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Date: Fri, 16 Jun 1995 12:06:18 -0700 (PDT)
From: Bob Corbett <bcorbett@crl.com>
Subject: Haitian Land Disputes
Message-Id: <Pine.SUN.3.91.950616120532.24514A-100000@crl.crl.com>
author : cpt@igc.apc.org
date : 14.06.95

Haitian land disputes erupt

From a Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) in Haiti, CPTNET, 14 June 14 1995

A Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) in Haiti visited communities where land-ownership disputes resulted in the burning of more than twenty houses.

The conflicts erupted the week the team arrived in Haiti's fertile Artibonite valley. CPT members Lena Siegers and Duane Ediger began investigating the incidents.

Sister Mary Judith Joseph Clerfont is at the center of a land dispute in the mountain community of Konseye. During the time of President Aristide's exile she took possession of land for which she has produced no title and operated a school on it.

My father denounced the nun's actions on the radio, but he didn't take the land case to court until now because he has felt he can't trust the courts. The nun has had arrest warrants out for her twice and has never appeared in court, said the daughter of Atenn Vy, who claims to hold title to the land.

Mr. Vy's house was pillaged and burned May 28. When a friend of Mr. Vy was missing and rumored killed, a group from a nearby community avenged the supposed death by burning houses and taking or destroying property of relatives of Sister Clerfont. The friend later turned up unharmed.

Land disputes are among the toughest challenges facing Haiti's corruption-plagued court system.

I'd like to pursue justice, but I don't know how to do that, said Sidwann PeticlS, a father of seven. Because of his relation to sister Clerfont, Mr. PeticlS's house was burned and his animals and all his family's belongings--including land titles--were stolen or destroyed.

The CPT presence in the Artibonite valley plans to seek ways to avoid violence associated both with land conflicts and with the elections set for June 25. The incidents CPT investigated are not thought to be related to the upcoming elections, but they do raise security concerns in a country with a history of election-day violence. Besides the long-term presence of Siegers and Ediger in Ti RivyS, Artibonite, an eight-member CPT delegation visited the region June 8-11.