MINUSTAH and RNDDH Have a Great Deal for Which They Should Answer

By: Joe Emersberger, Jeb Sprague, and Wadner Pierre – HaitiAnalysis

Dan Beeton, over at CEPR’s very useful Haiti blog, reported that

A new human rights report reaffirms the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti’s (MINUSTAH) responsibility for causing the cholera epidemic that has now killed over 7,600 and infected over 600,000.

There is no doubt that much of the report’s depiction of Haiti’s present human rights situation rings very true. Unfortunately, there is an appalling gap in the recent history that the report provides to explain why Haiti is in its present state. There is no mention in the report of the 2004 coup that ousted Haiti’s democratically elected government. There is no mention of the violent repression under the UN installed Latortue dictatorship that followed the coup –  at least 4000 political murders (overwhelmingly of partisans of the ousted government) according to study published in the Lancet medical journal. Numerous human rights studies (such as those published through the Miami University of School of Law, Harvard, the National Lawyers Guild, the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, the Association des Universitaires Motivés pour une Haiti de Droits, the organization Human Rights Accompaniment In Haiti, and (belatedly) Amnesty International) further documented the greatly heightened political violence that took place during the post-coup period.  

It is not difficult to figure out why the report could not deal honestly with the 2004 coup or its consequences. One of the organizations responsible for authoring the report – RNDDH (formerly NCHR-Haiti) – was, quite literally, the official human rights group of the Latortue dictatorship. Immigration attorney Thomas Griffin reported in 2004:

 “Vixamar [a Deputy Minister of Justice under the Latortue dictatorship] denied that there are any political prisoners in Haiti. He stated the Ministry of Justice is fully confident in its exclusive reliance on human rights group NCHR (the National Coalition for Haitian Rights) to alert it when the Police or the Courts commit human rights abuses.”

In fact, it was not only Haitian jails that were filled with political prisoners under Latortue but also Haitian morgues that became crowded with victims of the regime. RNDDH not only whitewashed Latortue’s crimes but also assisted it by fabricating allegations against opponents of the dictatorship. Latortue’s regime prosecuted anyone denounced by RNDDH as a criminal. The most well-known RNDDH fabrication was the “La Scierie massacre” which was used to illegally imprison Yvon Neptune for 2 years.  It should also be said the RNDDH helped run classes  for Haiti’s police following the 2004 coup, this was a police force that had 400 criminal paramilitaries integrated into its ranks (we now know through WikiLeaks).

RNDDH is very well connected with groups that progressives outside of Haiti are inclined to trust – Christian Aid, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others. That is one reason why some progressives in countries like Canada, the UK, and the USA either went silent or, in a few cases, even applauded the 2004 coup.

Reports done by RNDDH and its partners should certainly be read, but as with any source, its bias and track record should never be forgotten. While the report’s call to hold MINUSTAH accountable for its recent crime of bringing cholera to Haiti is obviously one any decent person should support, nobody should forget that both MINUSATH and RNDDH have a great deal for which they should be made to answer.

It should also be noted that another co-author of the study, the CEDH (headed then by the late-Jean-Claude Bajeux), following the 2004 coup, was credited with passing around a list of Lavalas partisans it wanted arrested; activists on the list from Haiti’s pro-democracy movement were soon targeted for arrest and assassination by paramilitaries and the country’s  post-coup paramilitary-police force. CEDH was also one of the first groups to begin spinning the misnomer ‘Operation Baghdad’ to lay the full blame on armed groups in Cité Soleil for the heightened violence that occurred between August and October of 2004 in the lower-income neighborhoods of Haiti’s capital.

The third author of the study, FIDH, has published important work over the years, but it has also had a close funding relationship with the French government, which may partially explain why it works with RNDDH and CEDH in Haiti.