The British non-governmental organisation, the Haiti Support Group, welcomes the arrest of former dictator Prosper Avril as another step in the struggle to end impunity in Haiti—4 June 2001.
With the arrest of former dictator, Prosper Avril on Saturday, 26 May, 2001, the Haiti Support Group notes with approval a further step forward in the struggle against the impunity enjoyed by human rights violators in Haiti.
According to the Haitian government’s chief prosecutor, Avril’s arrest was made pursuant to a valid warrant, in French and in Creole, issued by the investigating magistrate, Gerard Gilles, on March 27, 1996. The warrant accuses Avril of having arrested, tortured and injured Evans Paul, Marino Etienne, Jean-Auguste Mesyeux, Gerard Emile Brun, Serge Gilles and Fernand Gerard Laforest, and cites articles 254 and 255 (assault), and 289, 291, 292 and 293 (illegal arrest and torture) of the Haitian Penal Code. The alleged crimes took place in 1989 and 1990, while former General Avril was head of a military dictatorship in Haiti.
The Haiti Support Group further understands that when, on May 28, Avril appeared before Ms. Lise Pierre-Pierre, the chief judge of the Port-au-Prince Court, the latter determined that Avril’s arrest was legal, and confirmed his continued detention.
The Haiti Support Group notes that the six victims listed in the arrest warrant also filed a civil suit against Prosper Avril in Miami, Florida, and that in 1994 the court awarded the victims US$41,000,000 in damages. In the case, Paul v. Avril, 901 F.Supp. 330, 335 (S.D. Fla 1994), the court found that “Defendant Avril bears personal responsibility for a systematic pattern of egregious human rights abuses in Haiti during his military rule of September 1988 until March 1990. He also bears personal responsibility for the interrogation and torture of each of the plaintiffs in this case.”
Following the recent successes in the struggle against impunity represented by the Carrefour Feuilles and Raboteau massacre trials in late 2000, the Haiti Support Group is pleased that further steps are being taken in Haiti to bring alleged human rights violators to account. We welcome these advances in the establishment of the rule of law in Haiti.
The Haiti Support Group takes this opportunity to express its hope that other alleged human rights violators from Haiti who are currently living in the United States, such as Emmanuel “Toto” Constant, are sent back to Haiti to stand trial, and that the United States authorities help the judicial process in Haiti run its course by returning, in their entirety, the 160,000 pages of documents taken from the FRAPH and FAD’H offices by U.S. troops in 1994.