Haiti’s prime minister on Friday called on his new justice minister to meet with activists whose recent demonstrations over an uptick in crime have been suppressed by police.
“When people come here to demonstrate, they don’t come to fight: they need a sympathetic ear,” Joseph Jouthe said at a ceremony swearing in Justice Minister Rockefeller Vincent.
“This population has been violated too much,” Jouthe added.
On Monday, police fired tear gas outside the justice ministry to disperse a protest over spiralling violent crime in the capital Port-au-Prince.
A week before, police also halted an attempted sit-in, chasing the demonstrators and tearing placards out of their hands.
For several years now, the majority of Port-au-Prince’s working-class neighborhoods have become overrun by crime, and beyond the control of law enforcement.
Areas close to the presidential palace, the parliament and the prime minister’s office have been the scene of fighting between armed gangs.
During May and June, the National Human Rights Defense Network recorded 54 homicides in the Haitian capital alone.
“If there is no justice in the country, people come and ask you why — and then you either go out and join them or ask them to set up a committee to dialogue,” Jouthe told Vincent.
“We can no longer have continuous violence in this country,” he added.
In a message sent to AFP Thursday, the UN 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.”