UN Human Rights Chief Says Haiti ‘Death Squad’ Leader Must Not Escape Justice

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré (file photo)
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré (file photo)

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said today (July 29) that former Haitian paramilitary leader Emmanuel “Toto” Constant, who was deported from the United States last month, must be held accountable for the horrendous human rights violations committed during 1990s.

In a landmark judgment for justice in Haiti, Constant was convicted in absentia on 16 November 2000 and sentenced to life imprisonment over his involvement in the 1994 Raboteau massacre when military and paramilitary forces attacked the neighbourhood of Raboteau in Gonaïves.

The victims were between 10 and 80 years old. The total number of victims remains unknown as bodies were thrown into open sewers. Constant, who fled to the United States in 1994 after President Aristide’s return to power, was deported from the United States on 23 June 2020 and arrested upon his arrival in Port-au-Prince.

On 10 July, according to the UN Human Rights office, the judiciary announced they could not locate the judicial file related to his detention. The absence of the judicial file raises concerns as to the legal basis for his detention, raising the prospect of his release and signalling he may effectively escape justice.

Constant’s Front pour l’Avancement et le Progrès Haitien (FRAPH) worked as a death squad targeting the population in their campaign to help the Haitian Armed Forces keep their grip on power. They carried out extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, and rape as well as countless other acts of torture and violence.

According to the UN Human Rights office, soldiers and paramilitaries reportedly often raped women in front of family members, and survivors reported that sons were sometimes forced to rape their own mothers.

“The perpetrators of such egregious acts must not be allowed to escape justice,” said Bachelet. “Impunity destroys the social fabric of societies and perpetuates mistrust among communities or towards the State.”

She added that accountability helps prevent feelings of frustration, bitterness, and the possible desire for revenge which could lead to further violence and atrocities. “It is essential for victims to obtain justice, truth, and reparations, and for their dignity to be restored,” the High Commissioner said.

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Rakesh Raman