At 5:45pm on Saturday, 2 October 2004, the Haitian National Police arrested Lavalas leaders–Senators Yvon Feuille and Louis Gerald Gilles, Former Lavalas Deputies Rudy Hériveaux and Axène Joseph and Arnel Belizaire (an associate of the insurgents that ousted President Jean Bertrand Aristide in February 2004)–at a local radio station in Port-au-Prince.
In the presence of a Justice of the Peace yet without warrants, the arrests took place several hours after Senators Gilles, Hériveaux, and former Deputy Joseph had participated in the morning edition “Ramase” – a weekly political talk show on Radio Caraïbes. All five (5) individuals refused to leave the station upon learning of their impending arrest by officers stationed outside the office. M. Belizaire’s vehicle was also seized during the arrest, which is said to have contained weapons – which he claims are for his security business.
30 September 2004 marked the anniversary of the 1991 military coup d’état against then President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and fervent supporters of once-again ousted President Aristide promised that the day would not pass without violence. At least four (4) of the five (5) arrested at Radio Caraïbes are being accused of masterminding the violence that rained down on Port-au-Prince during the last few days, resulting in several deaths including the assassinations and decapitation of a number of Haitian police officers.
NCHR strongly condemns the increasing violence being witnessed across the country in particular the recent brutal slayings of police officers and those responsible for such horrific acts must be held accountable.
At the time of the arrests, NCHR observed that warrants were not presented. Furthermore the mere presence of Justice of the Peace Gabriel Ambroïse does not guarantee the legality of the arrests. Government authorities contend that warrants were not merited due to the flagrant nature of the crimes in question, claiming that the men in custody are the intellectual authors of the violence. Having said this, however, NCHR has been unable to ascertain the true charges against the five (5) men as police authorities fail to fully cooperate with the NCHR delegation conducting an investigation. NCHR anxiously awaits a clear and concise explanation supported by proof (should such proof exist) linking the alleged suspects to the violence and death that has occurred since 29 September 2004.
NCHR believes that what happened at Radio Caraïbes on 2 October 2004 was a blatant and tactless blunder on the part of the authorities concerned. The authorities in cooperation with the police could have employed better techniques to execute the arrests of the individuals in question as they are well-known residents of Port-au-Prince and were not considered to be dangerous fugitive criminals. If the opposite were true, the actions taken would have been more understandable if not justified. However, there was no urgency for the police to enter the radio station to arrest the Lavalas leaders.
As part of its ongoing investigation, an NCHR delegation has conducted several visits to the Port-au-Prince police station where the five (5) men are being held. During these visits, all five (5) men confirm that they are being treated well by police officers and that all visitation rights exercised by family members and attorneys are being respected.
NCHR definitively reiterates that the violent acts of the past few days cannot and must not go unpunished, yet demands that the authorities involved respect the principles of the law and basic issues of human rights when seeking to establish order and render justice. Furthermore, out of respect for society and for those arrested, NCHR awaits the disclosure of the formal charges being laid against the Lavalas leaders.
It is NCHR’s sincere hope that the Haitian National Police and the authorities of this interim government will put an end to such unacceptable behavior, as society cannot continue to suffer from such irresponsible and careless mistakes.
NB. According to Article 24-2 of the Haitian Constitution, except where the perpetrator of a crime is caught in act, known as flagrance, no one may be arrested or detained other than by written order of a legally competent official. Flagrance is considered the continuation of a crime, the enduring moments of a crime which can extend for a twenty-four (24) hour period. During the 24 hours of flagrance, authorities are allowed to arrest alleged perpetrators of the continuing crime without a warrant.