Haiti Marks Anniversary of Moise Murder as Gang Violence Spirals

haiti protest gang A woman shouts anti-government slogans during a protest organized by friends and relatives of Biana Velizaire, who was kidnapped and held for several days by gang members, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, Sept. 27, 2021. Haitian police on Monday launched a special operation in response to the recent surge of kidnappings conducted by gangs. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
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Reuters- Haiti on Thursday commemorated the one-year anniversary of the murder of president Jovenel Moise, whose killing created a power vacuum and allowed the country’s gangs to expand their territory and even take over the headquarters of the nation’s courts.

Haitian police have arrested more than 40 people, but have yet to charge anyone in the murder, in which a group of gunmen that included former Colombian soldiers stormed Moise’s home in a pre-dawn raid.

Last month a gang known as “5 segonn”, or “5 seconds”, took control of the Port-au-Prince Palace of Justice, the seat of the Haitian court system, dashing any remaining hope for progress in the investigation into Moise’s murder.

“One year later the investigation has not advanced,” said Samuel Madistin, a lawyer who heads the Haitian human rights group Clear Eyes Foundation.

“There are people arrested for a year who have never seen a judge.”

The office of Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who has been at the helm of government since last year, on Wednesday said July 7 would be a holiday to commemorate Moise.

Henry spoke on Thursday at a ceremony at Haiti’s national pantheon in Port-au-Prince, where a portrait of Moise was placed amid an arrangement of flowers

Colombian suspected of involvement in killing of Haiti president held in Panama

“One year later we are still in mourning,” Henry said.

“We are struggling to understand this bloody and barbaric episode in our history.”

Henry has faced accusations that he was involved in the plot, including by Moise’s widow Martine, who was wounded during the attack and was not present at Thursday’s ceremony.

“The Moise family will not participate in commemorative events supported by the Haitian state, whose head of government is the subject of grave accusations about the assassination of the president of the Republic,” read a July 1 statement issued by Martine’s communications office.

Henry denies involvement in the murder and insists his government is committed to bringing the killers to justice.

Haiti has for years struggled with gang violence, but kidnappings have spiked across the country since last year, targeting everyone from high-ranking government officials to citizens.

Turf battles in April and May between the Chen Mechan and 400 Mawozo gangs — the latter of which last year abducted 19 American and Canadian missionaries — killed 150 people and forced some 10,000 from their homes, rights activists said at the time.

That has fueled a wave of migration by Haitians seeking to reach the US, either via the land border with Mexico or by sea in rickety, overcrowded vessels.

Henry said the government plans to hold elections, but has not provided a timeline for a potential vote.

US prosecutors have charged three people with being involved in the conspiracy to kill Moise, but Haiti’s probe remains stalled.

The case has been assigned to a fifth judge, after the previous four quit amid complaints of intimidation and threats to their personal security.

In a reflection of the broader collapse of Haiti’s justice system, authorities have been unable to wrest control of the Palace of Justice back from the gangs who took it over in a shootout with police in June.

A gang leader known as Izo in a voice note circulated on WhatsApp said his group took over the Palace of Justice because he had been upset authorities were not freeing jailed gang members despite his having made payments for their release.

State prosecutor Jacques Lafontant told local media last month that the recording would be transcribed and used as evidence against Izo.

Haitian national police spokesperson Gary Desrosiers in a June 28 press conference said police were developing a plan to take back the building, but needed to obtain additional materials and equipment.

Lawyers who work in the building said it remains in control of the gang.

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