REPORT OF THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has continued to pay
close attention to the situation of human rights in Haiti since the departure of
President Jean Claude Duvalier on February 6, 1986.
The systematic violations of the fundamental rights of the Haitian people
during the presidencies-for-life of the Duvaliers caused the
Commission to prepare a Special Report. That
same year, before leaving the country, Jean Claude Duvalier had invited the
Commission to conduct a visit to observe the situation of human rights in Haiti.
The visit never materialized.
On July 29, 1986, the National Council of Government that succeeded
Duvalier, sent the Commission another invitation to conduct the on-site
observation. The full Commission
made that visit in January 1987. The
IACHR's second visit was made after civilian President Leslie Manigat was ousted
in August 1988. As a result of that
visit and at the request of the Permanent Council of the OAS, the Commission
prepared a special report on the situation of human rights in Haiti, wherein it
makes a detailed analysis of the historical evolution and human rights affected
in the context of the 1987 Constitution.
As the violence escalated and the human rights situation deteriorated,
the OAS Permanent Council was convened on February 23, 1990, to discuss the
Haitian situation. It resolved to
request the Commission to continue to give priority attention to the human
rights situation in Haiti and, with the Government's agreement, to conduct
another on-site visit and prepare a special report.
The Chairman of the Commission, Mr. Oliver H. Jackman, instructed the
Executive Secretariat to take the appropriate steps to conduct the observation
visit requested by the Permanent Council. But
the conflict in Haiti escalated. Before
the Government of General Prosper Avril could make good on the invitation, it
was replaced by the provisional Government of Dr. Ertha Pascal Trouillot.
The agreement reached with her was that the visit would be from April 17
through 20, 1990.
As a result of that observation visit, the IACHR Delegation presented its
report to the full membership of the Commission at its 77th session (May 7
through 18, 1990). The Commission
approved the report and presented it to the OAS General Assembly, which met in
Paraguay in June 1990. This report
covers the administration of General Prosper Avril and includes the elements
observed during the on-site visit and from which the Commission drew its
conclusions and recommendations. It
expressed particular concern over the problem of the security in which the
elections would be held.
In that report the Commission also stated that the extreme violence of
the Army, Police and the armed civilian groups was the principal cause of the
violations of the rights of the people, in particular the rights to life,
physical safety and personal liberty. The
Commission further stated that the competent authorities should punish those
responsible for such violations in such a way as to make an example of them, and
should disarm the civilian groups and radically alter the system of section
chiefs and adjutants who continue to operate in rural areas.
As for the inability of the administration of justice to combat the
climate of apprehension prevailing throughout the country, the Commission
pointed to the need to take more vigorous action in prosecuting those accused of
very grave human rights violations.
On July 5, the Commission received the observations of the Government
concerning the Commission's Special Report on the situation of human rights in
Haiti, pointing out that the Government's essential mission was to organize
honest elections, under the best possible conditions and within as short a
period as possible. The Provisional
Government of Dr. Trouillot also said that it did not have the time, the means
or the right to undertake profound reforms, as that should be the responsibility
of a freely elected, definitive government.
However, by agreement with the Council of State, the Government had taken
certain measures aimed at satisfying some of the grievances of the people, which
can be summarized as follows:
With respect to justice, some judges and section chiefs that were
objected to have been replaced. Formal
instructions have been given to the agents of the judicial police to apply the
As for the apprehension, recruitment was being conducted for the Armed
Forces of Haiti. Paralleling these measures, calculated to restore a sense of
security, a process had gotten underway to disarm the irregular forces, and
results have been positive. Certain
officers accused of extortion were discharged from the Army.
Subsequent to the Commission's April visit, it was informed that the more
evident it became that elections would be held, the more the human rights
situation in Haiti deteriorated. For
that reason, on instructions from Dr. Leo Valladares Lanza, Chairman of the
Commission, Dr. Bertha Santoscoy, the attorney in charge of Haitian matters,
traveled to Port-au-Prince from September 10 through 14, 1990, in
order to obtain more extensive information on the situation of human rights in
The Commission studied that information at its 78th session and decided
to visit Haiti for a follow-up on the human rights situation and, by
examining the exercise of political rights, to lend its support to the
democratization process underway. That
visit was made from November 14 through 16, 1990, by all the members of the
The purpose of this section of the annual report is to give the General
Assembly an updated report on events in Haiti since the time the Commission
presented its special report on Haiti in May 1990.
On May 2, 1990, the Provisional Government of President Ertha Pascal
Trouillot installed the Provisional Electoral Council, which was charged with
organizing the municipal, legislative and presidential elections in Haiti.
To support the electoral process, President Trouillot requested the
assistance of international organizations to oversee the general elections.
Haiti's institutions of government, including its Armed Forces, the
Council of State and the political parties were in favor of supervision by the
Organization of American States and the United Nations.
However, the Provisional Electoral Council and the political parties
discarded any possibility of military (the blue helmets) being sent in and
favored a technical assistance and verification mission.
Meeting in Paraguay on June 8, the OAS General Assembly adopted a
resolution on Support for the Democratic Process in the Republic of Haiti. Because of its significance, it is cited below:
FOR THE DEMOCRATIC PROCESS IN THE
adopted at the eighth plenary session,
on June 8, 1990)
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY,
Resolution CP/RES. 537 (805/90) on the human rights situation in Haiti,
adopted by the Permanent Council on February 23, 1990; and
Previous resolutions of the General Assembly and the Permanent Council on
democracy and human rights in Haiti, in particular, resolutions AG/RES. 824
(XVI-0-86), CP/RES. 502 (743/88), CP/RES. 489 (720/87), and CP/RES.
441 (644/86), and
BEARING IN MIND
The report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on its
visit in situ to Haiti contained in its annual report for 1989/90
(AG/doc.2595/90), and the presentation of its special report on Haiti
(AG/doc.2595/90 add. 1);
The statement by the President of the Provisional Government of Haiti to
the Permanent Council on May 25, 1990, in which the commitment to free, honest
and credible elections, to be conducted under the sovereign authority of the
Government of Haiti's Electoral Council, was made;
The Secretary General's oral report to the Permanent Council on May 23,
1990, on the status of OAS cooperation with the Provisional Government of Haiti
in the electoral process in that country;
The statements of the countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to
this Assembly, reiterating their solidarity with the people of Haiti and their
continuing support for the electoral process and for Haiti's developmental
That the promotion and consolidation of representative democracy, based
on respect for the principle of nonintervention, is an essential purpose of the
Organization of American States,
1. To declare its solidarity with
the people of Haiti and to reiterate its support for their legitimate
aspirations for peace and democracy, without external interference and in the
exercise of the sovereign expression of their will.
2. To express its satisfaction with
the improvement in the human rights situation under the new Provisional
Government of Haiti and hope that further efforts will be made to promote and
protect human rights in Haiti.
3. To extend full support to the
Provisional Government of Haiti in making a reality expeditiously its stated
intention to hold free and fair elections at the earliest possible opportunity
4. To urge all government and
international organizations to provide the necessary technical and emergency
economic assistance to the Provisional Government of Haiti for the preparation
and holding of free and fair elections and for the promotion of development and
democratic stability in that country.
5. To continue the assistance of the
OAS to the Provisional Government of Haiti for its electoral process and to
express the strong desire that this assistance be coordinated with the Caribbean
Community and other international organizations.
6. To call on all member states to
support the OAS efforts in Haiti by making available financial resources and/or
qualified election observers.
7. To urge the Provisional
Government of Haiti and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to
continue to cooperate to bring about an improvement in the human rights
situation in that country.
request the Secretary General to inform the Permanent Council on a regular basis
of the status of the Organization's support for the electoral process in Haiti
and, in accordance with AG/RES. 991 (XIX-0/89), to submit a comprehensive
report to the General Assembly at its twenty-first regular session.
On June 28, 1990, the Provisional Electoral Council announced that the
general elections originally slated for September had been postponed: the first
round of balloting would be on November 4, and the second on November 25.
The next day, under strict security measures at the headquarters of the
Electoral Council, the latter made public the new Election Law that would govern
the forthcoming elections. Enacted
on July 14, the law consists of 162 articles and provides that the President of
the Republic shall be elected by universal suffrage and by an absolute majority. The law stipulates that the presidential term of office is
five years, while deputies have a four-year term.
The membership of the Senate will be renewed by thirds every two years.
Article 41 concerns persons ineligible under the Constitution and under
the provisions of the Election Law; it precludes the election of Haitians who,
because of "excessive zeal" have been "architects of the
dictatorship," those whom public rumor charges with political assassination
or the torture of prisoners, and those public officials suspected of unlawful
During the process of democratization there ocurred a distancing between
the Executive Branch and the Council of State, which became even more serious
when Serge Villard, a member of the Council of State, was murdered on June 21
and was perceived as the authorities showing little interest in opening a
serious investigation to find the guilty parties.
This assault occurred at a time when the neo-Duvalierist sector was
escalating its criticism of the Council of State.
Villard was regarded as the "father of Article 291" of the new
1987 Constitution, which bars persons closely associated with the Duvalier
dictatorship from holding elective office for ten years.
This attack was interpreted as a warning amid the threats that the
Council of State was receiving in response to its rejection of President
Trouillot's appointment of Violene Legagneur as Minister of Finance.
The Council of State laid down the following conditions for the elections
to be held: 1) that the safety
problem be corrected; 2) that Roger Lafontant and Williams Regala be arrested;
3) that an investigation be conducted into the assassination of Serge Villard;
4) that those guilty of the massacres of November 29, 1987 (elections) and
September 11, 1988 (Church of Saint John Bosco) be brought to trial, and 5) that
measures be taken to lower the cost of living.
None of these conditions was met.
The return of Roger Lafontant (July 7), former Minister of the Interior
under Jean Claude Duvalier and de facto chief of the Tonton Macoutes, and
Williams Regala, Minister of the Interior and Defense under the Namphy
Government, elicited widespread protest from the people and the political
parties. They feared that the Tonton Macoutes (the civil militia under
the Duvalier regime) would be resurrected, since Lafontant's followers had used
violence repeatedly since his return. Further,
the weak efforts of President Trouillot and the Armed Forces to apprehend them
were perceived as evidence of complicity between the Government and the
Duvalierists, which would not ensure the proper atmosphere for holding
The Minister of the Interior, Joseph Maxi, told the Commission that even
though he had given orders that Roger Lafontant be detained at the time of his
arrival, security officials at the airport had refused to receive those orders.
He also said that the Attorney General had issued an arrest warrant
against Lafontant, but the police claimed that they were "unable to locate
him," even though he continued his campaign to win support in the streets
The Commission was also told that the fact that the arrest warrant
against Lafontant had not been executed caused one to suspect that he had
followers inside the police force, which he had headed during the Duvalier
government, and that they would now assist him with their protection and
collusion. The Chief of the Armed
Forces, General Herard Abrahams, told the Commission that the Lafontant case was
before the Court of Appeals which in due course would pronounce on the matter.
The foregoing was reiterated during the meeting with Prosecutor Bayard
Vincent (Commissaire), who said that in spite of his efforts to arrest Lafontant,
he did not have the backing of either the police or the Armed Forces, and that
there was complicity between the police and certain members of the judiciary.
He said that the judge who heard the Lafontant case had nullified the
arrest warrant on the grounds that the Prosecutor had failed to show up for a
meeting with Lafontant's attorneys. Prosecutor
Vincent said that because of his insistence he had received serious death
As for the situation of Williams Regala, the Commission was told that
there was no warrant out for his arrest, but that there was a trial pending,
based on a charge brought by Mr. Bernard Sansariq, who said that Regala had been
involved in the murder of his family in Jeremie.
This case was before the Court of Appeals, pending settlement of a
question of jurisdiction. There was
also a general complaint from the Provisional Electoral Council charging Regala
with being the principal instigator of the massacre that took place on November
29, 1987. With the complicity of
the Namphy government, that violent disruption of the general elections had left
24 people dead and 74 wounded.
On July 9, eleven parties and grassroots organizations called a general
strike in Haiti to protest the presence of Lafontant and Regala.
Their presence was interpreted as a mockery of the judicial authorities
and an insult to the murder victims. The
strike went on until July 13, paralyzing the country for 24 hours.
On July 11, the Group of 12 (Assembly for Concerted Action) issued, with
the support of the Council of State, a communique asking the Government to
arrest Lafontant and Regala; if not, it asked that President Trouillot step
down. Some members of the Group of
12, including the National Alliance for Democracy and Progress (ANDP),
represented by Marc Bazin, Serge Gilles and Dejean Belizaire and the Haitian
Demo-Christian Party (PDCH) represented by Sylvio Claude, took issue with
On July 16, the Provisional Electoral Council urged unity and negotiation
in the face of the crisis. It was
disturbed by the threat of chaos and by the fact that the failure of the
Executive-Council of State arrangement--which was the product
of a consensus reached between the military and civilians--could
have national and international implications for the forthcoming elections.
At the request of the Provisional Electoral Council, a number of
political parties and the Committee to Honor and Respect the Constitution agreed
to postpone the ultimatum given to the President until an unspecified date.
Confidence in the Trouillot Government continued to erode when on August
14 the Council of State declared that it could no longer work with the
Executive, whom it charged was no longer working according to the provisions of
the Agreement of March 4, which had been adopted by the principal political
forces in the country. Ten days
later, five ministers of government, those closest to the democratic movement,
resigned in protest. They were:
Kesler Clermont, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship, Claudette
Werleigh, Minister of Social Affairs, Lionel Richard, Minister of Agriculture,
Maurice Lafortune, Minister of Commerce, and Charles Tardieu, Minister of
On August 23, seven political parties asked the Provisional Electoral
Council to suspend preparations for the elections, because the political
situation was "rapidly deteriorating."
The authors of the demand asked that consideration be given to the fact
that various social sectors and political parties had joined together in
opposition to elections under the Trouillot presidency.
On the other hand, other political leaders criticized this initiative as
"political caprice," arguing that the only solution to the crisis was
to hold democratic elections under the Trouillot presidency.
From May through September, human rights violations in Haiti mounted as
plans for the elections moved ahead. The
climate of apprehension both in the capital and in the countryside was created
by the violence on the part of the police, section chiefs and their adjutants,
and by armed civilians known as "zinglindos."
These bands of criminals presumably were composed of macoutes and former
soldiers. In these months, dozens
of Haitian citizens were murdered under a variety of circumstances; most of
these killings have never been investigated.
One of the measures the Government took to curb the abuses committed by
the section chiefs and their adjutants was to order the establishment of the
"Delegates" on May 31, 1990. The
Delegates are civilian representatives of the Executive Branch, under the
authority and protection of the Ministry of the Interior.
They have jurisdiction in each of the departments to which they have been
designated. However, this newly
formed government institution has not yet proven itself to be the proper
instrument for curbing abuses by the authorities.
During the period covered by this report, the Commission was informed of
many human rights violations, among them the following:
In mid April 1990, there was a clash between farmers from the Bocozelle
region, in the municipality of Saint Marc, and agitators sent in by land owners
in the region. Two farmers were arrested:
Dieusi Fortune and Espérance Saint-Louis are in Saint Marc prison
and have yet to be brought before any judge.
On May 6, in Port-Sondé, Corporal Jean Robert fired on two men by
the name of Sainte Théluscart and Verité Isaac.
The first was killed and the second wounded.
He later ordered his adjutant to arrest a man called Nene, who was killed
by the adjutant when he resisted arrest. The
reasons for these killings are unknown.
That same day, in Labadie, Petite Rivière de l'Artibonite, Kern
Genescart was arrested and charged with being a member of the Labadie Youth
Movement. Genescart was arrested on
orders from Commandant Maxi Maxime. On
May 7, Enel Pierre was arrested for the same reason.
The Labadie Youth Movement had been banned by the military since 1988 and
four of its members were killed by local authorities.
On May 15, Judge Tulien Vincent ordered the arrest of Tony Vernio, a
reporter for Radio Haiti-Inter, when he was in the process of
investigating certain information that implicated the judge in extortion.
Around 2,000 people from Port-de-Paix immediately assembled
outside the prison to demand his release. The
army intervened to protect the local judge, blocking the entrance to the Court. Tony Vernio was later released in response to the crowd's
demands and said that he had been severely beaten by the soldiers.
Cilien Thélot, Chief of the Pérodin Section, in Petite Rivière de
l'Artibonite, was forced to abandon his post because of the many abuses he had
committed against the people. Thereafter,
a group of farmers armed with machetes and stones patrolled the area to prevent
him from returning.
On May 31, Cilien Thélot, along with a number of adjutants, confronted
the Pérodin farmers. In the
fighting that followed, three farmers, Thélot and two adjutants were killed.
Two days later, Captain Hérard Ira and 30 soldiers under his command,
went to Pérodin and arrested farmers Monnier Dieferne, Nicolas Riche and
Pierrelus Zéphir, in retaliation for the death of
the three military. The
chiefs of neighboring sections arrested eleven farmers at random:
Olius Senobe, Gusmane Jean-Baptiste, Tiovis Toussaint, Sauveur
Pierre Louis, Sauveur Joseph, Jacéus Boihite, Dieseul Pleurméns, Elphise
Exilhome, Céleste Caprice, Méprise Jean Baptiste, Sorel Pierre-Louis.
On June 16, 11 were released, while the other three are still in prison.
Supporté Orteus, one of the adjutants from Thélot who was arrested for
the killing of the farmers, was released when sent to the Petite Rivière
On June 7, in Mahotière, 7th municipal district of Port-de-Paix,
soldiers from the Northwestern "Unite Tactique" sent by Section Chief
Jöel Jean-Baptiste, arrested seven members of the "Tet Kole Ti
Peyizan Nodwes" Movement. They
were taken to the local police station, where they were beaten and later
Again in Mahotière, two days later, Section Chief Jean-Baptiste
arrested two youths, Légilien Parice and Narcius Oralus.
They were taken to the Port-de-Paix Headquarters, where they
were jailed and beaten. They were charged with attempted "déchoukage" of
the section chief. Thanks to
the intervention of an attorney for the TET KOLE Movement, they were
released on June 12, saying that they had been beaten by the military.
On June 21, three men, one of them in military uniform, opened fire as
the Council of State and a number of organizations were conferring at the Hotel
Santos. Serge Villard, a member of the Council of State, was wounded
and died three days later in the hospital.
A young trade unionist, Jean Marie Montes, was also killed during the
attack and a member of the Independent Union of Haitian Workers, Emmanuel Magny,
was seriously wounded.
On July 1, in the St. Georges section in St. Louis du Sud, soldiers of
the Acquin military district shot and killed an elderly man by the name of
Dieuseul Saint-Fort. They arrested 11 farmers and beat up a street vendor by the
name of Emmanuel. These incidents
were in retaliation for a confrontation that had occurred between the Commandant
of Acquin and a member of the people's surveillance brigade on May 28.
According to witnesses, Mariano Delaunay was killed on July 2, 1990, by a
sergeant in the Armed Forces. On
September 11, 1988, Delaunay had been a witness to the burning of the Church of
Saint John Bosco, the Salesian Fathers' school where he worked and to the murder
of ten people who were followers of Father Jean Bertrand Aristide.
It is believed that Delaunay was killed to prevent him from testifying
against the authors of those crimes.
On July 12, five policemen from the Delmas Military District arrested Mr.
Bens Bernard Jeune at Cité Soleil. Jeune
was beaten and jailed. The cause of
his arrest is unknown.
On July 23, in Cité Soleil, a soldier severely beat Prévil Desgranges.
He and his wife were then taken to the jail.
The reasons for their arrest are unknown.
On July 24, two members of the Democratic Union Confederation (KID) were
arrested by police during a demonstration to protest the presence of Roger
Lafontant. At the same time, a
reporter from Radio Cacique, Wilfred Victor, was attacked by Lafontant
sympathizers. The police, who were
present, did not intervene.
On July 25, Ernst Charles, leader of the Haitian Unemployment Committee,
was arrested by four armed men, one of them in military uniform.
Charles was taken to the Dessalines Barracks.
Two hours later he was taken to the Delmas Police Station, where he was
beaten by soldiers. Before he died,
his body was abandoned outside the station.
On August 2, in Petit-Goâve, Fresnel Desgranges, a member of the
Rassemblement des Démocrates Nationaux Progressistes (RDNP) was unlawfully
arrested by a soldier named Jean Brutus during a demonstration against the
Government to protest its refusal to allow former President Leslie Manigat to
enter the country. Desgranges was held at the Faustin Soulouque Barracks, where
he was beaten and released the next day.
That same day, in Petite Rivière de l'Artibonite, Rosny André was
arrested without a warrant by an adjutant of the rural police force, on orders
from Section Chief Jean-Lacoste Edouard.
André was accused of being an enemy of a section chief.
On August 4, in Cité Soleil, Delmas, Derat Saint-Pierre, age 22,
was killed by a group of men, two of whom were in military uniform.
On August 23, in Grande Saline, de l'Artibonite department, Chrismard was
killed when shot in the back by Section Chief Charlin Monesty when he refused to
be arrested without a warrant.
On October 23, in Port-au-Prince, an agent with the Police
Investigation Service killed Mr. Harry Pierre-Toussaint.
The reasons are unknown.
On October 26, in Cité Soleil, Port-au-Prince, Fritzner
Joseph, President of the Voter Registration Office (B.I.V.), was arrested by
three armed men in civilian dress. Joseph
was taken to the Cité Soleil Police Station and then transferred to the
headquarters of the 22nd police company at Delmas, where he was killed.
According to witnesses, Mr. Joseph had refused to agree to irregularities
in the registration of supporters of the Duvalierist candidate Roger Lafontant.
On November 24, in Valereux, 5th municipal district of Verretes, Section
Chief Marc-Nelson Dorval arbitrarily arrested Alfred Jean, Nöel Alce,
Milius Soidieu, Adrien Soidieu and Marc Louicius, for having supplied the UN
observers with information on how the election process in that region was
On July 31, the Government of Dr. Trouillot refused to allow former
President Leslie Manigat to return to Haiti.
It sent a communication to the airlines, notifying them of the following:
"Any airline company that violates this ban will be obliged to keep Mr.
Manigat aboard the aircraft and return him to the point from which he
One of the reasons cited by the Government was that Mr. Manigat had
refused to sign a statement to the effect that he was returning to Haiti as a
"simple citizen" and not as President.
The Government's action provided an unfavorable contrast to its inaction
when Roger Lafontant returned to the country.
At its 78th session, the Commission held a hearing on September 26, 4090,
at which it received former President Leslie Manigat.
In discussing his situation, he said that the ban violated his right to
return to the country of which he was a national. The ban was preventing him from registering as a candidate
for the forthcoming presidential elections, thereby violating his political
rights. He also said that the legal
suit he had filed to have his right to enter the country restored had been
Believing that the situation of Mr. Manigat called for an immediate
solution, since the Provisional Electoral Council had established October 6
through 16, 1990 as the period for registering one's candidacy, the Commission
sent a telegram to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship asking that the
Government take the necessary measures to allow Mr. Manigat to enter the country
and be able to exercise his right to register as a presidential candidate.
On October 11, the Commission was advised that the Government had lifted
the ban that prohibited Mr. Manigat from entering the country.
In early September, the Provisional Electoral Council announced a second
postponement of the elections, owing to financial problems and the apprehension
prevailing throughout the country. It
did not set an exact date, but it was said that it might be possible to hold
them in December. Finally, on
September 26, the Provisional Electoral Council officially announced that the
elections would take place on December 16, 1990, and that voter registration
would commence on October 5. The
period from October 6 through 16 was the time frame established for registration
of presidential candidates. Nevertheless,
the Chairman of the Provisional Electoral Council, Jean Robert Sabalat, stated
that "it would delay the election process if the percentage of registered
voters was not sufficient to ensure the next administration's ability to govern
and if the safety of the people was in any way compromised."
The election campaign was launched officially on November 7.
The atmosphere was one of calm. The
army had stepped up its vigilance after the Electoral Council rejected 15
candidacies of the 26 presidential candidates and 133 legislative candidates, on
either administrative or constitutional grounds.
The candidacies of the two principal neo-Duvalierist leaders,
former Minister Roger Lafontant and former General Claude Raymond, were rejected
on the grounds that their documents were incomplete.
The candidacy of former President Leslie Manigat was rejected on the
grounds of Article 134 of the Constitution, which states that five years must
pass before a former president can run for reelection.
The Electoral Council refrained from invoking Article 291 of the 1987
Constitution, which provides that ten years must pass before the "most
zealous architects" of the dictatorship can run for office.
At the invitation of the Government, the full membership of the
Commission visited Haiti from November 14 through 16, to observe the human
rights situation in the country, especially that of the political rights, in the
context of the election process then in progress in Haiti.
During its visit, the IACHR had occasion to speak with President Ertha
Pascal Trouillot; the acting Foreign Minister Mr. Jean Thomas; the Minister of Interior, Mr. Joseph Maxi; the Chief of the Armed
Forces, General Herard Abrahams; the Minister of Justice, Mr. Pierre Labissiere;
the Attorney General, Mr. Bayard Vincent and the President of the Provisional
Electoral Council, Mr. Jean Robert Sabalat, as well as with other members of the
Electoral Council and the Government. It also met with numerous representatives of human rights
groups and political parties to apprise itself of the political situation in the
country at that time. Likewise, it met with representatives of the press and
radio concerning freedom of expression. The
Commission received and spoke with representatives of unions, the industrial
sector, the Chamber of Commerce, the Church, and Haitian jurists.
During its visit, the Commission saw encouraging signs indicating that
the election process underway at that time would culminate in genuine elections.
The first of those signs was the fact that the number of persons who had
registered to vote was the highest in Haitian history.
This could be interpreted as evidence of the Haitian people's
deep-seated desire for peaceful change.
The second sign was the Provisional Government's willingness to carry the
election process through to a successful conclusion.
The highest ranking authorities told the Commission that this was the
principal purpose of its actions.
As for the activities of the Provisional Electoral Council, the
Commission was also encouraged by the fact that the vast majority of the
testimony received stated that the Council was performing its functions in an
independent and impartial manner and was adhering to the letter of the
Constitution and the laws. From the
start of its visit, the Commission had said that it hoped the Provisional
Electoral Council would be given the resources needed to be able to discharge
its important and very laudable work. The
Commission also said that there was no question that the experience acquired
during this election would serve to improve the standards governing the
electoral process and thereby remedy what some people regarded as defects in the
During the Commission's three-day stay in Haiti, it was informed
that the highest ranking officers of the Haitian Armed Forces had resolved to
conduct themselves by the strictest standards of professionalism, thereby
guaranteeing an orderly election process and the safety of the population and of
the candidates during the course of that process and on election day. The Provisional Electoral Council informed the Commission
that it was receiving the support of the Haitian Armed Forces.
The Commission was also pleased to hear from the Chief of Staff of the
Haitian Armed Forces that in keeping with the Constitution, the Armed Forces
were just as committed to honoring the outcome of the elections.
The Commission repeatedly heard positive statements concerning the
presence of international observers, including those posted by the OAS.
It was felt that they would give credibility to the election process and
help ensure that the elections would ultimately be an authentic reflection of
the will of the people.
The Commission stated that the positive signs notwithstanding, there were
also disturbing situations reported to the Commission: for example, some of the communications media were conveying
blatant threats against the Provisional Electoral Council and its members.
The Commission was also told repeatedly that no significant progress had
been made in the investigations to identify and bring to justice those
responsible for heinous crimes, which could increase the likelihood that such
crimes would continue to be committed. It
was also said that the long periods of time that had passed without warrants
being issued for the arrest of persons suspected of being linked to acts of
violence could also encourage future criminal conduct.
It was noted that not all the irregular groups created in the past had as
yet been disarmed.
The Commission reminded the Government of its obligation to take
immediate steps to eradicate outbursts of violence, which were starting just at
the time the Commission was in Haiti; it urged all sectors to renounce violence.
On a number of occasions the Commission heard references to the
catastrophic consequences that disruption of the election process would have.
The Commission received testimony in which it was alleged that certain
interpretations rendered by the Provisional Electoral Council seemed rigid and
literal and could be detrimental to rights upheld in the American Convention on
Human Rights. In the days that the
Commission was in Haiti, the Haitian Supreme Court was considering whether such
decisions by the Provisional Electoral Council could be appealed.
The Commission therefore refrained from expressing any views on the
matter. It said that it was
confident that when adopting decisions that might affect the rights of the
citizens, the competent authorities would take into account the provisions of
the American Convention on Human Rights, of which Haiti was a State party.
The Commission noted that persons who believed their rights had been
adversely affected by decisions taken by the Haitian authorities could turn to
the Commission, following the procedure provided for in the American Convention
on Human Rights.
The Commission further noted that it had received information to the
effect that in certain regions some section chiefs were interfering in favor of
certain candidates and that they were using their power to pressure the people
under their authority. The
Commission pointed out that in April the Chief of Staff had promised that
changes would be made to the section chiefs system; it urged the Government to
take the necessary measures to ensure the impartiality of the Armed Forces in
the election process, at all levels.
Overall, the Commission said it was encouraged by the information it had
received during its visit, even though there were clear indications, from various sectors, that the relative progress made toward
the elections could be undermined or interrupted, as happened in November 1987.
The Commission said that it had been greatly impressed by the
overwhelming demonstrations that the Haitian people had given of their resolve
to take all necessary measures to establish a democratic government in the
country. It was for that reason that the Commission called upon the
authorities to continue their efforts in cooperation with international
institutions. The Commission noted
that it would continue to watch, with great attention, the evolution of human
rights in Haiti.
The former President, Mr. Leslie Manigat, told the Commission that he had
taken legal action to challenge the Electoral Council's decision; his case
before the Court of Appeals argued that the Election Law of July 5, 1990, was
unconstitutional. This action had
the support of the neo-Duvalierist party, the National Reconciliation
Union (URN), headed up by Roger Lafontant.
It sought suspension of all election proceedings until the Court of
Appeals handed down its ruling. Thus
far the Court has not handed down any decision.
The atmosphere of calm in which the election campaign got underway
shifted on December 6 when an explosion at an election-related meeting
held in Petionville by supporters of the presidential candidate of the National
Front for Change and Democracy, Jean Bertrand Aristide, left six people dead and
another 52 wounded. The candidate,
Jean Bertrand Aristide, charged that the attack was the work of the National
Reconciliation Union and asked that its leader, Roger Lafontant, be arrested. Some days before, Lafontant had denounced an international
conspiracy involving murders and acts of political terrorism, just as in the
past he had made public threats against the democratic sector.
The next day, as a consequence of the attack, the Ministry of the
Interior said that the authorities would have to be advised of any political
meetings 48 hours in advance, as a means to protect the safety of the people.
The army arrested 10 people as part of an investigation.
The general elections were conducted peacefully, in the presence of
observers from the Organization of American States and CARICOM, the United
Nations (ONUVEH), and representatives of non-governmental organizations
such as the Carter Center, the Socialist International and the Permanent
Conference of Latin American Political Parties (COPPAL).
The observers said that they had detected some irregularities,
attributable to a lack of organization or the Electoral Council's lack of means.
However, they also said that the elections had been free and democratic.
On December 23, the Electoral Council officially declared Jean Bertrand
Aristide President of Haiti, as he had obtained an absolute majority of votes.
Jean Bertrand Aristide, a former priest, won 67.39% of the votes cast, in
an election in which 75% of the electorate participated.
A month before the President-elect was to take office, an attempted
coup took place during the early morning hours of January 7.
The neo-Duvalierist leader, Roger Lafontant, with the support of a
sector of the army, forced Provisional President Ertha Pascal Trouillot to
resign and, over national radio, proclaimed himself president of Haiti.
He said that "he had joined with the Armed Forces and the Police to
take power and defend the interests of the country, in order to guide it along
the paths of true democracy" and "reveal the errors and categorical
failure of international communism for all the world to see."
The attempted coup had been preceded by a heavy exchange of gunfire in
the vicinity of the Presidential Palace and the Dessalines barracks adjacent to
the Palace. The Tontons Macoutes
moved around in armored vehicles, firing shots to intimidate the people.
In response, the people immediately poured into the streets and began to
erect barricades with burning rubber tires, in various neighborhoods in the
city. Their goal was to block the
former Duvalierist militia from circulating and to demand that the outcome of
the elections be respected.
That very same morning, January 7, the Chief of the Armed Forces, General
Herard Abrahams, issued the following message to the people:
The Haitian Armed Forces are advising the general public that on the
night of January 6 and 7, 1991, a group of insurgents in the pay of Roger
Lafontant took the Provisional President of the Republic, Ertha Pascal Trouillot,
hostage after forcing her to resign. The
Haitian Armed Forces, faithful to their mission under the Constitution, condemn
this act of terrorism and are immediately taking all necessary measures to
restore order as soon as possible and with the least possible damage.
The military urges the people to remain calm and to continue to cooperate
with the army for the good of the nation and the future of democracy.
The Chief of the Armed Forces, General Abrahams, crushed the attempted
coup d'etat that Lafontant had staged to prevent Aristide from taking office.
The end came at 9:35 a.m., following an exchange of fire between soldiers
and rebels that last a half hour. Lafontant
and 15 followers, military and civilians alike, were taken to the Headquarters
of the Armed Forces. General
Abrahams said that those arrested would be brought to trial and that 12 military
who participated in the attempted coup had been discharged from the Armed
Forces; five had been arrested and seven were fugitives from justice. He also reported that an Investigating Commission had been
formed to clarify the events and identify any accomplices.
The international community condemned the attempted take-over in
Haiti. That very day, January 7,
1991, the Permanent Council of the OAS held an emergency meeting to discuss the
situation in Haiti. It resolved to
support the Provisional Government headed by President Ertha Pascal Trouillot
and the democratic process underway in Haiti, and to back the election results
that clearly showed that Dr. Jean Bertrand Aristide had won the presidency.
Approximately 75 people died in Port-au-Prince and 150 were
wounded in the violence that took place on January 7.
Most of the victims, Tonton-Macoutes or persons associated with
Lafontant, died when attacked by the furious mob.
The station Radio Liberté, as well as the home of its director, Serge
Beaulieu were destroyed. Apart from
the neo-Duvalierists, the church was also a target of violence and
vandalism: the headquarters of the
Episcopal Conference of Haiti, which had quietly opposed Aristide's candidacy,
was burned; the residence of the Archbishop of Port-au-Prince,
Monsignor Francois Wolf Ligondé--who during a homily delivered one
week earlier had charged Aristide with attempting to head the country toward a
totalitarian regime--was also looted and burned; a number of
collaborators of the Apostolic Nuncio, Monsignor Giuseppe Leanza, were beaten by
demonstrators during the looting of the Nunciature.
The Government of Haiti ordered a curfew because of repeated attacks
against persons thought to be linked to the events of January 7.
For his part, Jean Bertrand Aristide appealed for restraint among his
followers and the general public, so that calm could be restored.
He regreted the violence that had been inflicted upon religious
On January 17, 1991, there was a new confrontation between peasants from
Gervais, Guyton and Coligny, over lands located in Terre-Cassee, in the
Artibonite region. The lands in
question have been disputed since 1973 by peasants of Gervais and previous
landlords who are supported by peasants from other towns.
Within this context of hostility, the peasants of Gervais destroyed a
depot belonging to Mr. Polynice Volcy, located in Terre-Cassee. Consequently, the District Attorney, Obert
Jean-Charles, ordered the detention of 27 peasants of Gervais.
On January 17, 1991, the local administrative authority, the Section
Chief, Roger Charles, accompanied by two assistants went to Gervais in order to
detain these peasants, who while trying to escape, were shot by associates of
the Section Chief; Exant Senat was killed.
The peasants, in revenge, assasinated his assistants.
That same day, peasants from Guyton and Coligny accompanied by soldiers
from St. Marc, violently entered the town of Gervais, killing 12 peasants and
setting fire to hundreds of houses.
A military representative from the St. Marc zone declared that the
presence of military personnel in the area was for the purpose of verifying the
events that had occurred.
The interest demonstrated by the Haitian population in the presidential
elections strongly contrasted with the legislative elections of January 20 (the
second round) where no party achieved an absolute majority.
In spite of the violence and intimidation that prevailed in the country
due to the rumors of a new attempted coup by the neo-Duvalierists the new
President, Jean Bertrand Aristide, was inaugurated on February 7, 1991.
Summarizing, the situation of human rights in Haiti during the period
covered by this report was characterized by a series of human rights violations.
These were the work of agents of the army, section chiefs, and groups of
armed irregulars consisting of former members of the military and what was left
of the civilian militia known as Tontons-Macoutes.
In its report of April 1990, the Commission described the presence of
institutionalized violence, perpetrated by members of those very institutions
whose function it was to preserve the peace and protect the exercise of the
human rights of the citizenry. It
also stated that the lack of any legal action against those responsible had to
be corrected as swiftly as possible.
Further, the absence of an efficient Judiciary continues to be
prerequisite for guaranteeing human rights in Haiti.
The inefficacy of the judicial resources creates a climate of
apprehension among the people and in some cases has been the reason why some
people have taken the law into their own hands.
Moreover, the inefficacy of the Judiciary is reflected in the irregular
procedural status of many persons now deprived of their freedom.
Therefore, a census of the prison population must be taken to determine
where the case against each of those being held stands and to release those
against whom no substantiated charges have been brought.
The Commission has observed that violations of the right to freedom and
to humane treatment continue, particularly in rural areas where the peasant
population lack the legal means to assert their rights and are defenseless
against the section chiefs. The
latter abuse their authority and far overstep their assigned functions. The Delegates, an institution ordered by the Provisional
Government to control the section chiefs' abuses, has not proven to be the
proper instrument. It is therefore
imperative that the powers, functions and origin of the section chiefs be
changed to effectively guarantee the people's rights.
The Commission reiterates the necessity of taking measures to separate
the police from the armed forces, so as to make the police more professional and
give them the training needed to respect human rights; to be a force subordinate
to the civilian power and to become a disciplined institution of the Ministry of
Justice. During the Commission's
visit in April 1990, it heard that the highest ranking authorities were putting
programs into practice intended to separate the police from the army, as
required under the Constitution. Hopefully
this process will soon be completed.
The Commission is pleased that four years of democratization, aimed at
turning over the reins of power to a civilian government, culminated with the
elections held on December 16, 1990. Those
elections faithfully reflected the will of the people.
The Commission also considers that the efforts undertaken by the
Provisional Government and the Armed Forces were decisive in holding those
elections with the kind of security that allowed all political forces and the
Haitian people in general to express themselves and act freely throughout the
The Commission also believes that the presence of international observers
from the Organization of American States and the United Nations served to create
greater confidence among the Haitian people and showed the international
community's concern for a peaceful and democratic outcome to the elections.
The Commission hopes that the new Government will adopt all measures
necessary to guarantee social peace, absolute respect for the human rights of
all its people and to strengthen the democratic system.
The Commission will continue to cooperate with the Government of Haiti
and to follow the human rights situation closely in order to make whatever
recommendations it deems necessary.
OEA/Ser.L/V/II.74, doc.9 rev.1, September 7, 1988.
 Cf. OEA/Ser.G, CP/RES. 537/90, February 23, 1990.
OEA/Ser.L/V/II. 77, rev. 1, doc. 18 of May 8, 1990.
OEA/Ser.P AG/doc. 2631/90 rev.l, in: OEA/Ser.P AG/doc. 2661, June 8, 1990,
National Agricultural Industrial Party (Centrist), the National Congress of
Democratic Movements (KONAKOM, Social Democrat) and the Unified Party of
Haitian Communists (PUCH) are among the parties that signed the complaint
and belong to the Assembly for Concerted Action.
The leaders who criticized this initiative were Demo Christian Sylvio
Claude and Centrists Marc Bazin, Hubert de Ronceray and Dejean Belizaire and
the Socialist Serge Gilles.
CP/RES. 555 (842/91).