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28556: ANonymous (news) CHAN Statement on Canada and Haiti's Political Prisoners (Article) (fwd)


Haiti: CHAN Statement on Canada and Haiti's Political Prisoners

"There are no political prisoners in Haiti."
- Paul Martin, November 15th, 2004

"Before Haiti can truly move forward and President Préval can begin
to consolidate the fleeting prospect for democracy offered by his
victory at the polls, the question of injustice under the ill-
reputed, U.S.-backed Latortue interim government must be addressed."
- ?The Search for Justice for Haiti?s Yvon Neptune and his Fellow
Inmates: All Political Prisoners,? Council on Hemispheric Affairs,
June 23, 2006.

Five months after Haiti?s Presidential elections, thousands of pre-
trial detainees and political prisoners remain within Haiti?s horrid
prisons. The list of political prisoners includes ex-prime minister
Yvon Neptune, folk-singer and activist So Ann Auguste, grassroots
activist Paul Raymond, and well-known rara musician Yvon ?Zap Zap?
Antoine. The conditions inside such prisons are horrific. Prisoners
within Haiti?s National Penitentiary, the country?s largest and most
well-known prison, are often kept in unsanitary conditions with no
access to medical care. Detainees are kept in over-crowded cells
without lighting or ventilation, are sometimes barred access to
washroom facilities, and are often beaten by prison guards during
recreation times. Further to this, what lavatory facilities that do
exist within this area are close to the prison's water wells, raising
concern about the contamination of water supplies.

At a press conference held on April 6th, 2006, UN High Commissioner
for Human Rights in Haiti Thierry Fagart criticized the Haitian
government for its treatment of prisoners. According to UN
Spokesperson David Wimhurst, of the 4,034 people imprisoned
nationwide, only 450 inmates (or 11%) had been convicted of any
crime. In the case of jailed former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, even
Roger Noriega, the former US Assistant Secretary of State for
Hemispheric Affairs, has criticized the Haitian judiciary for its
handling of his case, while Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Peter
Mackay has publicly stated that he supports Neptune?s immediate
release. Further to this, it is clear, even from admissions by Fagart
himself, that the vast majority of prisoners within Haiti?s jails are
from poor neighbourhoods, and lack access to basic legal counsel.

Although such recognition of the situation in Haiti?s prisons is
certainly heartening, the Canadian government, as well as the UN,
share a responsibility for the conditions within these prisons, the
policy of arbitrary arrest within poor neighbourhoods on the part of
the Haitian Police and the UN Forces, and the continuing state of
impunity for the wealthy and powerful within Haiti?s judiciary.

Police Brutality

The Haitian National Police, whose UN training has been led by
Canadian RCMP officials since the summer of 2004, have consistently
been carrying out a campaign of arbitrary imprisonment and human
rights abuses within some of the poorest neighbourhoods in Haiti?s
capital. Such acts of brutality have been documented in reports
issued by Amnesty International, the Harvard School of Law, and the
Centre for the Study of Human Rights at the University of Miami.
Training for such ?anti-gang raids? or ?weapon sweeps? has commonly
resulted in the rounding up of men and women from poor
neighbourhoods, in a sort of ?preventative detention.? Deadly
shootings upon peaceful demonstrations of supporters of the ousted
Lavalas government were commonplace prior to the February 7th
election, as documented by reports from AP and Reuters.

Sadly, such practices seem to have been taken over by members of the
UN Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Increasingly, street youth within
poor neighbourhoods have been targeted for pre-emptive arrests by the
UN and HNP forces. A May 3rd, 2006 press conference held in Cite
Soleil by the Haitian Human Rights organization AUMOHD culminated in
a call by 200 community members and family of victims for reparations
for human rights abuses and killings committed by UN forces.

MINUSTAH forces often detain Haitians who live in these
neighbourhoods without warrant or charge, and then hand them over to
the Haitian National Police for indefinite imprisonment. After the
February 7th elections, these arrests continued, albeit to a much
smaller degree, in neighbourhoods such as Pele. It should be pointed
out that Canadian military and civilian personnel occupy prominent
positions within the UN military command.

Canadian UNPOL officers were also present outside Haiti?s National
Penitentiary on May 14th, 2006 after a number of prisoners broke out
of their cells and staged a demonstration drawing attention to the
illegality of their detention. Independent journalists videotaped
Chinese UN soldiers firing into the prison during this demonstration.
Prisoners claimed that 10 unarmed detainees were killed as a result.

Canada and Haiti?s Prisons

Canada has been one of the key donor countries contributing to the
reform initiatives of the United Nations aimed at Haiti?s prisons. As
noted by Thierry Fagart of the UN?s Human Rights Commission in a
March 17, 2006 interview:

?Canadians in particular are very involved in the prisons area. Both
at the UNDP and MINUSTAH, the guys who are in charge are all Canadians.?

Canadian officials, working through the capacity of the UN
Development Program (UNDP) or MINUSTAH offer training and other
support to prison officials and guards. MINUSTAH also offers security
at each of Haiti?s prisons.

Such logistical and security support is troubling due to the unsafe
and brutal conditions found within Haiti?s prisons, as well as the
tendency to offer special punishment for political detainees.

At present the UNDP does not even provide regular monitoring of the
human rights conditions within Haiti?s prisons.

Canada and Haiti?s Judiciary

For years, Haiti?s judiciary has been plagued by corruption and
impunity. However, the international community, in its judicial
reform programs, has particularly favoured judicial partners which
have shown their absolute contempt for Haiti?s constitution, as well
as basic human rights for Haiti?s poor.

In particular, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)
is known to be funding coordinating members of the Group of 184, a
powerful ?civil society? organization composed almost entirely of
members of Haiti?s wealthy elite. The organization is lead by
sweatshop owner and industrialist Andre Apaid, who was amongst the
leading proponents of the coup against elected Haitian President Jean-
Bertrand Aristide in February of 2004. Apaid has also acknowledged
ties to gang leaders, as noted in a Miami Centre for the Study of
Human Rights report. The Group of 184 was also one of the main
elements within Haiti which pressured the UN to ?crackdown? on ?gang
neighbourhoods? such as Cite Soleil. This crackdown has resulted in
the killings of numerous civilians in many poor neighbourhoods, and
culminated in the July 6th, 2005 raid which left 23 civilians dead in
Cite Soleil, including women and children, according to reports from
Medecins Sans Frontieres staff.

In addition, judicial reform programs also offer funding to the
Haitian Judges Association (ANAMAH). ANAMAH?s director, Judge Jean
Peres Paul has demonstrated a total disregard for human rights and
the rule of law in Haiti. Peres Paul kept the Catholic Priest Gerard
Jean-Juste, a ?prisoner of conscience? according to Amnesty
International, in prison for six months, even after he was diagnosed
with life-threatening Leukemia. Peres Paul also recently presided
over the release of 7 police officers who were arrested in connection
with the August 2005 Gran Ravine massacre, in which 12 individuals
were shot and hacked to death in a soccer stadium within the Port-au-
Prince neighbourhood.

Such funding arrangements do little to establish an impartial
judiciary that is willing to dispense equal justice to rich and poor
Haitians. In addition, Canada has maintained CIDA funding for the
clearly partisan ?human rights? organization, the Reseau National du
Defense des Droits Haitien (RNDDH), formerly known as NCHR-Haiti.
RNDDH has been singularly responsible for the unfounded allegations
that have kept Haitian Prime Minister Yvon Neptune in prison for over
two years.


Even after a bi-partisan Canadian Parliamentary delegation toured
Haiti?s National Penitentiary in April of 2006, few critical
questions of Canada?s role within Haiti?s judiciary were raised. Most
delegation members simply praised Canadian officials working in
Haiti, while failing to address the difficult questions surrounding
Canadian funding for organizations such as the RNDDH and members of
the Group of 184. Sadly, such behaviour has followed the pattern of
almost all of Canada?s Members of Parliament; few have raised any
questions of Canada?s involvement in Haiti, and none have expressly
called for the release of illegally detained pre-trial detainees in
Haiti?s prisons. Such silence has continued the policy of quiet
consent to Canada?s shameful and anti-democratic role in Haiti, first
initiated under the previous Liberal government.

Such silence is unacceptable. Despite the possibility of a release of
high profile political prisoner Yvon Neptune in the coming weeks, the
time is long overdue for the Canadian government to recognize its own
role in maintaining a stable system of impunity and in Haiti?s
judicial system. Such recognition is vital if Canada?s professed
commitment to supporting democracy in Haiti is to be anything other
than empty words.

As a result we, as members of the Canada Haiti Action Network, call
upon the Canadian government to:

- In accordance with the Haitian Constitution, use all possible
means, including diplomatic pressure and the withholding of salaries
from officials within the Haitian justice ministry, to immediately
free all of Haiti?s political prisoners and pre-trial detainees,
including Yvon Neptune, So Ann Auguste, Yvon ?Zap Zap? Antoine, Paul
Raymond and the countless others who remain in jail.

- Withdraw all support and command personnel associated with UNPOL.
This UN body has played a clear role in aiding and perpetrating human
rights abuses throughout the country and has displayed no clear
intent of altering its conduct.

- Cease all funding arrangements with the Haitian Judges Association
(ANAMAH) as a result of their unequivocal support for a regime of
human rights abuses that have reigned in Haiti since February of 2004.

- Cease all funding arrangements with any judiciary or ?civil
society? members of the Group of 184; Cease all CIDA funding to the
biased and wilfully negligent ?human rights? organization RNDDH/NCHR-


Canada Haiti Action Network,
June 30, 2006
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