Protests against electoral fraud turn violent, face repression

Peaceful Assembly

Shortly after the announcement of preliminary results of the 20th November election, demonstrators took to the streets of Port-au-Prince to challenge them. Protests continued on an almost daily basis to condemn the so-called “electoral coup d’état” and demand free and fair elections. On various occasions, these protests, which soon spread beyond the country's capital, turned violent, as protestors fired weapons, threw stones and burned tyres, causing panic amongst the population. The most serious incident occurred in the southeastern town of Marigot, where the town hall was set on fire and entirely destroyed on the night of 29th December. 

As protests continued, the police response became increasingly aggressive, including the use of water cannons to disperse protestors.

On 2nd December the Minister of Justice and Security urged protestors to halt the violence, insisting that demands must follow legal channels and that the right to demonstrate did not amount to a right to destroy. Religious and civil society organisations issued a joint statement on 19th December to express their concern about the post-electoral climate of violence and intimidation:

"actors and political parties, organizing almost daily demonstrations that are often accompanied by violence, threaten journalists, peaceful citizens and try to intimidate the electoral advisers and judges. Radio programs broadcast incendiary remarks and call for social hatred, violent political upheaval, instead of peacefully waiting for the verdict of the ballot boxes and of electoral tribunals.

Such behavior is reprehensible and prejudicial to the building of the democratic Rule of Law that the Haitian people are trying to build. While it is true that the Haitian Constitution guarantees the right to protest and freedom of expression, however, the law lays down the conditions and limits in which these rights may be exercised. No citizen, no political formation is above the law."

A number of other smaller protests also took place in recent weeks. These largely focused on social issues and included the launching of a long-term strike by administrative staff of public hospitals who sought to highlight a lack of proper sanitation and make demands for wage increases.