FOR THE SAKE OF CANADIANS, DO RIGHT BY HAITI
(An urgent appeal to Senator Romeo Dallaire, June 8, 2005)
“Shoot them and ask questions later…Right now our country needs security. Unless you clean up the bad people, the gangs, there will be no progress. It will be a massacre, people will die. But let us do it or it will be worse.”
Jean Philippe Sassine, Assistant Mayor of Port-au-Prince, appointed illegally by the post-coup foreign-imposed regime as quoted Nov. 30, 2004
Senator Dallaire, This letter to you is long overdue. If I have finally surmounted my hesitation to bother you with the horrific details of yet another unnecessary human-made disaster, it is because I truly believe your prompt intervention in this matter will make the difference between life and death for hundreds if not thousands of human beings.
The situation in Haiti is getting so desperately tense that on several occasions now and, as recently as this June 3, 2005, General Augusto Heleno, the Brazilian head of the U.N. Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), complained publicly that the repressive actions he is being pressured to direct in Haiti are criminal in nature; he didn’t want to have to answer war crime charges at the International Criminal Court, he added. (AHP 6/4/05) (1)
Indeed several international human rights organizations among them Amnesty International and the Harvard University Centre for the Study of Human Rights have documented the ever worsening human rights catastrophe in Haiti.
“Regarding current HNP (Haitian National Police) operations in poor neighborhoods, the police explained that if 10 civilians are killed, on average only four are “targeted individuals” and six are innocent bystanders. Because “targets” are being killed, rather than arrested, the police try to kill all witnesses. The killing of the innocent is “sometimes on purpose, sometimes by accident,” they said. Innocent people in the poorest neighborhoods are also arrested “because they tolerate the bad ones.” They admitted that the former soldiers sometimes assist in HNP operations” (2)
Thus is being described the routine work of a police force that is currently receiving RCMP training and is operating under the aegis of the Canadian-led, U.N.-mandated Civilian Police component of the MINUSTAH.
I shall subsequently forward for your review, a couple of these troubling reports which have long been hand-delivered to the office of Prime Minister Paul Martin and to Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew.
CANADIAN INVOLVEMENT IS ALREADY DEEP AND QUITE DISTURBING
The highest officials of our government have been kept abreast of this unfolding disaster and we have yet to see any signs that they are taking steps to protect Canada from being formally accused of complicity in the criminal actions of the post-coup regime in Haiti.
On the contrary, Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew as well as Mr. Denis Coderre (Prime Minister Martin’s Special Advisor for Haiti) have chosen to dismiss the painstakingly documented horrors described in these various human rights reports as mere “Lavalas propaganda” crafted by supporters of the deposed government. Consequently, not only have the human rights violations been ignored, the regime committing them continues to enjoy the unconditional support of the Government of Canada and of our Canadian International Development Agency which covers the salary of high officials working for the de facto Haitian Justice Minister.
THE SENATE CAN SAVE CANADA FROM DROWNING IN THIS ILL-FATED AND DANGEROUS MISADVENTURE
Senator Dallaire, in view of your experience in Rwanda and in your capacity as Canadian Senator, it is my hope and belief that you are well placed to help set in motion a serious review and overhaul of Canada’s role in Haiti. This long overdue review has become in my opinion essential and now inevitable. Not only is there every indication that the approach followed thus far by the DFAIT has yielded disastrous results, our highest ranked public officials, namely Canada’s Ambassador to Haiti and Mr. Pierre Pettigrew seem determined to keep pressing in the same ill-fated direction. For instance, to this day, they refuse to call for the release of near to one thousand political prisoners crippling in Haitian jails, among whom is former Haitian Prime Minister Yvon Neptune.
The latter’s March 2, 2004 statement denouncing the illegal overthrow of his and President Aristide’s government gives an indication of the true reasons for his mistreatment and prolonged incarceration by the post-coup regime: “The resignation of the President is not constitutional because he did that under duress and threat. The chief of the Supreme court was brought here into my office by representatives of the international community. I was not invited or present when he was sworn in”. Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, interviewed by journalists Kevin Pina and Andrea Nicastro, March 2, 2004.(3).
A serious review of Canada’s role in Haiti could begin with the public release of the unedited records of the secret January 31- February 1, 2003 Meech Lake Meeting during which, according to Journalist Michel Vastel, Canadian, French and American high level officials had discussed and decided to remove President Aristide from office, put Haiti under U.N. tutelage and rebuild the disbanded Haitian army. Your colleague Senator Consiglio Di Nino raised concern about this outrageous meeting. See Canadian Senate records of March 19, 2003 (4).
Until the records of this meeting are released to public scrutiny, many shall read in the odd behaviour of our highest Canadian officials confirmation of the disturbing allegations made by Mr. Vastel, more than a year prior to the February 2004 coup. Understandably, those who are already suffering the deadly consequences of an apparent conspiracy no longer consider it to be mere theory. (5)
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Canadian policy makers need to join the CARICOM and South-Africa’s logical and courageous efforts to reach peace in Haiti through the fostering of genuine dialogue and reconciliation among Haitians. (6)
For Canada to play a productive role in the return to legal order via credible elections in Haiti, official Canadian foreign policy must distance itself categorically from the current approach being followed by Minister Pettigrew, Mr. Coderre and Ambassador Claude Boucher. The latter allowed himself to be quoted saying: “we hope that Aristide is going to disappear… I believe that he should never come back…We hope it (the enquiry) will show Aristide is guilty of so many criminal actions…” Embassy Magazine, Dec. 9, 2004
BLOODSHED IN HAITI CAN AND MUST BE STOPPED IMMEDIATELY
“The investments that have been made are in firepower, and the dividends have not satisfied the Haitian people’s social, economic or political needs. Instead, the observable returns on the investment are bodies left in the street to be eaten by pigs or rotting in the morgue, and the tearing apart of communities that have long been knitted together by their shared hunger” (2).
Mr. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the deposed constitutional President of Haiti, has openly stated that he shall not seek a return to the presidency beyond his second and last mandate in office which ends legally on February 7, 2006. It is also a fact that President Aristide offered to return and complete his term only to play the essential pacifying role that befalls only a duly appointed head of state as Haiti seeks to establish a genuine peace dialogue among her political factions. This, in the minds of the obvious majority of Haitians, is the safest way to credible, free and fair elections at the end of this year. And, this is also essentially what the CARICOM, the African Union, the Congressional Black Caucus, and a growing number of peace with justice activists around the world have been proposing for the longest time. Why is it that our government refuses to consider this approach and persists instead in its ill-fated policy? Why does it continue to provide cover to the illegal post-coup regime which fuels confrontation and bloodshed rather than invest in dialogue and peace in Haitian society?
The current de facto regime in Haiti has for the longest time buried its head in the sand refusing to face the reality that the violence that has engulfed Haiti since the coup is not linked to the deposed government and its supporters, as they continue to make believe. It is well documented now, as events of the last month have also confirmed, that the current mayhem, spiralling dangerously out of control is, in no small part, due to the actions of the former military thugs who were hired to conduct the coup. These former soldiers have turned against their former allies and this reality is systematically being suppressed to the peril of the Haitian population. (See report of May 31, 2005 incident: videotape of former soldiers’ press conference confiscated from media by the MINUSTAH (7).
As a betrayed Haitian society suffers widespread violence, multiple kidnappings, murders, prison escapes, mass disillusionment and hysteric violence, the pattern remains that after each spectacular acts of violence, the de facto regime in Port-au-Prince hurries to publicly accuse supporters of the deposed Aristide-Neptune government. Our Ambassador to Haiti, Mr. Claude Boucher, often echoes these same accusations made prior to any serious investigation being conducted. Time and again, those who do the follow-up find out, usually several months after a deadly wave of punitive strikes against residents of the poor neighbourhoods of Port-au-Prince, that it was in fact forces that helped topple the Aristide-Neptune government that committed the crimes in question. The forced evacuation of Prime Minister Yvon Neptune from the Port-au-Prince penitentiary on February 19, 2005 is but one striking example of these occurrences (8).
Before, during and after the coup, voices had arisen to warn Canadian officials, from the Prime Minister on down, of the necessity to support Haitian self-determination. However, they have chosen thus far to listen only to groups or individuals who are employees or grantees of the Canadian Government and whose advice serve to cheer them on the path of enthusiastic support for an illegal foreign-sponsored “regime change”, now gone wild. The disastrous consequences of this choice are everyday becoming more difficult to keep under cover.
A positive sign is that recently the House Sub-Committee of Human Rights have decided to discuss the situation in Haiti. As a member of the Ottawa Haiti Solidarity Committee (KOZAYITI), I shall gladly contribute to this important process during the scheduled June 15th meeting.
Essentially, we are merely asking the Canadian officials to pause and listen to alternatives and independent voices that are pointing toward a path to attain peace through, a process of reconciliation, legitimate elections and return to legal order in Haiti. Senator Dallaire, we are asking you to please help our government pay serious attention to this urgent plea which is also that of a growing number of Canadians.
Jean Saint-Vil, Gatineau, Québec, Canada Haiti Action Network, KOZAYITI
c.c.: Prime Minister Paul Martin, Pierre Pettigrew M.P., Denis Coderre M.P., Ambassador Claude Boucher, Stephen Harper, M.P., Jack Layton M.P., Gilles Duceppe M.P., Senator Consiglio Di Nino, Kofi Annan (Secretary-General United Nations), Lt. General Augusto Heleno Ribeiro Pereira (MINUSTAH), David Beer (Commissioner of CIVPOL), Mr. Stephen Lewis, Mr. Paul Farmer.
1. Le commandant militaire de la MINUSTAH affirme qu’il n’ordonnera jamais de massacre… (AHP)
2. Haiti Human Rights Investigation: November 11-21, 2004 (University of Miami)
3. Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, interviewed by journalists Kevin Pina and Andrea Nicastro (Haiti Action Committee)
4. Meeting on Regime Change in Haiti (Senator Di Nino at Senate Debates, March 19, 2003).
5. Haiti—Life Since the Coup in “The Uses of Haiti” (Dr. Paul Farmer)
6. Campaign for the return of democracy to Haiti (ANC – South-Africa)
7. Une cassette de Télé Haiti, confisquée par des agents de la MINUSTAH (Alterpresse) http://www.alterpresse.org/article.php3?id_article=2604
8. Former Soldier Hired by to Assassinate Yvon Neptune in ‘inside job’ prison break (Flashpoint Radio)