A Haitian former coup leader wanted by the United States for smuggling cocaine called on his supporters on Sunday to resist “anarchists” who forced a presidential election to be canceled — a sign of deep polarization that could lead to more unrest.
The former mercenary, Guy Philippe, called for counterprotests and said he would not recognize any transitional government put in place when outgoing President Michel Martelly leaves office on Feb. 7 unless it was representative of the provinces.
“We are ready for war,” Philippe said. “We will divide the country.”
It was not clear how much support he can muster, but he remains popular in his southern stronghold of Grande-Anse, and the tone of his remarks points to the depth of polarization over the political crisis.
Haiti was due to choose Martelly’s replacement on Sunday, but the two-man race was postponed indefinitely after opposition candidate Jude Celestin refused to participate over alleged fraud that sparked anti-government protests and violence.
Some form of interim government is likely to be formed to oversee the election process.
To know Mario Joseph is to wait for Mario Joseph. You will wait for him to return from a last-minute hearing, to stop barking into one of his two mobile phones, to wrap up a meeting that started an hour late. And you will wait because Joseph, managing attorney at the NGO Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, is the best human rights lawyer in Haiti, a country where human rights are honored mostly in the breach. From dawn till dusk, clients gather on his office’s bougainvillea-laced terrace: brave women going after rapists, homeless Haitians evicted from post-quake tent camps, cholera victims seeking reparations.
Joseph’s eyes are often red-rimmed from lack of sleep, but his suits are sharp, his ties are sumptuous and his shoes and fingernails are buffed till they shine. With his percussive Creole and typically stern countenance, Joseph can be intimidating. It’s easy to forget that he was raised in rural poverty by a single mother who couldn’t read, and that he managed to get a law degree only through a series of flukes and his own determination. If fate had had its way, Joseph would have been like the millions of Haitians who never attend school, never see a doctor and live on less than $2 per day.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti–A Haitian judge on Thursday summoned Jean-Claude Duvalier to appear in court after the former dictator defied an order to attend a hearing to determine whether he should again face charges for human rights abuses committed during the nearly 15 years of his brutal regime. A prosecutor said the judge’s order requires Duvalier to appear in court next Thursday.
In an airless courtroom filled with human rights activists, journalists and other observers, magistrate Jean Joseph Lebrun also dismissed an appeal filed by the defense team that sought to take the case to the Supreme Court.
The rulings in Haiti’s Court of Appeal provided some hope to a group of plaintiffs who are seeking to have the former dictator better known as “Baby Doc” prosecutor for alleged rights abuses. “Today’s decision is an important victory for Duvalier’s victims who never gave up hope of seeing him in court, and for the Haitian people who have the right to know what happened during the dark years of the Duvalier dictatorship,” said Reed Brody, counsel and a spokesman for Human Rights Watch. “It’s now up to the authorities to make sure that this summons is swiftly executed.”