Belance v. FRAPH – International Human Rights and Solidarity – CCR Docket Fall 1999

In June 1994, CCR filed a civil damage suit against the Front for Advancement and Progress in Haiti (FRAPH) a rightwing paramilitary terrorist operation established by the Haitian Army to crush popular movements. The suit was brought on behalf of Alerte Belance, a young mother of three who was captured at home by four FRAPH members in Port-au-Prince in October 1993 after her husband, an Aristide supporter, fled. They almost decapitated her, hacked off her right arm with a machete and slashed her face, neck, and left her for dead in a nearby Killing field. Belance claimed  that the actions of FRAPH violated the Alien Tort Claims Act, which establishes liability in American courts for actions occurring abroad that violate international human rights. FRAPH was served through its agent in the United States.

As part of discovery, CCR filed a series of third-party subpoenas on U,S, government agencies for documents in their possession about FRAPH activities.

In January 1996, after FRAPH failed to respond in the case, CCR filed a motion for a default judgment. Dues to the delay in the production of the balance of the U.S. government documents which could add important information to Alerte Belance’s case, CCR asked that the motion he held in abeyance until the release of subpoenaed government documents, including those that had been seized from FRAPH headquarters.

Subsequently, CIA reports obtained in response revealed that the FRAPH leader Emmanuel Constant, a CIA asset, was involved in the murder of Justice Minister Guy Malary in 1993. Malary was local counsel in the successful human rights lawsuit, Paul v. Avril, and was gunned down in broad daylight in Port-au-Prince.

An international campaign continues for the return of these documents to the government of Haiti to facilitate the prosecution of those who committed human rights violations during the period of the regime that overthrew President Aristide.

Last spring, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York requested briefs on the questions of personal jurisdiction and service of process. Thus the court will be confronted with the important question of whether U.S. and international law can reach the activities of organizations like FRAPH, which are nourished by the CIA and which employ the services of agents within the United States to conduct the organizations activities.

A final ruling is pending.

Jennifer M. Green, Beth Stephens, Michael Ratner, Gabor Rona, Ira Kurzban, Paul Hoffman, and volunteer Bob Bloom