Belance v. FRAPH – International Human Rights and Solidarity – CCR Docket Fall 1997

Important documents became available in fall of 1996 in CCR’s suit against a right-wing Haitian terrorist group.

CIA reports obtained in response to CCR subpoenas revealed that Emmanuel “Toto” Constant, a CIA “asset” who was also the leader  of the Front for Advancement and Progress in Haiti (FRAPH), was involved in in the murder of Justice Minister Guy Malary in 1993. Malary was local counsel in a successful CCR suit, Paul v, Avril and was gunned down in broad-daylight in Port-au-Prince. Although government agencies–Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, and the Department of State–have not fully complied with CCR requests for documents, information already received provides dramatic proof of FRAPH’s bloody history.

In June 1994 CCR filed a $33 million civil damage suit against the Front for Advancement and Progress in Haiti (FRAPH) on behalf of Alerte Belance, a young mother of three who was nearly hacked to pieces by FRAPH members.  After nearly 18 months during which there was no reaction from FRAPH, CCR filed a motion for a default judgment in January 1996–meaning that in the absence of any meaningful response the court could consider that the charges made against the organization could be true.

However, the question of forcing the U.S. government to release documents in its possession –documents that might have bearing on on this case–came to the fore and the motion for default judgment was withdrawn without prejudice pending receipt of government documents. A new default judgment motion is, at this writing, being prepared.

The need to obtain the documents arose in the September 1995 after the Department of Justice revealed in correspondence to CCR that the Department of Defense had in its possession 60,000 pages of documents seized form FRAPH headquarters. Press reports added that U.S. troops had seized a total of more 150,000 pages of documents from the headquarters  of the Haitian Armed Forces and FRAPH, but refusing to give them to the Haitian government. CCR attorneys received unconfirmed reports that Belance’s photo was among the captured documents.

Using Filártiga as a basis, the suit broke new ground in its attempt to hold an organization, rather than an individual, accountable.

Belance was captured at home by four armed FRAPH members in Port-au-Prince in October 1993 after her husband, an Aristide supporter, fled. The thugs almost decapitated her, hacked off her right arm with a machete and slashed her face, neck and mouth, and left her for dead in a nearby “killing field.”

Now deaf in one ear and wearing a prosthetic arm, Belance stated that she was “seeking justice” through her lawsuit.

Beth Stephens, Michael Ratner, Jennifer M. Green, Mary Boresz Pike, Mahlon Perkins, Matthew Chachere, Harold Hongju Koh, & Ronald. C. Slye of the Yale Lowenstein International Human Rights Law Clinic, Ira Kurzban and Paul Hoffman