University of Minnesota

Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti, Inter-Am. C.H.R., OEA/Ser.L/V/II.74, Doc. 9 rev. 1 (1988).







1. The right to freedom of thought and expression is protected by Article 13 of the American Convention.1 The right to freedom of association is protected by Article 16 of the American Conventiobn.2 These two rights, above all others, are the rights which have achieved a certain viability following the departure of jean-Claude Duvalier. The realization of these rights has not been complete, and their exercise has undergone severe strain as journalists, politicians, organizers ("animateurs") and union leaders have been killed or harassed in the attempted exercise of them.

2. The radio stations and grassroots organizations assisted by religious workers were the engines of the massive opposition movement to Duvalier. As the Haitian Ambassador to the United States, Mr. Pierre D. Sam, stated in the Spring of 1986 at a conference in Washington, D.C.:

On the eve of February 7, 1986, these strata of the population, particularly in the eight provinces, acting without apparent leadership, but moved by the same spirit which made our independence in 1804, invaded the streets and the quarters of the militia, sometimes holding the American flag as a banner and symbol of democracy, calling for the army to take power. They rejected the government as a defunct system and not representative of the country. The only forces which might have guided them were the religious missions united around a single motto, operating through two radio stations (Catholic Radio Soleil, Protestant Radio Lumière), "Abraham says that it is enough". The people demanded change. All the main roads were blocked, the public offices closed, the markets empty. The capital was isolated from the provinces, and the government in power confined to a small area around the National Palace with the Ministers staying at home, looking at the T.V. programs or listening to the radio.3

3. Ambassador Sam represented the National Governing Council before the OAS in the Spring of 1986, and underscored that his government, the CNG:

… is committed to work toward the establishment of true and functional democracy, based on absolute respect for human rights, freedom of the press, the existence of free trade unions, and the operation of well-structured political parties.4

The rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association received priority consideration by the CNG.

4. Haiti, which is primarily a rural peasant society, has undergone its most dramatic evolution as regards the organization of the peasant population. Peasants comprise approximately 80% of Haiti's 5.7 million population and peasant organizations called "groupements" have been in the process of formation during the past 15 years. At present, the organized peasant movement in Haiti has approximately 200,000-250,000 members and in May 1987 the representatives of these peasant organizations held their First National congress in the village of Papaye in the Central Plateau. The peasant organizations currently functioning in Haiti include the Peasant Movement of Papaye (MPP), which is the largest and began in the Central Plateau and now has groups and organizers in the nine geographic departments of Haiti; the Tet Ansanm movement in the Northwest (against whom the peasant massacre in Jean Rabel, mentioned in Chapter III, supra, was directed); Caritas in Gros Morne; Institut Diocesan d'Education des Adultes in the North (IDEA), and ITEKA which is actively working to train peasants in technical services.5

5. The peasant organizations also form part of KONAKOM which is the coalition that sprang from the first National Congress of Democratic Movements, known by its acronym "KONAKOM". This first National Congress was held in February 1987, as representatives of some 310 organizations - peasant "groupements," trade unions, women's groups, political parties, human rights groups, students groups, the Ti Legliz (church) groups, and the like - met in Port-au-Prince to forge a united strategy to deal wit the country's problems.

6. At the time of the CEP/CNG June 1987 electoral crisis (discussed in Chapter II, supra), a number of these organizations merged with other organizations from the private sector in order to form the "Group of 57" a broad coalition front to present an alternative candidate to the November 1987 elections. KONAKOM at the time of the November 1987 elections became part of the National Concerted Action Front (FNC) which presented Mr. Gérard Gourgue as its candidate for the presidency and presented candidates running for the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies throughout the country. It was the probability of an important electoral victory by the FNC in the November 1987 election which motivated the sabotage of the elections and the massacre of voters by the repressive forces (see Chapter II, supra). To justify the sabotage of the elections the military authorities defended their actions as necessary to prevent the assumption of power of Communists. This charge, not based in fact, is leveled against any individual or organization which presents a threat to the Government.

7. Political parties in Haiti continue to comment on national events but do not function as parties in light of the fact that there are no announced elections. After the assumption of power by President Manigat some of the political leaders left the country and returned to their former activities abroad. Since Manigat's ouster some of these figures have returned.

8. As regards labor unions, there are, since the departure of Jean-Claude Duvalier, three major labor federations in Haiti.6 These are the Autonomous Central of Haitian Workers (CATH), headed by Mr. Yves Richard; the Federation of Union Workers (FOS) headed by Mr. Joseph Senat; and, the Autonomous Central of Haitian Workers/Latin American Workers Central (CATH/CLAT), all of which have links to international labor federations.7 There are no reliable estimates of the size of the membership of these federations since they each claim to include thousands of unemployed workers in their ranks.


The 1987 Constitution

9. Article 28 of the 1987 Constitution of Haiti stipulates freedom of expression in the following terms:

Every Haitian has the right to express his opinion freely on any matter by any means he chooses.

Article 28.1:

Journalists shall freely exercise their profession within the framework of the law, such exercise may not be subject to any authorization or censorship except in the case of war.

Article 28.2:

Journalists may not be compelled to reveal their sources, however it is their duty to verify the authenticity and accuracy of information. It is also their obligation to respect the ethics of their profession.

10. The 1987 Constitution guarantees more extensively the right of expression than the 1957 Constitution.8 Article 28 of the 1987 Constitution established that journalists be free to exercise their profession without censorship. Additionally, journalists cannot be forced to reveal their sources.

11. On august 31, 1986, the National Council of Government issued its Press Law,9 replacing the Press Law of 1980 which severely restricted freedom of expression. The Press Law of 1986 regulates the activities of the media, the printed press and the publishing houses; and establishes that every Haitian is free to engage in such activities. Meanwhile, radios and television continue to be regulated by the October 12, 1977 Decree pertaining to radio broadcasting.10

12. The text of the Press Law has been the object of criticisms by the members of the Association of Haitian Journalists and by local and foreign associations.11

13. The 1986 Law omits the provision regarding prior censorship found in the 1980 Law, which obliged the printer to present five copies of a publication to the corresponding authorities 72 hours in advance of publication. This measure was extremely difficult for new publications, which needed to publish immediately.12 The 1986 Law requires presenting two copies of each publication to the Ministry of Information and Coordination in Port-au-Prince, or to the regional offices of that Ministry, for the provinces, without establishing any type of prior censorship.

14. The 1986 Law stipulates that journalists require a license from the government in order to be able to work. The license is valid for one year and renewable for the same period.14 This provision signified a setback in comparison with the 1980 Decree, which empowered the Association of Journalists to issue the professional identification certificates.

15. In response to the criticism of the journalists, the Ministry of Information and Coordination declared that "the journalist's certificate of professional identification was simply an administrative step that facilitated a journalist's access to the official sources of information".15

16. It should be noted that this provision of the 1986 law paved the way for censorship, since the government already was in the position to decide who could become a journalists. Additionally, the fact that the identification card must be renewed has a chilling effect on the exercise of the freedom of expression since the card could be used to penalize free expression.

17. With respect to the protection of professional secrecy guaranteed by the Constitution and by the Penal Code (Article 323), the 1986 Law violates these guarantees by compelling radio and television stations to reveal their sources. As a result, a discriminatory regime is established between the written media and the audio-visual media, when both form part of the same global network.

18. Concerning media crimes, the 1986 Law stipulates that freedom of expression can only be restricted during a declared state of war or during a state of emergency. This is an advance over the provision set forth in the prior Law: "in the case of abuse or media offense, as determined by law".

19. The 1986 Law does not criminalize media attacks against the Head of State or the First Lady or attacks against the "integrity of the popular culture".16 Nevertheless, this 1986 Law does prohibit publications which offend public morals.17 The vagueness of this language allows for an overly broad interpretation as to what kinds of acts may be classified as abuses.

20. Article 31 of the 1987 Haitian constitution sets forth the right to freedom of assembly and association in the following terms:

Freedom of unarmed assembly and association for political, economic, social, cultural or any other peaceful purposes is guaranteed.

1. Political parties and groups shall compete with each other in the exercise of suffrage. They may be established and may carry out their activities freely. They must respect the principles of national and democratic sovereignty. The law determines the conditions for their recognition and operation, and the advantages and privileges reserved to them.

2. The police authorities must be notified in advance of assemblies outdoors in public places.

3. No one may be compelled to join any association of any kind.


21. Under President-for-Life, Jean Claude Duvalier, substantial limits were placed on the exercise of freedom of the press and speech. All of Haiti's major newspapers were pro-Government and received substantial subsidies. Constitutional guarantees of freedom of the press were further undermined by the Anti-Communist Law of 1969 and the amended press law of 1980. Some radio stations and newspapers attempted to test these limitations and in November 1980, a governmental crackdown crushed the emerging opposition media. Mr. Jean Dominique's radio station, Radio Haiti-Inter, the first to broadcast in Creole, the language of the masses, was closed down and its entire staff expelled. Similarly, emerging independent trade union organizers and opposition politicians were also expelled and the brief "Haitian Spring" came to an end.

22. In Haiti the radios are the dominant communications media. In a country where per capita income is US$300 per year, the lowest in the hemisphere, and illiteracy is approximately 90%, the market is small for the three daily newspapers, Le Nouvelliste, Haiti Liberée (now renamed L'Union) and Le Matin. The newspapers are also prohibitively expensive, costing approximately US$1.00. Since the departure of jean-Claude Duvalier, the diaspora newspapers, published in the United States, are also sold on Haitian streets, such as Haiti-Observateur, Haiti-Progrès (both published in Brooklyn, New York) and Haiti-en-Marche (published in Florida, U.S.). The diaspora papers have much greater freedom of expression, editorial content, and financial security and are read primarily by the large Haitian exile community in the United States. The Port-au-Prince papers, on the other hand, engage in a great deal of self-censorship and can almost be considered as vehicles for "press communiqués" issued by the Government or any person or organization who/which chooses to issue a communiqué. There is very little opinion or editorial comment in these local papers.

23. The Catholic Church's radio station Radio Soleil attempted to fill the vacuum left by the expulsion of the Radio Haiti-Inter staff. In spite of the protection afforded by the Church this station has also repeatedly been subject to attacks. In July 1985, Radio-Soleil's director, Father Hugo Triest was expelled. As the Commission stated in its 1984-1985 Annual Report:

On July 24, 1985, three Belgian priests, Hugo Triest, Jean Hostens and Yvan Pollefeyt, were expelled from the country. Father Hugo Triest, director of the Catholic radio station Radio Soleil, which had advised its listeners before the plebiscite (on the Presidency-for-Life) about how they should vote, was accused, along with the other two priests, of violating the country's immigration laws and had their residence permits revoked. Father Triest was given 24 hours to leave the country and the other two, 48 hours. The Haitian Episcopal Conference lodged a formal protest with the government on these expulsions, in a letter signed by eight bishops, accusing President Duvalier of persecuting the Church. The bishops called for a day of fasting and prayer on August 2, 1985.18

Father Hugo Triest was able to return to Haiti and to resume his work with Radio Soleil, as was Mr. Jean Dominique who resumed the operations of Radio Haiti Inter, following the departure of jean-Claude Duvalier.

24. With the departure of Jean-Claude Duvalier great expectations for an improvement in conditions were raised among the Haitian people. As the Commission stated in its 1986-1987 Annual Report:

Since the fall of the Duvalier regime on February 7, 1986, there has been made manifest a vehement desire on the part of vast sectors of the Haitian population to exercise their fundamental rights and freedoms, which had been denied them in the past, in particular, the right to organize, the right to run for political office and to be elected.

Following the ouster of the 29 year old dictatorship, the Haitian people wanted and demanded change, and improvement in their deplorable standards of living, characterized as the lowest in the hemisphere, and a participatory role in the creation of their future.19

25. The press, as well as the Haitian people, perceived the departure of Duvalier as the nation's Second Independence Day. "Haiti Liberated" (Haiti Libérée) became the cry of the hour and the aspiration for the future. It was quickly adopted as the name of one of the Port-au-Prince dailies. In this early period following the departure of Duvalier the radio stations such as Radio Haiti-Inter and Radio Soleil functioned as quasi-human rights organizations as did the trade union federation CATH. People went to the headquarters of these organizations in order to protest violations of their human rights. As the local human rights organizations began to be formed, the radios and the unions ceased to be the only centers concerned with human rights.

26. During the Commission's January 1987 on-site observation in Haiti, a journalist (who given the recent wave of repression will remain unidentified) testified before the Commission that freedom of speech had not yet been fully achieved in Haiti. He cited, for example, the expulsion of Mr. Nicolas Estiverne, who was expelled for the declarations that he had made on television. Subsequently, there were also other attacks on journalists and unions by members of the ancien regime who did not want public denunciations made against them. He cited as an example, that journalists from his radio station were frequently called in by the authorities who expressed to them their unhappiness with the radio station's public denunciation of complaints they had received against the military commanders.

27. One specific case involved the journalist Mr. Jacques Jean-Baptiste who worked for Radio Métropole. This journalist was beaten by the military because he had given a direct broadcast from a portable transmitter which impeded the departure of an important figure of the Duvalier regime. On February 25, 1986, Mr. Jean Baptiste was at the airport and alerted the public that Mr. Luc Desyr, a former Duvalierist chief of the secret police, was about to depart from Haiti. The news was immediately broadcast on the air. The military did not hesitate to put pressure on the radio station in order to prevent it from disseminating the news because it feared that a crowd would come to the airport to physically prevent the departure of Mr. Desyr, which is what, n fact, happened. Consequently, in the opinion of this journalist, certain progress had been made as regards freedom of expression in Haiti but one cannot speak of the full exercise of this right in Haiti.

28. In light of the constant possibility of reprisals for what one broadcasts or prints the press adopted a form of self-censorship, said this witness. For example, an audio cassette was sent to the radio in 1986 by a lieutenant who went into hiding after having been transferred from Port-au-Prince to a remote provincial post. In his statement on the cassette, he personally attacked Col. Jean-Claude Paul, the Commander of Casernes Dessalines. This cassette had been copied and distributed to all the organs of the press and to all the radio stations. "We did a professional job," he said, "we contacted Col. Paul in order to get his reaction to the declarations of the lieutenant. He refused to respond. At our radio station we did not mention the name of the person in question, but rather the name of the job he holds, in order to prevent personal conflicts. Self-censorship depends on the philosophy and tendency of the radio station".

29. The media played a very important role during the electoral period. It served as a conduit for civic and educational campaigns and informed its listeners on the mechanics of how to vote. In addition, the radio stations broadcast interviews with the diverse candidates and listeners were able to phone in and ask them questions. This freedom was severely curtailed at the time of the elections.

30. During its august 1988 visit to Haiti the Commission met with many representatives of the media. The representatives of the radio stations described how they had been under attack during the electoral period. All the independent radio stations had been attacked with rockets and grenades and had to be closed down. These stations did not change their programs, however, when they resumed broadcasting. In the opinion of one witness the events of November 29, 1987 represented "the return to power of the Macoutes". Father Hugo Triest, director of Radio Soleil denied that his station engaged in any self-censorship. "We were the first to report the killings at Labadie" he stated.

31. Representatives of other stations acknowledged that they do engage in self-censorship. Mr. Richard Widmaier of Radio Metropole stated that "we are self-censoring, we have to be, we've learned about the violence of the CNG during its two years in power". Mr. Widmaier described the subtle pressures on the press. He had been arrested three weeks earlier on the street in front of a restaurant. He stated that he would not go without first seeing a warrant. One of the two men (dressed in T-shirts) pulled out a gun. He still refused to go and went to a phone and called his wife and told her to put out the word. He was taken to the Casernes in Petionville and held for 12 hours. He then received an apology for the arrest. They said it was a mistake and he was released.

32. Journalists from the print media complained of the harassment of journalists by the Army and indicated that the situation had worsened since the coup. Two editions of newspapers published in the United States by Haitian exiles Haiti Progres and Haiti-en-March of May and June 1988were seized at the Port-au-Prince airport, both had articles on government involvement in drug trafficking. The journalists complained that the U.S. Government did not protest the seizure.



33. During its visit to Haiti in February of 1987, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights noted a major improvement in freedom of expression. However, beginning with the crisis in June of 1987, the situation began seriously to deteriorate. The following violations of human rights directed towards journalists and radio stations were brought to the attention of the Commission:

On June 30, 1987, Mr. Wilson Brissot was detained by soldiers while he was reporting for Radio Arc-en-Ciel, in the city of Leogane. Later, he was forced into a car and driven to a rural area, where he was abandoned after having been shot.

On July 6, 1987, Messrs. Jean Hubert Laforet and Constantin Chery, reporters of Radio Cacique, were shot in the legs by military soldiers while reporting on the military violence in Cité Soleil.

On July 20, 1987, the offices of Radio Cacique were machine gunned by military soldiers.

On July 21, 1987, four reporters were arrested when they were taking photographs of a women's demonstration in Port-au-Prince and their cameras were confiscated.

On July 27, 1987, at another women's demonstration, soldiers detained several journalists and destroyed their cameras and film. Among those detained was Ms. Carole De Villiers, a photographer for National Geographic, who was a victim of physical abuse during her detention.

Mr. Jean Max Blanc was detained on July 22, 1987, when he was reporting for Radio Metropole and his equipment was confiscated. Mr. Blanc was detained for 48 hours until a judge, who refused to accuse him of attempted armed robbery against a soldier, ordered his release.

On the same day, the premises of Radio Soleil (a station of the Catholic Church) were ransacked by soldiers in an apparent attempt to intimidate the media.

On July 28th, the office of Radio Soleil in Jeremie was riddled with machinegun blasts. Also on that day, two American journalists, Mr. Rick Kelly of the Picture Group, Inc. and Ms. Nancy McGirr of Reuters, were objects of shooting attempts while they covered street demonstrations.

On August 3, 1987, Mr. Jean Laurent Nelson, a reporter for Radio Haiti-Inter, was attacked by a band of Tontons Macoutes in Gonaives and followed to his house, which was in an area surrounded by the Macoutes. Seriously injured he reached a hospital while pursued by his attackers.

On August 13, 1987, three reporters of the National Television (Télé Nationale) were arbitrarily detained.

On October 13, 1987, Mr. Yves Volel, a presidential candidate, was assassinated while holding a press conference in front of the police station (Recherches Criminelles) in Port-au-Prince. Mr. Volel had invited journalists to accompany him to the police station, were he attempted to procure the release of Mr. Jean Raymond Louis. Several men dressed as civilians fired repeatedly at Mr. Volel, who died instantly. The police, instead of arresting the assassins, went after the journalists and confiscated the reporters' cameras. Later, the police issued a communiqué declaring that Mr. Volel was found armed and that the police were looking for his accomplices. The reporters present declared that Mr. Volel had died with a copy of the Constitution in his hands, and was unarmed.

On November 21, 1987, the studio and transformer of Radio Lumière (run by the Baptist Church) in Port-au-Prince were burned down.

On November 29, 1987, at approximately 1:30 a.m. the transmitter of Radio Soleil, (the radio station of the Catholic church), was destroyed by about 15 uniformed soldiers who tossed hand grenades and used flame throwers leaving it completely inoperative.

The premises of the radio stations Cacique, Haiti-Inter, and Caraibes of Port-au-Prince and Trans-Artibonite and Independence of Gonaives, were riddled with machine gun blasts, forcing their closure as well.

Hours later, journalists were the target of a wave of violence motivated by the election. The Holiday Inn Hotel, located in the center of Port-au-Prince, and which served as an informal meeting place of foreign journalists, was hit by machine gun fire several times during the day by armed bands. Observers and local and foreign journalists were repeatedly attacked and shot or received death threats when they headed toward the polling stations to cover the elections.

The most dramatic case was the killing of the Dominican cameramen, Mr. Carlos Grullón, who was shot point-blank by soldiers; he pleaded that they not shoot him, shouting that he was a journalist and showing them his press card.

An ABC television crew was pursued and shot by armed men "who took careful and deliberate aim" according to ABC correspondent Mr. Peter Collins. Cameraman Javier Carillo, a Mexican, was shot in the thigh. Soundman Alfredo Mejía, a Salvadoran, was hit in the elbow. The Haitian driver, Franklin Ver, was shot in the back and badly wounded. The gunman then removed wallets, watches and equipment from the crew. ABC soundman Alfredo Mejía described the assault on his crew near the Argentine de Bellegarde School in Port-au-Prince where voters had been massacred earlier in the day:

"They stalked us. They looked to be in their early thirties, muscular and tough. They cursed us in a language we didn't understand. They were loud and full of violent gestures. I watched one of them aim and fire and saw the flash from his pistol. He fired from point-blank range. Cameraman Javier Carillo was hugging his camera to his body and I hugged my sound recorder to my middle. I closed my eyes, hoping he would stop shooting. My right arm jumped. I was hit twice by 45-caliber bullets in the arm. We were still filming and afterwards Carillo said he had filmed me being shot. We had hardly had time to speak when we saw them returning. We played dead. They stepped down cursing all the time, and tore off my gold neck-chain, our watches, and tore out our wallets and then took away the camera and sound equipment."20

Mr. Bernard Etheart, a Haitian journalist for the Miami based newspaper Haiti-en-March and Mr. Geoffrey Smith, a British freelance journalist, were also injured while covering the election.

Voice of America correspondent Greg Flakus and three other journalists were chased in Port-au-Prince by armed men firing pistols. The four hid for three hours while their pursuers conducted a house-to-house search for them. "They were trying to kill us," Flakus said. "There's no question about that." The four were eventually rescued by a diplomat in a bullet-proof van. United States freelance photographer Steven Wilson said gunmen forced him to kneel near a corpse and cocked their guns. They let him go, but took his camera and shot out the windows of his car as he drove away. Time magazine photographer J.B. Diederich was shot at by army personnel in full uniform. Diederich was not hit, but bloodied his hands climbing over a broken-glass-topped wall to escape. Gunmen also threatened reporters at roadblocks set up between the capital and the northern city of Gonaives, and in several cases destroyed their equipment. Another French television crew had its gear smashed.

The gunmen and military also set their sights on Haiti's many independent radio stations, the key medium in a country where only one in four adults can read. By daytime, only one independent station was still broadcasting in Port-au-Prince, the rest having been knocked off the air or terrorized into shutting themselves down.21


34. On the day of the February 17, 1988 elections, even though the elections went calmly and the military was extremely vigilant, three people were arrested, including Mr. Marc Antoine Delson, Director of L'arc-en-ciel radio. Even with the harassment, the press and the radio stations continued reporting about the political situation in Haiti. However, the television station did not show the same willingness to cooperate. On February 5, Mr. Marc Bazin, an ex-presidential candidate wanted to deliver a message to the nation on Télé-Haiti, a private station, but his transmission was subject to prior censorship.22

35. On February 22, 1988, General Carl Michel Nicolas of the Army High Command delivered a communiqué to the press which warned the press against attacking Col. Jean-Claude Paul as a consequence of the foreign drug-trafficking charges against him. This communiqué stated:

The High Command of the Armed Forces of Haiti advises the local press against the arbitrary affirmations, of a certain foreign press, related to the alleged complicity of an official superior of the Armed Forces in Haiti in a drug-trafficking charge.

For the knowledge of the local press and the general public, the High Command informs that no such denouncement of any kind, or legal proceeding has been received in its office, in relation to the case of Jean-Claude Paul, especially pointed out by the foreign media; which would bring about, conforming to the regulations of the Armed Forces, the forming of a special investigative commission in order to clarify the case and to conclude with the disciplinary measures accordingly.

Going beyond the prescribed limits by the legislation concerning the topic, the foreign press dares to even mention a possible request of extradition.

The High Command of the Armed Forces of Haiti, asks the local press to avoid naively spreading a denigration campaign, without supporting it with proof.23

36. This admonition by the Military Forces, who pursuant to the 1987 Constitution have no authority over the press, was followed by a second admonition by the Information Ministry.

37. On March 7, 198, Mr. Roger Savain, Information Minister, threatened to take criminal action against the press for violating the Constitution as follows:

The communiqué dated 7 March 1988 and signed by Information Minister Roger L. Savain himself states that the ministry has recently noted a marked tendency on the part of the Haitian media to employ terms that are not too proper. Inappropriate language is seen in news items, interviews, and statements by Haitian or foreign citizens. There is also a tendency to disseminate erroneous, false, and unverified reports on the pretext of echoing foreign press organs.

This kind of behavior can confuse public opinion, cause unnecessary anxiety, and play on the nerves of a generally credulous population.

While freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Constitution, it is the Ministry's duty to remind the persons in charge of oral, written, and television press organs that the legislators took care to specify a number of limits which the right of expression cannot exceed without constituting an abuse.

Thus, stinging words, foul language, insulting and offensive or defamatory charges, sarcasm, or ill-intentioned jokes and certain serious public insults constitute intolerable cases of abuse of the freedom of speech.

The Minister adds in this connection: Interested parties may refer to Articles 28 and 28-3 of the Constitution; Articles 313, 316, 320 and 321 of the penal code; and press legislation in force. These provisions affect both the author of the offensive item and the press organ that carries it.

In view of the fact that this regime is trying to establish a rule of law, it invites citizens and press organs and agencies, both Haitian and foreign, to adhere more strictly to the provisions of the Constitution and the law, so that harmony and peace may prevail.24

38. These communications were designed to silence the press as regards the indictment against Colonel jean-Claude Paul, Commander of Casernes Dessalines.

39. This government communiqué exerted a chilling effect on the freedom of the press in Haiti. With the exception of Haitian-en-March (which is published in Miami) the press did not continue reporting on the case of colonel Paul.25 Radio Soleil, however, continued broadcasting on the Col. Paul affair and in the third week of March it received a "letter bomb" which did not detonate.

40. On March 10, 1988, the Haitian Association of Journalists (AJH) responded to the communiqué of the Information Minister as follows:

Such a communiqué looks like psychological preparation of national public opinion for new repression against Haitian journalists and the media on the pretext that they are reporting the news incorrectly and using inappropriate language. This new government, like all the preceding governments, seems to look upon the press as a favorite sphere in which to exercise its power and also an appropriate place to open an era of abuses.

The penal code does forbid defamation. It also condemns threats in Articles 250-253. In Articles 85 and 86, it punishes attacks on public freedoms.

The communiqué continued, in relevant part:

The Haitian Association of Journalists, by virtue of the Constitution of 1987, which rendered null and void the bad press law of 1986, acknowledges the need to have professional ethics respected and is opposed to any attempt to renew the old 1986 law, which trampled upon the press in Haiti.26

41. As mentioned above (para. 31) there have also been instances when the Government has confiscated diaspora papers upon entry into the country. For instance, in May, 1988, an edition of Haiti Progres and in June 1988 an issue of Haiti en Marche were confiscated. Both contained articles alleging that Haitian military officers were involved in international drug trafficking activities.

42. In addition, one daily paper, Enquêtte, has ceased publication because its printer, a private company, has refused to print the paper due to threats from anonymous callers.

43. Problems continued to surface between President Manigat's Government and the press. On June 14, 1988, it was reported that the Haitian Journalist's Association (AJH) reacted to statements made by the Prime Minister in which he held the press and certain political parties responsible for the government's inability to put certain initiatives into practice. The AJH responded that such statements are merely a repetition of those which Haitian leaders have been making for more than 32 years.27



44. President-for-Life Jean-Claude Duvalier left Haiti on February 7, 1986. As early as march 1986 organizations began forming in opposition to the CNG. The KID (Committee of Democratic Unity) formed on March 21, 1986 "as a socio-political" interest group, considered the CNG's politics to be a "continuation of the same Macoutist-Duvalierist politics of the past."28 Persons who had been victimized by the Duvalierist governments were the founders of this organization. They organized to denounce violations of human rights and the abuse of power by the authorities.29

a. The importance of KONAKOM

45. From January 28 to February 1, 1987, some 310 organizations sent representatives to Port-au-Prince for the first National Congress of Democratic Movements. This Congress of grassroots Movements consisted of peasant organizations, women's groups, human rights groups, labor unions, students groups, politicians, and the like. It was created, however, in part, as a reaction to popular dissatisfaction with the self-proclaimed political "leaders" who offered themselves as candidates for the Haitian presidency. The CNG had provided an electoral calendar and the National Congress sought to discuss the various points of view of the different groups and to achieve a consensus as to what sort of strategy it would adopt with respect to the elections.

46. The hundreds of organizations which attended this National Congress all sought, in their way, to carry out the same purpose: to organize and educate the people in order that they might vindicate their rights. Over and over again the members of the Commission were told by witnesses who came before them in January 1987, that these representatives of different groups - such as MISYON ALFA, the Catholic Church's literacy campaign for adults, the popular radio stations, the human rights groups, unions, and the like, - were engaged in the work of popular education and information. Certain organizations, such as those connected with the "Small church" (Ti Legliz) were overtly religious and could be identified with the theology of liberation tendency of the Catholic Church. Others, such as the peasant "groupements" were predominantly economic structures, which worked towards the formation of peasant cooperatives.30 The radio stations broadcasting in Creole emphasized civic education, the rights and duties of citizens and most importantly, the content and significance of the articles of the 1987 Constitution.

47. The 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:

1. The battle for the Constitution

2. The battle against the decree of June 23, 1987 and for Rache Manyok within the Group of 57.

3. The organization of the November 29 elections within the National Concerted Action Front (FNC) and the campaign for abstention for January 17, 1988.31

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:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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 exercise control.

6. 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 Duvalierists.

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.

49. The 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.

50. Consequently, 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 France.

51. Curiously, 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 military.33 On 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.

52. As regards the labor situation, the CATH representatives informed the Commission during its on-site in August 1988 that the major problems are:

1. Employees are fired from their jobs as soon as they have been democratically elected to be union officials by the workers;

2. The enterprise calls in the military in case of labor disputes or attempted strikes;

3. Workers are not always paid the US$3 minimum wage per day of factory work.


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

54. 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.

56. In 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.

57. On 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.

58. During 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.

60. When 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).

66. On August 11, 1988, the Prefect and the chief of Police in Pont Sondé, forcibly entered a meeting of CATH/CLAT.

67. On 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.

69. Captain 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.

70. On 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.

72. On 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.

The Peasants' Demands

73. The 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:

On Economic Affairs:

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.

On Politics

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 1986.

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 opinion.

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.


The Organization of American States Permanent Council Resolution 502 has requested that the Inter-American commission on Human Rights examine the human rights situation in Haiti and present a complete report thereon to the 1988OAS General Assembly. Pursuant to that mandate the commission submits this Report and the following findings to the General Assembly. On September 17, 1988 non-commissioned officers forcibly ousted Lt. Gen. Namphy from power and installed Lt. Gen. Prosper Avril as the new President. The Findings and Recommendations which follow were prepared prior to this change of government.


1. The Commission has come to the conclusion that the current military government in Haiti has perpetuated itself in power as a result of violence instigated by elements of the Haitian Armed forces resulting in the massacre of Haitian voters on November 29, 1987, the manipulation of the elections held on January 17, 1988, and the ouster of President Leslie Manigat on June 20, 1988.

2. Whether the military "seized" power on February 7, 1986, as it claimed or was placed in power, the National governing Council (CNG) during its period in power demonstrated no vocation for democracy.

3. The result of the almost three-year old democratization process led by the military in Haiti has been the entrenchment of the military in power. Lt. Gen. Namphy, who proclaimed himself Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces in 1987, in open defiance of the dictates of the 1987 Constitution, and in prejudice to the choice of the yet-to-be-elected president, proclaimed himself President sine die, expelled the civilian President, suppressed the Legislature, abrogated the 1987 Constitution, and, in effect, established a dictatorship.

4. The discussions with the Ministers during the Commission's August 1988 on-site visit revealed absolutely no intention or disposition on the part of the military to put Haiti on the road to democracy. On the contrary, the military appeared to conceptualize that there is nothing necessarily inconsistent between a military regime and democracy, ignoring the fact that their seizure of power is inherently undemocratic, particularly so in light of Article 3(d) of the OAS Charter and Article 23 of the American convention.

5. Numerous arbitrary killings have occurred during the period under consideration. The politically-motivated nature of the violence is evidenced by the fact that it can be turned on and off by the military authorities. The failure of the military to investigate and punish anyone responsible for these death squad type killings has been a matter of continuing concern to the Commission and leads it to conclude that these death squads function because of the impunity granted to them by the military.

6. On the basis of its observations during its visit and, in particular, in view of the total ignorance displayed by the Minister of Justice of the contents of the report by a government-appointed Commission of Inquiry on the killings of November 29, 1987, the Commission has concluded that such commissions of inquiry provide merely window-dressing for international public opinion and have no relevance or impact on the internal Haitian legal system.

7. Crimes, such as the assassination of Messrs. Louis Eugène Athis, Yves Volel, Charlot Jacquelin and Lafontant Joseph, have never been credibly investigated. The massacre of peasants in the region of Jean Rabel and the death squad killings connected with the elections of November 29, 1987 have led to no arrests or prosecutions. The Commission concludes that the Namphy dictatorship effectively decriminalized any acts committed by the Armed Forces, the Police or the Macoute forces. The criminal laws and procedures were effectively rendered inapplicable, as was, the 1987 Constitution.

8. The military regime, by means of the coup d'etat, attempted to nullify the 1987 Constitution, which was massively approved by popular referendum on March 29, 1987. The use of force y the military to thwart the will of the people is condemned y democratic nations and the respective instruments of international law. The 1987 Constitution, the only expression of the sovereign will of the Haitian people during the period under consideration, is the standard by which the legitimacy of any Haitian Government must be measured, unless that Constitution has been amended or superseded by a new Constitution duly ratified by the Haitian people.

9. Discussions between the Commission and representatives of various human rights organizations revealed among the people a sense of hopelessness and despair in the face of the dictatorship's readiness to use violence and armed force in the suppression of peaceful acts aimed at changing the status quo. Opponents to the regime are routinely threatened, harassed, detained, savagely beaten and in some cases killed, as the cases cited above illustrate, pursuant to the same terror methods and tactics employed during the Duvalier era and in flagrant violation of Haiti's internal and international obligations in human rights.

10. All fundamental human rights in Haiti are under serious strain, limited by the Army's monopoly over the use of force. The Army, functioning as a police force, does not serve to protect Haiti from external threats to its security, it functions to repress those persons and groups who attempt to change the deplorable conditions under which the majority of Haitians live. Those persons and groups which have attempted to extend the permissible frontiers of the exercise of freedom of speech and the freedom to organize, have seen their space severely limited by the coup d'etat as the military began to exert its control over all aspects of the national life.


To this end the information set forth in this Report, which was mandated by Resolution 502 of the OAS Permanent Council, leads the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to call upon the OAS General Assembly to condemn the forcible taking of power by the Haitian Armed Forces and the interruption of the democratization process. In light of the events analyzed in the present report, the commission considers it necessary to make the following specific recommendations to the OAS General Assembly as regards the improvement of the current human rights situation in Haiti:

1. That it is indispensable that an electoral timetable be established, as soon as possible, in order that free and fair elections be held and that a democratically elected civilian government be installed by the time of the convocation of the 1989 OAS General Assembly.

2. That the electoral process be made subject to international supervision, in light of the traumatic experience of the November 29, 1987 elections, and the resultant fear and distrust of the population to enter into another electoral process controlled by the military.

3. That in order for the transition process to be credible the Government of Haiti adopt the necessary measures to reestablish the Constitution which derived from the popular will made manifest in the referendum of March 29, 1987, and that the necessary modifications to be text of this Constitution be introduced by means of a process which grants direct participation to the people, both in the formulation of the amendments and in the approval and entry-into-force of the same.

4. That the necessary measures be taken to guarantee the effective exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and association, in order that the legitimate aspirations of the people may be freely expressed and introduced into the political process.

5. That as a supplement to the measures referred to in the preceding paragraph, that the Government of Haiti guarantee the effective exercise of the rights to life, integrity and personal security, urgently undertaking the necessary measures to effectively control the violence which today is carried out by irregular forces, in particular in the rural areas where these rights are seriously under attack.

6. That the military Government of Haiti guarantee the human rights groups and the institutions which carry out humanitarian work the indispensable conditions which will allow them to continue to carry out their essential mandates.

7. That the Inter-American Commission report again to the 1989 General Assembly on the evolution of the human rights situation in Haiti and of the steps taken to implement the General Assembly recommendations.


1. Article 13 of the American Convention provides: 1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought and expression. This right includes freedom to seek, receive, and disseminate information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing, in print, in the form of art. Or through any other medium of one's choice. 2. The exercise of the right provided for in the foregoing paragraph shall not be subject to prior censorship but shall be subject to subsequent imposition of liability, which shall be expressly established by law to the extent necessary to ensure: a. respect for the rights or reputation of others; or b. the protection of national security, public order, or public health or morals. 3. The right or expression may not be restricted by indirect methods or means, such as the abuse of government or private controls over newsprint, radio broadcasting frequencies, or equipment used in the dissemination of information, or by any other means tending to impede the communication and circulation of ideas and opinions. 4. Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph 2 above, public entertainment may be subject by law to prior censorship for the sole purpose of regulating access to them for the moral protection of childhood and adolescence. 5. Any propaganda for war and any advocacy of national, racial, or religious hatred that constitutes an incitement to lawless violence or to any other similar illegal action against any person or group of persons, on any grounds, including those of race, color, religion, language, or national origin shall be considered as an offense punishable by law.

2. Article 16 of the American Convention provides: 1. Everyone has the right to associate freely for ideological, religious, political, economic, labor, social, cultural, sports, or other purposes. 2. The exercise of this right shall be subject only to such restrictions established by law as may be necessary in a democratic society, in the interest of national security, public safety or public order, or to protect public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others. 3. The provisions of this article do not bar the imposition of legal restrictions, including even deprivation of the exercise of the right of association, on members of the armed forces and the police.

3. See, "The U.S. Role in Haiti's 'Second Independence'" speech by Ambassador Pierre D. Sam, reprinted in Department of State, Foreign Service Institute Authoritarian Regimes in Transition, Ed. Hans Binnedijk (1987).

4. Id.

5. See "A Force for Change: Haiti's Peasant Movement" in the Haiti Beat, a publication of the Washington Office on Haiti, January 1988.

6. Prior to February 7, 1986, free trade unions could not be organized in Haiti.

7. FOS with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions; CATH/CLAT with the Christian Democratic World Confederation of Labor; and CATH with Canadian unions.

8. Article 26 of the 1957 Constitution stipulates the freedom of expression in the following terms: "Every person has the right to express his opinions about whatever subject and through all the media that one has at one's disposition. The expression of one's thought, whatever way it is affected, will not be submitted to prior censorship, except in the case of a declared State of War." The abuses of the right of expression will be defined and controlled by the law, without being able to affect the freedom of expression." The underlined phrase was omitted from the 1964/1971 text.

9. Cf. Le Nouvelliste, No. 32791, pp. 4-21.

10. Cf. Le Moniteur, November 21, 1977.

11. The Association of Haitian Journalists declared the following in a letter addressed to General Henri Namphy, President of the National Government Council: "Within the mark of our profession, the July 31, 1986 Press Decree imposes an obstacle to the freedom of expression and constitutes one of the most reactionary legislations since the colonial period until the present time." Cf. Le Nouvelliste, October 8, 1986.

12. Cf. Article 5, regarding the Press Decree of 1980.

13. Cf. Article 6, about the Press Decree of 1986.

14. Cf. Article 8 of the 1986 Decree.

15. Cf. Haiti Observateur, August 29-September 5, 1986.

16. Article 28 of the 1980 Decree set forth prison terms from 1 to 3 years for offenses against the Head of State, unless the accused was entitled to provisional liberty while the case was in process (Article 38), which could take years.

17. Cf. Article 17 of the 1980 Press Decree.

18. OAS, IACHR 1984-1985 Annual Report (October 1, 1985) at p. 160.

19. OAS, IACHR, 1986-1987 Annual Report, (September 22, 1987) at p. 234. Also, see, for example, the comments of Mr. Bernard Diederich, a well known journalist and observer of the Haitian scene: "Perhaps the most dramatic shift in Haitian society since the ouster of Jean-Claude Duvalier has been the freeing up of the press. Radio stations and publications have proliferated and are disseminating news reports and commentary of nearly every tendency.", in B. Diederich, "Haiti's 'Free' Press Dodges Army Bullets" in CPJ Update, of the Committee to Protect Journalists, July/August 1987.

20."Haiti: Gunmen Sought to Kill Press Freedom along with Elections" by Susan Benesch, in Committee to protect Journalists: CPJ Update, No. 32 Jan/Feb. 1988.

21. Id.

22. See, "Marc Bazin Comments on Current Situation" in FBIS, 8 February 1988.

23. Haiti-Observateur, February 26-March 4, 1988, p. 16.

24. See, "Ministry Warns on Abusing Freedom of Expression", FBIS, 9 March 1988. Also, Le Nouvelliste, 23 February 1988.

25. See, Haiti-en-March, March 10, 1988, pp. 1, 5-9. Also, Le Nouvelliste, 9 March 1988.

26. See, "Journalists Protest Warning", FBIS, March 10, 1988. Also Le Nouvelliste, 10 March 1988.

27. See, "Journalists, Party React to Celestin Remarks." FBIS, 14 June 1988.



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