Former Haitian mayor ordered to pay millions in civil lawsuit
A United States court has ordered a former Haitian mayor to pay more than US$15.5 million in compensation after he was accused of murder, attempted killings and torture in a civil lawsuit.
Attorneys had painted widely different pictures of Jean Morose Viliena during the opening arguments in US District Court in Boston. Those included claims of a killing, torture and arson – or a successful mayor who helped improve the town of Les Irois in the late 2000s.
Viliena, who now lives in Massachusetts, was sued by three Haitian citizens who say they or their relatives were persecuted by him and his political allies when he was the mayor of the rural town.
“Today’s verdict brings justice to me, my family and the other families of those who have been victims of Viliena’s campaign of terror,” one of the plaintiffs, David Boniface, said in a statement on Tuesday.
Boniface, together with Juders Yseme and Nissage Martyr, filed the lawsuit in 2017 under the Torture Victim Protection Act, a 1991 US law that allows civil lawsuits to be brought against foreign officials accused of wrongdoing, if all legal avenues in their homelands have been exhausted.
It was filed by the Centre for Justice and Accountability in San Francisco.
The defence had argued that Viliena was not involved in violence and had in fact increased services while leading Les Irois, a town of around 22,000 people about 140 miles from the capital Port-au-Prince.