Rebel commander surrenders to Haitian police

Chamblain to face retrial on 1994 massacre charges

April 23, 2004|By Sandra Hernandez | Sandra Hernandez,SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Ten years after Louis-Jodel Chamblain was believed to have participated in the brutal pre-dawn massacre of at least eight people, the former military leader calmly walked into a Haitian police station yesterday morning and surrendered.

Dressed in a gray jacket and tie, Chamblain appeared more like a political candidate then a man going to jail as he walked along the narrow tree-lined street waving at onlookers outside the police station. He was surrounded by police officers as well as his lawyer. Several U.S. troops were also nearby.

Chamblain was accused of murder in the 1994 Raboteau massacre that left at least eight people dead in a slum outside the port city of Gonaives. He was later tried in absentia and found guilty of those slayings but fled Haiti to live in the Dominican Republic.

This year, he returned to Haiti and helped lead an anti-government rebellion that swept through the nation and led to the ouster of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

His surrender follows calls for his arrest by international human rights groups who asked interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue why Chamblain was allowed to live freely in Haiti. Some of Aristide's former ministers were arrested this month.

Aristide left Haiti on Feb. 29 after rebels gained control of nearly all major cities and vowed to move on Port-au-Prince if he did not resign.

In a news conference just minutes before surrendering, Chamblain, 49, told reporters that his decision to face Haiti's courts was intended to show confidence in the country's judicial system and help restore democracy. Under Haitian law, he will be retried on the charges.

"I've decided to give Haiti a chance," said Chamblain, who at times choked back tears. "I am sacrificing myself. I'm going to jail. ...

"I ask all Haitians who are in the same situations to do the same. And I ask [Aristide's] Lavalas Party, who have terrorized the Haitian people, to have the same strength and do the same thing."

His surrender comes at a critical moment for the government.

Just a few miles from the jail, international representatives met with Haitian government officials to discuss aid for this troubled Caribbean nation of 8 million, where most people live on the equivalent of less than $1 a day.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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