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Human Rights Horrors in Haiti
by Anthony Fenton
July 27, 2004

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On July 19th, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti released a nineteen-page report: “Human Rights Violations in Haiti: February-May 2004.” [1] One is immediately struck by the copious documentation and graphic detail of the report, and this is, according to the IJDH, “only a tiny fraction of the violations committed during the period covered.” Information is difficult to come by because “many victims or relatives are in hiding”, and many have a “fear of further retaliation.” Additionally, the areas under the control of the “rebels” [note US-supported], have largely been inaccessible, with the coverage relegated to Port au Prince and the Central Plateau. Perhaps the most telling detail is the commonality amongst victims:

“With the exception of four victims and for those whom it has not been possible to obtain their identity, interviewees have reported that the victims were supporters of Aristide or Haiti’s former constitutional government.”

The report makes note that “Morgue employees from the General Hospital in Port au Prince have revealed that 800 bodies on Sunday, March 7, and another 200 bodies on Sunday, March 28 were dumped and buried in a mass grave at Titanyen. These figures are unusual for such a short period of time [100 is normal for a month].”

Throughout the report are color photographs of mutilated bodies piled up in the morgue on May 20th, and of several people, such as Robert Mirlat, who had “his feet amputated and deep wounds inflicted on his left thigh.” Mirlat’s family was not permitted to see the body.

Roosevelt Rousseau “a partisan of President Aristide and member of a popular organization” is shown, having been “shot 8 times and killed while he was sitting outside his house with his family by 6 members of an armed gang called Base D’Enfer.”

Perhaps the most gruesome photo shows a decapitated Junior Saintilles, who, with his brother Reynold, was “kidnapped at night by a group of armed men from the house they were hiding in…When the bodies were found, both heads were missing…Among those who came to kidnap Reynold and Junior were former soldiers…”

The list of horrific violence goes on and on; 20 people are named as missing and presumed dead, and another 72 are named as having been confirmed dead. In most cases, the circumstances of death are described. Sometimes they are vague, such as the events of March 12th, forever etched in the minds of Haitians as the Belair Massacre. 18-year old Louis Frantzy and 30-year old Rony Ippolyte were killed by US Marines in Belair “where the majority of residents support President Aristide.”

These deaths were actually reported in the mainstream media. What wasn’t reported was that “on that night several other persons were killed and their bodies taken away in black body bags ­ only those of Frantzy and Ippolyte were recovered and hidden.” The corporate media referred to an “estimated 11 other people” who were said to have been killed, according to “eyewitnesses”, but this lead has to date not been followed up on by a single Associated Press, Reuters, or otherwise corporate “journalist”.

Recently, the Director of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights, Pierre Esperrance, told me that his office had confirmed 4 deaths in Belair on March 12th. Where were these 2 other bodies and why wasn’t this reported by the corporate media? Esperrance didn’t seem to know, since his office refused to investigate the massacre until a month later, despite the fact that everyone in the area knew about it. Many people from all sides of the political spectrum confirmed that this massacre took place, that “international forces” led a night-time military operation, equipped with APC’s and night-vision goggles and automatic weapons, bringing with them large trucks or ambulances to haul away the bodies of their victims. Lavalas militants confirmed many of these details during an April 2nd interview in Belair. All told,  anywhere between 35-65 people are believed to have been slaughtered by occupying forces on March 12th.

Elderly men and women are amongst the Aristide supporters murdered, as are young women, such as Momeline Milate, 29, “a mother of a 10 year old child.” Momeline “was outside her house and selling gasoline when she was shot 3 times and killed by unidentified armed and hooded men driving a pickup.”

Pierre Esperrance is deeply complicit in the cover-up of Lavalas persecution. When I spoke to him he actually said “I can tell you right now that there are no political prisoners in Haiti.” This is the same person whose office walls were adorned with anti-Aristide propaganda when the National Lawyers Guild met with him in April. Sadly, though not surprisingly, the NCHR is treated as though it is a legitimate human rights organization by the occupying forces, Human Rights Watch, the OAS,  CARICOM, and Reporters without Borders, among others. In reality, Esperrance should be behind bars.

One of the U.S.-based anti-democracy groups, the Haiti “Democracy” Project [HDP], relies on the NCHR, regularly posting their skewed reports on their “bipartisan” website. The HDP is a Brookings-Institution spawned group, and has long-supported the “opposition” in Haiti, and one of its principle founders is long time democracy-loather and coup-backer Reginald Boulos. The HDP has actively taken part in the censorship of human rights reports, such as that of the National Lawyers Guild, which they erased [on April 28th] from their website, calling into question its credibility, suggesting that the NLG went down to Haiti with an agenda, and predetermined conclusions. Basically, the HDP deplored the fact that the NLG reported the truth, such as coming across a pile of the remains of between 40 and 60 people, “where the bodies had been burned and pigs were seen [and photographed] eating the remains off some bones lying on the ground.” [2]

If the IJDH report “goes public,” that is, if it is not suppressed like every other credible report out of Haiti since February 29th, it will be extremely difficult to sustain the official “it wasn’t a coup, Aristide resigned” lie of the US, Canadian, and French governments, who are the most heavily implicated in the plot to overthrow Aristide going back to 2000. [3]

The official position has it that the May 2000 elections were “deeply flawed” and culminated in a “popular uprising” that eventually forced Aristide to “resign”. The November 2000 Presidential elections are also seen as flawed on this basis, “boycotted” as they were by the “opposition”, who, according to USAID Gallup polls, only enjoyed approximately 8% of popular support at the time.

The May 2000 elections were not flawed and neither were the Presidential elections. Out of over 7000 positions, a mere eight were disputed, seven of which involved Lavalas candidates. The dispute, importantly, had nothing to do with the election process to the extent that they were deemed “free and fair” without any significant violence or disruption. The dispute was over the process of tabulation, which should have seen these eight seats go to a runoff vote. Desperate for anything that might cast dispersion on the overwhelmingly popular Lavalas party, and to bolster their destabilization efforts, the “opposition” with help from their “friends of Haiti,” proceeded to blow this minor instance out of proportion. The head of the CEP [Provisional Electoral Council], Leon Manus, was evidently in on the destabilization plan, as he was reportedly involved in the October 17th attempt -- by seven School of the Americas trained paramilitaries, including Guy Philippe -- to overthrow President Preval before the November elections. [4]

On October 26, 2000, leader of the National People’s Party, Benjamin Dupuy reported that:

“The coup d’etat was a meeting that was held in the private residence of the military attaché of the US Embassy…It is certain that…the CIA established some bad elements…as they did with Toto Constant…So, the objective of the coup d’etat of these men was to establish a government…that would be headed by Olivier Nadal, Leon Manus, Jean-Claude Fignole and Guy Philippe.” [Haiti’s Radio Metropole]

Nadal has been involved in previous massacres of peasants, as well as backing the coup and making up a significant part of the monied classes in Haiti. Manus “fled Haiti” after the contrived run-off debacle that could otherwise have been easily resolved, just as these issues are in any other democracy when minor irregularities occur.

Philippe went on to make several other coup attempts; each time, he would flee to the Dominican Republic [who repeatedly refused to extradite him], to Panama, or to Ecuador. In every instance [there were several], the Dominican Republic would free him, knowing that he had committed several murders [such as in Belladere, 2002], and broken many other laws. From as high up the chain of command as possible, Philippe enjoyed a certain kind of immunity from prosecution and was in fact, according to retired Dominican Army General Noble Espejo, incorporated along with several other Haitian paramilitaries, into the Dominican army, and was funded and trained accordingly. This took place with the knowledge and complicity of the US Embassy in the Dominican. [5]

The white largely non-Haitian elites [who control most of the economy] knew going into November 2000 that an Aristide landslide victory was a foregone conclusion. Therefore, all of their energy had to be directed toward undermining the election in the eyes of the “international community”, and with the support of the “colonial arm” OAS. In spite of the opposition’s most devious efforts, over 60% of the population cast a vote in the Presidential election, ignoring the “boycott”, with over 90% voting for Aristide. Even a 2002 USAID-commissioned [and leaked] Gallup poll shows that over 60% of the populace still overwhelmingly supported Aristide. In any case, since the coup, both the US and Canadian embassies have stated that if elections were held today, Lavalas would win. [6] This is why Lavalas has been excluded from the electoral process as overseen by the Puppet Latortue regime, and this is why over 7000 [mainly Lavalas] public officials were summarily fired and forced into hiding after February 29th.

Several unsuccessful coup attempts later, in 2003 Canada took the lead on the final plans for Aristide’s overthrow, now that the international corporate media had done a marvelous job of demonizing Aristide and making Haiti look like a “basket case”. [7] At this time the US was busy preparing for another war on Iraq after having re-destroyed Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11. Canada and France were both posturing as though they were morally superior for not participating in Iraq meanwhile they were planning an intervention in Haiti, “pre-emptively” mending the fences that they were appearing to be burning over Iraq. It isn’t yet clear what caused the stall in the plan to overthrow Aristide before January 1st  [as announced by Canada’s Denis Paradis in the March 15th edition of L’Actualite], but the plan was carried out only two months later.

The systematic process of demonizing Aristide, staging several coup attempts that functioned to make the government look unstable, along with the well-orchestrated complicity of the OAS and the rest of the “colonial community”, laid the groundwork for a full-on denial in the aftermath. It is likely that as many people have died since the end of February as died in the three year CIA-supported military dictatorship that overthrew Aristide the first time, and it is many of the same people carrying out the atrocities.

The posture of denial is made more effective by the ensuing ‘moral justification’, which allows everyone to collectively suppress the guilt they feel knowing that they have contributed to these thousands of deaths. Haiti was a “failed state”, and it was the responsibility of the “international community” to intervene; this was the morally “responsible” thing to do. Never mind that Haiti’s “failure” was contingent upon the “success” of the Haitian elite, wealthy Diaspora members, and the rest of the colonial lot to destabilize Haiti. To describe this perverse hypocrisy as “Orwellian” does not do this situation justice, for impunity knows no justice.

On July 15th, Haitian author and political activist Jean Saint-Vil spoke to a large crowd in Vancouver, BC. The title of his talk was “Haiti Fighting White Supremacist Terrorism: Before Napoleon I, Beyond Bush II.” Saint-Vil demonstrated clearly the historical continuity up to the present day of this parasitic ideology that is by no means limited to Haiti. “Even though Colin Powell looks black, he’s as much a white supremacist as anyone.” And this applies equally to the people carrying out the slaughters on behalf of the white supremacist empire-builders, coup-plotters, and CEOs that just couldn’t allow democracy a chance to flourish in Haiti.

To compensate for this behaviour, as Eduardo Galeano has written“Ideological justifications were never in short supply….With the guilt, a whole system of rationalizations for guilty consciences were devised.” [in Open Veins of Latin America]. These rationalizations help the consciences of present-day imperialists, who are regularly employing the “failed state” rhetoric.  Consider the words of Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, who said recently:

“Better governance within fragile, failing or failed states means building effective public institutions.  It is true that fragile states often require military intervention to restore stability.  You in the United States know this well and so does Canada…We saw this in Haiti…Almost 10 years ago Canada, the United States and some other countries intervened…So 10 years later, here we are, back with the same problem and the same mess, but this time, we have got to stay until the job is done properly.” [8]

Where Martin's rhetoric, introduced by the Clinton administration, ironically, in the context of Haiti in 1993, eases the guilty consciences of those who sanction mass-murder and the subversion of democracy, hopefully The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti's report will encourage people to address the real problems, and compel us to come to grips with the horrible catastrophe that we have helped bring about in Haiti. At this point there can be no undoing of these deaths, but the perpetrators of these acts ­ many of whom are named, can be brought to justice.  Nancy Borgella’s 9 month old and 6 year old will not benefit from our bearing moral witness to the fact that Nancy had her left hand cut off had was suffocated to death in a container, silencing her cries for democracy and depriving these children of their mother. History has stubbornly shown that democracy is not so easily suffocated, despite the immense suffering that is to be endured by those who dare to make the ideal of democracy real.

Anthony Fenton is a Canadian writer who recently visited and has written about Haiti for ZNET. Read The Dominican Daily Weblog's interviews with Fenton about his trip.


[1] For more information or for a copy of the IJDH report, contact IJDH’s director Brian Concannon Jr. at Box 745, Joseph, OR 97846, or,

[2] Not to mention the fact that given the dozens of CIA and US military interventions in Latin America and the Caribbean, it is an historical truism that the popular masses are persecuted in the aftermath. To go down to Haiti to investigate the persecution of Lavalas supporters in this important and undeniable context, is a courageous and absolutely necessary act. See: For the National Lawyer’s Guild Reports go to

[3] For other credible reports, go to: and the Ecumenical Program in Central America and the Caribbean:

[4] For background on the 1999-2000 context, including the murder of journalist Jean-Dominique, see:

[5] The International Action Center sent a delegation to the Dominican Republic at the end of March. For details on Noble Espejo’s testimony, see my interview with Stan Goff. The details of Philippe’s several coup attempts are available and will be detailed in a forthcoming article.

[6] Conrad Tribble, from the US Embassy’s “Political Wing”, which is a euphemism, according to Stan Goff, for "CIA wing," stated this, as did Canadian Ambassador Kenneth Cook.

[7] For details of Canada’s role, as leaked by then Cabinet Minister Denis Paradis, see here.

[8] July 7, 2004, Sun Valley 2004 Conference, Idaho:

Other Articles by Anthony Fenton

* Plan Haiti Emerges