Haiti to try former military leader Cedras on massacre charges
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- Raoul Cedras, the military leader whose
brutal regime prompted the U.S. invasion of Haiti, will be tried for a 1994
massacre, the country's justice minister said Thursday.
Justice Minister Camille Leblanc announced the trial in a radio interview
broadcast, the eighth anniversary of the coup that Cedras led against
democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Hundreds of
people gathered in downtown Port-au-Prince Thursday to remember the
Cedras will likely be tried in his absentia, since he now lives in Panama
part of a U.S. deal aimed at preventing bloodshed during the invasion.
Leblanc did not cite a date for the trial.
The charges stem from a dawn attack on April 22, 1994 by soldiers and
their henchmen on a neighborhood in Gonaives filled with Aristide
supporters. The attackers shot and killed at least 30 people there.
A preliminary investigation of the killings has been completed, Leblanc
More than 20 people have been accused and are awaiting trial.
In all, the military and its collaborators killed as many as 4,000 people
between 1991 and 1994, torturing and maiming thousands more.
In an effort to return Haiti to normal after the U.S. intervention, Cedras
other military leaders were granted amnesty for crimes committed during
their rule. But there has been controversy over whether the amnesty applies
only to so-called political crimes or to killings as well.
In the radio interview, Leblanc said Cedras "should be judged not as a
leader but as the author of crimes."
The Haitian government has already demanded that Panama extradite
Cedras, but officials in that country refused, saying the request was not
sufficiently documented. It wasn't immediately clear if a trial and a
subsequent conviction would aid in extradition efforts.
Few people charged with crimes during the military rule have been tried
Haiti's ineffective judicial system.
"The people have never obtained the justice they have been demanding for
so long," said Lowinsky Pierre Antoine, head of the Sept. 30 Foundation,
which defends coup victims.
Another coup strongman, former Lt. Col. Michel Francois, was sentenced
absentia in 1995 to life in prison but remains free in Honduras.