Haiti is marking the first anniversary of the July 7, 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise with two days of street protest and fears that the investigation into his death would remain stalled.
“I do not see this file progressing during the period of political transition. When the people are back in power via a legitimate government that they themselves have put in power, justice will be done to Jovenel Moïse and his family,” said former Deputy of Delmas Gary Bodeau
The United States said that it “continues to staunchly support the pursuit of justice and accountability for those who planned, financed and perpetrated this terrible crime.”
“We remain concerned about the limited progress of Haiti’s investigation into the assassination,” said US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, adding that although the fifth investigating judge was recently appointed, “Haitian authorities have not adequately addressed the judiciary’s calls for stronger security measures to protect judicial workers assigned to the case and to preserve the chain of custody of key evidence.
“Unfortunately, the same can be said for many other cases, including that of the assassination of Port-au-Prince Bar Association President Monferrier Dorval in 2020. We urge the Haitian authorities to move forward with an independent and thorough investigation into the assassination of President Moïse, consistent with Haitian law and international rule of law standards, to ensure those responsible for this crime are brought to justice.”
The US Secretary of State said the Biden administration remains “a committed partner to supporting this aim, as shown by the extraditions of individuals alleged to have conspired in the perpetration of this offense through acts committed within US jurisdiction.
“We hope the joint efforts of the Haitian government and relevant international partners soon shed light on the crime, so that justice may be served, and the Haitian people can confidently say President Moïse’s murder was not met with impunity,” he said.
In a statement, the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) commemorated “the prematurely interrupted life of a statesman, as well as to be moved by the lack of tangible progress so that justice is brought to him rendered.
“The investigation and the legal proceedings carried out in Haiti seem to be at a standstill while, following the withdrawal of his four predecessors, a fifth investigating judge is now in charge of the case,” the BINUH said.
“It is urgent that the necessary means be made available to the Haitian justice system to advance the investigation and that those responsible for the assassination of President Moïse be, as soon as possible, brought to justice in accordance with legality and principles of the rule of law.
“Since this crime was committed, growing insecurity, linked to the proliferation of acts of violence committed by armed gangs, has terrorized Haitian citizens and monopolized public debate in a context where the challenges facing the country are increasing day by day.”
BINUH said that in this difficult climate, Haitians must find the terms of a process that could lead to the restoration of democratic institutions under favourable security conditions.
The UN agency said that it was inviting “all Haitians to put aside their differences in order to lead the country towards a lasting and peaceful exit from the crisis”.
Moise was gunned down at his private residence overlooking the capital on July 7, when armed gunmen stormed the building. His wife, Maritin, who was also shot during the invasion had to be flown to the United States for medical treatment.
The Haitian authorities said that the attack was undertaken by a group of unidentified individuals, some of whom spoke in Spanish, and that most of them were former Colombian army officials. They said they suspect a Haitian doctor of ordering the attack as part of a plot to become president.
“As part of the commemoration of the first anniversary of the assassination of President Moise, political activists and sympathizers announced two days of demonstrations ending on Friday.
In a statement, the US Embassy here warned Americans “that there continues to be a high threat of violent crime and kidnapping throughout Port-au-Prince, to include the Tabarre neighborhood. It said kidnapping is widespread and victims regularly include US citizens.
“Kidnappers may use sophisticated planning or take advantage of unplanned opportunities, and even convoys have been attacked. Kidnapping cases often involve ransom negotiations and US citizen victims have been physically harmed during kidnappings. Victim’s families have paid thousands of dollars to rescue their family members.”
Haiti has a Level 4, the highest US Travel Advisory, urging citizens not to travel to the French-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM_ country “for kidnapping, crime, and civil unrest.
“The travel advisory for Haiti, available at travel.state.gov, notes that kidnapping is widespread and victims regularly include U.S. citizens. Kidnapping cases often involve ransom negotiations and U.S. citizen victims have been physically harmed during kidnappings.”
Meanwhile, 49 year-old Rodolphe Jaar, Haitian-Chilean, one of the suspects in the assassination of President Moïse, pleaded not guilty to both criminal charges in federal court in Miami this week.
He faces conspiracy charges in sight committing murder or kidnapping outside the United States and providing material support resulting in death. If convicted, Jaar faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Miami Federal Judge Chris M. McAliley accepted Jaar’s plea of innocence and his request for a jury trial, which has a tentative start date of July 18.
During the hearing, which lasted less than five minutes, Jaar’s lawyer, Frank Schwartz of the Public Defender’s Office, told the court that he expected the prosecution to present all the evidence in this case.
Jaar was arrested in the Dominican Republic on January 7, 2022, at the request of the American authorities (FBI). According to US authorities, Jaar voluntarily agreed to be transferred to Miami for trial.
Jaar is the second suspect to plead not guilty in federal court after former Colombian military Mario Palacios also pleaded not guilty to the charges alleging his involvement in the assassination.
A third suspect is the former Haitian senator John Joel Joseph who is accused of having rented in Haiti four vehicles that were used by the Colombian commandos the night of the attack on President Moïse.