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Date: Mon, 18 Jan 1999 11:40:05 -0800 (PST)
From: Robert Corbett <bcorbett@netcom.com>
Subject: Haiti Documents Campaign (fwd)
To: Bob Corbett <bcorbett@netcom.com>
Message-ID: <Pine.3.89.9901181145.A10756-0100000@netcom15>

From: Haiti Support Group <haitisupport@gn.apc.org>

Haiti Documents Campaign

From Haiti Support Group
18 January 1999

January 15, 1999

Hello Everyone:

Happy New Year to all, and welcome to you who are new to the Campaign for the Return of the FRAPH/FADH Documents. The Campaign is an effort launched by Haitian grassroots organizations, with supporters in over 20 countries (so far), demanding the return of approximately 160,000 pages of documents (including "trophy photos" of human rights victims with their torturers, as well as video and audiocassettes) taken from Haitian military and paramilitary offices by U.S. troops in 1994. These documents are important for Haitians to establish the truth about the 1991-94 military dictatorship, and to prepare cases against those responsible for human rights violations by military and paramilitary forces.

Although momentum slowed a bit for the holidays, we did collect 1,000 new signatures to the Petition demanding the return of the documents. Our total now stands at over 11,000. Special thanks to Cynthia Banas of Pax Christi USA, who turned in over 300 for the month, and in Haiti, to Fondasyon 30 Setpanm for their 650, the culmination of several months' hard work. Our main priority is still the development of a base of support for the Campaign through the circlation of the Petition, so please keep (or start) collecting signatures.

December 10, the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, was celebrated throughout Haiti with conferences, demonstrations and press releases. In part due to the Campaign's education efforts over the last year, many celebration participants reflecting on the meaning of Human Rights discussed the link between the non-return of the Documents and the continuing problem of impunity in Haiti. On the same day, the White House issued an Executive Order declaring it official US policy to "promote respect for international human rights, both in our relationships with all other countries and by working with and strengthening the various international mechanisms for the promotion of human rights...." Government agencies are instructed to "maintain a current awareness of United States international human rights obligations that are relevant to their functions and shall perform such functions so as to respect and implement those obligations fully." We take that as an endorsement.

The Haiti Support Group, in its October "Haiti Briefing," had an article on the Documents. This morning's mail included an envelope from Pax Christi USA,exhorting its members to continue gathering signatures. The on-line "Virtual Truth Commission", which had been carrying Haiti Support Group information on the Documents on its website, just added a direct link to our webpage. The Virtual Truth Commission has other information on Haiti, including a special page for Toto Constant. Check it out at http:/pages.prodigy.com/truthpage/haiti.htm.

Pax Christi reminds us of the annual Haiti Solidarity Week, this year from March 14-21. Now is a good time for everyone, especially those in the U.S., to think about what they and their organization can do to promote the Campaign during that week. Send ideas in to us, and we will have more information in the two intervening updates. Resource packets are available from the Quixote Center, www.igc.apc.org/quixote, or 301-699-0042.

The annual session of the UN Commission on Human Rights takes place in Geneva in February and March. The last two years the Commission's Special Expert on Haiti, Adama Dieng, has sharply criticized the U.S.' failure to return the Documents, but each time efforts to have the full Commission vote on a resolution condemning this failure have fallen short. This year we plan to launch a coordinated campaign to lobby NGO's and governments with influence at the Commission, to push for a vote on the Documents. Mike Levy at mlevyhaiti@aol.com is coordinating this effort. Please consider what you or your group can do to help this effort, and contact Mike.

We are still looking for a volunteer to help us take advantage of the internet's potential for spreading the word. There is no long term commitment needed, just a willingness to give it a shot.

This month's Grassroot Spotlight is on OPDR, Oganizasyon Popile Demokratik Raboto. OPDR was founded in November, 1991, and was a courageous focal point of the democratic resistance throughout the dictatorship, organizing demonstrations, meeting with foreign journalists and human rights workers, and collecting information on atrocities. Many OPDR members were beaten, imprisoned and tortured for their activities. Some were killed, especially during the April 22, 1994 Raboteau massacre. OPDR continued its fight for justice after the restoration of democracy. The organization is currently active in the preparation of the Raboteau massacre case, and regularly makes public statements and lobbies government officials regarding national justice issues.

A note on why we are doing this: a man came in the office yesterday, whose wife had been killed by paramilitary forces several years ago. "Fritz" (not his real name) recounted the massacre itself, and the sad trip to the morgue to find his wife among the stacks of bodies. He talked about the daily struggle to raise three motherless children- not the difficulty of getting by without her income, or the burden of extra chores around the house, but about how much they all still missed her, every day. Fritz was most concerned about, and struggled most for, his sons. He feared that their anger at their unjust loss would make them grow up to be "more sadistic than those others", and hook them into the cycle of violence.

Fritz felt that seeking justice for his wife carried some risk of leaving his children orphans. Yet, he said that if we were serious, he would take thhat risk, so that his sons and all the other boys would not "be like those others."

If you would like the French version of this update, let us know (ditto if you would like your name off the list). As always, please forward to the interested. The Campaign's website has lots of information on the Documents issue, and is at: http://members.bellatlantic.net/~advocacy. Any questions or comments should go to: In Europe: Haiti Support Group, Trinity Church, Hodford Rd., London NW 118NG, phone/fax: 44-181-201-9878, email: haitisupport@gn.apc.org; in Haiti: Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, 168 Avenue John Brown, Port-au-Prince, phone: 509-45-8550, fax 509-45-0371, email: avokahaiti@aol.com; Everywhere else: Haiti Advocacy: 915 E St. SE, Washington DC, 20003, telephone: 202-544-9084, email: advocacy@bellatlantic.net. Copies of the Petition, in Creole, English, French, Spanish and Dutch are available from all those sources. This is update #7.

Kenbe fem, Brian Concannon

Bureau des Avocats Internationaux