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National Liberation Front

Two principal armed groups took part in the armed revolt that toppled the government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004. One is the Gonaïves Resistance Front, led by Jean Pierre Baptiste (alias Jean Tatoune), Buteur (Butteur) Métayer, and Wynter (Winter) Etienne. This is the group that initiated the insurrection with the seizure of Gonaïves on February 5, 2004. A second group, headed by Guy Philippe and Louis Jodel Chamblain, consists primarily of former members of the Haitian Armed Forces (Forces Armées d'Haïti, FAd'H) who slipped into Haiti from the neighboring Dominican Republic. They have called themselves the National Liberation Front. Though their political antecedents vary greatly, the two principal armed groups share a common pattern of serious human rights violations.

Until 1990, Louis Jodel Chamblain was a sergeant in the Haitian Armed Forces, and a member of its elite Corps des Léopards. He is alleged to have headed a death squad under President-for-Life Jean Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, who fled the country for exile in 1986. In 1993 he co-founded the paramilitary organization FRAPH (Front pour l'Avancement et le Progrès d'Haïti, Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti), whose acronym is phonetically identical to the French/Creole word for "hit." He served as its "Coordinator," the number two leadership position behind Secretary-General Emmanuel "Toto" Constant. The other two members of its central committee were Alphonse Lahens, a prominent Duvalierist, and Mireille Durocher-Bertin, a lawyer who was murdered in 1995 (HRW 27 Feb 2004, Williams 29 Feb 2004).

Chamblain was in direct control of FRAPH death squads that operated during the period of "de facto" military rule from 1990 to 1994. He fled to the Dominican Republic in 1994 after U.S. forces restored democratic rule. On September 17, 1995, a Haitian court convicted Chamblain "in absentia" of taking part in the September 1993 assassination of Antoine Izméry, a Port-au-Prince businessman who favored restoring democratic rule under then-exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. On November 16, 2000, another Haitian court convicted Chamblain of "voluntary, premeditated homicide" in connection with the April 1994 massacre of men, women, and children in the Gonaïves slum neighborhood of Raboteau. He also had a role in the assassination of Justice Minister Guy Malary, who was machine-gunned to death with his bodyguard and driver in October 1993. According to a 1993 CIA Intelligence Memorandum obtained by the Center for Constitutional Rights through the Freedom of Information Act, "FRAPH members Jodel Chamblain, Emmanuel Constant, and Gabriel Douzable met with an unidentified military officer on the morning of 14 October to discuss plans to kill Malary" (AI 16 Feb 2004, Charles 15 Apr 2002, HRW 27 Feb 2004).

In mid-February 2004, Chamblain slipped over the Dominican border with a group of some twenty former members of the Haitian Armed Forces. On February 14, two Dominican soldiers were killed at the Dajabón border crossing near the Massacre River by unknown assailants who took their guns. The following day, Chamblain's forces seized the city of Hinche in the Department of the Center, about 20 miles from the Dominican border. Dressed in camouflage fatigues, body armor and riot gear, they looted and burned the police station, killed the district police chief and his bodyguard, and emptied the prison. Former Army Sergeant Jean Baptiste Joseph announced "The army is no longer demobilized. The army is mobilized" (WASHINGTON POST 19 Feb 2004).

There had been numerous prior reports of armed incursions by former members of the Haitian military. In 2002, a group led by ten former Haitian army soldiers began operations along the Massacre River on the northern border with the Dominican Republic. They repeatedly slipped across the border to avoid capture (Wilson 18 Nov 2003). On May 6, 2003, over a dozen armed men attacked the Péligre hydroelectric dam in east-central Haiti near the Dominican border. They killed two security guards, set fire to the control room, and fled in a stolen hospital vehicle. On July 25, 2003, unknown assailants ambushed a Ministry of the Interior vehicle in Ouasèk, near Pernal, after the occupants installed a communal council in the border town of Belladère. The attackers killed four civilian ministry employees - Wilfrid Thomas, Chériel Augustin, Jean Marie Dépeignes and Adrien Célestin - then reportedly mutilated and burnt their bodies (AI 8 Oct 2003).

Guy Philippe is a former army lieutenant who received police training at the Gerardo Alberto Enríquez Gallo police academy in Quito, Ecuador, between 1992 and 1995 (Trenton 20 Feb 2004). Upon his return to Haiti in 1995 he became commander of the Ministerial Security Corps (Corps de Sécurité Ministeriel, CSM). Described by United Nations observers as "cowboys" and "uncontrollable," the CSM was a special police unit whose members wore civilian clothes and rode in unmarked vehicles. The CSM was implicated in serious human rights violations under Philippe's leadership, including a series of shootings of innocent persons in Cité Soleil on March 6, 1996 (NCHR Jan 1997). On October 9, 1996, HNP Director General Pierre Denizé removed Philippe from his post for "violation of human rights" and "diversion of funds" (Inspection Générale 9 Nov 1998).

Philippe nevertheless served as police chief of Delmas, a large northern suburb of Port-au-Prince, from 1997 to 1999. During that time, the joint UN-OAS Civilian Mission to Haiti reported that dozens of suspected gang leaders in the area were being summarily executed, most by police under the command of Philippe's deputy, Inspector Berthony Bazile. Philippe was transferred to Cap Haïtien in 1999, where he served as police chief for a year. In November 2000, he and a half dozen other police officers were called in for questioning about meetings in which they allegedly plotted to overthrow President René Préval. All of the officers, including Philippe, instead fled to the Dominican Republic. Haitian and U.S. sources allege that Philippe was involved in drug trafficking both while heading the police in Cap Haïtien and during his exile in the Dominican Republic (Cody 2 Feb 2001, HRW 27 Feb 2004).

Haitian officials alleged that Philippe was involved in a series of attacks on the HNP on July 28, 2001. Gunmen in military uniforms assaulted police posts in the capital and three other towns, shouting "Long live the Army!" They began by seizing the National Police Academy in Port-au-Prince. In a subsequent retreat toward the Dominican Republic they attacked the police station in Mirebalais, 30 miles northeast of the capital, then briefly seized the border town of Belladère. In the course of their attacks, they killed five police officers, including a police commissioner, and wounded fourteen more (POHDH Aug 2001, NEW YORK TIMES 18 Aug 2001, Reuters 19 Dec 2001).

On August 8, the Dominican ambassador to Haiti confirmed that ten former Haitian soldiers had taken refuge in his country (Quixote 17 Aug 2001). On October 24, the Dominican Republic, which does not have an extradition treaty with Haiti, granted temporary residency to eleven men wanted in connection with the July 28 attacks. Ten of the eleven said they were former members of the Haitian Armed Forces (FAd'H); the eleventh said he was a member of the opposition (Cala 24 Oct 2001).

Before dawn on December 17, 2001, armed men wearing military uniforms attacked the National Palace in Port-au-Prince. Haitian authorities said there were 33 attackers, who shot to death two policemen on the scene, wounded six others and riddled palace walls and windows with bullet holes. An assailant identified as Chavre Millot was said to have been killed at the palace. Authorities said they found false Dominican documents on his body. As the attackers fled several hours after the initial assault, they shot to death two bystanders. Four commandos were reportedly killed while attempting to cross the border into the Dominican Republic, and another was said to have been wounded and captured near the Dominican border. Authorities identified him as Pierre Richardson, saying he was a former soldier who had also taken part in the July 28 attack on the National Police Academy (Norton 18 Dec 2001, San Martin 19&20 Dec 2001).

Richardson told reporters he had participated in a "coup d'état." He said he had attended meetings in the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo with former Cap-Haïtien police chief Guy Philippe, and that Philippe had said they could count on backup support organized by former Army Colonel Guy François. That support never materialized, he said. Richardson's allegation led to the arrest of François (MIAMI HERALD 21 Dec 2001).

On the day of the attack, Guy Philippe placed calls to news media denying involvement, and saying he was in the Dominican Republic. But Dominican officials said they had no record of his being in the country at the time of the attack. What is known for sure is that Philippe moved to Ecuador about a month after seeking refuge in the Dominican Republic in November 2000, but for unexplained reasons returned to the Dominican Republic two weeks before the December 17, 2001 attack. The day after the attack he flew back to Ecuador via Panama, but was denied entry at the airport in Quito. He then returned to the Dominican Republic on December 25, where an airport immigration inspector let him pass despite instructions to detain him and return him to his port of origin. The inspector was reported to have been fired, and on December 28, Dominican president Hipólito Mejía announced that Philippe had been located and placed under house arrest (San Martin 27 Dec 2001, MIAMI HERALD 29 Dec 2001, ORLANDO SENTINEL 30 Dec 2001). But Mejía turned down Haitian extradition requests. In 2003, Dominican authorities briefly detained Philippe for questioning about allegations that he had been meeting with former Haitian military leaders to plot a coup against the Haitian government (Bracken 18 Feb 2004, Daniel 20 Feb 2004).

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 15:41:08 ZULU