Originally: Statement on the International Arrest Warrant against Former President Aristide

 French original

Statement on the International Arrest Warrant against Former President Aristide

The Council of Eminent Persons takes note of the the Prime Minister’s declaration about issuing an international warrant for the arrest of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The Council supports the idea of holding a former leader, who has been at the highest level of government, responsible for his actions. This would represent a departure from the tradition of impunity, while reflecting an important change in our political practices. Therefore, this initiative is consistent with the idea of a national dialogue, since we cannot speak seriously about “national reconciliation” without addressing the fundamental problem of justice. Without justice, reconciliation will be nothing but another episode in a long history of impunity. Nevertheless, the Council of Eminent Persons disagrees with the approach used in this case by the head of the Government. By the authority inherent to its duties, the Committee questions the Prime Minister’s action on the following points:

  • There has been no consultation with the Council of Eminent Persons. That represents a flagrant violation of the Political Accord of April 4, 2004, which makes such a consultation mandatory for all important decisions. This omission occurred just after the Council had called the attention of the Transitional Government to the fact that the budget for fiscal year 2003–2004 was adopted without consulting the Council. This attitude reveals that the Government has a real problem in applying, in its operation, the institutional practices of balance of power, which are necessary to guarantee the transition toward the rule of law and democracy.

  • The action of the Prime Minister interferes with the Judicial Power, which has the exclusive right to issue that type of warrant. By undermining the authority of the Minister of Justice, this direct involvement of the Prime Minister is similar to the previous practices of personal rule by the Executive. Such a behavior goes against the changes that the Transitional Period is expected to initiate.

The Council of Eminent Persons is deeply concerned about the content of the records justifying the warrant’s issue, since no action has been conducted at the national level. The population has suffered too much from the actions of dictators to have, this time again, a mockery of justice imposed upon them. Unless a procedure is properly initiated, it casts the victims in the role of losers and turns the perpetrators into winners. The population is then faced with the financial and psychological costs of the failed procedures, resulting from the acquittal of the perpetrators for lack of evidence. Therefore the outcome is the perpetuation of a long tradition of impunity and irresponsibility for those who govern.

The Council of Eminent Persons expects the Government to provide adequate clarification on this matter. The Council specifically intends to do the following: contact the appropriate judicial authorities, and verify their involvement in this case; obtain information about the content of the established records, and the steps to be taken in order to process the case; ensure that the parties involved are committed to their role, and that the required resources have been identified and will be available when needed. The Council also intends to question the Government about the status of the cases of incarcerated officials of the Lavalas regime. The Council will also require information about cases pending before the courts, such as that of Jean Dominique and Brignol Lindor, and that of Viola Robert’s children.

Port-au-Prince, November 22, 2004

For the Council of Eminent Persons, ApprDaniPle Magloire, Spokesperson