Forum Haiti : Des Idées et des Débats sur l'Avenir d'Haiti
Forum Haiti : Des Idées et des Débats sur l'Avenir d'Haiti
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Forum Haiti : Des Idées et des Débats sur l'Avenir d'Haiti

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Toto Constant condamne! Empty
MessageSujet: Toto Constant condamne!   Toto Constant condamne! EmptyMer 25 Oct 2006 - 18:48

US judge orders Haitian strongman to pay $19.5 million to rape victims

The Associated Press, October 25, 2006

A judge has ordered an elusive former Haitian strongman to pay $19.5 million in damages to three women who claimed they were systematically gang-raped by paramilitary soldiers under his command.

A written decision by U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein found that Emmanuel "Toto" Constant, once the feared leader of a right-wing paramilitary group, was "liable for torture, attempted extra-judicial killing and crimes against humanity."

The women had sued Constant last year in federal court in Manhattan. They accused him of sanctioning rapes in the early 1990s to silence slum-dwellers still devoted to the ousted former Haitian president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Constant's militia had helped block the return of the exiled Aristide in 1994. After Aristide's U.S.-backed return to power late that year, Constant fled to New York, where he has fought deportation ever since.

The ruling issued Tuesday said each of the plaintiffs was entitled to $1.5 million in compensatory damages and $5 millions in punitive damages.

"Constant's conduct was clearly malicious," the judge wrote. The defendant, he added, "founded and oversaw an organization that was dedicated principally toward terrorizing and torturing political opponents of the military regime."

An attorney praised for the plaintiffs on Wednesday for going public with their accusations against Constant, the 6-foot-4 son (1.93 meters) of a military officer who once boasted that voodoo and the CIA shielded him from trouble.

"The courageous women who brought this case have sent a message that torturers cannot live freely in the United States and will be held accountable," said Jennie Green, a senior attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights who represented the women along with the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability.

It is unclear whether Constant, who never responded to the lawsuit, has the means to pay the damages.

He remains in jail on Long Island, New York, after being charged in July with mortgage fraud in an unrelated case. His attorney in that case has declined to comment.

The decision this week followed a hearing in August where the judge heard emotional testimony from two of the plaintiffs. They were granted anonymity based on fears they could still be targeted for retribution.

One testified that her ordeal began when her husband, a taxi driver and fierce Aristide supporter, vanished in 1992. She described taking to the streets and voicing her despair.

Even after being jailed and beaten, she remained vocal until five men arrived at her door in April 1994. They beat up her 8-year-old son and took turns raping her, she said. Two months later, the nightmare was repeated.

The five small children "were, with their own eyes, looking at everything that was being done to me," she testified through an interpreter.

Three months later, she saw a doctor who delivered some shocking news: She was pregnant by one her attackers. A son was born on Feb. 12, 1995.

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Forwarded by the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network
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