The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has continued to monitor the human rights situation in Haiti with special attention.  The systematic violations of the fundamental rights of Haitians during the Duvalier dictatorship prompted the Commission to prepare a special report in 1979. The Commission  continued with  a follow-up report on the human rights situation in Haiti following President Jean Claude Duvalier's departure on February 6, l986.


          The National Government Council, which had succeeded Duvalier, sent a communication to the  Commission on July 29, 1986, inviting it to make an on-site investigation which was carried out by a plenum of the Commission in January, 1987.  The IACHR's second investigation took place after the civilian President Leslie Manigat was ousted in August, 1988.  As a consequence 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 which presented a detailed analysis of its historical evolution and the human rights affected within the framework of the Constitution of 1987.[1]


          In view of the escalation of violence and the worsening of human rights, the Permanent Council of the OAS was convoked on February 23, 1990 to study the situation in Haiti and decided to request the Commission to continue giving  priority attention to the situation of human rights in Haiti and with the consent of the Government to make another on-site investigation and to prepare a special report.[2]  The intensification of the conflicts in Haiti prevented General Prosper Avril's Government from finalizing the invitation before being replaced by the provisional government of Dr. Ertha Pascal Trouillot with whom the Commission agreed to make the visit of observation on April 17-20, 1990.


          As a consequence of the observation carried out, the IACHR presented its third special report to the General Assembly of the OAS, held in Paraguay in June, 1990.  This report covered the administration of General Prosper Avril and made a special point of expressing the IACHR's concern with regard to the problem of security during the voting process. [3]


          At the Government's invitation, the Commission in plenum visited Haiti on November 14-16, 1990 with the purpose of observing the situation of human rights in the country and, in particular, political rights within the framework of the electoral process taking place.  In its follow-up report on the situation of human rights in Haiti [4], the Commission mentioned that the general elections were carried out peacefully, with the presence of international observers of the Organization of American States and of the United Nations (ONUVEH), as well as the presence of representatives of nongovernmental organizations.  The observers stated that they had taken note of some irregularities of minor importance resulting from the Electoral Council's disorganization or lack of facilities, but they declared that the elections had been free and democratic.


          On December 23, the Electoral Council officially declared Jean Bertrand Aristide President of Haiti on the basis of his having received an absolute majority of the votes.  Jean Bertrand Aristide won 67.39% of the votes cast at the election on December 16 in which 75% of the electorate participated.


          There was an attempted coup in the early hours of January 7, one month before the President-Elect was to take power.  Dr. Ertha Pascal Trouillot, the Provisional President, was forced to resign by the neo-Duvalierist director of the coup, Roger Lafontant, with the support of the Army, who proclaimed himself the nation's President on the national radio.  The attempted coup had been preceded by shooting in the zone of the headquarters of the Presidency and of the Dessalines garrison adjoining the Palace. The Tontons Macoutes were circulating in armored cars and shooting to intimidate the population which reacted by immediately taking to the street and setting up barricades with burning tires in various neighborhoods of the city to block the passage of the former Duvalierist militia and to demand that the results of the election be respected.


          The head of the Armed Forces, General Abrahams, put an end to the coup headed by Lafontant whose intention was to prevent Aristide from coming to power.  Lafontant and 15 followers, military as well as civilians, were taken to the General Headquarters of the Armed Forces.  General Abrahams declared that those taken into custody would be brought to justice.  He likewise announced that an Investigating Committee had been appointed to clarify the event and to ferret out possible accomplices.


          The international community repudiated the attempted usurpation of power in Haiti.  On the same day, January 7, 1991, an emergency meeting of the Permanent Council of the OAS was called to discuss the situation of Haiti and it was decided to back the Provisional Government of President Ertha Pascal Trouillot and to support the democratic process as a result of which Dr. Jean Bertrand Aristide was elected President by the manifest will of the people.[5]


          The Government of Haiti declared a curfew as a consequence of the continued attacks upon persons who were considered to be involved in the events of the 7th.  Jean Bertrand Aristide, on his part, issued a call for discipline on the part of his supporters and the population in general so that calm would return to the nation, and lamented the violence that had been directed against religious centers.  Despite the climate of violence and intimidation that prevailed in the country, fomented by rumors of an attempted coup d'etat by the Neo-Duvalierists, the inauguration of the new President Jean Bertrand Aristide took place on February 7.


      The Situation of Human Rights during the Administration of President Aristide


          The presidential elections of December 16, 1990 marked a new phase in Haiti's political spectrum.  President Jean Bertrand Aristide's accession to power represented the hope of the Haitian people which was wishing for a democracy based on political participation and social and economic justice.


          President Aristide had various problems and pressures to face during his administration, such as those presented by the conservative, Duvalierist, political and military sectors which envisaged great changes and social reforms that would threaten their interests.


          On initiating his term of office, President Aristide committed himself to adopting concrete measures to guarantee respect for human rights.  And so, one of the first steps taken by his Government was to request  General Abrahams, the Commander of the Armed Forces, to retire six Generals and one Colonel of the Army and that they be replaced by some of the colonels who supervised the presidential elections. One week later, Generals Gérard Lacrčte, Serge St. Elio, Acédious St. Louis, Fritz Romulus, Jean-Claude Laurenceau, Roland Chavannes, and Colonel Christophe Dardompré were retired.  Colonel Raoul Cédras, who directed the Electoral Security Committee was promoted to Major General and a few months later would be appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Armed forces.  Furthermore, President Aristide requested the transfer of a group of officers who had known records of abuse of human rights to remote parts of the country and promoted officers and enlisted men who had suffered abuse during the regime of General Prosper Avril.  Those actions were not looked upon approvingly by the Armed Forces.


          Another of the initial decisions made by the new Government was that of forbidding various functionaries of the previous government to leave the country.  During President Aristide's inaugural ceremony, the Attorney General of the nation, Bayard Vincent, who was to be later appointed Minister of Justice, announced two lists with the names of 162 persons who might not leave the country until their bank accounts had been checked, as was the case with Mr. Jean-Robert Sabalat, Chairman of the Electoral Committee, and two former mayors, Irene Ridoré and Widner Vital.  One of those lists included the name of Mrs. Ertha Pascal Trouillot, the former Provisional President, whom they connected to the coup attempt of January 7, 1991.  The lists contained the names of other persons involved in violations of human rights.


          Violence persisted during the initial months of the Aristide government and there were various incidents of "popular justice."  One of them took place on March 19 in Montrouis, in the Artibonite region, when two policemen killed Phanor Mérantus, 14 years old, for refusing to give them $150.  When the people of the locality learned of this, they proceeded to the police station where they found the two policemen and killed them by applying the "Pčre Lebrun" torture, which consists of placing a tire around the victim's neck and setting it on fire.


          In an effort to find solutions to crimes and violations of human rights, a Special Committee was formed on February 25 to review notorious cases, such as the massacres of Jean Rabel, Danti, and Labadie.  This Committee was composed of the Ministers of Justice, Social Affairs, Agriculture, and Planning.  A second Committee was to be formed to investigate human rights abuses in the period 1986-1990.  The Investigating Committee was made up of independent figures, such as Mr. Necker Dessables, member of the Commission on Justice and Peace, Jean Claude Bajeux, Director of the Ecumenical Center for Human rights, Lucien Pardo, an Artibonite politician, and Patrick Henry and George Moises, members of popular organizations.


          The Aristide Government launched a campaign in mid-March against those Duvalierists who were considered guilty of political violence.  On March 26, 1991, Anthony Virginie Saint-Pierre, former Minister of Information of the General Prosper Avril Government and Mr. André Isidore Pongnon, former Commander of Forte Dimanche were arrested and charged with conspiring against the security of the state.  (The IACHR opened the case of Mr. Virginie Saint-Pierre.)


          Among the persons wanted by justice was General Williams Regalá, former Minister of Defense in the Namphy Government, charged with organizing massacres during the elections of 1987, and the former Mayor of Port-au-Prince, Frank Romain, on charges of having organized the massacre of the Church of San Juan Bosco in 1988.  Despite efforts by the Minister of Justice, Bayard Vincent, to extradite those individuals, no reply was obtained from the authorities of the Dominican Republic.  The landowners, Nicole Poitevien and Polynice Volcy, were accused of taking part in the massacre of peasants in Jean Rabel in 1987 and in Gervais, early in 1991.[6]


          As part of these detentions, a second summons was issued on April 4 for Dr. Ertha Pascal Trouillot to appear before the Court for alleged complicity in the coup d'etat of January 7, 1991.  Mrs. Trouillot spent one night in prison and was then placed under house arrest. This arrest was suspended on April 10.


          The violence and abuses of authority committed in the rural areas of Haiti prompted President Aristide's Government to try to eliminate the system of Chiefs of Section [jefes de sección]. The dismissal of the Area Heads and the transfer of their functions to the Armed Forces of the Ministry of Justice was announced in a press release of April 4.  The Area Heads turned in their weapons to the Army and new rural agents were appointed who were installed by the Justices of the Peace.  Despite the Government's good intentions, various problems cropped up in practice:  Although there was a decision to eliminate the system of Area Heads, proper procedures were not set up for the process of selecting the new agents and no agreement was reached in many localities as to who should take over the post. On the one hand, the new rural agents faced serious problems in not having the weapons with which to combat crime and this spread to a point where offenders continued to behave with absolute impunity. On the other hand, the soldiers continued to interfere with the administration of justice in the rural areas.


          In June, a number of demonstrations by popular organizations took place in the capital, as well as the interior, in protest against the measures taken by  Prime Minister René Préval regarding price increases for essential foodstuffs.  Added to this picture of economic crisis was the problem of mass expulsions of Haitians working in the Dominican Republic.


          On June 11, 1991, nongovernmental organizations told the United States House of Representatives of the human right violations that the Haitian cane cutters employed in the Dominican Republic are experiencing.  It drew particular attention to what is considered a system of forced labor whose most pathetic victims are the Haitian children working on the plantations belonging to the State Sugar Council.


          A few days after complaints of mistreatment of Haitians started up again and after ABC television network in the United States aired pictures of the deplorable life conditions of the Haitian cane cutters, President Balaguer issued Decree 233, of June 13, 1991, whereby any undocumented Haitian in the Dominican Republic, under the age of 16 and over 60, would be repatriated.


          Starting on June 18, the Dominican Government started collective expulsions of Haitian cane cutters.  Thus far, thousands have been expelled.  In these collective expulsions, the Government of the Dominican Republic and its agents were accused of practices that are violations of the American Convention on Human Rights.


          The Government of Haiti requested the Organization of American States and the United Nations Organization to intervene in an effort to find a solution to the serious problem posed by the untimely influx of thousands of its nationals.  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights paid a visit to the Dominican Republic (August 12-14, 1991) in order to observe the form in which the expulsions were being carried out.


          At its 80th session (September 23 through October 4, 1991), the Inter-American Commission examined the information provided by the Special Delegation and decided to continue to monitor the situation of Haitians in the Dominican Republic.  It asked the Dominican Government to inform it of the present standing of the repatriation process underway in that country.  On December 18, the Dominican Government informed the IACHR that:  "Because of the events that have occurred in Haiti since September 30 of this year, the President suspended all deportations".


          On July 26, a murder of five young people was committed by members of the police.  According to information given the IACHR, the young people were in the parking lot of a Port-au-Prince supermarket when one of them was attacked and publicly executed by Captain Neptune, head of the Investigation Service of the Police, and the other taken to the police station by several policemen. The following day, four bodies bearing obvious signs of torture and multiple bullet wounds were found abandoned in different parts of the city.  According to information received by the Commission no investigation was made of the crime.


          In the wake of the violence and the grave economic situation the relations between the Executive Branch and the Parliament deteriorated even further.  According to various statements, the conflict originated at the beginning of the new Government when President Aristide appointed René Préval Prime Minister without consulting Parliament.  Pursuant to Article 158 of the Constitution, the Prime Minister must appear before Parliament in order to obtain a vote of confidence on his declaration of general policy.  The Prime Minister was approved by Parliament on February 14.


          Subsequently, as the Commission was informed, tensions mounted in March between the Executive Branch and the Parliament when the President appointed judges to the Court of Cassation without informing the Senate which, in reprisal, declared the appointments null and void pursuant to Article 175 of the Constitution. Nevertheless, the judge continued to sit until October. Subsequently, President Aristide named ambassadors and members of the Court of Audit and of the Court of Administrative Litigation without consulting the Senate this time, either.  In response to this attitude on the part of the Executive Branch, various senators resigned.


          Political tension also grew between the members of the FNCD (National Front for Change and Democracy), a party that supported Aristide and members of the "Lavalas" Movement.  The heads of the FNCD criticized the appointment of persons of little political experience to key positions.  The heads of "Lavalas," on their part, accused the FNCD of wishing to take over Government posts and of handing out administrative jobs to their supporters. Actually, the origin of the conflict lay in the difference between the concepts of democracy.


          The disputes between the Executive Branch and the parliament continued when the Chamber of Deputies called Prime Minister René Preval to appear on August 13 for questioning on his policy of government.  This questioning took place in a tense atmosphere inasmuch as hundreds of demonstrators had surrounded the Legislative Palace and were making threats against the members of Parliament.


          On August 29, the deputies called up the Primer Minister again but received no reply.  The refusal further worsened relations between the Government and Parliament but in an effort to avoid a major crisis, the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Duly Brutus, proposed that President Aristide meet with the Chairmen of the Committees of the Lower Chamber or that he receive a parliamentary committee at the National Palace.  President Aristide decided to accompany the Prime Minister when he was called before the Chamber of Deputies on September 3.  The next day, the deputies decided to suspend the voting on the questioning of the Prime Minister, which would have resulted in a vote  of confidence or censure, until January, 1992, when the final decision would be made.


          The trial of Roger Lafontant and his accomplices in the attempted coup d'etat of January 7, 1991 was held at the end of July.  The government appointed public counsel for the accused, since most of the lawyers interviewed by the families of the accused refused to undertake the defense because of fear of threats of "dechoukage" against them.  Mr. Lafontant refused to be represented by court-appointed counsel.  The trial took place in a tense atmosphere in view of the threats of the crowd outside  the court which shouted that they would subject them to "Pčre Lebrun" torture.


          The defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment notwithstanding the fact that the Criminal Code provides a maximum of 10 to 15 years for crimes against the security of the State. Only one was granted the right of appeal.  This trial was viewed by the people as the end of Duvalierism and Macoutism in Haiti.


             Despite the problems faced by President Aristide's Government, there was a will to carry out social reforms and to help to provide for the basic needs of the Haitian people.  For example, an attempt was made to reform the judicial branch and the penitentiary system.  A bill was put before Congress that established separation of the Armed Forces and the Police which, unfortunately, did not prosper.  Also involved was eliminating the system of Area Heads.  A Senate Commission on Human Rights and a Special Commission were set up to investigate violations of human rights.  However, the existence of certain chronic problems, such as the affiliation of the Police with the Armed Forces, the issue of land-tenure, the de facto existence of Area Heads, as well as the acute economic problems and the disputes stirred up between the branches of the Government, hampered carrying forward the process of developing human rights which created a climate of insecurity in the population and, in certain cases, was a justification for some people to take justice into their own hands; the dependency of the Police to the Armed Forces, the problem of the land tenancy, the existence of Chief of Sections as well as the critical economic problems and conflicts originated from different powers of the State.


      The Situation of Human Rights in Haiti after the September 29, 1991 Coup d'Etat


          On September 29, 1991, the Armed Forces of Haiti ousted  Jean Bertrand Aristide, the democratically elected President, by a coup d'etat.  After an exchange of shots at the President's residence, he took refuge in the National Palace together with 150 soldiers and police who remained loyal to him.  However, the loyal forces were few and the head of the Presidential Guards was killed.  The President was forced to leave the national Palace and was taken to Army headquarters where he was compelled to resign.  Subsequently, he was granted a safe conduct for travel to Venezuela together with some officials of his government, thanks to intervention by the Ambassadors to Haiti of France, the United States, and Venezuela.


          A military junta, composed of General Raoul Cédras, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Haiti, Colonel Alix Sylva, Deputy Commander-in-Chief, and Colonel Henri Robert Marc Charles, former military attache in Washington, immediately declared itself in control of the Government.


          The Commission was informed of the events that transpired as a consequence of the coup d'etat, as well as of the popular reaction.  When the Haitian people learned of the coup, they took to the streets and erected barricades in certain parts of Port-au-Prince. Some organizations called for demonstrations and general strikes, but the military violently dispersed the street demonstrations with indiscriminate shooting, thereby preventing the population from organizing a popular uprising such as occurred prior to the January 7, 1991 coup.  Various sources told the Commission that hundreds of persons had been killed and wounded in the confrontations of the initial days, especially in the poor sections.  The Military Junta declared a curfew.


          The military coup that deposed President Aristide was met with immediate rejection by the inter-American system.  The Permanent Council of the Organization of American States held an emergency meeting on September 30 at which it expressed in its Resolution 567 (870/91) its most vigorous condemnation of the events and those responsible for them, and demanded respect for the Constitution and the Government legally established by the free expression of the popular will of the country.  Also, pursuant to the principles of the Charter of the OAS and the "Santiago Commitment to Democracy," it reaffirmed its solidarity with the people of Haiti in their struggle to consolidate its democratic system without external intervention and in its exercise of sovereignty and inalienable free will. In the same Resolution, the Permanent Council deplored the loss of human life and demanded that the violation of the human rights of the Haitian people be stopped, that President Jean Bertrand Aristide's life be spared, and that he resume the exercise of his constitutional authority.  Finally, the Permanent Council decided to convoke an ad-hoc meeting of Ministers of Foreign Relations pursuant to Resolution 1080 (XXI-0/91) to discuss measures that would enable re-establishing constitutional legality in Haiti.


          In view of the gravity of the situation, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in a press release of October 1, 1991, expressed its profound consternation at the events in Haiti on September 29 which brought about loss of human life and interrupted the democratic process that was initiated with the elections of December 16, 1990.  These were an authentic reflection of the will of the Haitian people in the legitimate exercise of their political rights as recognized in the American Convention on Human Rights. In this sense, the Commission indicated that the coup in Haiti constituted a clear violation of those political rights and of other fundamental rights and freedoms also recognized in the said Convention.  Also, the Commission indicated that the absence of law and order produced thereby could lead to the violation of many of the internationally guaranteed human rights.


          In the same press release, the Commission found it expedient to recall that the 1990  General Assembly of the Organization of American States had considered that "The system of representative democracy is fundamental for the establishment of a political society in which human rights may be exercised to the full and that one of the essential elements of such a system is the effective subordination of the military apparatus to civilian power."  Also, the Commission expressed its hope for the rapid reinstatement of the democratic system; the  restoration of  constitutional authorities to their posts with unrestricted respect for human rights; that special protection would be accorded groups devoted to the defense and protection of those rights.  And also indicated its intention to continue observing the course of human rights in Haiti with special attention.


          In view of the seriousness of what occurred in Haiti, the Meeting of Foreign Ministers was held in Washington on October 2, 1991.  President Aristide had an opportunity at that meeting to describe how the events in his country happened.  The Meeting of Ministers reiterated its vigorous condemnation of the coup d'etat and approved Resolution (MRE/RES.1/91) "Support of the Democratic Government of Haiti," by virtue of this resolution, the following has been resolved:


1. To reiterate the vigorous condemnation voiced by the Permanent Council of the grave events taking place in Haiti, which deny the right of its people to self-determination, and to demand full restoration of the rule of law and of constitutional order and the immediate reinstatement of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in the exercise of his legitimate authority.


2. To request that the Secretary General of the Organization, together with a group of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of member states, go to Haiti immediately to inform those who hold power illegally that the American states reject the disruption of constitutional order and to advise them of the decisions adopted by this meeting.


3. To recognize the representatives designated by the constitutional Government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide as the only legitimate representatives of the Government of Haiti to the organs, agencies, and entities of the inter-American system.


4. To urge the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in response to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's request, to take immediately all measures within its competence to protect and defend human rights in Haiti and to report thereon to the Permanent Council of the Organization.


5. To recommend, with due respect for the policy of each member state on the recognition of states and governments, action to bring about the diplomatic isolation of those who hold power illegally in Haiti.


6. To recommend to all states that they suspend their economic, financial and commercial ties with Haiti and any aid and technical cooperation except that provided for strictly humanitarian purposes.


7. To request the Secretary General of the Organization to pursue efforts to increase the Inter-American Fund for Priority Assistance to Haiti, but to refrain from using it so long as the present situation prevails.


8. To recommend to the General Secretariat of the Organization the suspension of all assistance to those who hold power illegally in Haiti and to request the regional organs and institutions, such as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Inter-American Development Bank, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture and the Latin American Economic System (SELA), to adopt the same measure.


9. To urge all states to provide no military, police, or security assistance of any kind and to prevent the delivery of arms, munitions, or equipment to that country in any manner, public or private.  

10. To keep open the ad hoc Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs to receive, with the urgency that this situation demands, the report of the Mission referred to in operative paragraph 2 of this resolution and to adopt, in accordance with the Charter of the OAS and international law, any additional measures that may be necessary and appropriate to ensure the immediate reinstatement of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to the exercise of his legitimate authority.


11. To transmit this resolution to the United Nations and its specialized agencies and to urge them to consider its spirit and aims.


          Subsequently the Meeting of Foreign Ministers urged the Member States of the OAS to freeze the bank accounts of the Government of Haiti and the application on the Haitian embargo on that country, the only exception being the humanitarian help.  During the Meeting a Civilian Mission was created (OEA-DEMOC), for the establishment and strengthening of democratic institutions (MRE/RES 2/91, October 8, 1991).


          On October 3, 1991, during the course of its 80th session, the Commission met with Jean-Bertrand Aristide, President of the Republic of Haiti.  The President was accompanied by the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Ambassador Joao Clemente Baena Soares, and by the Ambassador of Haiti to the Organization, His Excellency Jean Casimir.  During that meeting, there was a productive exchange of views about how the Inter-American Commission could be helpful in defending human rights in Haiti in the face of the events that had occurred since September 29 and how it could contribute to the swift restoration of the democratic government and its lawfully elected authorities.  Ideas were also exchanged about how to carry out the request from the Ad Hoc Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, as requested by President Aristide, that the Inter-American Commission adopt measures within its authority to safeguard and defend human rights in Haiti.


          On that same day, after having heard President Aristide, the Security Council of the United Nations condemned the coup d'etat and demanded that the legitimate Government be restored.  On November 11, 1991, the General Assembly of the United Nations approved Resolution A/46/L.8 concerning the "Crisis of Democracy and Human Rights in Haiti."


          On October 7, the Haitian Parliament elected the magistrate Joseph Nerette, Dean of the Court of Cassation, Provisional President in place of the deposed President Aristide. The vote was conducted pursuant to Article 149 of the Constitution which provides that a member of the Supreme Court may provisionally fill the post of Head of State in the eventuality that it is left vacant.  This election was carried out after a detachment of soldiers surrounded the Legislative Palace and shot at the building.


          The interim President was instructed to form a new Government and to hold elections within a term  of 45 to 90 days.  The founder and director of the CHADEL (Haitian Center for Human Rights and Freedoms), Mr. Jean-Jacques Honorat, was appointed Prime Minister of the Provisional Government.


          As a consequence of the situation created by the coup d'etat in Haiti, a series of violations of human rights occurred.  The Commission was aware of the terrorization committed by the military against certain sectors of the Haitian population, particularly in the Cité Soleil section, where the majority of the inhabitants are supporters of President Aristide. Complaints  were brought to the Commission of instances of the military having forced their way into several hospitals, among them, one in Carrefour, to attack those persons who had been wounded in street confrontations.  They also terrorized the hospital personnel to prevent them from giving medical attention to the victims of protests against the coup d'etat.


          Many people were illegally arrested, mistreated, and tortured by the Armed Forces and the Police after the coup d'etat.  In some cases, the victims belonged to the administrative staff of President Aristide's Government and, in others, they were simply people who supported his policy.  Evans Paul, the Mayor of Port-au-Prince was arrested on October 7 in the airport of the capital when he was getting ready to talk to the delegates of the Civilian Mission of the OAS.  Mr. Paul was taken to the Antigang Investigations Service where he was seriously beaten by soldiers and freed twelve hours later.  The singer Joseph Emmanuel Charlemagne, a supporter of President Aristide, was arrested twice and liberated days later; Antoine Izmery, a wealthy business man, was arrested on October 15 and set free 10 days later.  Joseph Manucy Pierre, Secretary of Information of the CATH was arrested on October 20 and there has been no news of his having been set free. Jean Claude Nord, Secretary General of the League for Human Rights was arrested on October 12 and set free the same day.  Raymond Toussaint, member of the KONAKOM (National Committee of the Congress of Democratic Movements) was arrested on October 24 and there has been no news of his having been freed, either.


          On November 12, the Commission received the complaint that 120 students had been arrested while the Civilian Mission of the OAS was in Port-au-Prince. The students were meeting inside the School of Human Sciences of the University in protest of the overthrow of President Aristide.  According to this information, some of the students were beaten as they were arrested by the police.  Most of them were freed in the days that followed, while 50 of them continued to be held.


          The military also carried out arbitrary arrests in the interior of such persons as Jacmel, the Mayor and Justice of the Peace of Cayes. Senatus and Fritzner Nosther were held in the Thiotte military garrisons; Jacmel, Patrick Bauchard, and Saveur Gomez in the Hinche garrisons.  Father Eddy Julien was also arrested without a warrant in Jeremie. Groups of peasants who belong to the "Farmers Defense Group" were arrested in Bocozelle. Many peasants of the "Mouvement Paysan de Papaye" were arrested in the localities of Thomonde, Hinche, Maissade, and Crochu and are considered disappeared.  In the majority of these detentions, the military took away the property of the peasants and burned the community buildings that President Aristide's Government had helped to build.


          The Commission was informed of many deaths as of September 29.  One of the first victims of the violence was the pastor Sylvio Claude, President of the PDCH (Christian Democratic Party) who was lynched and burned with the "Pere Lebrun" collar.  The Armed Forces have blamed President Aristide for that crime.  Another of the victims of September 29 was Roger Lafontant, who was a prisoner in the National Penitentiary when he was assassinated.  The military published a statement signed by the Captain in charge of the Guard at the Penitentiary  in their "Memoir of the Armed Forces of Haiti on the Events of September 29 and 30, 1991," to the effect that he had received orders by telephone from President Aristide to execute Mr. Lafontant that night.  None of these crimes has been duly investigated nor the accusations proven.


          On November 12, the Commission was informed about the discovery of two common graves in which 60 bodies of men, women, and children were found.  According to the complaints these graves were located south of Port- au-Prince, the first in Lamentin and the other in Titaynen.


          Mass media were suppressed. Most of the radio stations stopped broadcasting after receiving  threats from the military and, in some cases, part of the transmitting equipment was destroyed.  A number of journalists  were taken into custody and  their identity papers, notes, and cameras confiscated.  Among them were: Miche Sully of Radio Galaxie; Fernand Billon of Radio Soleil; Jean Robert Phillipe of Service Creole of the Voice of America; Luciane Gani, an Italian newspaperwoman; Edwige Balutansky of the British news agency Reuters; Ives Marie Jasmin, correspondent of Radio Nationale; Thony Belizaire, photographer of the Agence France-Presse; Nicolas Florenville, corespondent of Radio Antilles, and Richard Favard, Director of Radio Nationale.  Jacques Daudier, director of Radio Caribe, was arrested by the military and his body, with marks of torture, found days later.


          The Commission was also informed of searches without a warrant by the military or police of premises belonging to persons believed to have connections to the Lavalas Movement.  The residences of Jean Claude Norde, Leslie Delatour, Carl Braun, Gabriel Verret, Dr. Rudolph Malbranch, and Robert Jean-Louis, and others were arbitrarily searched.


             Demonstrations in support of President Aristide were violently broken up by the military who, nevertheless, permitted and abetted those against him and the trade embargo of the OAS.  Many demonstrators in favor of Aristide were beaten, taken into custody, and others went into hiding.


Taking into consideration the complaints received and the continuous worsening of human rights in Haiti, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, meeting at its headquarters in Washington, D.C., on November 21, 1991, restudied the situation in Haiti and issued the following press release:


On November 21, 1991, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights met at its headquarters in Washington, D.C., and considered with profound concern reports according to which the human rights situation in Haiti has been deteriorating since the coup d'etat of September 29, 1991, and that more than 1,500 human lives have been lost to date.


The Commission has also been informed of the repression being meted out by the facto authorities to some segments of the Haitian population, particularly to those in favor of legitime President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.  It is further known that every protest or expression of dissent against the present authorities has been repressed with large casualties in dead and wounded.


The complaints lodged with this Commission relate many cases of arbitrary detention, maltreatment, torture and harassment committed by members of the Armed Forces and the Police against the mass media consisting in the destruction of transmitter equipment and in death threats and the killing of reporters.  The Commission is also profoundly distressed by the discovery on November 12 of two burial pits in which 60 corpses of men, women and children were found.


The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is firmly resolved to travel to Haiti to investigate without restraints, on the ground the serious situations reported, to interview persons who wish to speak without fear of reprisals to those persons, and to travel to the interior of the country, where according to information received harsh violations of human rights are taken place.  The Commission will send out an exploratory mission for this purpose as soon as the minimum necessary operating conditions are present.


The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights calls on all nongovernmental human rights organizations, especially those operating in Haiti, on the families of the victims, and on all those whose individual rights have been violated in any way because of this political crisis to present their complaints so that it may begin to act on them and responsibilities may be assigned once the legitimate Government of Haiti has been reinstated.


The Commission wishes to note that no prevailing political situation in any State Party can suspend the force and effect of the American Convention on Human Rights.  Consequently, the Commission stresses that those who exercise power in a State, if only de facto, are obliged to respect the individual rights recognized by the American Convention on Human Rights.


The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is hopeful that the efforts of the OAS Civilian Mission to generate political negotiations that can avert a violent confrontation may bear fruit as quickly as possible.


Finally, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights calls on the de facto authorities in Haiti, and particularly on the Armed Forces, to desist from repression and systematic violations of human rights, the victims of which are the noble Haitian people, and to restore as soon as possible to full operation the democratic institutions provided for in the Constitution in a setting of respect for the rights and guarantees recognized by the American Convention on Human Rights.


Exploratory Visit


          On November 26, 1991, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, considering the serious events that took place in Haiti and their impact upon the effective exercise of human rights, decided to send an exploratory mission to Haiti.  The mission's purpose was to verify the conditions for carrying out the Commission's work in Haiti, to identify problems requiring investigation in greater depth and, in the event special situations were discovered, to bring them to the attention of the Government for action.


          The Special Delegation of the IACHR was composed of the Chairman of the IACHR, Dr. Patrick L. Robinson; the Vice Chairman, Dr. Marco Tulio Bruni Celli, and the attorneys of the Executive Secretariat, Dr. Bertha Santoscoy-Noro and Dr. Luis Jimenez.  The exploratory mission was carried out on December 5 and 6, 1991.


          During its stay in Haiti, the Special Commission met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship, Mr. Jean Jacques Honorat; members of Parliament: Senator Hebrane Cadet and the Deputies Duly Brutus and Pierre Carel Rindal; and, the Chief of the Armed Forces, General Raoul Cedras and his General Staff.


          The IACHR Special Delegation also met with representatives of human rights organizations and political parties to hear their views on the political situation in the country.  It spoke with representatives of the spoken and written press to apprise itself of the status of freedom of expression.  The Special Delegation held talks with representatives of labor unions, the Church, and other sectors of national life.  

          The Special Delegation visited the "La Famille c'est la vie" Children's Assistance Center, where it spoke with those in charge of the establishment.  It compiled information in connection with investigations into various cases that had been submitted to it, in particular the cases involving arbitrary arrests committed under the present regime.  It also heard from individuals from various social strata, from whom it received complaints, communications and information regarding observance of human rights.


          The Commission received no information to the effect that the persons interviewed had had any objections to coming to testify nor was it informed up to the time of departure that they had suffered reprisals.  The Commission was informed that this was a change from the situation prevailing during the previous visit of the Civil Mission of the OAS when, as was stated, various persons had met with serious difficulties in making contact with it.


          During its visit in Haiti, the delegation of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights met no hindrances in carrying out its task, having been able to move about without problems in various parts of Port-au-Prince and without sensing that their independence, safety, and the necessary circumspection of their activities were in jeopardy.  In view of the short time required by the investigative nature of the mission, the Commission was unable to proceed to cities in the interior as it would have liked.


          The Delegation also observed that there was a deep distrust and fear on the part of important supporters or functionaries of President Aristide's Government.  Many of them had been persecuted, were in hiding, and their families were under harassment.


          One aspect repeatedly presented to the Delegation of the IACHR was that of the impediments that freedom of expression had suffered and was continuing to suffer.  According to the information given, out of nine radio stations broadcasting in Port-au-Prince, only three continued in operation: Radio Nationale (controlled by the government), Radio Tropique, and Radio Galaxie.  All stations in Cap Haitďen and Jeremie had suspended  broadcasts in the face of the harassment and attacks they had suffered.  Although there was no special measure in force to prevent those stations from continuing to broadcast, they had been attacked by soldiers and had received threats, and therefore they considered that there were no guarantees to enable them to operate as usual. In their meetings with both the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the de facto government and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, the Inter-American Commission on Human rights was assured that the radio stations enjoyed full guarantees to operate normally. Despite that declaration, the Commission received a complaint on December 11, l991 that Felix Lamy, the Director of Radio Galaxie, had disappeared and the radio station had been destroyed and pillaged by a group of soldiers.  The exercise of the right of freedom of expression guaranteed by the Government and the Armed Forces of Haiti, is one of the areas that the Commission should observe with special attention.


          The Special Delegation received abundant information on numerous arrests and detentions by the Armed Forces as of September 29, 1991.  The various sources consulted were in agreement that it was very difficult to provide an exact figure on the number of persons so affected.  The Delegation was able to note that in many cases the arrests were for short periods, during which there were beatings and mistreatment at the time of detention, and that a pattern was being followed of harassment of supporters of President Aristide or their relatives.  The Commission also received information on the case of 120 students taken into custody on last November 12 who were meeting inside the School of Human Sciences of the University.  According to the information received, about 50 students are still under arrest.  The authorities indicated that all the students had been set free, with the exception, perhaps, of some individuals detained because they were not considered to be students.  The conditions under which the right of personal freedom is enjoyed will be another of the aspects to continue  being investigated by the Commission.


          During its stay, the Delegation was informed that the institution of Area Heads had been reinstated.  The explanation given by the Commander-in-Chief of the Army was that the elimination of the post of Area Head  was instituted by an administrative measure and that the law to replace them with another institution could not be enacted, thereby creating a power vacuum that, in many cases, gave rise to a chaotic situation.


          With respect to the right to life, the Delegation continued receiving reports on the large number of persons who could have lost their lives since the events of September 29. Having been informed that it was particularly difficult to obtain precise information on what was happening in the interior of the country, efforts by the Delegation at the time to obtain further details were fruitless.  This is a priority area  in which the Commission should continue its efforts in the immediate future to clarify what happened and collaborate in preventing new violations in the future.


          The Delegation received coinciding reports regarding the profound disruptions that were taking place in Haitian society as a consequence of the events subsequent to September 29, 1991.  One of those phenomena was the mass exodus of inhabitants of Port-au-Prince to rural areas, which is considered to have affected some 300,000 persons.  Among the causes put forward to explain this phenomenon is the extreme oppression unleashed against the groups that support President Aristide, which was particularly serious in the initial days and in certain neighborhoods of the capital. Also, the climate of insecurity and fear that existed in the capital had prompted many people to seek refuge in the rural areas.  Another cause of the mass displacement was the uncertain future and the foreseeable restrictions of the economic embargo, the manifestations of which were particularly acute in the case of fuel and which, by that means, would end up affecting  Haiti's social life almost in its entirety.  The oppression and worsening of the political and economic situation have also forced many Haitians to flee the country in small vessels in an effort to seek refuge in other countries.


          Prior to the coup d'etat in Haiti on September 29, 1991 the United States Government, based on a bilateral agreement with Haiti, maintained a policy of interdiction of small craft manned by Haitian nationals in international waters of the Caribbean Sea and the forcible return of Haitian Boat People to their country of origin.


          Following the coup thousands of Haitians boarded small and unreliable boats and sought to make their way to the United States.  The U.S. Coast Guard interdicted a large percentage of these vessels.  Many other boats are believed to have foundered and the would-be refugees drowned.  Since the coup, about 15000 Haitians nationals have been picked up.


          Once interdicted, the Boat People were taken to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantánamo, Cuba.  There they were interviewed by representatives of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service to determine whether, under international law, they qualified for refugee status.


          These events were followed by several lawsuits in United States federal courts in Florida brought by nongovernmental legal aid societies on behalf of the Haitian Boat People.  The claims were based on the alleged physical danger these people would be exposed to if forcibly returned to Haiti.


          The District Court judge in the case issued an injunction ordering the suspension of forced returns.  In the meantime, the news media and attorneys for the Boat People were allowed to visit Guantánamo.  The percentage of cases of persons deemed to meet, prima facie, the international standard for refugee status among the Boat People has been approximately 33%.


          On January 31, 1992, the Solicitor General's application for a stay of the District Court's limited injunction was granted by the United States Supreme Court.


          The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has twice appealed to the United States Government to suspend the return of the Haitian Boat People for humanitarian reasons.


          The Commission expressed its hope that the activities of the Humanitarian Mission of the Organization of American States would contribute to the identification and resolution of the most pressing needs within the parameters established for the activities of the OAS organizations.


          The Delegation was able to discern that there is a profound political polarization between the supporters of President Aristide and the groups that implemented and supported his overthrow.  The Delegation received detailed reports on what were considered abuses committed during the eight months of the previous government and the form in which the institutions of the constitutional system were affected thereby.


          Subsequent to the exploratory visit made by the Commission, it was informed of the assassination of Mr. Astrel Charles, a deputy of PANPRA, on December 15, 1991.  According to the complaints received, the assasin was a former Section Chief, reinstated after the coup d'etat.  That same day, the homes of deputies Mandenave, Fignole and Milord were sacked and burned by agents of the Armed Forces.  Two days later, Mr. Duly Brutus, President of the Chamber of Deputies, was threatened and told to leave his home, as the other deputies had done.


          On December 18, National Security Volunteers (VSN) (belonging to the Macoutes) radio broadcast a message urging a "government clean-up," by eliminating the "lavalassiens" and inciting massacres in the poor neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince.  Names and addresses of government employees who supported the return of President Aristide were announced over the radio.


          On December 25, the Commission was informed that the de facto government had issued a decree granting a full amnesty to all those citizens who had been arrested, tried and convicted of political crimes between December 16, 1990 and September 27, 1991.  This was seen as an act calculated to intimidate the people who supported President Aristide, since the majority of the prisoners who benefited by the amnesty had been tried on charges of human rights violations.


          The violations of the right to personal freedom and physical safety continued with extra-judicial arrests and abuses committed by the military against Haitian youth in the poorer neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, such as Tiburón, Bouzi, Plateau Central, Limbé, Limonade, Fort-Liberté and Saint Louis du Nord, among others.


          A recent example of the kind of violence and danger that prevails in Port-au-Prince occurred on January 25, 1992, when police attacked the offices of the National Reconstruction Movement.  According to the complaints that this Commission has received, that day a meeting was held, attended by a number of Haitian parliamentarians and politicians.  The meeting was violently interrupted by members of the Armed Forces, who insulted and beat those present.  As a result of that attack, Mr. Yves Jean-Pierre, the bodyguard of Mr. René Theodore, was killed by one of the police taking part in the operation.  This was the second attack on the National Reconstruction Movement's office, following an earlier attack on January 18 of this year.


          Taking into account the Resolution MRE/RES 1/91, adopted by the Meeting of Foreign Affairs on October 2, 1991, which resolved:


To urge the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in response to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's request, to take immediately all measures within its competence to protect and defend human rights in Haiti and to report thereon to the Permanent Council of the Organization.


          Dr. Patrick L. Robinson, the Chairman of the IACHR, and the Vice Chairman, Dr. Marco Tulio Bruni Celli, presented the information obtained during the exploratory visit to the Permanent Council of the OAS in Haiti on January 9, 1992.


          The Commission must reiterate its conviction that the problems that might have arisen should be resolved only through democratic procedures and that it should continue to investigate the complaints received with respect to the time prior to and after September 29, 1991.


          The Commission must also reiterate that respect for the institutions characteristic of the system of representative democracy constitutes the best guarantee for the effective exercise of human rights and that this is another of the aspects that the Commission will continue to observe with special attention.  In fact, the exercise of political rights, provided in Article 23 of the American Convention on Human Rights of which Haiti is a signatory, was of great significance during the elections of December 16, 1990. It is for this reason that the results obtained must be scrupulously respected. Furthermore, it is on this basis that the Commission, on two previous occasions, called for respecting the result and  the constitutional proviso regarding the period in which the President remains in power by reinstating President Aristide.


          The Commission manifests its deep concern at the reestablishment of the Area Heads who have in the past been responsible for many violations of human rights and are a key factor in the oppressive system that has been current in Haiti. The Commission urges the Congress of Haiti to find a system to take the place of that of the Area Heads through functionaries elected by popular vote and that it separate them from the Army.


          The Commission is aware of how profound the problems are that affect Haitian society in the area of human rights and this conviction has been strengthened by the information and impressions it has been able to obtain during its exploratory mission.  The grave institutional crisis put forward, the inadequate living conditions of a large part of the population of Haiti, the serious political polarization that exists, the traditional resorting to violence in the settlement of social disputes, and the absence of deeply-rooted democratic practice, make the situation of human rights in Haiti highly unpredictable and dangerous in the extreme. Such serious problems can only be solved by the citizens of Haiti, themselves, with the cooperation of the international community.  With respect to the task of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, its contribution will be that of continuing to work with the other agencies of the Organization and with the Government and the people of Haiti to achieve unrestricted respect for human rights and the full free exercise of the political rights and institutionality characteristic of representative democracy.


          The Commission will continue to observe the course of the situation of human rights in Haiti.

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[1] Cf. OEA/Ser. L/V/II. 74, doc. 9  rev 1, of 7 September 1988.

[2] Cf. OEA/Ser. G. CP/RES. 537/90, of 23 February 1990.

[3] Cf. OEA/Ser. L/V/II. 77, rev. 1, doc. 18, of 8 May 1990.

[4] Cf. Annual Report of the IACHR 1990-1991, pp. 485-505.

[5] Cf. CP/RES. 555 (842/91).

[6] Cf. Annual Report of the IACHR, 1990-1991.