Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Lovinsky Pierre Antoine - Still Missing After Nine Months
By: Wadner Pierre and Jean-Ristil Jean Baptiste -
Photos by: Wadner Pierre
Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, a prominent human rights worker and Famni Lavalas activist, has been missing since August 12, 2007. He is the founder of Trant Septanm Organizasyon (September 30 Foundation) an organization that assists victims of the coup that took place September 30th, 1991. That coup ousted Haiti's first democratically elected Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide only seven months after his inauguration. According to human rights groups there were five thousand people killed by the military regime of Raul Cedras. Thousands were also raped and tortured by the Cedras regime, and hundreds of thousands driven into hiding.
Pierre-Antoine worked with many national and international human rights organizations to promote the rights of all people, particularly the right to justice. The perpetrators of the 1991 coup (the Haitian elite and their ex-military allies) gradually regrouped and in 2004 managed to overthrow Aristide again - this time with the overt backing of the US, France and Canada. In October 2005, at the first “International Tribunal on Haiti” that investigated the 2004 coup, Pierre-Antoine explained to an audience of hundreds in Washington how he had been arrested, assaulted and expelled from the country by authorities at the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince.
Pierre-Antoine returned to Haiti after the presidential election of February 7th, 2006, which was won by Aristide protege Rene Gracia Preval. Lovinsky Peirre-Antoine was vocal in his demands for justice for the victims of the 2004 coup and for the return of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Shortly before his disappearance, Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine was scheduled to visit the south of Haiti with an international human rights delegation, Fondasyon Mapou, which is run by Eugenia Charles. Part of the visit to southern Haiti was to include a visit with then political prisoner Rene Civil. Pierre-Antoine had also just announced his intention to run as a Fanmi Lavalas candidate in the upcoming round of parliamentary elections in Haiti.
Lovinsky’s family has struggled to keep Lovinsky's case in the media spot light, but they haven't been alone. The kidnapping has rallied organizers in Haiti as well as solidarity activists abroad. In November, 2007 actor Danny Glover and other activists organized a 24-hour fast to call attention to Pierre Antoine’s disappearance. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch drew criticism from people around the world for their lethargic response to the case.
Human Rights Watch finally devoted two short sentences to the case in its 2008 World Report. Amnesty International did much better - albeit more than four months after Pierre-Antoine's disappearance. Amnesty issued a press release about the case on December 20, 2007, and also called on Haitian authorities to protect Wilson Mesilien, Pierre-Antoine's colleague at the September 30 Foundation (and also one of its founders), who had received numerous death threats. Amnesty followed up with another statement on January 10, 2008 after Mesilien and his family were driven into hiding. Haitian and UN authorities had ignored requests to protect Mesilien.
On April 6, 2008, Even Evel Fanfan, founder of the Haitian human rights group AUMOHD (Association des Unversitaires Movités pour une Haiti des Droits) was asked by Darren Ell (in an interview for HaitiAnalysis) if the case of Pierre Antoine and Wilson Mesilien indicates a new trend. Fanfan replied:
"No. This happens often is Haiti. We are however very disappointed in the case of Lovinsky. International mobilization was weak and the Government of Haiti has not taken this case seriously enough."