Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Haitian human rights activist still missing

Oct. 20, 2007
Author: Tim Pelzer

After the disappearance of Haitian human rights activist Lovinsky
Pierre-Antoine more than two months ago, his supporters are pressing
the government of President Rene Preval, along with the governments of
the United States, Canada and Brazil and the UN Stabilization Mission
in Haiti (Minustah), to step up efforts to locate his whereabouts.
Mounting evidence suggests that Lovinsky (who goes by his first name)
was kidnapped for political reasons.

Lovinsky, 41, went missing on Aug. 12 while leading a joint
U.S.-Canadian human rights delegation in Haiti. Since then, a criminal
gang has claimed responsibility for Lovinsky�s abduction and has
demanded a ransom for his release. The Haitian government and police
have released little information about their efforts to free the human
rights activist, leading to charges that authorities are not truly
interested in finding him.

Roger Annis of the Canada-Haiti Action Network, who was a member of the
delegation, said that when they first reported Lovinsky�s disappearance
on Aug. 13, police showed no interest in the case and did not even
bother asking them any questions. Lovinsky�s supporters inside and
outside Haiti have mounted protests to force the Haitian government and
its backers to make a serious effort to secure his release.

Lovinsky�s two teenage children, St�phane and Olivier Pierre-Antoine,
have released an open letter urging the Haitian government and the
international community to help find their father.

According to Brian Concannon Jr. of the Oregon-based Institute for
Justice and Democracy in Haiti, Lovinsky made many enemies in the
course of his work.

Lovinsky earned the enmity of �almost everyone responsible for human
rights violations in Haiti, including Haiti�s conservative business
elite, the right-wing politicians, the Duvalierists, the interim
government and the international community,� including the U.S.,
Minustah and international financial institutions, Concannon said.

�Lovinsky makes them uncomfortable because he will follow human rights
violations to their source, and fearlessly condemn whomever he finds is
involved in the violation,� Concannon said. �He manages to keep human
rights and justice issues on the radar screen� through public rallies
and demonstrations, web-based analyses, press releases and interviews.

�Lovinsky is also the most outspoken and effective opponent to the
resurrection of the Haitian army,� Concannon said. �He organizes photo
exhibits to remind Haitians of the military�s atrocities and brutality,
and speaks out directly against the army�s return in the press.
Although his views on the army are widely shared, many people decline
to express those views in public for fear of retaliation.�

�The foundation for Lovinsky�s effectiveness is the fact that his
analysis and his advocacy are rooted among Haiti�s poor,� he continued.
Noting that Lovinsky has a master�s degree in psychology and could
simply �play the role of expert� in a comfortable office if he wanted
to, Lovinsky instead �takes his education and skills to the street,
working directly with poor people, using his skills to carry their
voice to places it otherwise would not be heard.�

Concannon, a lawyer and member of the UN human rights mission in Haiti
from 1995-96, said the evidence suggests that Lovinsky was likely
kidnapped for political reasons. �The elapse of seven weeks since the
last communication suggests that the original ransom demand may have
been a ruse to hide a politically motivated abduction,� he said. He
noted that in Haiti it is very uncommon for kidnappers to hold a person
so long.

More ominously, Concannon noted that Lovinsky also �frequently
criticized groups with a history of killing their opponents, including
the country�s political and economic right wing, the army and
paramilitary groups.� However, Concannon cautioned that he has not seen
any information that points to one group or individual who might be
responsible for kidnapping Lovinsky.

Supporters say Lovinsky is still presumed to be alive.

tpelzer @shaw.ca

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