The deaths happened following the increase in gang violence in the Haitian capital, leaving thousands of people displaced in recent weeks. A reporter and an activist are among at least fifteen civilians killed in overnight shootings in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince. A press freedom group is requesting authorities to do a thorough investigation. Images of the journalist Diego Charles’ body lying on the ground, and Antoinette Duclair, an activist in her vehicle, spread on social media. It is said that Duclair was driving her colleague Charles home when they were shot.
A well-known social media user, Madame Boukman, described Antoinette as a vocal and active opponent of President Jovenel Moise’s ruling. The extension of Moise’s term has led to increased protests since February 7, 2021, the date that his term was to end, according to the constitution. The demonstrations have led to massive police suppression leading to at least 30 deaths.
The Director-General of the Haitian National Police, Leon Charles, said that a group of armed gangs attacked a police facility in the capital, in which Guerby Geffrard, a police union spokesman, was killed. For Boukmans’s part, Geffrard was attacked in May by the regime’s death squad but did not die as reported initially; they killed him on May 29. “I’m so hurt. Guerby Geffrard joined Haiti’s corrupt police to feed his family in a country with little opportunity. He thought he could change the system. He stood up against the regime, ignored the death threats, and continued fighting. They assassinated him,” Madame Boukman tweeted.
Leon Charles said in an institutional statement that his colleagues started the shooting that led to the death of more than 15 civilians in reaction to the assassination. Charles seemed to excuse the assassination of activists who had nothing to do with the killing of Geffrard. He said that the action of his fellow police officers was a “sordid act” and sent his condolences to the affected families. He mentioned reporter Diego Charles of Radio Vision 2000 and Duclair.
In a press release, the government condemns these terrible actions and the indiscriminate violence that causes fears and mourning all over the Haitian population. The United States is deeply concerned by the killings and general insecurity from gang-related violence. “Violence, corruption, and impunity have hindered Haiti’s development goals and the Haitian people’s aspiration for a better life for too long,” the U. S. embassy in Haiti said in a tweet.
Violence on the rise
Gang violence has increased rapidly in Haiti this year, with gang fights between rival groups forcing many innocent people of poor districts to leave their homes. “We are in a state where human rights are being violated, and life is being treated as unimportant… We cannot continue to count bodies daily,” said Ducena.
Journalists also showed their concerns about the killings. “We are dismayed by this murder, which increases the number of journalists killed in three years,” said Jacques Desrosiers, head of the Haitian Journalists Association. “Just like other cases, judicial authorities will declare investigations that lead nowhere. We are used to that,” He added. Haiti’s most famous journalist, Jean Dominique, was killed in 2000. The case was never solved to date. “Justice was not done for Jean Dominique, as there will be none for Diego. We are left to take care of ourselves,” said Assad Volcy, the director of Gazette Haiti, an online news platform for which Charles worked.
A photojournalist, Vladjimir Legagneur, went to Martissant for a reporting assignment in 2018 and was never seen or heard from again. The police have never provided the DNA results performed on a body found a few days after Legagneur disappeared. Investigations of the killing of two journalists in 2019 also didn’t succeed.