Letter from the Bureau Des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) to CARICOM on the proposed International Intervention in Haiti

By Mario Joseph, Bureau Des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), Nov. 4, 2023

Dr. Carla Natalie Barnett
General secretary
Caribbean community

Dr Barnett:

We are writing to you regarding the proposed armed international intervention in Haiti which was requested by Dr. Ariel Henry, the de facto Prime Minister of Haiti, and supported by the United States and Canada, to explain that any support for the Intervention by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) would violate CARICOM's democratic principles, betray the centuries-old struggle of Haitians for democracy and sovereignty, and implicate CARICOM in attacks on civilians exercising their basic human rights.

Since the intervention was proposed, Haitians have taken to the streets by their tens of thousands to oppose it. We have issued statements, spoken in the media and done everything we can to let the world know that the intervention is designed to support the unconstitutional, corrupt and repressive de facto government and stifle legitimate dissent.

De facto Prime Minister Henry took office not through the procedure required by the Haitian Constitution, but through an announcement by the US-led Core Group. He had been appointed by President Jovenel Moïse of the Parti Haïtien Tèt Kale (PHTK), whose term had expired five months earlier. The PHTK has not held fair or timely elections in the decade it has held power. The Haitian Parliament became inoperative in January 2020 and the terms of all local elected officials ended in July of the same year. The Supreme Court of Haiti has not had the strength to constitute a quorum of five (5) Judges since March. This situation constitutes a sharp break with the right to a fair and open democratic system guaranteed by Article VI of the CARICOM Civil Society Charter.

The governance of PHTK has been evidently brutal. In April 2021, the Haitian Observatory of Crimes Against Humanity (OHCCH) and Harvard Law School released a report establishing that gangs and government officials have collaborated in deadly attacks on neighborhoods suspected of harboring political opponents. and voters opposed to the PHTK. During the current wave of protests, police have arrested dozens of activists engaged in legal protest activities and fired on legal demonstrations. Journalists have been beaten and killed. This repression constitutes serious violations of the rights guaranteed by Articles IV (Right to life, liberty and security of the person), VII (Assemblies, Demonstrations and Petitions) and VIII (Freedom of information and access to information) of the Civil Society Charter.

Throughout PHTK's rule, powerful members of the international community have refrained from criticizing the government's human rights record. In an exception that proves the rule, in early 2018 the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Haiti, Susan Page, issued a press release diplomatically urging the PHTK government to pursue notorious cases involving police killings and corruption. When President Moïse complained, Ambassador Page was removed from office, without any objections from the UN or any other member of the international community. At the same time, the same powerful members of the international community provided substantial diplomatic and financial support to the PHTK government. Haitians are convinced that the proposed intervention is an extension of this support, intended to protect the government against the massive protests demanding the departure of the PHTK and the return to democratic and constitutional order.

Haitians are well aware that the most recent international armed intervention to combat gang violence in Haiti, MINUSTAH, was a deadly and costly failure. MINUSTAH spent 9 billion US dollars over thirteen years and left Haiti less democratic than when it arrived. MINUSTAH soldiers, under pressure from the United States, chased down suspected gang members – young men from working-class neighborhoods – and beat them, sometimes killing nearby women and children. The executions temporarily reduced crime, but undermined the rule of law and set the stage for the dramatic rebound in gang violence today. MINUSTAH further eroded the rule of law by illegally arresting dissidents and providing reinforcements for deadly police raids on political opponents.

The United Nations has also insulted the Haitian people, caused enormous suffering and death, and flouted the rule of law by dumping cholera-tainted sewage into our rivers and refusing to comply with its legal obligations to repair the damage caused. Six years ago, UN human rights expert Philip Alston said the UN's response goes directly against the principles of accountability, transparency and the rule of law. Rights that the UN itself promotes globally. The organization's continued failure to comply with its legal obligations today deprives it of any moral standing to promote the rule of law in Haiti.

The documented bad practices of the National Police of Haiti (PNH) during the PHTK regime and of the UN troops during the MINUSTAH mandate lead us to conclude that the proposed armed intervention will be involved in the repression of activities legal mobilizations for the Rights of Public Liberties and the summary execution of young men and boys in working-class neighborhoods.

We would be deeply saddened to see our CARICOM brothers and sisters come here to arbitrarily shoot, massacre and arrest protesters and support a repressive government at the behest of powerful countries that gained their status through the Atlantic slave trade. But Haitians have been fighting for freedom ever since we launched our revolution that spawned the first independent black republic. We will continue to fight with all the means at our disposal. Our sadness at the betrayal of our brothers and sisters in CARICOM, who have benefited so much from our struggle, would not diminish our resolve to defend our freedom against all who threaten it.

Haitians are grateful to CARICOM for providing the world with an example of principled support for Haitian democracy in 2004. As you know, following the February 29 coup, CARICOM refused to allow the unconstitutional government imposed by the United States to participate in large meetings. Despite substantial pressure from powerful countries now leading the initiative for armed intervention, CARICOM remained true to its principles and alongside the Haitian people, and ultimately helped force a return to democratic order in 2006.

The Haitian people are looking to CARICOM today to replicate the example the community set in 2004, not to betray it. We do not want our CARICOM brothers and sisters to come with arms to help powerful countries impose a repressive regime on us. We want our brothers and sisters to come in solidarity, respecting democratic principles. We want CARICOM to insist once again that the international community stop supporting an unconstitutional and imposed regime to allow Haitians to find a democratic and lasting solution to their political crisis.

In Solidarity,

Mario Joseph

November 4, 2022


Translated by CHIP editors


Posted Feb. 19, 2023