UN Supports Death Squads

On the Justice of Impunity in Haiti

Kevin Pina and Brian Concannon interviewed by Dennis Bernstein

Flashpoints - KPFA Radio (ZNet, May 16, 2005)


Bernstein: This is certainly a dark show and a difficult time. We go from the streets of Baghdad to the streets of Port au Prince, and the new, recreated killing fields in Haiti, and the situation continues to get that much worse....Yesterday, Haiti's Supreme Court overturned the convictions of dozens of military mass murderers found guilty of widespread torture and murder, in Raboteau, Haiti. The release of these known killers, including, and I mean pardoning, if you will, of Louis Jodel Chamblain signals another dark blow to organizers and leaders of the pro-democracy movement there. Joining us to talk about this latest turn of events, as well as the ongoing life and death situation around Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, is Flashpoints Special Correspondent Kevin Pina, himself receiving several death threats to date. Also joining us to talk about the pardoning of the killers is Brian Concannon. Concannon is an attorney working for the Institute for Justice [and Democracy] in Haiti, and he worked closely on the [year] 2000 prosecutions of these mass murderers. I thank you both for joining us again on Flashpoints.

We go to Port au Prince first...Kevin...you've got a piece of tape that apparently the United Nations wants; we don't know why they want it but I think it's very important to tell us about what's been going on for you today, and why this piece of tape is crucial.

Pina: I've been organizing with Haitian attorneys; I've been trying to figure out a way to get this videotape, these videotaped images of the Haitian police, who planted guns in the hands of unarmed demonstrators after they shot them on April 27th, 2005. Apparently, not just the United Nations but [also] the Haitian Police know it's in my hands, and unfortunately it's forced me to have to take precautions. I know that people heard the interview with President Aristide with Amy Goodman. I think that's wonderful but, on the other hand, this information about what's going on day to day, what the Haitian police are doing with the complicity of the United Nations, is particularly of importance...can you hear me?

DB: Yes, and you broke this story; remind people, what's the lynchpin here, what's going on here with this information, in other words...

KP: The Haitian police have shot at unarmed demonstrators several times. On February 28th, we heard the testimony on Flashpoints, of Bill Quigley, who is an attorney who's close to Father Jean-Juste, of the United Nations being present while the Haitian police shot at unarmed demonstrators and killed them. And then on April 27th, of course, we had another attack by the Haitian police. Between that, February 28th, the so-called Justice Minister, Bernard Gousse, said that the United Nations did not have the right to keep the Haitian police from firing at unarmed demonstrators. The United Nations said that they would keep the police out of demonstrations that are pro-Lavalas, which are demanding the return of the Constitutional President, Jean Bertrand Aristide, but the UN backed down to the Justice Minister, Bernard Gousse, and allowed them to enter the demonstrations again. The result was that on April 27th, the police not only shot and killed several unarmed, peaceful demons trators, but also, the footage I have in my hand, which the United Nations is trying to get from me, which the Haitian police are threatening me not to release, is footage which shows the Haitian police planting guns in the hands of those demonstrators, after they killed them.

DB: And where were the UN forces at this time?

KP: They were within the vicinity to see the assault but, unexplainably, not close enough to do anything about it, as usual.

DB: And Kevin, things are pretty tense where you live. I know that you've had to send off the family...Did you get death threats today?

KP: It's been a very, very difficult time. You know, this is not a story that I just come in and do a grand sweep with a big interview. This is a story that I continue to cover daily, and because of that my life, and not just myself, but you've also got to realize that there are Haitian journalists who are here on the ground, who have also been covering the truth and risking their lives; and every day we go out in the streets and several times there are moments where the police of Haiti who will otherwise have no compunction but to fire on crowds, will resist because our cameras are present, because we take this risk, not just myself, again, but other courageous, brave Haitian journalists who I can't name, we take the risk to put our cameras in front of them every day, to dissuade them from firing because we are the real witnesses here on the ground in Haiti...We are the ones who stand between the people being killed or not being killed.

DB: That's Kevin Pina, and Kevin we appreciate that you have not even being paid, by the seat of your pants, provided extarordinary information, you are a lynchpin, and you share your information with the Flashpoints team, with Democracy Now!, with the Pacific News Service. I urge people to go to HaitiAction.net to see your photo essay in which you take people to the streets. Now, we obviously are concerned that the footage that you have might end up in the wrong hands and disappear; we're obviously going to try and make arrangements to secure that and hopefully to make sure that people understand the risk you are taking, and the threat you're under to bring this information out on a daily basis.

The idea that the UN has essentially become the enforcers of this killing field p0licy is extraordinary. I want to turn, just for a moment, to this situaiton around the Supreme court and the overturning of the convictions of these mass murderers. We have Kevin Pina on the line. Kevin, just briefly, from the ground before we go to Brian Concannon who helped to prosecute these cases, tell us the significance of what the Supreme Court did today in terms of these overturns.

KP: The Haitian Supreme Court basically absolved paramilitary death squads, members of Haiti's former military, and members of FRAPH (the Front for Advancement and Progress in Haiti), which is a CIA-trained death squad, very well-documented, of any culpability for a massacre that occured in Gonaives, on the shore, there's a neighborhood on the shore in Gonaives called the Raboteau, and this happened late in 1993, early 1994, before Aristide was returned, and basically what they have said, and what the UN has said, is that the Haitian police can shoot unarmed demonstrators without any investigation, without a single name of a single police officer being named or made public...WOW, Bernard Gousse and the U.S. installed regime can get away with basically evacuating judgements based on the law and principle in Haiti which condemned members of these death squads for killings in Goniaves. Brian can give you more details, but basically what you've got to remember, it is the United Nations who are overseeing this whole process, it is the United States who is overseeing this whole process. So if they are letting killers go while at the same time not doing any serious investigations into the gross human violations of the current Haitian police, it is the United Nations and the U.S. who have the ultimate responsibility.

DB: And of course Kevin there's the story that you broke on Flashpoints regarding the the illegal weapons shipments to these killers, that is again part of the story because all of the sudden the United States says it's recycling weapons it took from terrorists to what, put them in the hands off convicted terrorists that have now been pardoned so they can kill again? Joining us to talk more about the Raboteau massacre and what we're talking about in terms of the people who have been freed, I guess, to join the naitonal police again, joining us to talk about this...Brian Concannon...worked closely on these prosecutions. Brian, welcome back to Flashpoints.

BC: It's good to be here, and if I may add one comment to Kevin's description of the UN troops standing by while the police are shooting civilians, it's important to note that the UN has an independent mandate from the security council to protect civilians. The UN often will say, â¤"oh no, we're here to work with the Haitian police,' which is half of their mandate; the other half is they are there to protect civilians under imminent threat. They have an independent obligation; they can't say â¤"oh no, it's the police.' If any civilians are under threat they have a duty to go in and protect them. That's one thing they're not doing.

DB: You worked very hard on the Raboteau Massacre. Just remind people what happened there and who was it that was convicted?

BC: That was a case that was put together over six years, painstakingly with a lot of expertise from the United Nations, from forensic anthropologists, from military experts; it's been heralded by everybody who saw it as one of the best human rights cases in the hemisphere in the last fifteen years, and it arose out of a massacre called the Raboteau Massacre that happened on April 22nd of 1994, when paramilitary members of FRAPH along with the Haitian Army, went into the neighborhood of Raboteau, which was a bastion of democracy, and basically cleaned it out, the types of things they're doing today in Cite soleil and Bel Air, they went around and targeted especially the young men who were the backbone of the resistance, shot people, beat up a lot people including women, destroyed some houses, stole, pillaged, whatever they could get away with as a way of intimidating the entire neighborhood.

KP: Brian, how can you call Goniaives a bastion of resistance when the opposition that helped to overthrow Aristide said that the leader in Goniaves, Amiot Metayer, turned against Aristide? Explain that; it's so important for our listeners to understand...

BC: One thing, and it's hard to explain fully Amiot Metayer in a short comment because he was always someone who played both sides, and in fact he was generally, when the military during the Rabotoeau Massacre in 1991, were going from house to house they were saying, â¤"you're hiding Cubain, which was [Amiot's] name, when in fact Cubain was not there because he had been tipped off because he had friends in the military who told him they were going to go in and do an operation, and in fact when it came to trial, Cubain switched sides and testified against the victims of Raboteau, but that doesn't affect the fact that the people of Raboteau were willing to go out there day after day under the dictatorship and be a resistance to the dictatorship, just as people in Cite soleil and Bel Air [today] are too. And one of the things, as Dennis mentioned, today is a very dark day, and it's hard to look on the hopeful side of things, but one extraordinary thing, and you can talk about thi s any time in Haitian history, is that the Haitian people are continuing to resist depsite the carnage and the incredible high price they are paying.

DB: Brian, I need you to put a little closure there on what happened there at Raboteau...I want you to talk about the fact that some of these people are the same people who worked with the U.S. government in the most recent destabilization and kidnapping of Aristide.

BC: Sure, when the FRAPH and the military encircled the neighborhood, and they started going after the young men, they fled to the sea which is their traditional refuge but the paramilitaries also got around in boats and started shooting at them there. The people who were involved include people like Jean Tatoune, who was on the ground, who was a major FRAPH leader, and was also a leader in the overthrow of Aristide a year ago; one of the leaders of FRAPH, he wasn't on the scene , he was one of the masterminds behind FRAPH, was Louis Jodel Chamblain, who was one of the top leaders of the insurgency that had been training in the Dominican Republic for the last five years and came over in February. At the upper level it was masterminded by the top military high command, three of whom were actually deported from the United States to face charges from Raboteau, and they were the highest ranked military people ever deported from the United States to face human rights charges. And that was not done casually; there was ample proof that was shown in order to justify those deportations.

DB: Alright, you're listening to Flashpoints...

KP: Dennis, the real point here is that this U.S. installed regime is executing a strategy through the judicial system, which is freeing those people who opposed Aristide, which is allowing them to be free with impunity from previous crimes they committed, while at the same ime they are using the law to incarcerate and hold people without trial, like Yvon Neptune, like many, many political prisoners in Haiti. And, at the same time, we have to remember that it is CIDA - the [Canadian International Development Agency] that is giving advice to Bernard Gousse, the Minister of [Justice] in Haiti, that is funding the so-called reformation and rebuilding of the Ministry of Justice, as well as the Haitian National Police. Now today there was a report that was released, of all places, on Radio Caraibes, which is an elite-run radio station today, which said that the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), which is overseeing the next U.S. sponsored elections in October, along with the Mi nistry of the Interior, along with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, along with the unelected Mayors of Haiti, have absolutely not one receipt in their hands since February 29th to show how they've spent the money they've received from the international community, yet the UN is responsible and the international community is responsible for overseeing this whole mess.

DB: Brian, before you go...you worked on this case. Just sum up if you will what you think the implications of the absolutions, if you will, of these mass murderers, convicted with, as you say, lots of information...

BC: It's another step in the disbanding of the justice system. First of all, most of these people were actually freed a year ago at the end of February and then other people [for example] Jodel chamblain, was acquitted of another charge at a midnight trial, so this is yet another step in the dismantling of the justice system. What the ultimate impact [is] will depend on how quickly democracy is restored. The current government is trying at full bore to dismantle the justice system. What needs to be done is a democratic government needs to be installed so it can get back into the business of constructing a justice system.

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