Testimony of Michael Ratner from the Center for Constitutional Rights on Resolution 82 Calling Upon the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service and the United States Department of State to Honor the Request of the Haitian Government for the Extradition or Deportation of Francois Emmanuel “Toto” Constant to Haiti Where He Can Stand Trial For His Crimes.
“The United States has set back the cause of democracy and justice in Haiti by freeing Emmanuel Constant from an American jail and postponing deportation proceedings against him. Mr. Constant headed Haiti’s most violent paramilitary group during the recent military dictatorship there, and the current democratic government wants to try him for his alleged role in supervising scores of murders, rapes and cases of torture.”
New York Times, Editorial (June 26, 1996)
My name is Michael Ratner and I am an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York City. I want to thank this committee, the sponsors of this resolution and particularly Councilman Foster and Councilman Vallone for their willingness to give this issue a public airing. Emmanuel “Toto” Constant’s presence in this City threatens not only the safety and wellbeing of the people of New York, especially Haitians, but the image of our city. We should not and do not want to be seen as city that shelters terrorists.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is a non-profit civil rights litigation organization that has worked with Haiti and its people for over 10 years. In 1994 we won a 40 million dollar U.S.
Court judgement on behalf of five Haitian popular leaders who were tortured at the direction of Haitian dictator Prosper Avril. After the September 1991 coup in Haiti the center represented hundreds of Haitian refugees fleeing the brutal regime; many of these were fleeing from the terror perpetrated by FRAPH, the Revolutionary Front for Advancement and Progress in Haiti, the organization headed by the subject of these hearings, Emmanuel “Toto” Constant. During the coup period we were successful in the effort to shut down the world’s first HIV concentration camp at the U.S. Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay Cuba. New York City, to its credit, provided a sanctuary for many of those refugees. CCR also brought suit in federal court in New York against FRAPH, which started operating here in 199?. The suit was brought on behalf of a woman from Haiti who was brutally sliced with machetes, badly disfigured, lost an arm and was left for dead. She was given political asylum in the United States. CCR and its director Ron Daniels are also the key sponsors of the “Return Constant” campaign which seeks to have Constant sent back to Haiti for trial. [OAS stuff Jennie]
I participated in all of this work. In addition after the return of President Aristide in 1994, I worked with the Justice Ministry in Haiti to help bring to justice some of the many human rights violators still at large. In this capacity I interviewed scores of Haitians who had been tortured, savagely beaten, raped or otherwise brutalized by the military and members of FRAPH. Even subsequent to the restoration of democracy and continuing until today Haitians fear FRAPH and for good reason. It has not yet been fully rooted out of Haitian society. I find the fact that FRAPH’s leader “Toto” Constant is living among us appalling. We are a city of perhaps half a million Haitians; they should not have a terrorist living among them.
History of FRAPH and its Leader, Emmanuel “Toto” Constant
In September 1991 a military coup led by Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, the commander-in-chief of the Haitian Armed Forces, overthrew President Aristide. During and after the coup the military and its civilian collaborators engaged in widespread and egregious human rights violations. These included thousands of extra-judicial executions, torture and disappearances; virtually all opposition activities including political parties, trade unions and the media were repressed. Thousands of people, thought to support President Aristide, were shot, attacked with machetes, raped or otherwise terrorized.
In July 1993, President Aristide and the Haitian military signed an accord, the Governors Island Agreement, which called for President Aristide to return to Haiti at the end of October of that year. The level of violent human rights abuses increased sharply in September and October, shortly before President Aristide was to return.1
In August of September 1993 FRAPH was formed and was responsible for an increasingly large portion of this violence.2 It was formed to assist the Haitian military in blocking the return of President Aristide and democratic rule to Haiti through a deliberate policy of violent intimidation of real or perceived opponents of military rule. FRAPH was formed by Emmanuel Constant, the son of a Duvalier era commander-in-chief of the armed forces, with support of the coup leaders, Cedras, Biamby and Francois. While it claimed to be a political formation, it was first and foremost a terrorist paramilitary organization. Its members killed, tortured, kidnapped and forcibly disappeared hundreds of Haitians whose only crime was membership in a grassroots organization or support for President Aristide. After FRAPH’s rise mutilated corpses began to be found on the streets of Port-au-Prince. Politically motivated rape became common, as did torture and murder.
The U.S. embassy, in a February 1995 cable to Washington, described FRAPH as follows: “FRAPH has no legitimacy and is not a legitimate political party…It consistently operated, often violently, in support of the Cedras regime….Accordingly, we viewed it as basically a rent-a-mob group financed by the military for recruiting purposes…” FRAPH in co-operation with the Armed forces of Haiti systematically carried out acts of arson and murder in poor urban neighborhoods of Haiti, such as Cite Soleil, where more than 30 people were killed in December 1993 and Raboteau, where at least fifteen were killed in April 1994. See “List of representative human rights abuses committed by FRAPH” annexed hereto.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, subsequent to its visit to Haiti in May 1994, blamed FRAPH for much of the brutality:
“The delegation…received numerous reports of arbitrary detention, routinely accompanied by torture and brutal beatings by agents of the armed forces of Haiti and paramilitary groups, especially members of the Revolutionary Front for Advancement and Progress in Haiti (FRAPH), who act in concert with the Armed Forces and Police.”
The brutality included rape, inflicted by FRAPH on women and children. The 1995 O.A.S. Report on the situation of human rights in Haiti described FRAPH’s role in the rapes:
“The primary instruments of the repression inflicted on women and children in Haiti have been rapes…committed by members of the army and police forces, their armed civilian auxiliaries, the attaches’ paramilitary groups and FRAPH, acting with complete impunity…. It always happens in the same way: armed men, frequently soldiers or FRAPH members, violently enter the house of a political militant to arrest him. When he is not there and the family cannot say where he is, the intruders turn against his wife, sister, daughter or cousin.”
FRAPH was not only active in Haiti, but at one point during the coup period set up offices and issued press releases in other countries including Canada and the United States. [describe release] It was its presence in New York that gave a U.S. federal court the jurisdiction to entertain the current lawsuit that CCR filed against it.
The return to democracy in Haiti forced FRAPH to more or less go underground, but it is still a threat Haitians, both in Haiti and the U.S. Constant’s presence in New York, where he is now at liberty, exacerbates this threat, undermines the rule of law and should be an embarrassment to all New Yorkers.
As stated earlier, Constant was a founder of FRAPH and its secretary general. He was the organizations spokesperson, had knowledge of its activities and bears responsibility for its terrorist actions. The evidence of his domination and control of FRAPH is overwhelming. Official U.S. documents confirm Constant’s central role. He and the co-leader of FRAPH, Jodel Chamblain, are described in a CIA report as “prominent attache chiefs with connections to Police Chief Michel Francois and well-known henchman of the Duvalier family…”3 Constant is quoted saying he will resist the presence of U.S. troops with arms: [I]n the event of a U.S. invasion, FRAPH would become an ‘armed revolutionary front’ of the Haitian people.” When the French ship Galisbay attempted to deliver a humanitarian cargo of food to Haiti, Constant warned that there would be trouble if it docked and that “we are ready to fight.”
In one of the more remarkable documents released to CCR in our on-going lawsuit against FRAPH, Constant is said to have been in on the planning of the assassination of Guy Malary. Malary, was the Minister of Justice of Haiti, a human rights lawyer, close with officials in the United States and very courageous. He was local counsel for one of CCR’s human rights cases. I had met with Malary during the early part of the coup period in his law office in Haiti; a few months later he was dead. The CIA Intelligence report reads as follows:
[Deletion] In early to mid-October Biamby and his associates coordinated the murder of Justice Minister Guy Malary, which took place on 14 October, with members of the Revolutionary Front for Haitian Advancement and Progress (FRAPH). [Deletion] FRAPH members Jodel Chamblain, Emmanuel Constant, and Gabriel Douzable met with an unidentified military office on the morning of 14 October to discuss plans to kill Malary.(emphasis added)4
Constant’s Entry into the United States
In late December 1994, approximately two months after President Aristide’s return to power, Constant fled Haiti, apparently to escape Haitian justice for his crimes. Although, Constant’s multiple entry visa has been invalidated during the coup, once sanctions were lifted and Aristide returned, the suspended visa was re-validated.
By February 1994 Constant’s presence in the United States had become public. U.S. officials were publicly pressured to find arrest, and deport or extradite him back to Haiti.
On March 29, 1994 Secretary of State Warren Christopher wrote an extraordinary letter to Attorney General Janet Reno requesting Constant’s “expeditious deportation from the United States. Citing a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act, Secretary Christopher “concluded that the continued presence and activities of Emmanuel Mario Constant…in the United States would have potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences for the United States and would compromise a compelling United States foreign policy interest.” Secretary Christopher continued that even were Constant to “cease his FRAPH-related activities in the United States, his mere presence here would seriously undermine U.S. foreign policy interests….and cast doubt upon the seriousness of our resolve to combat human rights violations…. Secretary Christopher described Constant’s role in Haiti’s terror:
Mr. Constant is one of the co-founders and current President of FRAPH. He was instrumental in sustaining the repression that prevailed in Haiti under the illegal military-led regime….
As a result of this letter Constant was arrested and held for a deportation hearing. On September 1, 1995, after a hearing in before an immigration judge, Constant was ordered deported back to Haiti. The judge found that the Secretary of State “with good cause has determined that ‘Mr. Constant’s presence and activities in the United States seriously undermine…compelling foreign policy objectives.” As the court’s opinion stated:
The United States Government has concluded that FRAPH is an illegitimate paramilitary organization whose members were responsible for numerous human rights violation in Haiti in 1993 and 1994. As its leader Mr. Constant has been accused of notorious and abhorrent conduct, The forum to confront these charges is in Haiti before its democratically elected government.
Despite these findings of the Court and the Department of State, Constant was not deported back to Haiti. However he was detained while his lawyers pursued an appeal.
However, prior to the appeal being heard, U.S. officials made some kind of agreement with Constant that released him from detention. Claiming that Constant’s immediate deportation to Haiti “would place an undue burden on Haiti’s judicial and penal system,” INS granted Constant a six-month stay of deportation stating that it would deport Constant once advised by the State Department “that Haiti’s judicial and penal systems have developed the capacity to deal with a case of this magnitude.”5 To date, Constant’s stay of deportation has been renewed and as far as we know he remains living in the New York area.
There are strong reasons to believe that the reasons given by the State Department for the stay of Constant’s deportation are pretextual. Constant has admitted that he was a CIA informant while in Haiti and journalists have disclosed that he was paid for his services. It appears that the CIA may not want him to talk about its role during the coup and its aftermath. I also have personal experience with the justice system in Haiti; I spent over a year assisting the Ministry of Justice in Haiti. I believe Haiti is capable of giving Emmanuel Constant a fair trial. It certainly seems to me to be highly disrespectful to Haiti and its people for U.S. officials to refuse the Haitian extradition request and to permit a terrorist to be on the loose. It is ironic that immigration laws which were meant to protect refugees fleeing from persecution are now being employed to protect a persecutor The City Council has an obligation to the people of New York and particularly its Haitian population to use its efforts to insure that Constant is brought to justice and is not a threat to the people of New York.
I recall that about a decade ago I spent a few months in Bolivia. In the bookstores there were a number of periodicals detailing how Bolivia had shielded a notorious Nazi–Klaus Barbie. Everyone knew he was living in Bolivia. I was amazed. A major Nazi killer living without fear in Bolivia. I wondered how this could happen and how a civilized society could permit such an abomination. I assumed it was because Bolivia did not have a particularly democratic government and I assumed some of its officials were either Nazi sympathizers or had accepted bribes. While I cannot imagine the U.S. government sheltering such a Nazi we are permitting a serious human rights violator to live among us. I presume that Haitians are as appalled by Constant’s presence as I was by Barbie’s.
1The material in this section is taken in part from the Declaration of Anne Fuller, expert on Human rights in Haiti and on Defendant FRAPH. This declaration was filed in the federal lawsuit, Belance v. FRAPH, Civ. No. 94-2619 (E.D.N.Y. 1994)
2One of its first public actions occurred in October 1993 when it blocked the landing of the USS Harlan County, carrying a contingent of U.N. peace keepers.
3CIA Intelligence Report, Haiti: The FRAPH at 4 (Sept. 26, 1994)
4CIA Report, Haiti’s Far Right: Taking the Offensive (Oct 28, 1993). Subsequent to the release of the document to CCR the CIA claimed that a part of the document that was still secret attributed the charge against Constant to an “untested source.” New York Times, ’93 Report Tied Agent to Slaying (Oct. 13, 1996).
5Letter from INS General Counsel to Michael Ratner dated August 29, 1997.