Events of 1993

Human Rights Developments

In the second full year since a military junta overthrew freely elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on September 30, 1991, Haiti descended further into the depths of terror and lawlessness. Held hostage to the personal whims of army commander Gen. Raoul Cédras, police chief Lt. Col. Michel François, and the paramilitary death squads under their command, Haiti was brutalized into submission.

Well over 1,500 people were estimated by Haitian and international human rights monitors to have been killed by soldiers and paramilitary thugs from the 1991 coup through most of 1993. Allforms of popular organization, crucial to the survival of those for whom there was no infrastructure in a country that is three-quarters rural, were ruthlessly suppressed by a regime that had no inclination, much less authority, to govern. Students, peasant leaders, the clergy, human rights monitors, journalists, politicians and anyone else associated with Aristide were subject to arbitrary arrest, torture or extrajudicial execution.

The army attempted systematically to eviscerate all civic, popular and professional organizations opposed to its authoritarian rule. The military junta banned meetings throughout Haiti's nine departments. All signs of public protest were swiftly and violently repressed. Wide-scale, short-term detention served successfully to intimidate and subdue. During detention, vicious beatings were the rule rather than the exception. Almost all arrests were warrantless and illegal. In 1993, among the most fiercely repressed popular organizations were the Papaye Peasants Movement and the Perodin Peasants Association.

Section chiefs, the rural military overlords, were reinstated. Soldiers and section chiefs preyed on their victims, demanding payment in exchange for freedom or to avoid torture. Those in hiding were told that they might return to their homes if they paid a fee. At military checkpoints, soldiers extorted from any who dared to travel the roads. For this, the army enjoyed absolute impunity.

With the July 3 signing of the Governors Island Accord between President Aristide and the Haitian armed forces – and accord that was to set in motion the return of Aristide's elected civilian government – generalized violence began to escalate. What is known in Haiti as insecurité – ostensibly random violence like shootings and robbery – by heavily-armed thugs increased as the military saw its prerogatives threatened. Labeled variously as tontons macoutes, zenglendos, and attachés, these paramilitary death squads had functioned over the years alternately as agents of political control or destabilization, responsible for a now-familiar pattern of egregious human rights crimes, that have rarely been punished.

As the various parties to the accord negotiated at Governors Island, New York at the end of June, the incidence and ferocity of army repression grew noticeably, with attacks rising exponentially in the months before President Aristide's scheduled October 30 return. This surge in violence was consistently reported by the Organization of American States/United Nations International Civilian Mission of human rights observers deployed since February 1993 to monitor and deter violence throughout the country.

In its press releases, the OAS/U.N. mission documented random and targeted shootings by police and armed civilians in Port-au-Prince on June 24, the day of a national strike called by various labor unions; beatings and arrests by Haitian troops and armed civilians of participants in a religious commemoration at the church of Notre Dame du Perpétuel Secours, in Port-au-Prince on June 27; and an increase in arrests and torture of nonviolent pro-Aristidedemonstrators, grassroots organizers, and journalists in the towns of Gonaïves, Zabricot, Léogâne and Les Cayes.

By mid-August, the OAS/U.N. mission reported that thirty-six arbitrary executions and suspicious deaths had occurred since July 1 – the time of the Governors Island negotiations – in Port-au-Prince alone. At the end of August, the civilian mission noted an increasing number of kidnappings and forced disappearances of grassroots activists by armed civilians, reporting ten cases in August alone. At the same time, the number of killings had risen to fifty. The OAS/U.N. mission reported the shooting deaths of at least twelve people in Port-au-Prince in just a two-day period, September 11 and 12.

On September 8, gunmen and machete-wielding thugs attacked well-wishers at the reinvestiture of democratically-elected Port-au-Prince mayor Evans Paul, a close ally of President Aristide. Three people were killed and some thirty wounded. Police agents were present but did nothing to stop the violence.

On September 11, a paramilitary death squad executed in broad daylight Haitian businessman Antoine Izméry as police agents looked on. Izméry, one of the most outspoken and best-known supporters of President Aristide, was murdered at a commemoration service at a Port-au-Prince church for the victims of the 1988 massacre at Father Aristide's St. Jean Bosco church.

On October 5, some thirty gunmen searching for Mayor Evans Paul opened fire on a political meeting being held at a Port-au-Prince hotel. Paul had fled the scene only moments before the attack. Later that day, gunmen fired on the home of Information Minister Hervé Denis.

On October 7, one day after the first foreign troops began to arrive in Haiti under a U.N. mandate (as contemplated in the Governors Island Accord), a newly created Duvalierist organization, the Front for Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH), announced a general strike. In Port-au-Prince, armed civilians and uniformed Haitian police successfully closed down the city by shooting automatic weapons at street merchants, seriously wounding at least two, according to press reports.

Minister of Justice Guy Malary, a leading attorney, was assassinated along with his driver and a bodyguard on October 14 as they were leaving the minister's office. Justice Minister Malary, a highly respected member of the interim civilian government, was responsible for introducing legislation to separate the police from the army and had worked closely with the OAS/U.N. Civilian Mission.

Throughout the year, Haiti's journalists, in their attempts to document such abuses, were among the most consistently targeted groups. In February, Radio Tropic-FM reporter Colson Dormé was knocked unconscious and abducted by thugs who accused him of belonging to President Aristide's political movement. When found on the street outside the radio station's offices six days later with his hands and legs tied and his head shaved, Dormé had been badly beaten. In June, the military cracked down on vendors of Libeté, a Creole weekly critical of the de facto regime. Only fiveof the nine radio stations that were attacked and forced to shut down during the 1991 coup resumed broadcasting.

The Right to Monitor

Human rights activists were among the first targets of the military in the early days of the coup. As the year drew to an end, they operated under increasingly menacing conditions.

On February 25, police and paramilitary thugs beat and arrested mourners at a memorial service for the victims of the Neptune ferry disaster, in which about 1,000 people died. The service had turned into an anti-government protest, with people shouting "Aristide or death." Among those who were attacked outside the national cathedral were Bishop Willy Romelus, president of the Catholic church's Justice and Peace Commission, a prominent human rights monitoring group, and human rights advocate Paul Dejean of the Karl Leveque Center and the Platform of Haitian Human Rights Organizations.

Three armed assailants looking for Jean-Claude Bajeux, head of the Ecumenical Center for Human Rights and long-time critic of the Haitian military's human rights record, descended on his home on October 4. Unable to find Mr. Bajeux, the attackers tied up and beat two housekeepers, and shot in the stomach and gravely wounded a neighbor who heard noises and came to check what was happening.

In mid-October, the Haiti office of the U.S.-based National Coalition for Haitian Refugees received a phone threat from a caller who identified himself as being under orders from the commander of the army garrison at St. Marc, a town north of Port-au-Prince. The caller also said he belonged to FRAPH, the newly formed Duvalierist organization.

Individual members of the leading monitoring group, the Platform of Haitian Human Rights Organizations, also received death threats.

The OAS/U.N. Civilian Mission was harassed by the military. Paramilitary attachés and informers for the army often sat in or loitered around the offices of the civilian mission in towns around the country. Haitians who cooperated with the Mission were arrested or threatened, especially in the Plateau Central and the Artibonite. In October, the offices of the civilian mission in Hinche in the Plateau Central were attacked by attachés, and a Haitian cleaning woman working at the offices was beaten.

U.S. Policy and Other International Response

In one of the first major human rights setbacks of the new administration, President Clinton reneged on his campaign promise not to return Haitian boat people forcibly to Haiti. In January, the incoming and outgoing administrations agreed to blockade the island with U.S. Coast Guard cutters, Navy ships and helicopters in order to prevent refugee flight. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Bush and Clinton administrations' interdiction policy. In a decision deservedly criticized by human rights and refugee policy groups, the court found that forcibly returning boat people without allowing them to state their case for asylum was not aviolation of U.S. or international law. The Clinton administration then stepped up efforts to press for a negotiated solution to the crisis that had spurred some 40,000 Haitians to flee their country. Nonetheless, even with the support of the Clinton administration, international efforts to mediate a negotiated reversal of the coup – an effort led by the U.N./OAS special envoy to Haiti, former Argentine foreign minister Dante Caputo – were repeatedly frustrated by the Haitian military leaders.

In 1993, as previously, the issue of army accountability was a recurring stumbling block in negotiations to restore President Aristide and democracy in Haiti. While the Clinton administration and the U.N. promised large amounts of economic and military assistance to entice the military, and to a lesser extent President Aristide, to pursue negotiations, the carrot-and-stick approach foundered on the issue of accountability. Aristide was under consistent pressure from U.N. Special Envoy Caputo and from Amb. Lawrence Pezzullo, special envoy for President Clinton, to make concessions on the Haitian army's accountability for its crimes.

Before coming to a settlement, General Cédras required guarantees that President Aristide's opponents would be immune from prosecution and protected from acts of vengeance for participating in the military coup, and that U.N. observers would play a protective role. Cédras demanded amnesty and protection for himself, his family and other members of the high command. The U.S. and U.N. supported these conditions and put Aristide in the position of making or breaking the settlement.

In June, as the de facto leaders in Haiti were faced with increasingly harsh sanctions, Cédras agreed to negotiate with Aristide, and Aristide agreed on condition that they negotiate a date that the army and police chiefs would step down and be replaced; a date of his own return; and the nomination of a new prime minister. The U.N.-mediated talks began on June 27 at Governors Island in New York Harbor.

The ill-fated Governors Island Accord was signed on July 3. It called for the resignation of General Cédras shortly before the return of President Aristide to Haiti on October 30. U.N. and OAS economic sanctions would be lifted and more than $1 billion in international assistance was promised to begin with President Aristide's appointment of a new prime minister. Haiti was to receive technical and military assistance to promote development and administrative, judicial and military reform, namely the separation of the police from the army. The agreement also called for President Aristide to issue an amnesty in accordance with the Haitian Constitution, which allows amnesty for political crimes but not for common crimes. Aristide interpreted this constitutional norm as allowing an amnesty for the crime of overturning the constitutional order, but not for the murders, disappearances and torture that had taken place since the coup.

On July 25, President Aristide named Robert Malval, a politically moderate publisher, as prime minister. After the Haitian parliament confirmed him one month later, the U.N. Security Council lifted itsoil and trade embargo against Haiti with the proviso that it would be reimposed if the Haitian military did not comply with the Governors Island Accord.

The Clinton administration also proposed a military assistance package, pending the outcome of negotiations, which included $1.25 million under the International Military Education and Training Program (IMET) and close to $1.2 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) for military professionalization; $10 million in Economic Support Funds (ESF) for the U.N./OAS observer mission; $4 million in ESF for International Criminal Investigations Training Assistance Programs (ICITAP) police professionalization; $3 million in ESF for the administration of justice program of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID); plus developmental assistance and economic stabilization support, for a total of $37.5 million for fiscal year 1993. For fiscal year 1994, the administration requested $40 million in developmental assistance; $15 million in ESF; and $400,000 in IMET for a total of $80.8 million. Congress conditioned U.S. aid by prohibiting military assistance or training in which there would be participation by any member of the Haitian military involved in drug trafficking or human rights abuses.

In September, the U.N. Security Council also approved a U.S.-sponsored resolution to send 567 U.N. police monitors and 700 military personnel, including some sixty military trainers. These forces were to include about 500 U.S. troops. After concerns were raised about the lack of adequate screening procedures for trainees, the new U.S. ambassador to Haiti, William Lacy Swing, announced that the U.S. would no longer be training an interim police force. Instead, U.N. police monitors and trainers (not including U.S. participants) would conduct the training and, with the Malval government, would be responsible for screening out human rights abusers. Swing added that the U.S. Embassy, working with the U.N./OAS mission, would screen trainees involved in the IMET program, and vowed to make vetting of human rights abusers from U.S. training and human rights monitoring a priority of his embassy.

Implementation of the Governors Island Accord began to unravel on October 11 when a gang of armed paramilitary "attachés" protesting the arrival of the U.S.S. Harlan County prevented the ship from docking in Port-au-Prince. According to the New York Times, "the demonstrators, who were allowed into the port area by police officers rerouting traffic to clear the way, beat on the cars of diplomats and kicked reporters waiting at the gates of the port, screaming, 'We are going to turn this into another Somalia!'". With no mandate to force its way on shore and failing to gain Haitian army guarantees of cooperation, President Clinton ordered the Harlan County to retreat. A contingent of Canadian police trainers already in Haiti as part of the accord departed the following day. On October 14, the U.N. Security Council reimposed an oil and arms embargo on Haiti, as well as an international freeze on the financial assets of the de facto authorities.

After the Harlan County withdrawal, General Cédras set new conditions for his resignation by demanding that the Haitian parliament pass legislation on an amnesty for crimes committed in connection with the coup. (President Aristide had already issued a decree in early October in accordance with the Governors Island process providing amnesty only for crimes against the state, not for crimes against human rights.) Although Cédras claimed he merely wanted Aristide's decree reinforced by amnesty legislation, it was understood that he sought a broader amnesty that would cover human rights crimes, or common crimes such as murder and torture; such an amnesty would violate the Haitian Constitution. In response to this new demand, the Clinton administration failed to state clearly that it supported the scope of Aristide's decreed amnesty or to oppose Cédras's demand for total impunity.

In an apparent effort to guarantee their safety in an increasingly hostile situation, the U.N./OAS mission of human rights observers was evacuated to neighboring Dominican Republic on October 15. President Clinton ordered six U.S. warships to patrol the waters off Haiti to step up enforcement of the embargo, with U.N. Security Council authorization forthcoming a day later.

Even though political violence in Haiti had escalated enough to prevent U.S. and Canadian military trainers from landing at the Port-au-Prince dock and to force the withdrawal of U.N./OAS human rights monitors, the U.S. declared its intention to continue to repatriate forcibly any refugees who attempt to flee Haiti. The Clinton administration announced that it would continue to rely upon its in-country processing (ICP) program in Haiti to consider Haitians' applications for political asylum in the U.S. Americas Watch, which denounced the continuation of the forcible repatriation policy, has investigated the ICP program and found that it offers no protection to applicants during the asylum application process; adjudication of cases is inconsistent; standards for asylum and credibility determinations are unfairly applied; and potential asylum seekers who do not feel that they can safely avail themselves of the program are left with no option.

As the U.S. Congress debated U.S. policy in Haiti, a controversy was ignited by a CIA report describing President Aristide as mentally unstable and by reports of human rights violations allegedly committed by Aristide during his presidency. During a briefing organized by Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC), an intelligence officer who had reportedly earlier assessed General Cédras as a member of one of "the most promising group of Haitian leaders to emerge since the Duvalier family dictatorship," testified on Aristide's mental health.

As this report was written, the October 30 deadline for President Aristide's return to Haiti had passed, with the Haitian military resisting a resumption of negotiations. Meanwhile, the U.S. government continued to debate what role it should play in restoring democracy to Haiti.

The Work of Americas Watch

Throughout the year, Americas Watch supported the restoration of Aristide to the presidency of Haiti, as the only proper way to respect the exercise of political rights by 67 percent of all Haitians. We urged that all the negotiations include precise human rights conditions so that re-democratization of Haiti results in deep, structural improvements in the protection of citizens' rights. We tried to prevent an outcome in which, in exchange for Aristide's return, the military could get away with total impunity for their crimes.

In our view, a minimal measure of accountability should demand that the armed and security forces of a reconstituted Haiti be purged of abusers of human rights. We also tried, unsuccessfully, to ensure that U.S. policy with respect to fleeing Haitians remained consistent with the U.S.'s obligations under international law.

Americas Watch continued to cooperate closely with the National Coalition for Haitian Refugees (NCHR). In February, we published our fifteenth joint report on Haiti, Silencing a People, The Destruction of Civil Society in Haiti. The 136-page report documents the military's systematic decimation of all sectors of civil society in the first year since the coup.

In September 1993, Americas Watch, together with NCHR and the Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, co-published a thirty-seven-page report, "No Port in a Storm: The Misguided Use of In-Country Refugee Processing in Haiti," a critique of a policy which had historically been conceived as an additional avenue of protection for refugees in selected countries, but had become in Haiti the only option for victims of Haiti's repressive military regime.

In an ongoing effort to call attention to the cycle of impunity that has fueled Haitian army violence – an issue that had been deliberately disregarded by international negotiators in the Haiti crisis – Americas Watch and NCHR issued a series of press releases and letters to the U.N./OAS Special Envoy to Haiti, Dante Caputo, and to Clinton administration officials involved in Haitian policy formulation.

Human Rights Watch also worked to inform Congress about the issue of accountability and other human rights issues as in July 17 testimony before the House Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs. Americas Watch followed up on that effort with letters to members of Congress urging them to convey to the administration their interest in ensuring accountability, by insisting that any Haitian army and police officers who were scheduled to receive U.S. military training be held responsible for any crimes they may have committed in the past.

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