Declaration of the Group of 184
– Following the No. 2 Release of the Group of 184 stating that, under the current conditions, it is impossible to create the necessary structures and mechanisms for free, transparent and credible elections;
– Following the March 19-20 visit in Haiti of a high level OAS delegation, who established a March 30, 2003 deadline for the formation of the CEP, through the implementation of a series of measures by the government aimed at guaranteeing the citizens? safety and the respect of civil liberties;
Given that the March 30 deadline has expired;
The Group of 184 addresses the following comments to the nation and the International Community :
1- Interference with the Freedom of Assembly and Expression
During the last few weeks, the behavior of police and political authorities, escorted by armed civilians during peaceful demonstrations organized by the civil society, has clearly shown that, far from being stopped, the acts of repression and serious disregard for human rights are still perpetrated. For instance, arbitrary and violent acts were recently committed in complete impunity against teachers, students, and journalists in front of the French embassy, as well as against the Caravan of Hope of the Group of 184 in Les Cayes, against a students? protest in Saint-Marc, against rallies of the women movement in Port-au-Prince, and against a march of the Papaye Peasants? Movement in Plateau Central.
2- Failure to Arrest the Leaders of Gangs Responsible for the Actions of December 17, 2001, and to Disband those Gangs
The measures recently adopted by the regime, in response to the request from the OAS delegation to arrest, before March 30, leaders of political gangs identified in the report of the OAS Investigation Commission as linked to the December 17, 2001 crimes, have not produced any result. Such is the outcome, even in the most critical cases of Amiot Métayer, member of the so-called Cannibal Army in Gonaives, and those who have been charged with the murder of Brignol Lindor in Petit-Goave. The apparent measures adopted by the regime are perceived by the public as mere window-dressing, without any chance of leading to the disarmament and banning of the political gangs closely associated with the regime.
3 ? Changes in the Haitian National Police
The changes in the leadership of the PNH (French acronym for the Haitian National Police) have introduced, at the highest levels of the institution, outsiders whose credibility is seriously questioned. Those changes, having taken place in violation of the provisions of the Constitution and the law, fail to inspire any trust among the citizens and the population, victims of the outrageous politicization and corruption within the PNH.
Moreover, it was noticed that the high officials removed from the PNH were recycled in a parallel and undefined structure, unrecognized by the Constitution and the law, called ?High Commissariat for National Security.?
4- Citizens Forced into Exile
During the last few weeks, acts of repression and intimidation have again forced many citizens and public employees into exile, because these had tried to exercise their rights and perform their duties in conformity with the law and democratic principles. Notably, among them, were journalists from the provinces and the capital, judges, and commissioners who were persecuted and harassed by the government due to their work in the context of the Amiot Métayer affair.
5- The Case of Jean Dominique?s Murder
Following a request for a court decision by the OAS delegation in the case of Jean Dominique?s murder, there is little hope that justice will prevail. There are, instead, particularly troubling questions about missing evidence concerning those who ordered the crime and the actual perpetrators. According to jurists, members of the press, and human rights organizations who had the opportunity to read the court decision, now expected for almost three years, it is rather a mockery of justice and an insult to the conscience of the nation.
6- International Assistance in Security Matters
The international assistance in security matters, described in Resolution 822, and the supervision of the PNH have not materialized so far in any visible, significant, and effective way, in spite of the accords formally signed by the OAS and the Government of Haiti.
To conclude, the position of the civil society, clearly expressed in Release No. 2 of the Group of 184, remains unchanged. The electoral disasters of the recent years have only driven our country deeper into crisis and suffering. The participation of the civil society in the effective formation of the CEP can only take place if the required conditions are met for safety, as well as respect for the public liberties and the citizens? freedom of assembly, movement, and speech, both in the areas of civil rights and politics.
Regardless of its credibility and courage, the Provisional Electoral Council will have neither the mandate, nor the capacity to replace the established government in its mission to guarantee the security and the rights of the citizens. That was sufficiently demonstrated by the experiences of the 1987 Provisional Electoral Council, and the first 1999 Provisional Electoral Council. The civil society organizations are still convinced that the interests of both the country and the democratic cause will be better served if, within a realistic deadline, an electoral process is implemented credibly and without rush, in a reasonable climate of trust and safety.
The ad hoc Committee:
Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Haiti Civil Society Initiative