The escalating political and humanitarian crisis in Haiti has gone largely unnoticed by the world. Defend Haiti’s Democracy and partners gather Haitian and global experts to advance solutions.
The political and humanitarian crisis in Haiti of the past two years has intensified in recent months. An increasingly authoritarian president has strengthened his grip on power, ruling by decree, cracking down on opponents and abusing human rights. There is no functioning parliament or locally elected government, and, according to Haitian and international legal experts, the president’s term in power has ended, but he refuses to step down.
Last week, a devastating report by the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School and the Haitian Human Rights Observatory provided detailed evidence of widespread state-sanctioned massacres, kidnappings, rapes and murders in Haiti, targeted mainly at opponents of the government.
The legal experts, who found these abuses likely amount to crimes against humanity, will present their research at Haiti at a Crossroads, an online conference of Haitian and global experts who are gathering to advance solutions to the embattled country’s grave political crisis.
The report says, “the findings that crimes against humanity have likely taken place in Haiti, and that state actors may be liable for the crimes, have important ramifications for accountability … [it] opens the door for other countries to prosecute perpetrators found outside of Haiti… [and] the situation could be referred to the International Criminal Court by the UN Security Council.”
The severity of the crisis echoes the assault on democracy and human rights in Myanmar. But while the international community has publicly condemned the junta in Naypyidaw, they have largely remained silent on Haiti. In fact, the United Nations has, until recently, vocally supported president Moïse’s call for a constitutional referendum. Haitian legal experts believe his aim is to change the rules so he can remain in power.
“It is illegal to change the constitution by referendum” says Johnny Celestin, conference chair and spokesperson for Defend Haiti’s Democracy. “In this context of state-sanctioned crimes against humanity, it is also impossible to hold free and fair elections. While millions in Haiti go hungry, Moïse spends upwards of a million dollars on lobbyists to clean up his image. The international community must end support to the Moïse regime, call for a transitional government and help ordinary Haitians restore peace, democracy and the rule of law.”
Haiti at a Crossroads includes Haitian experts like Monique Clesca, who will speak about the dramatic increase in violence against women and girls and Etzer Emile, who will explain the economic impact of widespread violence and human rights abuses. They will work to find solutions together with global experts like Bill O’Neill, who worked for the UN in Haiti, Rwanda and Kosovo, as well as investigating mass killings in Afghanistan.
The conference will also be addressed by democratic congressmen, Rep. Hakim Jeffries and Rep. Andy Levin, who highlight the increasing disquiet among Democrats in Congress at the lack of action on the part of the new Biden administration. Last week, a letter sent by 69 House Democrats to Secretary of State Blinken, demanded urgent action in Haiti. “We have to seriously re-evaluate how we are going to engage with Haiti in the future.” Rep Jeffries will say. “We can’t continue to do the same things and expect different results.” Rep. Levin will tell the conference, “too often throughout Haitian history the US has enabled this kind of injustice… I’m ready to help craft a new foreign policy that finally listens to and amplifies the voices of Haitians themselves” and will call for “a Haitian-led democratic transition now and a new US foreign policy moving forward.”
Defend Haiti’s Democracy is asking all concerned citizens to contact their elected politicians with the following call to action.
“I am deeply concerned about the crisis in Haiti. Widespread violence is used to silence the people and suppress dissent. State-sanctioned massacres are likely crimes against humanity. This must end now. I urge the government, the United Nations and the international community to condemn the violence in Haiti, withdraw non-humanitarian support to the current administration and call for a peaceful transition of power and the restoration of democracy and the rule of law.”
Haiti at a Crossroads is a partnership between Defend Haiti's Democracy, the International Human Rights Clinic, Harvard Law School, the Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic, Yale Law School, the NYU School of Law’s Global Justice Clinic, Medgar Evers College, Caribbean Research Center, and Quisqueya University. This forum brings together experts on constitutional reform, human rights, the rule of law, economics, and governance, from Haiti and internationally. The panel will explore the current economic, political, and human rights crisis in Haiti, debunk myths and provide an evidence base for all actors to work together on identifying solutions.