According to U.S. State Department’s own reports, as the leader of the paramilitary group, Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH), Constant, was responsible for the murder and rape and other torture of thousands of Haitians from 1991-1994.
Activists say while Constant’s trial for mortgage fraud is not directly linked to his sordid history as a human rights abuser, the trial is an opportunity for Constant to be held accountable for at least some of his crimes. Last spring, after receiving information from Haitian and U.S. human rights attorneys and activists about Constant’s violent leadership of FRAPH, the judge presiding in the case set aside a plea bargain deal over the objections of the Department of Homeland Security, which was urging Constant’s immediate deportation to Haiti.
“Not only is Toto Constant a serial human rights abuser but apparently he steals from people as well,” said CCR Executive Director Vince Warren. “It is our hope that this trial exposes his economic crimes against the people of New York, and that he faces a serious penalty, which takes his crimes against the people of Haiti into account,” he added.
Activists say that with the instability that currently exists in Haiti due to the latest military coup that lasted d until 2006, it is extremely likely Constant would be able to evade justice once in his home country. Many FRAPH leaders were able to escape justice during the previous military regime. In fact, Constant fled Haiti in 1994 and was living freely in Queens for several years despite the international outcry for justice.
In 2000, Constant was convicted in abstentia by a Haitian court for having command responsibility over the perpetrators of the infamous 1994 “Raboteau massacre” in which Haitian military and paramilitary troops attacked citizens in the neighborhood of Raboteau in an effort to terrorize and repress pro-democracy activism.
In 2004 CCR and the Center for Justice and Accountability filed a federal suit against Constant on behalf of three women who survived FRAPH’s campaign of violence against women. The court found Constant liable for torture, including rape; attempted extrajudicial killing; and crimes against humanity, and he was ordered to pay $19 million in damages. Nevertheless, Constant has continued to deny culpability and refuses to comply with the order.
CCR staff will be monitoring the trial and will be available for comment throughout its duration.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.