The Honorable Colin Powell
Secretary of State
Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20520
The Honorable Donald H. Rumsfeld
Secretary of Defense
Department of Defense
Washington, D.C. 20301
Dear Secretary Powell and Secretary Rumsfeld:
As the U.S.-led Multinational Interim Force nears the end of its second week in Haiti, I am writing to convey Human Rights Watch's views regarding Haiti's urgent need for security, disarmament and accountability. Given the precarious conditions prevailing in Haiti, we recommend that the interim force take vigorous measures to protect the human rights of the country's civilian population.
First, and as a matter of priority, we urge you to ensure that U.S. military forces quickly extend their geographic reach beyond Port-au-Prince to cover all of Haiti. At present, though U.S. and other troops have generally restored order to the capital, there is still a power vacuum in much of the rest of the country. In Les Cayes, for example, Haiti's fourth largest city, violence continues between armed insurgents, Aristide loyalists and criminal gangs. Not only is such chaos and instability likely to lead more desperate Haitians to seek refuge in the United States, it destroys the local economy and creates conditions that favor the spread of drug trafficking.
We note, on a related point, that Haiti is awash with guns. Indeed, the deadly violence in Port-au-Prince on March 7 is a grim testament to the easy availability of high caliber arms. Many of the people killed or injured that day were reportedly hit by high-velocity bullets from weapons like M-16s and M-14s. Given the serious threat to Haiti's security and stability posed by the profusion of such weaponry, we were very pleased to learn that U.S. military officials in Haiti announced on Tuesday that marines would begin disarming the country's militant groups. The announcement marked an important change from the previously stated policy that disarmament was not part of the U.S. mission in Haiti. We urge you, in implementing this policy, to ensure that the proposed disarmament is not done on an ad hoc basis, but is instead carried out in a comprehensive and systematic way.
Another issue of enormous concern is accountability. Secretary Powell, we were greatly encouraged by comments you made last week expressing concern over the prospect of including insurgent leaders in any new government. We agree with you that the past records of some of these men should disqualify them from any position of official or de facto authority in Haiti. Indeed, we call on U.S. forces in Haiti to arrest these human rights criminals and bring them to justice. To allow them to move about freely, under the eyes of U.S. troops, is likely to further destabilize the country and result in continued violence.
The most notorious of these men is Louis Jodel Chamblain, the apparent second in command to rebel leader Guy Philippe. Chamblain, one of the founders of the violent paramilitary group known as the Revolutionary Front for Haitian Advancement and Progress (FRAPH), during the 1991-1994 military government in Haiti, was convicted in absentia and sentenced to life imprisonment for the 1993 murder of Antoine Izméry, a well-known pro-democracy activist, and for involvement in the 1994 Raboteau massacre. As you know, under Haitian law, perpetrators convicted in absentia have the right to a retrial. We urge you to ensure that Chamblain is arrested and detained until his retrial occurs.
Another member of the insurgent forces with a history of violent abuses is Jean Pierre Baptiste, alias Jean Tatoune. Tatoune, a local FRAPH leader during the 1991-1994 military government, was sentenced to life imprisonment for his role in the 1994 Raboteau massacre. He escaped from prison in Gonaives in August 2002, as part of a mass prison break, and later joined the insurgent group now known as the Artibonite Resistance Front.
You may also be aware that a number of men implicated in serious human rights crimes were freed from the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince on February 29. They include Jackson Joanis, a former commander of the notoriously abusive Investigations and Anti-Gang Service during the military government, who was convicted in absentia of the 1993 murder of Antoine Izmery; Jean-Claude Duperval, deputy commander-in-chief of the Haitian army during the military government, who was convicted in absentia of the 1994 Raboteau massacre; Hébert Valmond, lieutenant colonel and head of military intelligence, who was convicted in absentia of the Raboteau massacre, and Carl Dorelien, a former army colonel who was convicted in absentia of the Raboteau massacre. All four of these men were previously deported from the United States.
We urge you to ensure that all of these men are rearrested and face justice.
Human Rights Watch believes that Haiti's turmoil over the last decade demonstrates the insidious effect of impunity for violent human rights abuses. Past failures to achieve justice have contributed to periodic outbreaks of violence and summary revenge. If Haiti is to escape further bloodshed and insecurity, the practice of impunity must end. We hope that U.S. forces in Haiti, who are now responsible for ensuring order in the country, understand the need to bring violent abusers to justice.
Thank you for your attention to these matters.
José Miguel Vivanco