REPORT ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN HAITI
CHAPTER I: IACHR ACTIVITIES IN HAITI
8. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has been paying special attention to the situation of human rights in Haiti practically since its inception. The systematic violation of basic human rights during the Duvalier family dictatorship compelled the Commission to conduct a visit to Haiti and further, to issue a special report in 1979. During the almost thirty years of the Duvalier regime, a complex legal and political structure was instituted and continues to this day to have an impact on the exercise of human rights. After former President Jean-Claude Duvalier left Haiti on February 6, 1986, the Commission continued its work by issuing a follow-up report on the human rights situation in the country.
9. A few weeks before leaving the country in 1986, President Jean-Claude Duvalier invited the Commission to conduct a visit to Haiti. That visit, however, did not materialize. It was only on July 29th 1986, that the National Government Council, which succeeded Duvalier, issued another invitation to the Commission to observe the human rights situation in Haiti. The full Commission conducted a visit from January 20 to 23, 1987.
10. Considering that at that time a process of democratization had been undertaken, (a process which included the drafting of a new constitution and the organization of free, multiparty elections in Haiti by November 1987), the Commission expressed its concern about human rights to the Haitian Government by means of a communication to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, in which it requested that it be granted the authorization necessary to continue to observe in situ the human rights situation during that period. The full Commission conducted another visit to the country in January 1987.
11. After the elections scheduled for November 29, 1987 were cancelled due to tragic events occurring on that date, the Commission reviewed the situation and issued a press release on March 25, 1988, announcing its decision to prepare a special report on the human rights situation in Haiti. It also expressed its desire that the government allow it to conduct a visit to the country for this purpose. On April 26, 1988, the government of President Manigat invited the Commission to conduct an on-site investigation.
12. After a period of extreme tension, the government of President Manigat was overthrown and General Henry Namphy took power on June 20, 1988. Given these developments, the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States again met on June 29 1988 to review the situation in Haiti. It adopted Resolution 502, in which, among other steps, it instructed the IACHR to examine the status of human rights in the country and to report to the next regular meeting of the General Assembly. In that resolution, the Permanent Council reasserted "the full validity of all the principals of the Charter ... that call for the effective exercise of representative democracy ... and the full enjoyment of fundamental human rights."
13. After taking the necessary steps, a Special Delegation of the IACHR conducted a visit to Haiti from August 29 to September 2, 1988. The findings of the visit are discussed in a Special Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti, which extensively reviews the problem of human rights in the context of the 1987 Constitution. The Commission noted in the report that it was essential that a timetable for elections be established so that free, fair elections could be held and a democratic, civilian government could take office. It stressed that in order for the Haitian electoral process to be acceptable in light of the November 29, 1987 elections which had been violently obstructed by the military, coupled with the widespread distrust of the military's capacity or willingness to turn power over to a civilian government elected by universal suffrage, it should be subject to international supervision by UN and OAS observers./
14. On September 17, 1988, a coup d'etat led by a group of noncommissioned officers removed Lieutenant General Henry Namphy and replaced him with Brigadier General Prosper Avril. Recently promoted, General Avril agreed to be President of the military government "in order to save the country from anarchy and chaos" and declared that he and the noncommissioned officers would respect all the international commitments of Haiti. The Avril government weathered two attempted coups d'etat on October 14, 1988 and April 2, 1989. The state of emergency was imposed for so long that it became the norm. As a consequence, disillusionment proved the only outcome of the post-Duvalier experiment in government, with the population at large being pushed out of political life, which was now boiling down to internal power struggles within the Army.
15. Given the escalating violence and deteriorating human rights situation, the Permanent Council of the OAS met again on February 23, 1990, to discuss the situation in Haiti. It decided to ask the Commission to continue assigning priority to the human rights situation in Haiti, and, with the consent of the Haitian Government, to conduct another visit to the country and prepare a special report./ However, due to the worsening conflicts in Haiti, the Avril government was unable to respond to the invitation before it was replaced by the provisional government led by Ertha Pascal Trouillot. The Commission arranged with Trouillot to conduct an observation mission from April 7th - 10th 1990.
16. As a result of the observation mission, the IACHR presented a special report to the General Assembly of the OAS at its June 1990 session in Paraguay. Taking into account that report, which covered the period of the Avril government and specially emphasized the Commission's concern about the problem of security during the elections,/ the General Assembly approved a resolution entitled "Support for the Democratic Process in the Republic of Haiti"./
17. After the observation mission conducted in April 1990, the Commission was advised of a serious deterioration in the human rights situation in Haiti, as ongoing efforts were made in preparation for upcoming elections. On these grounds, and following instructions from Leo Valladares Lanza, Chairman of the Commission, Bertha Santoscoy, attorney for Haitian affairs in the Commision's Secretariat, visited Port-au-Prince from September 10 to 14, 1990, in order to obtain further information on the situation of human rights there. That information was considered by the IACHR during its 78th meeting, and it was decided that another visit to Haiti should be conducted with a view to following up on the situation and providing support for the democratization process undertaken.
18. At the invitation of the government, the full Commission visited Haiti from November 14 to 16, 1990, to observe, in general, the situation in the country and political rights in particular, within the framework of the elections. During its visit, the Commission observed encouraging signs that the electoral process under way could indeed result in genuinely democratic elections. The first such sign was that the number of registered voters was the highest in the history of Haiti, which could be interpreted as reflecting the deep desire of the Haitian people to achieve change peacefully. The second sign was the will of the provisional government to successfully carry out the elections - its primary objective, according to the highest government authorities.
19. In its follow-up report of 1990-1991,/ the Commission reported that the general elections had been held peacefully, in the presence of international observers from the OAS and the UN (ONUVEH), who declared that the elections had been free and democratic. Father Jean Bertrand Aristide was elected as Constitutional President , a post he held until a coup d'etat ousted him from office on September 29, 91 .
B. IACHR activities during the period 1991-1993
a. IACHR exploratory mission from December 5 to 7, 1991
20. Given the grave events that had taken place with the September 1991 coup d'etat in Haiti, the Secretary General of the OAS, exercising the powers conferred upon him through the "Santiago Commitment", called a Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs. At the meeting, which was held in Washington on October 2, 1991, a Resolution entitled "Support for the Democratic Government in Haiti" (MRE/RES.1/91) was approved, whereby it was decided: "To urge the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, pursuant to the request by President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, to immediately take every measure within its purview to protect and defend human rights in Haiti and to report to the Permanent Council of the Organization in this connection."
21. During its 80th meeting on October 3, 1991, the Commission met at its headquarters in Washington, D.C. with President Aristide, the Secretary General of the OAS, Ambassador João Clemente Baena Soares, and the Representative of the Permanent Haitian Mission to the OAS, Ambassador Jean Casimir. During the meeting, there was a constructive discussion on how the Commission could be useful in defending human rights in Haiti, given developments since September 29, 1991, and to contribute towards prompt restoration of democratic rule and the legitimately elected authorities. Ideas were also exchanged as to how to implement the recommendation made by the Ad Hoc Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, at President Aristide's request, that the Commission take the measures within its purview to protect and defend human rights in Haiti.
22. Taking into account Resolution MRE/RES. 1/91 (referred to above) and the numerous reports of human rights violations, the Commission carried out an exploratory mission to Haiti on December 5 to 7, 1991. The purpose of the mission was to determine whether the conditions existed in the country for the Commission to perform its work, to identify the problems that would require further investigation and, if special situations were detected, to refer them to the government so that they could be resolved.
23. The Special Delegation of the IACHR consisted of the Chairman of the Commission, Patrick L. Robinson, the Deputy Chairman, Marco Tulio Bruni Celli, the Commission Secretariat's attorney for Haitian affairs, Bertha Santoscoy-Noro, and Luis Jiménez.
24. During its stay in Haiti, the Delegation met with Mr. Jean-Jacques Honorat, who had been appointed Minister of Foreign Affiars by those who exercised the power in Haiti and with members of Parliament, Senator Ebrané Cadet and Deputies Duly Brutus and Pierre Carel Rindal. It also interviewed the Chief of the Armed Forces, General Raoul Cédras, who was accompanied by personnel from Army Headquarters.
25. In addition, the IACHR Delegation met with representatives of human rights organizations and political parties in order to collect information on the political situation in the country. It visited the "La Famille C'est La Vie" child welfare center and later interviewed representatives of the print and broadcast media to ascertain the status of the exercise of freedom of expression. The Delegation interviewed representatives of trade unions, the Catholic church and other major interest groups in the country.
26. During its visit, the Delegation was advised that the persons interviewed had not had any trouble reporting to it, nor, prior to its departure, had they suffered any reprisals. The Delegation was able to observe that this was a change in comparison to the previous visit of the Civil Mission of the OAS, during which, according to information received, several people had had serious trouble contacting the mission.
27. During its three day stay in Haiti, the Delegation did not encounter any obstacles to its work, was able to move easily to different parts of Port-au-Prince without feeling that its independence, security or the necessary discretion of its activities was at all jeopardized. Given its short stay, due to the exploratory nature of its mission, the Delegation was unable to travel to cities in the interior, although it would have liked to.
28. The Chairman of the Commission, Patrick Robinson, and the Deputy Chairman, Marco Tulio Bruni Celli, presented the findings of the exploratory mission to Haiti to the Permanent Council of the OAS on January 9, 1992. They pointed out that the human rights situation in Haiti was highly volatile and extremely dangerous for a number of reasons: a very grave institutional crisis had been created in the country; the vast majority of the Haitian people existed in desperately poor living conditions; the public was politically polarized; violence was routinely used to settle social differences; and there was no tradition of democratic custom and practice. Such serious problems could only be resolved by the Haitian people themselves, with the cooperation of the international community. With regard to the business of the Commission, its contribution would be to continue working with other OAS bodies and with the Haitian Government and people to achieve unrestricted respect for human rights and the full force of political rights and the institutional framework necessary for a representative democracy.
b. IACHR's On-site visit to Haiti on August 23rd to 27th, 1993
29. Prior to the on-site August 1993 visit, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had requested consent from those who exercised power in Haiti to conduct an observation mission on the situation of human rights in the country. The IACHR proposed two visits: an exploratory mission from December 13 to 15, 1992, and an on-site visit from January 11 to 15, 1993.
30. Those exercising power in Haiti did not give such consent. Instead, by communication of December 8, 1992, they indicated that the date on which the visits could be conducted would be announced shortly, but it was not until a month later did it reply that "the Haitian Government had, in goodwill, already allowed the presence of a Civilian Mission of the OAS, one of the purposes of which was precisely to evaluate the situation of human rights in the country. The visit of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, scheduled for January 15, 1993, therefore did not seem necessary."
31. Since it could not conduct the visit, in a press release issued on January 8, 1993,/ the Commission reasserted its desire to travel to Haiti, and appealed to all nongovernmental human rights organizations, particularly those operating in Haiti, to the victims and their families, and, in general, to all persons whose individual rights had been violated in any way because of the political crisis to forward their claims to the IACHR.
32. The Commission was able to prepare its special report on Haiti for 1992, thanks to the many claims of human rights violations received from the victims themselves and from human rights groups operating inside and outside the country as well as other reliable sources.
33. During its 83rd meeting from March 1 to 12, 1993, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide addressed the Commission on the situation of human rights in Haiti. He emphasized that human rights were being violated with impunity by the military. He stated that the presence of the IACHR in Haiti was necessary and asked it to take the steps necessary to obtain the support of the member states to pressure the military regime into accepting the visit of the Commission in the country.
34. President Aristide also said that the permanent presence of the IACHR in Haiti would make it possible to develop strategies in order to carry out projects and programs designed to protect human rights. The army and police could thus be modernized and the judicial system could be strengthened. At the same time, a public information campaign could be carried out targeting the Haitian population at large.
35. At the end of the meeting, the Commission again agreed to seek the consent of those who exercised power in Haiti to conduct an on-site visit, setting May 1993 as an appropriate time. To this request however, no response was forthcoming. The request was resubmitted on June 25, and by communication of July 19, 1993, Mr. François Benoit, who had been appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs by those exercising power in Haiti, advised that the Commission would be permitted to visit the country.
36. Pursuant to the July 3, 1993 Governors Island Agreement made between President Aristide and the leader of the Armed Forces, General Raoul Cédras, the Representative of the Permanent Haitian Mission to the OAS, Ambassador Jean Casimir, addressed an invitation to the Executive Secretariat of the IACHR from the democratically elected government of President Aristide for the Commission to conduct a visit to observe the human rights situation in Haiti and to maintain a permanent presence in the country during the transition period that had been established for the return of President Aristide. The invitation noted the need for the Commission to make the visit as quickly as possible, that is, before ratification by Parliament of Prime Minister-Designate Robert Malval, in order to observe the political climate and any street demonstrations in support of President Aristide, and to determine whether the climate was appropriate for the protection of human rights during the transition.
ii) On-site visit
37. The IACHR Delegation conducted the visit from August 23rd to 27th, 1993. It consisted of the following members: Michael Reisman, Deputy Chairman of the Commission and Head of the Delegation; Ambassador Oliver Jackman, Marco Tulio Bruni Celli, Leo Valladares Lanza and Patrick Robinson, members of the IACHR; David Padilla, Assistant Executive Secretary of the IACHR; Bertha Santoscoy, Senior Specialist for Haitian Affairs; Relinda Eddie and Meredith Caplan, attorneys for the Commission; María Julia Meyer, administrative officer; and Serge Bellegarde from the OAS language services staff.
38. At the beginning of the visit, the IACHR Delegation held an official meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. During its stay, the IACHR Delegation met with the following members of the OAS/UN Civilian Mission: Ambassador Colin Granderson, Director of the Mission; Ian Martin, Director of Human Rights; William O'Neill, Legal Advisor; Tiebilé Dromé, Deputy Director of Research and Investigations; and María Clara Martin, also of Investigations. The Delegation interviewed Father Antoine Adrien and Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, members of the Presidential Commission established by President Aristide to conduct the political negotiations.
39. On the first day of the visit, the Delegation also interviewed the following representatives of nongovernmental human rights organizations: Nekker Dessables, Paul Dejean and Jean-Claude Jean of the Haitian Human Rights Organizations Platform [Plateforme des organisations haïtiennes des droits de l'homme]; Jean-Claude Bajeux, Jean-Robert Vaval and Jean Robert Benoit of the Ecumenical Human Rights Center [Centre oecuménique des droits humains]; Gladys Joseph of Sant Karl Levek; Georgette Senatus of the Haitian Lawyers Committee [Comité des avocats haïtiens]; Ann Fuller and Pierre Espérence of the National Coalition for Haitian Refugees; Father Hugo Triest, Polycarpe Joseph and Marcel Hilaire of Justice and Peace [Justice et Paix]; Jessie Ewald Benoit of the Human Rights Commission [Commission des Droits Humains] and Agency for Comprehensive Economic Development [Agence de Développement Economique Intégré]; Freud Jean of the Alternative Program for Justice [Programme alternatif de justice]; and attorney Jean Joseph Exumé. The Delegation received a great deal of information from these sources on current human rights violations in the country.
40. On August 24, the Delegation met with the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces in Haiti, General Raoul Cédras, who was accompanied by Army headquarters staff. The Delegation also met with a number of Members of Parliament: Senate president Jean-Louis Firmin and Senators Turnep Delpé, Rony Mondestin and Ebrané Cadet. That same day, the Delegation interviewed the following media representatives: Evans Dubois of Le Nouvelliste; Jean-Marie Dorsainvil of Radio Soleil; Evariste P. Michel and Yolette Mengual of Arc-en-Ciel; Jean-Germain Alexandre and Patrick Moussignac of Radio Caraïbes. Subsequently, the Delegation met with Antoine Izméry and Father Ivon Massak, representatives of the Freedom Committee (KOMEVEB) and thereafter with following representatives of Haitian trade unions: Marc Antoine Destin of the Confederation of Haitian Workers [Confédération des travailleurs haïtiens] (CTH); Gabriel Miracle, Raymond Viau and Gesner Milcent of the Autonomous Haitian Workers Organization [Centrale autonome des travailleurs haïtiens]; Gesner Jean-Philippe and Patrick Numas of the General Independent Organization of Men and Women Workers of Haiti [Organisation générale indépendante des travailleurs et travailleuses haïtiens] (OGITH); and Joseph Lefils and Daceus Louisius of the Federation of Union Workers [Fédération des ouvriers syndiqués] (FOS).
41. On August 25, the Delegation divided up into three groups. Group One, made up of Michael Reisman, Leo Valladares Lanza and Bertha Santoscoy, traveled to the Central Plateau region, where it was given valuable support by members of the Civilian Mission based there. In Hinche, this delegation observed the climate of repression that the population was subjected to. In fact, a number of people who belonged to Ti'Léglise refused to meet in public places for fear of being identified and suffering reprisals on the part of the local authorities.
42. Group One met with certain authority figures who had been appointed by those exercising the power in Haiti, such as the Justice of the Peace, the Commissioner and a Magistrate. At its visit to the Hinche Prison, this Delegation received abundant information on arbitrary detention, prison conditions, mistreatment and torture inflicted upon the prisoners at the time of arrest and in prison, and on unjustified delays in court hearings for the defendants — in some cases up to two years.
43. A second group, consisting of Marco Tulio Bruni Celli, Oliver Jackman, David Padilla and Relinda Eddie, travelled to the Artibonite region. In Saint-Marc, the Delegation group met with members of the Civilian Mission, interviewed the military commander of the area and visited the Saint-Marc Prison. In Gonaives, it met with Archbishop Gérard Dormevil and interviewed victims of human rights violations by the military.
44. The third group, made up of Patrick Robinson and Meredith Caplan, visited the Port-au-Prince penitentiary and questioned a large number of prisoners on their legal status and prison conditions. In the afternoon, the Delegation group received individual claims of human rights violations from victims and family members.
45. On August 26, the full Delegation met with recently ratified Prime Minister Robert Malval at his home. It also interviewed representatives of some of the major political parties: Victor Benoit, Pierre André Guerrier, Dunois Eric Contave, Lucien Pardo, Evans Paul and Turnep Delpé of the National Front for Change and Democracy [Front national pour le changement et la démocratie] (FNCD) and the National Committee of the Congress of National Democratic Movements [Comité national du Congrès des mouvements démocrates] (KONAKOM); Gérard Pierre-Charles, Irvelt Chery and Patrick Norzéus of the Lavalas Political Organization [Organisation politique Lavalas] (OPL); René Théodore of the National Reconstruction Movement [Mouvement de reconstruction nationale] (MRN); Reynolds Georges, Luc Audaute and Marcel Moise of the Alliance for the Liberation and Advancement of Haiti [Alliance pour la libération et l'avancement d'Haïti] (ALAH) and Leslie Manigat of the Union of Progressive Democrats [Rassemblement des démocrates nationaux progressistes] (RDNP). That afternoon the Delegation met with Claude Lévy and Raymond Lafontant, representatives of the Business Association [Association des industries] (ADIH), and with Amos Jonas, Aldajiste Pierre, Belanot Augustin, Jilaire Josef, Vilsaint Destinasse and Martine Alvarez, representatives of the Peasant Women's Movement [Mouvement des paysannes].
46. The many claims of human rights violations the Delegation received during its on-site visit shared the following features. First, there was repeated testimony that the rights to life, personal freedom and safety, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly were being constantly violated. Second, the climate of fear and insecurity that had developed in the country had led to large-scale displacement of people fleeing repression by the miliary from the provinces to the capital and vice versa. In the interior of the country, witnesses interviewed by the Delegation were so fearful of the reprisals they might suffer on the part of the military authorities that many insisted on clandestine meetings. The pattern that emerges from these testimonies is that grave physical abuse is taking place, sometimes involving entire families merely suspected of being supporters of President Aristide. The information obtained during this on-site visit will be discussed in greater detail in Chapter IV of this report.
47. At the end of its visit, the Delegation issued a press release at a press conference held on August 27 at the Hotel Holiday Inn.