Politicisation of the Haitian National Police. Open letter to the Superior Council of the Haitian National Police (CSPN)
by the National Coalition for Haitian Rights (Haiti)
Port-au-Prince, October 18, 2001
Mr. Jean Marie CHÉRESTAL
President of the Superior Council of the Haitian National Police (CSPN)
The National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR) believes it is its responsibility to draw the attention of the highest level of the PNH – a level that enjoys the highest legal prerogatives concerning the actions and politics of the PNH – to the dangerous downward spiral of this institution, an institution given the task of guaranteeing order, peace, and societal stability.
The situation is disturbing: intolerance, ideological conflicts and political seizures of land, illegal police operations that are deplored by civil society, security forces that appear to have obtained a carte blanche allowing them to kill or let others kill with impunity. In this climate of reprehensible and unacceptable insecurity, human rights violations have reached an inconceivable level.
Mr. President, NCHR submits to the CSPN, which you have the privilege of leading, the following set of facts for reflection:
I. THE POLITICISATION OF THE HAITIAN NATIONAL POLICE
The politicisation of security forces in developing countries is a source of instability and a hindrance to the socio-economic development of the people. The former Armed Forces of Haiti experienced this politicisation on all levels. Thus, the popular cries across the country for the arrival of a new security force were understandable: “Kraze lame a banm kò polis la!”
The new force was seen as a carrier of hope for a stable society, one that would consolidate the respect for one and the respect for all. Today the National Police have been discredited in the eyes of the Haitian people and no longer inspire confidence. This feeling has been reinforced by the regrettable behaviour of the National Police spokesperson, Mr. Jean-Daddy SIMÉON.
The following cases highlight the degree of politicisation of the Haitian National Police:
1. The Case of Dr. Blondel AUGUSTE
On Wednesday, July 22, 2001, members of the Security Unit of the National Palace Guard (USGPN) arrested Dr. Blondel AUGUSTE at his home on Route Dalles. Before taking him to the Port-au-Prince police station, Dr. AUGUSTE was taken to the National Palace.
Senior member of the Ministry of Public Health and former Medical Director at St. Catherine Labouré Hospital in Cité Soleil, Dr. AUGUSTE was presented by the spokesperson of the PNH, Jean-Daddy SIMÉON, as a vulgar arsonist with the vision to destroy the offices of the Ministry of Public Health, and the person responsible for a campaign of hostile graffiti against the government. However, the residence of Dr. AUGUSTE had not been routinely searched, nor were the police able to produce any proof to justify its intervention.
This position taken by the National Police, who apparently intervened in an inter-personal conflict, requires some reflection: Are the officers of the National Guard authorised to make arrests? Is there a garde-à-vue at the National Palace? Are we returning to the time of the political police of the Duvalier years? Can one seek the intervention of special units for the service of private interests?
Furthermore, NCHR deplores the fact that individuals arrested by the USGPN, the Brigade de Recherche (BRI) or other specialized units of the police will often wait months before being placed in the judicial circuit. This is one of the main sources of prolonged detention in the metropolitan zone. It is a serious situation that must be corrected.
2. Police Intervention at the Offices of the Konvensyon Inite Demokratik (KID)
On Wednesday, August 22, 2001, specialized units of the Haitian National Police searched the headquarters of the Konvensyon Inite Demokratik. This operation, carried out in blatant violation of the law, had the characteristics of an act of political vengeance rather than an act of prevention. Once again, the PNH failed to act professionally. Instead, it loaned itself to the political web sewn together with transparent lies.
The officers present, as those responsible for the operation, could not provide the authorities with any element of proof to corroborate their untimely declarations to the press. Furthermore, they did not answer to the principles of justice that are found in a democracy, to the point whereby an obtuse conflict between judicial authorities becomes an attempt for the National Police to save face. The judicial system itself was dishonoured in this disturbing affair.
3. The Refusal to Execute Certain Warrants
Several individuals close to the ruling powers are the objects of judicial proceedings. One can name, among others, the case of Richard (Chacha) SALOMON, René CIVIL of “Jan l Pase l Pase” (JPP), Paul RAYMOND of Ti Kominite Legliz (TKL) of St. Jean Bosco, and Ronald CAMILLE, known as Ronald CADAVRE, currently the new “Bos Pent” .
These individuals are being “actively sought-after” by the police for the investigation surrounding the assassination of the director of Radio Haiti Inter, Jean Léopold DOMINIQUE and the station’s guard Jean Claude LOUISSANT, and for the murder of Fritzner JEAN aka Bobo. Nevertheless, these men circulate without worry throughout the capital and make public appearances in areas patrolled by police officers.
The police have given all the pretexts for not executing these warrants. In the past, did Haitians not witness the actions of a general in the Army, soliciting the intervention of the Court of Cassation regarding a warrant, in order to justify the Army’s refusal to arrest Dr. Roger LAFONTANT ? What has changed? Are we in the presence of a new Roger LAFONTANT? A new version of the Haitian Army that now uses a different name? Is the National Police – like the army – an institution that consumes nearly eighty percent (80%) of the budget for the Ministry of Justice, nothing more than an auxiliary of the public powers?
These are just some of the dark areas on which the CSPN must shed some light. The Haitian population needs to know; it has the right to know.
4. The Events of July 28, 2001
The painful events of Saturday, July 28, 2001, surrounding the National Police Academy, Pétion-ville, Mirebalais, Belladères, and Hinche, demonstrate the partisan influence and the degree of politicisation of the police. Instead of a rational investigation for the purposes of shedding all possible light on the events, punishing those responsible and preventing the repetition of such acts, the police preferred to rush on the scene with random accusations and arbitrary arrests. No one knows and perhaps will never know what really took place that night.
A series of arbitrary arrests were executed, at the instigation of those close to power, against supporters within the opposition and certain members of the PNH. These arrests did not bring us closer to the truth. On the contrary, confusion was reinforced and the parents of the victims continue to cry without hope of seeing those responsible for such atrocities made to answer before an impartial court.
Mr. President, you will agree with us that the Haitian National Police often show a legendary partiality to the ruling power and suffer a deficit of neutrality that is indispensable for its survival. The PNH is participating in a campaign of distortion and fear in favour of the powers-that-be, as was the case in the time of the National Security Volunteers (VSN). Additionally, more and more indications show that groups of armed civilians operate in narrow collaboration with the public powers and the passivity of the police.
II. THE PARTICIPATION OF THE NATIONAL POLICE IN OPERATION “ZERO TOLERANCE”
During a visit to the General Direction of the Haitian National Police on June 28, 2001, the Chief of State, his Excellence Jean Bertrand ARISTIDE, enflamed the struggle against insecurity with the announcement of Operation “Zero Tolerance”. “Zero Tolerance” is an incitement for violence, for political assassinations, and the tolerance of murder that has opened the floodgates to extra-judicial executions. It is distressing to note that the high officers of the PNH, reacting with emotion after the events of July 28, 2001, announced publicly and overtly their attachment to the “Zero Tolerance” formula. The risk of seeing the police transformed into a corps of criminals is very high.
The following cases indicate such a phenomenon:
1. The Case of Ronald FRANCIS
On Saturday, September 8, 2001, Ronal FRANCAIS, a member of Mouvman Revandikatif Ayisyen pou Devlopman ak Demokrasi (MOPRADD) was ruthlessly beaten by Haitian National Police officer Jean Marie DOMINIQUE (level 4), responsible for security services at the Haitian State University Hospital. Despite the fact that this officer has been denounced by public outcry over this odious crime, Jean Marie DOMINIQUE has not been troubled over this incident, and the General Inspection of the PNH has not announced any measure of sanctions against the officer or the opening of an official investigation.
2. The case reported by a reader of the Nouvelliste
In an article printed in the daily newspaper the Nouvelliste, #36285, September 17, 2001, under the title Zero for Tolerance, how much for Justice!, a witness on the scene reported that on Saturday, September 15, 2001 police delivered a suspected thief into the hands of mob justice. Near the statue of the Nèg Mawon , not far from the National Palace and the Centre for the Service of Investigation and Antigang, this presumed thief was stoned by the crowd. Covered in blood and pushed to the ground, he died from a bullet wound to the head.
These cases of lynching are occurring across the entire country and, in the majority of cases, are being carried out with more or less the complicity of the PNH. What institution, then, is protecting lives and well-being in Haiti?
3. The Question of Retention Centres
One of the criticisms of the Haitian Army was its repressive character, the acts of torture perpetrated on already submissive people or those without defence. Regrettably, one can observe the return to humiliating and degrading practices of torture in Haitian retention centres (garde-à-vues). In certain places, such as Port-au-Prince, there have been an implementation of “zero tolerance cells” where people are subjected to inhumane treatment at the hands of police officers. Furthermore, it is deplorable to note the cases of individuals who died following corporal punishment inflicted upon them by agents charged with their protection while in retention. We can mention, among others, the cases of accused individuals Arsene AUGUSTE and Reginald MEME, who both died while in police custody, in St. Marc December 2000 and in Pétion-ville August 2001, respectively. What sanctions have been imposed on the officers responsible for these crimes?
4. The Reintegration of Police Officers Dismissed for Grave Human Rights Violations, Theft, Corruption, etc.
In order to completely fulfill its role, the Haitian National Police must impose the rules of conduct in regards to the management of its personnel. Article 17 of the personnel manual of the National Police, February 6, 1996, states that: an officer soliciting reinstatement into the ranks of the National Police after termination of a previous contract, must submit a certificate of good behaviour to the issue of services rendered while a member of the National Police.
However, in reality, several officers dismissed for serious human rights violations, theft, corruption, drug trafficking, or other infractions have been able to be reintegrated into the institution.
1) the Case of Officer Normil ROBOAM This officer, an Agent 1, was dismissed from the National Police in October 1996 for reasons involving a summary execution. He was reintegrated into the PNH in April 2001 to the level of Agent 3.
2) the Case of Officer Carol LOCHARD Former Municipal Commissioner of Mirogoâne, he was dismissed from the PNH in October 1996 for committing human rights violations. He was reintegrated into the ranks in April 2001 and is currently the Municipal Commissioner of Carrefour.
3) the Case of Officer Roody TERRASSAN He was dismissed for abandonment of post, was reintegrated in the PNH in April 2001 and is currently responsible for the specialized unit of BRI (Brigade de Recherche et Intervention). Today this unit has a disturbing reputation for arbitrary arrests and prolonged detention.
4) the Case of Officer Patrick GUILLAUME He had been dismissed for abandoning his post, was reintegrated into the PNH in April 2001 and is currently the Municipal Commissioner of Pétion-ville.
Other cases worth mentioning are:
i) police officer Shiller LOUIDOR, implicated in the scandal involving the diversion of seven hundred thousand American dollars (700,000 $US) to the Central Direction of the Judicial Police (DCPJ), was simply transferred to the Secretary of State for Justice (SEJ) in charge of public security.
ii) the forceful intervention of three (3) SWAT team vehicles and the Corps d’Intervention pour le Maintien de l’Ordre (CIMO) in the town of Bon Repos for the purpose of executing a judicial order in favour of the Mevs family. Is it possible to requisition the specialized units of the police, and by whom for the execution of judiciary decisions? Are the best trained of the PNH in the service of the bourgeois monopoly as in the time of the Army? What has changed?
iii) the case of officers Camy MARCELLUS, Municipal Commissioner of Delmas, and Yrvens CESAR, Police Inspector of Delmas, who brutalized and threatened to kill journalist Jean Robert DELCINE of Radio Haiti Inter while he was doing his job. The General Inspection once again answers with silence.
Furthermore, the PNH gives the impression that it functions without any career plan for its officers. Promotions are bestowed on the basis of militancy and allegiance to the political power in place. Staff of the PNH is transferred to the General Direction without any structured orientation, defined tasks or missions. Individuals without sufficient training are placed in posts of responsibility within in the PNH without contest. This reinforces indolence in an institution that cruelly suffers from a lack of human resources.
Thus, it is the return to favouritism as such during the time of the Army. What has changed?
Mr. President, today the boat of the PNH is adrift. It requires swift correction and only the CSPN has the expertise to do it. It is NCHR’s wish that intelligence, common sense and wisdom will be placed above all other considerations. With this vision, NCHR makes the following recommendations to the CSPN:
1. work to professionalize the PNH;
2. respect the code of ethics within the PNH and in the management of the institution;
3. publish the list of officers who were reintegrated into the ranks of the PNH since February 2001;
4. publish the list of officers sanctioned since the change to the current leadership team of the PNH;
5. establish and respect a career plan for officers within the PNH; and
6. put an end to the practices of torture in the retention centres of the PNH.
Mr. President, NCHR humbly requests that you accept the highest expression of its consideration.