Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy condemns termination of Haitian Judges

Posted on Friday 23 December 2005

Press Release of Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID)

Submitted to AlterPresse on December 20, 2005

The Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID) has strongly condemned the decision by the current interim government of Haiti to terminate the services of five Supreme Court Judges. Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue and President Boniface Alexandre’s fire the Judges because they ruled against the government and ordered that Haitian-born US millionaire, Dumarsais Simeus, be allowed to contest the January presidential elections. Prime Minister Latortue has been quoted as saying the dismissal of the Judges “is a purely an administrative measure made long ago to improve the efficiency of the court." However, the government has subsequently appointed five new Judges.

The government’s decision followed the Supreme Court’s second ruling legitimizing Simeus’ candidacy. Recent polling indicates that Simeus is the second most popular candidate. His candidacy was initially legitimized in October 2005, by the said court. The Court ruled that Haiti’s Electoral Council presented insufficient evidence to prove Simeus was not a Haitian citizen. Nevertheless, the Electoral Council disregarded the Court’s ruling and removed Simeus’ name from the list of eligible candidates.

In a statement by the Institute, CGID Director of International Affairs, Robert Antoine said "The interim government’s action is clearly illegal. Title V, Article 177 of the Haitian Constitution states, “Judges of the Supreme Court are appointed for life. They may be removed from office only because of a legally determined abuse of authority or be suspended following an indictment leveled against them. They may not be reassigned, without their consent.” Consequently, the government’s decision to remove the Judges undermines the rule of law in Haiti and has exacerbated political instability.”

Antoine noted “The actions of Prime Minister Gerard Latortue portends a return to the Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier era, which was characterized by the brutalization and lynching of political opponents. Gerard Latortue actions also constitute a crude, meandering attempt to manipulate the electoral process in order to gain an unfair political advantage in the upcoming elections. His machinations have caused some of the Presidential candidates to boycott the elections. The January elections will be the first since President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was overthrown in February 2004.”

“CGID considers the actions of the Haitian government unconstitutional and inimical to the democratic process in Haiti. The arbitrary removal of the Supreme Court Judges further enfeebles the entire Judiciary. It will also lead to political dissent that will destabilize the said interim administration, whose very legitimacy is in doubt. The independent decision of the Supreme Court symbolized a glimmer of hope in a society that has experienced an ongoing erosion of its essential political institutions. The judicial witch-hunt, however, undermines this trust and creates a political climate characterized by reckless disregard for the constitution, institutional legitimacy and people’s rights,” Antoine stressed.

“In the best interest of democracy, the rule of law and the overall well being of the Haitian people, CGID calls on the interim government to refrain from intruding in the judiciary and to immediately rescind its unlawful decision. The power to decide who can best lead Haiti resides in the people and will be expressed through their vote. Prime Minister Gerard Latortue and President Boniface Alexandre must not obstruct this process. The leadership of the Institute will be meeting with Haitian Consul General in New York, Hon. Feliz Augustin, to convey our outrage,” the CGID International Affairs Director emphasized.

December 19, 2005

Contact: Allison Skeet - 866-930-7575