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End the Media Silence on Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine's Kidnapping

September 19, 2007

End the Media Silence on Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine's Kidnapping


It has been over a month since the kidnapping of Haitian human rights activist Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine. Roger Annis, a member of the Canada Haiti Action Network and one of the last people to have seen Antoine in Port-au-Prince, recently wrote this statement on the international media's silence related to his kidnapping.

[Photo by Darren Ell]


A call to lift the silence surrounding Lovinsky Pierre Antoine’s disappearance in Haiti

By Roger Annis

September 14, 2007--On August 12, one of Haiti’s best-known and respected advocates of human and social rights, Lovinsky Pierre Antoine, disappeared. Police later confirmed that he was kidnapped.

Everyone of fair mind who has followed this tragic turn of events is wishing for a safe and speedy release of Lovinsky. We hesitate to speak out on the case for fear of upsetting whatever delicate communications may be taking place toward this end.

But his disappearance may not be a criminal kidnapping. It may be that some among the Haitian elite and its foreign backers have decided to silence Lovinsky. If true, the implications for democracy and political rights in Haiti are very disturbing.

It is important that a vigorous, public debate on Lovinsky’s fate take place. His disappearance has received little media attention in Canada, and this must change. A fine article has appeared in the current issue of the Montreal weekly Hour; more are needed. His supporters in Haiti are holding rallies and press conferences in order to pressure authorities to conduct a full investigation and win his safe release, and rallies have taken place in Montreal and San Francisco. Here too, more are needed.

Lovinsky was working as an adviser to an August 5 to 18 human rights investigative delegation to Haiti when he was kidnapped. I was a member of that delegation. He disappeared at the end of a day of activity of our delegation. On August 15, I and another Canadian member of the delegation visited the Canadian embassy to urge Canadian ambassador Claude Boucher to make a public statement of concern about Lovinsky’s disappearance. That request was refused by the embassy, and it has made no such statement to date. This is unacceptable.

As our delegation observed, Haiti is living through an unprecedented economic and social calamity. Everything is in decline. Basic human and social rights such as jobs, clean water, health care and education, and reliable electrical service are unavailable to most Haitians. Garbage and sewage disposal is a luxury that only a small minority enjoy.

It has been three and a half years since a right-wing rebellion and foreign military intervention shattered Haiti’s democracy and its social and civil infrastructure. The country has not recovered from the two-year regime of human rights violations that followed the overthrow of the country’s president, Jean Bertrand Aristide, and other elected institutions on February 29, 2004.

The presidential election of February 2006 opened political space for the people to recoup and reorganize. But that space may now be fast closing. None of the country’s pressing social and economic needs are being tackled, the horrendous conditions in the prisons remains largely unchanged, and the new government has embarked upon an ambitious program of privatisation and layoff of workers in the remaining public institutions.

It is clear from our travels throughout Haiti that the people there will not take this situation lying down. There is a growing clamour in the country for a sharp shift in government and occupation policy, away from a regime of foreign police and military occupation, and toward a regime of road building, economic investment, and creation of social programs.

Lovinsky Pierre Antoine is a vital and important voice in the growing movement of the Haitian people for change. His September 30 Foundation is waging a fight to win the release of the hundreds of political prisoners and several thousand common prisoners who languish in Haiti’s prisons, most in violation of the country’s constitution and legal code. The Foundation issued a stark public challenge to the United Nations authority in July at the time of the first visit to Haiti of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon: help us build a country of prosperity, or get out.

Lovinsky was part of the widely-publicized and successful effort of our delegation to win the release of two illegally-detained prisoners in the city Port de Paix on August 7, including a 13-year old girl who had served one month of a two-month sentence delivered by a judge. I am told that he was considering running as a candidate in the senatorial election to take place in November.

We hope that journalists, editorial writers, Members of Parliament and anyone else interested in making the world a better place will read this statement and act on it. Let’s open up the country’s newspapers and airwaves to reports on the situation in Haiti and to critical examination of Canada’s role there.

Let’s end the silence surrounding the disappearance of Lovinsky Pierre Antoine.
Roger Annis traveled throughout Haiti from August 5 to 18 on an investigative human rights delegation. His reports can be read at www.thac.ca/blog/9. He is a member of Haiti Solidarity BC, in Vancouver, and the Canada-Haiti Action Network. He can be contacted at rogerannis@hotmail.com.

To contact the Foreign Affairs department of the Government of Canada and express your concern about Lovinsky’s disappearance, phone 1-800-267-8376. You can send an e-mail message to the International Education Division of Foreign Affairs. You can also contact the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), tel: 011-509-244-0650/066, fax: 011-509-244-9366/67; or fax the office of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York: 212-963-4879.

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