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Ruling Comes Days After Constant Found Guilty on All Counts in New York Mortgage Fraud Case
July 31, 2008, New York – Late yesterday, a U.S. federal court rejected attempts by former Haitian death squad leader Emanuel “Toto” Constant to have a 2004 case against him dismissed and the $19 million judgment for victims of his brutal regime of murder, rape and other torture revoked. Last week, Constant, who had been living in Queens, NY, was found guilty of mortgage fraud and awaits sentencing.
“The judge has rejected Constant’s attempt to create his own fictional account of the paramilitary death squad FRAPH and his role in its atrocities,” said CCR Senior Attorney Jennie Green. “The $19 million judgment being upheld and a forthcoming jail sentence for mortgage fraud begin to bring justice for what he did to the people of Haiti and New York.”
In the early 1990’s, Constant led the Haitian paramilitary death squad known as FRAPH (the Front for Haitian Advancement and Progress), responsible for thousands of murders and untold dismemberment, rapes and other torture and violence.
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) filed the case on behalf of Constant’s victims for crimes against humanity, attempted summary execution, and rape and other torture. Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP acted as pro bono co-counsel in the case. Two of the three plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit were gang-raped in front of their families. A third was attacked by two FRAPH operatives and left for dead.
Judge Sidney H. Stein noted in his decision yesterday that Constant had chosen to ignore the charges and proceedings against him, and rejected his attempt to have the case dismissed by arguing that he did not act together with the military regime in Haiti, writing that “Constant presents no evidence of his bald self-serving assertions that FRAPH did not have anything to do with the government of Haiti…,” and “…there is no conceivable doubt that defendant was the leader of FRAPH, a violent and brutal paramilitary organization....”
Said CJA Executive Director Pamela Merchant, “Yesterday's ruling is a victory for the rule of law and reaffirms that human rights abusers such as Constant cannot game the U.S. legal system. It is also a victory for our clients who brought this case at great personal risk against an individual who had managed to evade justice for so long.”
A former paid CIA informant, Constant has been permitted to live freely in the U.S. since 1996 despite his crimes. Following a violent military coup against democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1991, FRAPH, under Constant’s leadership, committed massacres, gang-rapes and other torture. After President Aristide returned to power, his government issued an arrest warrant for Constant, but Constant fled to the United States. Constant has been living in Queens since 1994.
For years, CCR campaigned to have Constant held accountable for his crimes, from filing law suits to leading marches to his residence in Queens to working with grassroots groups in New York and Haiti to have him brought to justice. In the mid-1990s CCR, working with a coalition of Haitian and U.S. women’s organizations, went before the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which resulted in the condemnation of mass rape in Haiti by military and paramilitary forces including FRAPH.
Also in the mid-1990s, CCR obtained documents from the U.S. government which confirmed the broad and systematic pattern of FRAPH abuses and revealed that Constant directly conspired in the assassination of President Aristide’s Minister of Justice, Guy Malary.
For more information on Doe v. Constant, and the mortgage fraud trial and conviction of Constant in New York, visit CCR and CJA's websites, www.ccrjustice.org and www.cja.org.
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.