EXTERNAL AI Index: AMR 36/01/99
UA 45/99 Fear for Safety 10 March 1999
HAITIPierre Espérance, human rights defender
Human rights defender Pierre Espérance was attacked by gunmen on 8 March 1999,
and Amnesty International believes his life is in danger.
As Pierre Espérance, director of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights
(NCHR) in Port-au-Prince, was travelling by car with a colleague, a white Toyota
sedan pulled in front of him and stopped. A man stepped out and began firing
at them with a machine gun. When Pierre Espérance tried to escape, the Toyota
gave chase and the occupants began shooting again, wounding Pierre Espérance,
who is now in hospital recovering. His companion was not harmed.
No one has yet taken responsibility for the attack, but the NCHR’s Director
in New York is quoted as saying that “Indications are that this was a
cold-blooded, premeditated attempt to murder a well-known human rights
Amnesty International fears that Pierre Espérance and other Haitian human rights
defenders may be at risk of further attacks.
Pierre Espérance joined the NCHR in 1991, a few weeks after the military coup
which overthrew democratically-elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Since
then he has been helping victims of human rights violations, often risking
his own life to document abuses. In 1995,he became the director of NCHR's Haiti
office and was recently elected treasurer of the Plate-forme des Organisations
Haïtiennes des Droits de l'Homme, Platform of Haitian Human Rights Groups.
Haiti has been in political crisis, with tensions between the various political
groups running high, since June 1997, when the prime minister resigned. Since
then there have been several killings, some possibly politically motivated.
Several police officers have been killed. The police have been frequently
accused of serious human rights violations, including extrajudicial executions
On 11 January 1999 President René Préval said he would uphold a 1995 electoral
law under which most legislative and municipal officials’ terms of office ended
that day. Legislators objected to the decision, which effectively dissolved
parliament and allowed Préval to rule by decree. On 1 March Senator Jean Yvon
Toussaint, a member of the main opposition group, the Organisation du peuple
en lutte, Organization of People in Struggle, was shot dead at close range
outside his home. In the past week leaflets threatening human rights groups,
notably the Platform of Haitian Human Rights Groups, have been circulating
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express/airmail
letters in French or your own language:
- expressing concern at reports that Pierre Espérance, Director of the National
Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR), was attacked by gunmen;
- requesting that steps be taken to protect him and other human rights defenders;
- requesting that an independent and impartial investigation be carried out
into the attack and that those responsible be brought to justice.