harvard human rights clinic
Harvard Law School, which houses the International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC). (NKC Photo/Flickr)

An April report from the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School said the Haitian government led by President Jovenel Moïse is complicit in crimes against humanity, for its roles in recent gang attacks.

“The scale, pattern and intensity of violence in these attacks indicate that they are not isolated or random,” said Joey Bui, a co-author of the Harvard report during a May 3 virtual conference. Bui joined human rights experts and activists in the conference, to discuss the Harvard report and its consequences.

Harvard’s report, “Killing with Impunity: State-Sanctioned Massacres in Haiti,” largely used existing human rights reports to build a legal case for crimes against humanity. It analyzed three attacks that occurred in La Saline, Bel Air and Cité Soleil and left at least 240 civilians dead between 2018 and 2020. All three meet the criteria for crimes against humanity laid out in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the report states, because they were directed against civilians, were systematic and advanced the objectives of the Haitian state.

Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, described in the report as a gang leader, is implicated as a key figure in each attack. Citing earlier reports from human rights groups, the Harvard researchers said that officials in the Moïse administration met with Cherizier to plan the attacks in La Saline and Bel-Air, which occurred in 2018 and 2019, respectively. 

In the 2020 Cité Soleil attack, an unidentified government official allegedly paid an anti-government gang leader to switch sides, prompting the attacks there by Cherizier and his allies.

Each neighborhood mentioned in the report is considered by the United Nations to be a stronghold of opposition support, particularly the Fanmi Lavalas political party.

Failures of the state

Haiti’s police force (PNH) failed to protect civilians in each instance and made weapons available to gang leaders, the report also found. In the case of La Saline in particular, police never intervened despite having several outposts within a kilometer of the incident. 

“The La Saline police station reportedly informed the Departmental West Directorate of the attack as soon as it began, and by 5pm, at least five PNH units were on notice that the attack was taking place,” the report states. “Citing inadequate resources, no part of PNH made an attempt to intervene.” 

Three former Moise administration officials were named in the report for collaborating with Cherizier: Pierre Richard Duplan, a former Moïse delegate for the West Department; Fednel Monchery, former director of the Interior Ministry; and Leon Ronsard Saint-Cyr, former secretary of state for public security. 

None of the named individuals have been prosecuted. The Haitian human rights group RNDDH ‒ which was cited heavily in Harvard’s report along with the UN ‒ reported that Saint-Cyr denies involvement in the Bel-Air massacre. 

Cherizier himself has denied playing a role in gang massacres, the Associated Press has reported, and characterizes himself as a neighborhood leader with no allegiance to the government or opposition. 

Recommended actions

In its recommendation section, the Harvard report’s authors urged both the U.S. and the UN to investigate and prosecute alleged perpetrators of human rights abuses. It also urged the U.S., which has already sanctioned Duplan and Monchery, not to empower Moise by supporting the elections process the president has outlined this year. 

Harvard researchers also advised the Organization of American States to work with the Haitian government to outline a plan for addressing the crimes. 

“The Haitian government has a duty under international law to investigate perpetrators of these crimes,” said Bui, the report’s co-author. 

Sam is a reporter for The Haitian Times and a 2020 Report for America corps member. He has covered Haiti and its diaspora since 2018. His work has also appeared in USA Today, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Haiti Liberte. Sam can be reached at sam@haitiantimes.com or on Twitter @sambojarski.

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  1. All very true. Having lived and worked in Haiti since 2011, there has been major changes. None of which are positive.

  2. The Haitian government has always been complicit in massacres perpetuated against its own people. The cycle of impunity and violence continues with the current administration and has reached levels of atrocities unheard of. Nothing will change until the Haitian diaspora starts putting pressure on the US, the UN, and the OAS to prosecute both the government and the stooges acting on behalf of the government.

  3. I can tell he doesn’t know too much about what is going on in Haiti. The best progressive government in Haiti for about 30 years. A government of the people elected by the people, working for the people of Haiti. The opposition has been trying to destabilize his government for the past 4 years. They don’t want progress and election. That’s what the opposition is getting. Democracy is election not provisional government . Let Haiti be. Back off of Haiti . Please find the true kidnappers and the ones who are bringing arms to Haiti. Every government that can help Haiti is ousted by foreign organizations that listen to false reports and lies by envious Haitians politicians. Haiti now has 490 political parties. Come on. Let Jovenel give Haitian a good constitution for the advancement of this poor nation . Jovenel is a great president, working trully for the good of the forsaken men , women and children of Haiti.

    1. Apparently you don’t know much either … I have been living there all my life, and I can tell you, the country has never reached this depth and we’re going deeper and deeper in this chaos

  4. A big thank you to the Harvard report. Now, what’s next (US Government?)

    Mendes Toussaint

    1. The US govt already had their greedy MIT’s in Haiti, stole their gold and NEVER returned it. Do NOT trust the US

  5. Right on Nounoune
    Let us take our own destiny, the international never never has a good plan for us.They’re taking care of their business as usual…It is time for all the political parties to merge into three to foor parties at the Most,show some respect for our Ancestors who fought for the well beeing of this new Nation. We have to stop counting on our enemies.

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