Sunday, October 02, 2011

Roger Annis

Photo by John Carroll

Letter to the editor, Ottawa Citizen:
Foreign powers are the principal beneficiaries of impunity for human rights crimes in Haiti

Vancouver BC
October 2, 2011

To: Mr. Gerry Nott, Publisher and Editor in Chief, Ottawa Citizen
Mr. Peter Robb, Deputy Editor, News, Ottawa Citizen

Dear Mr. Nott, Mr. Robb,

The call by Amnesty International Canada's Alex Neve and co-author Andrew Thompson for prosecution of former Haitian tyrant Jean-Claude Duvalier in your edition of September 26 (reproduced below) is timely and welcome. We would like to add here a few critical thoughts and observations on the Canadian government’s role and responsibilities in Haiti that will help to set a fuller context.

Mr. Neve and Mr. Thompson write that Canada should press the current president Michel Martelly to "get down to the business of justice" by ending the standoff between himself and the country’s other elected institutions and proceeding with a prosecution of Mr. Duvalier. A little explanation is in order.

Martelly's constitutional role is to facilitate the formation of a government by nominating a prime minister. The nominee must be acceptable to Haiti's elected House of Representatives (Chambre des députés) and Senate, so a degree of tact and compromise on the part of the president is required. It is the successful nominee for prime minister who then forms a government.

The current standoff results from Martelly’s wish to have a fellow, right-wing ideologue accepted as prime minister. Thankfully, the House and Senate have refused to rubber stamp his first two nominations—businessman Daniel Gerard Rouzier and disgraced former chief cop of Haiti under the illegal coup d’etat regime of 2004-06, Bernard Gousse.[1]

Neve and Thompson write that Canada should pressure Martelly to get on with the nomination process. They are correct in so urging. But words of caution are called for.

Canada, the U.S. and Europe are part of the problem here because they bankrolled the exclusionary election process that brought Martelly to power six months ago. It is not surprising that Martelly would show no interest in the Duvalier prosecution because he is an associate of those with close ties to the former tyrant’s regime. He has surrounded himself with advisers who were ministers or other functionaries in and around the regime. Martelly was a vigorous supporter of the overthrow of elected government in 2004.[2]

What’s more, Canada has already refused an explicit call to assist the Haitian judicial system to prosecute Duvalier. It came in the form of a presentation to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development of the Canadian Parliament in early March 2011 by René Magloire, special advisor on legal issues to then-President René Préval.[3]

It now appears that the U.S., at least, is smarting under the international condemnation of the dysfunction of the Martelly presidency that is has so vigorously supported. Earlier this month, it stepped in to impose the nomination for prime minister of a Haitian-born but foreign-residing assistant to Bill Clinton named Garry Conille.[4] The House has accepted the new nominee in a unanimous vote; a vote in the Senate is still pending.

In arguing that Canada should step in and push Martelly in a certain political direction, Neve and Thompson pen an unfortunate and prejudicial choice of words. They write, “For too long, including during the terrifying Duvalier years, Haiti has suffered from a culture of impunity.”

Of which “Haiti” are they writing? Yes, the “Haiti” of the country’s economic elite has long enjoyed impunity in imposing extreme poverty and gross violations of human rights on their countrymen and countrywomen. Its ruthless rule has long enjoyed the backing or the acquiescence of the so-called democracies of the hemisphere and Europe.

The “Haiti” of the country’s poor majority, on the other hand, has always been deeply committed to democracy, the rule of law and accountability of political leaders. This Haiti rose up in 1986 in its millions to oust the Duvalier tyranny. Ever since, it has fought against great odds to move the country forward along a path of democracy, social justice and respect for human dignity.

Alas, that valiant struggle has been frustrated and betrayed every step of the way by the big countries that hypocritically claim to stand for human rights. In 2004, Canada, the U.S. and Europe joined in the overthrow of Haiti’s then elected and socially progressive government.

The overriding problem with human rights impunity in Haiti resides not within Haiti’s borders but within those countries that sponsor and organize coups, aid embargos and all kinds of other destructive intervention in Haiti’s internal affairs.

In Canada, members of Parliament and the Senate, all the major media outlets and an important part of the country’s international development community turn a blind eye to so much of what has gone wrong in Haiti. So who are the real perpetrators and beneficiaries of impunity in Haiti?

It is good that Amnesty International Canada is speaking out for democracy and human rights in Haiti. We hope to see more in the coming months. We urge it to direct more of its concerns towards ending the foreign intervention that is the fundamental reason for Haiti’s poverty and social underdevelopment. We urge it to join with us in seeing vocal and active advocates for social justice for Haiti among members of the Canadian Parliament and Senate.

Haiti is being run into the ground by an international intervention regime enjoying virtual impunity, for example in the case of the catastrophic introduction of cholera into the country by the Nepalese contingent of MINUSTAH. It now faces a new, grave threat in the form of a plan by Michel Martelly, apparently with the backing of the United States (and Canada?),[5] to revive a Haitian armed forces that was dissolved in 1995 by then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to the immense satisfaction of most Haitian people. The country needs all the genuine international assistance it can get.

Roger Annis
Canada Haiti Action Network
778 858 5179

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