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Weekly Report - 30 July 2020 (WR-20-30)

HAITI: Gang links back under the spotlight

The dismissal of Haiti’s justice minister Lucmanne Délille after he condemned the presence of the G9 An Fanmi criminal gang has revived concerns about links between criminal gangs and top officials. It follows the recent release of two reports by local human rights groups Réseau National de Défense des Droits Humains (RNDDH) and La Fondasyon Je Klere (FJKL) which accuse the Parti Haïtien Tèt Kale (PHTK) government led by President Jovenel Moïse of collusion with criminal gangs active in neighbourhoods of Port-au-Prince where there is strong anti-government sentiment.

Délille was sacked the day after he gave a press conference condemning the presence of armed members of the G9 An Fanmi criminal gang at a protest in Port-au-Prince, where they were not confronted by the authorities. He was cited by the local media as expressing concern that “armed bandits are taking over the streets of the capital to terrorise peaceful citizens” and calling on the police to “track down these criminals”. He has since been replaced by the former head of the anti-corruption unit Rockefeller Vincent.

With no official reason given for Délille’s departure, concerns intensified after Reynold Georges, then legal adviser to President Moïse, gave an interview with Émancipation FM radio station on 14 July, in which he appeared to suggest that G9 An Fanmi worked on behalf of those in power. When asked whether he believed G9 was controlled by the private sector or by the authorities, Georges responded: “The G9 file…I don’t believe it, that’s not the whole truth. There are other important people looking to manipulate those guys…I believe that is those in power.” Three days after the interview, Georges resigned: his resignation letter, as circulated in the local media, stated that government policy was not in line with his “ideals or convictions”.

With Moïse having committed to holding overdue legislative elections, Helen La Lime, the head of the UN Integrated Office in Haiti (Binuh) noted a recent increase in gang activity linked to elections. In an address to the UN Security Council on 19 June, she said: “The past weeks have seen a marked increase in the frequency and intensity of clashes between rival armed gangs…vying to control greater swathes of territory in the most populous neighbourhoods of the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, likely in an effort to exert influence on the outcome of elections in those constituencies”.

  • Elections

On 18 May (Haitian Flag Day, a national holiday) President Moïse announced his commitment to holding long overdue legislative and municipal elections. Moïse, who faced mass protests and calls to resign last year over alleged corruption, high fuel prices, spiralling inflation, and perceived incompetence, has effectively been ruling by decree since January, when legislators’ terms lapsed following the failure to hold elections in October 2019.

RNDDH and FJKL went a step further. In its report released on 23 June, RNDDH details instances where state security forces allegedly participated in violence against civilians. This includes the use of police vehicles in a series of killings in late May, which left 34 dead in the Pont Rouge area of Port-au-Prince which has emerged as a pocket of anti-government resistance. According to RNDDH, “armed gangs protected by…Moïse’s authority are becoming more powerful every day. They organise with the blessing of the authorities who provide them with weapons and munitions. They generally benefit from police protection. One example is [gang leader and former police officer] Jimmy Cherizier (‘Barbecue’), who is authorised to use police vehicles as long as he promises to attack deprived areas that harbour members of the political opposition.” These concerns were echoed by FJKL in a report issued on 22 June which also warned of armed groups linked to the political opposition, painting a violent picture of a capital city where “via armed bandits the [political classes] fight over the area from lower Delmas to Waf Jeremi, encompassing La Saline, Chancerelles, Pont Rouge, up to Cité Soleil [Haiti’s biggest slum]”.