On September 27, 1989, 33 political and trade union organizations called
a general strike to protest the prevailing insecurity in Haiti, the high cost of
living, and to call for a postponement of the economic measures advocated by the
International Monetary Fund. The
strike was widely taken up in Port-au-Prince, and to a lesser degree
in the provinces.
On November 1, the persistent deterioration of the situation of human
rights was greatly exacerbated by the detention of trade union and political
leaders Jean-Auguste Mesyeux, Executive Secretary of the Autonomous
Federation of Haitian Workers (CATH); Evans Paul, leader of the Committee for
Unity and Democracy (KID); and Etienne Marineau, leader of the People's
Organization of 17th September (OP 17). This
case is thoroughly addressed in other sections of this Report.
It will suffice to indicate here that the brutality of the treatment of
those mentioned above by the organs of Haitian security, the demonstration on
national television of their faces bearing marks of torture, and the lack of
adequate medical attention for the victims by Haitian authorities are a clear
indication of the urgent need to remedy the deep-rooted causes that have
allowed this kind of act to be committed in Haitian society.
Political, trade union, and human rights organizations reacted to this
situation with a general strike held on November 7 and 8, and then with a
sequence of hunger strikes in solidarity with the three leaders who were
arrested, tortured and had begun a hunger strike of their own to attain
appropriate medical attention. In this climate of violence, insecurity, and repression, the
President of the Haitian League for Human Rights, Joseph Maxi, was forced
underground when his house was searched and looted by military personnel.
On November 22, 14 members of the Haitian League of Former Political
Prisoners were detained for "inciting" the population to join in the
hunger strike in support of the detained leaders.
On November 30, 3 members of the political movement of former President
Manigat were assassinated in Port-au-Prince --Auguste
Lorémus, Israel Isophe, and Verelt Isophe-- although it remains
unclear who was responsible for these crimes.
On January 7, 1990, General Avril left Haiti on a trip to Taiwan which
was to last until the 15th of January. On
January 9, 1990, three prominent Haitian citizens belonging to the Group of
Initiative of Civilian Society for the Observance of the Constitution sent a
cable to the President of the Republic of China, stating that the people of
Haiti were not apprised of the reasons for the trip undertaken by President
Avril, and, hence, any commitments arising therefrom would not be recognized by
the people. It was signed by Father Antoine Adrien; businessman Antoine
Izmery, active member of the Chamber of Commerce; and Dr. Luis E. Roy, founder
of the Red Cross of Haiti and one of the chief authors of the Constitution of
1987. In the meantime, a group of
political parties and trade union organizations titled Rassemblement National
called a general strike for January 12, and for the renunciation of Avril, to no
On his return from Taiwan on January 15, 1990, General Avril gave a
speech at the airport which was regarded as an incitement to violence against
the opposition to his government. On
January 16, Jean Wilfred Destin (Ti Will), a popular comedian who broadcasted on
Radio Cacique of Port-au-Prince, was killed by 3 unidentified
persons. On January 19, Colonel
André Neptune of the Presidential Guard together with his wife and housekeeper
were shot to death while driving in their car.
On January 20, 1990, a state of siege was imposed for 30 days. A
corresponding decree was issued and stated that the occurrence of incidents
"which threaten the public order and which seek to impede the normal
operation of national institutions and disrupt the democratic process ... in
order to protect democratic advances away from terrorism or any other attempt to
use force that could lead to a civil war."
The decree suspended exercise of the right of every Haitian citizen not
to be deported nor to be deprived of his legal capacity or nationality (article
41 of the Constitution), and to enter the country without a visa requirement
(Article 41-1 of the Constitution). Also,
articles 278 and 278-3 of the Constitution, which refer to the prohibition
on imposition of a state of siege except in the case of civil war or invasion by
foreign forces and the automatic suspension of a state of siege within fifteen
days of its imposition if not renewed by the National Assembly were also
suspended. Press censorship was also imposed.
On that same day, a decree was issued which reinstituted the requirement
of a visa for the entry of Haitian citizens into the country, a requirement
which had been in force in the Duvalier era and which had been nullified in 1986
by the National Governing Council.
Beginning on January 20, 1990, there were numerous arrests,
mistreatments, and expulsions of important civic, political, and trade union
leaders. Bearing in mind that
specific aspects of these acts are covered in other chapters of this report, it
will suffice to say that the detentions were carried out without observing any
of the established legal formalities. Nearly
all of those involved were seriously mistreated, including obvious brutality
used in the proceedings. The right
to reside and to leave the country voluntarily was also violated.
With these measures, the repression which until then had focused on trade
union and rural leaders spilled over to include known civil and political
leaders of the most diverse positions. The
political thrust of repression was clearly demonstrated, as was its serious
impact on the operation of such organizations at a time when they should have
been preparing for the election timetable.
The following persons were detained without formalities, mistreated, and
expelled from the country: Hubert
de Ronceray, leader of Mobilization for National Development and an important
presidential candidate; Dr. Luis Roy, prominent member of the Group of Civil
Initiative for Observance of the Constitution and author of the 1987
Constitution; Serge Giles, leader of the Revolutionary Progressive National
Party; Gerard Emile "Aby" Brun of the Congress of Democratic Movements
(KONAKOM); Max Bourjolly, of the Unified Party of Communists of Haiti; Sylvain
Jolibois of the Jean-Jacques Dessalines Nationalist Sector; Michel Legros,
of the League for Democracy; Max Montreuil, of the Neighborhood Committee of
Cap-Haitien; and businessman Antoine Izmery, one of the signatories of the
telegram to the President of the Republic of China concerning Avril's visit.
Approximately 40 other activists were detained while other important
leaders such as the Pastor Sylvio Claude of the Christian Democratic Party and
Gerard Philippe-Auguste of the Movement of the Country's Organizations
went underground. The media adopted
varying approaches: Radio Antilles
Internationale; Radio Métropole and Radio Haiti chose to suspend their news
segments; Radio Lumière (Protestant) and Radio Soleil (Catholic) reported on
the events; Radio Cacique chose to cancel all of its broadcasts.
A vigorous response to such heedless acts by the Government of General
Avril followed shortly. In a
statement of January 26, 1990, the Bishop's Conference of the Catholic Church of
Haiti condemned the actions of the Government, while the Government of France
suspended all economic assistance to Haiti, "due to the violations of human
rights," and the Government of the United States deplored the actions taken
and adopted a very critical position. The
European Economic Community considered the serious implications of these
measures for political freedoms and human rights, while the Embassy of Canada in
Port-au-Prince regretted the imposition of the state of siege and
the measures adopted which could affect the elections scheduled for that year. The Secretariat of the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights, on instructions from its President, sent a cable to the Government
of Haiti urgently requesting information and reminding the Government of the
commitment to install a democratic government.
On January 29, 1990, the Government lifted the state of siege and
announced that the expulsion of Haitian nationals had been nullified and that
the visa requirement for their return to the country had also been nullified.
In adopting these measures, the Government noted that the exceptional
measures had achieved their purpose and made it possible to "overcome the
crisis that threatened the future of democracy in Haiti."
On January 29, 1990, the Permanent Electoral Council released the
Electoral Law it had drafted. The
reaction, however, was unabated skepticism regarding the possibility of
implementing the provisions of the law in the prevailing circumstances.
Thus, a group of prominent Haitian citizens who had been expelled
(Messrs. Roy, Ronceray, Leger, and Izmery) issued their view that no measure
directed at obtaining from General Avril a continuation of the process of
democratization would be effective while he remained in power, and that the
first condition for democracy in Haiti was, therefore, the departure of Avril.
Rejecting any possibility of accepting a new provisional military
government, they advocated the formation of a non-partisan and provisional
civilian government, "whose sole mission shall be to organize elections ...
within a period of six months and under international supervision."
Having expressed their view that it was too late to find constitutional
solutions to the vacancy of the presidency, which might bring another
Duvalierist to power, they reaffirmed their belief in the need to constitute a
provisional government that would be nonpartisan and free of external influence.
On February 7 1990, the Government granted a general amnesty to restore
freedom to all of those who were detained, while denunciations persisted of
further abuses committed by military personnel and armed civilians.
The Association of Haitian Journalists issued a press release protesting
the detention, on February 14, of journalist Herto Zamor of Radio Métropole and
his mistreatment while in custody.
On February 23, the Permanent Council of the Organization of American
States convened a meeting to study the situation in Haiti, and adopted the
resolution, in which the Inter-American Commission was ask to, with the
consent of the Haitian government, visit the country in order to inform the next
session of the General Assembly about the conditions of human rights in Haiti.
On March 4, 1990, the Group of Twelve was established, comprised of
eleven political parties and a civic organization.
On the following day, a young girl, Rosaline Vaval, was killed by a shot
fired by a soldier in the town of Petite Goave.
The following days violent demonstrations in several haitian cities took
place, including Port-au-Prince, which led to an undetermined number
of deaths. Reliable sources put the
figure at approximately 20.
The new Pascal-Trouillot provisional Government
On March 10, 1990, Avril resigned and was transported in a U.S. Air Force
aircraft to Florida, while General Hérard Abraham, Chief of Staff, temporarily
assumed the office of President. On
March 13, Mrs. Ertha Pascal-Trouillot, Judge of the Court de Cassation
(Supreme Court) was sworn in as President, with the consent of the Group of
Twelve, and proceeded to form a Council of State of 19 members comprised of the
chief political and civic associations of Haiti.
The structure of the Haitian State under the Constitution of 1987 is
considered exhaustively in the Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti,
prepared by the Inter-American Commission in 1988.
Accordingly, this section will treat only of the aspects bearing on
determination of the positions to be filled and the positions of those
responsible for security in the elections, and on identification of the areas of
the State machinery in which resistance may be encountered to the full unfolding
of the democratization process.
Article 134 of the Constitution provides that the President of the
Republic shall be elected by simple majority vote, and that a second round of
voting shall be held if no candidate attains that majority in the first round.
The President of the Republic is the Head of State and the nominal chief
of the Armed Forces--though he does not command them in
person--and appoints as Prime Minister and Head of the Government a
member of the party who has won a majority in the Congress; if no party has won
such majority, he appoints the Prime Minister in consultation with the chairmen
of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies. The
Prime Minister appoints his own Cabinet.
The deputies and senators, the three members of the Council of every
communal section, and the three members of the municipal council that governs
every commune (the smallest territorial subdivision) are all elected directly as
Article 149 of the Constitution requires that elections be held within
not less than 45 and not more than 90 days after the Presidency becomes vacant.
The individuals expelled from the country by General Avril felt that
there was no time to comply with the letter of the Constitution, and they
proposed the holding of new elections in six months time.
During the on-site visit inquiries were made into this matter, and
a consensus was found that this problem should be solved by whatever Electoral
Council was designated. The IACHR
Delegation heard the views of prominent officials and leading politicians on the
necessity of holding the elections before September so that the transfer of
power could take place in October, and so coincide with the opening of the
fiscal year, the school year, etc.
As noted, the Constitution of 1987 assigns a structure and functions to
the Electoral Council. The
independence of this body an essential condition, in the Commission's doctrine,
if it is to perform its functions to the full led to clashes with the Army and
culminated in the slaughter of voters on November 29, 1987, acquiesced in by the
Army and even joined in by some uniformed personnel.
General Avril appointed a new Electoral Council along lines relatively
similar to those of the Constitution.
The Electoral Council called for in the Constitution and dissolved by the
government of General Namphy has been reinstated by a decree of April 19, 1990.
Pursuant to Article 289 of the Constitution, the functions of the
Provisional Electoral Council are to draw up and execute the Electoral Law that
is to govern the coming elections. The
following institutions must each designate one member of this Council: the
Executive Branch, the Episcopal Conference, the Advisory Council, the Court de
Cassation (the Court of Appeal, the highest court in the country), the
organizations for the defense of human rights, the University Council, the
Newspapermen's Association, the churches of the Reformed Church, and the
National Council of Cooperatives. At
the time of the IACHR Delegation visit
these institutions were considering the designation of their delegates,
especially whether they would be the same people designated to the original
Provisional Electoral Council. On
April 29th, the Commission was informed of the membership of the new Provisional
Electoral Council: Pierre Gonzalez (Executive), Jean Casimir (Universities),
Ernst Nirville* (Journalist Assosiation of Haiti), Philippe Jules* (Council of
Cooperatives), Emmanuel Ambroise* (Bodies Defending Human Rights), Jean Francis
Merisier (Organized Labor), Rosemond Jean-Philippe (Supreme Court), Arold
Julien (Reformed Church), and Yva Youance (Conference of Episcopal Churches).
Two members of the original Provisional Electoral Council, Messrs.
Phillippe Jules and Emmanuel Ambroise, called on the IACHR Delegation and gave
it a vivid account of their experiences in the process that culminated in the
failed elections of November 1987. They
concluded that every guarantee of personal safety should be provided for both
the population at large and the members of the Electoral Council, their
relatives, their personal belongings, and the assets of the Electoral Council,
to avert a recurrence of the events of 1987, when the members of the Council
were assaulted, their assets damaged, their homes raided, and the premises of
the Electoral Council subjected to several attacks and even burned in places by
arson, all while the forces of law and order stood passively by.
These two persons said that it would be hard to hold elections without
guarantees of safety; they proposed the establishment of an independent
Electoral Police and affirmed that it was essential to disarm both civilians and
retired military men.
A central point in the dispute between the original Provisional Electoral
Council and the National Council of Government under Namphy was the Electoral
Law, which resulted in a law riddled with flaws under which Manigat was elected.
General Avril issued a new law, which was not discussed in detail owing
to widespread skepticism in the political forces. When the IACHR Delegation left Haiti it had not yet been
decided how this important matter would be dealt with; this would be decided by
the Provisional Electoral Council when its members had taken office.
When the IACHR Delegation left Haiti preparations for the electoral
process had not yet begun because the Provisional Electoral Council was not yet
constituted. As pointed out
earlier, the Electoral Council was constituted in April 29, 1990 and begun to
take measures for the organization of the electoral process, aspect that the
Commission will have to monitor in the coming months.
During its stay in Haiti the IACHR Delegation heard constantly, and from
different quarters, references to the insecurity of Haitians in general and of
those involved in political and electoral affairs in particular.
This insecurity applies to the exercise of all human rights and,
according to testimony heard, extends all the way to the most elementary rights
such as the rights to life and to humane treatment.
In the view of high officials of the Haitian Government who spoke to the
IACHR Delegation, Haiti was in a critical situation, as it had to act against
this insecurity and organize an electoral process in a very short time.
The insecurity took two main forms, according to the testimony heard: one
form generated by violence and the other associated with the economic situation.
Regarding the insecurity generated by violence, the Delegation was told
that it sprang from the groups linked to the regime of the Duvaliers, who, it
was said, retained considerable influence in the machinery of government, the
judiciary and the armed forces. According
to testimony received, these groups are linked to the remnants of the
Volontaires de la Securité Nationale, or Tonton Macoutes, who still have
weapons. The Delegation was also
told that common criminals were frequently employed to commit crimes for money.
Particularly harsh was the violence practiced in rural areas by the Rural
Police section chiefs, who are part of the Army, who use their adjoints to
oversee the peasants and impose exactions on them, and guard the interests of
the major agricultural landowners.
The Delegation heard opinions to the effect that there is great economic
insecurity because of the impoverished state of great masses of the population,
which generates an environment that is not only favorable to outbreaks of
violence, but makes it possible for popular discontent to be manipulated by
those opposed to the emergence of democratic ways. The Delegation was also told
that this impoverishment had seriously contributed to the rise of common
delinquency, from which victims defend themselves with their own resources,
sometimes using weapons in their possession.
The resulting insecurity, the Delegation was informed, has found
expression in the commission of common crimes and acts of political violence.
Examples of the latter, as expressions of insecurity, are the massacre of
voters in the elections of 1987, of parishioners in the church of St. Jean Bosco,
the murder of three presidential candidates, one of them a prominent champion of
human rights. This political
insecurity has also been generated by the physical abuse and torture of labor
and political leaders under the preceding administration, and by expulsions from
the country. It was also mentioned
that the insecurity had extended to newspapermen and the media, which were the
targets of frequent attacks. The
Delegation received valuable testimony in this regard from representatives of
Radio Haiti International and Radio Antilles International, both of which cited
the lack of guarantees for the normal performance of journalistic functions,
especially when it involves traveling to the interior.
The people interviewed by the Delegation thought that a variety of steps
should be taken to counter this climate of insecurity, which severely
jeopardized the exercise of political rights in the electoral process about be
started. They mentioned, first of
all, the absolute necessity that the Armed Forces take a positive attitude and
become guardians of order and the safety of the population, the candidates and
the institutions involved, and guarantee the normal progress of the electoral
process. The Delegation received a
promise of the Minister of Defense, Mr. Jean Thomas, and the Commander of the
Armed Forces,General Hérard Abraham, that they would become such guardians and
that the events of November 1987 would not be repeated.
Secondly, the Delegation received expressions of views that to the effect
that it was necessary to disarm the civilian groups who still had arms in their
possession and the retired military who had not yet returned them.
The Delegation did not hear from the Minister of Defense or the Commander
of the Armed Forces of the existence of any specific plans for disarming the
civilian population, but was told instead that the Police were acting to seize
illegally held arms on the basis of isolated reports.
The Delegation was also told repeatedly of the need to separate the
Police from the Army and to give the former the function of keep domestic order
and training responsive to the requirements of respecting the human rights of
the population. The Delegation
heard from high government officers their commitment to realize the situation
depicted in the Constitution, to which end training programs were in progress in
collaboration with police of other countries.
Nevertheless, it was realized that it would be some time before a
separation of the Police from the Army could be carried out.
Finally it was noted that, to overcome the insecurity about exercising
political rights, it was indispensable to bring to justice the persons charged
with involvement in the grievous violations of human rights that took place on
November 29, 1987 and September 11, 1988, and the crimes against presidential
candidates, as this would set an example that would deter others who might be
contemplating similar acts. This
was, according to the witnesses, particularly important, since some of the
persons who had instigated and committed the outrages were still in the country,
and much of the government administration, including the Ministries of the
Interior, Justice and the Army were still heavily influenced by those who had
supported or committed those acts. These
persons said that failure to set this example prompted victims to take justice
into their own hands, often taking the lives of those whom they regarded as the
perpetrators of heinous crimes, which further heightened the sense of
The highest government officials told the Delegation that the main
impediment to the holding of trials was a lack of specific complaints, as the
National Prosecutor cannot initiate proceedings on its own except in cases of
flagrante delicto and, given the time elapsed since the events took place, the
crimes can not be investigated de oficio because the situation of
flagrancy has dissapeared. The Delegation heard from the Minister of the Interior that
investigations were under way for the bringing of charges.
It was explained to the Delegation that no specific charges existed
because the population feared that presented them would provoke retaliation from
those they accused.
The Inter-American Commission must observe that the absence of
judicial actions against persons suspected of having violated human rights
constitute an ommission that must be promptly corrected.
The Commission is aware of the legal and practical difficulties that such
actions face. However, the
Commission must point out that an action by the State in this regard will
contribute not only to repair the material and moral injuries caused, but also
will have a preventive effect in avoiding the recurrence of new violations.
The Delegation must note that all the persons interviewed acknowledged
the Government's disposition to move forward in defense and promotion of human
rights and to take steps to establish a representative democracy.
The Commission's experience indicates that the armed forces have been an
obstacle for the free exercise of human rights, hence, the Commission listened
with special interest to the expressions by high military authorities that they
will act in conformity with the requirement to protect the human rights of the
population. They all said that the
present Government had not committed any violations of human rights since taking
office, though noting that the Armed Forces had used excessive force when
controling demonstrations, causing the deaths and injuries referred to in other
chapters of this Report. They also
emphasized the need of a strong presence of international observers during the
election campaign, which they regarded as an important contribution to ensuring
that it is properly conducted and as a deterrent to violence.
Article 291 of the Constitution disqualifies persons who served in the
regime of the Duvaliers from public office for ten years.
The massacre of voters on November 29, 1987, was blamed by some people
--including President Namphy--on the exclusion of
Duvalierist candidates, who reacted violently to it.
In the elections that made Manigat President in January 1988 it was
estimated that most of the deputies elected were Duvalierists.
General Avril himself was identified as one.
The IACHR Delegation heard views to the effect that candidates should not
be excluded from the next elections without sound reason.
It was noted that there was a contradiction between the permanent
provisions of the Constitution making all Haitian citizens equal and the
transitory provisions that debarred certain categories from public office for
ten years. It was said that this proscription could have been to blame
for the violence that marred the previous election. There were some who thought that the Provisional Electoral
Council should be "judicious" in the acceptance and rejection of
candidatures, and apply "flexibly" Article 291 of the Constitution,
which forbids Duvalierists to stand for or hold elective public office for ten
years. The Commission must point
out that it was not informed of any judgment in a criminal suit that affected
The Commission concludes from the information in this chapter that, in
the forthcoming electoral process, substantial hurdles to the exercise of
political rights will have to be overcome if the planned elections are to be a
genuine expression of the electorate's will.
These hurdles include the serious conflicts affecting Haitian society,
which tend to become violent, causing insecurity at all levels of society,
especially in connection with the exercise of political rights.
The intentions expressed by the highest officials of the Haitian
government and armed forces lead the Commission to conclude that they are
committed to overcoming limitations on the exercise of political rights and the
civil rights connected with them, by providing all citizens the security they
require to achieve the effective exercise of such rights.
Such good will expressions, however, can not be considered sufficient.
The evidence it gathered led the Commission to conclude that to ensure
secure conditions for the exercise of political rights, the civilian groups
still in unlawful possession of weapons should be disarmed and all members of
the armed forces should be subject to full civilian control. The Commission also feels that the armed forces themselves
should begin to purge their ranks, bringing to justice those accused of being
involved in serious human rights violations.
The Commission believes that this will help generate an atmosphere of
confidence in the population so the exercise of politicall rights will not lead
to unfortunate occurrences such as those that aborted the 1987 elections.