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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isey Clark
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,rd Taylor



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 Port-

au-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.



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-au-

Prince for interrogation. Beginning on December 2, 1980, a

total of sixteen of these persons were forcibly exiled from

H X i

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 non-

governmental 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. Clitandre and Brisson were

beaten while detained, and all were imprisoned without expla-

nation 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


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 sub-

stantially 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 Demo-

cratic 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 pat-

tern 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


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 Septem-

ber 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 church-

school 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 Poli-

tical 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 representa-

tives of the United States, French, Canadian and West German


Another observer who witnessed the raid described

those who were involved:

The 60 or so attackers, many of them middle-
aged, 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 sub-
ject, and also causes concern about the con-
tinued 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. How-

ever, 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 President-

for-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 sub-

jected to physical harassment and abuse. To date the govern-

ment 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 incarcera-

tion 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. Hooper, 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 in-
ternational 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


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 contro-

versial 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 politi-

cal 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 Governments 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 distinguish-
ed 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 par-
ticularly 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, establish-
ing 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 dis-
semination 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 in-
creasing 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 mor-
tality rate, high rate of unemployment, the lack of medical materials,
the low per capital income, etc., which prevent the citizens from enjoy-
ing 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 free-

doms 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 responsi-

bilities 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 politicians;

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 thirty-

eighth (38th) session,

4. Strongly urges the Haitian authorities to respect

and promote human rights in accordance with these obligations

under various international instruments.