The Double Standard of NCHR.

A recent article in a journal called Sobaka attacked journalist Kevin Pina for his criticisms of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR). The attack appeared in an article entitled "Fortunate Son......death squads, warlords and show trials in Haiti" about the recent acquittal of Jodel Chamblain for the slaying of Antoine Izmery. One of Sobaka's publishers Cali Ruchala wrote,

"Even more ominously, the Coalition National pour les Droits des Haitiens (NCHR, in English), claimed that one member of the jury had "FRAPH connections." The human rights watchdog further noted that Chamblain's co-defendant in the Izmery trial, Joanis Jackson, turned himself in just 48 hours preceding the surprise announcement of Chamblain's hurried trial.

The NCHR, it should be noted, was subject to venomous attacks from the likes of Lavalas propagandist Kevin Pina, who said it held an anti-Aristide and pro-coup bias just a few months ago. Their coverage of the country since then, including the disintegration of rebel unity in the north and the occupation of several towns by junior officers, has been extraordinary."

Sobaka describes itself as "a magazine about the world - the good parts, the bad parts, and all the grey matter in between." The attack on Pina must fall under the category of "all the grey matter in between", as the only thing it achieves is the use of name-calling as opposed to real facts to make its point about NCHR.

In a widely read article in the Black Commentator entitled "Propaganda War Intensifies Against Haiti As Opposition Grabs for Power" Pina writes,

"The latest press barrage began on September 2 [2003] with the National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR) release of a story equating elements in Haiti's police force with Duvalier's Ton Ton Macoutes and the former death squads, known as attachés, under the Cedras dictatorship that overthrew President Aristide in 1991. Peppered with the purported actual names and ranks of members of the Haitian police, the article sought to convince the public that Aristide is just another dictator using time-honored tactics of repression to stay in power. NCHR drove this point home with its charge that, "The impunity that attachés enjoy and the collusion between members of the special brigades and officers of the Haitian National Police provide incontestable proof that the phenomenon is part of a governmental strategy."

"NCHR asserted in the same piece, "Specialized units called Special Brigades (BS), composed of armed civilians dressed in black t-shirts with the yellow inscription 'BS' on the back, are being integrated into the police stations, at first in the metropolitan zone and now increasingly on a national level." In an effort to add drama and weight to their assertions, NCHR included several photos of gun-toting partygoers individually posing with weapons and beer bottles. The photos were reportedly linked to Rene Civil, the leader of Youth Political Power or JPP movement, allied with President Aristide's Lavalas party. Civil, whose Protestant student movement is a vocal critic of US foreign policy and Haiti's wealthy elite, remains a favorite target of campaigns by the right to discredit his reputation, and by extension, Lavalas. The easiest photos to prove their claim of the existence of this "phenomenon" - namely "armed civilians dressed in black T-shirts with the yellow inscription "BS" on the back" - were conspicuously absent from the exposé. The remaining "proof" could not be corroborated as authentic despite a calculated effort to give the appearance it originated from someone with access to internal Haitian police records."

Indeed Pina was right in that the easiest photographic evidence to prove this proliferation of "Brigade Speciale" under Aristide should have been those famous T-shirts much touted by NCHR. Well guess what Mr. Pina, the photos do exist but they are not from the period described by NCHR as proof of the evil ways of President Aristide. The photo we have of the famous T-shirt was taken on September 9, 2004 outside of the Mayor's office in Petion-Ville. The use of the "Brigade Speciale" under the current regime came to light when HIP reporters visited the Hotel de Ville while covering the recent controversy surrounding a school for the poor that is under threat of closure by the second and third mayors of Petion-Ville, Madame Rene and Msr. Figaro, respectively. Several members of the "Brigade Speciale" were seen in front of the building while one of the mayor's private security team wore their T-shirt under a blue jacket labeled "security." While NCHR was obsessed with proving the existence of the of "Brigade Speciale" under Aristide it has suddenly become deaf dumb and blind to its existence under the U.S.-installed regime of Gerard Latortue. If this isn't proof of a double standard on the part of NCHR we don't know what is.

Pina also quotes police sources in the same article when he writes,

"They noted that NCHR has never called upon the Dominican government to stop using its territories as a base for regular armed killing sprees into Haiti committed by former members of the disbanded military and the dreaded Front for Advancement and Progress in Haiti (FRAPH), created by the CIA in the last days of the Cedras dictatorship."

Is Pina merely being "a propagandist for Lavalas" as Mr. Ruchala would have us believe or isn't it the role of an investigative journalist to serve as a watchdog for organizations such as NCHR? Further investigation of NCHR documents, including frequent press releases during that period, show Pina's sources to be absolutely correct. NCHR never once condemned the attacks of paramiltary forces in the north of Haiti. So now NCHR has stepped up to the plate to condemn Chamblain's acquittal when they completely ignored the earlier human rights violations he and the former military met upon the Haitian people when it could have saved lives? Just because NCHR cannot afford to ignore glaring injustices such as Chamblain's acquittal, a transparent effort to keep up the image of a bonafide human rights organization for their funders, does not mean they always act like one in Haiti.

In addition to this information is the recent release of several revealing books that describe NCHR's current role in the terror being rained down upon supporters of President Aristide. In Ronald St. Jean's excellent books "Une operation de manipulation et d'intimidation" and "Exiger de la NCHR Toute La Verite", NCHR is described as a "demagogic organization" openly leading the campaign of political repression and reprisals. They are also described as serving the role of "police, judge and jury" and of being "modern day inquisitors" in the Bush administration's nation-building nightmare that is reality in Haiti today.

While NCHR should be encouraged in taking principled positions related to protecting human rights in Haiti, the partisan and destructive role it has played in the recent past must also be condemned. Not to do so would be propaganda by omission. Mr. Ruchala and his Sobaka publication would do well to do their homework before resorting to name calling. It is never an adequate substitute for the facts, especially when you are acting as a propagandist for NCHR.

[Source: Ocnus.net 2004 by Haiti Information Project (HIP), 16sep04]

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small logoThis document has been published on 20oct04 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights.