Belance v. FRAPH – International Human Rights and Solidarity – CCR Docket Fall 2000

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 claims  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, and when it failed to answer the complaint, CCR filed a motion for a default judgment in January 1996. The motion has been held in abeyance pending discovery of thousands of documents originating in Haiti, subpoenaed from the CIA, which CCR believes implicate the CIA in the atrocities of FRAPH. The current Haitian government also looks forward to the production of these documents.

In the spring of 1999, the U.S. District Court of new York requested briefs on the related questions of personal jurisdiction and service of process. Thus the court will be confronted with the important question of whether American law can reach the activities of organizations like FRAPH, which nourished by the CIA and which employ the services of “agents” within the United States to lobby and to attempt to influence U.S. public opinion.

In the fall of 1999, the judge dismissed the case without prejudice, in response to concerns about the safety of Belance’s family in Haiti raised in a motion filed by CCR. This enables CCR to reopen the case at a later date.

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