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In Haiti, gangs face society, what are the prospects?

  • April 1, 2024
  • 13
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By Gotson Pierre

P-au-P., April 1, 2024 [AlterPresse] — The follow-up to be given to the multiple crimes committed by gangs over several years of acute security crisis in Haiti, and particularly over the past month, continues to mobilize attention and opinion, observes AlterPresse.

The gangs, who have launched a vast violent offensive on the capital since February 29, are not giving up and are increasing their attacks daily against people and property, while expressing their desire to seize power.

In communications relayed on social networks, they demand their place in the negotiation process to end the political crisis.

The question of amnesty for crimes committed by gangs is introduced into the public debate, while multiple voices argue the need for the executioners to be brought face to face with their victims in a process of justice, reparations and pacification of society, undermined by violence.

A Truth and Justice Commission

The Presidential Transitional Council, which has not yet been officially named and installed, provides for the establishment of a Truth and Justice Commission, as was done upon the return to constitutional order in 1994, after the 3 years since the bloody military coup of September 1991.

During these three years full of abuses of all kinds committed by the military and paramilitary, around 3,000 people were murdered, according to statistics at the time.

However, 5,000 people were murdered in Haiti in the last year alone, as part of the violence of armed gangs, who now occupy more than 80% of the capital, according to data from the UN.

In addition to these victims, more than 1,500 people were killed in Haiti during the first 3 months of 2024.

There will be no amnesty, but a quest for justice, according to the political party Organization of the People in Struggle (Opl), member of the January 30 Collective, a coalition with a representative within the Presidential Transitional Council.

“Society has been the victim of multiple atrocities for a long time. There is a quest for social justice, which resonates throughout the country. The victims of massacres are looking for justice,” declared Danio Siriack, spokesperson for the Opl, in an interview with AlterPresse/AlterRadio.

Weapons at the table?

Economist and political scientist Joseph Harold Pierre says he is opposed to gangs being put on the negotiating table.

Even if they enjoy international visibility, the armed groups are made up of bandits, have no ideological motive and are fragmented, he argues in an interview with AlterPresse/AlterRadio.

He says he is against any negotiation with armed gangs, who have perpetrated so many assassinations, so many crimes, so many massacres and so much social destruction across Haiti.

“Dialogue with the gangs would be to justify their criminal acts. “It is the greatest harm that can be done to society, morally, politically and ideologically.”

Since Thursday, February 29, 2024, armed gangs have ransacked and burned various private and public infrastructures in the metropolitan area of ​​the capital, Port-au-Prince, even preventing the return to Haiti of de facto Prime Minister Ariel Henry, forced to resign from his post on Monday March 11, 2024, under American pressure.

Again on April 1, bursts of shooting were reported throughout the day in various locations in the capital’s metropolitan area. At least one educational establishment, the Petit Séminaire Collège Saint-Martial, was attacked and part of the building was set on fire.

At the height of the show of force of the armed gangs, the former police officer Guy Philippe suggested that he would be ready to implement an amnesty program for their leaders, once elected president, in an interview given to the agency Reuters.

Guy Philippe, who in 2004 led an armed movement against the administration of former president Jean Bertrand Aristide, declares that he advocates a so-called “peaceful” “revolution”.

The 55-year-old former police officer was deported to Haiti, aboard a flight with more than a dozen others. He served a 6-year prison sentence in the United States of America for money laundering linked to illicit drug trafficking, after his arrest in Haiti on Thursday January 5, 2017.

Justice in one form or another

Jurist Jacques Letang, president of the Haitian Bar Federation (Fbh), advocates the approach of “transitional justice” in the face of the trauma caused by armed violence in Haiti.

Transitional justice is “the full range of various processes and mechanisms implemented by a society to attempt to confront massive abuses committed in the past, with a view to establishing responsibilities, rendering justice and enabling reconciliation”, according to the United Nations (UN).

It is time to put in place transitional justice mechanisms in Haiti as “justice of rupture”, because the State has collapsed, argues Mr. Letang.

Sociologist Ilionor Louis believes that gang members, who have become “monsters”, will have to account for their crimes.

In a conversation with AlterPresse/AlterRadio, he made a point of establishing a clear difference between armed revolutionary actions and mass murders, thefts and rapes for the purposes of proven personal enrichment, which cannot under any circumstances be amnestied.

He also denounced their systematic attacks against social assets such as schools and hospitals as well as small and medium-sized businesses in several neighborhoods.

“Victims are not lifeless objects. “We must shed light on all the crimes committed,” recommends the sociologist.

Any new power must pose the problem of armed gangs in Haiti, believes former Colonel Himmler Rébu and former Secretary of State for Public Security.

Rébu, who heads the political party Grand Rally for the Evolution of Haiti (Greh), asks, during an interview with AlterPresse/AlterRadio, to take into account the problem of armed violence in all perspectives of a solution to crisis.

The former head of the Ministry of Justice and Public Security (Mjsp), Me. Camille Leblanc, advocates, for his part, disarming the armed gangs, which sow terror in Haiti, and judging them for their actions.

The leaders of armed gangs, who have serious cases, can voluntarily surrender to the State, which will disarm them, so that they can be judged, wishes Me. Camille Leblanc, in an interview with AlterPresse/AlterRadio.

He also suggests identifying ways to disarm the thousands of young people who are part of these armed gangs, and integrating them into training processes.

Women say no to amnesty

The feminist organizations Solidarite fanm ayisyèn (Sofa), Kay Fanm and Fondation Toya as well as the independent feminist activist Sabine Manigat claim to distance themselves from any discourse, “which would like to transform criminal acts, publicly claimed on numerous occasions by their perpetrators, into calling revolutionary political actions, in order to justify an amnesty measure and a legitimization of criminal groups.

In a recent press release, these entities reiterate their desire to continue to fight against impunity, while emphasizing that they remain firmly attached to the principles of justice, respect, solidarity and sisterhood.

They stand in solidarity with the relatives of innocent people murdered by criminal gangs, especially since the Saline massacre (Port-au-Prince) in November 2018 as well as with all the victims of mass crimes, kidnappings, looting and burning of their homes and property.

They express their solidarity with all the women devastated by gang rapes, perpetrated by criminal gangs in different neighborhoods.

“We are convinced that our determination and the combination of our capacities contribute to the constitution of the base, on which we can collectively rebuild, with respectful external solidarity, our institutions and our damaged society.” [gp apr 01/04/2024 22:00]