Paul v. Avril – International Human Rights and Solidarity – CCR Docket Fall 1997

CCR continues to track the movement of a former Haitian dictator and to attempt to enforce a $41 million damage judgment against him.

The decision in this case–the first in which any Haitian dictator or member of the Haitian military has ever been held responsible in any court of law anywhere for human rights abuses–is one of the  many international law successes using the principle in Filártiga v. Peña-Irala.

Once a close advisor and financial director for the Duvalier dictatorship in the 1980s. Prosper Avril suspended al constitutional guarantees when he became president in a 1988 coup. In 1989 his troops arrested six plaintiffs in this case (including Evans Paul, the former mayor of Poet-au-prince) and interrogated, beat and tortured them, just after they had announced a month-long national campaign of non-violent protest calling for democratic reform in Haiti.

After a four-year legal battle to bring Avril to justice, in July 1994 a federal magistrate granted the plaintiffs a default judgment.  In late 1995, CCR learned that Avril was seeking political asylum in the Colombian embassy in Port-au-Prince and that two U.S. congressmen–Rep. Dan Burton and Rep. Robert Torricelli–had written to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on his behalf. Joined by Yale’s Lowenstein International Human Rights Law Clinic and other human rights groups, CCR initiated a letter to the congressmen emphasizing that Avril was “flouting a judgment” of a U.S. Court.

Michael Ratner, Beth Stephens, Jennifer M. Green