A judicial crisis erupts in Haiti

While Haitian leaders were out of the country, accusations about judicial improprieties led to the firing of a chief prosecutor.

By Jacqueline Charles


While Haiti President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe made the rounds in New York this week, a judicial crisis erupted at home with the firing of a chief prosecutor, the swearing-in of another and an alleged resignation in less than 24 hours.

Former Chief Prosecutor for Port-au-Prince Jean Renel Senatus said Haiti’s Justice Minister Jean Renel Sanon fired him Thursday because he refused to execute an order to arrest 36 government opponents.

Senatus also said that Josue Pierre-Louis, a presidential legal advisor and head of the six-member electoral council, asked him to serve warrants against two attorneys — Newton St. Juste and Andre Michel — who have brought corruption complaints against the presidential family and members of Haiti’s government.

“I told him, ‘No, I don’t have a case against them in my hand,’ ’’ Senatus said. “It’s not democratic. It’s not democracy.”

Senatus said he had previously refused to execute several “illegal’’ arrest orders, including one against prominent human rights lawyer Mario Joseph.

Asked if the president had issued the orders, Senatus said in a telephone interview from Port-au-Prince, that Sanon was responsible but added that Sanon “told me you would make the president happy.”

Senatus spent Friday calling in to Haitian radio stations and blasting Sanon for the “attacks” against him by the justice minister.

In the job for nine months, Senatus was the sixth and longest serving Port-au-Prince chief prosecutor in Martelly’s 17-month presidency. He had earned the nickname “Zokiki,’’ which refers to juvenile delinquency, because of his campaign against underage prostitution and clubbing and men who have sex with underage girls.

Sanon could not be reached for comment. But on Haitian radio he called Senatus a liar and said that he was fired because of insubordination and his failure to produce results.

Several Haitian government spokesmen did not respond to requests for comment on this week’s events.

Senatus said he was informed of his firing by local journalists and found that his replacement had already been named. The replacement, Elco St. Amand, was sworn in late Thursday

But by Friday, St. Amand too was holding a press conference declaring that he was still in the job despite assertions that he had resigned. St. Amand also defended himself against Internet allegations of drug trafficking saying, “If I were a trafficker, why didn’t the United States revoke my visa?”

However, a former government official, who declined to be identified, told The Miami Herald St. Amand was fired in 2001 by Haiti’s justice minister after he was implicated in a drug trafficking scandal.

The firing, said the source, came after much consultation.

Late Friday, text messages were circulating, indicating that yet another new chief prosecutor had been named. The Miami Herald was unable to confirm this.

Sorting out the judicial quagmire is just one of the problems awaiting Martelly and Lamothe when they return from the United Nations General Assembly.

On Friday, thousands of government supporters took to the streets in the city of Gonaives in the Artibonite region in support of Martelly. That followed a day in which thousands of Haitians protested against Martelly in Cap-Haitien.

On Sunday, members of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas political party are expected to take to the streets with others to protest against government corruption and rising prices. A general strike also has been called in Cap-Haitien on Monday.


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