|Haiti Archives 1995-1996|
|09/01/96||HAITI-UNITED STATES: FBI Knocked for Conduct of Murder Probes By Dan Coughlin|
Copyright 1995 InterPress Service, all rights reserved. Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Jan 9 (IPS) – Long-simmering tension between the Haitian government and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) over the way the U.S. agency is conducting an inquiry into high- profile murders, has erupted into open rancour.
Bristling at the high-handed way in which the FBI has conducted the probe — and charges of an official coverup agents have leaked to the U.S press — the Haitian foreign minister charged last week that the country’s sovereignty was under threat.
‘’The Ministry of Justice has remained open and willing to work jointly with the FBI, but efforts at collaboration have been rebuffed,’’ said Fritz Longchamp.
His terse statement continued: ‘’Haiti, as an independent nation defending its sovereignty, reiterates that the FBI has no legal jurisdiction in Haiti.’’
The government said the FBI had ‘politicised’’ the murder investigations and refused to cooperate with Haitian judicial authorities.
At a key U.S. Congressional hearing, U.S. officials and U.S. Congressional representatives claimed the Haitian government was obstructing the FBI’s investigation into the murder last March of lawyer Mireille Durocher Bertin, 38, and airline pilot Eugene Baillergeau, 46.
‘’The FBI experienced significant investigative difficulties because of its inability to interview government of Haiti officials and employees,’’ FBI Deputy Assistant Director William Perry told the Foreign Affairs Committee on Jan. 4.
But more damaging were the FBI allegations, leaked to the U.S. media, that implicated senior Haitian police officers in the Bertin killing and in the murders last year of elite Haitians close to the three-year dictatorship of Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras.
U.S. Congressional Republicans are seeking to use those allegations to criticise President Clinton’s Haiti policy and block financial aid to the Caribbean country.
Using ballistic evidence, the FBI apparently detected links between some of the more than a dozen ‘’execution-style’’ killings last year, including the murders of Bertin and former Gen. Henri Max Mayard.
But Foreign Minister Longchamp insisted the government cooperated fully with the FBI while seeking to assure the rights of potential witnesses. For instance, he said the government made lawyers available to potential witnesses and demanded the right to review transcripts of the interviews.
The Haitian government originally accepted Washington’s offer of FBI help in the wake of the murders of Bertin and Baillergeau last March. The government asked that the FBI provide technical assistance to the Ministry of Justice in investigating a whole series of crimes, not just the Bertin murder.
But the FBI investigating agents, who numbered several dozen at one point, focused mostly on the Bertin case and cases involving powerful individuals associated with the Cedras regime. Additionally, the FBI immediately geared its investigation to suspects within the Haitian government.
Tension immediately arose between the two sides. In July of last year, President Aristide insisted that the FBI must work with the Ministry of Justice in its investigations, a request that apparently fell on deaf ears.
According to Longchamp, the FBI has not even provided a wri1tten report on the investigations to the Ministry of Justice and ‘’simply passed along several leads.’’
The Haitian government is also upset that the resources of the FBI, as well as the U.S. military, have been almost exclusively devoted to the relatively few crimes involving Haiti’s rich and powerful elite who supported the Sep. 1991 coup that ousted President Aristide.
‘’The Government of Haiti actively investigates and seeks to prosecute all acts of violence,’’ said the Foreign Minister.
‘’In fact, the government of Haiti established a special investigative brigade which is currently investigating high-level murders committed before and after the return of President Aristide (in Oct. 1994). Unfortunately, the FBI has refused to assist in these investigations.’’
Under close questioning from Democrats, FBI Deputy Assistant Director William E. Perry told the U.S. Congress his agency had found no concrete evidence linking President Jean-Bertrand Aristide or any members of his government to the killings.
Similarly, the joint U.N. and Organization of American States (OAS) human rights mission in Haiti, stated there was no evidence linking the Haitian government with any of the crimes.
U.N. observers who have investigated the cases privately attribute the killings to internal ‘’turf’’ wars within the corrupt and gang-like former Haitian army officers and their elite civilian friends.
Many in the Haitian government suspect that the killings have been carried out by opponents of President Aristide intent on de- stabilizing the political situation.
Indeed, the murder of Bertin and Baillergeau occurred on the eve of a highly-touted visit by President Bill Clinton to Haiti. It marred the joint U.S.-Haitian celebrations of the return of constitutional government to the Caribbean country.
Still, the FBI’s leaked allegation that they suspect Haitian police officials had some role in the killings has been seized on by U.S. Republicans.
‘’The use of taxpayer’s money to beef up a police force with this kind of thugs is highly questionable,’’ said Rep. Dan Burton at the hearings on Jan. 4, referring to the U.S.-trained Haitian National Police.
Already the U.S. Congress has held up some five million dollars in aid for the new Haitian National Police in a row over the composition of the 5,000-strong force, whose members have largely been selected and trained by Washington.
President Aristide last month said he allowed some 1,000 members of the Interim Public Security Force (IPSF), led by Maj. Dany Toussaint, into the new Haitian National Police because of their good policing records.
They include a little less than 1,000 Haitian refugees trained at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in late 1994, as well as some 100 members of the now defunct Armed Forces of Haiti (FADH).
Senior officers of the IPSF, who are now in the Haitian National Police, are the very same individuals implicated by the FBI investigation. (ENDS/IPS/DC/FN)
Origin: Amsterdam/HAITI-UNITED STATES/ ----
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