"
and then started beating members of the audience. Some who reached their cars were dragged out and beaten some mcre.

The Inter-American Commission's Report concluded that the disruption of the Haitian League's November meeting

.raises serious doubts about the possibility
of holding assemblies to discuss this subject, and also causes concern about the continued effective operation of programs and
organizations dedicated to the promotion and
protection of human rights.
(IACER Report At p. 60)



The Haitian Constitution and laws state in theory a

series of important protections of individual rights. However, in practice, these rights have been and are being systematically denied. In fact, formal emergency legislation and state security laws result in "states of exception" under which President-for-Life Duvalier annually suspends the basic constitutional protections of the Haitian Constitution. A legislative declaration of "plein pouvoirs" for the Presidentfor-Life results in a formal suspension of constitutional rights during the 7-8 months per year when the legislature is not in session, and a "state of seige" or a suspension of individual guarantees often accomplishes the same thing for the balance of the year. A series of state security laws, including the "Loi-Anti Communist," further undermine the legal rights of Haitian citizens. Moreover Haitian citizens are routinely arrested without charge, detained without access to formal legal proceedings and subjected to various forms of mistreatment while they are held in custody.

When formal trials do occur, formal procedures, and

constitutional guarantees of due process are virtually ignored. Thus in July 1980 four defendants, Gustave Colos, Ulrich Desire, Emanual Noel and Robert Jacques Thelusma were tried in closed


court after 18 months imprisonment without charge or access to attorneys. Three of these individuals had been declared prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International in early 1980 and a worldwide appeal had been made in their behalf. When they were finally tried on charges of committing "crimes against the security of the state" trial transcripts show that no specific evidence was introduced relating to the crime with which they were charged. Nonetheless, they were found guilty and sentenced to nine years at hard labor. The government had asked for the death penalty.

More typical is the case of Yvens Paul, a noted creole playwright and journalist from Radio Cacique who was arrested on October 16, 1980. Paul was arrested at Duvalier Airport in Port-au-Prince after returning to Haiti on a flight from New York. Following his arrest, he was held incommunicado. On October 24 Paul was released without any explanation, never having been charged with any crime or allowed access to counsel or other visitors. While in detention Yvens Paul was subjected to physical harassment and abuse. To date the government has taken no steps to investigate the mistreatment of Mr. Paul and has offered no explanations as to why he was arrested. In its 1980 Country Report on Human Rights Practices


the United States Department of State concludes that in Haiti, "beatings continued to be administered almost routinely in connection with interrogation of suspects and incarceration of prisoners." "Physical facilities, medical care and diet in incarcerative facilities are generally crude." (Country Reports at 459.)

This report was prepared by Michael S. Fooper, Director of Research for the Lawyers Committee for International Human Rights. The Lawyers Committee is a non-governmental organization based in New York which seeks to promote the development of international human rights law. It was founded in 1975 by the International League for Human Rights and the Council of New York Law Associates.





Analysis of the current situation in Haiti reveals a

consistent pattern of gross violations of basic human rights. The following is a summary of the principal conclusions of this testimony:

1. There has been a complete breakdown in the rule of law in Haiti. "Emergency" legislation and a series of State Security Laws give President-for-Life Duvalier the authority to suspend basic constitutional protections of individual rights and he has consistently used this authority.

2. The administration of justice in Haiti-is poor.

Haitian citizens are regularly arrested without charge, detained without trial and denied virtually every protection provided by the formal legal system.

3. Lawyers are afraid to represent clients in controversial cases. When they do represent clients they are ineffective in safeguarding the basic rights of due process guaranteed by the Haitian Constitution.


4. The courts in Haiti lack the independence necessary

to protect individuals, and the authority to challenge the abuses perpetrated by Government security forces.

5. A complex network of Government security forces has

severely undermined the Rule of Law in Haiti. These forces are responsible for the illegal arrest, interrogation, imprisonment and torture and/or killing of Haitian citizens.

6. Conditions in the prisons have undergone little

change in the past 23 years. Political prisoners continue to face systematic maltreatment including beating, interrogation under torture, starvation, disease and death.

7. The Haitian Government continues to suppress effective political activity. Following elections in Feburary 1979, there were numerous reports of vote fraud and government coercion and intimidation to guarantee support of government candidates.

8. Open and effective -political activity has been

effectively stifled in Haiti. The leaders of the three political parties which were formed after these elections have been harassed or arrested.

9. Freedom of the press is severely curtailed by state

security legislation, and a series of press laws including the highly restrictive law enacted in September 1979 and amended in March 1980.


10. The Haitian Government is not willing to tolerate the

existence of any person or organization that effectively advocates the promotion of human rights in Haiti. In November 1979, Government Security Forces violently distrupted a public meeting of the Haitian League for Human Rights.

11. The Governmuents failure to protect civil and

political rights has served to exacerbate Haiti's already desperate economic situation.

12. In Haiti today there continues to be broadscale

government corruption and mismanagement of public funds. In its April 19 report, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the OAS concluded:

"Under these conditions it is questionable
whether badly needed foreign assistance
programs effectively reach their targets."
(IACHR Report, At 74)

13. This pattern of corruption affects the country's rural

population particularly harshly. In rural areas, Civilian Security Forces engage in a pattern of wholesale extortion and forced expropriation of private land. In these areas the Haitian Government has given these forces license to extort with impunity.

14. Those returning to Haiti from exile in other countries face particularly harsh treatment. Government Security Forces have standing authority to arrest returnees. Some returnees are known to have been arrested, interrogated and subjected to gross mistreatment by Government Security Forces.





Following its on-site observation in Haiti, and in consideration of the other evidence listed in the present report, the Commission has reached the following conclusions:

1. Two stages in the observance of human rights can be distinguished in Haiti: a. the first is characterized by the nonobservance of
human rights, the right to life, personal security or personal freedom, or the right to due process. b. the second stage, which began in 1971. During the visit, there were certain indications that the current government wishes to improve the situation with regard to respect for and observance of human rights. The President of the Republic expressed his intention personally to the Special Commission. Nevertheless, the Commission has information of events that have happened and on legal acts passed after the visit of the Special Commission, which leads it to believe that this intention has not been carried out.

2. During this latter period, the right to life was violated particularly in 1975 and 1976; it has in fact been proven that numerous people died in summary executions or during their stay in prison, or because of lack of medical care. It should nonetheless be observed that there has been a notable improvement as regards this right.

3. There are reliable indicators that many individuals were victims of torture inflicted in certain cases by the neighborhood chiefs, both
during interrogations after arrests and during imprisonment.

4. It has been proven that numerous persons are detained without having benefitted from any form of legal procedure, and without having access to an attorney. There is no clear-cut separation of powers in
Haiti. Legal guarantees are seriously restricted by virtue of the ",state of siege" that are in effect on an almost permanent basis, and by virtue of the Security Court instituted by the law of August 25, 1977, establishing procedures with limited guarantees as to the right of a legal defense. The Judiciary does not appear to have the independence necessary to exercise its functions.

5. It may be said that freedom of inquiry, opinion, speech and dissemination of thought does not exist. There are taboo questions which cannot be discussed, such as all matters concerning the President's family, the dictatorship, the extra-budgetary revenues of the Regie du Tabac, etc.
There is recourse to procedures such as warnings and admonitions of increasing severity to journalists, issued by the Ministry of the Interior; there is also prior censorship, closing of newspapers, threats, assaults and incarcerations.


6. Freedom of religion and freedom of worship are fully guaranteed.

7. Freedom of association is extremely restricted. Article 236
(bis) of the 1948 Penal Code, which requires government authorization to form a group of more than twenty people, prevents the creation of any literary, political or other type of association. Trade union freedom does not exist as such. There are neither federations nor confederations or trade unions; the right to strike is limited. The government has made it difficult to form political parties and associations in general.

8. There have been violations of the right to residence, movement and nationality. In fact, numerous people have been exiled and, despite the amnesty, certain of them not been able to return to the country.
Likewise, numerous persons have been deprived of their nationality for their political ideas.

9. While it is true that there have been legislative elections, the law of September 19, 1978, gives the President of the Republic full powers, and suspends numerous civil and political rights and certain prerogatives of the Judiciary. Moreover, there are no political parties and the people do not effectively participate in government affairs.

10. With regard to the effectiveness of the right to education, health, welfare, and the right to work and to a fair wage, it may be said that it is almcst nonexistent, particularly because of the extreme poverty, illiteracy, poor hygiene, high birth rate and high infant mortality rate, high rate of unemployment, the lack of medical materials, the low per capita income, etc., which prevent the citizens from enjoying the economic, social and cultural rights set forth in the OAS Charter and in numerous international instruments.




Jean-Carl Dantus Gabriel Herard Michel Francois, alias Chocho Frantz Doussous, alias Toto Volel Louis Raoul Accean Ernst Benjamin Yves Theodore Jacques St-Lot Augustin Auguste Jacques Perard Berthulien Jean Eben-Ezer Mme Thermitus Myrthil Reginald St-Fleur Emmanuel Jn-Louis Ja-ques Guirand Constant D. Pongnon

Claude Pean Joel Myrtil Marvel Dandin Philippe Sinai Jacques Yvan Bastien Sony Bastien Jacques Jn-Baptiste Gerard Hilton Franck Dominique Simon Fritzner Devesin Edwin Beaubrun Mme Rita Barrella Pean Mme Henry Alphonse,
nee Magalie Marcelin Henec Titus Lafontant Joseph Mme Emmanuel Jn-Louis Lamartiniere Honorat


December 2, 1980

Gregoire Eugene
Jean-Jacques Honorat
Marc-Aurele Garcia dit Marcus
Michele Montas

December 3, 1980

Richard Brisson
Elsie Etheard
Pierre Andre Clitandre
Jean-Robert Herard

December 3, 1980

Nicole Magloire

December 25, 1980

Anthony Pascal Liliane Pierre-Paul Henry Alphonse

Harold Isaac Jackson Pierre-Paul Vivianne Duroseau Yves Richard Antoine


The Commission on Human Rights,

Conscious of its particular responsibility to promote

and encourage respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, and determined to remain vigilant with regard to violations of human rights wherever they occur,

Noting that all member states have an obligation to

protect and promote human rights and to carry out responsibilities they have undertaken under specific international human rights instruments,

Recalling the General Assembly resolution 34/175 of

17 December 1979 on effective action against mass and flagrant violations of human rights,

Having taken cognizance of reports on continuing gross violations of human Haiti,

Taking note of the Report on the Situation of Human

Rights in Haiti approved by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States at its 644th session held 13 December 1979,

1. Expresses its grave concern at the deterioration of the human rights situation in Haiti,

2. Notes with particular concern the mass arrests of

human rights activists, journalists and independent politicans;


the virtual elimination of formally guaranteed rights of free speech, press and assembly, the official prevention of all independent political activity, the constant violation of procedural rights of detainees including arrest without charge, imprisonment without explanation, lack of access to lawyers or visitors, and frequent beatings and torture, and the lack of independence of the Haitian judiciary,

3. Strongly urges the appointment of a Special Rapporteur to thoroughly study the human rights situation in Haiti and report to the Commission on Human Rights at its thirtyeighth (38th) session,

4. Strongly urges the Haitian authorities to respect

and promote human rights in accordance with these obligations under various international instruments.