“Now They’re All Dead”: Threats of Assassination to Human Rights Advocates in Haiti

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On Monday, hundreds from the displacement camps and community organizations in Port-au-Prince marched to the courthouse together to show their support. A second march will occur Thursday.

Florvilus is one of several Haitian human rights defenders being accused of committing the very crimes they are investigating. In the past year, other lawyers have received threats of arrest or death to silence their probing into corruption and human rights violations taking place under Haiti's current administration.a chain of events that started on April 13th, when some 1,500 families living in a camp known as Camp Acra, came under threat of eviction from lawyer Reynald Georges. Georges is best known for representing the recently returned ex-dictator, Jean-Claude Duvalier, who faces charges of crimes against humanity. Witnesses have stated that Georges entered Camp Acra brandishing a firearm, guarded by five Haitian officers and accompanied by a justice of the peace. He threatened to remove people from the land by "any means necessary." Claiming at the time that the land belonged to his client, Duvalier, Georges is reported to have told the crowd that heavy equipment was on its way to raze the camp.

At 2:00 a.m. that morning, unknown assailants attempted to burn down the camp. Arson attacks have been used repeatedly to illegally evict displaced earthquake survivors still stuck in the camps. Families in Camp Acra activated to contain the fire to the several tarp shelters upon which ignited gasoline-soaked rags had been thrown. No physical injuries were reported.officers told them that they "did not have the resources to respond." As with every other IDP camp that had been set on fire, authorities never investigated this attack and no arrests were made. In an attempt to draw attention to the situation, at 5:00 a.m. that morning camp residents staged a protest on the main street just outside their camp, blocking a main thoroughfare, Delmas 33. The police, now finding the "resources to respond," came in to break up the protest and randomly took two men into custody.

One of the two, the young Méris Civil, died within hours of being taken into police custody. His body was left covered with bruises and wounds. His corpse was wrapped in a sheet and taken to the General Hospital's morgue by the police.

Attorney Florvilus was able to secure the release of the second man, Darlin Lexima, later that morning. He had not been charged with anything. He emerged from the police station traumatized and with numerous abrasions and bruises. Lexima said that he and Civil had both been severely tortured by police officers. line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
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On August 15, a patrol vehicle of heavily armed UN soldiers parked in front of DOP's office. When one of the DOP team asked about their intentions, the soldiers responded that they were "simply following orders."

Faced with the decision of ceasing his work and fleeing the country, or going public with the threats and continuing to seek justice, Florvilus chose the latter. He notified his network of solidarity groups, both in Haiti and abroad, and continued to push for an official investigation into the torture and murder of the two men from Camp Acra. line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
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Despite the intimidation and threats, DOP–whose focus is on accompanying Haiti's civil society groups and neglected population–continue their work, but not without a price. Those being targeted live under the constant stress of wondering if an assassin's bullet awaits them each time there is a knock at the door or as they dart outside the office into their awaiting transportation. In transit, a silence falls over their vehicles each time they pass a police patrol or check point.action alert from Frontline Defenders.here. font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
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Beverly Bell has worked with Haitian social movements for over 30 years. She is author of Walking on Fire: Haitian Women's Stories of Survival and Resistance and Fault Lines: Views across Haiti's New Divide. She coordinates Other Worlds, which promotes social and economic alternatives. She is also associate fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. Other Worlds. She has worked in advocacy and with Haitian social movements since 2008.

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