Tribunal de Port-au-Prince ,
Residents walk past the Port-au-Prince Court of First Instance in an undated image. Photo via Le Nouvelliste

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Lawyers in the capital city’s Bar Association have called for a sit-in to force the government to relocate the civil court to a safer area. The Port-au-Prince Court of First Instance is in a state of chronic dysfunction, they say, due to increased violence and kidnappings in the Champ-de Mars area, where the court is located.

Lawyers planned to hold a sit-in Apr. 8 in front of Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s private home to demand that Henry take immediate action on a March 11 resolution of the bar requesting the relocation. They said the government must provide a safe work environment, and they want Henry to act quickly on their demands.

Lawyers,  justice of peace and the court employees have deserted the court offices since persistent insecurity and kidnappings made Champ-de-Mars dangerous to frequent. Lawyers have been complaining on local radio that judges are unable to hear cases, which result in their clients being confined without due process in pretrial detention. Conditions are inhumane and often life-threatening, they said.

The call for the sit-in follows the Apr. 4 decision of the Superior Council of the Judiciary Power, known in its french acronym as CSPJ, to relocate only the Dean’s Office to expedite urgent cases, but not the entire courthouse, as had been requested.

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