(This report covers the period January-December 1997)     Little progress was made in bringing those responsible for human rights violations to justice. Investigation and trial procedures continued to fall short of international standards. Most people detained in 1996 accused of plotting to overthrow the government were released without charge, but others remained in detention without trial. Four others were arrested on similar charges during the year. There were frequent reports of ill-treatment and some reports of torture. At least two people died in detention. More than 20 people were shot dead by police in disputed circumstances, in some cases suggesting possible extrajudicial execution. The government of President René Préval faced a serious political crisis after Prime Minister Rosny Smarth resigned in June in protest at the outcome of senatorial elections in April. The majority party in parliament, the Organisation politique Lavalas (opl), Lavalas Political Organization, alleged that two seats won by candidates from the Famille Lavalas, Lavalas Family, the party of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, had been won fraudulently and called for the resignation of the Permanent Electoral Council. Divisions within the Lavalas movement, which had brought both President Préval and his predecessor to power, increased and by the end of the year President Préval had been unable to nominate a new prime minister acceptable to a majority in the parliament. The political crisis led to severe delays in parliamentary business including the passage of the judicial reform bill which had been introduced in 1996 (see Amnesty International Report 1997). Nevertheless, a report prepared by the Commission préparatoire à la réforme du droit et de la justice en Haïti, Preparatory Commission for the Reform of Law and Justice in Haiti, proposing a 10-year plan of action, was presented to the Minister of Justice in December. The mandate of the UN Transition Mission in Haiti (untmih), formerly the UN Support Mission in Haiti (unsmih), ended in November. The UN Security Council voted to replace it with a 300-strong UN Police Mission in Haiti (unpmih), which was mandated to remain in the country until at least May 1998. Some 500 us troops remained in the country under a separate bilateral agreement. In December the joint Organization of American States/ UN International Civilian Mission in Haiti (micivih) was mandated by the UN General Assembly to remain in the country until 31 December 1998. Several violent attacks on political figures, including the murder of parliamentary deputy Louis Emilio Passé in October, gave rise to speculation that at least some of the attacks might have been politically motivated or even perpetrated by government employees, although little concrete evidence of this came to light. However, three prison guards were being sought in connection with the killing of the deputy. One was detained but had not been brought to trial by the end of the year. In September President Préval announced the imminent establishment of a committee to follow up the recommendations made by the Commission nationale de vérité et de justice (cnvj), National Commission of Truth and Justice, in its 1996 report relating to human rights violations carried out between 1991 and 1994 under the de facto military government of General Raoul Cédras (see Amnesty International Report 1997). However, by the end of the year the committee did not appear to have been set up. There were reports that some of those who had given evidence to the cnvj were facing intimidation from those named as responsible for human rights violations and that some of the latter were posing as victims in order to gain access to information for the purposes of retaliation. In November the Office de la protection du citoyen, Citizens' Protection Office, established under the provisions of the 1987 Constitution to protect individuals against all forms of abuse from state employees, opened for the first time. Within the first two weeks, dozens of complaints, including allegations of ill-treatment, had reportedly been received. Little progress was made in bringing those responsible for human rights violations, past or present, to justice. The ongoing failure of the government to take prompt and effective steps to address serious deficiencies in the justice system remained the greatest obstacle to overcoming impunity. Although a few alleged perpetrators of human rights abuses under the de facto military government of General Raoul Cédras were brought to trial, most were acquitted, usually for lack of evidence. For example, there were public protests in Jacmel in September when a former soldier was acquitted. He had been court-martialled in 1993 and sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment for the murder in 1993 of Marie Delaine Nicolas, who had refused his advances, but his original conviction had never been confirmed by the army high command. The prosecution had failed to produce any evidence or witnesses and there were allegations that the jury contained several former soldiers. In such cases, witnesses were generally reported to be reluctant to testify for fear of reprisals. Preparations continued for the trial of several people accused of involvement in the massacre of some 50 people in Raboteau, Gonaïves, in 1994 (see Amnesty International Reports 1995 to 1997). The trial was expected to take place in early 1998. Further arrests were made and by the end of the year 22 people were in custody facing several charges, including murder. In March one of the accused escaped from custody during a court hearing related to the case and was not recaptured. Three prison guards, who were detained and accused of complicity in the escape, were later released but dismissed from the prison service. Investigation and trial procedures for all detainees, including some detained on suspicion of having committed politically motivated offences, fell short of international standards and long delays in bringing detainees to trial resulted in severe overcrowding in the prisons. In November 1996 the government had set up a special commission to find ways of speeding up the judicial process and as a result of the commission's recommendations, many cases were reviewed and some detainees released. Most of those detained during 1996 on suspicion of plotting against the authorities were released. They included all but one of those arrested in August 1996 at the offices of the political party Mobilisation pour le développement national (mdn), Mobilization for National Development, who had spent almost a year in detention without trial (see Amnesty International Report 1997). However, a few, including former General Claude Raymond and Evans François, brother of Michel François, the former police chief under the military government, remained in detention and had not been tried by the end of the year. In November, four people were detained, accused of plotting against the government. They included former police chief and presidential candidate Léon Jeune. Despite indications that his arrest had been planned, he was allegedly arrested flagrante delicto after police fired on his house without warning. Both Léon Jeune and his chauffeur, Lony Benoit, were beaten and detained. Following legal challenges to the procedures followed to detain the two men, they were released on bail in December. The other two were believed to remain in detention. There were frequent reports of ill-treatment and some reports of torture carried out by members of the Police nationale d'Haïti (pnh), Haitian National Police. micivih reported that in the first five months of the year it had received allegations from over a hundred individuals that they had been beaten by police officers. In February Léonel Saintjuste required hospitalization for his injuries after he was reportedly beaten in Gonaïves police station. In May, as a result of an investigation by the Police Inspector General's Office, a policeman suspected of carrying out the beating was suspended. It is not clear whether any further action was taken. In September a policeman was arrested in the capital, Port-au-Prince, accused of torturing a man detained on suspicion of theft by beating and kicking him and burning him on the buttocks, neck and stomach with an iron. The Police Inspector General's Office was also reportedly investigating allegations that in September a man suspected of participating in a "popular justice" killing had been beaten with cables and batons and had his arm broken in Gros Morne police station. In October, two gang leaders were reported to have died following a shoot-out with police in Port-au-Prince. However, subsequent reports indicated that the two men had been beaten to death in Delmas police station. An official investigation was reportedly still under way at the end of the year. In November the pnh director denied allegations that Léon Jeune and Lony Benoit (see above) had been beaten when they were arrested. It was not clear whether an official investigation was ordered. The pnh were also reportedly responsible for over 20 fatal shootings, some of which may have been extrajudicial executions. In February Nicholas Métellus, a pawnbroker, was shot dead in the town of St Marc. According to witnesses, Nicholas Métellus, who was reportedly unarmed, was shot without warning inside his home by a police officer. The shooting occurred while police were seeking to arrest protesters who had been throwing rocks at them. A police inquiry was opened into the killing but the outcome was not known at the end of the year. In September a police patrol in Port-au-Prince reportedly shot and killed a suspect after he had been arrested and handcuffed. An investigation was reportedly opened into the incident and the officers involved were suspended. Although official investigations were opened by the police authorities into most reported cases of ill-treatment, torture and fatal shootings and several of those responsible were removed from their posts, only a few were detained and charged and few, if any, were brought to trial. A police report on the killing of at least eight people in Cité Soleil in March 1996 (see Amnesty International Report 1997), although reportedly completed, was never made public. Little progress was made in investigations into killings of government opponents in suspicious circumstances in the previous two years. A man said to be an auxiliary of the Unité de securité presidentielle, Presidential Security Unity – the body which is responsible for the personal safety of the President and which was reorganized during 1997 – whose arrest was being sought in connection with the killing of mdn members Antoine Leroy and Jacques Florival (see Amnesty International Report 1997), was reportedly shot dead by police in a shoot-out in Léogane in December In February an Amnesty International delegation visited the country and met government officials. While welcoming the serious efforts being made by the Justice Ministry to prosecute those responsible for the Raboteau massacre, the delegates expressed concern that such efforts did not appear to extend to other cases, either past or present. They also urged the authorities to speedily implement the recommendations of the cnvj, including the much needed reform of the justice system and the question of compensation for victims of human rights violations which occurred during the period of the de facto military government of General Raoul Cédras. In November the organization wrote to President Préval calling for an independent investigation into the reported ill-treatment of Léon Jeune and Lony Benoit and seeking clarification of their legal situation and the procedures followed to arrest them. It also urged the President to ensure that all security personnel were held accountable for their actions.

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