Haiti Archives 1995-1996
02/10/95 HAITI: On Coup Anniversary, Rights Groups Slam Impunity, Privatisation

Copyright 1995 InterPress Service, all rights reserved. Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Oct. 2 (IPS) — On the fourth anniversary of the bloody coup which ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, human rights groups here slammed the government for failing to dismantle Haiti’s repressive apparatus and trying to replace the terror of the military with the that of the marketplace.

‘’(We) note that the responsible national or international officials appear to look to organise and maintain the silence around the problem of disarmament,’’ charged the Platform of Haitian Human Rights Organisations, referring to the tens of thousands of weapons that former military and paramilitary groups are believed to possess.

‘’The future of the entire effort to build a real democratic state depends on the verifiable dismantling of the repressive macoute- military apparatus,’’ added the Platform, a coalition of nine human rights, religious, educational and development groups.

To mark the anniversary of the Sep. 30, 1991 coup that ousted Haiti’s first elected government and ushered in a three-year reign of terror, a number of Haitian human rights groups and popular organisations released statements this past week.

While recognising the vast improvement in the human rights situation in Haiti over the last year, the statements were sharply critical of the ongoing state of impunity.

Rights groups slammed the almost complete lack of justice for the tens of thousands of victims of the Sep. 1991 coup and the dismal and corrupt state of the judicial apparatus. They also repeated calls for a potent and comprehensive report from Haiti’s Truth Commission.

Many groups also assailed the harsh effects government’s controversial neo-liberal economic program, which they said would have harsh consequences for the majority of the Haitian people.

‘’We cannot pass through the macoute-military terror to the terrifying law of the market, certain sources of new forms of economic, political and social repression,’’ said the Human Rights Platform.

The now-defunct Haitian army and their paramilitary allies killed at least 5,000 people and tens of thousands more were injured and tortured during the dictatorship. An estimated 100,000 people fled the country on boats or to the neighbouring Dominican Republic.

A U.S.-led force of some 20,000 troops ousted the military regime last year and restored President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his government to power. More than 6,000 soldiers and international police monitors remain under the banner of the U.N. Mission in Haiti (UNMIH).

But only a handful of former soldiers and civilian ‘’attaches’’ have been prosecuted for crimes committed during the coup regime. Some are in the new U.S.-built security apparatus, others are in exile. But most are still living and working normally around the country.

Moreover, the political parties and economic elites that supported and participated in the coup regime are actively involved in the political and economic life of the country.

The Gonaives chapter of the Catholic Church-linked Justice and Peace Commission demanded this week that the Truth Commission examine the complicity and participation of all national and international sectors in the coup regime.

‘’(The Truth Commission) must shed light, and all the light, not only on the thousands of individual cases (of repression), but on the entire ensemble of the vast and ruthless system of repression,’’ said Justice and Peace in a Sept. 25 statement.

The statement called on the Truth Commission to investigate the national and international political and economic links to the coup regime as well as the complicity of the judicial and parliamentary branches of government.

‘’Only the complete and public truth, not only on the individual but also on the institutional responsibilities, will allow an effective struggle against impunity and open the way to a new Haiti,’’ they said.

The Port-au-Prince chapter of the Justice and Peace Commission focused on the failure of international forces to disarm the coup sectors and on the anti-democratic nature of the judicial apparatus.

They called for the dismissal of all judges who advised the paramilitary death squad, the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH), and for an inquiry into each judge who functioned during the coup period. They demanded that three judges in each juridical district be seconded to work full-time on cases involving human rights abuses.

The Human Rights Platform, like the Justice and Peace Commission of Port-au-Prince, sharply criticised the government for not consulting human rights groups on the formation of a new police force and the reform of the justice system.

‘’The Platform deplores and is indignant at the manner in which the judicial authorities treat the cases of grave and systematic violations of human rights,’’ said their Sep. 28 statement, adding that the judicial system actively blocks investigations into the ‘’debauched acts and those responsible for them.’’

‘’Justice against justice? Does this opposition constitute a new way to strangle the demands of justice?’’ they asked. (END/IPS/DC/JL/95)

Origin: Washington/HAITI/ ----

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