Haiti: human rights activist threatened

On April 2 Pierre Espérance, the executive director of the Haitian nonprofit National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH), received a letter at the organization's Port-au-Prince office warning him not to issue "false reports destabilizing for the country." "In 99 we missed you, this time you won't escape it, stop speaking," the letter's authors wrote, referring to a 1999 attack in which Espérance suffered bullet wounds to the shoulder and knee while driving in Port-au-Prince. Recent reports by the RNDDH have dealt with such subjects as the slow pace of the prosecution of former "president for life" Jean-Claude ("Baby Doc") Duvalier (1971-1986) and alleged ties between drug traffickers and the government of President Michel Martelly ("Sweet Micky").

The threatening letter came less than two months after the Feb. 8 murder of Daniel Dorsinvil, the coordinator of the Haitian Platform of Human Rights Organizations (POHDH), and his wife, the pediatric nurse Girdly Larêche. Two international human rights organizations, Amnesty International (AI) and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, have issued notes expressing their concern about the threat to Espérance, and on April 9 a criminal complaint was filed with the prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince. (Associated Press, April 15; AlterPresse, Haiti, April 16, April 16)

In related news, on April 16 the Port-au-Prince-based Bureau of International Lawyers (BAI) and its US partner, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), issued a report on recent anti-union acts by Haitian employers and on apparent government complicity with the owners. The report cites the January firing of at least 36 unionists in the garment sector following two days of strikes and marches in December for an increased minimum wage. The report notes that the country's garment assembly plants still have not complied with minimum wage requirements that went into effect in October 2012. Union leaders at Electricité d'Haïti (EDH), the state-owned electricity company, have also been illegally terminated, according to the report. On Jan. 10 the treasurer of the EDH workers' union was knocked unconscious when EDH security guards tried to break up a press conference the unionists were holding on the street outside the company's parking lot. (Center for Economic and Policy Research, Haiti Relief and Reconstruction Watch, April 17)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 20.