Haiti: Members of the popular band RAM arrested

10 November 2004

Story from Weekly Update on the Americas / LACYORK, York University , Canada

Haitian police detained three members of the popular band RAM late on the night of Nov. 4 as they were on stage performing a song called “Justice!” at the Oloffson Hotel in Port-au-Prince, witnesses say. District police chief Renan Etienne confirmed that three people were detained but did not provide details. “It’s pretty strange, people coming in at midnight to arrest people,” band leader Richard Morse said. “No warrant, no explanation, no nothing.” Haiti’s 1987 Constitution requires warrants in most cases and bars arrests between 6pm and 6am, but in recent weeks police have circumvented the restriction by claiming the arrests were necessary to stop ongoing crimes.
Morse said the three musicians live in Port-au-Prince neighborhoods where support is strong for the Lavalas Family (FL), the party of deposed left- populist president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. [Haiti Support Group News Briefs 11/5/04 from AP]

In a communique made public in Haiti earlier the same week, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), part of the Organization of American States (OAS), expressed concern about arbitrary arrests and detentions carried out since the end of September, including the arrest of Senate president Yvon Feuille and three other FL politicians at Radio Caraibes on Oct. 2 and the Oct. 13 arrest of Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste, an Aristide supporter [see Updates #766, 768]. The IACHR also expressed concern about the beheading of several police agents, which the interim government that replaced Aristide has blamed on pro-FL gangs. [Agence Haitienne de Presse 11/3/04] Although police have generally targeted Aristide supporters, on or before Nov. 5 agents in the northwestern city of Gonaives arrested Butter Metayer, a leader of the Artibonite Resistance Front, a group of rightwing paramilitaries that was instrumental in the Feb. 29 overthrow of Aristide. Metayer’s supporters say he was arrested when he went to a police station to offer the agents support in case of an attack by FL supporters. Capt. Mamie Ward, a spokesperson for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), implied that Metayer was arrested for attacking and looting trucks bringing humanitarian aid to victims of Hurricane Jeanne [see Update #765].

After the arrest, protesters–armed, according to some reports– stormed the station in the early morning of Nov. 6. The police agents fled, prisoners escaped and about 100 Metayer supporters looted the station and set up burning barricades in several intersections. MINUSTAH soldiers recaptured the station on Nov. 7. [HSG 11/6/04 from AFP, AP, 11/7/04 from Xinhuanet; Miami Herald 11/7/04 from unspecified wire services]

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