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Criminal Case Against Aristide Planned in Haiti
Justice minister says the exiled president was 'the architect' of political
By Henry Chu
PORT-AU-PRINCE - As international peacekeeping troops began fanning out
across this battered nation, the country's new justice minister said Friday
that his office would begin preparing a criminal case against exiled
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and could eventually request his
"It's too early to say that tomorrow I will ask for his extradition, but we
will build a case, because he was the architect" of efforts to brutally
crush his opponents, said Bernard Gousse, Haiti's new top justice official.
In addition to human-rights violations, Aristide is suspected of stealing
state funds, he said.
Gousse promised that any proceedi
ngs against Aristide - or his militant
supporters - would adhere to internationally accepted legal standards of
impartiality, despite a history here of the judiciary being manipulated for
"I will make sure that the judicial system will not be used as a lynching
process. We don't want popular justice," Gousse said in an interview in his
new Port-au-Prince office. "The court of public opinion may have vilified
him . but as a justice minister, as a law professor, there is only one side
I will look at: that we have due process."
Aristide, who was elected to a second term as president four years ago, was
flown into exile Feb. 29 after an armed rebellion erupted. Scores of
Haitians died in clashes, and bands of gun-toting thugs loyal to Aristide,
known as chimeres, were accused of looting and killing.
Opponents of the fallen government have called for rounding up and
prosecuting the chimeres for alleged human-rights abuses. Newly appointed
ruth commissions" are to go after not just the street toughs but also
"the masterminds," Gousse said, in an allusion to high-ranking officials of
Aristide's administration, many of whom have gone underground or fled since
the government was toppled.
After spending two weeks in Africa, Aristide is now in Jamaica on what
officials there say is a temporary visit to reunite him with his two young
Gousse added that investigators would look into freezing and recovering
money allegedly pilfered from Haiti's treasury by Aristide and his
associates. Gousse said millions of dollars were missing from Haiti's
coffers, some taken in the last hours of the Aristide government.
He also said $300,000 in U.S. currency was found in a safe in the basement
of Aristide's home.
Gousse, an ally of various civil groups that opposed Aristide, is one of 18
members of the Cabinet named Wednesday by interim Prime Minister Gerard
Latortue. The transitional body is
charged with guiding and rebuilding this
nation until elections can be held. That could be as long as two years
Latortue, who moved back to Haiti from Florida to accept the premiership,
is scheduled today to visit Gonaives, where the armed revolt that ousted
Aristide began Feb. 5. Rebel leaders there said that they would turn over
their weapons to Haitian national police or to the 150 French Legionnaires
who arrived Friday from Port-au-Prince.
The French, part of the four-nation peacekeeping force here, also
dispatched about 200 troops to Cap Haitien, Haiti's second-largest city.
Eventually, the nearly 3,000 U.S., Canadian, Chilean and French soldiers
now concentrated in Port-au-Prince are to scatter throughout the country
and help maintain order.
Gousse indicated that his office probably would not pursue criminal
prosecutions against the rebels, although he acknowledged that both sides
of the conflic
t engaged in violence.
He said that investigators would check out all reported human-rights
violations, but that no complaints had come in against the chief rebel
leader, Guy Philippe, in contrast to accusations already lodged against