Truth Commission: Haiti

Truth Commission: National Truth and Justice Commission
Duration: 1994 – 1996
Charter: Executive Order
Commissioners: 7
Report: Public report

 

Truth Commission: National Truth and Justice Commission (Commission Nationale de Vérité et de Justice): 1994-1996

Dates of Operation:
April 1, 1995 - February 1996 (11 months)

Background: Haiti’s president Jean Bertrand Aristide was overthrown in a military coup September 1991. The military's leader, General Raoul Cedras, led an oppressive regime marked by numerous human rights violations. Both the Organization of America States and the United Nations issued international sanctions against Haiti in response to the coup. President Aristide was set to return to power in October 1993, but due to military resistance, he was not reinstated until July 1994, with the backing of the United Nations and 20,000 U.S. troops.

The idea for a truth commission in Haiti began with efforts by the Haitian diaspora community living around North America and the Caribbean in 1993. The concept was based largely on the articulation of a "Proposition pour une Commission de la Vérité en Haïte: Éléments constitutifs," the final report of a popular tribunal called, "The International Tribunal on Rights in Haiti" that took place in Montreal in October 1994. An executive order by President Jean Bertrand Aristide ultimately established the commission December 1994.

Charter: An executive order issued by President Jean Bertrand Aristide officially created the Commission on December 17, 1994. A second order proclaimed the commission’s mandate (PDF-1424KB) on March 28, 1995.

Mandate: The Commission’s mandate was to investigate human rights abuses that took place over a three-year period beginning with the September 30, 1991 coup that overthrew elected President Aristide until his restoration to power in September 1994.

Commissioners and Structure: The commission was composed of seven members: five men and two women, including four Haitians and three internationals.  It was chaired by Haitian sociologist, Françoise Boucard.

Report:
The National Truth and Justice Commission presented its final report to President Jean Bertrand Aristide and the judiciary on February 5, 1996, yet only seventy-five copies were made. A second edition was published in 1998 in French, which most Haitians cannot read or write, République d'Haïti: Rapport de la Commission Nationale de Vérité et de Justice. (The report, including annexes and an overview of statistical analysis, has been made available on the University of Florida Library Web site: Annex I, Annex II, and Overview of Statistical Analysis.)   

Findings:

Conclusions

  • The commission took over 5,500 testimonies, identified 8,667 victims who had suffered 18,629 human rights violations. The Commission made special investigations into cases of sexual violence against women, abuse of journalists and the media and the April 1994 massacre in Raboteau.

Recommendations

  • The report included a list of names of alleged perpetrators and recommended that the government continue investigations and prosecute those found responsible. The establishment of an international tribunal to try those accused was given as an alternative recommendation.
  • The commission also recommended that a reparations commission should be established, the judiciary should be reformed, and laws against sexual violence and rape should be enacted.

Subsequent Developments:

Reforms

  • The commission’s report was used to vet new applicants to the civilian police force.

Prosecutions

  • While the majority of victims still await justice, a few key trials were held, in particular those concerning the Raboteau and Carrefour-Feuilles killings.
  • The Raboteau case was concluded in November 2000 and more than fifty defendants were convicted, including the entire military high command and the heads of the paramilitary FRAPH (Front Révolutionnaire pour l’Avancement et le Progrès Haïtiens). However, on May 3, 2005, the Supreme Court of Haiti reversed the sentences of fifteen former military and FRAPH members. None of the fifteen men were in prison at that time.

Special Notes: The Commission based its findings on testimony gathered throughout the country by forty Haitian and foreign human rights investigators during the summer of 1995. The Commission tried unsuccessfully to obtain information related to the FRAPH from the U.S. government. According to the final report, the FRAPH documents would have provided structure to the report and added quality to the testimony. The United States finally returned the FRAPH documents in early 2000, one of the last acts of the Clinton Administration.

Sources:

April 1, 1995
Issue Areas: 
Countries: