A year after the assassination of the Haitian president, the investigation deadlocked

A year after the assassination of the Haitian president, the investigation deadlocked

On July 7, 2021 at dawn, Haiti learned with amazement that its president Jovenel Moïse had just been assassinated in his room by an armed commando. A year later, investigations are stalled, sponsors and motives remain unknown and the political climate is deleterious.

That day, the assailants appear to have entered the private residence with ease. A few hours later, the Haitian police had shown exceptional speed by arresting around twenty individuals, including 18 former Colombian soldiers.

This feat of arms has so far only been followed by very slow legal proceedings in Haiti and the United States. The presidency has since been vacant, and no date is in sight for a ballot to name a successor.

In Port-au-Prince, no less than five successive investigating judges have already been in charge of the case and none has yet formally charged the forty people imprisoned, including the Colombian citizens presumed to be members of the commando.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed concern about “the limited progress” of the investigation and regretted that the Haitian authorities had not instituted “enhanced security measures to protect judicial personnel assigned to the affair”.

Sadly known for its slowness, Haitian justice is more than ever adrift in the capital: for the past month, the premises of the Port-au-Prince prosecutor’s office have been occupied by one of the many gangs that multiply villainous kidnappings.

– Prime Minister quoted –

Ariel Henry (center) arrives at the tribute to Jovenel Moïse in Port-au-Prince on July 7, 2022 (AFP – Richard PIERRIN)

The possible involvement of the Prime Minister has further halted the investigation.

Named only two days before the assassination, Ariel Henry is suspected of having had telephone conversations with one of the main suspects a few hours after the attack.

Invited by the prosecutor to explain himself, he did not appear, describing the approach as “diversion”. He then dismissed the magistrate and appointed a new Minister of Justice.

This gray area prompted the president’s widow, Martine Moïse, seriously injured during the attack, to curtly reject the invitation to official tributes to her husband, organized by a “head of government (who) is the subject of serious presumptions of assassination on the President of the Republic”.

Thursday morning, so a brief ceremony was held in the heart of the garden of the National Pantheon Museum, in Port-au-Prince.

“Despite its weakness, justice must continue to do its utmost to track down the culprits (…) and impose exemplary and dissuasive sentences on them,” said Ariel Henry.

At midday, several thousand supporters of the late president demonstrated against the Prime Minister whom they accuse of being linked to the murderous plot.

The police pushed back the procession which wanted to head towards the heights of the capital, where the residence where Jovenel Moïse was riddled with bullets is located.

This murder only aggravated the already deep Haitian political crisis.

Parliament has not been functional for two years, Jovenel Moïse having not organized any elections since he came to power in 2017. And, deprived of a head of state, the country found itself with an equally failing judiciary, lack of judges appointed to the Court of Cassation.

– Classified evidence in the United States –

Lacking confidence in the institutions of Port-au-Prince, many Haitians are turning their gaze to American justice, which has charged three suspects in Miami.

The Haitian judicial police established, in its investigation report, that the plot against the president had been fomented in Florida and the Colombian mercenaries recruited by a security company based in Miami.

In January, two first suspects were charged in Florida: Mario Palacios, a Colombian national suspected of being one of five armed men who entered the room where the leader was killed, and Rodolphe Jaar, a Haitian- Chilean.

A third indictment was added in June, that of former Haitian senator John Joël Joseph, for complicity in murder.

A fourth alleged member of the attack was arrested at Istanbul airport in November, but Turkish justice on Monday rejected Haiti’s extradition request and ordered his release.

And the hopes born of the progress of the legal proceedings in Miami were showered when, in April, an American judge decided to classify certain evidence and hearings.

The measure was taken because among the suspects are two former informants of the American anti-drug agency DEA and a former informant of the FBI.

“We do not see with a good eye the fact that the United States gives itself this possibility of protecting certain information”, notes a Haitian judicial source. “A whole section of this story will remain unknown”.

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