Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Senator Benoit Statement to Congress

A statement from Haitian senator Steven Benoit, seeking fair elections and explaining how President Martelly has not only undermined them but also violated many articles of the Haitian Constitution.

Honorable Senators, Congresswomen and Congressmen

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are taking the opportunity of this visit to brief you on some of the events that have brought Haiti on the verge of a major political crisis. As legislators and believers in the representation of the people through legislative bodies, it is important for us to submit this analytical paper to your attention. We thank you in anticipation for your kind attention.

Foremost, we would like to state that we are looking for ways to move ahead with Mr. Martelly toward the organization of democratic, fair, transparent elections as quickly as possible to fill hundreds of posts at the local level and in the Senate (10 seats). As legislators we would like to maintain a stable political climate and work in harmony with the executive branch to attract new investments, create new jobs, sustainability and keep the hopes of the Haitian people for a better future.

However, since he arrived in power, Mr. Martelly has shown a profound dislike for democracy, legislative Representatives, as well as for the check and balance of the powers granted to him by the constitution. Currently, municipal government is being managed by hand-picked men and women totally dedicated to Martelly. This means that all 420 municipal executive agents replacing the elected mayors whose term has expired, since 2011, are close Martelly political allies. Thousands of elected county officials have also been hand-picked by Martelly to replace those whose term had run out.

President Martelly has also done all he could to have a hand-picked electoral council he hoped could rig the votes in favor of his political friends.

The following is a  summary of the citations and recitals of a resolution proposed by thirteen Haitian Congressmen to have President Michel Joseph Martelly tried by a High Court of Justice as prescribed by the Constitution of the country.

Through this, it is possible to get a good, but incomplete, view of all the violations of Haiti’s laws and constitution by the highest members of the executive branch of the country.

Among other things, President Martelly has been accused of violating article 153 of the constitution when he tried to dispose a neighbor of his private residence of his house  and surrounding properties by using the equivalent of the IRS to falsely accuse the individual of not paying property taxes.

As early as October 26, 2011, President Martelly ordered or authorized the arrest of a Haitian Congressman as he stepped out of a plane following an official mission abroad, in violation of article 114.2 of the constitution and without any legal ground to act in such a way. He lied and denied that he had anything to do with it while it is well known that his collaborators are terrified by him and would never act without his approval.

Violation of article 218 of the constitution by President Martelly when he unilaterally levied two (2) taxes on international phone calls and money transfers from abroad without any law supporting that decision. No one beside President Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe have control over those funds which surpass US $200 million today. He has been trying to get Parliament to ratify his decision at posteriori …

President Martelly also violated articles 200 and 236 of Haiti’s constitution when he designated (January 24, and June 15, 2012) his wife and his 23-years old son to coordinate and manage millions of US dollars in public funds and run social and sports development programs outside of all legally-established channels. For several months, contracts were granted to companies owned by or connected with friends of the Martelly family among rumors of millions being kicked back to the wife and son (the latter is currently building a million dollar-commercial building in one of Haiti’s most expensive neighborhoods. When two Haitian lawyers filed a legal complaint against the Martellys, the District attorney and the investigating Judge received threats. Finally, the investigative Judge accused the Chief Judge of the Court of 1st Instance of taking him to a meeting with President Martelly, Prime Minister Lamothe and Minister of Justice Jean Renel Sanon. That was a clear violation of the separation of powers under Haiti’s constitution.

But things went even further as the investigative Judge stated that President Martelly addressed him disrespectfully and threatened him and summoned him to stop the investigation of his wife and son. The next day, the Judge told his associates that he would abandon the investigation and leave the country. But he was to die the day after under mysterious circumstances that remain to be explained. Both the Congress and the Senate undertook an investigation of the matter that points to violations of the separation of powers by the leaders of Haiti’s executive branch and their Minister of Justice and conclude by making them liable of a trial by the High Court of Justice.

If all of these illegal and unconstitutional decisions could take place, it is because President Martelly had also previously violated other articles of the constition when he was making the nominations of the Judges of the Cour de Cassation (equivalent of the US Supreme Court). He managed to select at least three Judges (disregarding all protests by the Senate) who did not meet the requirements and to have one of them (whom he has known since his childhood) become Chief Justice and President of the Higher Council on Justice.

Through a number of nominations of District Attorneys, Prosecutors, Judges and Justices of the Peace (by Chief Justice Anel Joseph his childhood friend), etc., President Martelly and his Minister of Justice have been able to turn the Haitian justice system into a political arm at the service of the executive branch (or the Martelly crew: he used to call himself and his close friends ‘’legal bandits’’ and has a song written on the topic). A very dangerous and scary development.

Two accusers of Mrs. Martelly are currently in jail under trumped-up charges, awaiting a trial that may never come … Two lawyers who were very critical of the Martellys’ ways in running the affairs of Haiti are now in hiding and one of them is forbidden to leave the country/travel abroad. No later than yesterday, one of the most critical journalists of the Martelly government has been ordered to surrender all documents pertaining to an information she had on a contested Judge in office which had been nationally disbarred for ten years by the bar associations (federation) of Haiti.

Last but not least, a close friend of the President came to port with 55 packs of marijuana on his private yatch and called the police and the District attorney to come and get them at his beach hotel. When the Prosecutor had him come to his office for questioning and later sent him to a District Attorney, the police spokesperson and even the Minister of Justice scolded him and the Minister threatened to remove him from office. Only the scandal throughout Haiti’s public opinion and press forced the Minister to back-track.

Being the first person to agree to this. His election was a controversial one as he did not win the first round but was forcefully imposed as a winner. Winning the second round against Mrs. Manigat was easier and he may have won it. Haiti’s political class let Mr. Martelly have his days for two years, despite warning signs that the man was an admirer and follower of former Presidents for Life and well-known dictators François and Jean-Claude Duvalier. Indeed President Martelly had several run-in with members of Congress and of the Senate were he clearly said he would rather run the country without a Parliament.

After two years of hide and seek first to publish the amendments of the constitution, then to form an electoral council, then to send the electoral law to Congress (he kept the document for two months at the palace), President Martelly waited for the lower Chamber to almost end its regular session before depositing the electoral law. The way things look today, there is no way the latest electoral law can be worked on by both Chambers unless the President calls Congress back into session. Last week, Mr. Martelly told a crowd that for the next two years he would ‘’ … run Haiti as he saw fit to him since he is the only Chief in the country. Whatever he says will have to be done …’’.

Having President Martelly run Haiti without a Congress and without holding elections, with practically all elected and public administration positions filled by his nominations, would be equal to going back to the political instability and turmoil of the years that followed President Aristide’s departure from power in 2004. A perspective of violence that Haiti is incapable of sustaining on top of all its other ills: vulnerability to earthquakes, tropical storms and hurricanes and deforestation and erosion, without mentioning lack of investments and jobs …

As responsible politicians we are counting on the understanding and support of all the hemispheric democracies to assist Haiti in ending its years of political upheavals and confrontations. We are looking forward to having good and peaceful elections, but above all an executive branch respectful of the constitution and of the laws of the land and of its opposition, of the right to demonstrate, speak out and criticize peacefully and in order, rights which thousands of Haitians have died for from 1957 to now …

Long live HAITI, longue vie a notre chere HAITI

Steven I. Benoit

Senator of the proud Republic of Haiti.

 

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