Human Rights Defenders Continue to Face Threats and Intimidation
|Wednesday, 21 August 2013 16:25|
Human rights defenders in Haiti are reporting new death threats, and seem to be openly persecuted by powerful individuals and groups, as Mark Snyder and Other Worlds describe today. In an article posted on Huffington Post, Snyder profiles the case of attorney Patrice Florvilus and the Haitian human rights organization Defenders of the Oppressed. Snyder writes:
Among the latter may be former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier himself, as
Snyder goes on to place the threats and charges against Florvilus in the context of other human rights defenders, such as Bureau des Avocats Internationaux director Mario Joseph, who have also experienced threats and harassment from both unknown sources and Haitian authorities. Along with Joseph, Florvilus has stood up for some of the most vulnerable members of post-earthquake Haitian society – internally displaced persons (IDP’s). Like Joseph, Florvilus has also found himself confronted by attorney Reynold Georges, “best known,” Snyder writes, “for representing the recently returned ex-dictator, Jean-Claude Duvalier, who faces charges of crimes against humanity.” As with Joseph, the threats against Florvilus have prompted international alarm from Amnesty International, among others.
In this case, however, there appears to be a more direct connection between Georges – and Duvalier – and forced eviction and other rights violations against IDP’s. The incident in question is an April arson attempt against IDP Camp Acra, the site of multiple such attacks aimed at forcing residents to leave. According to Snyder:
Snyder reports how following inaction by the Haitian National Police, camp residents protested. It was then that the police acted, “randomly” arresting two men from the crowd of protesters: Méris Civil and Darlin Lexima. It was Civil who died in police custody hours after his arrest; Florvilus and DOP were able to secure Lexima’s release. Lexima says he was tortured by police. Florvilus took on Lexima and the Civil family as clients, and following that – as has happened to Joseph, he started to get followed by the police.
According to the DOP, however, this time the harassment and intimidation has come not just from Duvalierists and the police, but also from MINUSTAH:
Under its mandate, MINUSTAH is supposed to “to support …Haitian human rights institutions and groups in their efforts to promote and protect human rights; and to monitor and report on the human rights situation in the country,” as well as “protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence.” But as we have described before, aside from MINUSTAH soldiers’ own shootings and killings of civilians and other crimes, the UN troops have often supported HNP in their actions even when those actions have resulted in killings, forced evictions, and other severe human rights violations.
While U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is proposing “reducing MINUSTAH's military strength from 6,270 to 5,021 by June 2014” and is reportedly considering “replacing …MINUSTAH, ‘with a smaller, more focused assistance mission by 2016,’” such a time table far exceeds Haitians’ patience for the U.N. mission. Due in part to MINUSTAH perpetration of human rights abuses, and its having caused the cholera epidemic through reckless waste disposal near the Artibonite River, 72.2 percent of Port-au-Prince residents who were polled in August 2011 had wanted MINUSTAH out of the country either right away, within six months or within a year.