An unforgettable nightmare for our collective conscience
On 30 September 1991 the Haitian Armed Forces executed a bloody overthrow of then President Jean Bertrand Aristide, who had been democratically elected in the general elections of 16 December 1990. The military, assisted by the paramilitary group Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH) established a three year regime of terror that was characterized by widespread violence and the abandonment of fundamental human rights.
The fear imposed on the civilian population during this period took various forms : extra-judicial executions, kidnappings followed by disappearances, illegal arrests, arbitrary detentions, brutal beatings, theft, rape, destruction of homes, intentionally set fires etc. NCHR recalls that according to various estimates, several thousands of people fell victim to the coup d’état, yet only one judicial proceeding was held, namely that of the case of the Raboteau Massacre. Thirteen years after the coup d’état, it is with grief and sadness that NCHR makes the following observations :
the criminals [implicated in the crimes during the coup years] continue to enjoy official impunity ;
those tried and sentenced in the Raboteau Massacre case are on the run ;
former torturers and executioners have returned and continue to sacrifice the democratic aspirations of the Haitian people, threatening the very foundation of the State ;
armed groups, like those of the coup years or of the Lavalas regime, continue to benefit from the complacence of the current government. Acts of theft, rape, kidnapping, murders, death threats, and arson are on the rise at an alarming rate ;
the general tendency of amnesia at the official levels and certain sectors of society to erase this pain from the collective memory and to fail to shed light on all the crimes committed during this period.
Six months after being installed, the Boniface-Latortue government has not demonstrated its will to combat the phenomenon of impunity nor its desire to respond to the demands for justice of the Haitian people.
The recent scandal of the latest criminal trials in Port-au-Prince unfortunately confirms the sentiment that “nothing has changed but for the political actors”. Furthermore, armed gangs impose their law upon the disaster victims of Gonaïves, where the counting of the dead following the flooding from tropical storm Jeanne has yet to be completed.
Is it not distressful to note the disdain for the right to life and security for the population of Gonaïves displayed by the leaders of public office ? Is it humanly possible to commit the security of a town being so severely tested into the hands of a group of delinquents ? Where are the specialized unites of the Haitian National Police ? What is the real role of the United Nations Mission for the Stabilization in Haiti (MINUSTAH) in the country’s security plan ? Is there still not time to reestablish the authority of the State in Gonaïves ? Does not the State have the responsibility to treat the disaster victims of Gonaïves with dignity and humaneness ?
NCHR, engaged in the fight against forgetting the past, considers the thirteenth anniversary of the bloody coup d’état of 30 September 1991 as a good opportunity to reflect on our past, question the present, and prepare for the future.
A people without memory are a people without a future.