National Lawyers Guild
Photo by Jim West, jimwestphoto.com
December 17, 2009
By Kim Ives, Haiti Liberte
This past week saw outcry from legal professionals around the globe against the election fiasco unfolding in Haiti after the Provisional Electoral Council's exclusion of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Lavalas Family party (FL) and 13 others from parliamentary elections set for Feb. 28 and Mar. 3, 2010.
On Dec. 11, the Miami Herald published an Op-Ed in which lawyers Brian Concannon, Jr. and Ira Kurzban urged the Obama administration, the United Nations (UN) and the Organization of American States (OAS) "to step up and head off this disaster by refusing to finance the electoral charade." With Washington's support, the UNDP promised, prior to the widely-condemned exclusions, to provide $18 million for the election.
Saying the unjustifiable disqualifications were without "constitutional legitimacy," Concannon and Kurzban note that the Provisional Electoral Council or CEP "tried the same thing earlier this year, and got away with it" when it excluded the FL from partial Senate elections held in April and June.
The U.S. and U.N. both initially criticized FL's exclusion last spring, but then backtracked and supported the massively boycotted elections, which drew less than 5% participation according to most independent estimates. "By dropping their principled objections to the April election's flaws, the international community gave the [CEP] a green light to keep excluding the government's political rivals," Concannon and Kurzban conclude.
Also on Dec. 11, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), which assembles lawyer committees from 90 countries, wrote to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to warn that UN approval of next February's elections could result in popular protest, which the UN has often suppressed with lethal violence. This warning comes just days before thousands are expected to march through Port-au-Prince on Dec. 16, the 19th anniversary of Aristide's first landslide electoral victory in 1990. That demonstration will target the latest election exclusion.
IADL members have a mission, their website explains, to protest "racism, colonialism, and economic and political injustice wherever they interfere with legal and human rights, often at the cost of these jurists personal safety and economic well-being."
While we do not recognize the legitimacy of the occupation force's UN Charter-violating mandate in Haiti nor its right to arbitrate Haitian affairs, we think the IADL's letter to Ban Ki-moon does a good job of exposing how the UN is trampling the goals and terms of conduct set forth in its own mandate by supporting the "flawed elections" now underway. It also articulates the frustrations and alarm of most Haitians about the planned elections. We reproduce the letter in its entirety because it has not previously been published.
International Association of Democratic Lawyers Rue Brialmont 21 1210 Brussels, Belgium www.iadllaw.org
December 11, 2009
First Avenue at 46th Street
New York, NY 10017
Dear Secretary General Ban Ki-moon:
We are writing to urge the United Nations, including the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to fully comply with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the MINUSTAH mandate by withdrawing all support for the upcoming Parliamentary elections in Haiti scheduled for February and March 2010 until the Haitian government demonstrates that the elections will be fair and inclusive.
Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council (Conseil Electoral Provisoire or CEP) disqualified 14 of the 69 parties that registered for the elections, including Haiti's most popular party, Fanmi Lavalas (FL). This decision threatens not only Haiti's democracy and stability, but billions invested in the peacekeeping mission financed by the international community. The United Nations (UN) should act swiftly and resolutely to end this charade.
The CEP lacks a sound legal basis for the disqualification of FL and other parties from voters' ballots. The CEP claims that the excluded parties failed to submit the proper registration documents. For Fanmi Lavalas (FL), the Council claims that a mandate sent by the party's exiled leader, former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, from South Africa, is not authentic. FL presented an original mandate, authenticated by a Haitian notary. Dr.
Aristide sent a fax of the mandate directly to the CEP, and confirmed its authenticity in an interview with a Haitian radio station. This mandate more than complies with the flexible mandate requirements of Haitian law, set forth in article 1749 of Haiti's Civil Code. The CEP has not cited any law that justifies its exclusion of FL.
Political parties across the spectrum have condemned the political parties'
exclusion as illegal, as have Haitian human rights groups and lawyers'
organizations. Virtually no organization in Haiti, other than the ruling party, its allies, and members of the international community, support the CEP's exclusion.
The CEP not only lacks a good reason for its decision, it also lacks legitimacy to do so. The Council is a Provisional Council chosen by Haiti's President, René Préval, from nominees presented by civil society organizations also chosen by President Préval, not the independent Permanent Council required by Haiti's 1987 Constitution.
Unjustified exclusion of FL and other parties violates Haitians' right to vote in free and fair elections as guaranteed by Haiti's Constitution and international law including Article 21 of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Without expressing principled objection to the Council's decision, the UN will be complicit in a violation of Haitian citizens' right to vote and in direct contravention of MINUSTAH's mandate to "support the political process under way in Haiti, . . . promote an all-inclusive political dialogue" and assist the Haitian government in holding "elections consistent with Haiti's constitutional and legal requirements."
We are also concerned with the ability of MINUSTAH to respond effectively and legally to the demonstrations that are almost certain to occur if these illegal elections proceed. We note the many credible allegations of excessive and even lethal force by MINUSTAH soldiers in crowd control situations, including the shooting of a bystander outside the memorial service for Rev. Gérard Jean-Juste on June 18, 2009, and the shooting in Grande Goave on November 10, 2009. MINUSTAH's ability to respond to demonstrations will be increasingly compromised if Haitian voters perceive that the UN is complicit in the flawed elections through its financing of them and other support.
Democracy and development in Haiti can only proceed through fair, inclusive elections. The United Nations should set an example worthy of its Universal Declaration of Human Rights by refusing to support, in any way, the current elections unless the CEP includes all properly-registered political parties and runs fair, credible elections.
The International Association of Democratic Lawyers, and its affiliates in 90 countries, will continue to monitor the organization of elections in Haiti, and the response of UN entities to the elections and to related demonstrations. We would be happy to answer any questions you might have about this letter, and look forward to hearing from you about UN efforts to ensure that Haiti's upcoming elections are worthy of UN support.
Jeanne Mirer, Esq.
cc: Hédi Annabi, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission, MINUSTAH Luiz Carlos da Costa, Principal Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General, MINUSTAH Kim Bolduc, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Humanitarian Coordinator, MINUSTAH and Resident Representative in Haiti, UNDP
This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI LIBERTE newsweekly. For the complete edition with other news in French and Creole, please contact the paper at (tel) 718-421-0162, (fax) 718-421-3471 or e-mail at email@example.com. Also visit our website at
"Justice. Verite. Independance."
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
December 16 - 22, 2009
Vol. 3, No. 22
Donations to the International Committee are greatly appreciated!
"Your interest and support has been a great encouragement to us at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission."
-- Desmond Tutu on the Guild's work in South Africa