Haiti Denies Congressional Delegation Permission To Monitor Elections
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The government of Haiti on Saturday denied congressional representatives on a presidential-appointed delegation permission to monitor the Caribbean country’s first general elections in 30 years.
Rep. Benjamin Gilman of New York, a senior Republican member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Jaime B. Fuster, Puerto Rican resident commissioner, learned of the decision from State Department officials at about 12:30 a.m. Saturday, Gilman said. Elections are to be held in Haiti on Sunday.
″I’m shocked and disappointed,″ Gilman said in a telephone interview later in the day. ″This is an ill-conceived, arbitrary decision.″
Twelve members of the delegation, including representatives of labor, business, education, the church and the law, were allowed to enter Haiti, a State Department spokesman said.
In denying permission to Gilman and Fuster, the military-dominated junta of Haiti cited an Oct. 14 letter to Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy, president of the National Governing Council, in which congressional leaders voiced concerns about human rights in the upcoming elections. The letter was signed by 46 members of Congress, including Gilman and Fuster.
President Reagan announced Wednesday that Gilman, Fuster and Walter Fauntroy, the Democratic delegate to Congress from the District of Columbia, would travel to Haiti to be official observers to the election.
Fauntroy had decided not to participate before Haiti announced that it would deny visas to the congressional delegation.
″We regret this decision which will deprive the observer delegation of the experienced judgment which members of Congress would have provided,″ said Ben Justesen, a State Department spokesman.
″Our embassy in Port-au-Prince sought to reverse the decision,″ he said.
Sunday’s balloting is for a president and National Assembly to replace Namphy’s junta, which has ruled the Caribbean nation since dictator Jean- Claude Duvalier fled to exile in France 22 months ago.
The joint congressional letter said ″a transition to democracy in the post-Duvalier era requires a protection of the people’s basic human and civil rights, including freedom of assembly and association, of the press, of labor unions and of speech.″
The letter cited allegations of the direct involvement of Haitian security forces in a series of attacks on civilians, foreign and domestic journalists, and priests and community leaders. It also mentioned allegations that the junta had interfered in the work of the Provisional Electoral Council and failed to ″demonstrate any meaningful commitment in the investigation of human rights abuses.″
Gilman said he hoped the remaining delegation members would be able to successfully monitor the elections.
″I hope the process will go forward,″ Gilman said. ″The president underscored his concern.″
The State Department said the elections ″are crucial in that country’s determined march to democracy. Our observer team is an important signal to the Haitian people of the strong support the administration has given to that process.″
The delegation members allowed to enter Haiti were Roger Allen Moore, general counsel of the Republican National Committee; Paula Dobriansky, deputy assistant secretary of state for human rights; William Doherty, executive director for the American Institute for Free Labor Development; Ladonna Lee, of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems; Erns Exceus, managing director of the Latin American Bureau of the Americas Society; Monsignor William Murphy, an aide to Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston; Bruce McComb, deputy director of Freedom House; and former Air Force Secretary Thomas Reed.