Interim government uses ‘terrorist’ smear to repress opponents Haiti Support Group condemns human rights violations – press release, 27 October 2004
The Haiti Support Group condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the human rights violations and political repression carried out by agents of the Alexandre/Latortue interim government.
Although it hard to decipher the truth from the conflicting claims and counter-claims about the recent violent clashes between on one hand, the Haitian police, and on the other, what are variously described as “local residents”, “Lavalas supporters” and “armed bandits”, it seems clear that the interim government is involved in serious human rights violations. We refer in particular to the following actions and statements in connection with the continuing protests, violence and aggressive policing in Port-au-Prince since 30 September 2004:
– The alleged violent attack by police officers on a demonstration of Lavalas Family Party supporters on 30 September, and the comments to journalists, the day after, by interim prime minister, Gérard Latortue. According to the Haitian Press Agency, Latortue admitted that the police shot and killed some demonstrators, saying, “We fired on them, some fell, others were wounded, and others fled.”
– The arrest – without warrants – of former Lavalas Family Party Senators, Yvon Feuillé and Louis Gérald Gilles, and former Lavalas Family Party Deputies, Rudy Hériveaux and Axène Joseph, at Radio Caraibes in Port-au-Prince on 2 October. The arrests took place several hours after Gilles, Hériveaux, and Joseph had participated in a weekly talk show. Gilles and Joseph were held in police custody before being released, without having been charged, on 6 October. Feuillé and Hériveaux are still being held without being charged.
– The comments of Haitian National Police director, Léon Charles, who on 8 October told Radio Galaxie that recent acts of violence had been committed by “terrorists”. The head of the Haitian police then showed a complete disregard for the rule of law and a proper judicial process by stating that the police would take action against what he described as “outlaws”. The Haiti Support Group is concerned that those considered ‘outside the law’ by the police cannot expect any due legal process or respect for their basic human rights. Charles also appeared to sanction politically-motivated repression when he promised action against the “intellectual authors” of the violence.
– The arrest on 13 October – without a warrant – of Father Gérard Jean-Juste at Sainte Claire’s church, in Petite Place Cazeau, in Delmas, a suburb of Port-au-Prince. According to Amnesty International, Father Jean-Juste – a long-time supporter of the Lavalas movement and Lavalas Family Party – was arrested by police officers who failed to show a written mandate of arrest issued by the appropriate authorities. He has since been charged with a minor public order offence but has neither been released – as would be expected in such a case – nor presented before a judge.
– The continued use by interim president, Boniface Alexandre, interim justice minister, Bernard Gousse, and other officials, of the word ‘terrorist’ to describe alleged criminals. In today’s world, there is a clear and obvious danger that officials’ use of this epithet can act as a green light for military, police and intelligence services to ignore human rights norms, and to carry out torture, detention without judicial process and extra-judicial executions.
The London-based Haiti Support Group – a solidarity organisation working alongside Haiti’s popular, democratic movement since 1992 – condemns the interim Haitian government for actively participating in the erosion of respect for fundamental human rights. We also call on the individuals and organisations that were so vocal in supporting the rule of law during the Aristide/Neptune administration to stand up for human rights now.