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Resource Information Center: Haiti

Response to Information Request Number:HTI98001.mia
Date:20 May 1998
Subject:Haiti: Activity At The Casernes Dessalines During The 1986-1989 Period
From:INS Resource Information Center, Washington, DC
Keywords:Haiti / Casernes Dessalines / Persecution / Detainee / Prison /Imprisonment



1) What activities occurred at the Casernes Dessalines during the 1986-1989 period?

2) What information is there on Colonel Guy Francois.


The RIC contacted several sources to gather information to respond to the query including: the State Department, National Coalition for Haitian Refugees, and an independent consultant on Haiti. The RIC also researched the RIC library, Westlaw, and the Internet for the time period in question.

Casernes Dessalines and Colonel Guy Francois

Under the Duvalier regime, the Casernes Dessalines army barracks (Dessalines) was used to interrogate and detain people suspected of anti-government activity. After the fall and subsequent departure of Jean-Claude Duvalier on 2 February 1986, the Dessalines barracks was supposedly no longer used as a detention center. However, human rights monitors continued to report on its use as a detention site throughout the late eighties.

Detainees were as likely to be taken to Dessalines as to Fort Dimanche or the Recherches Criminelles, the two other Haitian detention centers. On 11 September 1987, Ernst Charles hailed what he thought was a taxi and was taken to Dessalines. He was subdued with pepper spray, an injection, then was taken to a house outside of Port-au-Prince. There he was interrogated about Mr. Jean-Bertrand Aristide and beaten with a wet towel before managing to escape (AI December 1997, 4). In another case, Mr. Daniel Narcisse testified to Amnesty that he was arrested without a warrant, taken to Dessalines and subsequently transferred to the Recherches Criminelles where he was handcuffed, searched and placed in a cell (AI December 1987, Appendix III).

In 1988, Amnesty continued to receive occasional reports of detainees being taken to Dessalines. In August 1988 there was evidence that the barracks were still being used as a detention center (AI November 1988, 12). Schubert Jean-Baptiste died as a result of torture that occurred at Dessalines in August/September 1988. Lieutenant Antoine Clarel Metellus was court-martialed and found guilty of this crime. (Americas Watch 11 September 1989, 10).

The Organization of American States, in a 1988 report, states that approximately 10-20 persons were detained at the Dessalines daily and then transferred to the National Penitentiary. A detainee was taken from the Recherche Criminelles and then taken to Fort Dimanche or Dessalines where they were interrogated and sometimes beaten to the point of unconsciousness or death, cut off from contact with family or a lawyer (OAS September 1988, 135).

A report by Americas Watch confirms that Lt. Colonel Guy Francois was a commander of the Dessalines barracks, replacing Colonel Jean-Claude Paul who died in November 1988. On a visit to Haiti during the 1988/1989 period, Americas Watch visited the Dessalines barracks and noted that there was a small area for detaining prisoners. During their visit there were no prisoners there, however, evidence suggested that the facility was still in use as a detention center and they witnessed prisoners being hastily removed from the barracks upon their arrival (Americas Watch February 1989, 71).

In March/April 1989, four senior officers and 15 adjutants of Dessalines were dismissed, triggering a mutiny that nearly succeeded in ousting General Prosper Avril. Soldiers called for the resignation of Avril, the full restoration of the constitution and early elections. The fighting resulted in six deaths (Political Risk Services 1 July 1991, IBC International Country Risk Guide June 1989). The Dessalines unit was subsequently dissolved (Americas Watch 11 September 1989, 10).

This response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the RIC within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find attached the list of additional sources consulted in researching this information request.


Amnesty International. December 1987. Deaths in Detention, Torture and Inhumane Prison Conditions. New York: Amnesty International USA.

___________. November 1988. Haiti: Amnesty International’s Current Concerns. New York: Amnesty International USA.

Americas Watch/National Coalition for Haitian Refugees. 11 September 1989. Human Rights In Haiti: One year Under General Prosper Avril. New York: Americas Watch.

IBC International Country Risk Guide. June 1989. The Americas: Haiti. (Westlaw)

Organization of American States. 1 September 1988. Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti. Washington DC: Organization of American States

Political Risk Services. 1 July 1991. Haiti: Military. (Westlaw).

Other Sources Checked:

Independent Consultant. 5 May 1988. Telephone interview.

The Internet

National Coalition for Haitian Rights. 5 May 1988. Telephone interview.


U.S. State Department. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. 5 May 1988.

Telephone interview.



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