Destabilization of Haiti:
Diplomacy by Death Squad Continues

from the book

Censored 2006

Censored Foreign Policy Stories of 2004 and 2005

by Peter Phillips and Project Censored

Seven Stories Press, 2006, paper



On February 29, 2004, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was forced into exile by U.S. military. While the Bush Administration and the corporate press implied that Aristide left willingly, Aristide was able to give a detailed account of his U.S. military led kidnapping to a Haitian journalist in the United States via cell phone who, in turn, broadcast his speech on Pacifica Radio's Flashpoints News, KPFA. While the U.S. was forced to acknowledge the kidnapping allegations, they were quick to discredit them and deny responsibility. The circumstances underlying the current situation in Haiti, as well as the history of U.S. involvement is being ignored by U.S. officials and mainstream media.




UPDATE BY LYN DUFF: It was February 29, 2005, one year to the day since a U.S.-backed group of disbanded soldiers violently overthrew the popularly elected democracy in Haiti, when Adele was attacked by a group of masked men affiliated with an anti-democracy militia.

The 16-year-old lived in a highly populated and impoverished neighborhood in Port-au-Prince that was known for its support of Aristide and Haiti's fledgling democratic movement. When attackers broke down the door of her one-room concrete-block house, Adele says she was sure that they were going to kill her.

She had good reason to make this assumption. Three weeks earlier a group of armed men, two of whom she recognized as newly inducted members of the Haitian National Police, arrived looking for her parents whom the police accused of being gang members. Both of Adele's parents were at work but unfortunately, she says, her father walked in right as the men were about to leave. The men shackled her father, Adele says, and then they forced him to kneel down outside the front door before shooting him in the back of the head.

The body of Adele's father body was discovered a week later in a ravine in the neighboring suburb of Carreforre. His body was naked, had been set on fire, and was being eaten by wild dogs, she says. Adele went to the offices of MINUSTAH (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti) requesting help but was referred by them to the National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR), a U.S. funded human rights organization that refuses to aid known or suspected supporters of Aristide and, according to independent international human rights groups, has played a repressive and colluding role with the coup government.

On the evening when the armed men returned to her home, they decided not to kill Adele. Instead, she says, they raped her.

Over the course of five hours inside her home and in the presence of her uncle and ten-year-old brother, more than a dozen men raped Adele. At one point, she says, her attackers forced her to have sexual contact with her uncle and, in an act reminiscent of the New York police abuse of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima, she was sodomized with a broom handle and a piece of metal pipe.

Sitting in a church sanctuary months later, Adele breaks into tears and rocks back and forth while telling her story. The American missionary who introduced us, Ann Lautan, says that Adele's story is far from unusual. Girls as young as eight or nine have been raped by members of anti-democracy militias, the Haitian National Police, and the disbanded Haitian military, she says.

One of the other young victims is Marjory, a 15-year-old from the northern port town of Cap Haitian who has become a vocal spokesperson for the rights of child victims of rape after armed gangs of disbanded Haitian soldiers in the north attacked her last year.

It was the middle of the night when masked men armed with semi-automatic assault rifles burst into Marjory's home. Then only 14, Marjory was the oldest daughter of a local trade unionist. When they discovered that her father, who the political opposition sought because of his support for the pro-democracy movement, was in hiding, they raped Marjory, her mother and an 11-year-old cousin.

It's been a year since she was attacked but Marjory remembers every moment of that night. She describes her attackers in detail, down to the scars on one man's hands and the smell of cigarettes on another's jacket.

"They violated me. [When it was happening] I closed my eyes and waited for them to finish... One of the men told me to open my eyes and look at him while he [raped me]. I didn't want to look at him. They hit me when I cried."

Today Marjory and her mother live with Christian missionaries who took them in after her father was arrested and disappeared five months ago. Marjory speaks openly now about her ordeal and has met with human rights delegations, several journalists and representatives of the United Nations.

"Too many women are being violated. The victims need to come together, they need to speak on the radio about the crimes being committed against us," she says. "We are telling the United Nations, the foreigners, and George Bush that we will not allow the situation to continue. Children should not be raped. Women should not be raped. People should not be forced from their homes. We are asking for our rights which will only come with the return of democracy to Haiti."

Marjory and Adele are part of a growing number of young girls and women who human rights investigators say have been victims of mass rape committed by members of the disbanded military and their compatriots who patrol the countryside and Haiti's cities, hunting down supporters of Haiti's pro-democracy movement.

Marjory says she was targeted because her father's trade union organized against a wealthy businessman and because her parents are members of Lavalas, the political party led by ousted president Jean Bertrand Aristide. Other victims say they were targeted because they or their family members belong to other pro-democracy political organizations or because they work with peasant unions or local women's groups.

"Rape is becoming a common tool of oppression," explains attorney Mario Joseph whose organization Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) has investigated hundreds of human rights cases in the past year. Joseph, who assisted in the prosecution of the human rights crimes committed during the 1991-94 coup says that it is discouraging to see the number of convicted human rights violators who are now walking free and serving in the new U.S. -installed interim government.

"Women and girls are raped because their father or another relative is a member of Lavalas or is targeted [by the political opposition]. They are raped as a form of punishment. The victims do not feel they can go to the police for help with their problems because in many areas the people who victimized them are the ones running the show; they are the ones patrolling the streets as if they are police, committing crimes with impunity under the eyes of the UN. And even in Port-au-Prince, the former military has been hired into the national police force."

According to Leon Charles, chief of the Haitian National Police, 2000

former members of the Haitian Army have been integrated into the police force, with plans for an additional 1000 former soldiers to be hired by 2006. Aristide disbanded Haiti's army in 1994 after soldiers committed numerous human rights violations, including mass rapes, during the 1991-94 coup.

United Nations soldiers have also been accused of participating in sexual attacks. In one case, high school student Diamanta Jean Paul, 17, said she was sodomized by Jordanian soldiers who were on patrol in the Del-

neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. The day after she came forward with her story the Jean Paul home was ransacked by police and her father and brother were arrested. The family fled to the Dominican Republic where they are now living in hiding.

In another case, Pakistani soldiers were accused of raping a 23-year old woman at a banana plantation in the northern town of Gonaives.

"The foreigners grabbed me and pulled my pants down, had me lie on the ground and then raped me," said the woman who asked that her name be withheld. She says two soldiers raped her while a third watched.

Damian Onses-Cardona, spokesperson for the UN mission in Haiti, initially claimed MINUSTAH was "aggressively" investigating the case but later backed down and released statements to the press accusing the victim of being a prostitute, saying that she went willingly into the banana grove to exchange sex for money and only accused the soldiers of rape after they refused to pay her.

More than 7,000 UN troops from countries including China, Brazil and the United States, among others, are stationed in Haiti. One of the American military units currently stationed in Haiti is the Army Reserve 372nd Military Police Company. The unit became internationally known after photos leaked to the press exposed their abuse of Iraqis at the Abu Ghraib prison.

Capt. Michael Rauh, the unit's commander, said that none of the soldiers convicted of charges in the prisoner-abuse scandal would be transferred to Haiti. The announcement has done little to soothe the concerns of human rights monitors who note that U.S. troops have been responsible for guarding leading figures of the former government, including ousted Prime Minister Yvon Neptune who was arrested by the coup government and has been held without charge or trial for nearly a year. In March and April 2004, U.S. marines were responsible for the deaths of nearly dozens of Haitian civilians, including numerous children, some of whom where shot in the back while fleeing street fighting in Port-au-Prince.

"These American soldiers sexually molested and abused hundreds of Iraqi prisoners and what does President Bush do to them? He sends them to Haiti. What kind of a message is the American government trying to convey to us?" asks Marie Baptiste, a survivor of mass rape who advocates for other victims through a women's community group in her neighborhood.

"Dispatching the Abu Ghraib abusers to monitor the Haitian National Police (HNP), who are themselves committing atrocities similar to the ones committed in Abu Ghraib, this sends a clear message that the American government supports the brutal oppression of the ordinary Haitian people," she said.

"George Bush might as well give the Boca Raton regime [of interim prime minister Gerald Latortuel a blank check with a signed note of permission reading 'go ahead, beat and kill all the supporters of democracy, we're behind you 100 percent."

Nearly 1500 civilian police have been dispatched to Haiti in recent months. Canadian commissioner David Beer oversees civilian police, who have a dual role as both UN soldiers and trainers or monitors of the HNP. The civilian police dress in riot gear and accompany HNP on raids or other police actions targeted at pro-democracy neighborhoods. In one recent raid on Bel Air, residents, including several children, were shot and killed by both civilian police and HNP police. Beer told the press that only two people, both of whom were "gang members" were killed.

However, on a visit to Bel Air just hours after the shooting, pools of blood lay thickening on the dusty streets throughout the neighborhood. In one was a child's sandal, with part of the foot still strapped inside. Neighbors said it belonged to a toddler who was shopping with her mother and that as far as they knew she was still alive and had been taken by a local priest to a health clinic for treatment.

On Rue des Fronts Forts the body of a high school student, still in his parochial uniform, lay covered by fabric and green branches. In an alley near the Port-au-Prince cathedral an English grammar textbook and a bag of avocados lay in another pool of blood. The items belonged to a girl who was shot at close range by civilian police, say residents. She died shortly thereafter and UN soldiers removed her body.

In one alley, 9mm bullet casings lay scattered over the ground and an elderly man pointed to the bullet holes in the wall of his house. "The police and the foreign soldiers came here today and they killed my wife," he told reporters. "They shot her and she was 75-years-old."

Later, when Lautan visited the man, she discovered that his murdered wife was Emele Lisette, a survivor of mass rape who led a women's advocacy group. Ironically Lautan says, Lisette had recently approached the

civilian police to ask that they take action to curb politically motivated rapes in Bel Air. "Emele thought that if the civilian police would step up their patrols and more closely monitor the HNP, that it would both force the HNP begin to crackdown on paramilitary groups who were committing rapes in the area at night, and that the civilian police could prevent the HNP officers from also participating in sexual assaults."

In the two weeks following the murder of Emele Lisette, Lautan says that there has been a sharp increase in politically motivated rapes in Bel Air. "It's as if the actions of the civilian police were paramount to a stamp of approval for the HNP and the militias," she says.

No one knows how many women and girls have been victims of politically motivated rapes since the coup violence began in late 2003, say human rights advocates. NCHR refuse to investigate human rights reports in the poorer neighborhoods, where most of the attacks have occurred, "because those zones are all Aristide-supporter, it's not safe for us to go there," says NCHR's Pierre Esperance. In what critics say is an odd statement coming from a human rights advocate, Esperance has publicly declared that human rights crimes are now non-existent in Haiti and that reports of politically motivated attacks are "fairy tales."

NCHR has received extensive funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) including a large chunk of the 1.4 million dollars that was distributed primarily to anti-Aristide organizations in the year prior to the February 2004 coup, according to USAID area director Pamela Callen. In an ironic twist, critics say that NCHR only focus their energies on the few human rights violations they say were committed by members of the pro-democracy movement.

Meanwhile, the handful of attorneys who are investigating Haiti's devolving human rights situation are swamped with reports of atrocities including illegal arrests, torture, murder, and rape. "And what we are seeing more often is that after a woman is raped, the attackers force her son or brother to have sexual relations with her as they watch, so that both she and her family are violated again," explains Joseph.

That was the case with Joesephina Helicaux, 66, whose son is a member of a peasant union that has called for the return of democracy to Haiti. Although they would not consider themselves Aristide supporters, the family believes that the coup and his removal from power by foreign forces was illegal and that Aristide should be allowed to finish his term as president. Josephina's son said as much during a demonstration earlier this year, where he was interviewed on a local radio station.

The next day the Helicaux family was eating dinner when a group of armed men burst into their home. The men were not masked and Joesephina Helicaux says that two were in police uniforms. "I told the children to be quite and to stop crying. The men searched our room. Afterwards they raped all of us [women], even the girls, and made the men stand and watch," she says. The youngest girl who was attacked was then 9 years old.

Although the son who had spoken on the radio was not home, another one was, as well as a 28-year-old nephew. The attackers forced Joesephina Helicaux to have intercourse with her nephew and son, she says. "They laughed [while it was happening]. They told us 'move here, do this," she remembers.

After their attackers left, a neighbor contacted Lautan who came to the home with Alfred Desslieanes, pastor of the New Life Church in Delmas. The pair transported the family to Port-au-Prince's General Hospital where doctor's refused to treat them, reportedly because they feared reprisals from the government.

"The doctors told us outright, they don't treat chimeres and if this family was victimized by the police or by the former military then they are chimeres," says Lautan. Chi mere is a derogatory term for the unemployed that has become synonymous with both "gangster" and "Aristide-supporter."

The family was taken to a private clinic where doctors treated them for bleeding, contusions, vaginal tearing, and, in the case of the nephew, several broken bones from a beating he received after he initially refused to follow the men's orders to have sexual relations with his grandmother, says Desslienanes.

Human rights advocates say members of the disbanded Armed Forces of Haiti (FADH) have committed many of the rapes. President Jean Bertrand Aristide disbanded FADH in 1994 after soldiers committed numerous atrocities during the 1991-1994 coup including gang rape and the mass execution of peasants in northern Haiti.

FADH ex-General Herard Abraham now serves as the Minister of the Interior in the U.S.-created interim government of Haiti, which is led by American Gerald Latortue. Latortue, of Boca Raton, Florida, was installed as Prime Minister of Haiti by American ambassador James B. Foley in March 2004. Both Latortue and Abraham have publicly called for the reinstatement of the Haitian army. In the meantime they have begun to pay former soldiers millions in "back pay" for the past ten years since the army was disbanded, and they have been responsible for the plan to integrate thousands of former soldier, including convicted human rights violators, into the ranks of the Haitian National Police.

Victims of human rights abuses argue that they now have nowhere to turn for help. International observers say both the UN and the HNP has done little to investigate human rights crimes, including the most heinous violations such as murder, rape and torture by paramilitary forces. Some victims say the police have arrested them after they reported a human rights crime. One women's advocate says she forbids her clients from reporting their rapes to police saying, "a woman who reports that she has been victimized is very likely to then be raped again by the police when she goes to police station to make a complaint."

Judges who prosecuted human rights violators under the former, democratic government have themselves also become victims of human rights violations.

Magistrate Napela Saintil, who presided over the Raboteau massacre trial five years ago, was severely beaten in his home by heavily armed men and was threatened with death because he convicted Louis Jodel Chamblain the former leader of the paramilitary organization FRAPH (Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti) of human rights crimes several years ago. Judge Jean Senat Fleury, who also participated in the Raboteau massacre trial, appealed to international organizations to protect the judiciary after he too was threatened. Lawyer Leslie Jean-Louis was beaten and nearly lynched by a paramilitary militia while walking home from his office in the rural city of Leogane, about 20 miles west of Port-au-Prince.

Meanwhile, observers say that Minister of Justice Bernard Gousse has systematically removed pro-democracy judges from office through intimidation, firings, and in some cases, by having the judges arrested or deported from the country. Judges who order pro-democracy supporters released due to a lack of evidence or charges against them have found their orders ignored by the National Penitentiary, which incarcerates both men and boys. One judge, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that when he wants someone released he has to "stroke the warden's ego" and give bribes, even though the prisoner whose liberation he has ordered is innocent.

An investigation by Amnesty International found widespread evidence of both judicial and police misconduct. The report details specific cases of police abuse including an example of the breadth and scope of violence taking place in an average week in Port-au-Prince. The London-based human rights group found that just during one week in October, 2004, HNP officers murdered of a family of seven in their home in Fort National, killed four young men in broad daylight in Carrefour Péan, tortured a 13-year old street child after he refused to give them the names of Aristide supporters, and covered the head of a man with a plastic bag and severely beat him on the street before incarcerating him at a local police station indefinitely and without charging him with a crime.

An estimated 50,000 human rights victims have fled Haiti for neighboring Dominican Republic. Most entered the country illegally and live in hiding. In May 2005, Dominican authorities began the largest mass expulsion in recent history by rounding up, arresting and deporting Haitian nationals and Dominicans of Haitian descent in the northeast section of the country. Although military authorities and officials from the Dominican Republic's Migration Office claim they are deporting only undocumented Haitian migrants, thousands of Dominican citizens who are suspected of being Haitian or have dark skin, have been deported. Some report that Dominican soldiers tore up their state identification cards before arresting them and forcing them across the border. Relief workers on the Haitian side of the border say that buses are arriving daily with dozens of unaccompanied children, many of whom don't even speak Kreyol because they are second or third generation Dominican.

"We have mothers here without their children. We have children without their families. We have some children who were deported that are so young they don't even know their last name or the name of the city where they are from," said one aid worker. "I asked one [unaccompanied] child what his mother's name was and he said in Spanish 'mommy.' I asked him how old he was and he held up three fingers."

Towns on the Haitian side of the border have been overwhelmed with deportees and are running low on food and water, say relief workers. At night thousands sleep on the ground of the town squares and churches. Many of the deportees are those who fled to escape political repression and have been victims of rape or torture says aid worker Christian Johanstan. "Everyone we work with has been traumatized. The Dominicans who were illegally deported have been traumatized by the military and police who uprooted them. The Haitians have been doubly traumatized by those who staged the coup and committed human rights abuses against them and then by the country in which they sought refuge."

The mass expulsions, which were reportedly authorized at the highest levels of the Dominican government, have led the human rights organization Minority Rights Group International to threaten action under international law against the country. Saying that the Dominican Republic is practicing "ethnic cleansing," an MRG spokesperson confirmed that the group would seek sanctions against the Dominican Republic on the basis of ongoing and widespread discrimination against Haitians and Dominicans of suspected Haitian descent. "Mass arbitrary expulsions are a violation of numerous civil, political, economic, and social rights under international law," said a statement from the group.

Meanwhile, ordinary Haitians say they continue to live in fear of abuse, imprisonment, torture and death. Some say that abuse will only stop if and when Aristide, who is currently in exile in South Africa, is allowed to return to Haiti. A minority of Haitians say that because the United States will never allow Aristide to return to Haiti, the country's only hope lies in electing a less repressive dictator to replace Latortue.

National elections have been set for November 2005, however Fanmi Lavalas, the party to which both Aristide and the vast majority of Haitians belong, has said they will boycott the elections if they are not allowed to participate fully and Aristide is not allowed to return to Haiti.

Lyn Duff <> first traveled to Haiti in 1995 to help establish that country's first children's radio station. During the past ten years she has covered Haiti extensively for both Pacific News Service and Pacifica Radio's Flashpoints on KPFA-FM.

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