Victims of violence organise in Haiti's Plateau-Central


During a 24 hour visit in Haiti's Plateau-Central, human rights organisation AUMOHD (Association of University Graduates Motivated for a Haiti with Rights), headed by lawyer Evel Fanfan, recorded interviews with hundreds of victims from the 2001-04 attacks by former soldiers in the area. During this period, three of the most heavily targeted Lavalas communities were Mirebalais, Lascahobas, and Belladeres. (Fanmi Lavalas is the party of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the Haitian president ousted in a 2004 coup.) Human rights investigators visited all of these communities and held discussions with groups of the victims.

In Pernal, the victims were numerous. Numerous Fanmi Lavalas activists and even employees of the interior ministry of the Aristide government were assassinated at this site. By late 2003, Pernal had become completely taken over by the ex-military, which launched a violent witch-hunt against supporters of the constitutional government. Pernal is located between Lascahobas and Belladeres with only one road connecting the two communes.

Local merchants travel this road, many passing by to take part in trade on the Haitian-Dominican border. The first meeting that AUMOHD took place in the nightclub of the town of Belladeres, where victims formulated complaints against those which had oppressed them during the 2003-04 period.

Bertrand Roussaine, a nine-year-old nephew of a local Lavalas leader, Cleonor Souverain, was one victim. He now has to use a wheelchair — he was the only one of Souverain's family to survive a massacre by Remissainthe Ravix and other ex-military men, who machined-gunned the family lying on the ground outside of their home. Roussaine served as the most vivid image of the survivors of 2003-04 events.

Family members explained that today the young Roussaine is psychologically suffering and does not have control over his bowel movements. The child explained, "I have seen some death in my day, the members of my family. My mother takes care of me. Today the killers are hidden away." Journalists asked if the government had done anything to help him and other victims of the ex-military. "Now I go to school, I am in the third year but I would like help from the state", he responded.

Cleonor Souverain and other leaders of local victims' organisations said it is time to get justice for the victims. Five graphic photographs of Souverain's murdered family were available for all to see. After showing the images Souverain cried as Roussaine sat on his lap with his arms stretched around his uncle.

Souverain said, "This morning I present myself here in front of you with my nephew who is a symbol to the people here of the violent attacks we suffered, because our city is the city most touched by the violence crossing over from the Dominican Republic. Roussaine is today going to school but each day he must wear diapers. My other five family members are in the cemetery." Roussaine's mother each day must search out the proper supplies to take care of her child, which she says is difficult in this country Haitian town. She often stands by the road asking the passing trucks for help.

Another victim, Emile, observed: "I am here with so many other victims. I lost my house. I lost a cousin. I want justice and reparations. I can only ask the state government." A 40-year-old man spoke next at the meeting: "I lost a son who hardly came to finish his secondary studies. He was going to find a work in a non-governmental organisation. I had all my financial expenditures based around educating my son Colo Pedelle. Today, dear god, he rests in a tomb after the bullets from the ex-military killed him on June 21, 2003. I want for justice to be returned to my son, although the life of my son Colo will never have a price."

Souverain presented a list of more than 30 people who were killed just in Pernal and the surrounding region, among them the assistant mayor of Savanette, Amongue Cena. Others at the meeting discussed how they lost their businesses and homes to the ex-military attacks. They said they felt much of the violence was due to their support for the constitutionally elected government of Aristide.

In Lascahobas, more than 80 people took part in a meeting with AUMOHD; another meeting took place in Mirebalis with dozens of victims present. Two Canadian university students accompanied members of AUMOHD and helped transcribe victims' statements and help with the questioning. The organisers promised to return to collect more information.

Human rights groups headed up by many of the elites that promoted the downfall of the elected Aristide government and are heavily financially backed by foreign donor agencies have almost completely ignored victims of violence in Haiti's poor communities.

[Wadner Pierre contributes to]