Photo by Michelle Karshan
The anniversaries of the September 11, 1998 massacre at Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide's church, St. Jean Bosco, and of the September 30, 1991 coup d'etat against President Aristide are approaching. Here is an old press release I wrote which is still key today.
Press Release Date: August 1, 2001
Press Release Date: August 1, 2001
Contact: Michelle Karshan, Foreign Press Liaison for President Jean-Bertrand Aristide
Tel. (011509) 228-2058
Photo Exhibit Depicts the Horrors Endured by the Haitian People at the Hands of the Haitian Military and FRAPH
A traveling exhibit of photos of victims of the brutal Haitian Army and the paramilitary organization, FRAPH, was exhibited in the Place des Martyrs around the monument for the victims of the coup d’etat that was erected by President Jean-Bertrand Aristide at the end of his last term.
One photo depicted the image of a mural of President Aristide on a wall that had been shot at. Next to it was written, “The criminals could not get Titid, so they shot at his picture.” The gruesome photos of Alerte Balance with her face split wide open as well as her neck and arms, were displayed. The words told the story, Arlerte Belance. “They took her from her home. They attacked her with machetes, they cut her up, they beat her with a stick, and then they dropped her in Titanyen.”
The victims’ organization, Fondation 30 Septembre (named for the date of the coup d’etat against President Aristide in 1991) has been putting up this exhibit around the country for the past few months in response to the growing resurgence of the former military and the call by the Democratic Convergence for the return of the Army. Convergence member Gerard Gourgue, who they refer to as their provisional president, called for the restoration of the army in his speech at their party headquarters. Since then former military have been visibly aligned with the Convergence, and were even seen at the Convergence headquarters shooting at demonstrators in the street during a March incident. More recently, former army general Prosper Avril attended one of their well-publicized events to demonstrate his support.
Every Wednesday, without fail, the Fondation 30 Septembre rallies around the monument for the victims to keep the memory alive and to demand justice for the victims and their families. Today’s rally marked their 198th rally for justice and against impunity.
Today’s exhibit in the main square of Port-au-Prince was particularly key, just four days after former military apparently attempted to stage a coup d’etat attacking police stations and the Police Academy. The Fondation’s coordinator, Lovensky Pierre-Antoine, took the opportunity today to demand justice for the five police officers who lost their lives, and the fourteen who were seriously injured, in the pre-dawn attacks.
On this day, the message of the victims and the Haitian people was clear as they denounced the attacks made against the police on July 28th and rejected any new coup d’etat against their elected government. The accompanying words to the exhibit said, “They unleashed the Army against the people,” and,” The Haitian Army is gone, they cannot return!”
With activists songs playing, hundreds of men, women and children huddled around the images, studying the photos of the horrors that occurred during the three years of the coup d’etat and other incidents that have occurred since the people’s movement forced the former president, Jean-Claude Duvalier to flee Haiti in 1986.
Some stood in silence mourning the memory of the fellow countrymen, some explained the gruesome images to their young children, all were pointing to the atrocities documented before them. Walking through the crowd I saw many shaking their heads in disbelief at the violence that they themselves have lived through. It was written somewhere, “They destroyed the faces to the point that people could not identify them.” Struck by the photos of the military and FRAPH shooting, beating, and gassing innocent people, the viewers are confronted with one poster asking, “What protectors do they have?”
“Under the Army, children got the same baton as adults.” Numerous photos of children being shot at, wounded or dead were displayed. In one photo a woman lay in a hospital bed with her baby girl by her side. Both were bleeding from gunshot wounds. Someone had written beside the photo, “For either adults or children, same bullets, no difference.” Another photo showed a badly injured man forced to sit up. “In the hospital there weren’t any beds left to lay down.”
Some of the massacres represented in the exhibit included: Jean Rabel (July 23, 1987), the coup d’etat against President Aristide which left 5,000 dead (Sept. 30, 1991), massacre at Au Bornge (April 25, 1994), the attack and burning down of Father Aristide’s church, St. Jean-Bosco (September 11, 1988). The words read, “They burned the church, St. Jean Bosco. They thought they could destroy the dreams of the people.”
Some of the victims displayed included: Evans Paul, Jean Auguste Mesyeux and Marino Etienne with grossly swollen faces after having been beaten by order of General Prosper Avril; Father Jean-Marie Vincent (assassinated); a foreign journalist shot; Haitians forced back into Haiti through the Dominican border during the coup d’etat period; Colson Dorme, an activist journlist who reported during the coup period, with head injuries; Claudy Museau, the activist student who was beaten to death; Yves Volel, the teacher from New York who returned in 1986 to help his country and was assassinated by the military; Antoine Izmery, the activist businessman assassinated in front of the Sacred Heart Church; and, Guy Malary, the Justice minister gunned down near the Ministry of Justice during the coup d’etat period.
Offenders portrayed included: General Philip Biamby, Raoul Cedras, Pastor Leroy yelling “Viv Lame” in front of the military headquarters, Toto Constant, the leader of the paramilitary group FRAPH, Luc Desir, Duvalier’s famous chief of torture, Samuel Jeremy, Jodel Chamblain, Army Police Chief Michel Francois, and Colonel Franck Romain.
A wanted poster was hung prominently which read, “Wanted: Toto Constant, Leader of FRAPH. Wanted for Crimes Against Humanity."
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Two recent writings by Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, the National Coordinator of Fondasyon Trant Septanm (The September 30th Foundation) can be found on the Fanmi Lavalas communications website at http://www.hayti.net/tribune/ Part I and II of an interview with Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine in ENGLISH can be found on the Haiti Information Project webite at http://www.haitiaction.net/News/HIP/2_18_7/2_18_7.html and http://www.haitiaction.net/News/HIP/3_4_7/3_4_7.html