Originally: Statement by Haiti Democracy Project on Eve of Public Rally in Haiti

Freedom of assembly threatened, civil society leadership harassed, democracy
at risk

Last week, the “Group of 184,” Haiti’s largest pro-democracy coalition of
civil society organizations, publicly announced its intention to sponsor a
peaceful rally in support of Haitian democracy and social reform–based on
what its leadership describes as “a new covenant for a new beginning toward
peace, social justice and development.”  The appropriate public authorities
were also formally notified at this time, in conformity with Haitian law
regulating such assemblies.  The rally–which is expected to draw thousands
of citizens concerned with the seemingly ineluctable degradation of Haiti’s
social fabric over the past decade–is scheduled for noon, Friday, November
14th, on the capital city’s central public plaza.

As of Thursday, November 13, conference organizers were able to report that preparations were going forward with the cooperation of the police.

However, on other fronts, the government has taken steps seemingly aimed at intimidating the leadership and  rank-and-file members of
the sponsoring organizations–as well as the general public–in order to
squelch this initiative, which it apparently perceives as inimical to its
own interests.  

    *     One of the principal figures of this nonpartisan civil
society movement, Andy Apaid, Jr., was served with a re-issued
subpoena to appear before the public prosecutor in connection with the
events of July 12 of this year, when the government’s armed proxies (the
so-called “popular organizations”) violently assaulted this same group as it
attempted to present its proposed new “social contract” to the Catholic
parish and public in Cité Soleil, Port-au-Prince’s sprawling seaside slum.
 The current appearance was ordered for today, Wednesday, November 12, just 48 hours prior to
the scheduled rally.)

The date on the summons was wrong and Mr. Apaid’s lawyers got the hearing reschuduled to the following week.

    *     Earlier this week, a public demonstration that targeted Mr.
Apaid personally, and “demanded” that the government take action against him
on the basis of his presumed dual citizenship in Haiti and the United
States, was staged by government supporters outside the Immigration Office.

    *     Meanwhile, government and ruling party spokespersons for have taken to the airwaves on radio and television,
unabashedly threatening anyone who has the temerity to participate in Friday’s event.  The specter of a bloodbath in the streets
of Port-au-Prince has once more been raised, as it has so many times before by all those who would continue to rule Haiti with the iron fist of


In reaction to this situation, and at the request of the Group of 184, the Haiti Democracy Project sent a small delegation to Haiti to observe the event. Each of the two delegation members has observed elections in Haiti previously for international organizations, at the request of the Haitian government. The Haiti Democracy Project believes that if this and similar lawful assemblies can occur peacefully, this will be an important confidence-building measure for a future clean and fair election.

    Both the United States Government, through its embassy in Haiti, and the Organization of American States, whose Special Mission to Haiti was
mandated more than a year ago, have recently criticized the regime for its overt suppression of freedom of assembly and the press, and the human rights violations that have been attendant on the execution of this strategy. Friday’s demonstration appears already to have garnered the support of a broad cross-section of the capital’s population. The Bush administration, quite properly, has behind the scenes pressed President Aristide to assure a peaceful event. But on the eve of this lawful rally it is necessary that such quiet diplomacy ratchet up to an unambiguous public statement urging President Aristide to allow the demonstration to proceed peacefully. This would give pause to any who intended violence. 

    Therefore, the Haiti Democracy Project is appealing to you, in your capacity as a public servant and as a longstanding friend of the Haitian
People, to intercede directly with either the U.S. State Department here in Washington, or with your contacts at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, to make such a statement and use all the leverage it has to assure a peaceful outcome.

    James R. Morrell,
    Executive Director, Haiti Democracy Project