(CMR) A former mayor of a small town in Haiti was arrested for visa fraud a day after he was ordered by a US federal court to pay $15.5 million in damages after being found guilty in a civil case of torture, extrajudicial killings, attempted killing, and arson.
According to the Miami Herald, Jean Morose Viliena (50), a US permanent resident living in Malden, Massachusetts, served as mayor of Les Irois in Haiti’s Grand’Anse region from December 2006 until February 2010 and then was appointed mayor again in 2012 by former Haitian President Michel Martelly. He got the job despite a murder indictment in the Haitian courts.
Five years later, Viliena, now working as a school bus and Uber driver in the Boston area, was sued in federal court in Massachusetts. The suit was filed by the San Francisco-based Center for Justice & Accountability, along with the multinational Dentons law firm and Morrison & Foerster, on behalf of three Haitian men, David Boniface, Juders Ysemé, and Nissage Martyr, who accused Viliena and his political allies of political persecution that included human rights abuses.
“I am very happy and feel very proud because the American justice system has given us justice. For 15 years, we’ve been fighting in Haiti to find justice and could never find it,” Ysemé told the Miami Herald after the verdict.
He said Viliena used his influence to thwart justice in Haiti and was never called before the courts.
“He beat me, and after he beat me… issued orders to shoot me. I lost my right eye,” Ysemé said.
Attorney Daniel McLaughlin with the Center for Justice & Accountability said the lawyers and their clients are “overjoyed with this verdict.”
“It’s an acknowledgment of the harms that they suffered, the killings, the torture, the attempted extrajudicial killings. It’s also a strong message to the defendant and to others who would act like him that the commission of atrocities are unacceptable, and they will be held accountable for it,” he told Miami Herald.
The lawsuit was filed under the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991. The law allows civil lawsuits to be filed in the US against foreign officials who commit wrongdoing in their countries if the victims are unable to get justice in their own countries.
Jean Morose Viliena is expected to appear before a federal court in Boston, Massachusetts, after being detained on the immigration-related charges on Wednesday. He faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.