Haiti: Lavalas activists freed; Constant convicted

Citing “lack of evidence,” on Aug. 14 a Haitian criminal tribunal in Port-au-Prince headed by Judge Fritznel Fils-Aime ordered the immediate release of Annette Auguste (“So Ann”), Georges Honore, Yvon Antoine (“Zap-Zap”) and Paul Raymond, prominent supporters of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his left-populist Lavalas Family (FL) party. The four were arrested at various times between March 2004 and July 2005; they were held without formal charges until April 2006, when they were charged in connection with a violent attack by Aristide supporters against opposition students at the State University of Haiti (UEH) on Dec. 5, 2003, in which several students were injured and UEH rector Pierre-Marie Paquiot’s legs were broken.

Reactions were divided. FL supporters said the ruling suggested that all imprisoned FL activists should be released, while some former UEH students complained that the university administration hadn’t done enough to advance the criminal case around the attacks–students weren’t asked to file complaints, for example. (Haiti Support Group News Briefs, Aug. 14 from Radio Kiskeya; Agence Haitienne de Presse, Aug. 17)

In San Francisco on Aug. 16, US District Judge Sidney Stein ruled against right-wing Haitian leader Emmanuel “Toto” Constant in a suit that the San Francisco-based human rights group Center for Justice and Accountability brought in December 2004 on behalf of three women who say paramilitaries from Constant’s Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH) raped them in the early 1990s. Constant “has not answered the complaint, and the time for answering the complaint has expired,” Judge Stein ruled. He set a Aug. 29 hearing to determine what damages Constant should pay to the victims. Constant, who says the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was involved in setting up the FRAPH, is facing criminal charges in New York for real estate fraud. (AP, Aug. 17 on SFGate.com)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 20

See our last posts on Haiti and Emmanuel Constant.

  1. Corrections

    2 corrections: First, the case against Emmanuel Constant is in New York, not San Francisco. The Center for Justice and Accountability, which is spearheading the lawsuit, is based in San Francisco, but the case was filed in New York where Mr. Constant lives. See AP story at http://www.ijdh.org/articles/article_recent_news_8-18-06.html.

    Second, the students who claimed they did not have the opportunity to file complaints in the case against Annette Auguste and her co-defendants in fact had every opportunity. Several student groups did, in fact, file complaints, according to court records. But when the judge summoned them to testify, not a single student appeared. The students cannot claim they did not get the notice or were afraid: the investigation took place under the Interim Government that those student groups helped put into power, and with ample publicity. The trial on August 14 was likewise well-publicized, and not one witness against Ms. Auguste or her co-defendants appeared. For an analysis of the investigation against Ms. Auguste, see http://www.ijdh.org/articles/article_recent_news_8-18-06.html
    Thanks for covering Haiti on your blog!