The Haiti Report is a compilation and summary of events as described in Haiti and international media prepared by Konbit Pou Ayiti/KONPAY. It does not reflect the opinions of any individual or organization. This service is intended to create a better understanding of the situation in Haiti by presenting the reader with reports that provide a variety of perspectives on the situation.
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IN THIS REPORT:
- Tropical Storm Ernesto Damages Homes and Kills Two
- Rape Victim Testifies in Hearing for Emmanuel “Toto” Constant
- Cuban-Venezuelan Operation Miracle in Haiti
- Rene Civil is Rearrested
- Rape Victims March in Port-au-Prince
- Canadian Troops Implicated in Human Rights Survey
- Analysts Advocate for Reparations of Haiti’s Independence Debt
- DECLARATION of the Commission of Women Victims for Victims (KOFAVIV)
– Resolution of the Third Solidarity Encounter with the Haitian People
Tropical Storm Ernesto Damages Homes and Kills Two:
Pelted by torrential rains, but spared catastrophic damage, Haiti awoke from Ernesto’s passage Monday to reports of at least two storm-related deaths and seaside homes carried out to sea. Dr. Michaele Gedeon, president of the Haitian Red Cross, confirmed the storm system had caused two deaths, one in the capital city of Port-au-Prince, and one in the southern peninsula, where rains were heaviest. She said the relief agency was looking into reports of a third victim on Gonave Island, opposite the capital. Natural disasters tend to affect Haiti disproportionately because the country is ill equipped to respond. Rampant deforestation means mudslides are common after storms. Phone service is patchy and rebuilding materials scarce. David was optimistic about Ernesto’s aftermath in Haiti, as it shed most of its rain in the south, where mountainous terrain gives way to a fringe of coastline, helping drainage. Gedeon, of the Red Cross, said that relief organization evacuated some 30 families Sunday evening in the southern quadrant of Port-au-Prince. There was also flood damage to homes in the western part of the city, she said. ”Our goal was zero deaths,” Gedeon said in a phone interview. “The poverty is a crucial problem, but we are rich because we have so many volunteers who come to help us.” (Sun-Sentinel, 8/29)
Haitian Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis indicated Sunday that steps have been taken by the authorities to provide emergency assistance to victims of Hurricane Ernesto, now downgraded to a tropical storm. Ernesto brought torrential rains and very serious flooding to several regions of the country, particularly the South Department, where Ernesto came to within 60 kilometers. The Haitian government has banned air and sea travel until further notice and announced emergency assistance to all regions. While no casualties had been reported by Sunday, some 25,000 families were evacuated from Martissant, a poor district south of the capital which has suffered violence from armed bands over the past two years, especially at the hands of the criminal group known as “lame ti manchèt” (little machete army). On the island of La Gonâve, 13 homes were destroyed. Several seaside homes in the city of Les Cayes (160 kms south of the capital) were flooded, as well as numerous crop plantings in the region. Very strong winds buffeted Port-au-Prince throughout Saturday evening and were followed by heavy rains on Sunday that prompted residents to remain indoors. ”The government is mobilized together with the national police and MINUSTAH to accompany the victims” said Mr. Alexis. Finance Minister Daniel Dorsainvil announced emergency assistance in the amount of 300,000 gourdes for each geographical Department of the country. Interior Minister Paul Antoine Bien-Aimé said that 10,000 emergency kits are available. (AHP, 8/27)
Rape Victim Testifies in Hearing for Emmanuel “Toto” Constant:
One of three women who claim she was gang-raped by soldiers loyal to a former Haitian strongman testified Tuesday that one attack took place as her five small children watched. Masked men burst into her home in Port-au-Prince in 1994 and raped her while her children saw “everything that was being done to me,” she said through an interpreter and behind a large video screen to shield her identity. The hearing was about whether Emmanuel “Toto” Constant owes at least $1 million in compensatory damages and unspecified punitive damages to each of three women named as plaintiffs. The witness, who fled to the U.S. in 2003, has accused Constant of sanctioning the systematic rape of women in the early 1990s to silence slum-dwellers still devoted to the ousted former president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein granted her anonymity based on fears she still could be targeted for retribution.
The defense table was vacant: Constant remains in jail on Long Island after being charged in July with mortgage fraud. His attorney in that case has declined to comment.
Constant emerged as the feared leader of a right-wing paramilitary group after Aristide was deposed in 1991. It terrorized and slaughtered Aristide loyalists between 1991 and 1994, human rights groups say. The alleged rape victim testified that her ordeal began when her husband, a taxi driver and fierce Aristide supporter, vanished in 1992. She described taking to the streets and voicing her despair. Even after being jailed and beaten, she remained vocal until five men arrived at her door in April 1994. They beat up her 8-year-old son and took turns raping her, she said. Two months later, the nightmare was repeated. Three months later, she saw a doctor who delivered some shocking news: She was pregnant by one her attackers. A son was born on Feb. 12, 1995. He and the rest of her children still live in Haiti. (AP, 8/30)
Cuban-Venezuelan Operation Miracle in Haiti:
The joint Cuban-Venezuelan project Operation Miracle that offers free corrective eye-surgery across Latin America and the Caribbean has come to the Haitian department of Artibonite. This north-western province, affected by severe weather phenomena over the past several years, welcomed the Cuban health professionals who officially opened the La Providence Eye Clinic August 8. Two days later in the capital of Port-Au-Prince, a similar, albeit much larger, medical center -La Renaissance- was also opened. Both facilities are completely staffed by Cuban specialists and offer all services free-of-charge. Despite the usual up and downs of any new endeavour, in the first two weeks, 160 patients have been treated, the majority receiving surgery for pterigium, a disease that affects the cornea and the conjunctive membrane of the eyes.
Before the opening of these two facilities, fully equipped with state-of-the- art technology provided by Cuba, 659 Haitians were brought to Cuba as part of Operation Miracle to receive treatment. Between September 2005 and July 2006 there was at least one weekly flight between the two Caribbean islands to transport patients. The new centers have eliminated the need for airplane travel, bringing high quality eye-care and surgical procedures never before seen in Haiti. With news spreading quickly, the lines at La Providence and La Renaissance are ever growing longer. The patients, of all ages, come from across Haiti, either by their own imitative or sent by one of the Cuban doctors working in 100 of the 138 Haitian municipalities. Cuba has plans to expand its doctors to all of the islands municipalities. Operation Miracle is currently operating in several Caribbean and Latin America countries thanks to the joint efforts of the governments of Cuba and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. (Gramna, 8/30)
Rene Civil is Rearrested:
The head of Jeunesse Pouvoir Populaire (JPP), René Civil, who was arrested Saturday for possession of an illegal weapon and being in a vehicle stolen in the Dominican Republic, was transferred Monday from the police station in Pétion-Ville to the National Penitentiary. Reiterating Mr. Civil?s statements, one of his lawyers, Sergo Louis Charles, said that the vehicle in which his client was found belonged to him well before the events of February 29, 2004, which led to the departure of Aristide. It was the police who were using the vehicle during his time in exile in the Dominican Republic and it was the police who returned it to him upon his return, said Civil, through his attorney. Louis Charles does not comprehend the reasoning for the arrest as the vehicle meets all legal requirements. Lavalas activists met Monday at the Aristide Foundation for Democracy to denounce the arrest of the political activist. They claimed that the allegations are hiding the true motives. They also denounced his arrest while assassins in the Armée ti manchèt, who perform summary executions in the popular neighbourhoods of the capital over the last two years, move about freely. (AHP, 8/28)
Rape Victims March in Port-au-Prince:
Haiti Wearing white dresses and black masks, 150 rape victims marched through Haiti’s capital Friday to demand justice and an end to discrimination against them. Chants of “We will not give up the fight!” rose up as the protesters — including teenagers and elderly women — walked slowly to Haiti’s National Palace. It was the first public demonstration in years by women calling attention to rape, which is rarely prosecuted in Haiti and carries a stigma against victims. ”When you are raped … you feel like you are no longer human because those close to you don’t want anything to do with you,” said Elisena Nicola, a 38-year-old mother of five. She said paramilitaries broke into her Port-au-Prince home in 1991 and raped her before killing her husband. She said she was raped again in 2004 during lawlessness that erupted following a revolt that ousted former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. ”We want the government to support us and bring our perpetrators to justice,” Nicola said.
Haiti’s minister for women’s affairs, Marie Laurence Jocelyn Lassegue, said her office was trying to raise funds for initiatives to protect women from violence and help rape victims. ”Right now, women who are raped have nowhere to go for help,” Lassegue told the women, who gathered outside her office and declared their demands. The protest was organized by the Commission of Women Victims for Victims, which was founded by women raped during a 1991-1994 military regime that toppled an earlier Aristide government. The group provides medical treatment and counseling to rape victims. Fear of being shunned or ignored by police keeps many victims from seeking help, she said. ”There’s absolutely no accountability for perpetrators of rape or those that back them,” Sosin said. (AP, 9/1)
** See the declaration from KOFAVIV near the end of this report**
Canadian Troops Implicated in Human Rights Survey:
Canadian troops with the United Nations in Haiti made death threats during house raids and made sexual threats against women while drunk and off-duty, according to Haitians interviewed as part of a meticulous human rights survey by U.S. researchers in December 2005 published Thursday in the British medical journal The Lancet. The study, which estimated that 8,000 Haitians have been murdered and 35,000 women and girls raped in Port-au-Prince alone since the ouster of then-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in early 2004, did not mention Canadians specifically, blaming only Brazilian and Jordanian troops for making threats. But in an interview yesterday, the study’s lead author said Haitians pinpointed Canadians as among those UN military personnel who threatened them physically or sexually. ”Canadians were definitely blamed for death threats and threats of physical and sexual violence,” said Athena Kolbe, 30, an expert on Haiti who speaks Creole. She has visited Haiti often and is doing her master’s degree at Wayne State University’s School of Social Work, in Detroit.
One family was interviewed at their home in Delmas, an eastern suburb of the capital, Port-au-Prince. ”Canadian troops came to their house, and they said they were looking for (pro-Aristide) Lavalas chimeres, and threatened to kill the head of household, who was the father, if he didn’t name names of people in their neighbourhood who were Lavalas chimeres or Lavalas supporters,” Kolbe said by phone from San Francisco. “And he refused to, because, as he told us, he didn’t know anyone.” How did he recognize the soldiers were Canadians? “From the flag on the uniform,” Kolbe said. How did he remember the incident so precisely? “Because the family was traumatized by it.” That incident was alleged to have taken place around the time of Aristide’s departure in February 2004.
In another incident, “one woman said a Canadian soldier tried to have sex with her, that this soldier was drunk and she didn’t want to, and that he was threatening her and grabbing at her when she didn’t want to,” Kolbe said. The woman was out with her friends near a Canadian base, on a street where drunk and off-duty Canadian soldiers in uniform tried to pick up local women. Of the women in the peer-reviewed study who complained of sexual threats, drunk and off-duty Canadian and U.S. soldiers were most often blamed, Kolbe said. “But regarding Brazilian and Jordanian troops, a lot of the sexual threats were actually when they were on patrol.”
Canada sent 450 soldiers and other personnel along with six CH-146 Griffon helicopters to Haiti in March 2004 as part of a UN peacekeeping force of 6,700 military personnel and 1,600 police. The Canadian soldiers left in August of that year, but Canada still has 66 police officers in Haiti leading the UN’s police force. The Lancet survey – which questioned 5,720 randomly selected Haitians living in and around the capital about their lives in the 22 months since Aristide’s fall – found that 97 said they had received death threats, 232 had been threatened physically and 86 sexually. One-third of the perpetrators were criminals, about 20 per cent were Haitian National Police and other government security agents, and another 20 per cent were foreign soldiers. Most soldiers were identified by the flag displayed on their UN helmet or on their uniform sleeve over the upper arm. Other UN personnel were harder to identify by country; they had blue helmets but no flags. The allegations of misconduct indicate that UN troops in Haiti need to be reined in, Kolbe said. Canadians would likely have been more frequently cited if the study hadn’t been restricted to the greater Port-au-Prince area, where Canadian troops patrol less than elsewhere in Haiti, Kolbe added.
Told of the allegations after Kolbe related them late yesterday afternoon, a spokesperson for the Department of National Defence said they sounded specific and serious but needed verification before any comment could be made. “Is there any way that you could give us time to comment?” said Lt. Adam Thomson, asking publication of the allegations be delayed until after the Labour Day weekend. Also in Ottawa yesterday, Rejean Beaulieu, the Foreign Affairs department spokesperson for Haiti, refused comment, offering instead only an off-the-record, not-for-attribution “deep background briefing” on Canada’s role in Haiti. Earlier, Beaulieu referred questions to the UN, which he said “should be in a better position to answer since our people in Haiti were and are working under this umbrella.”
In Montreal, a spokesperson for Premier Jean Charest – who visited Haiti in June 2005 and received its controversial prime minister, Gerard Latortue, at his Montreal office last March – also declined comment. “The type of relationship we have with Haiti is through humanitarian projects,” not peacekeeping or policing, which is Ottawa’s jurisdiction, Hugo d’Amours said. Ridiculous, retorted Marie-Dominik Langlois, co-ordinator of the Christian Committee for Human Rights in Latin America. ”There are lots of humanitarian projects in Haiti that only serve to legitimize so-called community leaders” who had a role in the undemocratic removal of Aristide, and Quebec is involved with them, she said. But one Montreal Haitian community group took an opposite view. ”Impunity (from justice) reigns like a king in Haiti, but in my opinion things would be even worse without the UN presence,” said Marjorie Villefranche, director of programs at the Maison d’Haiti, a St. Michel community centre founded in 1972 that serves some of the 70,000 Haitians here. ”There has been an acceleration of violence. But it’s an acceleration caused by armed groups, not foreign soldiers. The real mistake was that the UN didn’t disarm everyone when they arrived.” (The Gazette, Montreal, 9/2)
Analysts Advocate for Reparations of Haiti’s Independence Debt:
A meeting of international diplomats and financiers in Port-au-Prince this summer ended up with a commitment of $750 million in foreign aid to Haiti over the coming year. This generosity will build badly needed roads, schools and hospitals, which will make a real difference to ordinary Haitians—the poorest people in the Americas—in the short-term. But what Haiti really needs to permanently end centuries of misery is not the world’s charity, but its justice. The July donors’ meeting refused to discuss the one fair and lasting solution to Haiti’s grinding poverty: restitution of the independence debt imposed by France in 1825. The debt—calculated at $21 billion in current dollars—dwarfs current aid commitments and its payment would allow Haitians to develop their economy without the attached strings that keep poor countries dependent on international aid.
Haiti has a new democratic government, and an opportunity to make a clean break from the past. The $750 million that the international community has promised towards this transition is a lot of money, but it is less than a year’s interest on the $21 billion dollars that France owes Haiti. Moreover, if the past is any guide, not all of the promised money will arrive, and much of it will come with strings attached—loan repayments, import tariff reductions, privatization of government services, etc.—that will
perpetuate Haiti’s dependence on international help. If the international community really wants to help Haiti, repayment of the independence debt will be at the top of the agenda, not off the table. A just repayment of the independence debt, by contrast, would allow Haiti to develop the way today’s wealthy countries did—based on national priorities set inside the country. It would also right a historical wrong, and set a strong example of good neighbor policies for a global neighborhood. Authors: Anthony Phillips works with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH). Human rights lawyer Brian Concannon Jr. directs the IJDH, found at www.ijdh.org.and is an analyst with the IRC Americas Program. (Tom Paine, 9/1)
DECLARATION of the Commission of Women Victims for Victims (KOFAVIV)
Port-au-Prince, Haiti, September 1, 2006
The Commission of Women Victims for Victims is a group of Haitian survivors of rape from the 1991-94 military coup d’état. We fought unsuccessfully for justice and reparations for years. When, in 2004, we saw that the same women were being raped again, we shifted our work in order to aid these new victims. Because many women who were victimized when we were died from sexually transmitted diseases including AIDS, we provide victims medical care. KOFAVIV works with women victims from poor neighborhoods like LaSaline, Bel Air, Cité Soleil, Grande Ravine, Ti Bwa, Martissant, and Village de Dieu.
We, women victims, many of us from the poorest groups of the population, have decided today to say no to all forms of violence and discrimination to which we have been subjected during the last 200 years. We are victims of rape. Armed groups have forced their way into our homes, stole everything we owned, raped us and our daughters, burned our houses, and threatened us. Many of us were forced to leave our homes and have been sleeping on the mountainside. We have lost our commercial goods, and we do not have the means to send our children to school. When we open our mouths to speak, we risk being threatened or killed.
We, women who have been subjected to all forms of violence, are standing up to defend our rights. Haiti has signed more human rights conventions than almost any other state. Yet Haiti remains one of the countries where human rights, particularly women’s rights, are most violated. We know that rights do not mean anything when they remain only on paper. For this reason, we ask the government to implement all of these conventions and to give meaning to the international community’s condemnation of violence against women.
It must be the job of all branches of the government to respect human rights. Parliament must adopt forceful laws to protect women’s rights. The Executive must take strong measures to stand in solidarity with women victims from the last 10 years. The police need to provide security in poor neighborhoods and other areas in order to stop kidnapping and rape. We ask that the state take action in the justice system to end impunity. We also ask the state to take all necessary measures to aid women who are victims of all types of violations—those whose houses have been burned and those who have been forced to flee and sleep in churches, mountainsides, and porches of homes—so that they have homes and don’t have to rely on the support of other community members.
Ending violence and discrimination against women is everyone’s responsibility. We ask civil society to wake up and condemn this relentless violence. Where are the political parties? What do you have to say about the women of Martissant, Grande Ravine, Corridor La Fwa, Ti Bwa who have been abandoned with no support? During elections, you know that women were there until the end. All your leaders are silent. Political groups— stop using what we have suffered as propaganda without recognizing our existence. When you do this, you re-victimize us.
We ask for justice for all women. But what does justice mean for us? We say that women’s rights are human rights. But what do human rights mean for us? When we reflect on our situation, we are able to say that we are victims of rape because we are deprived of our social and economic rights. We live in the worst houses. We have no economic means. So, we are forced to go out to make a living even that means endangering ourselves. As a result, we are more vulnerable to violence. We in KOFAVIV received care when we were raped. But don’t all women have the right to health care for themselves and their children when they are sick? Shouldn’t all women have access to care when they deliver their children? Why can’t all women live in better conditions so that they aren’t exposed to so many diseases?
We say that protecting women’s rights is not only about providing safety from those responsible for these abuses, and that justice is not only about putting them in prison. It is about respecting all of our rights and the rights of everyone because we know that poverty is a reason why many women become victims. We have a right to education. We ask the state to stop the privatization of schools and to build national schools so that women have access to education. We ask the state to put an effective education program in place so that women can obtain sufficient jobs. We have the right to work. We ask the state to create jobs for women without discrimination, jobs that will increase women’s economic power so that they can achieve economic autonomy. We ask that the state valorize women’s work. Women working in the informal sector, especially widows whose husbands died during the political conflict and left them with many children, need to have social support. We ask the state to define an economic policy that will increase production and lower the cost of living. This would allow us to live decently.
When we think about poverty and lack of respect for human rights, we see that the economic crisis has roots in the foreign policies of powerful countries towards smaller countries like our own. Powerful countries need to see that rights that we are demanding will never be respected if their policies in poor countries do not change. The national and international community must know too that health, education, shelter, and access to higher education are women’s rights. Their programs must help women access these rights while making it easier for the state respect to them. They should put in place good programs that will have a real benefit for women. Women must be able to participate in decision-making processes that affect us.
When we heard this week about the judgment against Toto Constant, we felt that a great step forward had been made. We had been waiting for this for a long time. KOFAVIV celebrates the decision taken by an American court against Toto Constant. We congratulate everyone who was fighting to judge this leader of FRAPH. But the fight has just begun and with hope, women will succeed in getting justice and reparations. We will continue the struggle until all criminals have been condemned. This decision gives us a great deal of courage. All groups that are involved in rape, both those that are perpetrating it and those that are supporting these individuals, must stop violating the rights of women. At the same time, we remind the state that it has the obligation to take all action necessary to prevent all forms of violence against women.
The fight has just begun. Women’s rights must be respected.
SOLIDARITY ENCOUNTER WITH THE HAITIAN PEOPLE, 3RD EDITION, RESOLUTION
August 20 – 26, 2006, Port-au-Prince
Considering the historical importance, for the whole world, of the act of Haiti’s national independence, proclaimed on January 1, 1804;
Considering the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of December 10, 1948;
Considering the United Nations General Assembly proclamation of 2004 as the International Year to Commemorate the Struggle Against Slavery and its Abolition, which recognized Haiti as the symbol of the struggle and resistance of slaves, and triumph of the principles of liberty, equality, dignity and the rights of the individual;
Considering the unique circumstances under which the independence of Haiti was proclaimed;
Considering the glorious epic struggle of our ancestors, former slaves, who succeeded in 1804 in reversing the oppressive slave system, an accomplishment unique in the history of humanity;
Considering that, thanks to the sweat and blood of our ancestors, Haiti was the Pearl of the Antilles;
Considering the isolation imposed by the great colonial and slaveholding powers of the time on Haiti;
Considering the heroic actions of February 7, 2006, which permitted the Haitian people to completely reverse the coup d’état of February 29 2004, thereby limiting its destruction;
We, the organizations with the Worldwide Movement of Solidarity with the Haitian People, and the Haitian grassroots organizations attending the 3rd Edition of the Solidarity Encounter with the Haitian People, which took place from August 20-26, 2006 in Port-au-Prince, have unanimously agreed:
1. To ask the 48th Legislature of the Haitian Parliament to prepare and vote a resolution, to UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), qualifying Haiti as a Patrimony of Humanity;
2. To ask His Excellency Mr. René Garcia Préval, President of the Republic of Haiti, to immediately take all possible steps to facilitate the return of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti;
3. To ask the United Nations Security Council to vote a resolution annulling that of August 15, 2006, and calling for the immediate withdrawal of the MINUSTAH soldiers from Haiti and the cessation of all steps to place this Caribbean country under international tutelage;
4. To urge the Haitian government to take the necessary steps to relaunch the process of national dialog in a more balanced fashion, including all sectors and all ranks of society without exclusion;
5. To encourage the Haitian Government to implement a real process of disarmament at the level of all ranks and all groups in society that possess illegal weapons, to free all the political prisoners without distinction, to eliminate the illegal, extra-judicial and discriminatory measures taken by the de facto authorities against the grassroots activists in poor neighborhoods on account of their political convictions;
6. To ask the Government to re-balance the Provisional Electoral Council, to remove its corrupt elements in order to safeguard the institution’s credibility, to re-open the electoral registers to new voters and new candidates for the local and municipal elections, and to organize these elections within a reasonable time;
7. To encourage the holding in Port-au-Prince, before the end of the year, of an international tribunal which will provide the victims of the de facto regime the opportunity to testify to the entire world the violations of their human rights committed by the brutal regime installed by the coup d’état of February 29, 2004, and by paramilitary groups and foreign soldiers in Haiti;
8. To demand the donor countries and international financial institutions to annul Haiti’s foreign debt without conditions, and we demand that France reimburse the funds extorted by force from the government of Jean-Pierre Boyer in 1825, in the amount of 90 million gold francs, which equals more than $21 billion US in current terms;
9. To demand the Haitian Government to avoid all structural adjustment and privatization programs imposed by the international donors that could generate more misery, increase the already chronic unemployment, destroy national production and leave the country dependent on forces outside the country;
10. To organize the 4th Edition of the Solidarity Encounter with the Haitian people at the beginning of August, 2007.
Jacques Depelchin, OTA BENGA Alliance for Peace, Healing and Dignity, DR-Congo and USA
Ben Terrall, Haiti Action Committee, Oakland, California, USA
Sr. Maureen Duignan, Ireland
Brian Concannon, Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, Joseph, Oregon, USA
Frederic Maeder, Switzerland
Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, Fondation Trente Septembre Haiti