PORT-AU-PRINCE, Ouest, HT (sentinel.ht) – A departure ban was issued and then lifted against officials of the former Martelly administration and regime. The ban included Prime Ministers Laurent Lamothe and Evans Paul and about a dozen ministers, including Tourism Minister Stephanie Balmir Villdrouin. Two days later, the departure prohibitions on ministers and one previously issued on electoral councilors was lifted.
The ban was issued on the night of Monday, May 30, 2016, and followed a similar one ordered days prior against all members of the former Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) headed by Pierre Louis Opont.
The names of former government officials placed under the departure prohibition were:
- Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe
- Prime Minister Evans Paul
- Environment Minister Jean Francois Thomas
- Public Works Jacques Rousseau
- Tourism, Stephanie Balmir Villedrouin
- Health, Florence Duperval Guillaume
- Haitians Living Abroad, Olicier Pieriche
- Foreign Affairs, Lener Renauld
- Women, Yverose Morquette
- Trade, Jude Hervée Day
- Interior, Ariel Henri
- Justice, Pierre Richard Casimir
- Communications, Rothchild Francois Junior
The measure was taken by the chief prosecutor in Port-au-Prince, Commissioner Danton Leger, and is in relation to investigations into the management of the PetroCaribe fund and the 2015 fraudulent elections. A week earlier, President Jocelerme Privert appointed Leger to the Central Directorate of the Judicial Police (CDPJ), the national investigation law enforcement agency.
But 48 hours following the issuance of the prohibition, it was lifted. The ban on former electoral councilors was lifted as well. Lawyers for the ministers went public with their defense and lawmakers of the embattled 50th Legislature placed pressure on Prime Minister Enex Jean-Charles to order the commissioner removed.
Former Officials argue Legality
The immediate response by the former Martelly administration officials were “political persecution”. Even the administration’s long-time opponents debated the legality of Commissioner Leger’s order.
It was a wide net and did not clearly and concisely take into account every individual crime of each individual. This gave it the appearance of arbitrariness. The inclusion of former Tourism Minister Stephanie Villedrouin and Communications Minister Francois Jr. could not have been anticipated by a Haitian public that gives them high favorable.
The former Head of the Haitian Government Laurent Lamothe was out of the country when his lawyers were served on the prohibition. His counsel wrote to prosecutors “denouncing and condemning with vehemence” the departure ban. They called the measure “arbitrary, illegal and abusive.”
Lamothe’s lawyers believe the Prosecution of Port-au-Prince does not have the legal competence to treat a case of alleged malfeasance crimes of government officials. They say only the High Court of Justice, a Senate tribunal that is brought to order by the Chamber of Deputies, may bring an action against a high-ranking official.
Prime Minister Evans Paul banded with other ministers to issue a letter denouncing the measure. The group, along with Paul, went to the immigration and migration office in Port-au-Prince in a display of protest. The group made declarations to the press during this time where they said they would be taking Commission Leger to court.
Sitting Prime Minister Enex Jean-Charles wrote a letter to Justice Minister Camille Edouard Jr. regarding the departure bans. He did not mention the exact ban or the commissioner but asked that Minister Edouard review the steps taken by all commissioners to ensure that they are according to the law.
Moreover, an overwhelming number of Haitians support the motions of Commissioner Danton Leger even though they have expressed their own concerns about the depths of the investigation, which so far, has been under wraps.