REPORT ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN HAITI
1. The juridical framework and the Commission's doctrine
12. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has repeatedly referred to the importance of the exercise of human rights in a framework of representative democracy. The General Assembly of the Organization of American States, too, has adopted many resolutions upholding representative democracy as the system that best guarantees the effective enjoyment of human rights. That system is, moreover, the form of government explicitly adopted by the Member States in Article 3.d of the Organization's Charter. That Article reads, as follows:
The solidarity of the American States and the high aims which are sought through it require the political organization of those States on the basis of the effective exercise of representative democracy.
13. One component of representative democracy is the exercise of the political rights recognized in Article 23 of the American Convention on Human Rights. That Article provides as follows:
1. Every citizen shall enjoy the following rights and opportunities
a. to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives;
b. to vote and to be elected in genuine periodic elections, which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and by secret ballot that guarantees the free expression of the will of the voters; and
c. to have access, under general conditions of equality, to the public
service of his country.
2. The law may regulate the exercise of the rights and opportunities referred to in the preceding paragraph only on the basis of age, nationality, residence, language, education, civil and mental capacity, or sentencing by a competent court in criminal proceeding.
14. It is important to note that Article 27 of the American Convention on the suspension of guarantees "in time of war, public danger, or other emergency that threatens the independence or security of a State..." does not authorize suspension of the exercise of the political rights listed in paragraph 2 of the Article.
15. Meanwhile, in the development of legal doctrine throughout the hemisphere a direct relationship has been repeatedly claimed between the exercise of political rights so defined and the concept of democracy as a form of organization of the State, which in turn presupposes the effective enjoyment of other basic human rights. The concept of representative democracy is rooted in the principle that political sovereignty is vested in the people which, in the exercise of that sovereignty, elects its representatives to exercise political power. Besides, these representatives are elected by the citizenry to carry out specific policies. which in turn implies that the nature of the policies to be implemented has already been extensively discussed (freedom of expression) among organized political groups (freedom of association) that have been able to express themselves and meet publicly (right of assembly). This all obviously presupposes that all the other basic rights --to life, humane treatment and personal liberty, residence and movement, and so on-- have been guaranteed.
16. The effective enjoyment of these rights and freedoms requires a legal and institutional order in which the law takes precedence over the will of the rulers and some institutions have control over others in order to preserve the integrity of the popular will (the constitutional state).
17. Many times has the Inter-American Commission stated its position on this major aspect of the exercise of human rights, its connections with representative democracy and its indissoluble ties to other human rights (see, inter alia, 1978 Report on the Situation of Human Rights in El Salvador, page 126; 1979-1980 Annual Report, page 143; 1980-81 Annual Report, page 123; 1985-1986 Annual Report, page 203; 1987 Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Paraguay, page 103).
18. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has repeatedly stated its views on various elections held in the exercise of political rights. These statements have referred to the close correspondence that should exist between the will of the voters and the results of those elections, as provided in Article 23 of the American Convention. In a negative sense, this close correspondence implies the absence of coercion that distorts the will of the voters.
19. The Inter-American Commission has considered two types of factors that influence the closeness of this correspondence: those associated with the general conditions in which the election is held, and those deriving from the legal and institutional system that organizes and conducts the elections, that is, everything directly and immediately related to the casting of votes.
20. On the general conditions in which elections are held, the Commission's view in its various pronouncements has been that the various political groups shall participate in the election on an equal footing, i.e., that the basic conditions for the conduct of a campaign are the same for all of them. In a negative sense, there must be no direct coercion or undue advantage for any of the contending parties (see, among other sources, l979-l980 Annual Report, p. 122; 1982-1983 Annual Report, pp. 27 and 28; 1983-l984 Annual Report, p. 119; 1985 Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Chile, pp. 297 and 308; 1986-87 Annual Report, p. 239; 1987 Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Paraguay, pp. 106-107; 1987-1988 Annual Report, pp. 306-308).
21. Regarding the legal and institutional system under which the activities involved in an election are carried on, the Commission has examined the laws that regulate the process to determine whether those laws guarantee both the proper casting and the accurate tallying of votes, emphasizing the faculties vested in the agencies charged with carrying out the operations involved in the electoral process and with monitoring both the operations and the election results.
22. The purpose of this observation is to detect manipulation, if any, of the process in favor of those who control the institutions (generally the government, a political party, or the military), to determine who decides on the validity of the election (the composition of the electoral agencies) and the controls on their decisions (agencies of appeal).
23. The Commission has carried out observations of various aspects of practical operations, such as election records and the conditions or enrollment in them; the makeup of the electoral boards; the makeup and faculties of the electoral tribunal; and the use of ballots that are easy to understand and contain no messages designed to influence the voter (see 1978 Report on the Situation of Human Rights in El Salvador, pp. 151 and 153; Seventh Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Cuba, pp. 44, 45 and 48; 1987 Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Paraguay, p.106); and 1986-1987 Annual Report, p. 236).
24. The Commission interprets the purpose of universal suffrage as to avert any exclusion on political or ideological grounds. The Commission holds that this topic should include the consideration of situations that have been preceded by high political and social tension which prompted sizable numbers of people to leave the country (see the Seventh Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Cuba, pp. 44 and 46; 1985 Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Chile, pp. 289 and 290; 1987 Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Paraguay, pp. 107 ff.).
2. Background of the haitian situation
a. Since February 7, 1986 until September 17, 1988
25. The Inter-American Commission has considered in various opportunities the characteristics of the haitian political system and the way in which political rights are exercised. The high tensions which preceded the exit of Jean Claude Duvalier from the country were followed by the intentions to obtain democracy for the political regime through a serious exercise of human rights. These intentions, however, have not prospered, clearly, and have been frustrated on many opportunities, at times at the high cost of human lives.
26. The following text has the objective of presenting the main targets of the evolution that occurred in Haiti with relation to human rights with the objective of extracting the most important conclusions and proposing the recommendations that would grant in the opinion of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights adequate attention to these rights. We must keep in mind that the Commission has already referred in extenso to the evolution that we describe in this text, particularly in the Report of the Human Rights situation in Haiti in 1988, and the corresponding section of the 1988-1989 Annual Report.
27. On February 7, 1986, with the departure of Jean Claude Duvalier ended a regime that was characterized by frequent violation of human rights, marked by authoritarism that consisted of the denial of the exercise of political rights. During the almost 30 years of the Duvalier regime, a complex legal and political structure was instituted which effects on human rights is still felt today.
28. In order to manage the transition the National Council of Government was formed, which integrated followers of Duvalier, as well as identifying sectors with democratic tendencies and also, army officials. It should be noted that the National Governing Council had dissolved the Volunteers of National Security, better known as the Tontons Macoutes, which had been a militia in the direct service of the Duvaliers. Although some of them left the country and others were lynched by the populace in the days following the departure of Jean Claude Duvalier, most of them remained in Haiti, kept their weapons, and became a destabilizing force in society.
29. Another transcending measure adopted by the National Council of Government was to convoke a Constitutional Assembly with the objective of elaborating on a new Magna Carta that would be submitted to referendum. On March 29, 1987, the Constitution drafted by the Constituent Assembly was submitted to a popular vote and approved by 99.8% of the voters. This Constitution imprints a profound change on the legal and political structure of Haiti, and thus some of its provisions stirred tensions. Among such provisions, the following should be mentioned: Article 291, bars persons associated with the Duvaliers' regime from running for public office for a period of ten years; Article 289, establishes the Provisional Electoral Council, with the extensive participation of large segments of society and empowered to organize elections and to conduct the election process, a task which until that time had been the responsibility of the Army. Article 289 also provides for the separation of the Armed Forces from the State and all of its political functions, as well as a separation of the Police, which was subordinated to the Ministry of Justice.
30. Tensions between the military government and the Provisional Electoral Council, whose members officially assumed their offices on May 21, 1987, provoked numerous incidents. The underlying source of these confrontations lay in the Council's demand for administrative independence but,in conformity with the provisions of the Constitution. On June 5, 1987, the Electoral Council proposed before the Ministry of Justice an Electoral Law hopeful that the Ministry of Justice would promptly enact it. On June 22, however, the Government enacted its own Electoral Law with the approval of the Ministry of the Interior in which the powers of the Electoral Council were seriously reduced. This dispute coincided with the onset of a strike declared by the Autonomous Federation of Haitian Workers, thus producing a situation which coalesced together a number of different issues.
31. The acts of violence began to escalate and repression by the Army provoked numerous deaths and casualties. Also occurring was the renunciation of the leaders on insistent demand for a change in the composition of the National Governing Council. Following the weeks of violent disturbances and very serious repression, which included the massacre of 300 peasants in Jean Rabel, the National Governing Council issued the Electoral Law of the Electoral Council on August 10, and set November 29 as the date of elections.
32. The ensuing period was characterized by nightly violence attributable to death squads and paid assassins where corpses were left out in the open as a warning signal. The Electoral Council demanded that the military government guarantee public safety so that the elections could be held without disruption, but the Government did not perform its constitutional obligation. Moreover, the Electoral Council faced countless obstacles in carrying out its responsibilities, including the burning of its offices in Port-au-Prince. The military government did nothing to address the problems besetting the Council. Two persons lynched for attempted acts of terrorism were identified as members of the Police.
33. On November 29, 1987, elections began in the midst of vandalism and violence that escalated throughout the day and which led the Electoral Council to cancel the election. Unofficial estimates found that there were 200 deaths and a great many wounded as a result of the action of armed groups of civilians acting with unfettered impunity. These armed civilians, in many cases, were supported by uniformed soldiers. Together, they killed defenseless civilians who were waiting in line to cast their votes.
34. The National Governing Council proceeded to dissolve the Electoral Council, holding it responsible for the failure of the elections. The Governing Council then assumed control of the electoral process, and set new elections for January 17, 1988. It appointed a new Electoral Council, whose members were selected by the National Governing Council, and issued an Electoral Law which failed to adequately protect a secret ballot, among other shortcomings. The four major candidates for the Presidency refused to participate in the elections, and three other candidates later joined them in the boycot of the elections.
35. The elections were held in a calm atmosphere, but numerous and serious irregularities prevailed. This led important sectors in Haitian society, including the Bishops Conference of the Catholic Church, to disqualify the results. Candidate Leslie Manigat won the majority of registered votes, despite heavy abstention, and took office on February 7, 1988. His cabinet was composed of some persons closely linked to the regime of Duvalier, and included the same Minister of the Interior and National Defense who had served in the government of Lieutenant-General Namphy.
36. In its press release of March 25, 1988, the Inter-American Commission announced its decision to prepare a special report on the situation of human rights in Haiti, and expressed its hope that the Government would allow it to carry out an on-site visit to that end. On April 26th, the Government of Manigat invited the Commission to visit the country.
37. Several sources of conflict arose subsequently between the civilian Government of Manigat and the Armed Forces, with some of the latter's officers accused of links to drug trafficking. Tensions mounted to the point that on June 20, 1988, Lieutenant-General Namphy announced to the country, by television broadcast, that the Army had taken over. He proceeded to announce that he would govern by decree and nullified the 1987 Constitution, declaring that no elections would be held until appropriate conditions had been established. President Manigat left the country in exile for the Dominican Republic.
38. In light of these developments, the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States met on June 29, 1988, to consider the situation in Haiti and adopted a resolution in which, among other things, it requests the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to examine the situation of human rights in the country in order to present a report to the next regular session of the General Assembly. In the resolution, the Permanent Council reaffirmed "the full validity of all the principles of the Charter ... those that call for the effective exercise of representative democracy ... and full enjoyment of fundamental human rights."
39. When the necessary arrangements had been made, a Special Commission of the IACHR carried out an in loco visit to Haiti from August 29 to September 2, 1988. The outcome of that visit was the Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti, approved by the Commission on September 7, 1988, which extensively discusses the range of human rights issues, including the background of the Duvaliers' regime, the repercussions of which the Commission believes are still felt in Haiti. In the Special Report, there is detailed analysis of both historical developments and the legal framework, in particular with reference to the Constitution of 1987, and the situation of a number of human rights affected by the situation in Haiti.
40. On September 11, 1988, another act of violence was committed. The Church of San Juan Bosco in Port-au-Prince was attacked by a large group of armed persons who entered the church and killed 12 parishioners, wounded about 80 others, and set fire to the church. All of the events took place without any interference by the Army barracks located near the church. Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a well-known critic of the Government, who was conducting mass and was presumably the chief target of the attack, escaped unharmed. The Inter-American Commission issued a press release expressing its horror at this sanguinary incident.
b. Background to the Avril period
41. On September 17, 1988, a military coup deposed Lieutenant-General Namphy and installed retired General Prosper Avril, who had served on the first National Governing Council, appointed in part by Jean-Claude Duvalier. Avril had been forced to resign from his position by popular pressure due to his political background. Numerous recommendations were made by the political parties to the new government leader. Among the most prominent of these was a recommendation to restore the validity of the Constitution of 1987; to identify and punish those responsible for several massacres, in particular those that occurred on election day and in the Church of San Juan Bosco; to set up a Provisional Electoral Council to organize new elections; to disarm civilian groups; and lastly, to empower with effective authority, the judiciary. Efforts to improve the judicial system were made to halt the unjustifiable acts by which the populace was pursuing justice by its own means.
42. Some of the early measures adopted by the Avril Government were aimed at defusing the situation and protecting certain human rights. Thus, the Armed Forces gave notice that private residences were not subject to searches between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. and that all procedures of this kind in conformity with the Constitution, would be conducted with a warrant and in the presence of a justice of the peace. The Government also called for the surrender of weapons held by civilians without proper police permits. In the international sphere, Haiti signed the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Haiti also signed the United Nations Convention against Torture. In addition, it nullified the expulsion order against Father René Poirier, a Canadian priest. It should be noted, however, that despite repeated promises made by General Avril himself to the United Nations, Haiti never ratified the above-mentioned international instruments.
43. Soon after assuming power, General Avril announced the establishment of an independent electoral body to undertake the organization of new elections. On November 3, 1988, the Government issued a draft decree that envisioned the establishment of an electoral council under the authority of the Ministry of Justice. The draft was rejected by several political figures who regarded it as contrary to the Constitution. On February 9, 1989, the Government convoked a congress in which 28 leaders of political parties, trade unions, and professional and trade associations participated, in order to come to an agreement on the outline of a new electoral council. From February 5-7, opposition leaders had held a parallel meeting for the same purpose.
44. On February 23, 1989, the Government issued a decree establishing a Permanent Electoral Council, with attributes similar to that called for in the Constitution. Until it was established, the Executive Branch was to appoint its interim members. The proposal was accepted by some political leaders, while others opposed it and called for the resignation of Avril. Others pointed to the prevailing insecurity which made it impossible to convene elections because repression against the peasantry and people's organizations continued by the "chefs de section."
45. The advances described above gradually began to lose ground. As they were weakened by other situations. First, two well-known leaders of the Tonton Macoutes evaded judicial action: Franck Romain, former mayor of Port-au-Prince and considered in many quarters to be the organizer of the massacre of the Church of San Juan Bosco, left the country when the Dominican Republic granted him diplomatic asylum. Also, the Government of General Avril granted him a safe conduct during it, a purely diplomatic matter. The second leader, David Philogene, who is charged with the murder of known political figure Louis Eugene Athis, was released and allowed to flee to the Dominican Republic. Second, none of the investigations concerning the murder of political leaders; of voters on November 29, 1987; and of parishioners of the Church of San Juan Bosco were followed through.
46. At the same time, social unrest grew stronger, with calls for strikes by the Autonomous Federation of Haitian Workers and alarming levels of violence committed by Armed Groups, producing a monthly list of dead and wounded. But, the police did not undertake neither effective measures to halt the violence, nor investigations leading to the identification and prosecution of those responsible.
47. In March of 1989, the 1987 Constitution was partially put into effect, once again, through a decree, which also permitted the suspension of 36 articles regarded as incompatible with the Government of Avril. On March 30, 1989, the interim members of the Permanent Electoral Council were elected, and sworn in between March and April. Also in March, the President ordered the reform of the judicial system by which Avril brought the prison system under the Ministry of Justice. The Government also called for the resignation and change in posting of several members of the Armed Forces accused of links to drug trafficking.
48. This last measure sharpened unrest within the Armed Forces, which had hatched the first coup attempt against Avril on October 14, 1988. Combined with the unfolding of the events described in the preceding paragraphs, it led to a second coup attempt, begun in the early morning hours of April 2, 1989, in which the Presidential Guard, loyal to Avril, first confronted the Corps of Leopards. Beginning on April 5, the Dessalines Batallion rose in revolt. These violent confrontations, of which the exact number of victims is unknown, culminated in the defeat of the rebels and the dissolution of the rebel units. Also on April 5, the Government imposed a State of Emergency (état d'urgence) and press censorship. On April 14, the curfew was lifted.
49. On June 16, 1989, the decree establishing the Permanent Electoral Council went into effect. On September 23, the Electoral Council submitted its timetable which allowed from October to December to organize the operational structure of the Electoral Council at the national, departmental, and communal levels and from January to March of 1990 to prepare the census and voter registration rolls. In April 1990, elections would be held for the Administrative Councils of the Communal Sections (CASCE) at three levels. In July of 1990, municipal and legislative elections would be held and on October 17, 1990, the first round of presidential elections would be held, finally, on November 11, 1990, the second round of the presidential elections.
50. Throughout 1989, however, the social and political situation had sharply deteriorated, with marked insecurity in every aspect of life in Haiti. Acts of violence, extortion by armed soldiers and serious confrontations in agricultural zones arising from disputes between peasants and landholders produced a monthly roll of dead and wounded. The Office for the Protection of Citizens, instituted on September 14, 1989, was clearly inadequate to adopt the measures that might have addressed such a dramatic situation. Information received by the Inter-American Commission describes the lack of initiative of the authorities of that office.
51. 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.
52. 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.
53. 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.
54. 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 avail.
55. 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.
56. 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.
57. 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.
58. 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.
59. 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.
60. 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.
61. 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.
62. 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.
63. 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."
64. 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.
65. 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.
66 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.
67 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.
c. The new Pascal-Trouillot provisional Government
68. 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.
3. Structure of the State and posts to be filled in the elections
69. 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.
70. 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.
71. 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 well.
4. The elections
72. 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.
73. 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.
5. The electoral council
74. 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.
75. 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).
76. 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.
6. The electoral law
77. 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.
7. Organization of the electoral process
78. 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.
8. General conditions for the electoral process
79. 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.
80. 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.
81. 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.
82. 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.
83. 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.
84. 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.
85. 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.
86. 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.
87. 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 insecurity.
88. 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.
89. 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.
90. 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.
9. The Upcoming elections and the Duvalierists groups
91. 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.
92. 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 these persons.
93. 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.
94. 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.
95. 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.
* Members of the original 1987 PEC.