During a five day visit to Haiti, a Commission of Inquiry, dispatched by the International Tribunal on Haiti, gathered evidence of and testimony about new massacres and other crimes against humanity which allegedly have been committed in Haiti since Feb. 29, 2004, when U.S. soldiers kidnapped elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and flew him into exile.
The Commission met with over 50 witnesses who told it of massacres, summary executions, torture, arbitrary arrests and many other human rights abuses being carried out by Haitian police and foreign occupation troops.
The Commission also interviewed Haitian National Police (PNH) director Mario Andresol as well as a high-ranking officer in the U.N. Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH).
A Commission of Inquiry member said that the evidence collected, once presented to the Tribunal’s investigating judge, would make new indictments "inevitable." The Tribunal has already indicted 21 individuals of the PNH, MINUSTAH, former "rebels," and U.S., French and Canadian armed forces. Those convicted will be sent to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, for international criminal prosecution.
Led by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, the Commission of Inquiry visited Haiti from Oct. 6 to 11 after being announced at the opening session of the International Tribunal on Haiti held in Washington, DC on Sep. 23 (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 23, No. 29, 9/28/2005).
Other members of the Commission of Inquiry include Captain Lawrence Rockwood, a former counter-intelligence officer in the U.S. Army who was court-martialed in 1995 after acting without orders to save the lives of prisoners in Haiti’s National Penitentiary on September 30, 1994 (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 12, No. 49, 3/1/2005);
Tom Griffin, an immigration lawyer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and author of a widely acclaimed January 2005 human rights report issued by the University of Miami Law School; Kim Ives, a journalist with Haïti Progrès; Dave Welsh, a delegate of the San Francisco Labor Council and organizer of a U.S. labor human rights delegation to Haiti in June and July 2005; John Parker, west coast coordinator of the International Action Center (IAC); and Katharine Kean, a documentary filmmaker. Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, the archbishop of Detroit, Michigan, also planned to be part of the Commission but had to cancel his travel plans at the last minute.
During its stay, the Commission met primarily with eye-witnesses and the relatives of victims of massacres in Cité Soleil, Belair, Nazon, Solino, Carrefour, Canapé Vert, Pernal, and Belladère. Hours of testimony and evidence were videotaped, photographed and recorded.
At a press conference held at the Plaza Hotel in Port-au-Prince just prior to the delegation’s departure from Haiti, Commission members explained the origin and mission of the International Tribunal on Haiti, read from the prosecution’s indictment, and gave some idea of whom they had been meeting with and what they were investigating.
Delegation leader Ramsey Clark condemned the "terrible police and military violence against the people of Haiti" in the framework of the Feb. 29, 2004 coup against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. "It is absolutely imperative for the future of Haiti and to peace on earth that there be accountability for these crimes," he said. "If international forces under the auspices of the United Nations can come to Haiti and engage in systematic summary executions of its people, what place on earth will be safe from that power?"
"The truth about the actions of U.N. military forces and Haitian police acting in cooperation with their own gangs, which commit murder, is essential to the future of this country," Clark said.