Haitian Thug Leader Toto Constant Liable for Rape, Torture, Murder

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a $19 million judgment Tuesday against Emmanuel “Toto” Constant, a former Haitian paramilitary leader who had been found liable for crimes against humanity committed under his watch—including torture, and rape as a mode of torture. As noted in “Constant Sorrow,” Bernice Yeung’s account of her jailhouse interactions with the disgraced (and deluded) thug boss, Constant had been sued by Haitian refugees after fleeing to the United States. The three women said they had suffered gang rapes and other atrocities at the hands of Constant’s minions. Here are more details from the Center for Justice and Accountability, the human rights group that brought the original lawsuit:

The Second Circuit ruled that plaintiffs had presented sufficient allegations that Constant had “worked in concert with the Haitian military to terrorize and repress the civilian population,” relying on the legal standard the Circuit set forth in its prior ruling in Kadic v. Karadzic (against Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, now on trial in the Hague). The court also rejected Constant’s attempt to argue that he could not defend himself because of his incarceration in New York prison for mortgage fraud, holding that he was not even in prison at the time he was served with the lawsuit.

The $19 million damages award was the culmination of an extraordinary journey by these three women who were targeted because either they—or their husbands—were pro-democracy activists. This case marks the first time that anyone has been held accountable for the campaign of rape that destroyed so many families in Haiti. And, perhaps more importantly, this case gives a voice to the countless other women around the world who have been victims of state-sponsored sexual violence. In holding that rape is a form of torture, this decision was a critical addition to the body of law prohibiting sexual violence.

The women never saw a penny the first time around, and it remains to be seen whether they will this time. It’s unclear what assets he has and, as Yeung portrays Constant, the man is a manipulative snake who attempts to charm people into getting what he wants. Behind bars pending trial on mortgage-fraud charges—for which he was ultimately sentenced—he still harbored illusions of one day returning to power in Haiti.



Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend