Haiti Human Rights Office Attacked           Sep 18

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Haiti Human Rights Office Attacked

Attack follows expose of his work on HAC Website

Port au Prince, Haiti- One week after HIP published information about Ronald St. Jean's books criticizing NCHR for acting as "modern day inquisitors" and "police, judge and jury" in Haiti, three heavily armed men invaded the offices of the Committee for the Protection of the Rights of the Haitian People (CDPH). At 1:00 am this morning, the three perpetrators jumped over the barrier of the building and broke down the doors demanding of the night watchman, "Where do you keep your arms depot?" The three men wearing olive khaki military uniforms and brandishing large automatic weapons proceeded to ransack the offices breaking open desks and file cabinets while scattering papers and literature on the floor.

This frightening attack on a human rights organization in Haiti follows rumors that were spread in the capital after the appearance of St. Jean's and CDPH's work in an article published by HIP last week. The rumors hitting the street immediately after the article was published was that CDPH was storing arms for Lavalas, specifically M-60s, at their offices located on John Brown Avenue. While the source of the rumors cannot be directly attributed to NCHR it would not be the first time this estimable organization has spread disinformation. The modus operandi in these situations is that a rumor is spread, NCHR then takes to the airwaves saying it has evidence to substantiate the rumor, the police make arrests, then the matter is forgotten and NCHR's "evidence" is never presented while the detainees rot away in prison. Such is the case with the recent arrests made of 19 individuals of the labor union Center for Haitian Workers (CTH) along with members of the St. Jean Bosco religious community on charges of involvement in the attack against a university facility on December 5, 2003. NCHR made the same claim against Annette Auguste and despite a judge's order to release her for lack of evidence; NCHR's false allegation has resulted in her continued imprisonment.

NCHR laid the groundwork for using the attack on the university to justify the blanket detention of Lavalas partisans well before the forced ouster of President Aristide on February 29th. In a press release dated December 5, 2003 NCHR writes,

"President Aristide is no longer as popular as ten years ago when Haitians fought for his return from exile. "Today they're dying because of him," said McCalla, adding: "We will not stand by while the young women and men of Haiti suffer the debilitating wounds of failed policies and despotic behavior. We urge our colleagues in the international community to join us in condemning the government-sponsored violence, and insist on the strict respect of civil and political rights as sine qua non conditions for progress in Haiti." "

In deference to the NCHR Executive Director's hyperbole, it should be pointed out that no one was killed on December 5, 2003 while several Lavalas demonstrators were wounded by gunfire that originated from within the compound controlled by purported students. Also evidenced by this release is that NCHR began to editorialize on the political implications of events rather than taking on the more difficult and painstaking task of impartial investigation and documentation. The latter is a role that any respectable human rights organization worthy of the title assumes in a highly politicized conflict between belligerents.

The same can be said of NCHR's "human rights work" with regard to the continued imprisonment of Prime Minister Yvon Neptune and Interior Minister Jocelyn Privert on charges of performing "genocide" in La Scierie. On August 24, 2004 Agence de Presse Haitian (AHP) wrote, " The former Prime Minister, who turned himself in to the police following accusations made by NCHR that he was involved in an alleged massacre at La Scierie, spoke out against the conduct of the interim government which has revealed itself to be actively and viscerally anti-Lavalas in its plans, its rhetoric and its practices." It should be noted that Neptune refused to meet with NCHR after his incarceration calling them "partisan" and "unreliable."

NCHR apparently has no qualms when it comes to playing an overt political role for the U.S.-installed Latortue government as long as it serves the purpose of justifying the incarceration of Lavalas leaders and militants. It has been clear for some time now that NCHR's evidence and documentation have now been replaced with accusations in the media and rumors on the street. When it came time for NCHR to make good on its claims of documentation of the alleged massacre in La Scierie their excuse was the equivalent of a young child claiming his dog ate his homework. NCHR's Pierre Esperance claimed the evidence could not be found because "wild dogs devoured the bodies."

Most recently, NCHR has found itself in a quandary with the acquittal of Jodel Chamblain for the execution-style murder of Lavalas supporter and benefactor Antoine Izmery. One observer put it this way; "It's the height of hypocrisy for NCHR to play a role in justifying the persecution of the Lavalas political party and then to cry foul when Izmery's murderer is exonerated. While it is proper for any human rights organization to condemn the sham trial of Chamblain, the plain truth is that if Izmery were alive today NCHR would have already made sure he was thrown in prison. The contradiction for NCHR is that they have to keep face as credible when it involves high profile and well-known human rights violators like Chamblain. It suits the image they want to present to the outside world and plays well for their financial supporters who would probably abandon them if they knew the partial and destructive role they are playing in Haiti today. The truth is reconciliation is not on the agenda of NCHR."

The point at the heart of Ronald St. Jean's books is that partisan political attacks have taken a more defining role in NCHR's work in Haiti than the hard and painstaking tasks of impartial documentation and investigation required of human rights organizations throughout the world. Through countless examples St. Jean unmasks the divisive political role NCHR is playing in Haiti. After reading his work it is clear that if NCHR wishes to maintain its reputation as a credible human rights organization, it should immediately distance itself from the rumor mill of Haitian politics and strongly condemn the attack against CDPH, the detainment of Annette Auguste, Yvon Neptune, Jocelyn Privert and countless others who have fallen victim to the current political climate. A destructive political climate that NCHR has unfortunately contributed to. Sadly, there is little danger of this and it is for this reason many individuals and organizations working in Haiti wonder who will be next and when it will be their turn to face arrest based upon claims made by NCHR. This alone should speak volumes.

See Also

The Double Standard of NCHR - Sept 12

Ronald Saint-Jean -
In Ronald St. Jean's excellent books "Une operation de manipulation et d'intimidation" and "Exiger de la NCHR Toute La Verite", NCHR is described as a "demagogic organization" openly leading the campaign of political repression and reprisals. They are also described as serving the role of "police, judge and jury" and of being "modern day inquisitors" in the Bush administration's nation-building nightmare that is reality in Haiti today. click on image to go to original story.