CONTACT: Margaret Prescod 323 646 1269; Barbara Rhine 510 407 6158
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Friday, Oct. 23rd, 2015
TODAY 3:30PM PDT /
6:30PM EDT URGENT MEDIA TELECONFERENCE CALL:
SPEAKING: Fact finding human rights and labor delegation back from Haiti and others:
Jake Johnston, reporter who is on the ground in Haiti;
Pierre Labossiere, Haiti Action Committee;
Margaret Prescod, nationally syndicated journalist on Pacifica Radio and also representing the Global Women’s Strike in the US, England, Ireland, India, Peru;
Barbara Rhine, attorney, representing the National Lawyers Guild of San Francisco;
Dave Welsh, San Francisco Labor Council
multiracial fact-finding delegation of women and men found that the Haitian
people are determined to exercise their democratic right to vote. It was
inspiring to witness a truly engaged electorate despite the irregularities,
intimidation and fraud of the legislative first-round elections on August 9th,
all of which have been well-documented (http://www.cepr.net/blogs/haiti-relief-and-reconstruction-watch/local-observers-document-massive-fraud-intimidation-and-violence-in-haiti-election
We were on the ground in Haiti from Sunday October 19th to Thursday October 22nd. The communities we visited included: Ducis, Fond des Negres, Cavaillon, Aquien, Saint Louis, Lan Savan, and Les Cayes. We have also received eyewitness reports from Cité Soliel, Archaie, Delmas, Petionville, and Bel Aire. Some of us also met with two representatives of the Bureaux des Avocats Internationaux, a Haiti-based human rights organization.
We reported our findings to the Haitian press on Thursday October 22nd.
Everywhere we went we heard similar concerns about patterns of violence and other intimidation, vote buying, and use of state television and other state resources in ways that are heavily biased towards candidates supported by or affiliated with the present government. This includes the use of the special police force BOID; we heard numerous reports that the populations, particularly those in impoverished areas, are being terrorized by BOID.
One stark example among many of violence and intimidation, is in Cité Soliel: the day after Lavalas candidate Ms Maryse Narcisse held a rally there, 20 people were killed including two pregnant women; at another location 15 other people were killed. In the community of Archaie, five people have been killed since the August 9th election. A number of people reported to us that under the guise of gang activity there were politically motivated killings and other violence.
We urge the US and other governments to press for the following measures to be put in place to help ensure that Sunday’s elections in Haiti are democratic, free and fair.
· Each of the parties known to have the largest membership must be allowed to have observers at all polling places throughout election day as well as observers during the counting of the ballots at all locations where vote counting takes place.
· There must be secure transportation of ballots to avoid ballot dumping, or stuffing.
· Every voter should have the right to a secret ballot. There must be booths with curtains at all polling places so people can have privacy while they vote. This will help to avoid the buying of votes and intimidation at voting booths.
· Where a voter's identity cannot be immediately confirmed at the first polling place he/she attends, a procedure must be in place which allows for provisional ballots to be cast until the voter identity is confirmed or otherwise.
· End the practice of discarding ballots cast as soon as any party reaches 200 votes, at locations where in general 450 votes are to be cast.
· Stop the biased use of state television and other government resources towards the candidates supported by or affiliated with the present government.
· Finally, the special police force BOID must be taken off the streets immediately and confined to their headquarters until the electoral process is completed and all the votes have been counted and the count announced to the public.
We have found that, despite challenges and threats to the exercise of their democratic rights as embodied in their Constitution, there is great excitement among the population – from market women to the most impoverished, young and old – at the possibility that Haiti, if the vote is free and fair, may elect its first woman President.
The Haitian people have a saying that “Saturday will let you know if your Sunday will be beautiful.” There remains great hope on the part of the Haitian people that Sunday October 25th will be beautiful.
Report submitted by fact finding delegation members: Barbara Rhine, attorney, representing the National Lawyers Guild of San Francisco; Dave Welsh, San Francisco Labor Council; Pierre Labossiere, Haiti Action Committee; Margaret Prescod, nationally syndicated journalist on Pacifica Radio and also representing the Global Women’s Strike in the US, England, Ireland, India, Peru.
Delegation Contact Information: Margaret Prescod 323 646 1269; Barbara Rhine 510 407 6158
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