Experts on social justice in Haiti offer six alternatives to international military intervention as the struggling Caribbean nation sinks deeper into economic and political crisis.
The following article was published in the November-December 2022 issue of NewsNotes.
“There is a debate raging about military intervention in Haiti,” three leading experts on civil social in Haiti acknowledge in anpublished in Just Security on Oct. 19, just days after a UN special session on Haiti. The emergency session came as response to the de facto head of state Ariel Henry’s request for special forces to help deal with armed groups that have taken over large sections of the capital city of Port-au-Prince.
Acknowledging “the historic reality of how badly past interventions have failed Haiti,” Haitian political activist Vélina Élysée Charlier, attorney Alexandra Filippova from the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti and Tom Ricker, program director at the Quixote Center, offer six alternatives to sending troops.
“First, the United States can step back from its unquestioning support for the de facto government of Ariel Henry. As long as the U.S. State Department backs Henry, they are making a mockery of any claim to neutrality. A Haitian-led solution is the only way that stability returns. And, the only way this can happen is if the United States stops sitting on the scale, even as it claims it supports Haitian self-determination.
“Second, an agreement on governance has to be implemented. While insecurity could be a major obstacle, the agreement on governance has to come first, and insecurity can then be addressed through the mechanisms established. If that wasn’t the case, the millions poured into the Haitian National Police over the past years of increasingly undemocratic governance would be succeeding at stemming the violence. The international community can help with the democratic transition, but under the direction of a Haitian-led transitional authority, not in place of one. So far, the international community has effectively marginalized serious local efforts to establish a legitimate democratic government with its support for Henry. That makes it part of the problem.
“Third, use appropriate legal instruments like the U.S. Magnitsky Act, to impose sanctions on high-profile individuals involved in corruption and human rights abuses, especially including government officials and members of the oligarchy who support and facilitate gang violence in Haiti. These cannot be symbolic gestures that change nothing. The leader of Varreux-blocking G9, a former police officer who orchestrated civilian massacres with apparent government collusion, has been sanctioned for almost two years with no impact. Yet, that is who the UN is highlighting as a target for its new proposed sanctions.
“Fourth, support accountability for the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. It is worth recalling that many of those implicated in the assassination claimed to work for or have the support of various U.S. government agencies, and Henry, whom the U.S. government effectively installed as head of state, has not substantially responded to evidence he may have been involved, and is reported to have obstructed the investigation. The U.S. government must be far more transparent about the investigation and support efforts to identify, arrest, and judge the intellectual and material authors of this crime. Congress mandated that the U.S. Department of State report on the assassination investigation, yet that report is now four months late and the Biden administration continues to prop up Henry without responding to the serious allegations against him.
“Fifth, the United States must do more to rein in illegal gun sales to Haiti. Gun sales to Haiti from the United States are supposed to be highly restricted and monitored already, but the system is clearly broken. The United States must evaluate, fix, and enforce this system alongside officials from Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
“Sixth, the United States must stop all deportations and expulsions of Haitian migrants, most of whom would qualify as refugees or have the right to access asylum proceedings, were it not for Title 42 enforcement. Similarly, the United States should end the forced repatriations of Haitians interdicted at sea. Given the aforementioned security and public health crisis, forced resettlement back to Haiti is a violation of international obligations of non-refoulement, and clearly immoral.”
Whether any of these recommendations will be put into action remains to be seen. The authors say they are not new ideas, they have been discussed by the international community for months, but with no commitments. “The United States and other international actors seem more concerned with maintaining the current de facto regime – which they installed and prop up – in power than in allowing Haitians to lead the way out of the current crisis,” they said. “This must end.”
Photo: Flaming tires seen early on February 11, 2019, in the streets of Hinche in the center of Haiti. Photo available in the public domain.