Friday, September 30, 2016

Repression: School children dazed, injured in gas attack

Profile photo of Samuel Maxime

Samuel Maxime

Editor-in-Chief

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (sentinel.ht) – Five years after the earthquake of 2010, the right to assemble peacefully, guaranteed in Haiti’s constitution, is no longer upheld. The repression by the Martelly regime caused Monday night a gas attack that left students at their school in a swoon and others injured in an ensuing stampede.

At the National School in Petion-Ville students say they were studying in their classrooms when tear gas entered causing asphyxiation symptoms. A stampede followed with students trying to get away leaving some injured. Parents came and many had still not recovered from the confusion.

The tear gas was fired by police on a group that had gathered at the head headquarters of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) of Pierre Louis Opont in Petion-Ville.

This group was awaiting an answer from the electoral council, which had met with seven presidential candidates that called for a verification commission to shed light on the October 25, 2015 vote.

Video shows about two dozen people standing behind a police perimeter and traffic freely flowing until police officers began firing tear gas. No one had breached the perimeter and the use of the force appears unprovoked.

The National School in Petion-Ville was nearby and the excessive use of the gas created a cloud which entered the campus and classrooms.

Police Chief Godson Orelus wears pink
Godson Orelus, Director General of Haitian National Police wears pink to show membership in the Haitian Tet Kale Party

The Director General of the Haitian National Police (PNH), Godson Orelus, was assked to explain police actions and had not. The Minister of Education, Nesmy Manigat, has not released a statement.

Rather, the Minister of Justice, Pierre Richard Casimir, released a press note recalling a law conflicting with the Haitian Constitution. This law requires advance notice of protests but it is challenged by human rights observers for being applied to deny the right of peaceful assembly.

Climate of Repression

Haitians have been non-violently protesting against the October 25 election results which placed the ruling party candidate, Jovenel Moïse, in first place. But just as has been the case in the past five years, PNH has responded violently against the citizenry and their right to non-violent expression.

Police repression was further backed up by a note from the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary General, Sandra Honoré, and group of diplomats calling themselves the Core Group; this includes ambassadors of the United States, France, Canada, Spain and Brazil.

The Core Group told the totalitarian and ruling regime of President Michel Martelly to arrest and punish those protesting against the election results. With a paramilitary, masked group called BOID, the Haitian population has been subjected to systematic violations of their human rights.

An organization of Haitian-Americans wrote an open letter to the United Nations in Haiti chief to condemn the improprieties and violations of the Vienna Conventions exhibited by herself and the Core Group.

About The Author

Profile photo of Samuel Maxime

Samuel Maxime is a Haitian-born citizen living in the United States. He founded The Haiti Sentinel to bring Haitian issues to an English language audience.