Unrest in Haiti worries UN Security Council as fatigue increases with reign of man of Moses

The United States expressed exasperation on Monday over the reign of a man under Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, blaming his government for the country’s delayed legislative vote at a UN Security Council meeting as the beleaguered leader was trying to defend himself on the world stage.

Representing the United States, Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis reminded his fellow diplomats that the legislative elections in Haiti were due to take place in October 2019. Before and after that date, he said, the council “repeatedly called on Haitian political actors to come together, to put put aside their differences and find a way forward. “

“They chose not to do it,” DeLaurentis said. “However, the ultimate responsibility for creating an atmosphere conducive to free and fair elections, and then conducting those elections, must rest with the government. The United States is concerned that Haiti’s extended period of decree rule continues. “

The US position has come as the Caribbean nation is embroiled in a deepening political crisis and as the international community is voicing growing concern over the reign of Moses. In an unusual move, the president himself spoke at the meeting, accusing “powerful oligarchs” and “radical opposition” for his nation’s woes. Diplomats were not convinced, calling Haiti’s deteriorating state of affairs under his leadership “disturbing” and “shocking.”

“Unpredictability is very important,” said Ambassador of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines I. Rhonda King.

Moses has ruled by decree for over a year. Opposition leaders say his term ended on February 7. Moses disagrees, saying he has one more year as president. Critics have gone so far as to install their own interim president.

Speaking at the virtual event, Moses accused the opposition of creating armed gangs, said drug traffickers were behind a rogue police team known as Fantom 509 who staged lightning protests in through the capital and attacked government property and dismissed concerns about attacks on journalists.

He told the council that people “disguised as journalists” attacked the police.

Moses also defended his overzealous use of decrees and removal of three Supreme Court justices, which has been denounced as a violation of the Haitian constitution by a number of foreign diplomats and human rights groups.

“Repeated violent attempts to overthrow the constitutional government by corrupt people made the situation very difficult,” said Moïse in his remarks, which exceeded the 5 minutes allotted to him by 20 minutes. “This policy of chaos has forced the government to take off the gloves.”

The latest report by UN Secretary General António Guterres on Haiti, released ahead of the Security Council meeting, paints a worrying picture of the current crisis in Haiti. Human rights defenders, journalists, judges, lawyers and others continue to be the targets of threats and intimidation, with at least 13 cases documented between September and January, according to the report.

In the past 12 months, kidnappings have increased 200% from the previous year, according to the report. Homicides are also on the rise, increasing by 20% in 2020, with three quarters of the cases recorded in the western part of the country, which includes the metropolitan area of ​​Port-au-Prince.

“The human rights situation in Haiti has continued to be negatively affected by gang activity and the continued inability of state authorities to adequately protect the rights of citizens to life and security” , concludes the report.

The report notes that the government said it was working to address public security concerns, by increasing the budget for Haiti’s national police. But investigators also found “a limited impact on the Haitian criminal justice system”.

The UN chief nevertheless appeared to support Moïse’s desire to change the constitution, saying that a “minimum consensus among all political actors” could help make it a success. The opposition has rejected his attempt to create a new magna carta and there are questions about its legality. Haitian officials have placed $ 20 million in a UN-controlled fund for the constitutional referendum as well as legislative, municipal, local and presidential elections scheduled for the fall.

Guterres’ representative in Haiti, Helen La Lime, noted that recent decrees by Moïse effectively removing three Supreme Court justices and appointing their replacements have prompted several magistrate associations to go on strike and renew protests demanding his departure. of its functions. She also noted that these measures could further cripple an already dysfunctional justice system.

Members of the Security Council said on Monday that they saw the elections as the only way out of the crisis.

“I have no reservations about saying that this situation is untenable in the long term,” said the Deputy Permanent Representative of France, Nathalie Broadhurst, adding that some of the decrees taken by the Haitian authorities are “worrying”.

The planned elections, said Broadhurst, were a step in the right direction but they “must contribute to a way out of the crisis and not add to the current confusion”.

She then declared that three conditions must be met for Haiti to gain stability: minimum security conditions so that the elections can take place under satisfactory conditions; the distribution of identity cards, to ensure wide electoral participation; and an impartial electoral judge must be put in place for the results to be accepted by all. Moïse unilaterally appointed a nine-member election commission without political consensus to hold the referendum and elections.

But even that, France acknowledged, will require a lot of effort given the number of Haitians who still lack national identity cards, and what some diplomats have described as an ambitious electoral calendar for September.

Moïse told council members on Monday that Haiti would hold the constitutional referendum in June. He had previously said April.

“It’s not for us to talk about this process; we just want to make sure that the various stakeholders in the country have the opportunity to debate the text and its long-term institutional implications and above all not to further delay the conduct of the various elections, ”said Broadhurst.

Ahead of Monday’s meeting, Human Rights Watch called on council members to pressure the government of Haiti maintain the independence of the judiciary, respect due process and repeal its recent arbitrary changes in the composition of the Supreme Court.

“Getting rid of the Supreme Court justices you don’t like and appointing new ones without going through the regular processes will not solve a political crisis,” said Tamara Taraciuk Broner, deputy director of the Americas at Human Rights Watch. “There is no possible resolution to the crisis in Haiti without the rule of law and an independent judiciary.”

In a separate report, Defend Haiti’s Democracy noted that under the current administration, systematic human rights violations have escalated dramatically and that there is a growing consensus of civil society across Haiti, supported by international human rights professionals, activists and politicians, calling on the international community to support the calls of ordinary Haitians for urgent change.

“Politically motivated massacres, kidnappings and killings have become a way of life for ordinary Haitians,” the report says. “Fear among the general population is at a level not seen since the Duvalier era.”

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