CHAPTER IV: THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN HAITI
99. This chapter deals with the situation of human rights in Haiti from January to August 1994. The analysis of the situation is based mainly on the information obtained during on-site visits carried out in Haiti in May and October 1994, through direct testimonies and documentation received from nongovernmental groups and individual complaints, and documentation received at the Commission's headquarters and in the information provided by the OAS/UN International Civilian Mission.
100. This chapter offers a general overview of the situation of human rights in Haiti during the period of January-August and presents examples of cases that illustrate the types of violation that the Commission observed most often. And new represive methods are mentioned as used by the military or para military groups: the massacres against the rural population; the appearance, in Port-au-Prince's streets of mutilated and disfigured corpses; violence perpetrated against women and rape, are also covered and violations against children's rights. Most of the violations denounced to the Commission and described in this chapter refer to acts committed during the dictatorial regime.
101. Most of the violations recorded by the Commission refer to acts committed between January and September 1994 by representatives of the Armed Forces, paramilitary groups, and members of Revolutionary Front for the Advancement and progress of Haiti (FRAPH), whose operations were coordinated with the army and the police. Despite the condemnation by the international community, the harsh information on Haiti presented by OAS and UN agencies permanently responsible for monitoring human rights and by the International Civilian Mission, as well as the widening of sanctions imposed under the embargo, the military authorities did not meet human rights commitments. On the contrary, whenever there was an attempt at political expression, the soldiers intensified the repression against the Haitian people.
102. Since the coup d'état of September 29, 1991, an estimated 3,000 persons were murdered. In 1993, following the signing of the Governors Island Agreement, the repression escalated to alarming levels when the people, encouraged by this agreement, publicly expressed their support for President Aristide. Cases of arbitrary arrest, beating, illegal search, confiscation of goods and arson, abduction, and torture increased, and this forced victims and their family members to abandon their homes and live underground. President Aristide stated, mid-1994, that the number of deaths had risen to 5,000.
103. The repression that was systematically carried out by the soldiers was aimed at destroying any type of organization, right of expression, or activity in support of the democratic regime. As of January 1994, the de facto regime applied new methods that were particularly effective for spreading terror among the people, including practices such as raping the wives or family members of militants in favor of Aristide's return. When the soldiers, attachés, or FRAPH members did not find such militants, they abused the women and children who were present. Sexual abuse was thus used as an instrument of repression and political persecution. During the IACHR's visit to Haiti in May 1994, in spite of victims' reluctance to denounce such crimes, the Commission received 21 reports of rape and sexual abuse and directly interviewed the victims of this horrible practice. On that occasion, the Commission pointed out that the international community had repeatedly recognized the universal nature of the rights of women, as well as the fact that these violations constituted one of the worst crimes against them.
104. Another method of terrorizing the people consisted of leaving in the streets of Port-au-Prince the severely mutilated corpses of victims, which were partly eaten by animals in view of the fact that the authorities in power took no action. These reprehensible acts had the dual purpose of preventing victims' identification by family members, thus preventing the latter from seeking legal recourse, and creating an atmosphere of repression to prevent any type of popular demonstration.
105. In the interior of the country also, the number and the brutality of human rights violations increased. The Commission obtained testimonies that irrefutably established the army's responsibility in the massacre of defenseless people in Raboteau, Gonaïves, Département of Artibonite, on March 22, 1994. There, 15-20 persons were executed with no justification whatsoever. Also, the army attacked people in the Départements of the Center (Saut d'Eau) and the North (Borgne). The Commission received information on the campaign of repression that was carried out in Borgne, where arson was used as a strategy of terror.
106. These attacks all showed similar characteristics: veritable military campaigns in which army units, assisted by FRAPH and other paramilitary groups, surrounded and erupted in localities under the pretext of combating subversive groups and locating illegal arms, indiscriminately beating up people and committing acts of arson, destruction of their crops and robberies, followed by arbitrary arrest. During such raids, farmers were forced to pay "ransom" so as not to become the victims of these abuses.
107. During the Commission's visit in May 1994, it also observed that most violations of which it was informed followed a systematic pattern of repression, revealing a political plan of intimidation and terror against the Haitian people, especially in sectors that supported President Aristide or that had demonstrated in favor of democracy in Haiti. Thus, in the marginal slums of Port-au-Prince, such as Cité Soleil, Sarthe, Carrefour, and Fonds Tamara, armed paramilitary groups carried out raids late at night, murdering and robbing people living there. At other times, according to information received, victims were abducted; they were forced to get into vehicles and were led blindfolded to clandestine detention centers, where they were interrogated and tortured. Some of the victims were freed after several days, while others succumbed to the severe blows inflicted on them. During its stay in Haiti, the Commission received information on 133 cases of extrajudicial executions perpetrated between February and May 1994.
108. The Commission noted that the exercise of the right of assembly did not exist for those who supported the return of democracy. When groups of individuals tried to exercise it, they were arrested and brutally beaten by soldiers and policemen, who accused them of being terrorists. One example of these acts was the arrest of a group of 20 persons in Hinche, in the Central Département, on April 29, 1994.
109. The same situation occurred with respect to the right of expression. Information received by the Commission made it possible to confirm the constraints suffered by representatives of the Haitian press and radio who were subjected to acts of intimidation and repression, and this led to the self-censorship by the information media. Most radio stations concentrated on providing musical programs, for fear they would be destroyed, and news on the political situation in the country was spread by foreign journalists, who did so under many constraints and at their own risk.
110. Acts of repression and intimidation also affected members of the International Civilian Mission, who were harassed by the Haitian authorities on various occasions. On March 23, 1994, members of the Mission in the region of Hinche (Plateau Central) were assaulted by numerous demonstrators led by members of FRAPH, with local military authorities making no move to stop their acts and thus clearly showing their complicity with members of the attacking group.
111. At the end of its visit in Haiti on May 1994, the Commission concluded that the serious deterioration of the human rights situation in keeping with a plan of intimidation and terror against defenseless people. It held the authorities holding de facto power in Haiti accountable for these violations, since they engaged in conduct that justified accusations of international crimes that generate individual responsibilities.
3. Consequences of the Repression
A. The "marronage" phenomenon
112. Since the coup d'état in 1991, the climate of terror and lack of security that prevailed in Haiti led a large portion of the people to move to the interior of the country or from rural areas to the capital, in search of refuge. They were thus forced to abandon their homes and go into continuous hiding. In its report on Haiti of 1991, the Commission indicated that approximately 300,000 persons had been affected by this massive displacement. During its on-site visit in May 1994, the Commission stated its concern with the number of displaced Haitians who were obliged to choose to live like fugitives in their own country. This continued to increase in alarming proportions.
113. The phenomenon of massive displacement as a result of the repression is known in Haiti as marronage (marronage) and has become a strategy used by the soldiers to eliminate all types of opposition to the de facto regime. The constant flight of a large portion of the population has damaged its ability to become organized, thus suffocating the political, social, and economic structures that might have represented a threat to the illegal regime installed by the military authorities.
114. Marronage has affected persons and organizations of different levels, including politicians, journalists, priests, members of human rights groups, grassroots groups, unions, and a large number of inhabitants of the highly populated slums. A high percentage of the cases of marronage involved persons who openly supported the democratic regime. For the most part, they were men, but there were also numerous cases of women or entire families who took refuge underground. Numerous civil servants of the legitimate Government were forced to go into hiding; this included the case of Mayor of Port-au-Prince Evans Paul, whose reinstatement under Prime Minister Malval was violently interrupted by armed men. Many grassroots organizations, such as rural cooperatives and development, educational, and civic associations also went into hiding, attempting to maintain contact and mutual help among their members, while others simply disbanded in the process of flight.
115. The common element in the marronage phenomenon was the fear experienced by these persons, which forces them to sleep away from their homes, moving every night to different locations so as not to be found, or moving to another location so as to flee repression. Unfortunately, displaced persons did not always find places where they can remain continuously, and this obligated some to leave their family life. For many of them it was impossible to get back with their families. In this way, there emerged a virtual disintegration of the family unit, and there were very frequent cases of displaced persons not managing to obtain news of their wives or children. As a result of the constant flight, jobs were abandoned, and political and social activities became restricted or disappeared.
116. The de facto regime's ability to make displace persons within the country itself was a result of the absolute impunity enjoyed by those carrying out the repression. For example, in some cases, local authorities ordered prisoners to leave the region once they had been freed or were arrested again. Some who tried to return were arrested and in some cases, murdered.
117. As stated above, the phenomenon of marronage began with the coup d'état of 1991, but this reached alarming proportions following the signing of the Governors Island Agreement, as a result of the resurgence of the repression by soldiers. As of 1993, with the emergence of FRAPH acting in complicity or with the help of the soldiers, veritable systematic attacks were launched against the people. One of these attacks was the burning down of a section of Cité Soleil, which left tens of dead persons, hundreds of homes destroyed, and thousands of persons displaced. Further examples of the collective displacement as a result of these attacks were the Raboteau massacres and the fires at Borgne.
118. Another consequence generated by marronage is the economic problem, since when a person who represents the economic support of a family is forced to flee, the family's means of subsistence are cut off abruptly. In rural areas, displacement has meant that the fields remain deserted and crops are lost. In some cases, section chiefs have seized the lands and property of fleeing families.
B. Violence against women and sexual abuse
119. As mentioned above, since the coup d'état against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the illegal de facto regime has committed a multitude of human rights abuses against the civilian population, particularly since mid-1993 after the failure of the Governors Island Agreement. The destruction of democratic movements in Haiti has created a climate of terror, and women have been used as victims. The primary instruments of the repression inflicted on women and children in Haiti have been rapes and other types of violence and abuse committed by members of the army and police forces, their armed civilian auxiliaries, the attachés, paramilitary groups, and members of FRAPH, acting with complete impunity.
120. Women of varying ages and circumstances, from pregnant women to five year-old girls, are among the victims of rape. Women who played an important role in the formation of democratic institutions in Haiti were identified because of their political activities. Many Haitian women's organizations were attacked; others were destroyed. Other women were identified because of their personal links and family relationships, and reprisals were taken against them for the political ideas and activities of a spouse, son, father, nephew, or other male family member. Some women were identified because of their own status and role in helping the civil society. The fact of belonging to a popular organization or being involved in an activity whose purpose was to improve the local community was considered as the expression of a political opinion in favor of President Aristide. Numerous women were abused merely because they lived in a slum that supports President Aristide (Cité Soleil). Remaining alone to care for their children because their husbands had to flee or were murdered, many of them were easy, defenseless prey.
121. The OAS/UN Mission affirmed, in this respect: "It always happens in the same way: armed men, frequently soldiers or FRAPH members, violently enter the house of a political militant to arrest him. When he is not there and the family cannot say where he is, the intruders turn against his wife, sister, daughter, or cousin."
122. Sexual abuse against Haitian women was carried out in various ways, but with a single aim: to create a climate of terror among people supporting Aristide. Women were generally raped by several men on the same occasion. Pregnant women and those who had just given birth were not safe from these crimes. Often, a violation occurred in the home of the victim, in front of the children and other family members, and thus not only the woman, but the entire family was terrorized. In many cases, the woman was forced to witness the rape or murder of her daughter or other family member before being herself raped. In one case of which the IACHR was informed, a 15 year-old was forced to rape his own mother.
123. Other forms of sexual torture included blows to the breasts and stomach, often inflicted on pregnant women with the intention of causing them to abort or damage their ability to have children. Many women were brutally murdered by soldiers or attachés, who shot them or pushed sharp objects in their vagina. In addition to the sexual abuse, women were illegally detained and subjected to other forms of torture that resulted in mutilation.
124. Haitian women have rarely presented complaints about violations to the police, partly because of fear of reprisals, since in many cases the perpetrators were soldiers who were part of the police. Historically in Haiti, the police force has been a part of the army, and it is essentially soldiers who carried out policing functions. In the few cases where women attempted to report violations committed by soldiers and their auxiliaries, the authorities threatened them with reprisals, or simply did not investigate their complaints. On the other hand, there was the corruption and inefficiency in the judicial system and, in practical terms, in contradiction with the 1987 Constitution (Articles 42 and 43), the army, rather than the civilian authorities, investigated such cases. On the other hand, neither does the shame imposed by society on a woman who has been raped encouraged her to make a report on the attack. This underlines the importance of clearly recognizing sexual violence as a serious human rights violation.
125. The wounds inflicted on women who were abused sexually are both physical and psychological. Many of them feel shame and, what is more, cannot return to their hometowns for fear of rejection. In numerous cases, their private lives and family relationships have deteriorated. In other cases, the results of medical tests carried out on some women showed them to be HIV positive, while other women died because of sexual abuse.
126. During its visit to Haiti in May 1994, the IACHR received news of 21 cases of rape. Victims who gave their testimonies before the IACHR Delegation refused to give their names for fear of reprisals. The Commission presents a summary report of two cases which have the same elements and characteristics as contained in the 21 cases of rape.
"The victim is 42 years old and a member of the National Front for the Change and Democracy (FNCD). Her husband was murdered, and she was persecuted by members of FRAPH and "macoutes." In October 1993, about 7:00 or 8:00 p.m., members of these groups went to her daughter's house to find out where she was and kill her. Three men entered the house; the others remained outside. The men were dressed in olive green clothing and carried Uzis. They threatened her: "You support Aristide. You are a "Lavalas." We'll kill everyone we find in the house." Two of them raped her and they took away everything she had, including money. The victim stated that she had a medical certificate. After the above-mentioned events, the victim hid a few days at the home of friends, who finally asked her to leave because they were afraid. The victim and her five children now have nowhere to live. In May 1994, she received further threats and was beaten by two civilians".
"The victim is 46 years old. Around midnight on November 29, 1993 as she slept, three men entered her home. They were wearing olive green uniforms and carrying Uzis and pistols. Some wore hoods. A number of them raped her; they beat her and destroyed her property. They also threatened her, saying that if there was talk of the incident the next day on the radio, they would return and kill her. They told her what occurred took place because she was an Aristide supporter. Although the neighbors heard noises, no one came out of their house to help her for fear of being killed".
127. This campaign of violations increased in intensity in early 1994. The OAS/UN International Civilian Mission pointed out that between February and July 1994, 77 cases of sexual violation were reported, including 55 against women who were militant or had close relations with male militants. Some human rights groups working specifically on the issue of women indicate that they have counted up to 18 violations in a single day, many of which were clearly reprisals for political activities. This use of sexual violence was documented in reports made by the IACHR, the OAS/UN International Civilian Mission, nongovernmental organizations such as Human Rights Watch and the National Coalition for Haitian Refugees, and a number of Haitian women who fled Haiti and obtained refuge in the United States.
128. The exhaustive and detailed information presented to the IACHR by representatives of nongovernmental organizations, such as Haitian Women's Advocacy Network, International Women's Human Rights of CUNY Law School, Human Rights Program, Immigration and Refugee Program of Harvard Law School, Women Refugees Project, Center for Human Rights Legal Action, Center for Constitutional Rights, MADRE, and the Law Office of Morrison and Foerster, clearly shows sexual violations and other types of violence against Haitian women as a form of reprisal, intimidation, terror, and degradation of women.
129. In the great majority of cases, it was demonstrated that the acts of sexual abuse were committed by representatives of the army and the police and their armed civilian auxiliaries, with the authorization or tolerance of the illegal regime. This therefore constitutes a violation of Article 5 of the American Convention on Human Rights, which deals with the right to humane treatment, and Article 11 concerning the protection of honor and dignity.
130. These abuses against Haitian women also constitute violations of other provisions of the Convention and of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, as well as of other international treaties that Haiti has ratified and is obliged to respect: the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. The relevance is also noteworthy of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence Against Women, recently approved at the meeting of the OAS General Assembly in June 1994 in Belem do Pará, Brazil.
131. In the past, the Commission considered a number of cases of sexual and other abuses against women, as a result condemning violations of the rights contained in the Convention and the American Declaration.
132. In the case of Haiti, sexual violations were the result of a repression for political purposes. The intention of those in power has been to destroy any democratic movement whatever, through the terror created by this series of sexual crimes.
133. The Commission considers that rape represents not only inhumane treatment that infringes upon physical and moral integrity under Article 5 of the Convention, but also a form of torture in the sense of Article 5(2) of that instrument.
134. Consistent with the definitions elaborated in the Inter-American Convention to Prevent, Punish and Eradicate Torture, which Haiti has signed, and the United Nations's Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Commission considers that the rape and other sexual abuse of Haitian women inflicted physical and mental pain and suffering in order to punish women for their militancy and/or their association with militant family members and to intimidate or destroy their capacity to resist the regime and sustain the civil society particularly in the poor communities. Rape and the threat of rape against women also qualifies as torture in that it represents a brutal expression of discrimination against them as women. From the testimonies and expert opinions provided in the documentation to the Commission, it is clear that in the experience of torture victims, rape and sexual abuse are forms of torture which produce some of the most severe and long-lasting traumatic effects.
135. The facts submitted to the Commission reflect that rape was neither random nor occasional but widespread, open and routine. Whether this occurred by direction of or with the encouragement or acquiescence of the illegal regime, the Commission considers that such use of rape as a weapon of terror also constitutes a crime against humanity under customary international law.
136. The Commission notes recognition in recent years of the gravity of rape in international human rights law, including the emphasis by World Conference on Human Rights on the gravity of violence against women in general and in particular, of "systematic rape..." brought to the fore by the atrocities in the former Yugoslavia, the approval by the General Assembly of the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women and most specifically, the reports of the Special Rapporteur on Torture to the Human Rights Commission who described rape in detention as a form of torture. We also note that in the international humanitarian law, torture has been treated as a "grave breach" of the Geneva Conventions by the UN Human Rights Commission and by the International Committee for the Red Cross. The Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia incorporates rape as a "grave breach" of the Geneva Conventions (article 2) and a violation of the laws and customs of war (article 3), and, explicitly names rape as a crime against humanity (article 5(g)).
C. Violations of the rights of children
137. Children have also suffered violations of their human rights for the purposes of the repression carried out by soldiers. They have been victims of summary executions, attacks on their physical integrity, and other inhumane and degrading treatment. As a result of the wave of repression against the Haitian population, families and children have been affected. For example, the phenomenon of marronage mentioned above has led children to flee with their families and suffer the same dangers to which the adults have been exposed, putting a sudden stop to their childhood and their school routine. In some cases, minors have been left completely on their own, since their parents were murdered.
138. In its report of July 1994, the OAS/UN International Civilian Mission noted that it had received news of 51 cases of human rights violations against children between February 1 and May 31. The ages of the victims varied between five months and 17 years. One half of the cases occurred in the Port-au-Prince slum, Cité Soleil. In spite of the fact that the authors of the violations wore civilian clothing, on some occasions they were identified by the local people as members of the Armed Forces or FRAPH. Similarly, the Mission indicated it had received news of 23 cases of extrajudicial executions, deaths in suspicious circumstances, and deaths as a result of torture or cruel treatment against children.
139. The Permanent Council of the OAS, by its Resolution 630, had expressed its concern with this type of violation and requested the IACHR to give priority to the investigation of child abductions. During its visit in May 1994, the IACHR received the testimony of members of the family of a four year-old boy who had been kidnapped in March 1994. According to the statement, three armed men arrived, saying they were looking for the child's father who was a member of a political organization of young people in Cité Soleil. When they did not find the man, they raped his wife and took away the child. The child was found unharmed four days later at a radio station.
140. Also during this visit, the Commission received information that mothers were raped in the presence of their children. In some cases, sexual violations were committed against girls aged 10 and 12 years. In the cases of arbitrary arrest, parents were detained along with their children.
4. Cases of Human Rights Violations
A. Right to life
141. As a result of the visits in Haiti carried out in May and October 1994, the IACHR observed an unprecedented increase in the number of extrajudicial executions. The Commission was able, thanks to information provided by local agencies for the defense of human rights and testimonies presented by family members of victims, to establish a large number of violations of the right to life, which is enshrined in Article 5 of the American Convention on Human Rights.
142. From January 31 to May 31, 1994, 210 cases of extrajudicial executions were recorded, according to data collected by the IACHR on the occasion of its on-site visit carried out in May. However, the OAS/UN International Civilian Mission has established 340 cases reported between February and June 1994.
143. The causes of these executions stemmed from the political situation in Haiti; the paralysis of the judicial system and the complicity of the police and the legal establishment blocked all attempts at investigation and official identification of victims; the police took no action to identify and arrest the perpetrators of these violations. The official records at the morgue were not properly maintained; families of victims generally did not take any action before the law or the police, through fear of reprisals, and were not informed, in most cases, when the body of their family member has been identified. In addition, the impossibility of identifying corpses, which often appeared severely mutilated or partly eaten by animals, made it more difficult to go to court.
144. The information gathered by the IACHR shows, however, that these executions were carried out systematically and were mainly directed at civilian groups joining together because of shared political convictions, or at those who merely were members of sectors of society considered hostile to the de facto government: clergymen, peasants, students, and the urban poor. Although such executions have normally been attributed to armed civilians, the information received demonstrates the link that exists between the latter and members of the Armed Forces, and this makes it possible to conclude that these are paramilitary groups acting in the manner of death squads. In other cases, the direct participation of members of the Haitian Armed Forces and members or sympathizers of Revolutionary Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH) was proved by testimonies submitted.
145. Hereunder are some of the complaints received by the Commission during the on-site visits it carried out in 1994:
146. An active member of the Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP), Elie was knifed to death on January 18, 1994. He was executed at his home by a group of 15-18 masked men, in the presence of his 12 children who had first been handcuffed by the assassins.
147. He was murdered on January 26, 1994. His body was found in a Port-au-Prince street two days after he was abducted, with a cord around his neck, his hands tied, his eyes crushed, his right ear missing, his tongue cut, and traces of bullet wounds and machete chops on his body.
Oman Desanges was 27 years old. He was the president of the Youth for Progress Association, which was founded in 1990. Since September 1991, he had been forced to live underground to escape the soldiers who were looking for him. In February 1992, he tried to obtain political asylum in the United States, but his request was refused. On trying to return to his house in December 1993, he was jailed for five days, during which time he was savagely beaten. His mother then succeeded in obtaining his freedom by paying 300 gourdes ($25).
Mitchel and Bernard Casimir and Louis Jeanty
148. During the night of April 26-27, 1994, a commando of heavily armed civilians wreaked terror for several hours in the area of Papo, Croix-des-Missions (north of Port-au-Prince), killing three persons, raping a young woman, and roughing up inhabitants, including an eight year-old boy.
Apparently, the attackers entered houses in small groups. In one house, the armed men killed the brothers, Mitchel (27 years old) and Bernard Casimir (20 years old) in their rooms. First, the attackers had tied up the victims' father and beaten him with the butts of their weapons, accusing the family of being responsible for the embargo.
In another house, the assaulters shot Louis Jeanty, who was trying to escape when they arrived. Jeanty was hit by a shot and fell to the ground, before he was riddled with bullets.
Throughout this operation, which lasted several hours, people remained totally without protection, since at no time did the police intervene.
Emmanuel Joseph, Merci Dieu Bontemps, St. Louis, and Serge Joseph
149. On May 23, 1994, the bodies of these four political militants were found in the Cité Soleil slum. All had been murdered by gunshots.
Emmanuel Joseph, 38 years old and a member of the "Tèt Ansam Cité Soleil" Association, was gunned down by two armed individuals who entered his house, had forced him to lie on the floor, and killed him with a burst of automatic gunfire.
Mr. Merci Dieu Bontemps, 43 years old, and Mr. St. Louis, 26 years old, both members of the Young Persons Association of Cité Soleil, were each executed with a bullet in the temple.
The body of Serge Joseph, a 19 year-old member of the Alliance of Revolutionary Patriotic Democrats, was found the same day. He had been murdered in the same manner, with gunshot wounds.
Given the information received locally, it can be concluded that the same group of individuals is responsible for the four murders. They are heavily armed civilians whose exact number could not be determined.
Marie Auxiliatrice Decossa
150. On June 15, 1994, in Port-au-Prince, three attachés and two soldiers in uniform entered the house of Marie Auxiliatrice Decossa, a militant in the "Sendika Nasyonal ti Machann-yo" organization. After reproaching her for her activities within this workers' union, they beat her up in the presence of her three children and took her outside. As she attempted to push away one of the soldiers, he became furious and shot her in the stomach. As a result of the wounds she received, Mrs. Decossa died the following day.
Jean Marie Vincent
151. During the night of August 28, 1994, Father Jean Marie Vincent was murdered by a group of heavily armed men who were waiting for him at the entrance to the residence of the Monfortain Priests in Port-au-Prince. Father Vincent had escaped two attacks in August 1986 and in August 1987. On the latter occasion, he was severely wounded, when a group of priests intervened to save his life during an attack on Aristide in the Fraiscineau area following a mass in memory of the peasants murdered during the Jean Rabel massacre.
Jean Marie Vincent had dedicated his life to the promotion of human rights and basic freedoms in Haiti. Founder of the peasant "Tet Ansam" movement of Jean Rabel, he was also a member of the "Caritas" and "Fonades" foundations for the economic development of Haiti.
Cases of abduction and forced disappearance
152. During the IACHR's on-site visit in May 1994, it received much information on cases of forced disappearance and abduction. Testimonies presented to the Commission show that the procedure most used in kidnappings was as follows:
153. Victims were abducted from their homes or in the street by armed civilians operating from vehicles. It was sometimes established that the abductors wore army or police uniforms. In most cases, they beat victims when they were abducting them, handcuffed them, blindfolded them, and took them to clandestine detention locations. In those places, detainees were interrogated regarding their political or union activities. Interrogations were accompanied by beating, mistreatment and torture, failure to provide water or food.
154. In some cases, bodies of kidnapped persons were found showing signs of severe torture. This situation became more worrisome in April and May 1994, when numerous unidentified and severly mutilated corpses were regularly found in the streets of Port-au-Prince.
Massacre perpetrated in Raboteau
155. Several localities in the Northern Département were victims of systematic military repression following the coup d'état of 1991. The well-known support of the Département for President Aristide and the recognized presence of militants among the people exacerbated the soldiers' hate, and they carried out raids and acts of violence throughout this period. To sum up those acts, there were cases of murder, arbitrary arrest, torture, fire that destroyed hundreds of homes, and destruction of crops and livestock.
156. Raboteau is a poor seaside slum to the north-west of the coastal town of Gonaïves. The repression against its inhabitants, who are Aristide supporters for the most part, was systematic. Political militants and members of organizations based in this slum took the habit of sleeping next to their boats to escape frequent raids by the army and FRAPH.
157. On April 18, 1994, two soldiers, accompanied by a local FRAPH leader, went to Raboteau in search of Amio Metayer, nicknamed "Cubain," whom the army suspected of being the leader of an armed group calling for the return of Aristide. The search ended with the sacking of various houses, blows and beatings inflicted on inhabitants who tried to flee, and numerous arrests.
158. Four days later, a larger number of soldiers, accompanied by FRAPH members, took control of Raboteau from early in the morning. They attacked and looted about a dozen houses and beat the inhabitants before summarily executing, on the coast or in boats, many persons who were trying to flee by sea.
159. International observers who went to the site on April 27-28, 1994 could not establish with certainty the number of victims, since many of them had been buried hurriedly the day after the massacre by prisoners under army orders.
160. The OAS/UN International Civilian Mission indicated that at least 12 persons had been murdered by shots fired by soldiers wearing tactical squad uniforms. Other reliable sources indicated that at least 28 persons had been murdered.
161. Numerous testimonies indicated that those responsible for this massacre were soldiers from the Toussaint Louverture barracks, acting under the orders of Roland Depton, Delegate of the Artibonite Département, and Jean Tatoune, a former political militant and a collaborator with the soldiers.
162. During 1994, the government's efforts to silence all opponents resulted in a large number of extra-judicial executions. Although the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in cooperation with the international observer missions and the human rights agencies on-site in Haiti, has compiled some figures, the exact number of these extrajudicial executions is impossible to determine.
163. The Commission is submitting a partial list of the extrajudicial executions that took place from January to June 1994. The names on the list were compiled by human rights groups working in Haiti. The list is not exhaustive, since it contains only the names of persons whose bodies could be identified and about which the human rights groups were informed.
January and February
In Cité Soleil, Port-au-Prince
- January 15, a woman named Jeanne, 35 years old
- January 28, 1994, journalist Michelet Dominique, 30 years old
A man called Tizo, about 30 years old
- February 2, 1994, Chevalier Pascal, 38 years old, an immigration employee
- February 3, 1994, Charles Alexandre, 24 years old, a student
A young man named Miguel, 25 years old
- February 10, 1994, Thermidor Josué, 28 years old
Ernst Théodore, 26 years old
- February 12, 1994, Ti-Blanc, 34 years old
- February 20, 1994, Césavoire Jean Vernet
In the interior of the country
- January 10, 1994, Téya Thérèse, a member of MOJEP
- January 10, 1994, Elukner Elie, a leader of the Papaye Peasant Movement
- January 11, 1994, Rozius François
- January 22, 1994, Robert Jean
- January 31, 1994, Delance Augustin, an engineer
In Morne Cabrit
- February 22, 1994, Beauvais Léonard Félix
March and April
In Cité Soleil, Port-au-Prince
- March 6, 1994, Valmel Cassamajor
- March 10, 1994, a young man, 26 years old, named Lambert
- March 11, 1994, M. Pierre
- March 17, 1994, Dietner Auguste, 34 years old
- March 25, 1994, a man called Joreks, 27 years old
- April 4, 1994, Kesner Bruno, 19 years old
- April 7, 1994, Mrs. Pétion, 46 years old
- April 14, 1994, Marie Louis
- April 16, 1994, M. Avril
- March 5, 1994, Massadieu Massillia, a primary school student
- March 15, 1994, Lukner Auguste, 40 years old
- March 20, 1994, Lamante Paul, 28 years old
- March 21, 1994, Dargil Théodore
- April 9, 1994, Fils Aimé Jasmin, 32 years old
- April 19, 1994, Lafond Harold
In St. Michel de l'Attalaye
- April 10, 1994, Myrlande Francius, 18 years old
- April 23, 1994, Pierre Philippe
May and June 1994
- June 23, 1994, Florestal Sheila and Florius
- July 1, 1994, Paul Pierre, 40 years old
- June 9, 1994, Fridner Jean
- July 31, 1994, a man named Alfred, 35 years old
B. Right to personal liberty and humane treatment
164. During the period between January and september 1994, the Haitian people continued to give testimony of numerous human rights violations, particularly with reference to personal liberty and humane treatment as respectively reflected in articles 7 and 5 of the American Convention. As outlined in the previous special report on the situation of human rights in Haiti, following the overthrow of the democratic government of President Aristide, cases of arbitrary arrest, disappearance, mistreatment, and torture became a part of daily life.
165. The violations of these rights were closely linked to the systematic oppression carried out by the armed forces, since in all cases of detention, the victims were beaten and subjected to other physical abuses. Many of the detentions took place outside the hour stipulated by the Haitian Constitution for making arrests. Such detentions were carried out without any court authorization whatever, and in no case could persons detained appear before a judge.
166. Soldiers systematically applied themselves to the task of repressing any support that the democratic government may had, by persecuting its supporters and destroying any attempt at popular organization, regardless of whether such organization had political objectives. The loss of liberty was generally accompanied by beating, torture, death threat, and other inhumane and degrading treatment.
167. On other occasions, victims had not been deprived of their liberty, but as part of the policy maintained by the regime to terrorize people, they were sought out in their own homes, or sometimes intercepted in the street, and savagely beaten.
168. A frequent practice was to abduct a close family member of the person they were looking for, when the latter was not found at home. In many cases reported to the Commission, it was hard to obtain news of abducted family members and they were considered missing.
169. Also, arbitrary arrests were often an additional source of enrichment for soldiers or policemen, who created a sort of bargaining process in which family members of victims were obliged to pay large amounts of money to secure the freeing of detainees or at least to put an end to mistreatment.
170. During the two visits carried out by the Commission in 1994, it received a large number of complaints against violations of the right to humane treatment and personal liberty. Below, a few cases are presented by way of illustration:
Gala Jean Rhoud
171. On June 20, 1993, in Léogane, Jean Rhoud Gala was arrested by the area's police chief and detained for two days. He was tortured by the police chief and his aides during the interrogation they carried out. Gala Jean Rhoud was freed after his family paid his captors 3,000 gourdes.
172. He was illegally arrested by soldiers on September 14, 1993, spent seven days in prison, and had to pay a sum of 700 gourdes to be freed on September 21, 1993. Two days later, as word reached him that he would again be arrested, he was forced to flee into clandestinity with his wife and children in Borgne. On October 28 of the same year, the section chief in Au Borgne, accompanied by soldiers, had 300 houses burnt down. Numerous people were beaten up and many animals were massacred.
173. A person close to President Aristide, he was arrested on September 30, 1993 and taken to Fort Dimanche where he remained for 15 days, during which he was severely beaten. They placed a plastic bag on his head trying to suffocate him.
On April 28, 1994, he was again detained on the Bon Repos road (Cul-de-sac, Port-au-Prince) by soldiers from the area and taken to the military post. The next day, he was transferred to the post at Croix-des-Bouquets. Sony Lefort had marks on his body that proved he had been severely beaten, and this was confirmed by other sources. His wife Bertha Romélus, accompanied by other persons, went to the Croix-des-Bouquets post to take him food and clothing. They found the detainee sitting in the guard room with his face inflamed. When he was asked what had happened, he replied that Captain Mondésir had given the order to arrest him, but he still did not know for what reason. The victim's wife then went to one of the soldiers in the guard room to ask him if she could give food and clothes to the detainee. Following a lengthy discussion with the captain, he finally agreed that the detainee could be given food and clothes, but he said the detainee had to remain in detention, since he had not finished with him. Since then, the family has not been allowed to communicate with Sony Lefort.
174. An Aristide supporter along with her husband, she was abducted from her home on October 16, 1993 by armed civilian members of FRAPH when the latter did not find here husband there, as he had managed to escape through a window. Mrs. Bélance was taken to Titanyen, a place known as a common grave for those executed extrajudicially, where she was brutally tortured, mutilated, and left for dead from machete chops to the face, neck, and extremities. In spite of the serious wounds received, Mrs. Bélance managed to drag herself to the street, ask for help, and save her life, thanks to the medical treatment she received.
175. At the beginning of May 1994, toward 10:00 p.m., the house of this committee member in the Grand-Goave shanty town was stoned for a half-hour. On May 4, three men--a soldier in olive green uniform and two men in civilian dress--came to his house to arrest him. Saurel was taken to the Grand-Goave barracks where, without being questioned, he received about 100 blows with a baton on the buttocks. They then applied the "kalot marasa," which is a method whereby they apply blows to both sides of the victim's head, often causing serious lesions on the ears, including perforation of the eardrum, infections, and loss of hearing. After being accused of setting fire to the Grand-Goave barracks on September 30, 1991, he was taken to prison.
The following day, a sergeant named Daniel went to fetch him in the cell and took him to the guard room, where he gave him more than 300 blows with a baton. The sergeant showed him a piece of paper on which were written the names of all the people's organizations in Grand-Goave and ordered him to tell him the addresses of the members of those organizations, following which he was taken back to prison. During the night of May 5-6, toward 3:00 a.m., the commander of the barracks decided to free him, warning him that he should leave town, since if he did not, he would not hesitate to kill him at the next opportunity.
Jean Kroutchev Célestin
176. A member of the Coordination of Shanty Town Committees (COCOQ), he was abducted on May 14, 1994 toward 8:00 p.m. by four armed civilians in a Rocky jeep, after they had sprayed paralyzing gas in his eyes. Once he was in the jeep, the men interrogated him regarding the names of members of the Platform of Carrefour Feuilles, to which Mr. Célestin replied that he knew nothing. On arriving at their destination, they blindfolded him and tied him up in the "djak" position with a cord to lower him into an underground cell. The following day, after the cord and the blindfold were removed, he was taken to a room where he was interrogated regarding the activities of his organization and on the financing of "Lavalas" organizations. In the process, Mr. Célestin was savagely beaten in the head and back.
Mr. Célestin spent seven days at that place and was beaten daily during interrogations. They subsequently offered him to join their group. When he refused, he was again tied up and locked in the vehicle. Mr. Célestin managed to jump out of the automobile and escape from the shots fired by his tormentors.
Events at Borgne
177. Localities in the region of Borgne were subjected to numerous military raids since 1991. The repression never ceased to increase during the period, leaving dozens of victims and hundreds of persons homeless.
178. The many raids that took place between 1991 and 1994 resulted in the destruction of more than 250 houses by fire, the slaughter of livestock, and crops destroyed.
179. Many peasants were mistreated and harassed. Concordant testimonies from reliable sources confirm that there were summary executions of persons sought out by the Armed Forces of the de facto regime, and rapes of women who refused to give information on where the persons sought were hiding.
180. Since April 7, 1994, the Haitian Armed Forces have maintained a state of siege in this area, prohibiting access to it by the Civilian Mission and journalists.
181. Alarming testimonies from varied sources, as well as the visit that the Civilian Mission was finally able to make, April 27-30, made it possible to establish the nature of the crimes committed.
182. On April 8, 1994, a large-scale military operation began in the area of Petit-Bourg-du-Borgne, Port-Margot, and Ravine-Trompette, with movements of armed groups from Cap Haïtien and Limbé and a convoy of ambulances going toward the area. On April 9, 1994, a commando of about 300 heavily armed men, including the Captain of the Limbé District, various section chiefs, attachés, and members of the FRAPH in Borgne, attacked Bassin Caïman in the Boucau Michel section of Borgne and neighboring localities.
183. The attack started toward 10:00 a.m., with the burning of six houses in Petite Rivière and Tripot. On the road from Collette and Bassin Caïman, they burned down 35 houses belonging to 17 families, destroyed about 50 gardens, and killed or stole more than 150 head of livestock.
184. During these operations, many women and children were raped. More than 200 peasants had to pay extortion of 50 to 2,000 gourdes. Various illegal and arbitrary arrests took place, including those of the Mayor of Borgne, Bélizaire Fils Aimé, who was held incommunicado.
C. Rights to freedom of expression and of assembly
185. The rights to freedom of expression and of assembly are enshrined in Articles 13 and 15, respectively, of the American Convention on Human Rights, and are intimately conected under the plan of repression pursued by the de facto regime in Haiti, which undertook the task of persecuting any form of political organization and popular grassroots groups and of keeping a grip of steel on the communications media.
186. The soldiers who assumed power following the overthrow of the democratic regime exercised extraordinary censorship on the communications media, along with the cancellation of any possibility of holding meetings of any type.
187. Many attacks on the right of expression and the right of peaceful assembly were brought to the attention of the IACHR and the OAS/UN International Civilian Mission. Members of popular organizations were the first victims of such violations. The repression was so systematic and reached such a level of brutality that Aristide's supporters and all those who desired a return of the democratic order often seemed to give up exercising their rights for fear of reprisals.
188. The repression of the freedom of the press is particularly illustrative: several Haitian journalists were murdered during and following the coup. Others are missing, presumably dead. Six radio stations were permanently silenced, and at least 30 journalists fled the country in August 1994. In addition, foreign journalists were routinely expelled from the country for the smallest gesture that the soldiers of the de facto government deemed inappropriate.
189. In a decree issued on August 2, 1994, the illegal de facto government warned the communications media that the military authorities would take measures against the transmission of "alarmist and tendentious news," especially information from embassies (most particularly that of the United States), and seized the opportunity to reiterate the warning formulated in May that foreign journalists would be deported if they were found within a radius of three kilometers from airports, military barracks, border posts, police stations, and other strategic sites.
190. A paramilitary group called the Haitian Resistance League, closely linked to the Haitian security forces, warned owners of communications media about the transmission of statements by antimilitary groups. Haitian television crews and interpreters working under contract with foreign journalists were warned by the government that they could be accused of working with the enemy.
191. The Commission considers that the control the de facto military government tried to impose on the people resulted in a severe wave of oppression. The main victims of the oppression were members of people' organizations endeavoring to exercise their fundamental rights; journalists and the communications media in general. Merely doing their normal work placed journalists in imminent danger of reprisals in the form of detentions, beatings, and even death. The mere suspicion of belonging to or being affiliated with an organization regarded as supporting President Aristide was also sufficient reason to be detained.
192. Below are presented a few of the cases received by the Commission during its on-site visits in May and October 1994 on the right of expression and assembly:
193. On September 5, 1993, he signed a press release published by the Fort St. Claû Platform, calling on General Cédras and members of the Senate to respect the Governors Island Agreement, which was broadcast by various radio stations in Haiti.
Armed civilians immediately started to look for him at various places in Port-au-Prince. Finally, on September 7, he was held by three attachés as he returned home. He remained detained in prison a whole day, during which he was severely beaten. On February 11, 1994, following statements on the radio, Adner D'Haiti was again arrested and beaten by attachés.
Thibault Jm. Mozart
194. President Aristide's press officer prior to his overthrow and currently a member of the Belle-Anse Foundation, he had been appointed by the Foundation to collect information on human rights violations in the Belle-Anse District. On May 13, 1994, he was arrested by a soldier named Abessis Noel and taken to the barracks, he was received by the commander of the Military District of Fliotte, Oreste Séripahen, who questioned him on the support that Aristide was receiving. In view of Jm. Mozart Thibault's refusal to talk, the commander ordered that he be beaten on the ears. As a result of the mistreatment to which he was subjected, Mr. Thibault has hearing problems and difficulty controlling the modulation of his voice.
195. A 27-year-old journalist, who was reported missing on August 4, 1994 by Radio Tropic FM, the station where he was working. His family and colleagues at work saw him for the last time on July 31. His last radio program was broadcast during a ceremony organized by the military authorities. Ocean had been detained by soldiers in 1993, accused of distributing leaflets supporting deposed President Aristide.
196. A delegate of the Savane Peasant Movement for Social Development (MPSDS), on July 15, 1993 he was at a meeting of about 50 persons in the Pandiason shanty town in Hinche, which was interrupted by a band of armed civilians who arrested half of the participants. On August 20, while participating in another meeting, he was again arrested by armed civilians.
On September 15, 1993, during a meeting of his association at which plans were being made for the return of Aristide, the local section chief came to interrupt the meeting, and various participants were beaten. On December 27, 1993, during reprisals carried out by FRAPH in Cité Soleil to avenge the death of Issa Paul, Marcelin Clotaire was arrested and taken to the Anti-Gang Brigade, where he was severely beaten.
Franze Lamisère and Gérald Duverger
197. The persecution of members of an ecological organization, the National Union of Progressists for Reforestation and the Environment (UNPREN), of which Mrs. Lamisère is a member, began on July 25, 1993 with the violent interruption of one of its meetings by order of section chief Vancol Adam.
On October 26, 1993, when Mrs. Lamisère was at another meeting, it was interrupted by armed civilians who pursued them to their own homes, attacked them and their family members, and ransacked their houses. Delegate Gérald Duverger, who was also at the meeting, was severely beaten and taken to a location where he was left for dead. As they were threatened with death, the organization's entire leadership was forced to remain in "marronage."
Mr. Destaul and Natacha Destaul
198. A member of the Young Peasants' Movement (OMJPC) in Côtes de Fer, Mr. Destaul was presiding over a meeting of the OMJPC on October 30, 1993, when suddenly various soldiers and armed civilians erupted in the church where the meeting was being held and at which his wife was also present. Mr. Destaul was beaten and taken to the Côtes de Fer barracks, where he was held for three days before being freed on November 1, 1993. In prison, he was informed that he had no right to hold a meeting on that day. Although Mr. Destaul obtained treatment for his wounds once he was freed, he still has deep scars from the mistreatment and blows he suffered.
On November 2, he was accused by a military commander of burning down his house, an incident in which the soldier lost a son. In reprisal, various soldiers and armed civilians then burned down the offices of the OMJPC and the home of Mr. and Mrs. Destaul. After that Mr. Destaul was in clandestinity, or "marronage."
In February 1994, seven soldiers and armed civilians went to Mrs. Destaul's home asking to see her husband. As he was not there and despite the fact that she was seven months' pregnant, she was beaten and lost consciousness.
199. As a member of the Federation of Young Patriots of Jean Denis (FJPJ), of KODET, and of KONAKOM, he was subjected to constant persecution by soldiers.
Arnaud Elisias was always involved in the defense of peasants and in the organization of popular demonstrations. He also devoted himself to distributing pamphlets in public places in favor of Aristide. He constantly defended peasants against abuses by the local authorities and was therefore not allowed to live in the region of Jean Denis, Petite Rivière, in Artibonite, Section I of Bac Cousin.
Arnaud endured the murder of his son, and both his wife and his sister were raped on two occasions. Since the coup d'état of September 1991, he has had to remain in clandestinity. The last act he has had to endure, as reported to the Commission, was the burning of his house and the murder of his brother, Olden Elisias, at the hands of soldiers as he tried to prevent them from getting into the house.
D. Right to private property
200. The repression carried out by the de facto regime was not limited to physical persecution of citizens and brutal attacks against the personal integrity of those who opposed the regime. It also involved the destruction of whatever few belongings they owned.
201. The right to property is set forth in article 21.2 of the American Convention on Human Rights, which states: "No one shall be deprived of his property except upon payment of just compensation, for reasons of public utility or social interest, and in the cases and according to the forms established by law."
202. The numerous cases recorded by the Commission show that frequently the military or armed civilian oppressive forces, acting under army orders, destroyed the homes of persons sought (usually supporters of President Aristide), as part of the terrorist policy. These actions produced heartrending situations in which the father had to abandon his family and go into hiding, and the family was left completely abandoned, without housing to shelter them.
203. The Commission observed that it was the practice of military and paramilitary forces to sack their victims' homes before burning them to the ground. Along with these abuses of property rights, the commission learned of cases in which the "section chiefs" seized the land and crops of victims when they had to go into hiding "marronage" (clandestinity).
204. In that regard, the officials of the illegal de facto government and the armed civilians of FRAPH frequently used the destruction of the homes of opponents of the regime as a repressive measure.
205. The following are some of the cases reported to the Commission.
206. On June 10, 1992, armed civilians attacked him while he was at a sports center with other persons, accusing him of being a Lavalas member. After beating him savagely and believing him to be dead, his attackers tried to hide his body.
On October 30, 1993 he was arbitrarily arrested and had to spend the first three days of his detention without food. He was accused of being a member of the AJPS (Association of Young Underground Progressists), a group that works in favor of Aristide. His house was burned down, and he had to abandon his wife and children, hiding constantly, seeking refuge in churches until he was again arrested on March 23, 1994 for distributing photographs of Aristide.
Leroy Charles Vigne
207. Following the overthrow of President Aristide, numerous members of the Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP) were arrested, beaten, and murdered. However, MPP member Mr. Leroy Charles Vigne managed to escape during the night of July 1, 1993 from soldiers who were trying to arrest him. When they could not find him, they looted and destroyed his house. Since then, Mrs. Leroy Charles Vigne and her five children had no home and feared for their lives in view of possible reprisals by the soldiers.
208. On December 27, 1993, the corpse of FRAPH treasurer Issa Paul was found in Cité Soleil. FRAPH members then accused Ryfelle D'Haïti of being responsible for the murder, because he was a member of a popular organization that had published a communiqué criticizing the army. He was arrested and beaten, as was his wife. Thanks to a sergeant's intervention, they were freed. However, all his belongings were burned. On the same occasion, more than 200 homes were burned down in the Cité Soleil slum during acts of reprisal carried out by FRAPH members.
5. Refugees (boat people)
209. Since September 29, 1991 when the Armed Forces overthrew President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the Commission has been observing the human rights situation of Haitian refugees. In each of its special reports on Haiti covering the periods of 1992 and 1993, the Commission devoted a special chapter to the subject.
210. The repression against the Haitian people started immediately after the coup d'état and took the form of murders, abductions, tortures, and politically motivated arrests. The systematic human rights violations perpetrated by soldiers caused a massive exodus of Haitians, primarily from the sectors that backed President Aristide. Thousands of Haitians fled the country, escaping from the severe repression across the border with the Dominican Republic or aboard small, unsafe boats headed for the United States. Other boats headed for The Bahamas, Belize, Cuba, Honduras, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela, where their passengers sought asylum. Many of these boats were intercepted by the United States Coast Guard Service, while an incalculable number of them sank, and their passengers drowned.
211. In its last report, the Commission pointed out that over 41,000 Haitians had been intercepted, 30,000 of whom were returned to Haiti. The practice of interdiction and forced repatriation by the United States has been the target of constant criticism by nongovernmental organizations for the defense of human rights. The latter have argued that this practice violates international law, specifically the provisions of Article 1(A) of the United Nations Protocol relating to the Situation of Refugees, to which the United States is a party and in which a refugee is defined as:
"any person who, for reasons of race, religion, nationality, adherence to a given social group, or political opinion, is outside of the country of his nationality and cannot obtain the protection of that country or ... is unwilling to do so ..."
and finally, Article 33 of the above-mentioned Convention of 1951, which states:
"No Contracting State may in any manner expel or return ("refouler") a refugee to a territory within whose borders his life or freedom may be at risk by virtue of his race, religion, nationality, adherence to a given social group, or political opinion."
212. Human rights groups that defend refugees' rights have argued that the practice applied also violates United States law, which prohibits "refoulement" or the forceful return of persons genuinely fleeing the persecution to which they are subjected in their country of origin.
213. On June 21, 1993, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the President's power to repatriate aliens without papers who had been intercepted on the high seas was not subject to any restriction and that the right to be not subjected to "refoulement" applied only to aliens who were physically present in the host country. In this respect, some organizations concerned on human rights, alleged that those persons who were intercepted in international waters were bereft of any juridical remedy, and unless the legislation in force were amended by the Congress, the Haitians would continue to be repatriated without being granted a hearing to present arguments in their quest for asylum.
214. In early-February 1994, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide announced that he would denounce the agreement that permitted the United States to repatriate, without process, Haitian refugees intercepted on the high seas, citing the clause that provides for denouncing of the agreement between the two countries, with six months' advance notice. President Aristide's communiqué was issued after four corpses of Haitian refugees, including two children, were found on the beaches of Florida.
215. The criticism by certain domestic sectors in the United States against President William Clinton's policy of intercepting and returning "boat people" to Haiti intensified in early-1994. In March, a group of congressmen, particularly the Black Caucus members, artistes, and leaders of the Black movement in the United States, launched a campaign to obtain a change in the United States Government's policy. The group described President Clinton's policy as racist and asked for the removal of Lawrence Pezzullo, Special Advisor on the Haitian crisis at the State Department.
216. On April 11, the Executive Director of the TransAfrica group, Randall Robinson, began a hunger strike in opposition to the policy of summary repatriation of refugees. Also in April, President Aristide maintained his criticism, accusing the United States Government of implementing a racist policy by returning Haitian intercepted at sea to their country of origin without giving them the option of requesting political asylum.
217. During its visit to Haiti in May 1994, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights received complaints from a number of people who were victims of human rights violations, including extrajudicial executions after being returned to Haiti from Guantanamo. Amnesty International recorded some cases, including the following:
218. Oman Desanges, founder and chairman of the neighborhood committee, the Association of Young Progressives of Martissant (Association des Jeunes Progressistes de Martissant). A few days after the September 1991 coup, soldiers tried to detain him, and in February 1992, he fled in a boat with his family. The U.S. Coast Guard intercepted and took a number of Haitians to Guantanamo, where some were selected to enter the United States for processing their request for asylum.
In spite of this, and apparently due to a mistake, Oman Desanges and several members of his family were returned to Haiti in May 1992. On January 26, 1994, the body of Oman Desanges was found near the Port-au-Prince international airport. His arms were tied, a rope was around his neck, and a red scarf bearing the words "President of the Red Army" and "Indigent Lavallassien" was wrapped around his arm. His eyes had been torn out, an ear had been cut off, and his stomach was split open. Two days before, a group of soldiers and attachés had taken him into custody from his home in Martissant, Port-au-Prince. Apparently, while he was detained, they had blinded, beaten and knifed him, and then had shot him to death.
219. At end-April, there was a change in President Clinton's policy, when 411 refugees intercepted four miles from the coast of Florida were admitted to United States territory. However, it was not until May 8 that President Clinton announced that the United States would not systematically return all refugees intercepted at sea, and a system was established for interviews to be conducted aboard ships of the United States fleet to determine if the Haitians qualified, as required by international law, for political refugee status. Interviews would be conducted by representatives of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service, assisted and supervised by representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Persons who did not qualify would be returned to Haiti. At the same time, the United States Government continued to ask Haitians to make their requests for political asylum in Haiti.
220. As part of the United States Government's change of policy, Democrat and former congressman William Gray was appointed Special Advisor and Secretary of State for Haitian Affairs, replacing Lawrence Pezzullo.
221. On the other hand, the United States Government began a campaign to ask other countries to accept Haitian refugees or allow interviews to be conducted on their territory. Members of the "Friends of Haiti" group, composed of Argentina, Canada, United States, France, and Venezuela, and countries of the Caribbean and Central America were solicited in this respect. The Turks and Caicos Islands announced they would receive some Haitians. The United States Government indicated it would pay the expenses that this would incur for governments which agreed to cooperate.
222. The new system of processing refugees was initiated on June 16, 1994 aboard the United States ship, "Comfort," in the bay of Kingston, Jamaica. The system adopted increased the possibility of acceptance of Haitian refugees much more than anticipated. Originally, the United States administration thought that approximately 5 percent of the persons intercepted would be sent to the United States. However, the real index was about 30 percent. Similarly, the procedure on board the United States ship, "Comfort," was much longer than foreseen, and intercepted Haitians who did not qualify to leave for the United States were not immediately returned to Haiti. This created the impression in Haiti that the number of persons who succeeded in obtaining political asylum was greater than it really was.
223. In a short space of time, the number of intercepted persons spiralled upward. On June 28, the United States Coast Guard intercepted 1,486 Haitians, and on the same day President Clinton announced that the Guantánamo military base would once again be used to process refugees. On July 4, 3,247 refugees were intercepted, and the number of Haitians intercepted in only 11 days thus rose to about 10,000. According to information from the State Department, between mid-June and July, 20,190 Haitians were intercepted.
224. A large number of Haitians went to the Dominican Republic, and in May it was estimated that half a million Haitians were residing there illegally after fleeing the difficult political and economic situation in Haiti. The tension created by the massive exodus led certain sectors to propose the creation of refugee camps for Haitians.
225. The military authorities in Haiti tried to control the departure of refugees, apparently in an effort to reduce the threat of an invasion. In May, ilegal de facto President Emile Jonaissaint announced that anyone trying to leave by boat would be imprisoned. Subsequently, numerous incidents were recorded of attacks, arrests, and torture by soldiers against persons who were trying to flee the country. During the night of May 16, soldiers surprised about 200 people who were trying to leave from Trou Chou Chou, Petit Goave; 50 of them were taken to prison. On May 22, a group of 30 persons who were preparing to board a boat were attacked by uniformed men in the Ti Guinée slum, Petit Goave.
226. In view of the enormous flow of refugees, on July 5, the United States Government announced that it would no longer consider persons intercepted at sea as candidates for political asylum in that country. Only persons who managed to obtain the status of political refugee in Haiti would be accepted on United States territory. Refugees intercepted at sea would be accommodated at Guantánamo military base or at other refugee camps, where they would stay until other countries accepted to receive them or until a final solution was found to the crisis.
227. Since the Panamanian Government changed its mind about receiving 10,000 refugees who were to be installed on a deserted island (San José), the United States Government made great efforts to find countries in the region that would accept to offer "safe havens" temporarily to Haitians. However, 13 Caribbean Heads of State meeting in Barbados declared their opposition to the United States proposal to set up camps in the region to receive refugees.
228. The massive exodus of Haitians was the cause of a large number of deaths. On June 30, about 30 persons died by drowning when shots were fired from a police boat on a boatload of refugees, causing panic on board. On July 4, about 150 Haitians died when a boat carrying 320 persons sank near the coast of Saint Marc.
229. On July 20, President Clinton's administration announced that the number of boat people had declined dramatically. Of the 16,000 refugees who had been accommodated at Guantánamo military base, 2,000 preferred to return to Haiti.
230. A problem which arose after the imposition of the total embargo and the suspension of flights to Haiti was the impossibility of leaving the country for those persons who had submitted to the process of selection in Haiti to obtain asylum in the United States. On August 18, the spokesperson for the American Embassy in Haiti declared that 894 persons who had completed the required procedures could not leave the country. Up to end-August, the United States Government managed to obtain permission from the de facto authorities for 91 persons to leave Haiti in a bus that took them to the Dominican Republic. Subsequently, the de facto authorities accepted the departure of two buses per week.
231. The situation of the refugees accommodated at Guantánamo was becoming increasingly tense. On August 13, hundreds of refugees tried to flee following four hours of protests. The demonstration was called to demand that political asylum in the United States be granted or that the United States invade Haiti to end the crisis. The Haitians also demanded better living conditions in refugee camps.
232. Of the 16,000 Haitians accommodated at these installations, more than 750 participated in the disturbances. About 120 managed to scale the fence around the United States base and plunged into the bay, apparently hoping to swim to another place on the island of Cuba. During the demonstration, 65 persons were wounded, including 20 United States soldiers. After the incident, about 329 refugees involved in it were isolated in another location at the bay.
233. The future of the Haitian refugees became more uncertain since, with the decline in the number of intercepted persons, the problem became less urgent for the United States authorities, and the idea of establishing refugee camps in other countries came to be considered as too expensive and not very practical. In early-August, the massive exodus of Cuban refugees toward Florida led the United States Government also to accommodate at the Guantánamo military base all the Cubans who were intercepted at sea.
234. At end-August, the search for "safe havens" for the Haitian refugees was linked to the search for havens for the Cubans also. On August 24, the United States Government announced that Suriname, Saint Lucia, and Dominica had agreed to receive Haitian refugees. Honduras had previously accepted a few Haitians.
235. Following the occupation of Haiti by the Multinational Force, the Haitian refugees accommodated at Guantánamo began to return to Haiti. Within a few weeks, about 3,000 Haitians were repatriated. This time, the refugees returned voluntarily; most of them were tired of living conditions at Guantánamo. However, some stated that they had agreed to return after being informed that everyone would be repatriated.
236. Among the refugees who returned, 1,000 were recruited for the new Haitian police unit called the "Public Security Corps." Recruits received three weeks of training at the Guantánamo base itself. In mid-October, the United States authorities indicated that about 10,332 refugees remained at Guantánamo and that by end-November, all would have returned to Haiti.
237. In early January 1995, Haitian refugees still in the Guantanamo refugee camp began to be repatriated against their will.
238. The international community's reaction to the problem of the massive flow of refugees in the wake of the military coup in Haiti was characterized by lack of coordination. In general, throughout most of the period during which the crisis lasted the countries affected by the exodus were obligated to struggle with the problem individually according to their political and economic capabilities. At no time, except toward the end, when the United States was compelled to seek the support of other countries to take in refugees intercepted at sea, were any attempts made to coordinate the policy toward the Haitians in order to lighten the burden of the countries most affected by the problem. Consequently, countries such as The Bahamas had their public assistance services overwhelmed by the massive influx of refugees. This situation caused serious human rights problems, with a large number of persons being interned in refugee camps lacking the minimum infrastructure to properly house them.
239. The Commission would like to observe that the member countries of the Organization of American States have an obligation, whenever a major crisis such as the present one occurs in the hemisphery to confront the resulting problems jointly. The refugee question gave rise to grave human rights problems that demanded positive action from all States subject to the obligations enshrined in the Chart of the Organization of American States, the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and the American Convention on Human Rights.