Haiti: Victims of Violence Organize in Plateau-Central

During a 24-hour visit in Haiti’s plateu central, the human rights organization Association of University Graduates Motivated for a Haiti with Rights (AUMOHD), headed by lawyer Evel Fanfan, recorded interviews with hundreds of victims from the 2001-2004 ex-military attacks in the area. Three of the most heavily targeted communities during this period were visited: Mirebalais, Lascahobas, and Belladeres.

In Pernal the victims were numerous. Several Fanmi Lavalas activists and even employees of the Ministry for the Interior under the Aristide government were assassinated at this site. By late 2003, Pernal had become completely taken over by the ex-military who launched a violent witch-hunt against supporters of the constitutional government. Pernal is located between Lascahobas and Belladeres with only one road connecting the two communes.

Local merchants travel this road, many passing by to take part in trade on the Haitian-Dominican border. The first meeting that AUMOHD held took place in the night club of the town of Belladeres, where victims formulated complaints against those which had oppressed them during the period 2003-2004.

Bertrand Roussaine, a 9 years old nephew of a local Lavalas leader Cléonor Souverain, was one victim. He is now handicapped living in a wheel chair after he was the only one to survive the massacre of Souverain’s family. At the time, Ravix and other ex-military men machine gunned the family lying on the ground outside of their home. He served as the most vivid image of the survivors of 2003-2004 events.

Family members explained that today the young Roussaine is psychologically suffering and does not have control over his bowel movements. The child explained, "I have seen some death in my day, the members of my family. My mother takes care of me. Today the killers are hidden away." Journalists asked if the government had done anything to help him and other victims of the ex-military. "Now I go to school, I am in the 3rd fundamental year but I would like help from the state," he responded.

Cleonor Souverain and other leaders of local victims’ organizations said it is time to get justice for the victims. Five graphic photographs of Souverain’s murdered family were available for all to see. After showing the images Souverain cried as Roussaine sat on his lap with his arms stretched around his uncle.

Souverain added, "This morning I present myself here in front of you with my nephew who is a symbol to the people here of the violent attacks we suffered, because our city is the city most touched by the violence crossing over from the Dominican Republic. Roussaine is today going to school but each day he must wear diapers. My other five family members are in the cemetery."

Roussaine’s mother each day must search out the proper supplies to take care of her child, which she says is difficult in this countryside town of Haiti. She often stands by the road asking the passing trucks for help.

Another victim Emile observed "I am here with so many other victims. I lost my house. I lost a cousin. I want justice and reparations. I can only ask the state government".

A 40-year-old man spoke next about his presence at the meeting. "I lost a son who hardly came to finish his secondary studies. He was going to find a work in a nongovernmental organization. I had all my financial expenditures based around educating my son Colo Pédelle. Today dear god he rests in a tomb after the bullets from the ex-military killed him on June 21, 2003. I want for justice to be returned to my son, although the life of my son Colo will never have a price."

Souverain presented a list of more than 30 who were killed just in Pernal and the surrounding region. Among them were the assistant mayor of Savanette, Mr. Amongue Céna, and several other well-known individuals who disappeared. Others attended to discuss how they lost their businesses and homes to the ex-military attacks. They said they felt much of the violence was due to their supporting the constitutionally elected government of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

In Lascahobas more than 80 people took part in a meeting with AUMOHD and another meeting took place in Mirebalis with dozens of victims present. Two Canadian University students accompanied members of AUMOHD in transcribing and questioning the assembled victims. The organizers promised to return to collect more information.