Haiti: Judicial harassment against human rights lawyers continues

October 28, 2013

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - croppedreports that on 22 October 2013, human rights lawyer André Michel in Haiti was arbitrarily held in police custody after police attempted to carry out a search on his vehicle. He was eventually released the next morning but remains at risk of arrest. André Michel is involved, as legal representative of the complainant, in a case of corruption and embezzlement of public funds allegedly implicating members of the President’s family.Since the beginning of the corruption case, André Michel has denounced receiving intimidation and threats and an arrest warrant, never executed, was issued against him.

While on his way back home in the evening of 22 October, André Michel’s car was stopped by police officers, who attempted to carry out a search of the vehicle. The human rights lawyer refused to get off the car and accept the search unless a justice of the peace (juge de paix) was called, request which is in accordance with Haitian law. The search was eventually carried out in the presence of the juge de paix, and showed no evidence of wrongdoing. In spite of this, the Office of the Prosecutor ordered that André Michel be held in custody overnight on charges of obstructing justice, in violation of legal provisions that prohibit arrests after 6 pm, except in the case of flagrante delicto.   The same evening, hundreds of supporters of André Michel gathered in front of the Office of the Prosecutor demanding his release. The police intervened to disperse the crowd including by using tear gas.  André Michel was eventually let go by the authorities in the morning of 23 October. Shortly after the release, however, a member of the Office of the Prosecutor declared to the press that an earlier arrest warrant against André Michel, pending since July 2013 but never executed, would be carried out. A government official reportedly publicly declared that André Michel was a fugitive.

Since the beginning of the corruption case, André Michel has denounced receiving intimidation and threats. An arrest warrant, on the basis of his alleged involvement in a murder, was issued against him in July 2013, shortly after the beginning of the corruption case. André Michel’s client, the complainant in the corruption case, was arrested on the basis of the same charge and remains in detention to date.

In the last two years, an increasing number of human rights lawyers, including MEA Nominee Mario Joseph, complained of intimidation, judicial harassment and arbitrary actions by police and judicial authorities.

[The Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers of 1990 outlines in paragraph 16: “Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.”]

One Response to “Haiti: Judicial harassment against human rights lawyers continues”

  1. […] a recent post I referred to the worsening climate for Human Rights Defenders in Haiti (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/haiti-judicial-harassment-against-human-rights-lawyers-conti&#8230😉  and now we learn of the killing of one of the leading HRDs, Daniel Dorsainvil (or Dorsinvil) […]

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