Senator-elect Guy Philippe has been a controversial public figure in Haitian politics since his involvement in the movement to overthrow President Aristide, but his arbitrary extradition to the U.S. has rallied people across the political spectrum. The manner in which his arrest or kidnapping was conducted negates the sovereignty of the Haitian state. After being extradited without the involvement of Haiti’s judicial system, an after-the-fact public hearing is scheduled for Senator-elect Philippe on Friday, January 13th at 10 am at the Southern District of Florida, 99 N.E. 4th Street, Miami Florida 33132 (305-961-9001) (305-961-9377).
This post-extradition hearing raises the following issues:
1. Legal procedures must be followed
It is important for Haiti’s and for the US government to obey the law so as not to promote anarchy and banditry. Upon his arrest, Senator-elect Philippe should have been presented a warrant and then taken to a Haitian court and given the opportunity to fight his extradition. Instead he was handed to the US and flown out of Haiti on a Dominican plane in flagrant disregard of local and international law. It appears that the national police as well as the DEA failed to obey the law while proclaiming to be acting in the interest of law and order. Guy Philippe will have an extradition hearing on Friday, but the setting is wrong because the hearing is taking place on foreign soil after, and not before his extradition. As a Haitian citizen, Guy Philippe should have been given the opportunity to defend himself in his homeland, in his native language before being turned over to a foreign government to appear before an English speaking court. After a hearing in Haiti, if probable cause is determined, then an extradition can take place within the boundaries of bilateral agreements.
2.Defendant’s rights must be respected
As a person fighting allegations from a superpower, it is vital that Senator-elect Philippe’s rights be respected. It is the sanctity of those rights that guard against the tyranny of the Haitian government and of international superpowers. Among these rights is equal protection before the law and the right not to be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile. Equally important is that he is presumed innocent until proven guilty and at every stage of his interaction with the state, he must be given the opportunity to defend himself.
3. Offenses must be extraditable under accords compliant with the Haitian Constitution
Current Haitian-US extradition agreement does not permit foreign arrest of Haitians on Haitian soil. Article 41 of the Haitian Constitution makes this clear:
“No person of Haitian nationality may be deported or forced to leave the national territory for any reason. No one may be deprived for political reasons of his legal capacity and his nationality.”
Haiti’s first extradition agreement with the US dates back to 1904 and none of the offenses that Senator-elect Philippe is charged with is extraditable under that agreement. Another accord signed on October 17th 1997 facilitates Haitian-US cooperation to intercept drug-trafficking at sea by Haitian and American coast guard forces. To be compliant with Haiti’s Constitution, this more recent accord does not allow the arrest of Haitian citizens for extradition on Haitian soil.
4.Politically motivated arrests negate the extradition process.
Senator-elect Philippe has been politically active in Haiti and has political foes of which Provisional President Jocelerme Privert may be one. In 2004, Philippe helped to topple Aristide’s government, leading to Privert’s arrest and incarceration. In recent months, Guy Philippe has had sharp criticisms of Privert, accusing him of delaying elections to illegally prolong his status as provisional president. The bad blood between the two suggests that the extradition may be politically motivated.
5. Votes do matter
The state cannot approve a candidate to participate in an election and then negate that vote by turning over the people’s choice to a foreign government for extradition. If the state was aware of a foreign warrant for the arrest of Guy Philippe by Haiti’s most vital trading partner, it should have had a hearing to determine whether or not there was probable cause for the warrant and if so bar him from participating in the election. This is among the minimum responsibilities of the government to the voters. If the approval for his participation was erroneously granted, then the state needs to carry out an investigation and have a public denunciation of what went wrong and how it is to be corrected and prevented in future elections.
In short, we must never find ourselves in a situation where our Constitution appears to be only paper and unenforceable, and real might is the arbitrary will of the U.S. government. The United States must be a partner in observing international law and an ally that does not help undermine the Haitian Constitution.