Wednesday, March 9, 2011

On Martissant, Gran Ravine, and Missing the Proportionality and Chief Sources of Political Violence

Above: Commemoration of the first anniversary of Gran Ravine's Massacre.
The parents and friends of victims of the July 7, 2006 massacre walked
with tears on the one year anniversary. Photo by Wadner Pierre
Below is a response to a note posted by Michael Deibert (on the Haiti corbett listserv, post 41330) and in regard to some of the misleading reports that he authored looking at political violence in the communities of Martissant and Gran Ravine in the years following the 2004 overthrow of Haiti's elected government. It also responds to an anonymously posted criticism (on the Haiti Corbet Listserv) of the work of human rights investigators Evel Fanfan (AUMOHD) and Tom Luce (HURAH) who have been highly active in Haiti's slums of Martissant and Gran Ravine since 2005.

Michael Deibert has made numerous false claims about myself and others writing about Haiti in recent years. Links to responses to some of these claims can be found here:

     I would prefer here to discuss the content of this coverage of political violence.

 Accounts of witnesses on the ground and human rights investigators tell a very different story than the articles published by U.S. journalist Michael Deibert looking at the communities of Martissant and Gran Ravine in the years following the 2004 coup. While Deibert did report on some of the violence, he provided little of the overarching context and ignored most of the violence that occurred (especially the attacks carried out by groups aligned with the anti-Lavalas interim authorities). Essentially ignoring the role of Lame Ti Manchèt, the largest and most violent armed group active in the area at that time, Deibert reports next to nothing on the major acts of political violence that they carried out.

In his Aug 2, 2006 IPS article, Deibert at least mentions Lame Ti Manchèt's alleged connection to a corrupt police officer, Carlo Lochard, but he says nothing else about this paramilitary group: (1) the article never explains how the group was the primary source of local violence according to community organizers and human rights investigators active constantly in the area, and (2) it never mentions the major attacks in the area that had already been carried out by Lame Ti Manchèt.

In early 2007 when a Haitian journalist, Jean-Remy Badio, was murdered in the area, in a killing widely-believed to have been carried out by the anti-Lavalas armed group Lame Ti Manchèt, Deibert again ignored in his reporting the wide-scale accusations leveled against the vigilante group. According to AUMOHD organizers and U.S. human rights activist Tom Luce, who worked consistently inside Martissant and Gran Ravine in the years following the 2004 coup, Deibert in his reporting obscured the proportionality and details of the violence that occurred. In reports such as Deibert’s the main cause of violence went unidentified; appropriate detail and background information went inexcusably omitted.

In response to criticism over his misleading reporting on the assassination of Jean-Remy Badio, Deibert has refered to his reposting on his blog a statement on the killing released by the Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM).  However, ACM’s statement also says nothing about Lame Ti Manchèt’s involvement with the killing, which according to witnesses, family, friends, and several Haitian media outlets were the primary suspects. Deibert’s article forAlterPresse dated Feb 12, 2007, likewise never mentions that the main suspects in Badio’s killing were the members of Lame Ti Manchèt.

Attempting to buttress his claim that Lavalas (and the groups he associates with them) were the major proponents of violence in the area, Deibert has cited a few articles that appeared in local newspapers at the time that covered the alleged violent activities of Baz Gran Ravine.  However, according to Luce, Fanfan and others none of the alleged attacks that Deibert refers to caused anywhere near the scale of death and destruction as did the Lame Ti Manchèt assaults that occurred often in coordination with an ex-military/paramilitary wing of Haiti's police force.  


 Above: A brief video on this attack, see: Tom Luce, Reed Lindsay, Raphael Jean-Labin, Jeremie Dupin, “Gran Ravine Massacre #3,” Human Rights Accompaniment in Haiti (2008), Available Online at:

    I would also like to respond to the Haiti Corbet Listserv post of ‘41241 anonymous’ criticizing the work of Tom Luce and his close friend Evel Fanfan, both of whom are well-known to many residents of Martissant and Gran Ravine. One hero of that community, Esterne Bruner, a father of six children, who worked closely with Tom and Evel, was murdered by paramilitary forces when he was organizing local human rights councils in that community.

     As with the important work of IJDH, BAI, and AI in Haiti,  HURAH and AUMOHD have done a lot to gather data and information on attacks against poor communities in Haiti (& organize for justice). HURAH & AUMOHD's work has especially focused on the communities of Martissant, Gran Ravine, and the Plateau Central. These human rights groups have done invaluable work in documenting assassinations, massacres, house burnings, rapes, etc.

     Evel and Tom, and their network, have supported orphans of the violence, such as Widnise Jocelyn, an eight-year-old girl, who lost her mother, father, sister, and godmother during one of the massacre in Gran Ravin carried out by pro-coup gangs supported by elite sectors living in Pétion-Ville. Jocelyn remains in the care of the Gran Ravin Community Human Rights Council (GR-CHRC) established by AUMOHD. For a great deal of time, she was in severe shock based on these events.

     The 'anonymous' poster refers to the work of Michael Deibert as providing a more accurate story of what happened in these areas...   Here are some of the attacks targeting the majority poor that Deibert and some other members of the mainstream media did not mention, or mentioned only very briefly without appropriate detail, context, or background information:

     -20 August 2005: Massacre at Bernadette soccer field in Martissant conducted by Haitian police and Lame Ti Manchet. An NYT video report put together by Walt Bogdanich and his team shows footage of the attack that were carried out by Lame Ti Manchet attaches backed by police under the illegal Latortue government.
     -21 August 2005: House torchings in Gran Ravine conducted by Haitian police and Lame Ti Manchet.
     -7 July 2006: Twenty innocent men, women and children massacred plus three hundred+ torched homes in Gran Ravine conducted by Lame Ti Manchet.
     -28 September 2006: Human Rights coordinator Esterne Bruner assassinated in Gran Ravine after returning from AUMOHD's office. Lame Ti Manchet is suspected.
     -19 January 2007: Photojournalist Jean-Remy Badio assassinated in Martissant. Lame Ti Manchet is suspected (friends, family, AHP and Le Nouvelliste). Michael Deibert (and Reporters Without Borders likewise) failed to properly attribute the major suspects of this assassination.
      -Throughout this time period: Evel Fanfan received death threats and was forced to get police protection on numerous occasions.  

HURAH, AUMOHD, the CHRCs, and other grassroots human rights groups have all along operated with EXTREMELY limited resources. Here is one report:  
    These groups also carried out a study of the 2001-2004 violence against rural people - attacks carried out by FLRN paramilitaries and financed by sectors of the elite. The violent war of attrition carried out by rightist-paramilitaries in the Plateau Central received very little media coverage other than some articles in Haiti Progres and the former government paper L'Union (which itself was destroyed by paramilitary forces in 2004):
     Fanfan, Luce and others have come together with Nadine and Jan Dominique to support the victims of the Duvalier regimes:
      Similarly, the human rights organizations Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) have launched a justice fund here

More on the killing of Jean-Remy Badio:
Haiti: Lame Ti Manchèt Accused of Role in Killing of Photojournalist
Chief of Lame Ti Manchet Reportedly Escapes to Dominican Republic
Haïti : Lame Ti Machèt accusée d’avoir joué un rôle dans l’assassinat d’un photojournaliste
Haití: Lame Ti Manchèt Acusado de Haber Jugado un Papel en la Matanza de un Fotoperiodista

1 comment:

  1. Michael Deibert's main problem with Aristide is purely emotional. While a reporter for AP in Haiti before he was fired he requested an interview with then president JB Aristide and never got approved for unknown reasons. The president was probably busy
    or a simple oversight. Since then Deibert has gone on a personal crusade against Aristide. It's all ego here nothing based on facts or real journalism. His reporting became so bias that Ap decided to let him go.
    Sad story but not the first one. Journalists hate to get interviews denied. But I expect him to change and president Aristide is so forgiving that one should not be surprised to see two things.
    - Deibert will get his interview
    - Deibert's accusations will seize in the next couple of months once Aristide is again a power broker
    Most journalists like winners. They act like prostitutes, they follow money, power and in this case our gvt's policy.
    Deibert now is confused. He has not realized that Aristide's return been ingeneered by the Clintons.