Haiti Archives 1995-1996
05/10/95 HAITI: U.N. Rights Chief Warns on Aid Conditions by Dan Coughlin

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

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Oct. 5 (IPS) — The Haitian government may not have the capacity to properly investigate 31 murders as demanded by pending U.S. aid legislation, the U.N.’s top human rights official here has warned.

‘’At the present moment the Haitian government perhaps doesn’t have the wherewithal to undertake proper investigations,’’ said Ambassador Colin Granderson, the Executive Director of the joint U.N. and Organisation of American States (OAS) International Civilian Mission (ICM).

‘’That capacity is now being built up and there is a limit to what a small group of investigators which has just been put together can do,’’ he said in an interview with IPS.

The U.S. Senate last month threatened to cut off all aid to Haiti unless the government investigates a string of murders stretching back four years. The murders mostly involve individuals who supported the Sept. 1991 coup that ousted Haiti’s first elected leader, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

The now-defunct Haitian army and their paramilitary allies murdered some 5,000 people and tortured and wounded tens of thousands more during a three-year reign of terror.

Publicly, the Haitian government has taken a conciliatory approach to the legislation. Officials have said they will abide by the conditions if it becomes law. Indeed, U.S. assistance, running tens of millions of dollars, is crucial for the government, and it effectively has little choice.

The legislation, passed by the Senate Sep. 21, cuts off all aid to Haiti unless U.S. President Bill Clinton certifies that thorough investigations are being conducted into the murder of pro- coup lawyer Mireille Durocher Bertin last March and 20 other ‘’commando-style’’ executions this past year.

The bill requires Haitian government officials to ‘’cooperate fully’’ with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) inquiry into the Bertin murder and demands that a law enforcement agency from outside Haiti monitor the investigations.

It also requires that the Haitian government examine eight murders back in 1991 as well as the 1993 murders of Justice Minister Guy Malary and Antoine Izmery, a prominent Aristide supporter.

Justice Minister Jean Joseph Exume said Wednesday that the government has ‘’no problem’’ with having a law enforcement agency like Scotland Yard or Interpol monitor the investigations, one of the conditions of continued aid.

Prime Minister Smarck Michel said last week that, ‘’We have to work not to annoy the U.S. President and agree with the Congress.’’ He added that the judicial investigations are underway.

Privately, though, many government officials are bristling. The Republican-sponsored legislation, part of a broader foreign aid bill that must be reconciled with version approved by the House of Representatives in July before moving to Clinton for approval, is seen as a direct attack on Aristide.

The House version also includes a slap at Aristide. It conditions a continuation of aid next year on there being a new government that comes to power in elections carried out in ‘’substantial compliance’’ of the country’s 1987 Constitution. The provision is reportedly an effort to ensure that Aristide steps down early next year as he has promised and not yield to a clamour of pro-Aristide and some opposition voices that are calling for him to remain in power beyond the formal expiration of his term.

The Senate language draws on allegations by a few right-wingers in the U.S. press that Aristide, or those close to him, have been actively murdering political opponents for the last four years. The cases that the legislation cites are mostly those of coup supporters or notable anti-Aristide figures.

They include that of Roger Lafontant, a notorious henchman of the 29-year-long Duvalier dictatorship and former head of the Tontons Macoutes, who was killed during the bloody Sep. 1991 coup that ousted President Aristide.

Human rights groups and international observers say there is no evidence linking the murders to President Aristide.

‘’To the best of our knowledge, there is no connection with agents of the state,’’ Granderson said, referring to the 21 murders this past year cited in the legislation.

‘’Human rights violations at the hands of the agents of the state have basically come to an end,’’ said Granderson, who heads up a team of 190 people spread out over 12 locations nationwide.

One of the most important reasons, said Granderson, is that, ‘’There is a clear will and determination from the Haitian authorities not to tolerate the misbehaviour of old.’’

Although the Haitian government says that it will abide by the conditions of the legislation, their technical ability to do so remains uncertain. In the first place, the entire Haitian judicial system, compromised by nearly 40 years of brutal dictatorships, is undergoing major reforms.

In many parts of the country, it barely functions and remains almost entirely inaccessible to the vast majority of Haitians. Only a little over a thousand of the new U.S.-trained police, for example, have been deployed.

‘’It’s going to be very difficult for a brand new police, which is now being established and which does not yet have neither the training nor the tools, to do proper scientific investigation of crime,’’ Granderson said.

‘’I think one needs to bear in mind those very real constraints to the capacity of the government and the police to deal with crime in general,’’ he added.(END/IPS/DC/JL/95)

Origin: Washington/HAITI/ ----

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