PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti Members of the Haitian Parliament are seeking the appearance of Justice Minister Camille Edouard Jr. to explain the circumstances of the arrest and extradition of Senator-elect Guy Philippe. Lawmakers feel threatened, deem the arrest illegal, and have conflated it with the extradition to the United States, with some championing a call to charge President Jocelerme Privert and Minister Edouard with treason.
“It’s not Guy Philippe that has been humiliated, but all the Haitian people that have been humiliated” exclaimed Sentor Jean-Renel Senatus (Ouest/) with a hoarse voice, enraged. It is along these lines that lawmakers have been launching declarations in the press to tie the plight of Guy Philippe, a wanted drug-trafficker of 12 years, to that of all Haitian people.
This would be the second time that members of the legislature have made like allegations against the Privert-Jean-Charles government. In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in October 2016, they launched a public campaign to label the administration treasonous for allowing some 1,500 Dominican troops into Haiti, aboard 500 trucks delivering relief and assistance to the hard-hit southwest.
On Friday, Senator Andris Riché (Nippes/OPL) said the arrest was “a disgust for democratic institutions. But it’s not just that. The Grand Corps (The Senate), is seeking to see clearly. We have invited, through the voice of its president, the Minister of Justice to explain himself before the Justice Committee.”
Minister Camille Edouard Jr. was called to appear for a hearing in the Senate on Friday, a day after the arrest to “clarify the circumstance, legality and alleged ‘deportation’ of the elected senator”, but he did not appear. The minister explained in a letter that there was a “conflict of agenda”, he was tied up in a meeting at the National Palace. “A meeting on the continuiation of the electoral process and overall security…”
The term “deportation” continues to be used by lawmakers and observers with legal backgrounds believe a political point is being made here. The Haitian Constition in Article 41 prohibits the deportation of a Haitian citizen, specifically, but the argument can be made that it does not prohibit “extradition” considering a 1997 extradition accord was passed by Haiti and the United States.
Camille Edouard Jr. solicited a postponement of the meeting. “In relation to the facts mentioned, a detailed report will be sent to you from the first briefings received from the competent services”, he concluded in his correspondence sent Friday at 3 PM to Senate President Ronald Larèche (Nord-Est/Verite).
“We arrested a citizen elected in the margins of the law,” said Head of Communications for the Haitian Tet Kale Party (PHTK), Reynald Luberus Guerrier. This spokesman for PHTK, the party of the president-elect Jovenel Moïse and the majority in Parliament, including an absolute majority in the Chamber of Deputies if allied parties are included, denounced the Privert administration.
Mr. Guerrier said he was awaiting explanations from the President of the Republic, the Minister of Justice and Public Security and the Minister of the Interior and Local Governments, Annick François Joseph, on what has transpired. “This was not an arrest, it was a kidnapping. The government has committed a crime of high treason,” he said.
The party’s position is one, but from Jovenel Moïse, who campaigned arm-in-arm with the former coup leader, Mr. Philippe, and for former President Michel Martelly, the party’s leader and long-time friend, it has been silence. There is a threat of hypocrisy that faces PHTK and lawmakers in the case of Guy Philippe explained radio host, Jean Menard Metellus, during his broadcast Intersecion on Radio Caraïbes, Friday.
Other lawmakers said Senator-elect Guy Philippe demonstrated a certain naivity in the affair. One said, appearing on the cover of Le Nouvelliste in the company of heavily-armed men in Port-au-Prince was foolhardy, days before he would have taken the oath of office on Monday, January 9, 2017.
Another lawmaker called it a “strategic error”. “We have to make the difference between a senator-elect and a senator in office. If he had, it was more than obvious that he was not going to get himself in so easily,” the deputy, who chose to remained anonymous said.
There is an intentionally vulnerable window for elected officials. While they enjoy immunity from arrest during the electoral campaign, according to Haiti’s Electoral Decree and Laws, at the end of the campaign, when results are officially published in Le Moniteur and until they take the oath of office, there is no legal prescribed protection.
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