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Letter to Attorney General Janet Reno and Secretary Madeleine Albright
Re: Emmanuel "Toto" Constant
New York, December 11, 2000
Dear Attorney General Reno and Secretary Albright:
Our organizations are writing to request that the United States government execute the outstanding final deportation order obtained by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) against Emmanuel "Toto" Constant in December 1995. Constant is wanted by Haitian prosecutors for serious human rights crimes in Haiti.
The Center for Constitutional Rights made this request to Attorney General Reno on August 4 and September 25, 2000, but has yet to receive a reply. Human Rights Watch has similarly written on several occasions to Secretary Albright without response
As you know, Constant was a founder and secretary general of the paramilitary Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH). FRAPH members were responsible for human rights atrocities under the military government that ruled Haiti from 1991 to 1994, including extrajudicial executions, torture, and rape.
In February 1995 Constant's presence in the United States had become public and U.S. officials were pressured to arrest him. On March 29, 1995 Secretary of State Warren Christopher wrote Attorney General Reno an extraordinary letter requesting Constant's "expeditious deportation from the United States." Citing the Immigration and Nationality Act, Secretary Christopher "concluded that the continued presence and activities of Emmanuel Mario Constant ... in the United States ... would . . . cast doubt upon the seriousness of our resolve to combat human rights violations . . . I also request that you take all steps possible to effect his deportation to Haiti." Secretary Christopher understood Constant's role in Haiti's terror:
[FRAPH] is officially regarded by the Department of State as an illegitimate paramilitary organization whose members were responsible for numerous human rights violations in Haiti in 1993 and 1994 . . . Mr Constant is one of the co-founders and current President of FRAPH. He was instrumental in sustaining the repression that prevailed in Haiti under the illegal military led regime ...
Constant was arrested and, after a court hearing, he was found deportable. In September 1995, Immigration Judge John Gossart found that Constant was the leader of FRAPH whose "members were responsible for numerous human rights violations in Haiti and that he "has been accused of notorious and abhorrent conduct." On December 13, 1995, the INS obtained a final deportation order against Constant. However, Constant was released from detention on June 14, 1996 and remains in the Untied States and in the New York City area.
U.S. officials have explained Constant's release from detention and the failure to deport him by claiming that Haiti's judicial system was inadequate to deal with his case. In an August 29, 1997 letter to Michael Ratner, Vice-President of the Center for Constitutional Rights, INS General Counsel David A. Martin stated that immediate deportation "would place an undue burden on Haiti's judicial and penal system," and that the INS would deport Constant once it was "advised by the Department of State that Haiti's judicial and penal systems have developed the capacity to deal with a case of this magnitude." This despite assurances by high- ranking Haitian officials at the time that Constant would receive a fair trial.
We draw your attention to the fact that the Haitian government has recently concluded a major trial of defendants accused of the April 1994 Raboteau massacre in which as many as 15 Haitian slum-dwellers were killed and over 200 injured. After a trial of six weeks, 16 soldiers and their accomplices were found guilty for their role in the massacre. Six of the defendants were acquitted. In a separate branch of the same trial, Constant was convicted in absentia of "assassinat" (premeditated homicide). When he is returned to Haiti he will be entitled to a new trial. Several admitted members of FRAPH were present and convicted of participating in the massacre.
The Raboteau trial illustrates that the Haitian justice system has the capacity to provide a fair trial to major defendants. The case was painstakingly built over several years by a group of determined Haitian lawyers. All of the defendants in custody were represented by defense counsel. Numerous eyewitnesses testified, and their testimony was buttressed by international experts in forensic anthropology, genetics, military organization, and human rights as well as documents from the Haitian military archives. (Unfortunately, the prosecution did not have access to the "FRAPH/FAd'H Documents," materials seized by U.S. forces from the Haitian military and FRAPH in September 1994 and still not returned to Haiti.) An important witness was Colin Granderson, the former head of MICIVIH, the UN/OAS human rights mission that investigated the massacre. According to the present U.N. mission (MICAH), "these trials constitute a significant step in the fight against impunity in Haiti demanded by the entire Haitian people, and prove that the Haitian justice system is able to effectively try the authors of crimes and other infractions, and human rights violations in general, while respecting the guarantees of the 1987 constitution and the international treaties signed by Haiti." (Our translation.) The United Nations Independent Expert on Haiti, Adama Dieng, said that the Haitian justice system had taken "a huge step forward" with the completion of the Raboteau trial.
Constant's presence in New York is a daily source of dismay and even menace to the city's large Haitian community. A number of these Haitians are terrified that Constant is freely walking the streets. In 1998, at a hearing held by the New York City Council prior to its adoption of a resolution calling for Constant's return to Haiti, numerous Haitians declined to exercise their First Amendment rights to testify out of fear for their lives and those of their families in the United States and Haiti.
While the U.S. government formally endorses programs designed to improve Haiti's justice system, it is simultaneously - through the failure to return Constant or the seized documents - obstructing efforts to establish justice for Haitian human rights victims. A central purpose of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which the United States signed on April 18, 1988 (before Constant's alleged crimes were committed), and ratified on October 21, 1994, was to prevent alleged torturers from evading responsibility for their actions by imposing a duty on states to prosecute or extradite such suspects.
We therefore urge you to proceed with the expeditious deportation of Constant. It is also our view that he should be detained until such time that the depuration order is executed. We would like to arrange a meeting with you to further discuss this issue at your earliest convenience.
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