Originally: Haiti: Right to Peaceful Assembly Denied
For Immediate Release. For further information, contact Mr. Jocelyn McCalla, Executive Director a.i., (212) 337-0005 ext. 11,
(862) 452-7196 (cell) firstname.lastname@example.org
Haiti: Right to Peaceful Assembly Denied
Pro-Aristide Mobs Attack University Students to Prevent Rally in Nation?s Capital
Haitian Rights Group Expresses Deep Concern
New York, December 5, 2003 ? University students were denied the right today to peacefully express disagreement with President Jean-Bertrand Aristide?s stewardship of Haiti?s affairs when pro-government mobs attacked them. Reports from eyewitnesses and the media indicate that CIMO, Haiti?s anti-riot police unit, stood by while the mobs rioted in the street before forcing their way into the building where the students were gathering, striking them with makeshift weapons and injuring dozens.
?It is very unfortunate that Haiti?s government leaders have increasingly resorted to naked violence to suppress dissent,? said Mr. Jocelyn McCalla, interim Executive Director of the NY-based National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR). According to Pierre Esperance, Director of NCHR-Haiti, today?s violence stands as one of the worst perpetrated against students since 1993 when Haitian military leaders forcibly shut down the State University, preventing students then to express support for Aristide? return to power.
During the past year, Haiti has witnessed a growing movement in favor of leadership change with much of the focus on President Aristide. In the country, the rule of law has little or no meaning. The police and the judiciary are deeply politicized and rely on a network of loosely organized but heavily armed gangs to suppress dissent and intimidate the population. Despite repeated promises, political killings remain unsolved. Such is the case for Jean Dominique, killed almost four years ago in April 2000.
The government stands as one of the most corrupt in the world, according to Transparency International. And most development specialists agree that poor governance remains the greatest impediment to effective international assistance. President Aristide is no longer as popular as ten years ago when Haitians fought for his return from exile. ?Today they?re dying because of him,? said McCalla, adding: ?We will not stand by while the young women and men of Haiti suffer the debilitating wounds of failed policies and despotic behavior. We urge our colleagues in the international community to join us in condemning the government-sponsored violence, and insist on the strict respect of civil and political rights as sine qua non conditions for progress in Haiti.?