ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
slogan which characterized this first National Congress was "Tèt Ansanm
pou sa chanje" (Heads together for things to change).
KONAKOM, the coalition of organizations which emerged from this National
Congress, was involved in three major activities in 1987:
battle for the Constitution
The battle against the decree of June 23, 1987 and for Rache Manyok
within the Group of 57.
The organization of the November 29 elections within the National
Concerted Action Front (FNC) and the campaign for abstention for January 17,
48. In its retrospective analysis of the events
of 1987,32 KONAKOM has
made the following important observations on their strategy which shed light on
the current situation:
KONAKOM has paid a high price, above all, in the battle of Rache Manyok
(i.e. calling for the ouster of the CNG and the formation of an alternative
government) and in favor of the CEP. Since
June 25, 1985, the country has been the victim of a permanent state of
repression. KONAKOM militants have
been persecuted, others have defected from the movement, and organization work
has been paralyzed. The state of
insecurity does not permit the organization of regional congresses and contacts
between members of different groups.
Article 291 of the Constitution - although the intention to extirpate the
Duvalierists from power was praiseworthy - was it possible?
To what extent did it contribute to a hardening of the resistance of the
civilian and military Duvalierists? On
the other hand, this cause was so extremely popular, it was one of the strongest
motivations for people to participate in the referendum.
To what extent should the campaign of Rache Manyok have been
stopped once the CNG published the CEP's electoral decree?
To what extent did the campaign of Rache Manyok poison relations
between the CNG/CEP? On the other
hand, one cannot underestimate the profoundly moral character of this campaign.
The ensuing events proved the justness of it.
Similarly, have we evidenced an incapacity for converting our force into
a negotiating instrument and to have continued contacts with the CNG and the
army? The totality of the rupture
has perhaps contributed to the hardening of the other side which reacted by
entering into a savage his repression in order to impose, by any means, a
candidate chosen by the Army.
In August 1987, the Group of 57 expanded to form the National Concerted
Action Front (FNC) and this expansion demanded sacrifices on the part of KONAKOM:
employing its resources for initiatives over which the movement did not
In addition, on October 4, 1987, when the FNC candidate for the
presidency was chosen, KONAKOM was the only organization, together with the BIP,
which presented 48 candidates for the Chamber of Deputies and 18 candidates for
the Senate, which provoked panic among the competitors and especially the
The massive participation in the November 29, 1987 elections was answered
by brutal acts of violence which occurred all throughout the month of November,
selective repression against the militants of KONAKOM (above all in the area of
the Artibonite) and against members of the CEP, and also by the act of force
which culminated on January 17 in the pure and simple selection of individuals
to fill the elective offices, from the Casecs to the Presidency.
The return of the Macoutes has culminated in the installation of a neo-Duvalierist
network which now penetrates all levels of the Army, the public service and the
group of representatives who are, in principle, elected.
Once again a minority employs brute force to substitute itself for the
sovereign will of the people, and once the act of force has been carried out, it
then calls everyone to unity and reconciliation.
trade union federation CATH, for example, did not agree with the KONAKOM
position that the people should participate in the November 29, 1987 elections. On June 22, 1987 at 6:30 a.m., a detachment of soldiers from
Casernes Dessalines broke into the CATH headquarters. They destroyed or carried off all the material and
furnishings of the office, as well as US$1,800 in cash.
In addition, they arrested eight union members who were there:
Mr. Jean-Auguste Mésyeux, Mr. Armand Pierre, Mr. Edouard Pierre, Mr.
Hatmann Jean-Baptiste, Mr. Edner St.-Eloi, Mr. Idly Cameau, Mr. Jean-Claude
Pierre-Louis and Mr. Patrice Dacius, who were taken to Casernes Dessalines where
they were savagely beaten, humiliated and tortured.
Several of them still have scars from the wounds on their bodies, and
others suffer from persistent pains in the head or other parts of the body.
on September 15, 1987, the CATH issued a long statement "In the Name of the
Haitian People" stating that they would not participate in the November 29,
1987 elections. They gave the
following as their reason not to participate:
Knowing well the mental structure of the men of the CNG in power, we have
learned that such an act could only be futile.
And the facts, until the present, have proved us correct. By their origin and their nature these gentlemen of the CNG
are incapable of living under the rule of law.
They are too compromised, to one degree or another, in the crimes of the
former regime to want the establishment of a real and effective democracy in
this country and free, fair and honest elections. Let us recall, in passing, that the CNG was the work of
Jean-Claude Duvalier, who imposed it on the people, before he departed for
on June 22, 1988 Col. Jean-Claude Paul of the Dessalines barracks, personally
delivered the CATH vehicle which had been confiscated from the CATH exactly one
year earlier. The CATH did not
recover the office material nor the approximately US$1,800 taken by the
July 26, 1988, in the cities of Gros Morne and Saint Michel de l'Atalaye,
soldiers shot and set fire to the premises of the CATH local headquarters.
regards the labor situation, the CATH representatives informed the Commission
during its on-site in August 1988 that the major problems are:
Employees are fired from their jobs as soon as they have been
democratically elected to be union officials by the workers;
The enterprise calls in the military in case of labor disputes or
Workers are not always paid the US$3 minimum wage per day of factory
53. Armed bands have terrorized meetings of
peasants and religious workers in the countryside of Haiti.
These attacks have occurred primarily in the Plateau Central which is the
area of strongest influence of the MPP (the Peasant Movement of Papaye) and in
the Artibonite. The soldiers or
armed bands appear in a certain village and in some cases, such as the incidents
in Fond Verrettes during the period May 31 and July 10, 1988, have so terrorized
the local population - by attacks on the houses of different local inhabitants,
random shooting at the priests and nuns' residence - that the priests and nuns
have gathered up their belongings and have left the village.34
During the first week of august 1988, Lt. Gen. Namphy toured the South of
Haiti. On august 5, 1988, Mr.
Sergot Joseph was arrested without a warrant in Les Cayes for having written
(slogans) graffiti hostile to the Government of General Namphy on the walls and
he was so badly beaten that he had to be hospitalized.
Three weeks later, during the Commission's visit to Haiti, Mr. Joseph was
reportedly still in the hospital.
55. Also, on
August 5, 1988, during Lt. Gen. Namphy's tour, in the town of Grand-Goave, seven
military officers invaded the presbitery of the local parish and arrested the
Canadian priest René Poirier. The
priest had refused to obey an order of the local authorities to attend a
reception welcoming Lt. Gen. Namphy. Father
Poirier was summarily deported to Canada, not even having been allowed to return
and collect his passport or any belongings.
solidarity with Father Poirier, 500 of the faithful organized a vigil on August
9, 1988 in the presbytery at Grand-Goave. The
Army again intervened firing into the air.
The people remained calm but officer Rene Murat and Sgt. Robert Milord
arrested the following youths: Frantz
Pascal, Frantz Bellenice, Berline Belrice, Derette Lafontant, and Norelien
Lormil, all secondary school students who are members of Kombite Komilfo which
is a part of KID. The youths were
taken to the Casernes in Petit-Goave, where, after a rough interrogation
session, three were freed and the other two held to be brought before a judge.
August 16, 1988 the matter was brought before the Court in Petit-Goave and the
youths were given provisional liberty. On
August 17, 1988, Mr. Jean Tatoune, one of the leaders of the 1985student
demonstrations in Gonaives, which led to the departure of jean-Claude Duvalier,
was attacked by 5 armed men. After
they shot at him and injured, he went underground.
On August 20, 1988 the leader of the MPP, Mr. Chavannes Jean-Baptiste,
was arrested without a warrant as he was leaving a meeting.
Mr. Jean-Baptiste was released the same day after having been made to
appear before the Military Commander of the Plateau Central, Major Serge David,
who interrogated him for 5 hours. Mr.
Jean-Baptiste stated that the Army wanted to attend All future meetings of his
organization which Mr. Jean Baptiste said was in violation of the rights of free
assembly and free speech.
the August 1988 visit of the Commission to Haiti, members of the Commission
traveled into the interior to some of the areas which have been affected by
disturbances. The Commission
interviewed peasants who had been victimized in St. Marc, Pont Sonde, Petit Rivière
de l'Artibonite, Thomonde, Hinche and Papaye.
59. In these
various towns the Commission met with, among others, peasant leaders who
reported that they were not allowed to hold meetings of their organizations
without obtaining prior authorization from the local Army authorities, which
insisted on having their military representatives present during these meetings.
they were asked about this practice by the Commission, the military officers in
charge, such as Captain Gabriel Pinasse in Thomonde or Colonel Serge David in
Hinche or Captain Ravix and his assistant, H. Nicolas in Saint Marc, answered
variously that they merely wished to protect the peasants or that Communists had
infiltrated the peasant ranks from the Soviet Union or that their soldiers were
simply interested in learning about agricultural development.
They also claimed that leftist peasants had committed acts of sabotage
and they proudly noted that the Army had restored order.
61. When the
Commission visited the towns and villages mentioned above, it found substantial
evidence that the Army and the police (which despite the Constitutional
separation of the two services, is commanded by Army officers) have routinely
and as a matter of national policy repressed the peasants' rights to free
expression and rights of assembly. What
follows are accounts of some of these actions.
They should be taken as illustrative of the tactics currently employed by
the Military Government. The
military authorities deny the abuses alleged here.
62. On June
19, 1988, Mr. Profete Joseph, a peasant leader was present in Thomonde when
another peasant promotor was arrested and beaten.
Joseph fled to Port-au-Prince and hid from the authorities.
His colleague was released after one day.
63. On June
22, 1988, Mr. Toussaint Oscarme was detained along with three other peasant
activists. They were capture in the street in Thomonde and taken to the
police station where all were beaten with clubs and accused of being
subversives. No formal charges were
filed however. During their
beatings their hands were tied in front of them and they were forced to lie on
the ground. They spent three days
in jail and were beaten twice during this period.
No evidence was ever produced and they were unrepresented by counsel.
64. On July
13, 1988, Mr. Madsen Labadi was arrested and held for one week.
He was verbally accused of being a traitor to his country and a
Communist. His association with the
local Catholic priest, Fr. L'Evèque Bien Aimé and the local physician, Dr.
jean Luc Henrys, was mentioned by the soldiers as proof of his subversive
activities. He was hit with a bat
approximately 60 times during his detention.
Beatings occurred twice a day. After
a week he escaped and his father was then detained and held for five days.
At the suggestion of Fr. L'Evèque, Mr. Labady went to Port-au-Prince to
present his case to local non-governmental human rights organizations.
Thereafter, Mr. Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, the head of the Movement of
Peasants of Papaye (MPP) intervened with the authorities to allow Mr. Labady to
return to his home.
65. On august 10, 1988, in Debouchette, the chief
of police prohibited a meeting of three peasant leaders of the National
Federation of Agricultural Workers (FENATAPA).
August 11, 1988, the Prefect and the chief of Police in Pont Sondé, forcibly
entered a meeting of CATH/CLAT.
August 14, 1988, youths belonging to the "Youth Movement of Labadie" (MJL)
organized a meeting followed by a soccer match to celebrate the organization's
second anniversary. When the
meeting was concluded and the participants were moving to the soccer field,
shots were heard. A group of 11
men, 7 in fatigues and 3 dressed as civilians - came down from the mountains and
were doing the shooing. Four
persons were killed including Mr. Dony Accéus, age 37 and Mr. Alex Alexandre,
age 28, who were at the gate collecting the money for the soccer game.
The soldiers, aided by three men dressed in civilian clothing, pushed
forward to the meeting place and fired their weapons into the interior of the
building killing Mr. Armand Louismond, age 54.
Following their withdrawal, the soldiers came upon Mr. Berson Etienne age
25, whom they stopped and then shot three times. Before dying he told his father what had happened and his
father in turn, testified before the Commission.
Witnesses to these events identified three of the individuals as soldiers
from the Caserne at Petit Rivière de l'Artibonite.
They are known as Napoleon and Kebreau, bot corporals, and the Chief of
Section (the local military commander), Esperance Charles.
68. The next
day a so-called investigating committee arrived at the scene of these events and
interviewed the family members of the victims.
This committee included the Mayor of Petite Rivière, Mr. Paul André
Chrysotome, accompanied y the military commander of the Sub-district, Lafortune
Saintus, and soldiers who had participated in the slaughter of the previous day.
Orders were given to the Assistant Section Chief, Nantès Saint-Fisna, to
destroy the Artibonite training center. Mr.
Saint-Fisna and his men, proceeded to reduce the place to rubble.
Subsequent searches were conducted t find other leaders of the Youth
Movement who had gone into hiding. Twenty
members of the MJL, who are presently in hiding, and five representatives of
this group met with the Commission's delegation during the on-site visit. They asked that they be allowed to testify before a serious
court and that justice be done in regards to those responsible for the shooting
and killing of the members of their organization.
Ravix, the military commander of Saint Marc, and the head of a paramilitary
squad of sub-proletariat youths who call themselves the "Sans Manman"
(The Motherless) stated to the Commission's delegation that the
individual responsible for the four deaths in Labadie is Mr. Serge Desroches
(the head of MJL) who had escaped.
August 19, 1988, ten peasant
leaders were arrested in the Papaye-Hinche area.
They were: Edounane Saintina,
Letois François, Louims Fertil, Ocriees, Denis François, Rosant Deriste, Elius
Absalon, Delius Saintina, Lenoise Elisma and Celiman Navadel.
All were handcuffed and beaten with clubs in the presence of the Section
Chief, Mr. Fernand George, and the Justice of the Peace, Mr. Joseph Hector.
Mr. Delius Saintina's left arm was broken when he tried to stop a blow
aimed at this backside.
71. The ten
men were held from Friday until the following Monday.
Their pending judicial action is scheduled for September 2, 1988. They are charged with encouraging peasants to participate in
a tax boycott. None is represented
by a lawyer.
August 22, 1988, Captain Conserne P. Steeve, accompanied by a unit of soldiers,
forcibly entered a meeting of CATH/CLAT in Pont sondé demanding to know the
purpose of the meeting.
evolution of this program of organization, education and civil action resulted
in a National Peasant Congress held in Papaye.
The peasants at that Congress formulated a series of statements and
resolutions which reflect their needs and demands:
In the country of Haiti, 80% of the population are peasants.
Peasants provide the bulk of Haiti's wealth.
If the peasants don't work, the people of the cities won't eat, state
employees won't get pad, everything will be blocked.
Of all sectors of the society, peasants get the worst deal in terms of
services. The money we give for
taxes and the wealth we create never does anything for us.
When "elections" are held, they round up peasants, buy or even
force us to vote, and appoint a winner. Once
the person is in office, he forgets about the peasants, directing the country
without us. When they leave office,
we have to pay off their debts. Peasants
are the backbone of the Haitian culture. Our
customs and habits, with all the richness of our culture, are what make Haitians
Haitians before all other nations. Yet, they scorn us for this very reason.
Therefore we have decided to organize to change all this, resolving:
We don't want contraband products like sugar and rice entering Haiti and
undermining our own production. We
will make do with what we produce in our own country. We don't want "relief" food at all, under any
conditions. We don't want to pay
taxes for the right to work state owned land.
We don't want to pay taxes -
market tax, taxes on livestock, taxes on birth certificates, court taxes - when
these tax monies do nothing for us. No
essential services are provided by the state:
school, hospital, roads, etc. We
want a real land Reform. By this we
mean not just the redistribution of land, but a total agricultural package
including: good tools available at
a reasonable price; irrigation and technical assistance.
We want to be guaranteed the right to demonstrate and the right to
strike; we don't want another dictator, nor another macoute, nor a president
that will follow another country's plan for Haiti; we want the guarantee of free
democratic elections, without army or police intimidation; we want a special
Ministry of Peasant Affairs and we want a popular government, a government that
is born of the roots of the people and that is chosen by the people.
On the basis of the information set forth in this chapter the Commission
has attempted to sketch what is perhaps the most important phenomenon occurring
in Haiti: the Haitian peasant's
attempt to organize and forge a political consciousness.
This organizational effort, begun years ago under the auspices of the
Catholic Church, has been strengthened by the departure of Jean-Claude Duvalier
and, more than any other activity can be considered the conquest of February 7
Following Duvalier's departure there was initially a notable improvement
in the exercise of two fundamental human rights:
freedom of expression and freedom of association.
The Haitian people took advantage of these freedoms to organize and
express themselves vehemently in favor of a change in the status quo.
Under the current Military Government these important rights have again
been limited. This s less so with
respect to journalists although self-censorship is widely practiced by the media
in its criticism of the military regime. Harassment
of journalists continues although at a relatively low level.
On the other hand, the rights of free expression and assembly for peasant
organizations have been seriously repressed.
Techniques in this regard run the gamut from requiring prior permission
to hold meetings, the requirement that someone from the military be present at
the meeting of any organization, as well as name calling and harassment of
peasant leaders all the way to the opposite extreme which includes arbitrary
detentions (usually of a short duration so as to be able to deny that political
prisoners are in detention), a complete denial of anything resembling due
process, severe beatings which sometimes result in death, to outright killings
such as those which occurred at Labadie.
The consequence of these practices have been twofold. First, it has enabled the military regime to claim that, in
spite of the fact that it is a de facto government and despite the fact
that the Constitution of 1987 has been abolished, the Government nonetheless
allows complete freedom of the press. This
is partially true but applies only to the media in Port-au-Prince which is
subject to the limitations described in this chapter.
The opposition maintains that the dictatorship allows a certain amount of
free expression as a "sop" aimed primarily at international public
The second consequence has been to frustrate and paralyze the peasants'
right to political participation. As
a practical matter the peasants, the vast majority of the Haitian population,
have seen their rights to free speech and assembly systematically denied,
particularly since the coup d'etat of June 1988.
Throughout the Haitian countryside peasants are no longer able to meet to
discuss their community affairs, unless a member of the military is also
present. Peasants are labeled
"Communists", their organizations are repressed, their leaders
arrested and their headquarters burned down.
Workers are not allowed to strike and the Army is called in to put down
any factory protests.
The Minister of Justice until September 17, 1988, Brig. Gen. Fritz
Antoine, has been traveling throughout the countryside accusing the local judges
of the perpetuation of an unjust social system.
The military on the other hand never acknowledges its role in and
responsibility for the daily violence, killings and terror perpetrated by
soldiers against the rural population. The
responsibility for the terror in the countryside however, in the opinion of the
Commission, does not lie with corrupt judicial functionaries but with the local
tyrants, the military commanders in these rural areas who are protected by the
military. As one witness testified
before the Commission during its August 1988 visit, the problem is caused not by
corrupt judges but by a political system which is considered illegitimate in the
eyes of the entire population.