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The downward spiral of Haitian state institutions continues as the country’s judiciary became its latest prominent victim. Lawyers, members of the Port-au-Prince Bar Association, took part in a sit-in in front of the official residence of interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry on Friday, April 9, 2022, to demand the relocation of the current courthouse because of security concerns. Lawyers are outraged because of their inability to work due to the insecure environment at their current location on Boulevard Harry Truman. The protesting lawyers carried signs denouncing what they consider a lack of concern from the state authorities because for the past four (4) years now, they have been unable to work at their usual place of business because of the perilous environment in the area where the courthouse is located and the government’s refusal to relocate them elsewhere. Marie Suzy Legros, President of the Port-au-Prince Bar Association denounced the dysfunction of the court where for more than three years “no hearing” could be held as authorities have failed to make arrangement for the reconstruction of the courthouse since 2010.

The security situation has been deteriorating around the Bicentenaire, where it has been over four years since the lawyers were able to work there. While the state has the means to relocate the courthouse as there are other buildings available, they have not done so because according to one lawyer at the protest, “this suits them because the dysfunction of the justice system works to the advantage of the corrupt leaders”. Others contend that the Prime Minister’s office has officers to ensure their own security but lawyers in the courthouse are left to fend for themselves. The President of the Bar Association demands the right to work for lawyers, magistrates, bailiffs and clerks, the right of access to justice for the population. The chairman said to grant the government 15 days to relocate the court. After this time, the lawyers will be forced to move on to another phase of their protest action. According to Ms. Legros, the governments have changed, the gangs have multiplied, and insecurity has climaxed but hearing for court cases and access witnesses and detainees has become impossible in the courthouse, especially the area near the Court of First Instance and Bar offices which have been abandoned and left for the gangs on Truman boulevard. While speaking about the courthouse, the President of the Bar Association painted a picture of the situation at the Bicentenaire where there has been “no court hearing for more than three years. The lawyers are unemployed. There is a serious failure by the government in its duty to guarantee the proper functioning of the institutions. Refusal of the authorities to put in place conditions for access to justice. Violation of the right to justice.” 

In the meantime, the national association of court clerks has ordered a work stoppage for its members starting from Tuesday, April 12, 2022, until further notice. The measure is aimed at demanding better working conditions for their members and to force the government, through the ministry of justice, to address their concerns. The information is contained in a letter to the minister of justice, Berto Dorcé, in which the union asks that the government implement the December 3, 2017, agreement which provided special status to court clerks, increase their salaries and issue them a debit card with reasonable fees. The union criticized the government for not honoring any of their commitments to date.  Talking about unions and insecurity, armed gunmen killed the transportation unionist, Christmane Dispose, near his private residence in Santo 19, Croix-des-Bouquets in his car. His fellow unionists have accused the government of complicity in the crime. The perpetrators ran away, and no suspect has been apprehended. In the same neighborhood, armed men kidnapped three employees of the vehicle insurance office, l’Office Assurance Véhicule Contre Tiers. Elsewhere, Prime Minister Ariel Henry applauded the efforts of the National Police of Haiti (PNH) to combat gangs and crime in a tweet published on April 11. While renewing “his unwavering support” for the police, he encourages them “to tirelessly pursue the fight to restore security in the country. “.

Finally, Les Grenadières the women’s national team were ruthless in thrashing their counterparts from the British Virgin Islands in a record setting 21-0 during the 2023 World Cup qualifiers at A. O. Shirley Recreation Ground this past Saturday, April 9. Roselord Borgellard and Batcheba Louis each scored four goals while Roseline Eloissant and Mikerline Saint-Felix found the net three times each. Melchie Dumornay and Danielle Etienne were each on target twice, while Kethna Louis and Nerilia Mondesir each scored a goal. British Virgin Islands defender Kara Lewis scored an own goal to create the 21 goals that was relentless. The national team is now on top of the group in the CONCACAF Women’s Championship, which also serves as the World Cup qualifiers. They won their three matches so far, outscoring their opponents 38-0. They will be facing Cuba in the Dominican Republic on Tuesday, April 12th. We wish them all good luck!

Dela Harlley

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