From July 30 to August 16, the Haiti Accompaniment Project (HAP) sent a second delegation to Haiti to continue our investigation into the current human rights situation and to provide international solidarity to Haitian grassroots organizations. We found that despite enormous pressure and intimidation, Haiti’s citizens remain firm in demanding international respect for their sovereignty and the return of the constitutional government.
The trip coincided with major August 14th popular demonstrations in Port au Prince and Cap Haitien, commemorating the beginning of Haiti’s 1791 revolution. These widely reported events mark over 200 years that Haitians have fought to defend their liberty.
Our human rights investigations in Port au Prince indicate that hundreds of political prisoners, including elected government officials and members of Fanmi Lavalas, continue to be held in prisons without legal justification. 90% of those we interviewed were arrested without a warrant. Many were arrested by US troops or paramilitary forces. Many had been held for four to five months without a court hearing. No prisoner with whom we spoke had been tried and convicted of a crime, nor had anyone we spoke with been given a trial date.
The treatment of these Lavalas officials and activists stands in stark contrast to the treatment of FRAPH death squad leader and convicted assassin Jodel Chamblain. In the early morning hours of August 17th, Chamblain was acquitted of the 1993 murder of pro-democracy activist, Antoine Izmery. During the brief overnight trial, one of eight known eyewitnesses to the killing testified that he saw nothing; no other witnesses appeared. The prosecution made no effort to present the wealth of available evidence in this widely-known and documented case.
HAP concludes that arbitrary arrest and prolonged detention have been used as instruments of political repression since February 29th. We note with grave concern that in the three months since our trip, police persecution of human rights critics has escalated, marking the worst violence and increase in arrests since the February coup.
On October 2nd, 2004, Haitian police forcibly entered Haiti’s Radio Caraibes and arrested two Senators and a former Deputy from the Fanmi Lavalas party who had criticized the interim government during a radio program. The warrantless arrests were in clear violation of the detainees’ freedom of association and of expression. On October 13, 2004, Fr. Jean-Juste Gerard was dragged from his rectory at St. Claire’s Catholic Church in Port au Prince by masked heavily armed men. While no formal charges have been brought against Fr. Jean-Juste, he has been held in prison for “disturbing the peace.”
We have every reason to believe that there are now hundreds more political prisoners being held in Haitian jails. All reports indicate that the patterns we observed – illegal arrest, prolonged detention without trial – continue and in fact are worse. We hope this report will serve to illuminate the nature of Haiti’s repressive judicial regime.
Our team recorded testimony from: 1) internally displaced persons in Haiti, i.e. people who have been forced from their homes out of fear for their lives and who are now living in other areas of the country where they remain largely anonymous or have adopted false aliases; 2) survivors, family members and witnesses of human rights violations, including torture and summary execution; 3) political prisoners.
A HAP team which visited Haiti from June 29-July 9 found overwhelming evidence of what can only be characterized as a human rights disaster inside Haiti. Our findings reinforce these earlier findings, and in particular detail a systematic pattern of politically motivated imprisonment. We encountered and interviewed many people inside of Haiti’s lock-up units and prisons who appear to be political prisoners – people who have no legal justification for detention in their files and who were involved in legal pro-democracy activities. All were either suspected or actual Aristide supporters and/or members of Fanmi Lavalas. As with death squad victims and internally displaced persons, it is difficult to know just how many political prisoners there are in Haiti today, especially because it is difficult to determine the numbers of prisoners in general. However, based upon our prisoner interviews in Port au Prince, we estimate the number of political prisoners is at least in the hundreds. Among them are some of Haiti’s most well-known and respected political leaders, artists and grassroots activists. At the time of our visit, the main prison in Port au Prince, the National Penitentiary, housed the following former officials of the Constitutional government: Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, Interior Minister Jocelerme Privert, Mayor of Port au Prince Herold Severe, General Director of Sanitation Paul Keller, Director of Airport Security Rospide Petion, Chief of Presidential Security Force Anthony Nazaire, Southern district delegate Jacques Mathelier, and Parliament member Amanus Maette, to name a few. Annette Auguste, a folksinger and grassroots organizer arrested illegally by US Marines and held on spurious charges, had been transferred from the National Penitentiary to the women’s prison at Petionville.
III. The Criminal Justice System
Our delegation focused on human rights conditions within Haiti’s prison system. We concentrated our efforts on the prisons and lock-up units in the capital, Port au Prince, where we visited the National Penitentiary (NP), designated for men; Petionville Penitentiary (PV), for women; and Delmas 33 (D-33), for juveniles.
We toured lock-up units in the police stations connected to PV and D-33. At lock-up units and in the women’s prison at PV, we were able to talk with prisoners while we stood on the tiers and they stood in their cells. The prisoners at these locations could only talk to us within the presence of other prisoners. This, potentially, limited their ability to share information and ours to pose questions. At the juvenile prison, we were closely accompanied by prison officials during our attempts to talk with the children.We made at least half-a-dozen visits to the National Penitentiary where we conducted private interviews and less formal discussions with prisoners in the yard.
Altogether, we carried out 30 formal interviews at three facilities with individual prisoners who represent a broad spectrum of Haiti’s population, including a farmer, mechanic, shopkeepers, engineer, police officer, dockworker, civil engineer, musicians, as well as government delegates and heads of constitutional government departments. Their ages range from 15 to 60 years old.
Four objectives guided our tours and prisoner interviews: 1) investigate the extent to which constitutional requirements and due process are being followed from arrest, detention, court and incarceration; 2) investigate the nature of arrests and criminal charges; 3) develop an overview of the size and social-economic-political composition of the prison population; 4) inspect the conditions of detention and incarceration.
A. Haitian Judicial System Lacks Due Process, Fails To Meet Constitutional Requirements, and Serves to Detain Political Prisoners.
Haiti’s police and criminal justice system operate, in theory, according to the laws and procedures established by Haiti’s 1987 Constitution. This Constitution was designed, in part, as a response to the arbitrary and brutal exercise of State power under the Duvalier dictatorship. The Constitution thus contains very precise limitations on the powers of the State to arrest, detain, and incarcerate. Following are the constitutional mandates that we examined:
& people may not be arrested between the hours of 6 PM and 6 AM, except if the police see a crime being committed or are in hot pursuit;
& arrests must be accompanied by a written warrant, with a copy given to the arrestee;
& detainees may not be held beyond 48 hours unless they are brought before a judge who determines that there is legitimate cause (prosecutors must make the argument) for ongoing detention and for a formal police investigation;
& within 90 days of their incarceration, citizens must be scheduled for trial or released;
& indigent citizens are guaranteed legal representation by the State;
& citizens cannot be prosecuted for crimes that are not specifically defined by Haiti’s criminal code.
In our meetings with prisoners, family members and human rights organizations, HAP developed an extensive and detailed understanding of each step in the Haitian Justice System: from arrest, to formal hearing, through inspection, to release or trial – or as in most cases – prolonged detention. We found significant evidence of illegal arrests. Even when arrest warrants were presented, they often contained an array of arbitrary charges. In many cases, no charge was made at all during or after arrest. Virtually no prisoner received a hearing (the equivalent of an arraignment) within the constitutionally mandated 48 hour period following arrest. Most prisoners had made at least one appearance before an investigating magistrate during their months in detention. Often, the pattern of questions before the investigating magistrate did not correlate to given charges. HAP learned of several cases where the investigating magistrate ordered a prisoner released, only to have such orders blocked by the Ministry of Justice or Haitian Police (PNH).
1. Arrests target leaders of Fanmi Lavalas and supporters of President Aristide
Arrest and detainment in the period following February 29th targeted peasants; the chronically under- and unemployed; residents of marginal communities; and the politically active. Moreover, a number of prisoners we interviewed were former members of the constitutional government. They include former government ministers, members of Parliament, former mayors and other civic officials, former police, and individuals alleged to have a personal connection with President Aristide.
Given the wholesale absence of trials for prisoners since February 29th, it is logical to conclude the de facto government intends to keep these political prisoners under prolonged detention. Indeed, the disparity between the highly irregular re-trial and acquittal of former FRAPH leader Jodel Chamblain for the murder of Antoine Izmery, versus the dozens of former officials who do not even have a trial date underscores the partisan approach to “justice” by the de facto government.
2. Arrests violate the Constitution
We documented a number of illegal arrests, based on two clear violations of the Haitian Constitution of 1987: absence of arrest warrants and arrest at unconstitutional hours.
Arrest warrants were presented in only three out of the twenty-nine cases where we were able to make a determination. The three arrest warrants were reserved for officials in the highest levels of government – ministers and deputies. Thus, 90% of arrests we examined were executed without a legal warrant from a Prosecutor or investigating magistrate.
Six out of thirty prisoners reported their arrests were conducted in the middle of the night. While night-time arrests may not offend the sensibilities of the casual reader, the Haitians we talked to were uniformly outraged at this violation of their constitution. It’s not hard to appreciate the significance of this provision in the constitution, given Duvalier’s brutal Tonton Macoutes, who often operated in the dead of night.
3. Foreign Soldiers and Irregular Forces Make Arrests Along With Haitian Police
In our survey of men at the National Penitentiary, HAP documented an array of forces making arrests. While regular police forces of the Haitian Police (PNH) were involved in the majority of cases (at least 20), special forces were employed in the arrests of at least three higher level government officials. In some of these arrests, the PNH was accompanied by foreign troops, such as US Marines, Canadian or other UN soldiers. In other arrest situations, foreign or irregular forces conducted arrests themselves, including US Marines and paramilitary forces. One arrest, that of Presidential Security Chief J. Anthony Nazaire, is noteworthy because he initially revealed his location to US federal agents in order arrange a meeting with them, only to be greeted by members of the Front (Front pour la Reconstruction Nationale), the political party of coup leader, Guy Phillipe. The circumstances surrounding Nazaire’s arrest suggests coordination among US, foreign and Haitian security forces.
4. Prisoners Were Often Brutalized and Sometimes Tortured Following Arrest
There are incidents of official terrorism against political prisoners which are noteworthy because they suggest a level of cooperation between regular police and irregular paramilitary forces (i.e. the Front). Former police officers (now incarcerated) with whom we met confided that the DCPJ (Directeur Central de la Police Judiciare) served as a clearing-house for torture and assassinations.
In some cases, security forces terrorized arrestees by threatening to kill them. Amanus Maette, a former Lavalas deputy from St. Marc, reported that he was picked-up at his house by masked men wearing black uniforms. They cuffed his hands, chained his legs and put a bag over his head. They drove him around and threatened to kill him unless he gave-up the names of Lavalas members. They deposited him at the offices of the Director of Judicial Police (DCPJ) where he was questioned by Director Michael Lucius. Four hours after his initial arrest, Maette reports he was re-cuffed, re-chained, again hooded, and taken away in a truck. Security forces again threatened to kill him for not talking, before eventually taking him to the Petionville police station.
Roland Dauphin, former customs worker from St. Marc, was “kept off the books” of Delmas 33 police lock-up unit for four days after what he described as a kidnapping by paramilitary troops. He states he was twice taken out of the jail in the middle of the night during this period, cuffed and hooded, and driven around. He assumed he would be killed. The car stopped and he was ordered to get out and lay on the ground. Shots were fired at the ground around his body without actually striking him.
5. Police Use Arbitrary Charges
Arbitrary charges were widely used by arresting authorities. In two cases, we identified prisoners who were told their detention was not an “arrest.” Deputy Amanus Maette was told his detention was an “interpolation.” Five months later, he had yet to make his first appearance before a judge. The Director of Sanitation for Port au Prince was initially told his case was “under study,” and no specific charge could be given at the time. Another was shown a blank warrant, with his name but no charge listed. In five of the cases we studied, individuals were swept off the street and later accused of “gang affiliation.” The “gang affiliation” charge was also applied to Anthony Nazaire, Chief of Presidential Security, and Harold Severe, Mayor of Port au Prince. In five other cases, prisoners still had no knowledge of the charges pending against them, even after months in prison.
Others have been charged with unsubstantiated crimes like arson, kidnapping and murder - a farmer accused of assassinating a man he doesn’t know, a businessman accused of kidnapping a man who is alive and well in the Bahamas, a musician charged with ransacking a money transfer office whose owner disavows the charge. The failure of the Haitian Judiciary to provide carefully-considered, formal and legal warrants in so many cases seems to contribute to the propagation of bogus charges.
6. Trial by Media
A number of prisoners commented on evident media bias and the phenomenon of “trial by media” in which radio stations propagate rumors and criminal accusations against political activists. These media outlets tend to be owned by or connected to members of the anti-President Aristide forces like the Group of 184. Typically, a caller makes an unsubstantiated charge against someone on a call-in radio show. This happened to Annette Auguste when a Haitian national called in to RadioVision2000 with the sensational story that she had witnessed Auguste sacrifice a baby in a ceremony back in March 2000. Though the story contained significant contradictions, and unsubstantiated facts, the allegation was widely repeated in the media, and became the pretext for the Minister of Justice to enforce her detention.
Another imprisoned Lavalas supporter, musician Bruno Jean Renald (“Ti Pay”), described a media campaign in which he was accused over the radio of having ransacked a money transfer station. Despite the owner’s disavowal of the media account, the accusation stood, and the campaign continued unabated for some three months eventually leading to his arrest.
Both the Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior reported that radio stations spread rumors about their alleged role in violent disruptions in St. Marc, 45 miles northwest of the capital city Port au Prince, in mid-February in which members of the opposition and Fanmi Lavalas were killed. First they were accused of being the “intellectual authors” of the violence. As accounts mushroomed, the story was amended to say the Minister of the Interior participated in the killings. Media stories virtually accused, tried and convicted these political activists for crimes which either never occurred or for which there was no evidence.
7. Prisoners Do Not Receive a Formal Hearing
Prisoners have rarely been afforded a formal hearing within the constitutionally mandated period of 48 hours. Of the twenty three cases where HAP got sufficient information to compare arrest date with first court appearances, only three met this time requirement. The average time from arrest to prisoners’ first appearance before a judge was 30 days (with a range of 1 to 151 days). This average does not include the six individuals who report having never made an appearance. Thus, 20% of our sample had not yet seen a judge. These individuals had been incarcerated for an average of 120 days.
8. Prisoners Held Beyond the Period of Inspection
Half of our sample group had been incarcerated more than 90 days, and thus had exceeded the period of investigation -- the time given to the judge to investigate the case and determine whether sufficient evidence exists to proceed to trial, or whether the prisoner should be released. In no case did we meet a prisoner who had been tried and convicted, who was in the process of trial, or who had even been given a trial date.
9. Orders for Release Blocked by Police and Ministry of Justice
HAP heard testimony from three prisoners who had received an order of release from a judge -- only to have their release blocked by the police or judiciary. In a case dating back to early February, Judge Bredy Fabien ordered dockworker Gabriel Excellent released, citing the absence of an arrest warrant. Excellent was re-arrested by police as he left the prison. Twice more, he appeared before different judges who ordered his release, but each time the order was blocked. Musician Bruno Jean Renald, known as “Ti Pay” was ordered released in mid-May for lack of evidence, but his release was blocked by Prosecutor Pierre Daniel Audain. A month later, Renald went before the same judge, who again recommended his release. At the time of our interview, Renald remained in prison and had no further court appearances scheduled.
Political prisoner Jacques Mathelier, former Lavalas government delegate, was questioned at the end of June about an alleged arson. Mathelier states the judge informed him a few weeks later that there was no basis for the charge and he would be released. Mathelier believes the de facto Attorney General blocked the release at the behest of his boss, Bernard Gousse, de facto Minister of Justice. Exant Pierre Sylvain also had an order for release, but stated that it’s “impossible” for the interim government to let him go. Judge Bredy Fabien reportedly told former Presidential Security Chief Anthony Nazaire, former Sanitation Director Paul Keller, former Airport Security Director Rospide Petion and former Port au Prince Mayor Harold Severe he could find no evidence of criminal activity. However, Fabien indicated political pressure prevented him from ordering their release. “It’s not up to me. You must remain in prison.” The main obstacle for political prisoners would appear to be political opposition from the interim government.
10. Judge’s questions appear to be a Political Witchhunt
In their various appearances before Judge Bredy Fabien, prisoners relate that the line of questioning bears little if any relationship to their charges. For example, Nazaire was asked the following questions:
“Were you born in Port Salut?” [President Aristide’s hometown]
“Is it true you are Aristide’s cousin?”
“Did Aristide employ you to deal drugs from the National Palace?”
“Who gave money to have the demonstration in the street?”
At no time did Fabien question him about “gang affiliation” -- his alleged “crime.” Judge Fabien asked similarly broad questions of Harold Severe:
“Who in the National Palace used to give money to the chimere to be part of the rally?”
“Did Aristide ever give you weapons to distribute to people?”
“Where were you on 5 Dec?”
Severe indicated that all prisoners receive the same line of questioning from Fabien. This line of questioning confirmed our impression that a political witchhunt was underway.
11. US military forces, federal agents and the US Embassy participate in illegal arrests, interrogation and threats against political prisoners
The testimony of prisoners exposed disturbing details about the US role in arresting political prisoners. The influence and involvement of US authorities persisted in the days, weeks, and months following the coup, up to the present date.
US Marines were deployed to arrest Haitians and deliver them to prison. The best known example was the illegal warrantless midnight arrest of Annette Auguste (So-Anne). US Marines broke into her home, put hoods on family members including four children, and made them lay down on the floor. The marines ransacked rooms, took possessions, and even shot pet dogs dead in the yard. Auguste was initially taken along with other family members to the US barracks.
US Marines took custody of other prisoners, sometimes for extended periods. Four key government officials reported they were maintained under the authority of US Marines in highly irregular detention on an offshore boat for 20 days. Assistant US Ambassador Luis Moreno along with Police Director Leon Charles reportedly supervised the arrest and detention of these four men (see Appendix, Prisoner Narratives).
According to prisoner accounts, the DEA and FBI interrogated prisoners regarding allegations of drug dealing. US Marines reportedly controlled a portion of the National Penitentiary where one prisoner was isolated and interrogated for an entire month.
12. Allegations of inappropriate and illegal behavior by human rights organization
In our first report, HAP described the role played by the National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR) in the arrests of members of Fanmi Lavalas. This delegation found in addition that NCHR played a role in the interrogation of political prisoners.
The delegation spoke with prisoners who were visited by Marie Yolene Gilles of NCHR. Gilles allegededly visited several prisoners on the pretext of protecting their human rights. She inquired about their injuries, especially in cases where they were beaten during arrest. When she arrived at the Petionville police station to interrogate the Director of Airport Security, Rospide Petion, after his arrest, Petion states that she said in the presence of reporters, “We know you crashed the radio tower.”
According to Roland Dauphin, customs worker, Gilles sought him out at the Delmas 33 police station, offering a deal for information. She reportedly urged him to implicate the Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior in an alleged massacre of Aristide opponents in St. Marc, promising him money and safe haven in the US. When he balked, Dauphin reported that Gilles made a phone call to show she had the authority to deliver the deal. According to Dauphin, Gilles spoke English during the telephone call and identified the other party as a US Embassy official. Dauphin had nothing to say, and Gilles left her business card in case he “changed his mind.”
Deputy Amanus Maette told us that Gilles offered him a similar bribe. According to Maette, she pledged to secure his release, provided he would “name names.”
B. Prison Conditions
1. Police and Guard Brutality
In separate interviews with prisoners, we uncovered testimony that reveals the possibility of institutional links between the Haitian police force and death squad activity. We interviewed one former police officer who had been part of elite anti-terrorist and presidential security units and who had been trained by the US State Department. This officer was arrested, he argued, because of his extensive experience on the force and because he worked for Aristide. He disclosed to us that DCPJ officers, operating out of a station near the Port au Prince airport, were involved in political arrests and killings utilizing black bags placed over people’s heads. Another prisoner reported that police officers abducted him, placed a black bag over his head, and terrorized him while they shot and killed others in his presence. He further stated that he, along with other prisoners, endured extensive torture at the hands of Anti-Gang unit police, including the head officer, in the Central Police Station in Port au Prince. He identified two of these police (not the head officer) as being part of the group of “arresting officers” who terrorized him and killed others. He stated that other prisoners—including former police officers-- could verify this claim. Other prisoners also reported beatings by guards at the NP and the PV lock-up unit. Prisoner testimony later in this report recounts details about some of these incidents.
It is not encouraging to learn that the US State Department initially selected a US prison consultant, Terry Stewart, to oversee reform of Haiti’s prisons. Mr. Stewart’s previous position was consultant to Abu Ghraib. During the time he served as director of Arizona’s prison system (1995-2002), the US Justice Department brought a suit charging male prison guards with rape, sodomy and assault against fourteen female inmates.
After the February 29th coup, prisoners throughout Haiti were released when armed factions opposed to the constitutional government laid siege to police stations, lock-up units, and prisons. Estimates place the prison population at that time at over 3,000. At the time of our visit, we found the prisons were full. Very few persons in detention before had been re-apprehended. Instead, the prisons (-- those not damaged in the coup) were filled to capacity with an astonishing number of former constitutional government officials as well as ordinary citizens who had been rounded up and jailed for months, many without warrants or hearings. Reports out of Port au Prince for the months September and October 2004 indicate that hundreds more arrests have occurred since our visit.
Overcrowding was rampant in both the lock-up areas and prisons. In NP, there were reportedly 730 prisoners as of August 2004. This population was housed in 26 “dormitories,” cells about 12 by 20 feet in size. Some twenty to thirty men were being held in these cells. While we walked through the cell blocks, we saw men so tightly packed that people were forced to sleep in shifts. There was not enough space for everyone to lie down simultaneously. Many did not have a bunk bed, let alone a mattress. Prisoners are locked up from 4PM until 9AM daily. Ventilation was atrocious and the heat intense. In one cell block, we saw an older man whose extreme emaciation and physical symptoms suggested that he had tuberculosis.
Similar conditions of overcrowding were evident in the juvenile prison. There, we found 24 boys distributed in three small cells that opened directly via barred doors onto an outside dirt compound surrounded by walls topped with barbed wire. Their ages ranged from 14 to 17 years old. The cells had no toilets, lights or windows. We saw no water. The sun beat down on the open cells. Most of the children lacked mattresses and blankets; they were sleeping on bare floors. There were small “pee” jars on the floor in the corner. The smell of urine and waste was pervasive. The boys are released two hours a day into the enclosed area outside the cell where there are concrete benches and a table.
These children have no hope of release without advocacy. They are either orphans, or their family is unaware of their circumstances. They have no visitors and no legal support. The system itself prevents them from having a court hearing because currently there is no juvenile judge.
Conditions at the women’s prison at Petionville were similar. During a tour of the facility, we spoke with political prisoner Annette Auguste (“So Anne”), outside her cell. She told us about conditions for the 48 women prisoners. Until two weeks prior to our August 11th visit, the prison housed both men and women. Women slept seven to a cell designed for four occupants. After all but three men were transferred to another facility, there are four women to a cell, but conditions remain difficult. The cells have no toilets, no windows, no water and no electricity. It is very hot. The women are locked down from 5PM until 5AM. No outdoor recreation is permitted. Visiting is two hours, twice a week, but children cannot visit. There were women who had been jailed for up to four to five months without a hearing or representation by attorneys. Some report they were not able to make phone calls because guards refuse them access to a telephone.
3. Absence of Work and Educational Programs
Recreation time at each facility varies from two to four hours outside the cells each day.
There were no work programs at the facilities we visited. According to prison administrators, prior to the February 29th coup, such programs were offered. The juvenile cells at Delmas 33 face a small courtyard containing a blackboard and a few chairs, but there is no educational program. The elected government built a separate holding facility for juveniles and increased funding for juvenile detainees, but during the coup, this facility was ransacked and destroyed. Since the coup, a part of Delmas 33—which had not formerly been a site for juvenile detention-- was designated for incoming juvenile arrestees at the recommendation of the UN Human Rights Officer.
Delmas 33 staff member Jude Polone stated that since February 29th, the de facto government had reduced funding for these juveniles by 50%. Currently, the State provides approximately 20 cents per day for each juvenile detainee. This funding is all that is available to cover costs of juvenile incarceration (education, social programs, etc.) except for food.
3. Inadequate Nutrition and Health Care
At the juvenile facility, prison staff showed us the weekly menu. Meals are served twice a day, consisting of rice and/or corn meal and beans. Meat is served twice a week. Similar food is provided at all facilities we visited. The prison staff said they could not afford to provide the juveniles with fruit, vegetables, milk or juice.
Safe drinking water was an important health issue in all facilities visited by the delegation. Prisoners are provided the same tainted water for drinking and bathing. Only those whose families can afford to purchase and bring bottled water have access to clean water. At the juvenile prison, guards showed us stores of bottled water in the storage facility, but we saw no evidence the water was being distributed to the children.
In several sites, prisoners told us that they received what appears to be the same pill for medical “treatment,” regardless of the problem. Moreover, we encountered evidence of prisoners not receiving appropriate treatment for serious wounds and health ailments.
IV. Conclusion: Haitian Judiciary Succeeds as an Instrument of Political Repression
The preponderance of evidence demonstrates the failure of the interim government in the arena of the judiciary. The police administrators we met with blamed this on the chaos following the events of February 29, concluding that the judiciary is overloaded with cases. If this judiciary were merely overloaded, we would expect to find at least some cases at each step of the judicial process, as the system worked within its limited capacity. That was not the case. Rather we found case after case stalled (or blocked) in the early stages of the judicial process. HAP found a disturbing lack of due process. Few prisoners had received a formal hearing, several prisoners had been ordered released but were in fact detained, and no one we interviewed was in the process of trial. Furthermore, the concentration of political prisoners, as well as prisoners who represent the base of Fanmi Lavalas, is persuasive evidence of a highly biased judicial system. HAP concludes that arbitrary arrest and prolonged detention have been used as instruments of political repression since February 29th.
Appendix: Prisoner Narratives
Part of our mission is to tell the stories of prisoners who would otherwise be silenced. Some are political prisoners, persons who have been arrested and detained because of their political views, activism and/or role in the constitutional government; others are representative of Haiti’s poor - political victims randomly targeted by violence and repression. They agreed to speak with us, to use their names and stories, in order to expose the unconstitutional and illegal circumstances of their arrests and detention and to move the international human rights community to action.
These accounts are instructive of the level of coordination that existed between a variety of US and Haitian agencies. US embassy officials, US Marines, Haitian police and paramilitary forces, de facto government officials, Haitian media and human rights groups associated with the Group of 184 have all played a role in the political repression.
The Four Boat “VIPs”
Two weeks after the coup, four members of President Aristide’s government were arrested, all within about 48 hours. None was served with a warrant or legally charged with a crime at the time of their arrest. All are united by a harrowing tale of detention and psychological torture while in US custody. All consider themselves political prisoners.
The first is Jacques Anthony Nazaire, Chief of the Presidential Security Force, who stated that he received a message to contact US federal agents on Friday, March 12th, less than two weeks after the coup. Nazaire arranged to meet US agents, but instead encountered members of the Front and Haitian police who placed him under arrest. His car and cash were taken. He was later shown a warrant charging him with “gang affiliation.” Around midnight, Nazaire reports that Assistant US Ambassador Luis Moreno interrogated him at the Petionville police station, attempting to get information about alleged drug dealing, demanding “Which drug dealer used to give you money? How was the deal done?” The Assistant Ambassador allegedly punched Nazaire on his badly injured hand before leaving.
The following morning, Paul Keller, General Director of Sanitation, was detained by Haitian Special Forces police at Toussaint L’Ouverture Internationale Aeroport, on his way to a dermatological appointment in Boston, MA. Keller told us that after clearing the airline check-in, he was stopped at the boarding gate by officers who informed him, “You can’t leave, because you’re the Director General.” Though no arrest warrant was presented, the police explained, “We’re just starting a case against you – it’s a study case.” Then the officers mentioned 5 Dec, and asked if he knew Zap Zap (“Zap Zap” leads a RahRah band which had been hired to play on the streets outside the State University during the protest there). They confiscated Keller’s passport, cash, identification papers and US Green Card. Keller was also taken to Petionville police station.
Rospide Petion, who headed Airport Security, told HAP interviewers that he was captured Sunday morning, March 14th, while in hiding, by a group of approximately 15 CIMO (SWAT team) officers. Petion reports that they forced him to the ground, beat him, and loaded him into one of their two vehicles. They put a black sack over his head and demanded $50,000 to set him free. De facto Police Director Leon Charles was informed by phone that Petion was in custody. At the police station, Charles interrogated Petion, saying he would be given a chance if he informed authorities where Lavalas members were hiding. Petion replied that he didn’t know, whereupon Charles threatened him with prison. Petion protested that he was arrested without a warrant, to which Charles scoffed, “Aristide is gone now.” Eventually, Petion reports he was taken to another room where he was told to speak with a representative of NCHR and the media. When he refused, Leon Charles reappeared, demanding to know, “Why are you refusing to speak to them? It’s for your own good.” Marie Yolene Gilles, NCHR, then took over the interrogation, saying, “We know you crashed the radio tower.” At a later point, journalists approached him, inquiring about his alleged role in the case of the radio antenna. Petion refused to speak with them, asserting his rights as a prisoner.
Harold Severe was elected Mayor of Port au Prince in May 2000, and strongly identifies with Fanmi Lavalas. He reported that he was picked-up at the airport by members of the civil police Sunday afternoon en route to Miami to visit his mother. No arrest warrant was produced. Instead, he was told his charge was, “Being a member of the Aristide Government.” Severe told HAP interviewers that police asked him for a bribe, and later took his cash. Shortly thereafter, four masked men in black uniforms carrying M-16 rifles took custody of Severe and brought him to Petionville police station.
Within an hour, a convoy of nine vehicles pulled up. All four prisoners, who at the time of their arrests had in common only their respective positions in the Constitutional government, report that they were handcuffed and summoned from their cells to leave the prison. They counted seven cars bearing Corps Diplomatique plates from the US Embassy. Two PNH vehicles completed the line-up. A helicopter hovered overhead. The men recognized Assistant US Ambassador Luis Moreno and Police Director Leon Charles. US Marines and Haitian police provided security. All four were put in the same Embassy vehicle. They were not told their destination, and they feared for their safety. The convoy took off, followed by the helicopter buzzing low overhead. At first, they guessed they were headed to the National Penitentiary in downtown Port au Prince. When the car took the wrong turns for the penitentiary, they assumed they might be going directly to the US Embassy. But the convoy continued out of the city towards Carrefour. The men believed they would be killed. Eventually, they arrived at the Coast Guard Station, and the car drove all the way out to the end of the dock. The men estimate 200 armed militaries were stationed on the dock. An announcement was made, reminding the militaries that these prisoners should be considered “dangerous.” As they were taken out of the car, they report that Assistant US Ambassador Moreno instructed them to leave behind their passports and any remaining documents, commenting cryptically that they “wouldn’t need them.”
Guards led the four prisoners onto a 21 foot yacht, waiting at the end of the pier. The men were kept handcuffed and placed in the cabin under the guard of Haitian “marines.” The boat left the Coast Guard Station and cruised to a distance offshore, where it remained. Two smaller crafts constantly circled the larger boat, manned by US marines. These patrol boats had large caliber M-60 machine guns mounted on front and back. Security was very tight. No fishing boats were allowed to get near the yacht. US Marines even threatened to shoot Haitian police bringing food to the Haitian guards on the main boat. The prisoners report that US Marines continually asserted their authority, each night boarding the boat to check that they were securely handcuffed. At random times, the marines would aim their laser sighting devices from their M-16 rifles on both the prisoners and Haitian police. The prisoners felt this tactic was intended to terrorize them.
Initially, the prisoners report that US Marines ordered they be kept without food, without water for bathing, and without sleep. After three days of this harsh treatment, the Haitian guards implored them to let up. The prisoners were given rations (”American food, which we didn’t care for”) and a single, 5 gallon bucket of water with which to wash. Although they were allowed to sleep, conditions in the cabin were so cramped that they had little room to lie down and had to sleep in shifts. Eventually, the prisoners were taken back to the dock to shower twice a week. During this brief time, they were allowed to visit with family members. Each time the yacht returned to its previous offshore location. The prisoners were never questioned or interrogated on the boat. They believe the strategy was intended to torture them psychologically and to break their will. The regimen continued for twenty days. Eventually the men were transferred to the National Penitentiary, where they remain today.
All four prisoners were called before Judge Bredy Fabien in April. Fabien asked Nazaire whether Aristide had employed him to deal drugs in the National Palace. Fabien called him back a month later (following the arrest of Annette Auguste) to ask the same questions. Nazaire reports that Judge Fabien admitted he could find no evidence of criminal activity on his part, but explained, “It’s not up to me. You must remain in prison.”
Keller was called before Fabien nearly 30 days after his arrest. Fabien questioned him about the events surrounding 5 Dec. Not having any information, Keller had nothing to say. Keller’s last appearance before Fabien was May 12th, when there still were no formal charges made against him.
When Severe went before Fabien, he learned that someone from his neighborhood had accused him of involvement in the December 5th attack on the State University faculty building. Fabien asked him, “Who in the National Palace used to give money to the chimere? Are you aware of So Anne distributing weapons and money to the chimere?” Did Aristide ever give you weapons to distribute to the people? Was Zap-Zap involved in attacking the rectory of the university on 5 Dec? Where were you on 5 Dec?”
The prisoners fear for their own safety, as well as those of family members. The mother of Nazaire’s child was reportedly tipped-off by a cousin of Guy Phillipe that she was the target of a kidnapping. By moving, she escaped the kidnapping, but lost her vehicle. Petion recounts with emotion that police went to his home while he was in hiding and forced his young children (4 years and 17 months) to lay on the floor while they interrogated their mother about his whereabouts. When they left, they took his wife’s car and jewelry. To this day, Petion is haunted by the thought of his terrified children crying for their father under these circumstances.
Antoine Daoud is a small farmer from just outside Port au Prince. He was at the bus station at about 7AM the morning of June 28th when two agents grabbed him, cuffed and bound him, and took him to Commissariat de Port au Prince where he was charged with assassination. When he denied the charge, police told him to shut up or they would tape his mouth. While in custody, he was beaten by other prisoners. Six weeks after his arrest, he had not been served a warrant, had not appeared before a judge, and had no attorney. His wife and five children didn’t know where he was, and were without resources to support themselves. He was wearing the pair of shorts he had at the time of his arrest, and a shirt given him by another prisoner. He had effectively been “disappeared.”
Dauphin was a customs worker in Port au Prince. He reported that he was kidnapped by members of the Front on March 1, 2004 at the Delmas 33 police station where he went to see friends. There were 150-200 armed soldiers, among whom he recognized Guy Philippe. He was accused of gang affiliation. Later, he was charged with the alleged “massacre at La Scierie” in St. Marc. He told us he was twice taken from his cell at night for interrogation. The second time, Front members wearing masks came for him. They put a hood over his head, cuffed him, and drove him around. They forced him to lie on the ground. He thought they would kill him. While imprisoned, paramilitary forces burned down his house. His father was inside and died in the fire.
Marie Yolene Gilles of NCHR eventually interrogated Dauphin, claiming that they knew he was a member of Balewouze, a pro-Lavalas popular organization. Dauphin reports that Gilles offered him an American visa if he would testify that Neptune and Privert were responsible for the alleged massacre at La Scerie. The NCHR spokeswoman telephoned the US embassy, speaking in English, and then indicated authorities were prepared to release him immediately and secure his safety. She gave Dauphin her card and said to think about the offer.
Bruno Jean Renald
Bruno Jean Renald, known as “Ti Pay” is a well-known singer who is particularly popular with youth. He infuses his “roots” music with a pro-social justice message. Like Peter Tosh and Bob Marley, Renald sings about and for the poor majority. His band is called “Rev” for revolution. Renald identifies himself as a political prisoner.
Renald was living with his wife in Port au Prince. After February 29th, he reports that local media began a campaign accusing him of ransacking a money transfer office. In response, the owner of the office called into the radio and said that Renald was not involved. Despite this, Renald was arrested at his home months later by Canadian soldiers and members of the National Police. They told him that he was being arrested for ransacking the office, but did not present him with a warrant. One of the Canadians said to Renald, “they don’t like you.” The detachment took his passport and conveyed him to the local police station; he was later transferred to the National Penitentiary.
On May 14th, Renald went before Judge Bernard Saint Vil who reportedly issued a recommendation for his release. However, Renald believes prosecutor Pierre Daniel Audain blocked it. Over a month later, he returned to court, where the same judge again recommended his release, but the recommendation was again blocked. Renald has had no further contact with the judge or the courts.
Jacques Mathelier was a government delegate from Les Cayes in southern Haiti. He defines himself as a political prisoner and victim of the political repression targeting Aristide supporters and Fanmi Lavalas. Following the coup, his house was destroyed and he went into hiding, eventually reaching New York where he stayed with his brother.
After returning to Haiti, Mathelier was arrested on June 26th on charges of arson and attempted assassination. Mathelier saw Judge Ezechiel in Les Cayes twice. On July 12th, Mathelier states that the judge declared there was no basis for the charges against him and authorized his release. However, Mathelier believes that Attorney General Eugene Joseph blocked his release in conformity with the wishes of his boss, Bernard Gousse, de facto Minister of Justice. He was transferred out of Judge Ezechiel’s jurisdiction to the NP on July 14th where he has remained with no further court appointments.
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Posted Dec. 7, 2021