Report of Haiti Human Rights Delegation

The following summary report of human rights abuse in Haiti (March 29 - April 5, 2004) is excerpted from a report by the National Lawyer's Guild, published on April 11, 2004.

...In general, the delegation found the human rights situation grave. The conditions are especially precarious and evidence little hope for improvement due to the almost total lack of knowledge about, and media attention to, the human rights abuses taking place. Layered upon the gravity, there is a general sense in the people of insecurity due to, among other things,

(i) killings, (ii) curfews, (iii) the lack of police or any form of working judicial system, (iv) patrols of private, heavily-armed militias, (v) the doubling or tripling of food and fuel prices, ( the fall of the Haitian currency against the U.S. dollar, (vi) an abnormal lack of electricity in the cities, and (vii) the unauthorized return of the uniformed and armed soldiers of Haitian Army that President Aristide had decommissioned in 1994 for its historical oppression of Haiti’s poor....

Finally, the delegation found overwhelming evidence that the victims of the threats and violence have been supporters of the elected government of President Aristide and the Fanmi Lavalas party, elected and appointed officials in that government or party, or employees of the government, including police. Many are in hiding in the mountains or in Port-au-Prince, others have been beaten and or killed. Many of their homes have been selectively destroyed, mostly by arson.

I. The Situation in Port-au-Prince

a. General Information

- 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. curfew enforced by HNP and multinational force.

- many neighborhoods without electricity or water since Feb. 29th (water flow depends on electric pump)

- gas prices doubled since Feb. 29th, hindering private and public transportation

- U.S. dollar trading for 7.5 to 8.0 Haitian dollars

- people generally unaware of who government is, what the near future holds, and generally unaware of human rights abuses taking place; all aware that it is not safe to be on the side of the elected government or to be known as a Lavalas member, associate, or supporter.

B. Repression of Popular Organizations

- Leaders of almost every popular organization (“OPs”) (dozens of grassroots groups throughout the country that formed to work with the elected government to address basic community needs) have been threatened or killed.

- None of them are living at home. Those from outlying areas have gone into hiding in Port-au-Prince, and have not seen their families since March 1, 2004. Others have gone into hiding in the mountains, taking spouses and children.

- Former militaries and opposition supporters continue to visit the homes of OP leaders that have not been burned to keep them from coming home and to intimidate neighbors.

- Many have had their homes destroyed by arson. The majority of the arsons took place in the first week of March, but continued during our delegation. The threats have been carried out by former militaries and FRAPH members as well as other supporters of the opposition.

- All OP leaders who have sought asylum at the U.S. Embassy have been turned away. They have also been turned away by the embassies of Canada, France, Mexico, and Venezuela.

- All government funding and other support to the Ops has been summarily cut off. This includes the closing of literacy programs, food and shelter programs, and orphanages.

- All OP leaders pleaded with the Delegation to ask the current government to provide security to return to their homes with their families, to return to schools and jobs, or, in the alternative, to open the path to asylum.

C. The Multinational Military Force There is a general tension in the people of the city due to the intermittent presence and patrolling of marines. They typically spend hours standing in small groups in targeted neighborhoods in full battle uniform, holding automatic rifles. In the evenings, they will occasionally select a city street and walk it with pairs of soldiers slowly walking in one direction on both sides of the street, followed by two or three patrol vehicles full of soldiers bringing up the rear. Some believe that the marines have killed approximately 8 people in Port-au-Prince to date, though the Delegation had heard reports of more than five times that amount. There remain questions as to whether the actions by marines, including arrests, and home searches, violate the Haitian constitution. Families do not feel confident to refuse a home search. Marines interviewed by the delegation stated that they are not a “police force” but are merely maintaining security in the city until a permanent U.N. peace force takes over.

D. The State Morgue in Port-au-Prince and Cadaver Disposal

- The Director refused the Delegation’s request to view the cadavers and to review the record books.

- Director admitted that “many” bodies have come into the morgue since March 1, 2004, that are young men with their hands tied behind their backs, plastic bags over their heads, that have been shot....

- The Director admitted that 800 bodies were “dumped and buried” by morgue on Sunday, March 7, 2004, and another 200 bodies dumped on Sunday, March 28, 2004. The “usual” amount dumped is less than 100 per month. The bodies are taken to Titanye, approximately two hours north of the capital, and buried in a mass grave....

- People are afraid to claim bodies of Lavalas members because of fear of the Lavalas connection....