Haiti appoints new justice as minister as violent crime increases

Haiti’s president appointed a new justice minister Thursday, dismissing the previous one just hours after he took a hard stance on gang impunity.

Appointed by presidential decree, Rockfeller Vincent — who since January has led the fight against corruption — is the fourth Minister of Justice the island nation has had since President Jovenel Moise took office in February 2017.

The previous minister, Lucmanne Delille, was appointed in March.

Just hours before his sacking, Delille said during a press conference that gang members who had marched without obstacle through the Haitian capital Tuesday would be tracked down by police.

“Haiti is not a corrupt republic where vagabonds, delinquents, criminals can do whatever they want,” Delille said.

Accompanied by dozens of people, the gang members had proceeded Tuesday through the streets of downtown Port-au-Prince, waving their weapons and regularly firing into the air.

No law enforcement units intervened to stop the march, which was streamed live on social media by some of the gang members.

On Monday, outside the Justice Ministry, police had fired tear gas to disperse a protest over an uptick in violent crime in the capital.

A week prior, an attempted sit-in had been stopped by the police, who chased the demonstrators and tore their placards out of their hands.

When asked about this police crackdown, Delille said he was not aware of it.

“We will try to find out how things happened in order to correct this,” he said.

In a message sent to AFP Thursday, the UN integrated office in Haiti expressed its “concern over the use of lethal weapons, including tear gas, on peaceful demonstrators who do not present any clear or present danger.”

Recalling the importance of the right to protest and freedom of expression, the European Union’s ambassador to Haiti, Sylvie Tabesse, said it was “certainly not normal that a population demanding better life prospects should be the target of violence, no matter where it comes from.”