Two Haitian human rights groups, the Haitian Platform of Human Rights Organizations (POHDH) and the National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH), issued a joint statement on Oct. 27 demanding "the release of the political prisoners and the demonstrators arrested illegally" by the government of President Michel Martelly in recent weeks. Police agents arrested 18 demonstrators in Port-au-Prince on Oct. 17 during a march protesting government policies and marking the 208th anniversary of revolutionary hero Jean-Jacques Dessalines' assassination; the police dispersed the demonstration with tear gas and gunshots. After an Oct. 26 march protesting the government's failure to hold partial legislative elections on that date, the authorities arrested Rony Timothée and Byron Odigé, two leaders in the Patriotic Force for Respect for the Constitution (FOPARC), which backs the Family Lavalas (FL) party of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004). In addition to the 20 arrests in Port-au-Prince, police detained three demonstrators in the city of Les Cayes, South department, on Oct. 12 during a protest demanding electricity.
The two human rights groups indicated that the detainees were arrested for their political positions. The government failed to meet the requirement to question the detainees within 24 hours, the groups said, and they expressed astonishment that "accusations of incitation to violence and destruction could be made against demonstrators and opposition activists when no flagrant crime had taken place." Timothée and Odigé were also arrested in May, on similar charges, but a judge ordered their release a few weeks later. On Oct. 30 demonstrators protested the arrests with a march to the prison in Carrefour, on Port-au-Prince's southwest outskirts, where Timothée and Odigé were thought to be held. A large police group was on hand, backed up by a truck equipped with a water cannon; stores quickly closed, and mothers reportedly snatched children from schools so that they wouldn't be exposed to tear gas, but the protest ended without any major confrontations. (AlterPresse, Haiti, Oct. 29, Oct. 31)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, November 2.