Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Haiti: Access to power and activities of members of the Lavalas Family (Fanmi Lavalas) party; situation of members of the Lavalas Family movement; protection available to them (2005 – January 2009)

By Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

Two media sources report that, on 16 December 2008, the 18th anniversary of Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s election as president, his supporters held a demonstration in the capital during which some of the demonstrators threw projectiles at police officers (El Heraldo 16 Dec. 2008; Radio Kiskeya 16 Dec. 2008). The demonstrators were calling for the return of Aristide to Haiti and they accused President René Préval of [translation] “not honouring his promise to bring back Aristide, a commitment that he reportedly made during the 2006 elections” (ibid.). On 4 November 2008, members of the Lavalas Family political party and its supporters celebrated the organization’s 12th anniversary (Haiti Press Network 4 Nov. 2008). The two Lavalas Family branches celebrated this event separately (ibid.). One branch is headed by Senator Rudy Hérivaux and Maryse Narcisse, while the other branch counts Annettet Auguste, Yvon Neptune, former head of government, and Senator Yvon Buissereth as members (ibid.).

Two members of the Lavalas Family party were elected as senators for Ouest department in the 2006 elections: Rudy Hérivaux (or Heriveaux) and Evelyne Cheron (Haïti-Référence n.d.a). According to two local media sources, Senator Rudy Hérivaux accused President René Préval of preventing him from becoming speaker of the senate because he is a member of the Lavalas Family party (Radio Métropole 15 Jan. 2009; Radio Kiskeya 13 Jan. 2009).

Articles published by AlterPresse and Le Nouvelliste on 6 February 2009 indicate that the Provisional Electoral Council (Conseil électoral provisoire, CEP) rejected 16 Lavalas Family party candidates in the electoral race leading up to the senatorial elections scheduled for April 2009 (AlterPresse 6 Feb. 2009, Le Nouvelliste 6 Feb. 2009). According to the CEP, neither of the two factions of the Lavalas Family party had [translation] “a mandate from former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide authorizing it to designate candidates” (ibid). The CEP also rejected approximately 20 other candidates (ibid.; AlterPresse 6 Feb. 2009).

Additional information on the situation of Lavalas Family party members to that found in HTI102711 of 11 February 2008, a corrected version of which is provided below, could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Overview of the Lavalas movement

The Lavalas movement was founded by Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti’s former president (ICG 14 Dec. 2007, note 134). It has ties to the Fanmi Lavalas Party

(Lavalas Family, [Famille Lavalas, FL (AI 2007)]) and is supported by the Aristide Foundation (Fondation Aristide) (LA Times 2 Sept. 2007). Lavalas movement supporters campaign for the return of Aristide and actively oppose the presence of the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (Mission des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en Haiti, MINUSTAH) (ICG 14 Dec. 2007, note 134).

René Préval, Haiti’s president from 1996 to 2001 (Haiti Press Network 16 Feb. 2006; BBC 16 Feb. 2006) and since 2006 (UN 28 July 2006, para. 9), was Aristide’s prime minister in 1991 (Freedom House 2007). In the 2006 elections, he ran under the banner of his own new party, Lespwa (Hope), but most of his support comes from poor neighbourhoods, which are pro-Aristide (Caribbean Net News 3 Apr. 2006). One moderate member of the FL Party is a minister (Le Monde 13 June 2006) and other members sit in the Senate (Sénat) and in the Chamber of Deputies (Chambre des députés) (ICG 18 July 2007, 12).

According to the International Crisis Group (ICG), approximately 10 percent of Lavalas political leaders [ICG English version] “still actively seek to destabilise the current system” in Haiti (ICG 18 July 2007, 12). According to the 2006 annual report published by Amnesty International (AI), gangs and armed groups murdered 12 police officers and dozens of civilians in 2005; gangs who reportedly support Aristide were responsible for most of these killings (AI 23 May 2006). Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) indicates that gangs, many of which are associated with the Lavalas movement, have carried out reprisal attacks against journalists, principally in Port-au-Prince (1 Feb. 2007).

The September 30th Foundation [Fondasyon Trant Septan (AI 20 Dec. 2007)], which rallies Jean-Bertrand Aristide supporters who were victims of the coup d’état against Aristide in 1991, is reportedly associated with the FL Party (AP 15 Aug. 2007; Radio Kiskeya 17 Aug. 2007), as is the armed group Domi nan bwa (CNW Group 16 Nov. 2007). However, the FL Party denies the existence of any armed minority group within its organization ( 4 Apr. 2005).

According to a law professor at the University of Miami, the violence in Haiti is primarily perpetrated by former soldiers (Center for the Study of Human Rights Mar. 2006, 1).

Treatment of Lavalas movement members: political prisoners

The Catholic Church’s Justice and Peace Commission estimated in 2005 that Haiti’s prison population included 700 political prisoners (Caribbean Net News 3 Feb. 2005); in 2006, the Commission estimated that the number of political prisoners in Haitian jails was 700 to 1,000, including an unknown number of individuals linked to the FL Party (ibid. 3 Apr. 2006). However, according to AI, of the more than 2,000 people held in Haitian prisons without charges or awaiting trial, approximately 100 may be political prisoners (AI 1 Aug. 2006). Pro-Lavalas groups have indicated that 116 people are imprisoned illegally because of their political convictions (ICG 18 July 2007, 15).

In 2006, after serving a sentence of more than two years, Yvon Neptune, former prime minister and FL Party member (Haiti-Référence n.d.b), was released from prison (US 6 Mar. 2007, Sec. 1.e; Freedom House 2007; AI 2007) on medical grounds (US 6 Mar. 2007, Sec. 1.e) and at the urging of the UN Security Council and other international bodies (AI 23 May 2006, “Prisoners of Conscience, Political Prisoners”). He had been accused of being involved in the 2004 massacre of opponents of Aristide (US 6 Mar. 2007, Sec. 1.e; see also UN 28 July 2006, para. 29 and ICG 18 July 2007, 15). [This massacre is also known as the “massacre de La Scierie” (UN 28 July 2006, para. 29)]. However, on 13 May 2006, the Court of Appeal (Cour d’appel) of Gonaïves stated that it could not hear the case (UN 28 July 2006, para. 29). Jocelerme Privert, former Minister of the Interior in Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s government, was also charged for his alleged involvement in the 2004 massacre, but he was released in June 2006 (US 6 Mar. 2007, Sec. 1.e; Reuters 19 June 2006), for lack of evidence (ibid.). Several supporters of the Lavalas movement who were charged with those murders were provisionally released pending trial (US 6 Mar. 2007, Sec. 1.e). The UN also reports that four FL Party activists detained for two and a half years were released on 8 August 2006 (UN 19 Dec. 2006, para. 36).

In July 2005, Father Gérard Jean-Juste, a potential FL Party candidate in the 2006 presidential elections (AI 23 May 2006, “Prisoners of Conscience, Political Prisoners”), was arrested (ibid.; US 6 Mar. 2007, Sec. 1.e) and detained on various “trumped-up” charges (AI 23 May 2006, “Prisoners of Conscience, Political Prisoners”). AI describes him as a prisoner of conscience (ibid.; AI 2007). Father Gérard Jean-Juste was provisionally released for medical reasons in January 2006 (US 6 Mar. 2007, Sec. 1.e; AI 2007).

In August 2006, Annette Auguste, a well-known FL Party member (AI 2007), who had been detained since 2004 without formal charges (AI 23 May 2006, “Prisoners of Conscience, Political Prisoners”) under suspicion of having promoted attacks against members of the university community, was released for lack of evidence (US 6 Mar. 2007, Sec. 1.e; AI 2007; ICG 18 July 2007, 14). Other members of the Lavalas movement facing the same charges were also released at that time for lack of evidence (US 6 Mar. 2007, Sec. 1.e).

René Civil, a leader within the Lavalas People’s Organizations (organisations populaires Lavalas), was also arrested by the police and accused of criminal behaviour in August 2006 (Radio Métropole 29 Aug. 2006). The real reasons for his arrest and detention were called into question by a Lavalas senator (ibid.).

In February 2007, the Oregon-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti indicated that political prisoners were still in detention, but that the “‘large-scale repression'” and “‘systematic arrests of political opponents'” had stopped (People’s Weekly World 8 Feb. 2007). According to the Institute, people can mobilize for the release of prisoners without fear of reprisal (ibid.).

Treatment of Lavalas movement members: abductions of political figures

In December 2005, a high-ranking member of the FL Party, Emmanuel Cantave, was abducted, but he was released after a ransom was paid (Caribbean Media Corporation 8 Dec. 2005). According to the United States (US) Department of State, there were no politically motivated disappearances in 2006 (US 6 Mar. 2007, Sec. 1.b).

In October 2007, another high-profile figure of the Lavalas movement, Maryse Narcisse, Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s spokesperson and a member of the FL Party’s executive committee, was also abducted (Green Left Online 7 Nov. 2007). These events have led the Lavalas supporters to fear that a campaign targeting the leadership of the FL Party is underway (ibid.). This information could not be corroborated among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, a leader of the FL Party (Radio Kiskeya 17 Aug. 2007) and a founding member of the September 30th Foundation (AI 20 Dec. 2007), was abducted in August 2007 (Radio Kiskeya 17 Aug. 2007; Green Left Online 7 Nov. 2007). Wilson Mesilien, another co-founder of the September 30th Foundation, was threatened with physical violence (AI 20 Dec. 2007). FL Party supporters suggest that Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine was threatened because of his ties to Jean-Bertrand Aristide (AP 15 Aug. 2007). Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine was also going to represent the FL Party in the 2007 senatorial election (AI 20 Dec. 2007; Radio Kiskeya 17 Aug. 2007; AP 15 Aug. 2007).

According to the Haitian National Police (Police nationale d’Haïti, PNH), Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine was not abducted, but rather had gone missing, since no ransom had been demanded (AP 15 Aug. 2007; see also Canadian Press 18 Oct. 2007). According to AI, Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine’s disappearance was made to look like an abduction for ransom (AI 20 Dec. 2007). The UN offered to help the PNH investigate the abduction, but the PNH did not respond to the offer (Canadian Press 18 Oct. 2007). AI reports that members of the US Congress, MINUSTAH and human rights organizations in the United States and in Great Britain demanded a more rigorous investigation into Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine’s disappearance (AI 20 Dec. 2007).

Treatment of members of the Lavalas movement: dismissal of officials

An online daily reported in 2006 that Gérard Latortue, the former interim prime minister “purg[ed] the court system of Lavalas sympathizers” (Caribbean Net News 3 Apr. 2006); Haitian police officers considered loyal to Aristide were also reportedly fired by the interim government (Center for the Study of Human Rights Mar. 2006, 3)

In October 2006, the Lavalas movement announced the launch of Operation Baghdad 2 (Opération Bagdad 2) to force President René Préval to rehire the employees fired between 2004 and 2006 from the Tax Branch (Direction générale des impôts), the National Insurance Office (Office nationale d’assurance, ONA), the National Airport Authority (Autorité aéroportuaire nationale, AAN), and Telecommunications Haiti S.A.M. (Télécommunications d’Haïti S.A.M., TÉLÉCO) (RNDDH 6 Dec. 2006; see also ICG 18 July 2007, 13). However, according to the ICG, threats have [ICG English version] “little credibility, since the movement is divided and weakened” (ICG 18 July 2007, 13). Thousands of demonstrators nevertheless marched in the streets of Port-au-Prince on 7 February 2007 to demand the rehiring of the officials fired because of their association with the FL Party (AFP 7 Feb. 2007; ICG 18 July 2007, 13). Sources disagree as to the number of demonstrators (ibid.).

Protection available for members of the Lavalas movement

According to a law professor at the University of Miami, “Haiti’s justice system does not provide protection for people targeted for persecution. Those who complain of crimes by gang members are virtually never protected by the police” (Center for the Study of Human Rights Mar. 2006, 5, emphasis in original). The professor added that some police officers are themselves gang members and target the complainants for reprisal (ibid.). This information could not be corroborated among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

In addition, several sources indicate that the PNH is ineffective (UN 28 July 2006, para. 64; ICG 30 Oct. 2006, 1; AI 23 May 2006, “Impunity”; HRW 2007, “Police Abuses”; RSF 1 Feb. 2007). AI reports a number of cases of alleged extrajudicial killings by members of the PNH (AI 23 May 2006; see also HRW 2007). Lavalas movement supporters are reportedly among the victims (AI 23 May 2006, “Excessive Force and Unlawful Killings by Police”). Information on the number of victims could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

The lack of resources, corruption and inadequate training for judicial staff harm investigations and the prosecution of human rights violations (AI 2007). According to RSF, judges do not have the resources to conduct investigations (1 Feb. 2007). In most detention cases, the victim is denied access to a judge or is brought before a judge who does not have the power to release the victim (Center for the Study of Human Rights Mar. 2006, 5).

According to Freedom House, “the absence of a functional police force [in Haiti] means that there is little protection for those who are persecuted for their views” (2007).

There are some non-governmental human rights organizations that offer legal and other assistance to illegally detained prisoners and that investigate allegations of human rights violations (Center for the Study of Human Rights Mar. 2006, 15 and 17).

The UN also reports that some progress in terms of security has been made because of President René Préval’s desire to reform the judicial system and eliminate corruption (UN 31 Aug. 2007, para. 2). None of the sources consulted by the Research Directorate address the UN’s effectiveness in protecting the members of the Lavalas movement.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.



Agence France-Presse (AFP). 7 February 2007. “Haïti : plusieurs milliers de personnes manifestent pour le retour d’Aristide.” (Factiva)

AlterPresse [Haiti]. 6 February 2009. “Haïti/Élections : Les candidats Lavalas parmi les 40 écartés des sénatoriales d’avril 2009.” <://> [Accessed 11 Feb. 2009]

Amnesty International (AI). 20 December 2007. “Amnesty International Calls for Action by Haiti on Abduction and Threats Against ‘September 30’ Human Rights Defenders.” <> [Accessed 8 Jan. 2008]

. 2007. “Haiti.” Amnesty International – Rapport 2007. <> [Accessed 18 Dec. 2007]

. 1 August 2006. “Haïti. Tous les prisonniers politiques doivent comparaître devant un tribunal ou être remis en liberté.” (AMR 36/009/2006) <> [Accessed 21 Jan. 2008]

. 23 May 2006. “Haiti.” Amnesty International Report 2006. <> [Accessed 18 Dec. 2007]

Associated Press (AP). 15 August 2007. “Haitian Activist Planning Senate Run Reported Missing.” (Factiva)

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 16 February 2006. “Profile: Rene Preval.” <> [Accessed 7 Jan. 2008]

Canada NewsWire Group (CNW Group). 16 November 2007. “Haïti : Quatre individus, inculpés de l’assassinat de Brignol Lindor, écroués dans la perspective d’un procès le 3 December 2007.” (Factiva)

Canadian Press. 18 October 2007. “UN Calls for Renewed Probe into Disappearance of Haiti Activist.” (Factiva)

Caribbean Media Corporation. 8 December 2005. “Lavalas Official Released by Kidnappers.” (Haiti Democracy Project) <> [Accessed 18 Dec. 2007]

Caribbean Net News. 3 April 2006. Seth Delong. “Giving Haiti’s New President a Good Launch.” <> [Accessed 20 Dec. 2007]

. 3 February 2005. Seth Delong. “Haiti’s Upcoming Elections: Fanmi Lavalas Opts Out Unless Latortue Halts State-Sponsored Terrorism.” <> [Accessed 20 Dec. 2007]

Center for the Study of Human Rights. March 2006. University of Miami School of Law. Haiti Human Rights Investigation March 11-16 2006. <> [Accessed 18 Dec. 2007]

Freedom House. 2007. “Haiti.” Freedom in the World 2007. <> [Accessed 20 Dec. 2007]

Green Left Online. 7 November 2007. “Haiti: Fanmi Lavalas Leaders Abducted.” (Haiti Information Project) <> [Accessed 18 Dec. 2007] 4 April 2005. “Famni Lavalas Rejects Ambassador Foley’s Accusations on the Existence of an Armed Minority Within the Organization.” <> [Accessed 14 Jan. 2008]

Haiti Press Network. 4 November 2008. “Haïti-Politique : douzième anniversaire de ‘Fanmi Lavalas’ sur fond de division.” <> [Accessed 15 Jan. 2009]

. 16 February 2006. “Haïti : René Préval élu président d’Haïti avec plus de 51% des suffrages.” <> [Accessed 31 Jan. 2008]

Haiti-Référence. N.d.a. “Parlement haïtien: le sénat de la République.” <> [Accessed 15 Jan. 2009]

. N.d.b. “Profil de Yvon Neptune, ancien premier ministre.” <> [Accessed 18 Dec. 2007]

El Heraldo [Tegucigalpa, Honduras]. 16 December 2008. “Partidarios de Aristide chocan con la policía haitiana.” <> [Accessed 15 Jan. 2009]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 2007. “Haiti.” World Report 2007. <> [Accessed 20 Dec. 2007]

International Crisis Group (ICG). 14 December 2007. “Peacebuilding in Haiti: Including Haitians from Abroad.” (Latin America/Caribbean Report No. 24) < haiti___including_haitians_from_abroad.pdf> [Accessed 20 Dec. 2007]

. 18 July 2007. “Consolider la stabilité en Haïti.” (Rapport Amérique latine/Caraïbes no. 21) < french/21_consolidating_stability_in_haiti_french.pdf> [Accessed 17 Dec. 2007]

. 30 October 2006. “Haiti: Security and the Reintegration of the State.” (Latin America/Caribbean Briefing No.12) <> [Accessed 17 Dec. 2007]

Los Angeles Times (LA Times). 2 September 2007. Carol J. Williams. “Former Haitian Leaders Beginning to Stir.” <> [Accessed 18 Dec. 2007]

Le Monde. 13 June 2006. “Le chef de l’État haïtien forme une large coalition.” (Factiva)

Le Nouvelliste [Haiti]. 6 February 2009. Victor Jean Junior. “Carton rouge à Fanmi Lavalas.” <> [Accessed 11 Feb. 2009]

People’s Weekly World. 8 February 2007. Tim Pelzer. “Many Political Prisoners Still Held in Haiti’s Jails.” <> [Accessed 14 Jan. 2008]

Radio Kiskeya [Port-au-Prince]. 13 January 2009. “Kelly Bastien reconduit, la bataille politique s’annonce féroce au Sénat.” <> [Accessed 15 Jan. 2009]

. 16 December 2008. “16 décembre : Plusieurs milliers de partisans d’Aristide dans les rues.” <> [Accessed 16 Jan. 2009]

. 17 August 2007. “Disparition d’un dirigeant Lavalas : la base menace.” <> [Accessed 18 Dec. 2007]

Radio Métropole [Port-au-Prince]. 15 January 2009. “Le sénateur Rudy Hériveaux dénonce une sordide combine et des coups bas du chef de l’État.” <> [Accessed 15 Jan. 2009]

. 29 August 2006. “Lavalas Senator Calls for Release of Gangleader.” (Haiti Democracy Project) <> [Accessed 18 Dec. 2007]

Reporters sans frontières (RSF). 1 February 2007. “Haiti.” Annual Report 2007. <> [Accessed 17 Dec. 2007]

Réseau national de défense des droits humains (RNDDH). 6 December 2006. “La terreur s’installe à Port-au-Prince.” <> [Accessed 7 Jan. 2008]

Reuters. 19 June 2006. “Haïti – Un ancien ministre d’Aristide libéré de prison.” (Factiva)

United Nations (UN). 31 August 2007. Security Council. Rapport du Secrétaire général sur la Mission des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en Haïti. (S/2007/503) <> [Accessed 6 Dec. 2007]

. 19 December 2006. Security Council. Rapport du Secrétaire général sur la Mission des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en Haïti. (S/2006/1003) <> [Accessed 3 Dec. 2007]

. 28 July 2006. Security Council. Rapport du Secrétaire général sur la Mission des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en Haïti. (S/2006/592) <> [Accessed 3 Dec. 2007]

United States (US). 6 March 2007. Department of State. “Haiti.” Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2006. <> [Accessed 17 Dec. 2007]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: Agence haïtienne de presse (AHP), Commission épiscopale nationale justice et paix (CEJP), Délégation de la commission européenne en Haïti, Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l’homme (FIDH), Fondation connaissance et liberté (FOKAL), Haïti-Progrès, Organistion politique Fanmi Lavalas.

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