A Presentation to the Black Congressional Caucus
Haiti: the Time for Action is Now
By BRIAN CONCANNON, Jr.
I would like to thank the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation for including this important discussion on its busy agenda. Even more, I would like to thank the members of the CBC and most especially the hosts of this panel for persistently keeping Haiti's poor on their agendas, and for their principled stands on behalf of democracy, sovereignty and justice in Haiti.
My remarks today will focus on the elections scheduled for this year and on U.S. support for those elections and for the Haitian police. In keeping with the panel's apt title that "The time for action is now," I will offer suggestions for actions, and anticipate events that will soon require action.
Haiti is in the midst of a comprehensive program of electoral cleansing. Its ballots are being cleansed of political dissidents, its voting rolls cleansed of the urban and rural poor. The streets are being cleansed of anti-government political activity. The cleansing violates the fundamental human rights guaranteed by the charters and other instruments of the OAS and the UN. It also violates the electoral standards that are applied to elections in other countries, and that were applied to elections run by Haiti's constitutional governments. The persecution and disenfranchisement of political opponents is being conducted openly, notoriously and under the eyes of the international community. The persecution is not the result of a government unable assure adequate security, but of a deliberate and multifaceted campaign against opponents by Haiti's Interim Government. This government's primary benefactor is the American taxpayer.
Haiti's ballots have been cleansed by prohibiting or discouraging political opponents, especially supporters of the ousted constitutional government. In some cases this has been done by the application of rules that appear facially neutral, but have a disproportionate impact. For example, all Presidential candidates were equally required to register in person by last Thursday's deadline, but only Lavalas candidates could not meet this requirement because they were in jail. Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste, widely believed to be the most popular potential candidate, was arrested without a warrant two months ago yesterday. He has been held in jail since then on trumped-up charges, despite a call for his release by twenty-nine members of the U.S. House of Representatives led by Rep. Waters, a call which was echoed by Amnesty International, Human Rights First, and hundreds of religious, community and human rights leaders throughout the world.
Yvon Neptune, Haiti's last constitutional Prime Minister, has been in prison since May 2004. U.S. Ambassador James Foley, in his last address before leaving Haiti last month, called Mr. Neptune's detention "a violation of human rights, an injustice and an abuse of power." He aptly contrasted Prime Minister Neptune's treatment with the expedited release of death squad leader and convicted murderer Jodel Chamblain at the same time. Although formal charges were finally announced against Mr. Neptune on Monday, the charges are the fruit of a long process packed with irregularities.Full Article...