Amid ongoing unrest, Haitian President Jovenel Moise has ousted senior judges proposed as possible interim national leaders.
On Tuesday, the US embassy in Port-au-Prince said that it was “deeply concerned” about the executive order for the removal of the three judges, which they have seen. “We are deeply concerned about any actions that risk damaging Haiti’s democratic institutions. The Executive Order is now being widely scrutinized to determine whether it conforms to Haiti’s Constitution and laws,” they said.
They urged all political actors to “focus on restoring to the Haitian people the right to choose their lawmakers by organizing overdue legislative elections as soon as technically feasible and presidential elections soon after.”
“Yvickel Dieujuste Dabrezil, Wendelle Coq Thelot and Joseph Mecene Jean-Louis, judges at the court of appeal, are retired,” reported the Haitian official journal.
Jean-Louis, the oldest judge of Haiti’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, announced that he had been selected as interim President by opposition leaders.
One of the leaders Andre Michel, a human rights and anti-corruption lawyer, confirmed the pick to CNN.
“After a broad consultation between the plural opposition and the militant civil society, Haiti has chosen the oldest judge of the Court of Cassation Maitre Joseph Mecene Jean-Louis to become the president to oversee the transition,” he said.
Judge Yvickel Dabresil was arrested early on Sunday, following government reports of a plot to oust and kill Moïse this weekend. He was among 23 people, including police officials linked to the plot and arrested.
Justice Minister Rockefeller Vincent called it an “attempted coup d’etat” and Moïse declared “the goal of these people was to make an attempt on my life.”
Moïse reaffirmed plans to hold a referendum on changes to the Haitiain constitution over the weekend and declared that he had no intention of stepping down until 2022.
“I will complete my term and make all the necessary reform that needs to be done, we can’t keep running into instability every day. The new constitution will guarantee when a president is elected they can do their job they was elected to do,” he stated.
Moise faces a stand off with opposition leaders who say that his mandate to rule ended last weekend. He has argued that his Presidency should end next year because while he was elected in 2016, he did not take office until the following year.
Brought to power following an election with a 21% turnout, Moise has ruled Haiti by decree since he dissolved the parliament in January 2020.
On Friday, the US state department accepted the Haitian President’s should remain in power until 2022. On Friday, department spokesman Ned Price said that “a new elected president should succeed President Moïse when his term ends on February 7, 2022.”
The following day, seven members of congress, including Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs committee Gregory Meeks and president pro tempore of the Senate Patrick Leahy, wrote to US secretary of state Antony Blinken on Saturday.
They called on the US government and the Biden administration to “reject” Moïse’s claim to power. “We believe deeply in democracy and rule of law; we feel it is essential that the United States unambiguously reject any attempt by President Moïse to retain power in contravention of those principles,” the seven members of Congress wrote. “The time for a Haitian-led democratic transition is now.”
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