Haiti: Two Years Since Gran Ravine Massacres

  On August 20, 2005 the duly elected government of President René Préval had not even been even envisioned. But at the time the out-law government of U.S.-backed Gérard Latortue was proceeding with an agenda of eliminating pro-Aristide forces. Anti-Lavalas militias were cooperating with elements of the Haitian National Police that summer with full impunity as they carried out vengeance killings. Among these groups was the Little Machete Army based in Gran Ravin headed by Rudy Kernizan.
Carlo Lochard , the police head of the west department of Port-Au-Prince, organized plan utilizing members of the Little Machete Army to arrest prominent Lavalas leaders (allegedly armed and violent) at a summer, "peace" soccer tournament at St. Bernadette’s soccer field in Martissant, an inner city zone on the flatlands leading to the harbor. The plan escalated into a Rwanda style massacre with Little Machete Army members hacking people to death and the police shooting victims, leaving over 50 dead. A follow-up massacre in Gran Ravin was carried out by the police the next day, which included house burnings. A total of 15 police were eventually arrested for this governmental crime, but were released by Judge Jean Peres-Paul in February 2006, just before the election of President Préval,

On July 7, 2006 a second massacre occurred in Gran Ravin, carried out by the same Little Machete Army. Intensive peace-making efforts on the part of the Association of University Graduates Motivatd For A Haiti With Rights (AUMOHD) and its local Community Human Rights Council (CHRC) in Gran Ravine were carried out throughout the fall of 2005 and into the beginning of 2006. Hundreds of residents including people from neighboring zones where violent retributions had been carried out, in addition to the "soccer" massacre, met for weeks in an attempt to obtain a disarmament agreement. This work was done by AUMOHD which insisted that the so-called "DDR" (demobilization, disarmament, re-integration) program of the UN not be brought in because of its clearly biased nature–allowing groups to turn in arms and then immediately arresting and jailing them.

A public reconciliation ceremony was held in March of 2006, amidst Canadian solidarity observers, with members of CHRC present. During the ceremony, Rudy Kernizan of the Little Machete Army and Jean Louis Colson, a representative from Gran Ravine and a community mentor, went on stage to pledge ongoing efforts at peace. As the new Préval government was just getting itself into operation, in spite of repeated urgent calls by AUMOHD for government intervention, the Little Machete Army struck again slaying over 20 innocent men, women and children and burning over 300 homes, thus creating over a 1000 refugees. And in a bold intimidation move to stop prosecution for the first two massacres, the new CHRC-GR chair, Esterne Bruner, was assassinated on Sept. 21.  The victims (and their family members) of the original massacres are still without any justice.

The initial legal work on the Gran Ravin massacres was done by the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI). Since then AUMOHD has carried out frequent field/footwork in the area. AUMOHD has not received any communication from the government groups, Haitian or UN, regarding a petition and watch-dogging efforts to prosecute the cases. It is hard to tell what is being done to reform the judiciary which under Judge Jean Peres Paul (former head of the judges’ association) threw out the cases of the police involved in the first massacre.

We can give credit to Police Head Andresol who did credible work under impossible circumstances in this first case and has been personally involved with the second. He is right when he says his job is done after the arrests are made. But the UN has not communicated since January with AUMOHD’s supporter Human Rights Accompaniment in Haiti (HURAH). There are news reports that the UN continues to work with the police in the area and are still based at the high school that AUMOHD’s assassinated human rights worker Esterne Bruner wanted vacated. However, agreements made at a January meeting with the UN Human Rights division to collaborate with AUMOHD have not been kept.

According to the press and human rights sources there has been a reduction in violent crimes in Gran Ravin and Martisant. The minimal response to the pressure on the part of AUMOHD and the Community Human Rights Council (CHRC) from the government has been an allocation of some money to the families whose homes were burned last summer.

The CHRC of Gran Ravin has been working hard on trying to forge a peace plan that will prevent any further violence among neighbors in this volatile area. Support for AUMOHD’s work continues to be very minimal. To contribute send a check to:
Joan Rae, Treasurer, P.O. Box 418, Faytson, VT 05673.