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Haiti’s newsreel : A new boss in town?

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Barely a week into his job as the newly appointed interim police commissioner, Léon Charles, proceeded to shake up the force by appointing thirteen (13) new personnel to head the various divisions at the headquarters and take control of various strategic divisions. In furtherance of the goal to attain substantive results in the position, Mr. Charles named Inspector General Jean Charles Franz Sébastien, former Chief of Staff for outgoing Commissioner Rameau Normil to remain in same position in his new administration. Inspector General Frantz Jean-Francois has been named Chief Inspector General of Police, replacing IG Hervé Julien. Gardy Muscadin, who heads the office of General Services, was named Director of the Police Academy, while Marc Justin, former Director of the POLIFRONT has been transferred to the headquarters of the Administrative Police (DCPA) to replace Berson Soljour, who was promoted to the post a few months ago. Other changes include Division Chief, Monès Auguste to the Traffic Division, the Chief at the Petion-ville precinct was promoted to head the West Department, taking over from Jean Alex Pierre Louis who was transferred to the DCPA as Assistant Chief. The unit responsible for public order, UDMO is now headed by Clevens Cetoute while Ernst Bouquet Dorfeuille is the new Commissioner for the motorized intervention brigade BIM.

These changes came barely hours before the notorious police union known as Fantom 509 took to the streets to protest what they claim is ill-treatment of the police.  In response to the demands of the striking police officers, the incoming police chief warned his rank and file that some of the approach they are using to get their point across could destroy the two sacrosanct pillars of the force, namely police discipline and public confidence. He advised the police to be careful in their approach so as not to get into a confrontation that could cause the collapse of the very institution. But if the Police Commissioner was cautionary in his response to Fantom 509, Prime Minister Jouthe, on the other hand, stated that the protesting officers should be arrested, because members of the group are criminals and terrorists and that must be arrested. To many observers, affronting these officers is worrisome and shows that the state has no control over state institutions. When dissatisfied officers take over the streets, they cripple the entire city as other police officers who are on duty are not able to stop them, police protesters are usually heavily armed and wear their police uniform during the protests. At last week Friday’s demonstration over a dozen cars were burnt which clearly shows that the government is unable to control the group, leading to a lack of confidence in the police and state authorities in general. To Mr. Jouthe then, the government should not rule out harsh measures until these terrorists are rooted out of the system. If they must go through a bloodbath to ensure the people are no longer terrorized by these hooded armed terrorists, it would be worth the price.

Meanwhile, the police were able to lay their hands on a group of armed criminal gang called 5 Segonn, which operates in the troisième circonscription (périphérie sud) in Port-au-Prince, during a police operation last Saturday. The operation by the DCJP in Sarthe nabbed four (4) gang members believed to have been involved in several kidnappings and extorting ransom in various neighborhoods across the capital. The members are Peterson Benjamin, alias Ti Peter, Rosenord Saint-Louis, Inel François and Jackner Délice. During the operation, the police retrieved a stolen Toyota Hilus Pick-up truck belonging to the Ministry of Youth and Sports, MJSAC.

Elsewhere, the national human rights network, RNDDH, is calling on the authorities to bring to justice those involved in the cases of theft of evidence and exhibits in the Port-au-Prince courthouse, as published in an investigative report on  Thursday, November 19, 2020. The report stated that the authorities must take all measures at their disposal to stop this perennial theft of evidence, documents and personal belongings of the parties involved in ongoing litigation.  From March 2018 to October 2020, at least 23 thefts and attempted thefts have been attempted at the courthouse. The network denounced in particular the theft committed on October 19, of documents related to the case of the assassination of the former bar association president Monferrier Dorval. The Prosecutor’s office, the investigators’ office of most of the magistrates the court officers and registrar’s office have not been spared, according to the investigation, in 17 cases of reported theft; there has not been any sign of forced entry or damage to the doors to those areas where such documents are kept. This, according to the report, could only mean that these missing objects were stolen by members of the administrative and judicial staff assigned to the Port-au-Prince courthouse, or with their complicity. There have been cameras installed in the courthouse between 2016 and 2017 but some of them have either been removed or are damaged and are not properly working. With 44 agents assigned to the courthouse, including 24 security agents from the Ministry of Justice, MJSP, reinforced by 20 agents from the national police PNH have failed to properly secure the premises. The RNDDH recommends that the courthouse be effectively secured, with documents meticulously registered and documented, including confiscated personal property and evidence and exhibits and to regularly check these items, and to provide the court will flame retardant material to secure the premises.

Finally, the president of the Haitian football federation, FHF, Yves Jean-Bart has been found guilty on charges of abuse of power, sexual aggression towards young players, by the independent ethics commission of FIFA. He has been banned for life regarding all activities relating to national and international football, and pay a fine of one million Swiss Francs (CHF 1m), This judgment came right after a Haitian court cleared the federation president for lack of evidence, a decision he welcomed in a letter to the press.

Meanwhile, during the 4th edition of the competition for texts and reports on human rights, organized by the office of the ombudsman (l’Office de la protection de la citoyenne et du citoyen, OPC) the journalist Marlyne Jean of Alterpress/AlterRadio was elected first winner in the Category A (Press), according to the report published on the OPC’s Facebook page on Monday, November 23, 2020. Her research work was on technology and how it exposes Haitians to cybercriminality in the absence of any laws protecting citizens. The four (4) next best papers in this category come from three (3) female and one male journalists; Anicile Maitre of Signal FM, Rhode Vanessa Dalzon from Magik9 in Balistrad, Darline Honoré of Imedia and Chenet Joseph from RCH 2000.

Dela Harlley

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