Fear for Safety of Human Rights Defender: Urgent Action. Urgent action from Amnesty International
On 2 April Pierre Espérance, a prominent Haitian human rights defender, received a letter containing a bullet and death threats related to his work. There are fears for his safety and that of other human rights defenders in the country. On 2 April, Pierre Espérance, executive director of the National Human Rights Defence Network (Réseau National de Défense des Droits Humains, RNDDH), one of Haiti’s leading human rights organizations, received a threatening letter at the organization’s office.
The letter contained a gun bullet and accused Pierre Espérance and the RNDDH of putting up false reports aiming to destabilise the government. It also mentioned the attack on Pierre Espérance in 1999 when he escaped a shooting by gunmen in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. The letter concluded that “in 99 we missed you, this time you won’t escape it, stop speaking bullshit”.
A complaint was lodged on 9 April with the office of the public prosecutor and the judicial police is believed to have opened an investigation. In recent months, the RNDDH has presented various reports on issues such as a touristic project affecting residents in Île-à-Vache Island, the judicial process against former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier. The organization has also criticized the current government for alleged corruption, manipulation of the justice system and impunity. We are concerned for the vulnerability of human rights defenders in Haiti, many of whom have suffered attacks in the last few months, and urges the authorities to immediately take steps to provide adequate protection to the defenders and their families.
For more information about the attack on Pierre Espérance in 1999 please see Urgent Action 45/99 (AMR 36/001/1999):
Several human rights defenders have reported to be victims of threats and attacks in recent times in Haiti. The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights issued precautionary measures in favour of human rights lawyers Mario Joseph and Patrick Florvilus respectively in October 2012 and November 2013 requesting the Haitian state to adopt any necessary measures to guarantee the life and personal integrity of the lawyers.
On 8 February 2014, human rights defender Daniel Dorsinvil, and his wife were killed by a gunman in the residential neighbourhood of Canapé Vert of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. The circumstances and the motives of the killings remain unclear. An investigation was opened and various people are currently held in pre-trial detention. However, the Port-au-Prince prosecutor has still to formulate formal charges.
In accordance with the 1998 UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, authorities in Haiti must fulfil their obligation to protect human rights defenders and to fully investigate attacks against them and bring those responsible to justice. They also have the duty to guarantee that human rights defenders can carry out their work without fear of reprisals.