[News] Wikileaks and Haiti - US and UN Oversaw Integration of Ex-Paramilitaries Into Haitian Police

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Aug 17 14:51:16 EDT 2011

August 17, 2011

US and UN Oversaw Integration of Ex-Paramilitaries Into Haitian Police

Wikileaks and Haiti


Throughout 2004 and 2005, Haiti’s unelected de 
facto authorities, working alongside foreign 
officials, integrated at least 400 ex-army 
paramilitaries into the country’s police force, 
secret U.S. Embassy cables reveal.

For a year and a half following the ouster of 
Haiti’s elected government on Feb. 29, 2004, UN, 
OAS, and U.S. officials, in conjunction with 
post-coup Haitian authorities, vetted the 
country’s police force – officer by officer – 
integrating paramilitaries with the goal of both 
strengthening the force and providing an 
alternative “career path” for paramilitaries.

  Hundreds of police considered loyal to 
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's deposed 
government were purged. Some were jailed and a 
few killed, according to numerous sources interviewed.

At the same time, former soldiers from the 
disbanded Haitian Armed Forces (FAdH), who were 
assembled in a paramilitary “rebel” force which 
worked with the country’s elite opposition to 
bring down Aristide, were stationed  – officially 
and unofficially – in many towns across the country.

  As part of this, an extrajudicial strike 
brigade was assembled in Pétion-Ville. It carried 
out brutal raids (sometimes alongside police), 
often several times a week, in the capital’s 
coup-resisting neighborhoods, as documented in a 
November 2004 University of Miami human rights study.

The secret U.S. dispatches detailing the police 
force’s overhaul were part of 1,918 Haiti-related 
cables obtained by the media organization 
WikiLeaks and provided to Haïti Liberté.

The cables show that UN and U.S. officials saw 
the program as a useful way to disarm and 
demobilize combatants, but the implications of 
providing coup-making paramilitaries with 
government security jobs have been hidden or ignored.

  The cables also make clear that the US 
officials – using “redlines” and“red flags” – 
took on a leading role in the “reforms,” minutely 
following the process of repopulating Haiti’s police.

Millions of dollars in funding for the 
demobilization and integration of the FAdH was 
gathered ­ mainly through the UN and the U.S. ­ 
but officials also looked to other governments for funding.

Immediately after the coup, the integration 
process was carried out by officials of the 
so-called Interim Government of Haiti (IGOH), 
under U.S., OAS and UN supervision. Then, 
starting in November 2004, a longer-term 
apparatus, the UN’s DDR (Disarmament, 
Demobilization, and Reintegration) program, was 
set up. Part of its duties included a continued 
integration of some of the paramilitaries into 
the Haitian National Police (HNP).

  The U.S. Embassy cables go into detail about 
the integration of paramilitaries into the HNP 
and other government agencies. One of the most 
revealing cables is titled “Haiti’s Northern 
Ex-Military Turn Over Weapons; Some to Enter National Police.”

The Mar. 15, 2005 cable provides an overview of a 
gathering two days earlier in Cap-Haïtien 
attended by Haiti’s de facto Prime Minister 
Gérard Latortue and the UN Secretary-General’s 
Special Representative to Haiti, Juan Gabriel 
Valdès.  The officials oversaw a “symbolic 
disarmament,” where more than “300 members of 
Haiti's demobilized military in Cap-Haïtien” 
turned in a token seven weapons and then boarded buses to the capital.

The UN and IGOH officials parked the 
paramilitaries at Port-au-Prince’s Magistrates’ 
School, where many other ex-soldiers were being placed.

The cable describes how previously high-level 
IGOH officials had made promises to the ex-FAdH 
paramilitaries. Some “of the ex-soldiers in 
Cap-Haïtien said they had been told by the PM's 
nephew and security advisor Youri Latortue and 
the PM's political advisor Paul Magloire that 
they would be admitted into the HNP,” explained 
the cable by U.S. Ambassador James Foley. “This 
raised a red-flag for us and the rest of the international community...”

But at the Mar. 13 meeting, Gérard Latortue “made 
clear this was not the case,” telling the 
paramilitaries “that integration into the HNP 
would be a possibility for some, but they had to 
understand that not everyone would make it into 
the police. Ex-soldiers not qualified for the HNP 
could be hired into other public administration 
positions (e.g., customs, border patrol, etc.),” Foley wrote.

But the UN and IGOH authorities wanted to keep 
some of the ex-military together as a cohesive 
unit prepped for integration into the police, the 
cable reveals. The officials handed the matter 
over to UNOPS, a wing of the UN that focuses on 
project management and procurement services.

Accordingly, “UNOPS has been working to relocate 
both the Managing Office [for Demobilized 
Military] and the approximately 80 individuals 
from the Magistrate's School to a former military 
camp in the Carrefour neighborhood outside of 
Port-au-Prince,” wrote Foley. (In March 2011, the 
author visited an ex-FAdH-run training camp in the Carrefour area.)

UN and U.S. officials appear to have often 
focused on achieving symbolic successes like the 
“demobilization” of paramilitary forces. “The 
symbolism of the ex-military disarming and 
leaving Haiti's second-largest city represents a 
significant breakthrough,” Foley concluded in his Mar. 15 cable.

At the time, around 800 ex-military men were 
being housed in Port-au-Prince, with UN help.

Of the 400 former soldiers integrated into the 
police, about 200 came in 2004 from the 15th 
graduating class of HNP cadets (called a 
“promotion” in Haiti), and 200 from the 17th 
promotion in 2005, the cables say.

The number 200 was no coincidence.  The Embassy 
had told the IGOH that “the USG [U.S. Government] 
would not support more than 200 former military 
being included in Promotion 17” because “the USG 
was concerned that inclusion of ex-FADH in large 
numbers would detract from ongoing police reform 
measures; they therefore had to be closely 
scrutinized,” a May 6, 2005 cable explains.

This cable also reveals Washington’s dominance of 
the police force’s reconstruction. In a meeting, 
the Embassy told the HNP’s chief Léon Charles 
that “the practice of allowing a class of people 
to receive special quotas for class enrollment 
(as had happened with the ex-FADH) had to end,” 
wrote Foley. Dutifully, “Charles agreed and 
stated that the practice would end immediately.”

This did not mean that ex-soldiers wouldn’t 
continue to be integrated, only that “future 
recruitment drives would make no distinction with 
regard to the former military, but would also not 
discriminate against anyone for previous duty in 
the Haitian Armed Forces,” Charles said, according to the cable.

An Apr. 5, 2005 cable explains that the 16th 
promotion of 370 HNP cadets included “none of 
[those who] had a history of ex-FADH activity.”

In another Mar. 15, 2005 cable entitled “DG 
[Director General] Charles Update on Ex-FADH in 
the Haitian National Police,” Foley outlined how 
the process of integration was occurring with new HNP cadet classes.

  “OAS officials charged with vetting police 
candidates reported approximately 400 ex-FADH 
candidates at the Police Academy on March 11 
undergoing physical fitness testing,” his cable 
explained. The men, who had just previously 
served in paramilitary squads around the country, 
were vying for 200 slots in the HNP. The cable 
explains that a number of such individuals had been hired in prior months.

Police chief Charles, stated “that the ex-FADH 
from the 15th class who were rushed on to the 
streets last fall [of 2004] would return to 
class.” It was clear that officials felt somewhat 
worried about the new men they were bringing into 
the police force, so they decided that the 
ex-FAdH cadets from the 17th promotion would, 
upon graduation, “be deployed throughout Haiti on 
an individual basis and not as a group.”

Charles added that, among the 200 ex-FAdH in the 
15th promotion, most “had been assigned to small 
stations in Port-au-Prince,” adding that, 
“although they were disciplined, they were older and physically slower.”

OAS officials noted that Haitian police officials 
who were now assisting the OAS in its vetting 
process feared some of the former soldiers they 
were interviewing: “HNP personnel assisting the 
OAS with the vetting program were afraid to 
interview some of the ex-FADH candidates out of 
concern they might be targeted if the panel disqualified an applicant.”

The U.S. embassy closely supervised how Haitian 
de facto officials conducted the integration, 
worried about the impact of any failures. Foley 
was pleased that Charles was holding ex-soldiers 
to “the same requirements as civilians for 
entrance into the HNP,” a policy resulting from 
“continuous pressure from us,” he wrote in the 
Mar. 15 cable. But Foley worried about “political 
pressures and decisions of PM [Gérard] Latortue, 
Justice Minister [Bernard] Gousse, and others,” his cable reported.

“We have raised this issue with them on countless 
occasions, pointing out the real danger the IGOH 
runs of losing international support for 
assistance to the HNP if the process of 
integrating ex-FADH into the police does not hew 
to the redlines we have laid down,” Foley wrote.

Embassy officials, along with the OAS mission, 
would “monitor the recruitment, testing, and 
training process, including a review of the 
written exam, test scores, and fitness results.”

Ambassador Foley added that “the pressure to 
bring ex-FADH into the HNP remains high.” He was 
likely referring to the calls made by some of 
Haiti’s most powerful right-wing politicians and 
businessmen, many having established 
relationships with the paramilitaries back when they were soldiers.

Furthermore, Chief Léon Charles was “worried that 
others in the IGOH had made unrealistic promises 
to the ex-FADH about jobs in the HNP in order to 
convince them to demobilize,” the ambassador wrote.

Charles “fretted that the Cap-Haïtien group set 
an example that others may follow, and indicated 
the IGOH could have over 1,000 former soldiers 
looking for jobs soon, including the 235 from 
Cap-Haïtien; 300 from Ouanaminthe; 200 from the 
Central Plateau; 150 from Les Cayes; 100 from Arcahaie, and 80 from St. Marc.”

The second Mar. 15 cable concludes “that the USG 
was willing to contribute $3 million to the DDR 
process but could not release the funds until the 
IGOH concluded an agreement with the UN on an 
acceptable DDR strategy and program.”  The U.S. 
Embassy, playing a dominant role, was also 
clearly seeking to operate in accord with a 
transnational policy network ­ U.S. officials had 
helped to oversee other such integration 
processes in El Salvador and Iraq, and the DDR 
program has been deployed in a number of other 
countries where UN forces operate, such as 
Burundi, the Central African Republic, Cote 
d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, 
Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, 
Afghanistan, Nepal, and the Solomon Islands.

After Charles provided information on the 
monitoring and processes through which the 
ex-FAdH paramilitaries were integrated into the 
police force, Ambassador Foley remarked in an 
Apr. 5, 2005 cable: “The fleeting reply to 
requests for updates on human rights 
investigations demonstrate the HNP's inability to 
perform internal investigations.”

During their first year in office, IGOH 
authorities appear to have received far less 
oversight in their handling of ex-FADH 
integration into the police. “Until now, the 
Interior Ministry and/or the Managing Office [for 
Demobilized Soldiers] have been in charge of 
identifying possible ex-FADH candidates for the 
HNP,” Foley wrote in one of his Mar. 15 cables. 
Then he made clear Washington’s oversight: “This 
needs to change, so that ex-FADH candidates for 
the police come out of the 
reintegration/counseling process that the UN 
(with U.S. support through the International 
Organization for Migration) will manage.”

While former soldiers were being integrated into 
the HNP, hundreds of police who had been loyal to 
Aristide’s government were fired, their names and 
positions documented in a list put together by 
Guy Edouard, a former officer with the Special 
Unit to Guard the National Palace (USGPN). In a 
2006 interview, Edouard explained that some of 
these former police and Palace security officers 
had been "hunted down" after the coup. 
Furthermore, with US support, Youri Latortue, a 
former USGPN officer and Prime Minister 
Latortue’s security and intelligence chief, had 
led efforts to "get rid of the people he did not like," Edouard said.

Gun battles continued to occur between the 
Haitian police and a handful of gangs in the 
capital’s poorest slums well into 2005, and on 
numerous occasions, police opened fire on 
peaceful anti-coup demonstrations. “April 27 was 
the fourth occasion since February where the HNP 
used deadly force,” explained a May 6, 2005 
cable. The Embassy was vexed that “despite 
repeated requests, we have yet to see any 
objective written reports from the HNP that 
sufficiently articulate the grounds for using 
deadly force. Equally disturbing are HNP 
first-hand reports from the scene of these 
events. These are often confusing and irrational 
and fail to meet minimum police reporting requirements.”

The HNP, however, was working with UN forces in 
conducting lethal raids. Léon Charles 
acknowledged that UN troops had a “standard 
practice” of putting more lightly armed HNP 
forces in front of its units as they moved into 
Cité Soleil, and this “often resulted in the HNP 
overreacting and prematurely resorting to the use 
of deadly force,” the May 6 cable notes.

In a 2001 study published in the academic journal 
Small Wars and Insurgencies, researcher Eirin 
Mobekk explained in part how the U.S. worked to 
integrate large numbers of former soldiers into 
the HNP as Aristide, to thwart future coups, 
dissolved the FAdH in 1995. Washington’s strategy 
was to hedge in Lavalas with the new police force.

A decade later, this policy was resurrected. Just 
as Washington recycled part of the military force 
that carried out the 1991 coup, it (along with 
the UN and the IGOH) recycled part of the 
paramilitary force that carried out violence leading up to the 2004 coup.

The WikiLeaked cables reveal just how closely 
Washington and the UN oversaw the formation of 
Haiti’s new police and signed off on the 
integration of ex-FAdH paramilitaries who had for 
years prior violently targeted Haiti’s popular 
classes and democratically elected governments.

Jeb Sprague will publish a forthcoming book on 
paramilitarism with Monthly Review Press. He has 
a blog at 
and tweets as <http://twitter.com/>http://twitter.com/#!/jebsprague

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