The recent kidnapping of ten (10) people including seven (7) priests, five (5) of whom are Haitians and two(2) French, near Port-au-Prince has underscored the already established concern that the government is actually ineffective at addressing the increasing security problem facing the nation for quite a while now. This action was denounced by the Archdiocese of the Catholic Church in Haiti: Monsignor Max Leroy Mésidor, According to the Monsignor, the activities of the armed gangs running around the country sowing terror and fear with impunity has risen to new heights because public authorities are not doing anything about and by their actions they cannot be above suspicion. In a press release, the Monsignor stated that for some time now, Haitian society has been descending into hell and that the church must denounce complacency and complicity from any quarter. The police suspects that the armed gang known as 400 Mawozo, which operates around the area might be responsible for the kidnappings.
A similar grim picture of the situation in the country was echoed by the Episcopal Church in their Easter message to the faithful and the nation at large. The Easter message was one of hope at a time when the country is on the edge of the abyss because she has fallen into chaos and all have become prisoners in our own homes for fear of being kidnapped, robbed, raped or killed. In a press release, the Episcopal Conference of Haiti urges those in power to act immediately to end this reign of terror.
Meanwhile Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe is said to be seeking with determination, information which would make it possible to identify those behind the acts of kidnapping, in order to take appropriate measures. This call is one of the numerous ones the government has made which promises to address the security situation in the country but to date, there has not been any concrete results on the ground to suggest that anything is being done. A clear example is the information from the authorities that they have disrupted the operations of the 400 Mawozo gang operating in the Croix-des-Bouquets municipality, Northeast of the capital, Port-au-Prince. But this same gang is responsible for the latest kidnapping of the catholic priests this past Sunday. Noting that no one, including him, is safe in front of these armed gangs, the Prime Minister calls on all members of society, including the business class, religious class and people from all walks of life to join them in fighting this never ending insecurity. According to the Prime Minister, the national commission on disarmament, dismantling and reintegration, CNDDR, the national police, PNH, and the Ministry of Justice and public Safety, MJSP, have all reported that there are some 175 armed gangs roaming the country and a number of specific families who are known to be dealing in guns and ammunitions.
Hundreds of high school students from the lycées Alexandre Pétion and Toussaint Louverture want to make public aware of the need for teachers to being back in the classrooms, after violence in the neighborhoods have forced schools to shut for a week now, the opposition has announced that they are ready to dialogue with President Jovenel Moïse, but maintained their position that the President’s term in office has expired therefore any present dialogue must be towards the departure of the current resident of the National Palace. Former Senator Youri Latortue continues to demand the resignation of the president despite efforts from the religious establishment, led by Monsignor Dumas to bring all the political actors together to find a peaceful and consensual resolution to the crisis.
Elsewhere, the united nation’s bureau in the country, BINUH, is highlighting the increasing rate of prolonged length of detention in the country, rising from 76% in June 2020 to 85% in March 2021, and called on the government to address this pressing human rights issue. The paralysis of the judicial system, just like any other institution in the country has negative consequences in the conditions of detention and the state of prisoners imprisoned in the various prisons. In a tweet, the BINUH says it is calling on the authorities to resolve this issue which constitutes inhumane and degrading treatment of the person; and prolonged preventive detention in the Haitian prisons threatens the very foundation of the rule of law. The BINUH alerts the authorities concerned and urges them to do everything possible to reduce prison overcrowding while respecting human rights. Last week, the US Embassy retweeted the message, adding that Haiti needs judicial system that is functioning and independent, capable of addressing the issue. This is their way of forcing the hands of the Haitian authorities to act. For the better part of four (4) years now, work stoppages within the judicial apparatus lasts longer than the times that the judiciary has been in session, with the most recent case being the strike action by magistrates since the 8th and 11th of February, 2021, when the government decided to remove three (3) tenured judges and named others to the bench. The unjustified layoff of the clerk Christophe Lespérance also provoked the ire of the magistrates who have been demanding that the Constitutional rule be applied. These initiatives, legal, legitimate, or not, perpetuate the human rights violation that is this so-called security measure, at the same time violating the principle of the presumption of innocence. The most recent data on detainees date back to September 2019 during the era of Prosecutor Paul Éronce Villard when the number of detainees in Port-au-Prince were the figures showed a reduction to 3218, compared to 3318 from June to August. Before his term in office, there were 4918 detainees in the Port-au-Prince civil prisons, without any charge, living in quarters where the number of square meters the prisoners are expected to live in has dwindled to far less than the recommended international standard of 4.5 m sq.
Furthermore, after an earlier report that the Haitian government has refused to accept the AstraZeneca vaccine proposed by the world health organization under the COVAX mechanism, the government decided to clear the air by providing a written note to set the record straight. Through the Minister of Culture and Communication, Pradel Henriquez, the Haitian government has confirmed that they did not refuse the idea of a vaccine to protect their people against the deadly pandemic, but rather, they simply want to negotiate a different vaccine. The note stated that during the recent cabinet meeting last Wednesday, the Minister of Health, Gréta Roy confirmed that they wrote an official letter to the GAVI vaccine alliance, the public-private partnership dedicated to providing vaccines against infectious diseases in poor countries, to negotiate another vaccine such as the Johnson & Johnson or Moderna vaccines instead of AstraZeneca.
As part of the $212bn state budget deal reached last week, New York State has promised to provide $2.1bn in cash to undocumented workers and others who are excluded from the federal relieve payments. Most NYC residents working in restaurants, delis, salons, and other businesses who are undocumented will be eligible for this assistant of up to $15,600 per person, through the Excluded Workers’ Fund.
Finally, it’s with a heavy heart that we received the news of the passing of a friend of Haiti, the former US Attorney General, Ramsey Clark, who passed away this past Friday, April 9, 2021. He was one of few people who travel the world to fight human rights abuses by his own country as he saw them. He was one of the architects of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1968. He was 93.