‘Cup of blood’: Haiti official decries impunity in Moise killing

Two years after the president’s assassination, Haiti’s ombudsman has issued a letter saying stalled justice is leading to more violence.

A moto-taxi driver rides past a mural of slain Haitian President Jovenel Moise in Port-au-Prince, Haiti [File: Odelyn Joseph/The Associated Press]

A Haitian government monitor has decried the “unacceptable slowness” of the investigation into the assassination of President Jovenel Moise, charging that the delay has contributed to a culture of impunity that puts citizens in danger.

In a letter, titled “The Cup of Blood”, Haiti’s Office of Citizen Protection (OPC) argued that any failure to bring Moise’s killers to justice “will open the way for the assassination of other heads of state in the same conditions, with the same degree of cruelty, of barbarity”.

The scathing letter was released to coincide with the two-year anniversary of Moise’s killing on July 7, 2021.

The OPC functions as an independent government body, investigating complaints against public institutions. Its head, Renan Hedouville, signed the letter, which warned that all levels of society are threatened by the continuing lawlessness in Haiti.

“The cup of barbarity, of impunity, of terrorism, is filled with blood, above all that of the victims assassinated every day (lawyers, police officers, shopkeepers, health professionals, students, ordinary citizens) under the umbrella of impunity and the benediction of corruption,” Hedouville wrote.

Criminals ‘still on the run’

Hedouville also called for greater protection for Walter Wesser Voltaire, the judge tasked with overseeing the Moise investigation.

Voltaire, the fifth judge to take on the case, “works in extremely weak security conditions”, Hedouville said.

Critics have alleged that Haiti’s investigation into Moise’s killing has barely budged in the two years since the attack on his residence. More than 40 suspects are languishing in a Haitian prison, including at least 18 former soldiers from Colombia accused of taking part in the siege on Moise’s private home in Port-au-Prince.

“Numerous individuals denounced in this assassination are still on the run,” Hedouville added in the OPC letter.

Hedouville compared the inertia in Haiti to the relative progress in the United States, where that country’s Department of Justice has also been investigating the Moise assassination.

To date, the US Department of Justice has charged 11 suspects in the killing. The US’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have also sent agents to Haiti in the wake of the assassination to aid in the probe.

In March, Haitian-Chilean businessman Rodolphe Jaar pleaded guilty in a US federal court for his part in the Moise assassination.

Charged with conspiracy to commit murder or kidnapping and conspiracy to provide material support in the assassination, Jaar was sentenced to life in prison in June.

Calls for international assistance

Thursday’s OPC letter offered the agency’s backing for international assistance in Haiti as the country contends with widespread gang violence, prompting reprisals and spiralling humanitarian concerns.

“The OPC remains committed to the idea of an international force to support the Haitian justice system in order to arrive at the truth of this case,” Hedouville wrote.

The prospect of an international force in Haiti, however, has been a controversial one.

The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti has had foreign forces on its shores before: The US, for instance, sent marines to invade and occupy the country from 1915 to 1934. And critics have pointed out that United Nations peacekeepers brought cholera into the country in 2010.

Nevertheless, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres again called for international intervention on Thursday.

“We are not calling for a military or political mission of the United Nations,” he told the UN security council. “We are calling for a robust security force deployed by Member States to work hand-in-hand with the Haitian National Police to defeat and dismantle the gangs and restore security across the country.”

During a trip to Trinidad and Tobago that same day, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken articulated his support for an international force to support Haiti’s beleaguered police. “This is an area of intense focus for us,” he said.

On Wednesday, the UN’s independent expert for Haiti, William O’Neill, estimated that Haiti’s police needed the assistance of between 1,000 and 2,000 law enforcement experts to adequately curb the country’s gangs.

A country in turmoil

Moise’s assassination has cast Haiti into further political turmoil, compounding the continuing social, economic and health crises afflicting the Caribbean nation.

Cholera reemerged after a three-year absence in October, and hunger has again been on the rise. In May, a UN-backed report found that nearly half the country — 4.9 million people — were experiencing acute food insecurity.

Democratic institutions in the country are also floundering. The last democratically elected officials in the national government saw their terms expire in January. New elections, meanwhile, have been postponed indefinitely.

But the OPC’s letter traced Haiti’s culture of alleged impunity even further back than Moise’s assassination. It referenced the 2000 assassination of journalist and activist Jean Léopold Dominique: His killer has never been brought to justice.

Moise’s wife Martine recently renewed calls for the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands to investigate her husband’s slaying.

Martine, who was also injured in the assassination, filed a lawsuit in late June against the suspects in the case, seeking unspecified damages for her family and a trial by jury.

In a June 26 tweet, she wished her slain husband a happy birthday, noting he would have been 55 years old. She called for an in-depth investigation, writing, “The truth will come out. Justice will be served.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies