The Appropriations proposal, put forth by Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, says that in light of the incident at Les Cayes "no funds ... should be obligated for justice programs in Haiti until a thorough, credible and transparent investigation occurs, the results of which are made publicly available, and the [Haitian government] takes appropriate action."The program that will be probably be stopped is a $20 million project, administered by USAID. Although Haiti's criminal justice system does clearly need improvement and reform, it is worth pointing out that USAID money for justice programs have, in the past, been used to undermine the democratically elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
The language, while not binding, is still powerful and would likely be honored. If the proposal is approved, at least one U.S.-backed justice-reform program in Haiti expects to shut its doors, according to people close to the group.
Following a two-week trip to Haiti in November 2004 to investigate human rights abuses (PDF), lawyer Thomas M. Griffin, from the University of Miami Center for the Study of Human Rights, described a program run by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) under a USAID subcontract:
The administrators stated that “we [IFES] put Aristide in a bad situation.” They stated that IFES united “all forces against Aristide” because Aristide had co-opted the judicial system so that there were “no arrests and no prosecutions for offenders who supported him.”Griffin continues:
Its purpose was, in the words of the administrators, “to advocate for the independence of judges from the executive branch via the formation of a range of coalitions from various societal institutions.”The programs involved many people who served in the interim dictatorship imposed after Aristide's 2004 overthrow. Griffin explains:
For example, Minister of Justice Bernard Gousse and his cabinet member Philippe Vixamar were IFES consultants for several years. Among other things, Gousse was a “sensitization” speaker, wrote key reports, spoke at conferences,18 and played a leading role in the IFES exchange program for lawyers and judges at Tulane University in Louisiana in April 2003,19 and at seminars in Minnesota and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. See Interview of Justice Cabinet Minister Vixamar, infra. Prime Minister Gerard Latortue and Interim President Boniface Alexandre both participated in IFES justice programs. Latortue, a former UN official and a resident of Boca Raton Florida before becoming Prime Minister, was part of the association that IFES formed to include the Haitian diaspora in the United States.