University of Minnesota

Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti, Inter-Am. C.H.R., OEA/Ser.L/V/II.77, Doc. 18 rev. 1 (1990).





1. Applicable laws

96. The Right to life is recognized in Article 4 of the American Convention on Human Rights in the following terms:

1. Every person has the right to have his life respected. This right shall be protected by law and, in general, from the moment of conception. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.

2. In countries that have not abolished the death penalty, it may be imposed only for the most serious crimes and pursuant to a final judgment rendered by a competent court and in accordance with a law establishing such punishment, enacted prior to the commission of the crime. The application of such punishment shall not be extended to crimes to which it does not presently apply.

3. The death penalty shall not be reestablished in states that have abolished it.

4. In no case shall capital punishment be inflicted for political offenses or related common crimes.

5. Capital punishment shall not be imposed upon persons who, at the time the crime was committed, were under 18 years of age or over 70 years of age; nor shall it be applied to pregnant women.

6. Every person condemned to death shall have the right to apply for amnesty, pardon, or commutation of sentence, which may be granted in all cases. Capital punishment shall not be imposed while such a petition is pending decision by the competent authority.

97. The Right to humane treatment contained in Article 5 of the cited Convention, resolves the following:

1. Every person has the right to have his physical, mental, and moral integrity respected.

2. No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment or treatment. All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.

3. Punishment shall not be extended to any person other than the criminal.

4. Accused persons shall, save in exceptional circumstances, be segregated from convicted persons, and shall be subject to separate treatment appropriate to their status as unconvicted persons.

5. Minors while subject to criminal proceedings shall be separated from adults and brought before specialized tribunals, as speedily as possible, so that they may be treated in accordance with their status as minors.

6. Punishments consisting of deprivation of liberty shall have as an essential aim the reform and social readaptation of the prisoners.

98. The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of Haiti, in Articles 19, 20, 25, and 27 establishes the guarantees regarding the right to life and the humane treatment. These articles said:

Article 19: The State has the absolute obligation to guarantee the right to life, health, and respect of the human person for all citizens without distinction, in conformity with the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man.

Article 20: The death penalty is abolished in all cases.

Article 25: Any unnecessary force or restraint in the apprehension of a person or in keeping him under arrest, or any psychological pressure or physical brutality, especially during interrogation, is forbidden.

Article 27: Any violation of the provisions on individual liberty are arbitrary acts. Injured parties may, without prior authorization, appeal to the competent courts, to bring suit against the authors and perpetrators of these arbitrary acts, regardless of their rank or the body to which they belong.

2. Background

99. The right to life is sine qua non for the enjoyment of all the other human rights. It is recognized in the American Convention of Human Rights (Article 4) cited above. Haiti has been a state party to the American Convention since September 27, 1977. The right to life in Haiti, however, has been violated numerous times over the years during the eras of François Duvalier (Papa Doc), Jean-Claude Duvalier (Baby Doc), and their successors in power.

100. The special report issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in September of 1988 carefully documented many of these violations in the latter period, that is, since February 7, 1986, when President for-Life, Jean-Claude Duvalier's government collapsed and he and his closest associates went into exile.

101. Since the publication of the Commission's 1988 report on the human rights situation in Haiti, official violence in general has continued unabated and the right to life in particular has been routinely violated.

102. These violations are endemic in the sense that they occur with frequency in the capital, Port of Prince, as well as other urban centers throughout the Republic. The countryside too has been the scene of much repression, mostly aimed at agricultural cooperatives, peasant movements, and their leaders. Much of this violence arises from land disputes, a chronic problem in the hinterland of Haiti.

103. So too, the forms of violence, sometimes leading to assassinations, varies from incident to incident. To such an extent is this the case that the word "insecurity" has entered the Haitian vocabulary to describe the constant state of fear and instability that permeates Haitian society.

104. Victims have been killed by uniformed soldiers as well as paramilitary forces, heavily armed, and dressed as civilians. Sometimes the killings appear to take place with the acquiescence of the Army or police who fail to intervene to protect individuals. Motives range from robbery to silencing witnesses to suppressing political or media spokesmen. Personal vendettas also play a part in a situation where impunity is generally the norm. More often than not, victims are killed by gunshot although death by beating is not unknown.

3. Violations of the right to life

105. What follows is a partial list of violations of the right to life that illustrate the general description just provided. It should be noted that all of the deaths mentioned here are quite recent. These prima facie violations are grouped in the following manner: the first category includes killings done by Army soldiers. The second, those committed by Section Chiefs with the assistance of the Army. The third, those perpetrated by the police. Fourth, murders committed by paramilitary groups, possibly Tonton Macoutes. Within these categories, there are cases in which the apparent motive of the murder has been brawl, robbery or debts. However, the purpose is to show that independently of the motive, the agents of the armed forces and police has acted with impunity and violating fundamental rights of persons.

a. Killings done by Army soldiers:

106. Herold Lewis was killed on February 3, 1989, by gunshot by a member of the Army Leopard Corps, named Llerisson Juste, in an argument over a girlfriend.

107. Lazarre Lewis was killed on March 1, 1989, by Corporal Exant Jerome over a small debt owed by the victim to a relative of the killer. Jerome was reportedly arrested but it is not known whether he was ever processed or whether he remains in detention. The violation occurred in the capital.

108. Iramis La Croix was shot and killed on March 9, 1989, by a soldier during a street argument on a main thoroughfare in Port-au-Prince. La Croix's killer was then shot by another soldier during the dispute.

109. Gerard Laforest had been head of the State Lottery. The day before his murder, April 1989, a soldier guarding a lottery drawing tried to change a number drawn and a shoot-out ensued. This was televised nationally. Laforest, an anti-Duvalierist, was known for his honesty and his efforts to eliminate corruption in the lottery system. He was shot and left in his car. A soldier named Celidon Watson was arrested but the case has not been processed.

110. Justin Ocanne was shot and robbed on April 4, 1989, by a soldier in Port-au-Prince. Ocanne was a moneylender.

111. Regis Charlot was a student and Koyo, Tito, and Ti Simon were peasants. On May 1989, they were involved in trying to reclaim land from a former Tonton Macoute named Charidieu Joseph. When Joseph complained to the Army in St. Marc, a group of soldiers was dispatched to the scene and killed the four victims. Local peasants subsequently attacked and killed Joseph's mother, Jeanette Dor. This was following by an Army attack on the peasants whose homes were burned. A number were wounded by soldiers.

112. On May 7, 1989, Corporal Maxo Crib shot Delbau LeBlanc, three times in the head, when he intervened to protect his elderly father who was being beaten by Corporal Crib.

113. Gilles Charles was shot On May 27, 1989, by two soldiers who had broken into the studio of Radio Men Kontre. Charles was ranting but did not threaten the soldiers. The radio station later protested by going off the air for several days.

114. Michel Jean Ronald was shot to death on July 7, 1989, in the Bourdon neighborhood of the Capital. A witness indicated that one of the killers wore a military uniform. It is believed that he was eliminated for having been a witness to the election day massacre of November 29, 1987.

115. On July 11, 1989, Joanis Malvoisin was shot (and later died at a hospital) by a group of soldiers from the Petite Riviere barracks. The leader of the squad was Corporal Wilfred Pierre-Louis. The attack occurred in the victim's home. It appears that the killing was part of a larger repression of local peasants in the Savien section of Petite Riviere de l'Artibonite, led by Section Chief Jean LaCoste Edouard.

116. On September 1, 1989, Jean-Robert Dorvil was taken by soldiers from his home in the Correfour neighborhood at night; his body was found the following day, bullet ridden.

117. Daniel (last name unknown) was killed on September 6, 1989, by Sergeant Seymour Séide when he intervened in a fight with the Sergeant's cousin. When the fight ended the Sergeant returned with a group of armed men. The victim was also robbed of $60 according to his mother.

118. Jean Fleriste was beaten to death on October 18, 1989, by soldiers who accused him of being a subversive in the Ferrier neighborhood of the town of Fort Liberté.

119. Saul Saint Come was killed and robbed of $2,000 by soldiers at 1:00 a.m., at Boudette-Petite-Place, on November 12, 1989, in Marchand Dessalines.

120. Charles (last name unknown), along with Jaures Celeste and Mercidieu Gregoire, were arrested on November 18, 1989, by soldiers led by Corporal Smith and Attaché St. Gel at Petite Riviere de l'Artibonite and accused of theft. Beaten severely, Charles died at the local military post on November 25.

121. Benicier Rene, a leader of the Regional Organization of Planters in Arcahaie, was shot in the chest on December 7, 1989, by men in Army uniforms at his home in Arcahaie. He died of his wounds.

122. Norvillen Maxime was arrested on December 14, 1989, as he alit from a bus by Corporal Raymond Cadet and a man known only as Jose. Taken to the Limbé Army base, he died on December 20. His relatives state that his body showed signs of torture.

123. Jean Wilfred Destin, a popular radio satirist known as Ti Will, was shot three times and killed on January 16, 1990, by three plainclothesmen following a sarcastic evening broadcast over Port-au-Prince Radio Cacique, in which he had poked fun at General Prosper Avril's trip to Taiwan.

b. Killings committed by section chiefs with the assistance of the army:

124. Ogenio Benoit was shot on May 3, 1989, by Edouard François, the Section Chief of a town called Lestage. Benoit was shot while trying to flee from a voodoo session which had been interrumpted by an infuriated François who was subsequently given Army protection.

125. Onondieu François and Jean Robert François were peasants involved in a land dispute. On June 4, 1989, Section Chief Archange and his assistant Vercy Dorcé shot them and wounded five others. Later they burned down 28 peasant homes. No action has been taken against the perpetrators.

126. Wisly Laurius was murdered on June 8, 1989, by Section Chief Chrisner Adrien in the Basse-Terre area of Marchand-Dessalines. The 20 year-old victim was involved in a land dispute. No prosecution has been undertaken.

127. Wilson Richardson was shot and killed, on October 12, 1989, in a land dispute by a group composed of Charidieu Joseph, Section Chief Hyppolite Pierre, Second Lt. Ernst Cadet, and four other soldiers in the Pont-Dujour area of Marchand-Dessalines.

128. n March 12, 1990, according to testimonies taken by the special Commission during its on-site visit to Haiti, the local Section Chief of Piatre, accompanied by a policeman entered the area and killed a peasant who was involved in a four-year old land dispute with a large landowner named Nadal. Thereafter, the residents of Piatre avenged the peasant's death by killing the Section Chief and policeman. When these events became known, another group of peasants from a different nearby locale called Deluge went to Piatre to threaten peasants residing there. The Deluge group was thereupon repulsed by the inhabitants of Piatre. The former group then withdrew only to return accompanied by between 30-50 uniformed soldiers who proceeded to attack the Piatre peasants burning their homes, a total of 335 residences, and killing eleven peasants including children, and wounding an unknown number of others. In addition, the Piatre peasants' cattle were slain and their crops burned. The beseiged peasants then fled for their lives. The witnesses/survivors showed members of the special Commission a large number of spent cartridges that had been fired upon them by members of the Army. The special Commission visually verified the destruction of the peasants' homes and other property.

129. The Army version of these events, however, is entirely different. Officers claim that they intervened merely to separate two warring groups of peasants and that no one died in this action.

c. Killings perpetrated by the police:

130. Ernest LeBlanc was killed on August 25, 1989, by the Anti-Gang Investigation Unit agent Claudy Joachim when he left the courthouse in Port-au-Prince after paying a fee to the court clerk. The victim had been sued for a personal debt.

131. Francky Jean-Louis was killed on September 21, 1989, by three plainclothes detectives when he became involved with the arrest of a street vendor. Jean-Louis was 30 years old.

d. Killings committed by paramilitary groups, possibly Tonton Macoutes

132. Telison Releus was killed on May 9, 1989, by a group of armed men in the Duval neighborhood of Croix des Bouquets near Port-au-Prince. The victim had worked for the Electric Company. His wife was raped and his small daughter was shot in the leg.

133. Samson François was shot on a public street by three armed men on June 16, 1989. Later the same day three armed civilians grabbed another young man for no apparent reason and shot him three times. These murders occurred on busy Port-au-Prince streets. A witness identified one of the men as Aji Mal, a former local government official.

134. Gregory Delpé was murdered on July 5, 1989, at his home at night. The victim had been a student leader and his brother heads a political party. The perpetrators, dressed in civilian clothes, accused the victim of opposing the Avril Government, threatened the rest of the family and stole $4,000 from the family grocery business. The prosecutor closed the case insinuating that it was a family affair.

135. Elie Antoine and Cédul Ernéus were killed on July 10, 1989, in an armed attack by 20 men at 2:00 a.m. in the Cite Soleil section, known as Cite Carton. The victims died in their homes of gunshot wounds. No investigation is known to have been conducted.

136. Philippe Smith was killed on September 24, 1989, while defending his mother who was being attacked by four armed men. The mother was seriously injured. The victim was a 22 year old plumber.

137. Vilme Eliazar was stabbed to death on October 6, 1989, by unknown assassins after a protest against the general state of insecurity by the Catholic Church's Justice and Peace Commission, of which the victim was a member.

138. Israel Isophe, Verel Isophe, and Dragus Lorneus were killed in Drouillard outside of Port-au-Prince on November 17-18, 1989, for putting up pro-Manigat posters. The perpetrators, dressed in civilian clothes and driving a gray truck, beat and shot to death Israel Isophe and Dragus Lorneus. Verel Isophe was dragged by a rope around his neck behind the truck until he was dead. The killings appear to be politically motivated.

139. Col. André Neptune was a veteran officer of the Haitian Army. On January 19, 1990, was shot and killed along with his wife and servant at approximately 8:30 p.m. Col. Neptune's body was left near the home of opposition leader Hubert de Ronceray. Following Col. Neptune's murder a 30 days state of siege was imposed.

140. More recently, in the week just prior to the downfall of the Avril government, press reports indicated that 20 more persons died at the hands of the Armed Forces and more than 100 were wounded, mostly during street demonstrations against the government.

141. To a great extent the violence of the week of March 4-11, 1990, was prompted by the killing of a schoolgirl, Rosaline Vaval, by a soldier's stray bullet in the town of Petit Goave. From there the street demonstrations throughout Haiti grew to the point that General Avril was forced to leave the country.

4. Violations of the right of humane treatment

142. Besides the numerous violations of the right to life detailed above, the recent history of Haiti is replete with the violation of the related right of humane treatment.

143. Typically violations of the physical integrity of persons in Haiti consists in the wanton beatings and flailings of soldiers, police, Tonton Macoutes, and rural section chiefs perpetrated against individuals for political, personal or venal motives alike. Literal stompings into submission are hardly uncommon in a virtually lawless society.

144. This is not to say that more systematic forms of premeditated torture have been superceded. On the contrary, prisons and jails are sites in which coercion, confession wrenching, and general information are squeezed from helpless victims not unlike the manner in which this was done in the times of Papa Doc, his son, and their successors.

What follows are graphic examples of these practices:

145. Naly Beauhanais is the president of the Public Transportation Workers Union. On January 12, 1989, following his arrest at 5:00 a.m. on a day designated for a general strike, was taken to an Army camp near Lamentin and beaten for an hour with clubs and gun butts on his ears, head, and buttocks. He was released on January 31, having never been charged with a crime.

146. Jude L. Jean Jacques, the youth leader, was shot at 6:00 a.m. on the day of the national strike, January 12, 1989, by uninformed men. This occurred in Port-au-Prince. He later recovered from his shoulder wound.

147. Ernst Charles and Vaudre Abelard, leaders that had helped organize a demonstration by the Association of the Revolutionary Unemployed were taken on March 4, 1989, to Fort Dimarche, where they were beaten, and released after a few hours. They later had to go to the hospital for treatment.

148. Fred Pierre, Alzy Henriot, Gabriel Dugne, and Rony Serat belong to the Popular Literary Movement. On June 17, 1989, they were arrested by soldiers in Limbé, badly beaten, and released the next day. Henriot's arm was broken.

149. Thomas Odena was arrested on June 19, 1989, by Section Chief Merilien Pierre for his work in Konakom, the National Committee of the Congress of Democratic Movements. During his eight day detention he was hit 30 times with a truncheon.

150. On June 29, 1989, Lyonel Theodore and Paul La Roche, two organizers of a market protest in Port-au-Prince were arrested, beaten, and released after several hours by a judge.

151. Prudent Juste and Luxine, Cedieu, Lousine, and Moise Eltiné belong to the Labadie Youth Movement in the Artibonite Valley. On July 10, 1989, they were arrested in Labaret by six men dressed in civilian clothes, including the Section Chief named Recevé. They were held for 23 days at the Petit-Riviere jail. While there they were subjected to a torture called the "Piquet" which consisted in standing on their toes and leaning against a wall supporting their weight with two fingers. When the prisoners moved from that position, they were subject to a beating. All five were beaten regularly with sticks. Their torturers included one Sergeant Alexis and one Corporal Smith.

152. Following his arrest on August 1, 1989, Jean Robert Lalanne, a leader of the National Popular Assembly, was suspended around a pole and beaten to a point where he lost count after some 40 blows. Major Coulanges Justafort was present along with five other soldiers. A man named Phonor administered the beating. After his release the following day, Lalanne had to be hospitalized.

153. Celifaite Dumesle, a member of Tét Kole, a national peasant movement, was arrested on August 2, 1989, by a Section Chief of Cabaret, one Anovil St. Vil, who personally kicked and punched him during his detention. He was later beaten with a night stick by soldiers at the jail in Jean Rabel. Never charged with a crime, he was released at the end of August.

154. Inalia Analion, also a member of Tét Kole, was beaten to the point of bleeding by Lt. Adrien Saint-Julien during her arrest on August 2, 1989. Never formally charged, she was released at the end of August.

155. Florvil Guillaume who was involved in a land dispute in the Sixth Communal Section of Petite Riviere de l'Artibonite, was arrested and severely beaten on August 18, 1989, by the Section Chief's assistant, known simply as Senor. He was held for four days.

156. On September 26, 1989, Guito Geauvy was arrested and shot in the hand by a soldier named Raymond Fenelon for supporting a general strike.

157. On November 1, 1989, Jean Auguste Mesyeux, Evans Paul, and Etienne Marineau, three political opposition leaders, were beaten terribly following their arrest and then shown, battered and bloody, on national television. Their treatment included kicks and stomping while handcuffed. Night sticks were used on the soles of their feet, their kidneys and testicles. Their noses were burned with lighters. Their torturers included General André Jean-Pierre, soldier Jean-Pierre Bismark, and Second Lieutenants Délius Joseph, Fritz Pierre, and Faustin Miradieu, all of the Presidential Guard. The beatings lasted hours over a period of days. Paul suffered five broken ribs and a crushed hip. One of Etienne's eardrums was punctured and he suffered a broken finger. His injuries made it impossible for him to stand. After three months of imprisonment, the three were released.

158. Louis Jerome Michel was attacked and beaten by three unidentified men on November 5, 1989, following a radio interview in which he told of the killing of his younger brother earlier in the same year by a soldier dressed in civilian clothes.

159. Faya Jean-Baptiste was robbed of a small portable radio and beaten by soldiers of the Presidential Guard in front of the National Palace on November 14, 1989.

160. On November 15, 1989, Soland Cameau, Nelson Ceramy, Orelus Bernard, and Camille Marceau, four peasant activists, were arrested and charged with being communists. They were beaten and released after 14 days of confinement.

161. On December 1, 1989, Robert Pierre-Louis was beaten by a group of soldiers belonging to the Presidential Guard for allegedly having criticized General Avril.

162. Patrick Beauchard, a former Sergeant in the National Army and leader of the coup that overthrew Gen. Namphy, was arrested on December 13, 1989, near Petit Goave by members of the Presidential Guard. Later his sister reported on Radio Antilles that her brother had been so severely beaten that his face and eyes were terribly swollen, and that among other things, he could no longer see out of one eye as the result of having been hit by a gun butt.

163. Lemoine Auguste was arrested on December 15, 1989, by Section Chief Carobert Deronville in Grand Plaine area of the Isle of Gonaive. He was severely beaten for "having criticized the government."

164. Wilfred Pierre was arrested and beaten on December 16, 1989, by a policeman named Paul Pierre-Louis in Costa, the Third Communal Section of Les Anglais. The problem grew out of a dispute at a cockfight. Pierre was set free several hours later.

165. Jean Charles Mayol, leader of the November 28 National Progressive Movement, was police arrested on December 19, 1989, in the Artibonite Valley, beat him at the Marchand Dessaline jail and robbed him of $30. He was freed on December 26. He stated that he had been accused of carrying a machete which he was using to work his land.

166. Dr. Louis Roy, the 74 year-old constitutional lawyer, was arrested at his home on January 20, 1990, by an Army captain and two soldiers. He was taken to the police station where some thirty soldiers were beating a large number of persons. Dr. Roy himself was hit about the ears and punched in the face. Later he was exiled to Miami.

167. Herbert de Ronceray, the president of Mobilization for National Development, was arrested at his home along with 20 fellow members on January 20, 1990. Soldiers outside kept guard while "civilians" handcuffed him. His arrestors broke his glasses, beat him on the chest and head and poked him in the eye with a lit cigarette. He was later sent into exile.

168. On January 20, 1990, Michel Legros, a member of the League to Install Democracy in Haiti, was arrested at his home, severely beaten, and sent into exile.

169. Dr. Sylvan Jolibois, a political leader of the Jean-Jacques Dessalines Nationalist Sector, was arrested at his clinic on January 20, 1990, by plain clothes police and taken to the National Penitentiary. His beating was so severe he spit up blood. No reason was given for his arrest. He was later released.

170. On January 20, 1990, Fernand Gérard La Forêt and Marie Denise Douyon were stopped at a police checkpoint on the road and accused of carrying weapons. They were taken to the Anti-Gang Investigation Service of the Police, questioned and beaten. La Forêt's hands and legs were tied together to form a circle. He was then hung around a pole and his back was whipped. This lasted three hours. Thereafter he was denied food and medical treatment for a number of days. His companion, Marie Denise Douyon, was beaten about the head and body aggravating a pre-existing ovary condition. She is still recovering.

171. Serge Gilles, an intellectual and leader of the Nationalistic and Progressive Revolutionary Party, was detained at his home along with several colleagues on January 20, 1990, by six heavily armed men dressed in civilian clothing without a warrant. Thrown on the floor, he and his company were kicked, beaten and otherwise brutalized in front of his wife and two children. His home was sacked. Transported to the Anti-Gang Investigation Service, Gilles received a blow on his ear that ruptured the eardrum. After 30 minutes in a cell, they were delivered to the local police who treated them correctly. Major Clerjeune apologized for the "mistake." The apology was reiterated by Colonel Romulus and the men were released.

172. Joseph Fernel Manigat, a political leader of the Alliance of Popular Organizations, was detained on January 22, 1990, in Cap Haitien, taken to the police station and severely beaten. When he was released on February 1, he gave a statement over Radio Metropole describing how he had been hit some 40 times about the head with a stick, seriously injuring his left ear.

173. On January 25, 1990, Dicertain Armand was arrested along with a number of fellow Christian Democrats by civilian and military officials including the Mayor of Thomazeau and his assistant named Kesner Pongnon and Rossuel Février, respectively. While still at home, Armand was tied up and hit with a gun butt. He was later released.

5. Conclusions

174. The rights to life and humane treatment have been repeatedly violated in Haiti during the period covered by this report up until the time of the installation of the new civilian Government of Ertha Pascal Trouillot. These violations were committed mostly by elements of the Haitian Army or paramilitary forces acting in collusion with the Armed Forces or with their acquiescence. Substantial numbers of paramilitary forces known formerly, rural section chiefs frequently commit abuses of these rights in their treatment of peasants and peasant leaders.

175. What emerges then is a clear picture of institutionalized violence practice by the very forces whose obligation it is to preserve the peace and protect citizens from violations of the right to life. The same conclusion can be reached with regard to the phyical integrity of citizens. The institutional forces consisting of the army, the police, the section chiefs and their para-military henchmen, far from assuring humane treatment of prisoners, are chronic violations of this basic human right.


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