Haiti Support Group Challenges EU on Rule of Law and Human Rights in Haiti
We are concerned that, despite there being many well-documented examples of increasingly authoritarian and anti-democratic behaviour (see various other articles on this site), the EU, which, as a major donor, wields considerable influence, appears to endorse the current administration’s record in these areas.
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Attention: Mr Tomas Dupla del Moral
Director of the Directorate-General, Latin America EU-EEAS
London, 6 November 2012
Dear Mr Dupla del Moral
I write to express the Haiti Support Group’s alarm at the rapidly deteriorating situation regarding rule of law and human rights in Haiti.
One of the most recent causes for serious concern relates to the revelation, by Port-au-Prince’s outgoing chief public prosecutor (Commissaire du Gouvernement), that he had been removed from his post for refusing to arbitrarily arrest people on a ‘ hit list’ of perceived government opponents.
These include Mario Joseph, a prominent human rights lawyer, who has long fought for justice for the victims of previous dictatorships, most notably with his recent attempt to prosecute Jean Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier, for whom the current President has often expressed his admiration.
Similarly, the list of ‘enemies of the state’ includes two other lawyers, Newton St. Juste and André Michel, who are pursuing legal action concerning the President’s use of members of his immediate family to administer millions of dollars in state funds.
We at the Haiti Support Group are not alone in being alarmed at these developments. Amnesty International have issued an Action Alert (http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR36/009/2012/en) and the National Lawyers Guild in the U.S. have published a press release on the matter (http://www.nlg.org/news/citing-intimidation-death-threats-national-lawyers-guild-calls-protection-haitian-lawyers).
These further signs of anti-democratic behaviour come on the heels of President Martelly publishing much disputed constitutional amendments. These include the removal of article 297 from the 1987 constitution, which had repealed decrees and laws arbitrarily restricting citizens’ fundamental rights, including freedom of expression and freedom of religion.
Equally worrying are changes contained in this constitutional reform package, which (i) give the government more control over the appointments to the Permanent Electoral Council, (ii) introduce a loophole to allow the President in effect to serve two consecutive terms and (iii) reduce the oversight powers of parliament over the national budget (something which should exercise the EU given its insistence on higher levels of accountability under your budget support conditionalities).
I attach link to an article, which explain these in more detail “Constitutional changes to become law in Haiti a year after vote” (http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/06/18/v-fullstory/2857805/constitutional-changes-to-become.html).
In short, all these changes effectively pave the way for the re-institution of some of the most abusive Duvalier-era dictatorship practices.
The list of other anti-constitutional and arbitrary practices is extensive and growing. One prominent concern to be addressed urgently must be President Martelly’s failure to hold senatorial and local elections that have been repeatedly postponed. This has permitted the President to make personal appointees to a number of mayoral positions.
The situation has now reached a point where our civil society partners in Haiti have genuine concern for the safety of anyone perceived as critical of the current government, and we urge you to use the various levers at your disposal to hold the Haitian Government to account and prevent it from further arbitrary authoritarianism.
Given the circumstances, it was with some dismay that we read in Le Nouvelliste (10/10/2012), Haiti’s leading daily paper that: ‘The head of the EU delegation [Javier Niño Perez] in Haiti expressed his disapproval of those calling for Martelly’s departure […] According to the diplomat, President Martelly’s coming to power has heralded a period of economic stability and political détente […] he reiterated […] “The EU confirms its commitment to working in partnership with the Martelly-Lamothe administration in their efforts to promote democracy, rule of law and development.” ‘
We find it astonishing that the EU’s senior diplomat in Haiti appears to endorse the current administration’s record on human rights and rule of law issues. Given that the EU is committed to making budget support contingent on indicators including those issues, could you please indicate whether Mr Perez’s reported comments do, in fact, represent the EU’s assessment of the current situation in Haiti and, if so, indicate why this is the case.
We now learn that the Government has instituted a state of emergency in the wake of the passage of tropical storm Sandy. We can understand why a state of emergency may have been declared following the devastation wreaked by the storm’s passage. However, we note that the state of emergency was only declared a full 5 days after Haiti was hit and are concerned that the opportunity will be used to legitimise a series of unconstitutional practices which are already currency for the present administration, such as the non-transparent use of state funds, the appointments of various personnel without the usual due process, the awarding of no-bid contracts and a crackdown on legitimate opposition.
Chair, Haiti Support Group