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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05PORTAUPRINCE3043
2005-12-13 19:49:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Port Au Prince
Cable title:  

HAITI'S INTERIM GOVERNMENT SENDS HALF OF THE

Tags:   PREL  PGOV  HA 
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						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PORT AU PRINCE 003043 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR WHA AND USOAS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV HA
SUBJECT: HAITI'S INTERIM GOVERNMENT SENDS HALF OF THE
SUPREME COURT INTO EARLY RETIREMENT

REF: PAP 3019

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PORT AU PRINCE 003043

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR WHA AND USOAS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV HA
SUBJECT: HAITI'S INTERIM GOVERNMENT SENDS HALF OF THE
SUPREME COURT INTO EARLY RETIREMENT

REF: PAP 3019


1. (SBU) Summary: The Interim Government of Haiti (IGOH)
issued a presidential decree retiring five judges from the
Haitian Supreme Court. While most of Haitian society appears
to have accepted the action without much concern, the legal
community has cried foul. The move comes on the heels of
IGOH outrage over two Supreme Court decisions affirming
Haitian-American Dumas Simeus' right to appear on the
presidential ballot. Post does not expect this event to
delay elections, nor do we envision Simeus getting onto the
presidential ballot. This is another ill-considered IGOH
decision that distracts from the urgent task of keeping
elections on track. End Summary.


2. (SBU) On December 9, the Interim Government of Haiti
(IGOH) issued a presidential decree removing five of ten
judges of the Haitian Supreme Court due to age and/or
illness. The IGOH cited a 1995 legal provision stating that
justices can be retired after the age of sixty (Note: all
judges on the Supreme Court are over sixty years old. End
Note.) A sixth judge, vice president and acting president of
the Supreme Court, George Henri, died November 25 and is to
be replaced by former interim Minister of the Interior
Georges Moise, according to the decree. (Note: Post reported
in reftel that the Supreme Court lacked a quorum. As only
five judges sit on any given case, with one justice's illness
and the death of Henri, that five-member panel of the Supreme
Court lacked a quorum to render a judgment on disputed
presidential candidate, and U.S. citizen, Samir Mourra's
case. End Note.) The interim president's chief of staff,
Michel Brunache, told the press the decision to retire the
justices was made several weeks ago. The evening of December
9, interim Prime Minister Latortue confirmed to the DCM that
the cabinet had approved the decision on December 7, the
morning the Supreme Court publicized its second decision
requesting Simeus' name be included on the presidential
ballot.


3. (SBU) While the press and public reaction to the decree
was muted over the weekend, there was significant rancor
within the legal community. One leading lawyer told Poloff
"we are surprised, disappointed and indignant" of the
decision to force the judges into early retirement. He
characterized the IGOH's move as "illegal, arbitrary and
unconstitutional." Alyans' presidential candidate, Evans
Paul, publicly chided the IGOH for the forced retirement of
the justices, but concurred the Supreme Court had violated
the constitution by requesting Simeus to be put onto the
ballot. Another presidential candidate, ALAH's Reynold
Georges, himself a lawyer, said the IGOH's maneuver is "an
insult to the legal profession." There is, however, a
precedent. Former president Ertha Pascal-Trouillot fired the
entire Supreme Court.


4. (U) Three of the four "retired" justices are refusing to
relinquish their seats on the bench (the fourth judge is
ill). The National Association of Magistrates and the
Association of Female Judges began a one week strike December
12 in solidarity with the justices protesting the IGOH's
decision. Neither interim president Boniface Alexandre (who
was president of the Supreme Court prior to his current
position) or Minister of Justice Henri Dorleans (a human
rights lawyer to whom the judges throughout Haiti report) has
made a public statement regarding the retirement of the
Supreme Court justices.


5. (SBU) Comment: Despite Brunache's (and the PM's)
explanation, the vast majority of informed observers agree
that the move to pension off the justices is tied to the
October 11 and December 5 decisions in the Simeus case, and
the IGOH is merely using the 1995 provision as a premise.
The IGOH's explanation that justices were retired due to
their age does not appear to withstand cursory scrutiny.
Some of the judges retained are older than the ones retired.
President Alexandre, nearly seventy, expects to return to the
Supreme Court once a newly-elected president is sworn in. We
do not expect this event to delay the elections, nor do we
envision Simeus getting onto the ballot. (Printed ballots
for seven of the ten departments have arrived in
Port-au-Prince and are being guarded by MINUSTAH; the
remaining ballots are expect in country NLT December 15.)
However, the IGOH's decision to retire the justices makes it
look foolish, and provides Simeus with an issue to keep
himself in the public eye. End Comment.
CARNEY