CONGRESSWOMAN MAXINE WATERS
Two letters to Secretary Colin Powell on the violent arrest
May 21, 2004
I thought you would be interested in the two attached letters that I wrote to Secretary of State Colin Powell [May 11 & 12] regarding the arrest of Anne Auguste (So Ann) by U.S. military personnel in Haiti. The first letter urges Secretary Powell to immediately investigate the circumstances of Ms. Auguste's arrest. The second letter describes a conversation that I had with General James Hill of the U.S. Southern Command regarding her arrest.
I will continue to insist on an investigation of this incident. I hope you find this information useful.
May 12, 2004
By Facsimile: (202) 647-8947
The Honorable Colin Powell
Dear Secretary Powell:
Before sending yesterday's letter, I had received several calls from both Americans and Haitians denouncing the actions of U.S. military personnel who were involved in Ms. Auguste's arrest. They informed me that U.S. soldiers, acting as part of the Multinational Interim Force (MIF), had stormed Ms. Auguste's house on or about 12:30 a.m., May 10, 2004. They said that the soldiers blew up the gates to the house with grenades, killed a dog, placed Ms. Auguste's five-year-old grandson in handcuffs and detained him and several other occupants of the house.
Yesterday, after writing my May 11th letter to you, I spoke with General James Hill of the U.S. Southern Command, who informed me that, based on the report that he had received, he believed that U.S. military personnel had reasonable grounds to arrest Ms. Auguste. General Hill informed me that a warrant for her arrest had been issued by Haitian police on charges relating to an act of violence said to have occurred in the recent past. General Hill also informed me that the soldiers stormed her house because of what they believed to be a potential threat to U.S. forces.
General Hill agreed to provide compensation to Ms. Auguste's sister, who lives next door, because both Ms. Auguste's house and her sister's house were severely damaged during the incident. General Hill also agreed to compensate the family for the killing of their dog and apologize for handcuffing Ms. Auguste's five-year-old grandson.
While General Hill has certainly clarified the reasons that U.S. military personnel offered for arresting Anne Auguste and agreed to provide appropriate compensation, I believe that this incident remains well worth your investigation so that you will be able to answer questions directed to you. I anticipate that this episode will be a source of growing anger among individuals concerned about Haiti, because Anne Auguste is a well-known community activist who is responsible for feeding many impoverished people and who possesses a long history of working to improve the lives of ordinary Haitians in the Western Hemisphere's poorest country.
I look forward to discussing this matter with you at your earliest convenience. Thank you for your anticipated attention to my concerns.
May 11, 2004
Dear Secretary Powell:
I write to urge you to immediately investigate the circumstances of the arrest of Anne Auguste (So Ann), a well-known Haitian woman, who was arrested on or about 12:30 a.m., May 10, 2004, by U.S. military personnel in Haiti, acting as part of the Multinational Interim Force (MIF).
I have seen reports that indicate that U.S. soldiers blew up the gates at Anne Auguste's home with grenades and entered her house carrying machine guns. Eleven occupants of the house, including two children, were taken into custody and interrogated. Anne Auguste was arrested and transferred to the Haitian National Penitentiary.
Ms. Auguste is an elderly Haitian woman on medication who is recovering from recent surgery. Her grandson, who was one of the children detained and who was placed in handcuffs, is a five-year-old boy. It is virtually impossible to believe that an elderly woman and a child needed to be subjected to such overwhelming force, even if the MIF deemed it necessary to interrogate them. Ms. Auguste remains under arrest. While she was finally taken before a judge today, she still has not been charged with any crime.
It is critical that you explain why Ms. Auguste is being detained or release her immediately. I urge you to conduct an immediate investigation into the circumstances surrounding her arrest in order to determine the reasons for her arrest, the charges against her -- if any -- and whether excessive force was used against her or other occupants of her household. If it is determined that excessive force was used, it is imperative that you act to hold accountable those who were responsible.
Finally, I urge you to monitor the actions of U.S. armed forces in Haiti and ensure that they not take any actions that could endanger the very Haitian people whom you say they are there to protect. I would appreciate it if you would contact me as soon as possible to clarify the circumstances of Anne Auguste's arrest and to advise how you intend to proceed. I look forward to your prompt response.
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