Political Kidnappings Target Human Rights Activists in Haiti

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

  • Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, photo by Darren Ell

    Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, photo by Darren Ell

Written by Roger Annis

After Afghanistan, Haiti is the second largest recipient of Canadian development assistance in the world. According to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who visited the Caribbean country this summer, “It is apparent that the people who live there feel increasingly secure, and it is gratifying to see Canadian aid achieving real results for the long-suffering people of that community.”

But on August 12, less than a month after the PM's visit, one of Haiti's most respected human and social rights activists was kidnapped one day after he finished working as an adviser to a Canadian human rights delegation. Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine has not been heard from since.

Roger Annis, from the Toronto Haiti Action Committee, was one of the members of the delegation Lovinsky was leading. He visited Guelph last week to discuss the findings of the delegation and Lovinsky’s kidnapping. In an article for the Dominion, Annis wrote:

“His disappearance may not be a criminal kidnapping. It may be that some among the Haitian elite and its foreign backers have decided to silence Lovinsky. If true, the implications for democracy and political rights in Haiti are very disturbing.”

Lovinsky is an active member of the Fanmi Lavalas, the political party represented by former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide until the 2004 coup d’état involving the Canadian, American and French military. He was planning to run for Senate this year, and is considered the inspirational leader of the September 30th foundation, an organization dedicated to defend political prisoners and victims of police violence and repression.

Since Aristide’s removal, the Lavalas party members have been struggling to regroup despite immense danger. Two weeks ago, another Lavalas member and humanitarian worker, Maryse Narcisse, was kidnapped from her home at gunpoint.

Annis told his Guelph audience that he was appalled at the lack of political and media attention to the kidnappings in Canada, particularly since Canadian police officers are currently training the Haitian National Police.

“I would like if the CBC would send a team of reporters to Haiti to figure out what’s going wrong as they should have done all along,” Annis said.

The February 2004 coup d’état sent Haiti’s first democratically elected president into exile. The two years that followed were among the most violent in recent Haitian history. Respected medical journal The Lancet published a report in 2006 stating that over 8,000 people died violently and over 35,000 women and girls were raped in the 22 months after Aristide’s removal.

"4,000 [of the deaths] had occurred at the hands of the Haitian National Police and UN forces, but that kind of repression from police has eased,” Annis explained. “But there is an ever present danger of returning to the violence that was in force in the interim two years. Something is going to have to give, because protests are going to continue.”

Annis said that Haiti’s social and economic needs are being ignored while the new government pursues policies of privatization and layoff of workers in the public institutions that remain. Many are also angered by the continued presence of foreign military troops and Canadian police, both of whom have been accused of perpetrating or ignoring human rights abuses in Haiti during the past three years.

“Number one is the issue of sovereignty,” Annis said. “It’s difficult to have economic development when you have political instability. Throughout its 200 year history, Haiti has never been given freedom to govern itself and has constantly been the object of international intervention.”

For more information about the Canadian human rights delegation to Haiti, visit Annis' blog.

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