Ex-soldiers accused of sexual violence. Alarming increase in the number of rapes – Haiti Support Group press release, 25 November 2004*
The Haiti Support Group is extremely concerned about the reported increase in the number of rapes in Haiti over recent months, and calls for action to be taken to protect women and girls from sexual attacks carried out by armed men.
In an Associated Press report dated 22 October, human rights lawyer, Renan Hédouville, from the Comité des Avocats pour le Respect des Libertés Individuelles (CARLI), was quoted as saying, “In the month of August, for example, more than 50 cases of rape by former military were reported to our hot line.”
On making a presentation to a visiting delegation from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Mr Hédouville said that his organisation had received reports of women and young girls being raped in many of the troubled areas in Port-au-Prince, with the most reports coming from Bel Air.
Mr Hédouville denounced the violations committed by former members of the disbanded Haitian Army (FAd’H), whose rebellion overthrew the Aristide/Neptune government in February, and who have since been agitating for the re-instatement of the FAd’H.
The reported increase in rape reported to CARLI was confirmed by the recent figures released by health centres run by GHESKIO (Groupe Haïtien d’Etude du Sarcome de Kaposi et des Infections Opportunistes). In the three months, July to September, 81 women – all under the age of 30 – were admitted to GHESKIO centres for treatment and counselling following sexual assaults. The majority of assaults took place in the metropolitan region of Port-au-Prince. According to GHESKIO, 54% of rapes are committed by armed men in the victim’s home.
CARLI’s Hédouville says that the violence is being committed against women and young girls in poor neighbourhoods in other parts of the country, as well as in the capital. Amnesty International and other human rights groups also report hearing about a new wave of rapes, but are unable to confirm the details because the victims are in hiding and the rumours cannot be corroborated.
The Haiti Support Group is concerned that – as during the 1991-94 period of military-rule when soldiers and members of the FRAPH paramilitary used rape as a weapon to punish communities and individuals that supported the democratic government – armed groups are once again using sexual violence to achieve political ends.
* Women’s activists have marked 25 November as a day against violence since 1981. This date came from the brutal assassination in 1961, of the three Mirabal sisters, political activists in the Dominican Republic, on orders of Dominican ruler Rafael Trujillo (1930-1961).