Haiti president defiant as protests continue for his removal

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

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PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti (CMC) — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) says it is concerned at the increased levels of violence in Haiti, as President Jovenel Moïse steadfastly refuses to adhere to Opposition calls for him to step down as head of state of the French-speaking Caribbean Community country.

At least one person was killed on the weekend as thousands of people Sunday participated in a demonstration organised by various artistes, including the rapper Izolan and singer King Kino, calling on Moïse, who came to power in February 2017, to step down amid allegations of corruption. The artistes have vowed to stage a demonstration every week until Moise resigns.

The demonstrators marched under a very discreet police presence unlike the previous day at Carrefour, where a crowd responding to the Opposition's call took the street and erected barricades of burning tyres while denouncing unemployment, insecurity, and corruption. Banks, shops and gas stations remained closed.

One businessman was quoted in the local media as confirming that he has been financing a brigade whose mission is to prevent looting during the demonstrations.

“Yes, people are paid to take part in the demonstrations and to ensure that everything goes well,” he said.

Chief Inspector Gary Desrosiers, deputy spokesman of the National Police of Haiti (PNH), confirmed that 17-yearold Carlos Joubert was fatally shot on Friday and 10 others, including one officer from the Departmental Maintenance Unit (UDMO), were injured.

The IACHR, along with its Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression, in a joint statement over the weekend said they were concerned about increased violence in the context of the political crisis that has been ongoing in Haiti since mid-2018.

“This crisis includes pressures to end the president's mandate and a disproportionate use of force by police to repress demonstrations. The IACHR urges the State to adopt all measures necessary to ensure the right to peaceful assembly and to take urgent action to preserve Haitians' lives and integrity, as well as ensuring that journalists can do their job. The IACHR further asks all political forces in Haiti to return to peaceful political negotiations and to preserve the country's democratic institutions,” they said.

The crisis in Haiti was triggered by the publication in January 2019 of a report on the Venezuela-funded PetroCaribe Oil initiative, under which Caracas provided oil and other petroleum products to Haiti under a preferential agreement.

Moïse has denied any wrongdoing and last week named former Prime Minister Evans Paul to head a team that would hold discussions with all stakeholders in a bid to end the political crisis.

“The president of the republic is determined to make every effort to ensure that the nation will resume the path of stability, social, economic and political progress,” Secretary General Lyonel Valbrun said in a statement.

The IACHR said that it shared the concerns, expressed by the United Nations on October 2, about difficult access to hospitals and emergency services and potential shortages in the supply of drinking water in critical facilities, such as orphanages.

Quoting local media reports, the IACHR said “the current scenario marked by profound political and social dissatisfaction has served as a backdrop for violence, which culminated in September with at least 17 dead in protests.

“In particular, the IACHR highlighted the events of September 23, when a Haitian senator opened fire near the country's parliament. Two people — a reporter and a security guard — were injured in this episode.”

It noted that the Special Rapporteurship, in its statement of June 14 following the murder of journalist Pétion Rospide, had indicated that the various instances of violence during demonstrations and protests in the country have included attacks against reporters who were covering public demonstrations.

“The commission profoundly rejects these acts of violence and urges the Haitian State to take any measures necessary to protect the lives, personal integrity, and safety of its people. The State needs to take all actions necessary to ensure that social protests remain peaceful.

“The IACHR and its Special Rapporteurship stress that a demonstration should only be dispersed based on the duty to protect the population, and that this should be done using the safest, least-harmful means available. The use of force in public demonstrations should be exceptional, and it should only be exercised when it is strictly necessary, based on internationally recognised standards.

The authorities must promptly and thoroughly investigate police actions during these protests and impose any necessary penalties,” they added. Haiti continues to be paralysed, with businesses and schools in the metropolitan area and several cities shut down as demonstrators burn tyres, set up road blocks, and engage in clashes with police as part of operation “Seal” — where supporters have descended on government buildings in a bid to prevent them collecting much-needed revenue.

 


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