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US Returns 2 Convicted Haitian Officials to Port-au-Prince - 2003-01-28

The United States has deported two former high-ranking Haitian military officers who were convicted in their native land of taking part in a massacre of civilians nine-years ago.

Carl Dorelien and Herbert Valmond, both members of Haiti's former military junta, were flown to Port-au-Prince late Monday, escorted by agents of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Haitian courts had tried and convicted the two men in absentia for leading a 1994 assault that resulted in more than two dozen deaths in a neighborhood near the port city of Gonaives. Residents of the Raboteau neighborhood were known to support former and current President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whom the military ousted in a 1991 coup.

Immigration and Naturalization Service spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez said the convictions of Dorelien and Valmond did not go unnoticed by U.S. authorities.

"Carl Dorelien and Herbert Valmond came to the attention of the INS as a result of their involvement in human-rights abuses in Haiti," she explained. "Information was received that indicated that an indictment was being sought against Dorelien and Valmond for an incident that took place in Haiti, referred to as the Raboteau massacre."

Dorelien and Valmond arrived in the United States after the fall of Haiti's military junta in late 1994. Monday's deportations came not as a result of extradition requests from Haiti, but because the two had originally arrived in the United States as tourists and overstayed their visas.

Nevertheless, Ms. Gonzalez said the Bush Administration wants to send a clear message that human-rights abusers should not regard the United States as a "safe haven" from punishment.

"Someone cannot commit crimes against humanity in their home country and think that they will escape them," she said. "The INS will exert every effort in locating human-rights violators and removing them from the United States."

Dorelien and Valmond face lengthy prison sentences in Haiti, where jail conditions are regarded as abysmal.

Dorelien received notoriety in Florida in 1997, when he won a $3.2 million jackpot in the state's lottery. At the time, Miami's large Haitian-American community complained that Florida was awarding cash to a mass-murderer. What will become of Dorelien's prize money now that he is in Haiti is not clear.