Tue | Jul 7, 2020

President pardons more than 400 ‘ordinary’ prisoners

Published:Wednesday | June 24, 2020 | 12:16 AM

PORT AU PRINCE (CMC):

President Jovenel Moise has pardoned 415 prisoners in a bid to reduce overcrowding at prisons across the country as a senior United Nations official said that the French-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country had experienced an overall increase in gang-related and criminal activity during the first six months of the year.

A government statement said that Moise had, acting on the recommendation of Justice Minister Lucmane Délile, exercised his right to pardon and the commutation of sentence, issued the official order releasing the 415 ordinary prisoners.

“These detainees come from 17 penitentiaries across the country, and their releases contribute to reducing prison overcrowding,” the statement said, noting that the prisoners were also being released due to COVID-19 that has killed 80 people and infected more than 5,000 others.

Meanwhile, Helen Meagher La Lime, the special representative of the secretary general of the United Nations, in her report noted that Haiti experienced an overall increase in criminality and gang-related activities in the first months of 2020, even as the protests of 2019, which had increased insecurity, largely abated.

She said while only 30 protests calling for the removal of President Moise from office were recorded in the first quarter of 2020, violence was particularly evident in the context of police protests over labour issues. The protests culminated in clashes on February 23 between a group of some 100 mostly off-duty protesting police officers, and their sympathisers, and members of the Haitian Armed Forces.

Her report, which is presented every 120 days, provides an update on the implementation of the mandate of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti and on the activities undertaken by the United Nations to support the Haitian government in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. Regarding the insecurity situation, the report notes that between January 1 and May 31, the number of reported intentional homicides increased by 33 per cent, with 616 cases reported, including 11 police officers and 19 minors.

According to the report, 75 per cent of the cases were recorded in the West Department, where criminality is traditionally more prevalent owing to gangs vying for control over the marginalised neighbourhoods of Port-au-Prince. Haiti also experienced a 200 per cent increase in reported abductions, with 92 cases reported to the Haitian National Police during the same period, with 11 minors and 35 females being among the victims.