Destabilization of Haiti:
Diplomacy by Death Squad Continues
from the book
Censored Foreign Policy Stories
of 2004 and 2005
by Peter Phillips and Project
Seven Stories Press, 2006, paper
THE DESTABILIZATION OF HAITI
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.
HAITI: DIPLOMACY BY DEATH SQUAD CONTINUES
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,
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
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
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
"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
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"
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
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
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 <LynDuff@aol.com> 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.