FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney, Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), Mario@ijdh.org, +011 509 2943 2106/07 (in Haiti, speaks French and Kreyol)
Nicole Phillips, Esq., Staff Attorney, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), Nicole@ijdh.org, (510) 715-2855 (in the U.S., speaks English and French)
Human Rights Groups Petition Inter-American Commission to Protect Threatened Haitian Lawyer
(PORT-AU-PRINCE September 12, 2013)— Two human rights groups—the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) in Haiti and U.S.-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH)—today asked the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) for “precautionary measures” against the Haitian government on behalf of human rights lawyer Patrice Florvilus. Attorney Florvilus, who heads the Defenseurs des Opprimes (Defenders of the Oppressed) in Haiti, has faced threats, intimidation, and harassment from police and judicial officials in retaliation for his legal representation of police brutality victims.
“The people before you were strong and they are now dead. If you don’t stop what you are doing, you will have the same.” Four unidentified men left this message for Attorney Florvilus on August 11, 2013, to deter him from his work as a human rights defender. Attorney Florvilus also received a summons to the criminal prosecutor from Reynold Georges, lawyer for ex-dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier and President Michel Martelly’s family, charging him with arson and association with criminals, crimes he did not commit. Although the prosecutor did not appear in court and Attorney Georges agreed to drop the charges, the charges have not been withdrawn and the case remains open.
According to Mario Joseph, managing lawyer at BAI, “threats, intimidation and harassment against lawyers and other human rights defenders is increasing in Haiti, and has had a chilling effect on lawyers challenging corruption and impunity in this government led by President Michel Martelly.” Last October, the IACHR awarded precautionary measures “to guarantee the life and physical integrity of Mr. Mario Joseph,” and two lawyers who filed a corruption case against President Martelly’s family.
According to Nicole Phillips, IJDH staff attorney, “the Government of Haiti is aware of the threats against Patrice Florvilus, and is not fulfilling its legal obligation to prevent, investigate and punish these threats and intimidation”. Phillips “hopes that precautionary measures from the IACHR will force the Government of Haiti to protect Mr. Florvilus, the DOP staff and other human rights defenders from further harm.”
To see the full Request for Precautionary Measures, click here.
For more information about BAI and IJDH’s work, please visit: www.ijdh.org