Target: Jean Renel Sanon, Minister of Justice and Public Security
Goal: Protect members of a Haitian human rights group from harassment and investigate the intimidation they have faced
Members of the feminist human rights organization Groupe d’appui au développement du Sud (GADES), located in Haiti’s southern department, have faced several recent instances of harassment and intimidation stemming from their human rights work. Sign the petition and urge authorities in Haiti to investigate the threats and harassment, bring those responsible to justice, and offer protection to GADES’s activists in accordance with their wishes.
GADES’s work covers a variety of topics, including raising awareness of domestic violence, training police in how to respond to women’s issues and gender issues, and advocating for women and children who are victims of violence. Most recently, GADES helped advocate for a fifteen-year-old boy who was raped by a police officer. The case resulted in a conviction, and the rapist was sentenced to ten years in prison. For GADES, however, the harassment has only just begun. In court, the defendant’s lawyer threatened activists “that they would face repercussions” if his client was convicted, Amnesty International reports. Since the trial ended, several activists have received threatening phone calls on their private numbers, and the office was so flooded with threats and harassment that it was shut down for five days. Samia Saloman, the coordinator of GADES, was approached in public by police officers and a justice of the peace who had received an anonymous (and false) tip that she had drugs in her car. The caller’s number was the same as one that had placed earlier threatening phone calls.
The police have carried out a cursory investigation into these incidents (which is how the anonymous tip was connected to the threats), but no further action has been taken either to protect the activists or pursue those responsible for their harassment. It is the responsibility of the Haitian government to ensure both that its citizens are safe and that its human rights defenders are free to carry out their work uninhibited. Sign the petition and urge the authorities to protect the members of GADES and bring their harassers to justice.
Human rights activists are among the most valuable members of any society; they put the needs and safety of other people before their own. However, just because these brave individuals choose to put their own well-being on the line does not mean that their government should disregard their safety as well. I urge you to protect the activists of Groupe d’appui au
développement du Sud (GADES) who have been facing intimidation and harassment for their human rights work, and I urge you to launch a full, impartial, and prompt investigation into the threats they have received.
GADES, which often advocates for women and children who have been victims of violence, was recently involved in a case that saw the rapist of a fifteen-year-old boy convicted and sentenced to ten years in prison. Ever since the trial, the group and its individual members have received threats both in the office and on their private numbers. They were even threatened in the courtroom, with the defendant’s lawyer telling the group it “would face repercussions” if his client was convicted.
In addition to the threats, GADES’s coordinator Samia Saloman was the victim of a slanderous and anonymous drug possession accusation. Police have confirmed that the tip came from the same number as some of the other threatening calls, but no further investigation appears to have been made.
Haiti has a responsibility to safeguard the well-being of all its citizens, and it is especially important that it protect those who devote their lives to protecting others. I urge you, therefore, to launch a full investigation into the threats and harassment directed toward GADES and its individual activists, and to offer those affected protection in accordance with their wishes.
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Photo credit: CIA World Factbook via Wikimedia Commons