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.
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.
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. 
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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"
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
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
To transmit this resolution to the United Nations and its
specialized agencies and to urge them to consider its spirit and aims.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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,
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
will continue to observe the course of the situation of human rights in
 Cf. OEA/Ser. L/V/II. 74, doc. 9 rev 1, of 7 September 1988.
 Cf. OEA/Ser. G. CP/RES. 537/90, of 23 February 1990.
 Cf. OEA/Ser. L/V/II. 77, rev. 1, doc. 18, of 8 May 1990.
 Cf. Annual Report of the IACHR 1990-1991, pp. 485-505.
CP/RES. 555 (842/91).
 Cf. Annual Report of the IACHR, 1990-1991.