Human Rights Watch called on the government of Panama to prosecute or extradite Generals Raoul Cedrás and Philippe Biamby for atrocities committed during their 1991-1994 military rule in Haiti.
In a letter to the recently-elected President of Panama, Mireya Moscoso, Human Rights Watch noted that Cedrás and Biamby led a bloody 1991 coup against Jean-Bertrand Aristide. During Cedrás' three-year dictatorship, thousands were killed, tortured and raped. Generals Cedrás and Biamby were recently indicted by a Haitian judge for their participation in an April 1994 massacre in the slum of Raboteau, in which army forces killed approximately 20 people.
"President Moscoso has the opportunity to show the world that Panama is no longer a place where human rights criminals can safely retire," said Jose Miguel Vivanco, Executive Director of the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch.
In 1998, Panama turned down Haiti's extradition request for General Cedrás. "Panama is in breach of its legal obligations under the United Nations Torture Convention," said Vivanco. "Panama's new leadership has the duty to either extradite Cedrás to Haiti or prosecute him in Panama." Vivanco noted that the Torture Convention forms the legal basis of Great Britain's arrest of Chilean General Augusto Pinochet.
Generals Cedrás and Biamby were granted asylum by Panama on October 13, 1994, following a multinational intervention which forced them to return power in Haiti to President Aristide. Since that time, no legal action has been taken against either Cedrás or Biamby in Panama, even though Panama ratified the Torture Convention in 1987 and has domestic laws permitting prosecution for torture committed abroad.
In the wake of the October 1998 arrest of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, Human Rights Watch has campaigned to bring other former tryants to justice. Among other human rights criminals now in comfortable exile, the group cited Uganda's Idi Amin currently living in Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia's Mengistu Haile Miriam in Zimbabwe, Paraguay's Alfredo Stroessner in Brazil and Haiti's death squad leader Emmanuel "Toto" Constant in the United States.
For more information:
Jose Miguel Vivanco (202) 612-4330
Reed Brody (212) 216-1206