|Haiti Archives 1995-1996|
|13/03/95||INTERNATIONAL LIAISON OFFICE FOR PRESIDENT JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE HAITI: UPDATE: Struggle to Consolidate Democracy: Ending Insecurity and Promoting Disarmament|
INTERNATIONAL LIAISON OFFICE FOR PRESIDENT JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE
Struggle to Consolidate Democracy: Ending Insecurity and Promoting Disarmament
March 13, 1995
Just a few months ago, there were many seemingly insurmountable obstacles to ending once and for all the reign of terror in Haiti. How far have we come since then, and what challenges lie ahead?
Major accomplishments have been obtained: 1) The top military leadership of the coup has for the most part left the country. 2) The civilian leadership of the coup regime has been removed from power. 3) The President, the Cabinet, the elected Parliament and elected local and regional officials have been able to return to Haiti. 4) The Army has been virtually dismantled as an institution, and most officers dismissed. 5) The government has removed some corrupt judicial officials, is reforming the judicial system, and is setting up mechanisms to address past human rights violations. 6) The Police has been removed from Army command and a civilian Police has been created under the authority of the Ministry of Justice.
Now, a major challenge to consolidating the new democracy is to assure a climate of peace, reconciliation and justice. But a threat to Haitis political and economic stability is the armed bands which roam Port-au-Prince and the countryside. In the absence of an adequately functioning Haitian Police force and in the face of the reluctance of the US troops and the International Police Monitors to take a stronger stance, these gangs create fear among all sectors of the population — urban and rural residential neighborhoods as well as commercial areas.
It is not possible to assess what percentage of this crime is politically motivated. However, Haitis traditional repressive forces fear the consolidation of democracy which would eliminate impunity as well as President Aristides tremendous popularity and the strength of the popular movement. For them, maintaining political and economic instability is a strategic tool to impede the normal development of the coming vital elections and the consolidation of democratic reforms and participatory democracy. Also, this wave of crime is only possible due to the fact that a multitude of weapons, including scores of semiautomatic rifles distributed by military and paramilitary leaders, before President Aristide return, have not been taken out of circulation.
Despite threats to provoke violence and destabilize the government, the Carnival was a great popular celebration of hope after three years of repression. Hundreds of thousands of people participated, parading peacefully for three days while dancing and singing. Plots intended to take advantage of the large crowds to create chaos targeting vital installations, popular markets and carnival floats were exposed and thwarted by the publicity given to them and the peoples commitment to peace.
Some recent examples of violence are:
--- On February 20, 1995, a gang of thugs threatened the newly created Ministry of Womens Affairs and one individual tried to set it on fire. This Ministry is located in the former headquarters of the Armed Forces. Investigation is underway regarding the possibility of a larger plot. The man was one of the prisoners who escaped from the National Penitenciary during a breakout on February 18, in which a large part of the building was burned.
--- On March 1, 1995, Faudener Simon, a driver for the Agro-Forestry Program of the Peasant Movement of Papaye (Mouvman Peyizan Papay, MPP), was murdered during a routine trip in an MPP truck. Simon, 35, was shot twice while on the route between the town of Delmas and Port-au-Prince. The MPP was the target of much violence by the coup regime, and this killing raises serious questions about its political nature and its links with the coup forces.
--- A former Parliamentary Deputy, Eric Lamothe, was found slain on Friday March 3, 1995. Lamothe, who had hoped to run for the Senate in the June elections, was shot the evening before. He was a member of the National Front for Change and Democracy (FNCD), the political coalition that brought President Aristide to power in 1990. Lamothe was also the owner of a radio station in the northern town of Fort Liberti.
Actions taken by the Aristide/Michel government to end insecurity:
---- Progress is slowly being made to create an honest, functional judicial system. The performance of judges and other court officials are being evaluated across the country, and those who fail to meet acceptable standards are being dismissed — such as the District Attorney in Port-au-Prince and another court employee, for their ties to a plot to destabilize the country. The new District Attorney is Jean Auguste Brutus. In order to accelerate the training program for the judiciary, the government is seeking to involve trainers from French speaking countries with legal systems similar to Haitis. The public has also been informed that the government will not tolerate corruption in the judiciary, and that any reports of improper judicial conduct should be reported for investigation. Although aid had been promised, it has not been forthcoming to meet the needs.
---- The dismantling of Haitis repressive apparatus has continued with the removal of 43 of the countrys most senior Army officers. Among those, all four remaining generals, all colonels and lieutenant colonels, and several majors have been retired with an authorized financial indemnity on condition they surrender all weapons in their possession. As a result, the highest ranking official is a major.
---- The government announced that it is committed to assure that every citizen is able to bring criminals and human rights violators to justice, and that it will help them with needed resources.
---- Operating under the authority of the Ministry of Justice, the members of the newly created permanent civilian Police are currently being trained for law enforcement duties, working intently to adhere to the schedule despite serious shortages in equipment and funds. The first class of 375 recruits — out of over 25,000 applicants — will graduate in June of this year, and successively 375 new recruits should complete their training every month until February 1996 when the new Police is expected to be completely operational. In the meantime, the Interim Public Security Force still includes many former members of the military, many of whom are accused of human rights violations. There is an ongoing investigation by the government on these claims.
---- President Aristide has called on neighborhood solidarity to create neighborhood watch committees to protect citizens from armed attacks in the absence of an adequate security force. The head of the International Police Monitors and former New York Police Chief, Raymond Kelly, endorsed this as an important mechanism to ensure greater security and combat crime.
---- The Haitian government continues its efforts to push for disarmament, and is increasingly obtaining information and acting to break up plots to attack the government or carry out political assassinations. These efforts need to receive the full support of the international community. For example, on March 1, the government ordered the arrest of several widely known Tonton Macoutes — such as former Colonel Franck Romain, former Major General Williams Regala, and Dieumetre Lucas — following evidence that they were organizing an armed gang to create trouble. Franck Romain, former Chief of Police and former Mayor of Port-au-Prince, was recently involved in amassing an arms cache. Romain, who has indicated his intentions to run for Mayor of Port-au-Prince in the coming elections, was responsible for brutality during the Duvalier dictatorship and was indicted for the arson-murder at the Saint Jean-Bosco Church in 1988, in which more than a dozen people were killed, and also implicated in the November 1987 voter massacre. The former Major General Williams Regala, former Deputy Commander of the Army, is believed to have been responsible for the massacre of the elections of 1987, and numerous other acts of terror against the people.
---- The National Commission for Truth and Justice — created by the government in order to investigate the cases of human rights violations in the period of September 1991 to October 1994 and put an end to the history of impunity — is expected to present in the coming days its mandate and basic working rules. The Commission, formed by Haitian and foreign representatives, is actively seeking funding from the international community as well as contributions of equipment, technical expertise and personnel.
---- Efforts are being made to assure the prosecution for the killings of Antoine Izmery, Guy Malary, Jean-Marie Vincent, and the tortures committed against Alerte Belance, as well as other well-documented cases.
---- The government is supporting a joint program for broad-based reforms of the prison system with the OAS/UN International Civilian Mission, other UN entities, the French government, among other groups, each having a role in the process.
US government position:
— In response to public pressure, the US government has recently adopted a stronger line against paramilitary groups such as FRAPH and its leaders. After having allowed Emmanuel Constant, the leader of FRAPH, into the US in December 1994, the US government recently revoked his visa. Public pressure mounted against Constants presence in Washington, where he spent a month carrying out public relations work for FRAPH. Also, the US Embassy in Haiti reversed its previous position of recognizing FRAPH as a legitimate political entity and stated that "the US does not consider FRAPH as a legitimate political party, because it was created in 1993 with the precise goal of countering the Governors Island Agreement and the New York Pact. It operated, often with violence, in order to preserve the illegal regime which supported them."
— Searches for weapons seem to have accelerated. After months of slow pace for disarmament and repeated statements by the Multinational Forces that their activities would be limited in that area, the new American Commander, Major General George A. Fisher, and his 25th Infantry Division are moving more aggressively against arms caches. The Haitian government and UN officials have urged such action for months.
Update on the Elections
The electoral law was published on February 17 , 1995. The version signed into law by the President and the Ministerial Cabinet does not contain the unconstitutional restriction on the participation by members of the clergy imposed by the House of Deputies nor does it contain the education requirements also sought to be imposed by the lower House of the Parliament. The House of Deputies and the Senate were unable to reconcile the two versions of the electoral law in a manner consistent with the procedures of the Constitution prior to February 4, date of the end of the mandate.
The law defines the procedures for carrying out the upcoming parliamentary and local elections, as well as presidential elections scheduled for the end of 1995. As defined in the law, the elections process consists of series of steps (establishing Departmental Electoral Bureaus/BEDs and District Electoral Bureaus/BECs, registering voters, registering candidates, carrying out the election campaign, etc.) with specific amounts of time allotted for each step. Based on the cumulative amount of time needed to implement the electoral process, the CEPs (Comiti Electoral Provisoire, Provisional Electoral Committee) proposed date for parliamentary and local elections is June 4, 1995, with runoffs scheduled for June 25, 1995. The CEP is an independent entity mandated under the Haitian Constitution with coordinating all aspects of the election process.
Electoral schedule proposed by the CEP:
Voter Registration March 26 to April 17 Candidates registration March 27 to April 3 CEP review of candidate files April 4 to 23 Publication of the candidate list and
opening of the electoral campaign April 24 Closing of political campaign June 2 Elections June 4 Runoffs June 25
Some human rights organizations have expressed concern about international assistance directed to influence the outcome of the elections rather than support the CEP and the process of free and fair elections in which the Haitian people can exercise the right to choose their representatives.
Changes in the government
— Minister of Interior Rene Prosper has been replaced by General Mondesir Beaubrun.
INTERNATIONAL LIAISON OFFICE FOR PRESIDENT JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE Phone: (202) 965-6830 Fax: (202) 965-0831 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org