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Cablegate: Mayette Release Stokes Controversy/Disorder In

VZCZCXRO0232
PP RUEHQU
DE RUEHPU #0848/01 1291514
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 091514Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY PORT AU PRINCE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6031
INFO RUEHZH/HAITI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 1530
RUEHSA/AMEMBASSY PRETORIA PRIORITY 1349
RUEHQU/AMCONSUL QUEBEC PRIORITY 0804
RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM J2 MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 1215

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 PORT AU PRINCE 000848

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/EX AND WHA/CAR
S/CRS
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD
STATE PASS AID FOR LAC/CAR
INR/IAA (BEN-YEHUDA)
WHA/EX PLEASE PASS USOAS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KJUS PHUM HA
SUBJECT: MAYETTE RELEASE STOKES CONTROVERSY/DISORDER IN
GONAIVES


PORT AU PR 00000848 001.2 OF 003


1. (U) Summary. Tension stemming from the release of one
of the accused in the La Scierie massacre culminated on May
7 in Gonaives when demonstrators disrupted the funeral of a
local judge and threw stones at the government delegation led
by Prime Minister Alexis. MINUSTAH and Haitian police forces
quickly intervened to restore order. Judge Ramon Guillaume
on April 26 ordered the release of defendant Amanus Mayette
after three years in detention pending trial for his alleged
participation in the massacre of Aristide-regime opponents in
the La Scierie neighborhood of St. Marc in February 2004.
Mayette's release has renewed the often violent tensions
between rival political gangs in the St. Marc/Gonaives area.
Anti- Fanmi Lavalas (FL) partisans now claim that the
deceased judge from Gonaives, who just prior to his death on
April 24 had ruled on an appeal in the La Scierie case, was
the victim of a plot led by the justice minister to absolve
Mayette. Commentators have overwhelmingly criticized the
decision to release Mayette, a decidedly unsympathetic
figure, and spun theories on the link between the judge's
death and Mayette's release, but have ignored the complete
failure of the Haitian justice system to bring the La Scierie
case to a conclusion. End Summary.

Mayette Released
----------

2. (U) Ramon Guillaume, chief judge of the civil tribunal in
Gonaives, on April 26 ruled in favor of a habeas corpus
motion for two of the three defendants remaining in detention
in the La Scierie case. The judge ordered the release of
Amanus Mayette, a former FL deputy for St. Marc and the most
well-known of the remaining prisoners and Hora Jean Baptiste.
La Scierie victims' advocates claim Mayette led pro-FL gangs
through the neighborhood targeting rebel sympathizers. The
judge ruled against the release of Ronald Dauphin ("Black
Ronald"), who according to MINUSTAH sources is a notorious
criminal from St. Marc. Haitian authorities detained only
six of the 30 defendants in the La Scierie case since first
filing charges in March, 2004. Former Interior Minister
Jocelerme Privert successfully petitioned for his release in
January 2006, and a judge released former Prime Minister Yvon
Neptune in July 2006 for medical reasons. Another defendant
died of tuberculosis in prison in March. MINUSTAH human
rights officials report that Mayette and Jean Baptiste were
in very poor health as a result of their prolonged detention.


Death of a Judge
----------

3. (U) Chief judge for the court of appeals Hughes St. Pierre
died in Port-au-Prince on April 24 in a traffic accident.
According to media reports immediately following the
accident, St. Pierre, 75 years-old, was getting off a a "tap
tap" (a small truck converted for public transport) on the
busy Delmas thoroughfare when another vehicle struck him.
St. Pierre on April 13 had issued a ruling on a motion to
dismiss the charges brought by several La Scierie defendants,
declining to make a final decision and asking the examining
magistrate in the case to re-examine several witnesses. The
ruling came 18 months after the Haitian legal deadline for
appellate court rulings and the examining magistrate had
already discounted the testimony of 21 of the 37 witnesses
cited by Judge St. Pierre, six of whom have since died.

Conspiracy, Outrage, Demonstrations
----------

4. (U) Mayette's release, coming only two days after St.
Pierre's death, unleashed a torrent of criticism and
conspiracy theories from FL opponents. Many claim that St.
Pierre's death was a result of a conspiracy led by Justice
Minister Rene Magloire on behalf of the government to ensure
that the La Scierie defendants woul go free and not reveal
the involvement of Presient Preval and other officials in
crimes committd under Aristide. According to St. Pierre's
famly members, the justice minister summond St. Pierre to
Port-au-Pince to account for his decision in the La Scierie
appeal. Sympathetic media claimed days after St. Pierre's
death that witnesses had come forward to say that St. Pierre
had been pushed in front of the other vehicle. Others
claimed that St. Pierre had arrived at the hospital alive,
but was denied medical treatment. Justice Minister Magloire
publicly denied having called St. Pierre to Port-au-Prince,
but media sources reported that two other judges from
Gonaives confirmed that they had also been summoned by the
justice minister. Senator Youri Latortue of the Artibonite
has called for a special commission of inquiry in the Senate
to summon the minister, St. Pierre's family members, and the
supposed witnesses to St. Pierre's death. Latortue has also
called for the minister's resignation if witnesses confirm
that he lied about summoning St. Pierre.

5. (U) Disquiet surrounding the events related to Mayette's
release and St. Pierre's death came to a head during St.
Pierre's funeral at the Gonaives cathedral on May 7. Prime
Minister Alexis led a government delegation including the
justice, agriculture, and commerce ministers. Protesters
outside the cathedral interrupted the service with catcalls
and chants aimed at the justice minister. When the PM led
the delegation outside to address the crowd after the
service, protesters reportedly cut his microphone and began
throwing rocks at the officials, forcing the PM to cancel the
ceremony. The rock throwing continued as the delegation's
motorcade departed Gonaives. The media estimated the number
of protesters at 300; MINUSTAH sources reported that they
quickly brought the situation under control after the PM's
departure.

Comment
----------

6. (SBU) The La Scierie case and its aftermath and the
latest unrest spurred by St. Pierre's funeral are emblematic
of the worst kind of political manipulation of gangs and gang
violence in Haiti. The root cause of gang rivalry in
Gonvaives and St. Marc in recent years has been the desire of
political figures to control the ports of those two coastal
towns and benefit from the accompanying graft. Gangs
originally made up of port workers in Gonaives (the "Cannibal
Army" the most notorious among them) switched allegiance away
from Aristide to Guy Phillipe and armed rebel forces prior to
Aristide's departure. Informed observers report that Youri
Latortue, himself a former Aristide supporter widely assumed
to be involved in corruption, successfully co-opted these
gangs in building his personal power base and political
party, Artibonite in Action (LAA). His flogging of a
conspiracy theory regarding Judge St. Pierre's death is his
latest move to raise his profile and exploit anti-FL
sentiment at the government's expense. Although the
accusations against the justice minister appear preposterous
on their face, they are taken seriously by a significant
number of Haitians, as is Latortue's call for the justice
minister's resignation.

7. (SBU) Comment Continued. Lost in the hullabaloo is
reasoned assessment of the La Scierie case. Even more
sensible commentators, including human rights advocates
jumped to criticize Mayette's release as a further example of
impunity for FL members, rather than examine the
circumstances of his detention. The Haitian justice system
imprisoned only a select few of the accused in the La Scierie
case and has failed to move beyond the "preliminary
investigation" phase after over three years. The appeals
court over which Judge St. Pierre presided took nearly two
years to make a decision -- Haitian law requires a decision
from an appeals court within 30 days -- that further stalls
the case. The justice system under both the provisional and
Preval governments has failed miserably to elucidate the
facts regarding a terrible incident and thus further obscured
the the larger context around Gonaives and St. Marc where
partisans of both sides probably committed numerous
atrocities. Therein lies the scandal.

SMITH

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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