Monday, August 16, 2010

Haiti Raboteau Massacre Trial to Begin

Release Date: September 24, 2000
Contact: Michelle Karshan, Foreign Press Liaison
Telephone: (011509) 228-2058


On September 29, 2000, the Haitian government will bring to trial its biggest human rights case, the Raboteau Massacre. There are 58 defendants in the se, ranging from low level soldiers and paramilitaires, up through the military and paramilitary leadership. The latter group includes the coup leaders Raoul Cedras, Michel Francois and Philippe Biamby, the military high command, and Emmanuel Constant, the head of the paramilitary organization FRAPH. Twenty-two defendants are in custody, the highest ranked Captain
Cenafils Castera, the commander of the Gonaives military district.

The trial is expected to last about six weeks taking place in Gonaives approximately 3 hours north of Port-au-Prince. The case is based primarily on the eyewitness testimony. Forty-five people have filed formal complaints, and dozens more have come forward with first-hand reports. These witnesses will be buttressed by testimony from international experts in forensic anthropology, genetics, military organization, and human rights, as well as documents from the Haitian army archives. The prosecution did not have access to the "FRAPH/FADH Documents", 160,000 pages of materials seized by U.S. forces from military and paramilitary facilities in 1994. The U.S. government has refused to return the documents, despite repeated requests from the Haitian government, joined by members of the U.S. Congress, the United Nations, and human rights groups throughout the world.

Background: In the early hours of April 22, 1994, soldiers and paramilitaries raided Raboteau, a seaside neighborhood of Gonaives, attacking the area's resistant, but unarmed, population.

The attackers forcibly entered dozens of homes, beating and arresting those found within, including the elderly and small children. Many people were arrested and tortured, others were tortured or humiliated on site. Some were forced to lie in open sewers, or out in the hot sun for hours, some were forced to tear down a house with their bare hands. Those who fled to the sea, Raboteau's traditional refuge, were shot at, some were killed.

Although though six murders are sufficiently documented to be part of the prosecution, it is likely that many more were killed. The military authorities prevented the victims' families from retrieving bodies from the sea or burying them, so some bodies may have floated away, while others were reportedly eaten by animals on the beach.

The Raboteau massacre took place during a particularly harsh period of Haiti's brutal 1991-94 military dictatorship. As the international community tightened sanctions against Haiti in the first half of 1994, the army responded with attacks on areas of non-violent resistance throughout the country. Gonaives, especially Raboteau, had always prided itself on refusing to accept the dictatorship, and in calling for the return of democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The Massacre was intended to terrorize the area's residents into abandonning their democratic hopes.

For further information, please contact Ms. Karshan at

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