The Miami Herald
Thu, Apr. 22, 2004

Convicted Haitian Assassin Surrenders

Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Proclaiming his innocence, convicted assassin and rebel commander Louis-Jodel Chamblain surrendered to justice officials Thursday.

To the cheers of supporters, Chamblain walked into a jail after holding a news conference at a hotel in suburban Petionville. He was accompanied by Haiti's interim Justice Minister Bernard Gousse and police officials.

"I am ready to give myself up as a prisoner - to give Haiti a chance so we can build this democracy I have been fighting for," Chamblain told reporters.

Chamblain said his 1995 conviction was politically motivated, and he was confident a new trial would vindicate him. He also urged others accused of crimes, including members of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Lavalas party, to turn themselves in.

"It is a very good and noble decision on his part," Gousse said of Chamblain's surrender.

It was unclear when Chamblain would go before a judge, or whether he would be jailed.

Since rebels launched a revolt that drove Aristide from power on Feb. 29 and prompted an exodus of judges and police, Haiti's interim leaders have struggled to maintain order. A fraction of the country's judges and police have returned to their posts.

Chamblain was convicted in absentia and sentenced to life for the 1993 murder of Aristide financier Antoine Izmery, who was dragged from a church, made to kneel and shot. Chamblain was also convicted and sentenced to life for the 1994 killings of more than a dozen Aristide supporters in the northern town of Gonaives.

Although witnesses testified against him, Chamblain contends there was never any evidence.

Chamblain's rebels, many of whom were part of the army that Aristide disbanded after they overthrew him in a 1991 coup, want the government to restore the army.

Human rights groups have criticized the country's new leaders for associating with known criminals such as Chamblain while aggressively pursuing members of Aristide's ousted government.

Dozens of Aristide's former government or party members have been barred from leaving the country as the government begins corruption investigations.

New York-based Human Rights Watch welcomed Chamblain's arrest Thursday, but the group was skeptical the new government would jail him.

"We welcome the surrender," said Joanne Mariner of Human Rights Watch. "We would welcome his incarceration. Our concern would be ... he won't stay in prison very long."