The armed assault that reportedly killed Haitian President Jovenel Moïse and injured his wife early Wednesday is a shocking indicator of the serious human rights and political crisis that Haiti has been facing for years, and must be promptly and impartially investigated alongside the grave and ongoing human rights violations in the country, Amnesty International said today.
“The killing of President Jovenel Moïse must be immediately and impartially investigated alongside the grave human rights violations and chronic impunity that ordinary people have suffered under his watch,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.
“This is a wake-up call for the international community, and for the Haitian authorities who have overseen chronic impunity and ignored the calls of human rights defenders that has paved the way for such a serious crisis.”
Amnesty International is concerned at the potential escalation of violence in coming days and will be carefully monitoring any potential protests that ensue, attacks against human rights defenders, and attacks against ordinary Haitians. The organization calls on the Haitian authorities to put human rights at the centre of their response to the political crisis.
The international community must also provide all assistance to the country to find ways to de-escalate violence and provide human rights protection, including for journalists and human rights defenders. States also have an obligation to allow those who leave the country in search of international protection to seek asylum.
Protests and widespread violence have been ongoing in Haiti since at least 2019, as Amnesty International previously documented.
In this context, human rights defenders and journalists have been under increasing attack.
In July, the Committee for the Protection of Journalists condemned the killing of journalist Diego Charles. An activist, Antoinette Duclair, was also killed. In May, Amnesty International also documented the case of Milostène Castin, a defender of the rights of subsistence farmers who have suffered land seizures, displacement, and violent attacks in north-eastern Haiti.
The Observatoire Haïtien des Crimes contre l’humanité (OHCCH) and Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic also issued a report in April alleging complicity of the Haitian government in three massacres targeting impoverished neighbourhoods carried out between 2018 and 2020. The report points to evidence that the attacks, carried out by gangs, were supported by state actors, including President Moïse, and alleges these acts could amount to crimes against humanity.
A UN report, published in January 2021, found a sharp increase in human rights violations and abuses of the right to life during the 2018 and 2019 protests and called on the authorities to address underlying concerns including “impunity, corruption, structural inequality and adequate standard of living in order to restore public confidence and prevent future unrests.” Civil society organizations, including the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti have repeatedly raised concerns about chronic impunity and judicial dysfunction in Haiti, including in a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights held in December 2020.
Haiti: Human Rights Defender in Danger (Campaigns, 28 May 2021), https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/amr36/4192/2021/en/
Haiti: Annual Report 2019 (Research, 2020), https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/americas/haiti/report-haiti/
Haiti: Amnesty International verifies evidence of excessive use of force against protesters (News, 31 October 2019), https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/10/haiti-amnesty-verifies-evidence-excessive-force-against-protesters/
Haiti: Authorities must protect protesters’ right to life and deal with underlying causes of the crisis (News, 18 February 2019), https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/02/haiti-authorities-must-protect-protesters-right-to-life-and-deal-with-underlying-causes-of-the-crisis/