Haiti Live Coalition
HAITI HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT
Volume 1 | Edition 1 | May 1, 2004
Introduction to the Report
The human rights situation in Haiti is complex and evolving, with many
groups bearing responsibility for and falling victim to violations.
It is clear, however, that widespread human rights violations have occurred
since the removal of the elected government from office on February
29, 2004. The Haiti Human Rights Report, a weekly update on the situation
of human rights in Haiti, has as its purpose to provide reliable, current
information on the situation on the ground. The availability of high
quality information is circumscribed by high levels of insecurity, continuing
repression, constraints on communication, and a limited presence of
human rights workers on the ground; however, greater information allowing
for a more complete assessment of the human rights situation will be
included in the weekly reports as it becomes available. The report is
not a political publication and material of a political nature will
only be included insomuch as it is directly related to human rights.
The first edition of the report focuses on human rights violations against
civilians that have been documented since February 29. Subsequent editions
will explore other areas of concern in greater detail and will provide
greater information on areas outside of Port-au-Prince as it becomes
An Overview of Human Rights Threats
On February 29, 2004, a three-week long insurrection resulted in the
removal from office of elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Leaders
of the insurrection included Jean "Tatoune" Baptiste and Louis Jodel
Chamblain, both convicted in 2000 for their role in the 1994 Raboteau
Massacre as leaders of FRAPH (Front for the Advancement and Progress
of Haiti) and other plotters of former coups including Guy Philippe.
During their insurrection, rebels liberated all of the approximately
2,000 prisoners throughout the country; some released prisoners joined
the armed movement against the elected government. According to Amnesty
International, groups and individuals posing a threat to human rights
include Chamblain, Tatoune, and others who were engaged in human rights
violations during the 1991-'94 coup d'état; released prisoners,
armed gangs from across the political spectrum, former soldiers and
paramilitaries, and former police officers and section chiefs, who are
known to have committed serious abuses of human rights in the past.
Amnesty noted with alarm that, "Members of the abolished Haitian Armed
Forces and former paramilitary leaders convicted of past human rights
violations are emerging as new actors in Haiti's political scene and
have taken control, especially in areas where state authority is weak
or absent" (Amnesty, April 8, www.amnesty.org).
Reports from Around the Country
Human rights groups have been especially limited in their ability to
travel outside of the capital, particularly to the rebel-controlled
North, and to investigate specific claims of abuses. More reports will
be made available as the situation permits individuals to travel outside
of the capital and to conduct further investigative work.
Raboteau Judge Brutally Assaulted
Judge Napela Saintil, the judge who presided over the Raboteau Massacre
trial in 2000 was severely beaten on March 30 in his home by heavily
armed individuals. He had been receiving daily death threats from unidentified
individuals who criticized him for his role in the trial during which
rebel Louis Jodel Chamblain was convicted in absentia (InterPress Service).
Homes of victims of the massacre have been burned and many are now in
Lafanmi Selavi Incident
Members of a human rights delegation from the National Lawyers Guild
(NLG) were told by some grassroots leaders on March 30, 2004 that they
had seen "four men bound, lying face down, and shot dead in the back
in front of Lafanmi Selavi, an orphanage and school founded by President
Aristide in Port-au-Prince shuttered since February 29" (NLG). Immediately
after, the delegation went to the site of the alleged incident and found
it closed off and surrounded by police. The police insisted that no
one had been killed and that the men were under arrest for trying to
steal a generator from the site. They did admit that shots were fired
at the men and one was hit and hospitalized. The policeman advised the
delegation to go to the local police station. Some blood was found at
the site and a delegation member found a spent bullet. The chief at
the police station informed the delegation that the men were under arrest
but would not state where they were being held (National Lawyers Guild
Report, April 2004, www.nlg.org).
Amnesty International Reports from Port-au-Prince
Amnesty International reported that that the driver of a former Lavalas
deputy died on April 4 after being attacked in Martissant area of Port-au-Prince.
The assailants have since visited his home to look for his wife and
threatened to kill her and burned down the house. She is now in hiding.
Amnesty also reported that two members of the grassroots organization
KOMIREP were kidnapped in Martissant on April 4 and their whereabouts
are still unknown. Amnesty also spoke with a young woman who was being
threatened by a police officer accused of gang-raping her in November
2003 that has recently been released from prison. Threats have also
been received by the organizations supporting her (Amnesty, April 8).
Cadaver Disposal in Port-au-Prince
During its investigation, the NLG Delegation visited the State Morgue
in Port-au-Prince. When questioned, the director of the morgue refused
the delegation's request to view the cadavers and to review the record
books. He did, however, admit that "many" of the several bodies brought
into the morgue are those of young men who had been shot with their
hands tied behind their backs and plastic bags over their heads. The
director insisted that only 8 bodies were in the morgue, but morgue
workers later told the delegation in confidence that there were over
50 bodies in the morgue and that many bodies were continuing to come
in with their hands behind their back and bags over their heads (3/31/04).
The director did admit that on Sunday, March 7, 2004, 800 bodies were
"dumped and buried" by the morgue and another 200 bodies were dumped
on Sunday, March 28, 2004. He estimated that the average number dumped
is less than 100 per month. The bodies dumped are those that have not
been claimed by relatives because they can not afford to pay for a funeral
or are afraid to claim the body. The normal waiting period for bodies
is 22 days, but the Director claimed that the morgue was dumping bodies
within 5-6 days because of a problem with the refrigeration system at
the facility. The delegation heard many reports that relatives were
afraid to claim bodies of Lavalas members for fear of being identified
as having a Lavalas connection.
Reports of Cadavers Burned at Piste D'Aviation
The NLG Delegation also investigated reports from several witnesses
that 40 to 60 bodies had been brought in trucks to a field near Piste
D'Aviation, bordering the Delmas 2 neighborhood of Port-au-Prince on
Sunday March 22, 2004, along a road to the airport. On Monday March
23, 2004, the bodies were reported to have been moved away from the
roadside to a more remote field and were burned. The delegation observed
the massive ash pile and pigs eating flesh of human bones that had not
burned. The group photographed fresh skulls and other human bones, some
still tangled in clothes or with shoes and sneakers nearby. The delegation
observed that the fuel for the fire was misprinted Haitian currency.
Reports from the Central Plateau
Many reports of human rights violations have emerged from the Central
Plateau. The Plate-forme des Organisations Haïtiennes des Droits
Humains (POHDH) reported that the population of Savanette had suffered
from numerous abuses committed by armed civilians and former soldiers
acting arbitrarily as law enforcers. (AlterPresse). The Associated Press
and Reuters reported on April 26 that armed groups believed to be under
the command of former Haitian Army Master Sergeant Joseph Jean-Baptiste
burned town two police stations before Chilean troops arrived to secure
the city. Reuters also reported that the headquarters of Fanmi Lavalas
in Hinche was burned down by the rebels.
Continuing Repression in Petit Goave and Grand Goave
The NLG Delegation observed and photographed many homes in Petit Goave
that were destroyed by arson after February 29. All of the homes that
had been burned were owned or occupied with families associated with
Lavalas. Their occupants had fled to the mountains. Houses destroyed
included those of a member of the House of Deputies, local elected political
and civil leaders, and student leaders. The homes of family members
of these groups were also burned. As of the delegation's visit, there
were no police in Petit Goave and the town was being run by a man named
"Ti Kenley." The delegation was later informed that more Lavalas homes
had been burned on April 1 in retaliation for the delegation's investigation
the previous day.
In Grand Goave, the delegation also found that there were no police
officers. The town was being controlled by a group of men receiving
orders from former members of the military. The men were observed riding
in a vehicle with "FADH," the acronym for the Haitian army, on its side.
An April 19 news article stated that the systematic repression against
Fanmi Lavalas militants was continuing. Many Lavalas party members have
taken refuge in Port-au-Prince and teachers, lawyers, and other professionals
were reported to be in hiding (Agence Haitienne de Presse).
The NLG visited Les Cayes and found that the town was being controlled
by "Ti Gary," a militant opponent of Lavalas. In an interview with the
delegation, Ti Gary admitted to having committed at least 5 public executions
of thieves during the month of March. He cited the lack of a functioning
police as his justification for the executions. Some of the police from
the town had returned to their posts but they were subordinated to uniformed
former military officers who had also returned.
The Miami Herald reported on April 11 that despite the present of French
troops, the rebels remain a powerful force. The rebels still held the
main police station and as of April 11, had not asked the rebels to
leave. There have been many reports of more than 20 Lavalas members
being placed in a container and drowned at sea (Miami Herald, April
As of April 11, Port-de-Paix remained controlled by about 40 rebels
who admitted to targeting Aristide supporters in interviews with a foreign
journalist. The journalist reported that rebels have been patrolling
the streets and arresting and jailing criminals. One rebel was quoted
as saying that the main objective of the rebels was to find Aristide
supporters and put them in jail. The rebels stated that most Aristide
supporters in the city had fled or had been killed in the uprising (Ottey,
Miami Herald, April 11).
Human Rights Violations against Civilian Groups: An Ongoing Crisis
Extensive evidence exists that since the departure of the elected government
from office on February 29, 2004, numerous violations of the human rights
of the civilian population have occurred. Violations are numerous and
cannot be attributed to a single group of actors; however, some trends
have emerged from investigations conducted in March and April.
Delegations from Amnesty International, the National Lawyers Guild,
and Let Haiti Live (LHL) have reported independently on a systematic
campaign of repression against the civilian population. These groups
each found extensive evidence indicating that many of the victims of
threats and violence are supporters of the elected government of President
Aristide, members of the Fanmi Lavalas political party, elected or appointed
officials in the organization or Lavalas party, employees of the government,
or members of popular, grassroots organizations. Leaders of many popular,
or grassroots, organizations have been killed or threatened and many
are in hiding (For a full copy of the Let Haiti Live Observation Mission
Report, see www.haitireborn.org).
During its investigation, the NLG Delegation met with several members
of popular organizations, none of whom were living at home. All were
in hiding many knew others who had been killed or who had disappeared.
Investigators found that persons from areas outside of the capital were
in hiding in Port-au-Prince and had not seen their families since March
1, 2004. Others from the capital had gone into hiding in the mountains,
taking spouses and children with them. According to the persons interviewed,
former militaries and supporters of the political opposition to the
elected government continue to visit the homes of popular organization
leaders that have not been burned to keep them from coming home and
to intimidate neighbors. Many grassroots leaders have had their homes
destroyed by arson. The majority of the arsons occurred in the first
week of March, but continued during the NLG delegation. The threats
have been carried out by former militaries and FRAPH members as well
as other supporters of the former political opposition (NLG). These
reports were corroborated by Amnesty International, which heard reports
that several escaped prisoners were working with the Haitian Police
and the multinational interim forces to identify Lavalas members in
poor neighborhoods (Amnesty, April 8). As part of the campaign of terror,
radio stations call the names of people who have been "blacklisted"
each day at 4pm. These individuals must then go into hiding or face
arrest or executions. One grassroots organization interviewed by LHL
provided a copy of one of the daily lists of names, with markings next
to the names of those who had already disappeared.
During its stay in Haiti, the Let Haiti Live Observation Mission spoke
with many members of popular organizations, the large majority of whom
were still in hiding. Individuals interviewed expressed a sense of fear
for their lives and described incidents that they had either witnessed
or had heard described. Please note that the following accounts are
In Carrefour, about thirty [Lavalas] members disappeared. In Cap-Haitien,
they dropped Lavalas members into a hole and killed them. In Port-au-Prince,
young militants were killed and buried in the city because they were
part of LavalasÍ We are in hiding. There are graver cases than what
you see here today, but they couldn't come and are in hiding. (journalist
and member of a popular organization)
The Haitian people have been hit hard. Those of us from Bel Air, we
are prey for former soldiers and police. We easily can be picked up
by press who work for opposition. The press is used to call names of
those to be killed. Example: on 3/12, during the night the white men
surrounded the area and killed many people. Two bodies were taken by
those hiding and watching. One was born in 1974, so both these men were
young men and now both are dead.
They put a bag over your head and you're gone. 2004 is worse that 1991
because there are a lot of different factions killing people é former
military, FRAPH, most of the foreign militaries in this country are
killing people. In the Central Plateau: when they arrest Lavalas supporters,
they dig a hole, put dry leaves in the hole, and then burn him alive.
Former military take away the bodies after they kill people, or from
the hospital, and you never see it. I was hit in the head by a revolver.
They beat me so much that even today I can't hear well. I never know
when they'll pick me up. Once they do, I'm dead. They know us [Sept
30 members] very well, they're looking for us hard and fast and we are
all in hiding.
People are dying. Everyday in Carrefour, they are finding bodies everywhere.
What is happening in the provinces: people can't meet, they kidnap or
arrest them. Hospitals have been closed, so if you are shot on the street,
you can't get treatment. I haven't seen my 2 kids. Former military are
in Bel Air on a rampage. Since we can't get clear communication but
learned they arrested [a member of our organization] and other supporters,
these are kidnappings.
I am sorry I am the only one here but a lot of my colleagues are in
hiding or dead.
A common theme expressed by those interviewed by the LHL mission was
the parallels that existed between atrocities perpetrated during the
1991-1994 coup d'état and those currently being perpetrated.
Many members of the grassroots organizations were victims of human rights
violations during this period and expressed a feeling of increased vulnerability
because of their political involvement in the years that followed. Individuals
noted repeatedly that former members of the same groups, including the
Haitian army and the paramilitary group FRAPH that had been responsible
for violations during the 1991 coup period were again carrying out violations.
Many of our sons were forced to rape us by FRAPH. Some of us have babies
from former FRAPH members. I was raped at 7 months pregnant and my friend
who was traumatized by seeing this is now paralyzed on one side of her
body. This time it's worse because back then we had human rights groups
to help us; now we don't even have that. Those who raped us before are
now forcing us into hiding again (member of a group of rape victims
from the 1991-'94 coup d'état).
We have been victimized many times because we are ones who fight and
speak out. All of us women here had a petition sent around the country
to remove the military. Now we have to hide. It took a lot for us to
come here today. Everyone knows us and is looking for us. They are looking
for all members of [our organization]. We have to move around constantly
(member of a group of rape victims from the 1991-'94 coup d'état).
Our situation is difficult was since Aristide was removed, we are threatened
and forced to hide. Several students have disappeared. I live near the
former Army members and don't really have the human rights organization
to turn to because they are bought off.... We can't go to school or
the press, we must hide and have to carry ID so if we are killed you
can identify us. Even our parents are kicking us out because of fear.
In Carrefour, we stand there with our two hands and don't know what
The Multinational Interim Force and Human Rights Concerns
The stated mission of the Multinational Interim Force is to "restore
security" in the country; however, some reports suggest that the presence
of the forces has not only reduced insecurity but in many has cases
contributed to it. A 3,600 member multinational force is present in
the country; however, its activities have been limited geographically
and many areas of the country remain under rebel control.
Many persons interviewed by the LHL mission stated that they did not
feel that the presence of the Multinational Interim Force was contributing
to their security. There are confirmed reports of U.S. Marines shooting
Haitians who failed to stop at security checkpoints, which has been
attributed by some to communication difficulties. Conrad Tribble of
the U.S. Embassy offered an example of one incident: "In front of the
Teleco building last week they shot a car because it was driving high
speed towards the checkpoint. It could have been a communication problem."
LHL reported hearing stories of individuals from both pro-Aristide groups
and the former political opposition being shot by troops because of
a failure of communication.
Delegations heard reports of many more killings than those which are
attributable to communication errors. Many described operations where
the Marines were working together with groups persecuting members of
Lavalas. The delegation also raised questions about the constitutionality
of actions by Marines, including arrests and home searches. Organizations
from different sides of the political debate interviewed by the LHL
Mission acknowledged hearing reports that the U.S. Marines have killed
many more people in the neighborhood of Bel Air, an area known for its
strong support of President Aristide. Anne Hastings, Executive Director
of FONKOZE, informed the LHL Mission that her employees had told her
that the American troops "have killed far more than the six people reported
in the press. Many, many more." Camille Chalmers, Secretary General
of the Haitian Platform to Advocate for an Alternative Development (PAPDA),
also said that he had heard "that sixty people died in one day in Bel
Air," adding that "the multinational forces cannot provide security.
They increase insecurity with their tanks and their missiles." A representative
from Lavalas interviewed by LHL claimed that, "The Marines have a list
and are looking for party membersÍ.We can interview at least fifty parents
in Bel Air whose children have been taken by Marines." His statements
were echoed by many others interviewed by the group.
These claims have yet to be investigated further. Human rights organizations
visited by the delegations have thus far indicated an unwillingness
to investigate the events, citing political differences as their reason
for not having access to neighborhoods where these events have occurred.
When the LHL Mission asked Conrad Tribble of the U.S. whether he would
be willing to suggest a small-scale investigation into the rumors of
what happened in Bel Air, he stated that, "There is nothing to investigate."
The Interim Haitian government has thus far shown an alarming lack of
commitment to the protection of the human rights of civilians. In a
March 19 address in Gonaives, Interim Prime Minister Gérard Latortue
praised rebels, including Tatoune and Chamblain as "freedom fighters,"
stating that in the United States, "They thought the people in Gonaives
were thugs and bandits, but they are freedom fighters" (Reuters). The
government has not yet acted to arrest convicted criminals involved
in abuses from the last coup d'état or return all prisoners to
jail. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch alike have criticized
the interim government for what they describe as "one-sided justice."
Although Latortue has denied that partisans of Fanmi Lavalas are being
persecuted, he reasserted the determination of his government to fight
those he labels "chim╦re." He is reported as having said that his priority
is arresting the "chim╦re," rather than convicted rights violators still
at large. He stated that the government willnot direct its attention
to the cases of convicted violators until this task has been completed
(AHP, April 19).
A Critical Examination of the Human Rights Response
A theme to emerge from conversations with people who had been victims
of serious human rights violations in the past and whose lives were
most in danger was the sentiment that human rights organizations were
not acting to protect the rights of all Haitians. Many people from grassroots
organizations being targeted in the campaign of terror and whose names
have been read on the radio expressed their feeling that they have no
human rights organizations to which to turn. One person stated, "These
systematic human rights violations have been happening since February
29 and human rights organizations haven't said anything." Another added,
"I have no human rights organization to turn to" (LHL). Many interviewed
by the delegations emphasized that human rights organizations had not
only failed to assist victims but had instead contributed to the climate
of terror existing in the country.
Conrad Tribble from the U.S. Embassy assured the LHL Mission that "there
are very active Haitian human rights organizations funded by the U.S.
to deal with abuses on both sides of the spectrum." Haitians from both
sides of the spectrum challenged his statement, insisting that an unrecognized
human rights crisis was occurring in the country. Camille Chalmers of
PAPDA, an organization that publicly called for the resignation of Aristide,
stated, "Human rights organizations here must document what is happening.
The reprisals and tortures from those criminals and international forces."
Le Comit╚ des Avocats pour le Respect des Libert╚s Individuelles (CARLI)
The NLG Delegation met with two human rights organizations to understand
the role that they were playing in responding to the human rights crisis.
The Comit╚ des Avocats pour le Respect des Libert╚s Individuelles (CARLI)
maintains an International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) and
USAID-sponsored telephone "hotline" for victims of human rights abuses.
CARLI then publishes a list each month of the names of alleged "abusers"
using conclusory language condemning the person for their crimes, which
are typically murder and calling for their immediate arrest. The delegation
found no evidence that CARLI conducts any investigation before condemning
the named person, and the person "condemned" to the list is never contacted
to respond to the allegations. Although CARLI insisted that it conducts
a thorough investigation of the 60 to 100 monthly calls it receives
and verifies beyond a reasonable doubt the accusations before naming
the condemned, the organization has no full-tim staff, there are only
two lawyers at the office, and all are volunteers (NLG).
CARLI's February list contained the names of approximately 85 people
against whom calls were made in February and their political affiliations.
All were Lavalas supporters or police. Prior lists observed by the delegation
also contained only people named who are deemed by the list to be Lavalas
supporters. Completed "hotline" intake forms observed used terms such
as "a supporter of the dictator Aristide." CARLI leaflets issued to
the public to publicize the "hotline" are written in French, not Creole.
More than two-thirds of Haiti's people do not speak or read French.
CARLI insists that it will investigate cases involving Lavalas victims,
but admits that none have come forward.
CARLI gives that list to the police, other government agencies, USAID,
and the U.S. Embassy, and other copies are distributed to the public.
Names from the lists have been read on the radio as part of daily announcements
of individuals accused of crimes. The NLG Delegation met with people
who are now in hiding because their names appear on the CARLI list.
All deny being involved in any human rights abuses, and insist that
the list exists to serve the political ends of the opposition to the
elected government and to instill fear.
The Let Haiti Live mission met with a student leader who had gone into
hiding after his name was read on the radio. Frantz Elie Legros, a student
from Carrefour, was included in a weekly list of alleged human rights
abusers compiled by the CARLI hotline. Pamela Callen, deputy director
of the U.S. Agency for International Development, explained that the
CARLI hotline is supported by her agency. Unknown accusers called the
hotline and claimed Legros was handing out weapons in Kafou. It was
this charge that put him into hiding initially. According to the Haitian
Press Agency, CARLI issues a list to the press each week of all those
accused by anonymous callers to their hotline. Essentially, this hotline
is a key part of the terror campaign (LHL).
It has been reported that Radio Caraibes repeatedly informed the public
that Legros was being held at the Faculty and asked that the police
go there to arrest him. This is an incitation to violence, and other
students from the other parts of the university campus went to join
those waiting for Legros at the Law Faculty. Recent reports note that
Legros is still facing difficulties. There are reports of other similar
incidents where radio announcers have served as informants for groups
carrying out executions and political arrests.
vNational Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR)
The National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR) is a well-funded human
rights organization with offices in Port-au-Prince and New York City.
The organization purports to be a neutral human rights group and to
take all cases regardless of political affiliation. The Let Haiti Live
Observation Mission and National Lawyers Guild Delegation met separately
with staff from NCHR.
When asked by the NLG Delegation if they would investigate 1000 bodies
dumped and burned by the morgue over the last few weeks at the burial
site Titanyen, the director of NCHR denied knowing about these events
and dismissed them as untrue (NLG). NCHR also denied claims about dumped
bodies at Piste D'Aviation. When shown photographs taking of ashes and
fresh human skeletons, the director of NCHR informed the delegation
that the General Hospital regularly dumps bodies at the site.
The delegation also noted that while the organization had posters accusing
Aristide and members of his government of human rights violations and
calling for their arrest and imprisonment, there were no similar posters
calling for the arrest of convicted human rights violators including
Louis Jodel Chamblain and Jean "Tatoune" Baptiste. NCHR has acknowledged
the threat posed by these individuals but dismissed the suggestion of
creating other wanted posters.
NCHR characterized the human rights situation in the country as follows:
Since the change in governments, NCHR and POHDH have recorded a decrease
in the number of human rights abuses and common law violations being
reported. This is not to say that violations in both senses are not
still occurring, but rather that the cases are more isolated than before."
("Boniface-Latortue: The First 45 Days, April 15, 2004, http://www.nchrhaiti.org/article.php3?id_article=161).
This statement stands in stark contrast to reports made by delegations
who during their short stays, discovered significant evidence of an
increase in human rights abuses.
NCHR made the following statement regarding the arrest and prosecution
of Lavalas members:
It is important not to consider the arrest and prosecution of members
and/or supporters of the Lavalas party who have been implicated in human
rights violations and/or infractions of the law as political persecution.
Those who break the law and/or commit serious human rights violations
must be brought to justice, regardless of one's political affiliation
(NCHR Press Conference).
While the arrest and prosecution of all individuals who have committed
crimes is necessary to bringing an end to impunity in Haiti, the circumstances
surrounding these arrests warrants further investigation. During its
visit to Haiti, Amnesty International questioned Marines guarding prisoners
about the legal context of the arrests of Lavalas members being held.
Amnesty found that Marines were unable to provide an adequate response
to these inquires (Amnesty, April 8). The activities of CARLI and other
groups suggest a need to investigate further the constitutionality of
arrests being made.
The Haiti Human Rights Report is a publication of the Let Haiti Live
Coalition. The purpose of the report is to disseminate information on
the human rights situation in Haiti. It is not meant as an exhaustive
catalog of all human rights violations occurring in Haiti. Submissions,
subscription requests, comments, and requests for verification of materials
may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Submissions will be reviewed for authenticity and investigated for corroborating
evidence before being published in the report. The editor reserves the
right to make final decisions on materials included in the report. For
more information about the Let Haiti Live Coalition, visit www.haitireborn.org
or email email@example.com.