Emmanuel “Toto” Constant
Founder of FRAPH
Emmanuel “Toto” Constant was the founder and leader of the Haitian paramilitary FRAPH (Revolutionary Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti), which served as an arm of political violence for the 1991-1994 military regime under Gen. Raoul Cédras. Constant’s father was an army commander under the former Haitian dictator Francois Duvalier, and Constant used Duvalier’s notorious “Tonton Macoutes” paramilitary units as a model for the formation of FRAPH. In 1993 and 1994, FRAPH worked in concert with the Haitian Armed Forces in their campaign of terror and repression against the civilian population of Haiti. FRAPH members received arms and training from the Haitian Armed Forces, who ran the government, and who used FRAPH as a means of intimidating the population and enforcing the political will of the ruling junta.
With the financial and logistical support of the Haitian Armed Forces and certain members of Haiti’s economic elite, FRAPH killed, arbitrarily detained, raped and otherwise tortured or mistreated civilians in the poorest neighborhoods and regions of Haiti, most of which were heavily pro-Aristide. They also looted and burned or destroyed homes in an effort to break the resistance of the population to military rule. An eccentric publicity seeker, Constant simultaneously sought to create a public facade for these violent activities by openly declaring he was leading a legitimate neo-Duvalierist movement under the banner of FRAPH. Deligitimating in the eyes of many was FRAPH’s use of wholesale rape and murder. Like the Tonton Macoutes before him, Constant sought to cultivate a nearly supernatural mystique for FRAPH, by having the death squad perform the ‘facial scalping’ of its victims and displaying such trophies to the terrified populace.
Safe Haven in the United States
In December 1994, the Haitian government issued a warrant for Constant’s arrest. Constant fled Haiti to the Dominican Republic. He then travelled to the United States, entering on December 24, 1994. After the threat of U.S. intervention forced the military regime to step down, the Haitian government and local human rights NGOs pressed ahead with the criminal prosecution of Constant, Cédras and other key figures from the junta. In December 1994, the Haitian government issued a warrant for Constant’s arrest, and he fled to the Dominican Republic. Less than a month later, he was allowed to enter the United States. He then travelled to the United States, entering on December 24, 1994. Following public outcry at his presence in the US, immigration authorities arrested Constant and ordered his deportation. For reasons still unclear, the order was never carried out.
The U.S. was well aware of Constant’s connection to egregious violations of human rights under the military regime. In fact, during the US intervention in 1994, US officials discovered photographs of FRAPH’s mutilated victims, pinned to the walls of Constant’s office in Port-au-Prince. Nonetheless, Constant was mysteriously released under an agreement with the U.S. government, shortly after he appeared on the evening news show 60 Minutes and confessed to being on the CIA’s payroll throughout the 1990s. On the air, Constant threatened to divulge secrets on U.S. covert operations in Haiti.
Ostensibly Constant was not deported since the INS had allegedly received intelligence that Constant faced death threats back home in Haiti. In an unusual departure from standard procedure, the INS released Constant into the civilian population rather than keeping him in detention – the usual fate of an immigration detainee accused of murder and terrorism who cannot be repatriated due to a likely threat.
Civil and Criminal Convictions
Constant became a real estate agent in Queens, NY, working and living freely in the midst of a community of Haitian immigrants that he had once terrorized. Then, in 2004, CJA and our partners filed a human rights civil suit against Constant, resulting in a $19 million judgment in 2006. Two years later, Constant again found himself facing justice in a U.S. court. On October 28, 2008, he was sentenced to 12 to 37 years in prison for his role in a criminal mortgage fraud scheme in New York after being found guilty on all six felony counts against him in a July 2008 trial.
» A full summary of the mortgage fraud case and CJA’s intervention is available here.