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Date: Tue, 16 Nov 1999 20:56:19 -0600 (CST)
From: Haiti Progres <editor@haiti-progres.com>
Subject: This Week in Haiti 17:34 11/10/99: Pretext for New US Invasion?
Article: 82092
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Return our documents, Haitians demand

From Haiti Progress, This Week in Haiti,
Vol. 17, no. 34, 10-16 November 1999

Over 100 Haitians and their supporters held a spirited rally in front of the United Nations General Headquarters in Manhattan on Nov. 4, demanding the return of a vast trove of evidence against human rights violators which the U.S. government spirited out of Haiti in 1994 and has refused to return intact ever since.

The demonstration was timed to coincide with a presentation by Adama Dieng, the UN Human Rights Commission Independent Expert on Haiti, before the UN General Assembly. When Dieng delivered his report on Nov. 5, he recommended that the General Assembly pass a resolution calling on the US to return the 160,000 pages of documents immediately and unconditionally. The US has said that it will only return the documents to the Haitian government after it has edited out the equivalent of 3,200 pages. Those pages contain, among other things, the names of US citizens, whose privacy rights the U.S. officials claim to be protecting.

In reality they must be protecting the identity of CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] agents and other operatives which they had working in Haiti and still have today, said Ray Laforest of the Haiti Support Network (HSN), one of the sponsors of the Nov. 4 action. They are abetting criminals and terrorists, just as they did during the coup years, which is why Haiti remains gripped by violence.

U.S. soldiers took the documents from the headquarters and various outposts of the formally disbanded Haitian Armed Forces (FadH) and the paramilitary Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH) in October 1994 and flew them to Washington, D.C. without the Haitian Government's knowledge or consent, Dieng notes in his report. Despite many appeals from the independent expert and repeated requests from the Haitian authorities, supported by MICIVIH [UN/OAS Civilian Observer Mission in Haiti], members of the US Congress, three Nobel Peace Prize winners, dozens of NGOs, and thousands of people throughout the world, the Haitian people are still waiting for these documents, which form an essential part of their history.

For the past 18 months, the Campaign for the Return of the FRAPH/FAdH Documents, an international coalition of human rights and activist groups, has collected thousands of signatures in over 30 countries to demand the return of the evidence. In concert with the Campaign, the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) called for the Nov. 4 demonstration with the encouragement of lawyers working with the Haitian government to prosecute coup criminals. The lawyers say that the documents are essential for the prosecution of cases like the 1994 Raboteau massacre in Gonaïves, for which many coup leaders were indicted last month.

The documents are a rich source of evidence, said Brian Concannon, one of the lawyers working on the Raboteau case. They are most useful in going after the people who are most guilty. We don't need the written evidence to go after some low-level FRAPH member or a soldier, because the evidence against him is that someone saw him shoot somebody or beat somebody up. But the cases against the military and paramilitary leaders who were giving the orders and are, to me, more responsible, that is best done through paper.

The documents reportedly contain dramatic evidence like video tapes of torture sessions and trophy photos of victims and also seemingly mundane but legally powerful bits of paper like vouchers and receipts, according to Concannon. If some military commander in Cap Haïtien signed off to get 10 extra lunches in Gonaïves on April 22, 1994 [the day of the Raboteau massacre], then that is very strong proof that the guy knew what was going on, he said.

Human rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have also pushed for the documents' return. These thugs terrorized Haiti for three years, murdering, torturing and raping, said Reed Brody, HRW's Advocacy Director. The United States has taken away a potential gold-mine of evidence which could help bring some of these people to justice and now won't give it back.

Groups note that the US is also harboring in Queens, NY Emmanuel Toto Constant, the head of the FRAPH death-squad and a former CIA agent. On Nov. 8, Constant was sighted with his girlfriend meeting a plane at New York's Kennedy Airport. The Clinton Administration's refusal to hand back this evidence, its insistence on shielding the identity of Americans involved with Haiti's criminals, and the protection it offers to the most wanted man in Haiti [Constant] all point to a continuing cover-up of U.S. wrongdoing in Haiti, Brody said.

The Nov. 4 protestors would agree, and they made no secret of their suspicions. Today it is time that we asked ourselves and the people of this country, Are they paying the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] to be a terrorist organization? said Yvon Kernizan, a leader of the Lavalas Family party (FL) in New York. We are taxpayers, and we are entitled to answers. The FRAPH is still in Haiti. The CIA is promoting violence. The State Department is paying for it. We have to stop that.

Key Martin of the International Action Center noted that the United States government has been one of the biggest purveyors of violence and death in the last 50 years and they even admit it. Clinton the other day apologized to Guatemala because the death squads, hired and organized by the CIA, killed 200,000 people. The same approach was used against Haiti and other countries, Martin said. It is unacceptable to have a foreign policy based on death squads!

Other speakers included Michael Ratner of the CCR, Kim Ives of Haïti Progrès, Fritznel Benoit of the FL, Dahoud André of Konbit Vijilans, and Laura Castro of the Global Sweatshops Coalition. The demonstration was chaired by the FL's Alena Sixto and Ron Daniels, Executive director of the CCR. Organizers, who had less than two weeks to build the event, were satisfied with the action's turn-out and spirit. Also in Haiti, the September 30th Foundation, a group which demands justice for coup victims, dedicated its weekly Wednesday picket in front of the National Palace to support the New York demonstration.

The demonstrators hoped that their action would help pressure the UN General Assembly to follow Dieng's recommendation that the United States should be invited to return the documents, intact and without delay. Such a resolution would not be binding on the US, but it would be highly embarrassing. Through diplomatic strong-arming, Washington thwarted the inclusion of a call for the documents' return in the UN Human Rights Commission resolution on Haiti last April, according to Brody. This week, however, he will be meeting with the ambassadors of Canada, France and Venezuela in an effort to have them bring pressure on the US to return the documents. Venezuela will be the key, Brody said, since they usually have a hand in writing the resolutions on Haiti.