Killing of Port-au-Prince Bar Association Chief Roils Haiti

Monferrier Dorval’s killing at home was a gut punch to his colleagues, students and admirers. The head of the Port-au-Prince bar association was shot dead August 28 by unknown gunmen who stormed his home in the same upscale neighborhood where Haiti’s president lives. Two other prominent Haitians were killed that same day in crimes that underscore the country’s struggle to improve security.  “Attacks on civil society are attacks on Haiti’s democracy and we look to Haitian authorities to investigate this heinous crime and bring justice to this case,” tweeted Michael G. Kozak, acting U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, condemning the crime. We stand with FILE – Men carry a picture depicting lawyer and President of the Bar of Lawyers of Port-au-Prince Monferrier Dorval, who was killed on Aug. 28, during a march to demand justice, in the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sept. 3, 2020.Dorval’s last hours In Haiti’s legal circles, Dorval had a reputation for being a brilliant constitutional expert and devoted professor who spent 27 years teaching law at the state university. He was described by friends, colleagues and his students as a principled, humble, independent thinker. Hours before he was killed, Dorval, 64, had a phone interview with popular Port-au-Prince radio station Magik 9, where he spoke out about the constant crises plaguing the country, the lack of leadership and the “inapplicable” constitution, which he said must be gutted. The law professor criticized the country’s lawmakers, opposition leaders, prime minister and even the president himself for the state of Haiti’s government. “The government is dysfunctional and that is why we are suffering. We must change the government and we must do this via the constitution,” Dorval said. His outside-the-box plan, laid out during the show, included seeking experts in history, geography and demographics and the nation’s top legal minds to draft a new constitution. He suggested examining how South Africa had successfully approached the issue, as well as some Latin American countries.  “The objective should be to reorganize Haiti so we can regain [the national] pride that we lost long ago,” he said. “We are constantly in crisis, relying on foreigners to tell us what to do. This country is not truly governed.”  Monferrier Dorval, head of the Port-au-Prince bar association and a constitutional law expert. (Photo: VOA Creole)Circumstances of Dorval’s killing Chief prosecutor and investigator Gabriel Ducarmel told VOA he arrived at the scene of the killing on the night of the crime with a judge, police and doctors. They found that Dorval had been shot three times in the chest. One bullet went through the body; two remained lodged in the chest. He said crime scene investigators recovered bullet casings. Describing the location of the crime as “very dark,” Ducarmel said there were no surveillance cameras at the home. The lawyer’s wallet and cellphone were missing, he said. The phone has since been recovered and is being examined, Ducarmel told VOA, describing the find as “hugely important.” “This is a revolting crime that offends the national consciousness,” Ducarmel told VOA. “We will do everything in our power to bring his killer to justice. Whoever is involved, be it near or far, we will find him.” Minister of Justice and National Security Rockefeller Vincent echoed that sentiment as he sought to reassure the nation about his commitment to investigate the crime and find those responsible. “No acts of terror will go unpunished,” he said at an August 31 press conference. “I consider the murder of the head of the bar association to be an act of terrorism.” Moise expressed full support for the investigation and asked law enforcement to expedite the process. “The PNH has all the support of the government to investigate [the crime] and put the criminals who assassinated one of the beneficent spirits of the nation behind bars,” Moise said in the prepared statement. “The police and judicial services must quickly move forward to arrest and bring to justice those responsible.” Moise announced three days of national mourning a day after the killing, ordering the nation’s flags to be flown at half staff and asking radio stations to play solemn music. L’assassinat de Me Dorval attriste toute la République. Un homme de grande culture. Une grande perte pour le pays. J’adresse aux membres de l’Ordre des avocats de P-au-P et à ses proches, mes plus sincères condoléances. Ce crime, comme tant d’autres, ne restera pas impuni.— Président Jovenel Moïse (@moisejovenel) Lawyers chant slogans as they march to demand justice after the killing, on August 28, of the lawyer and President of the Bar of Lawyers of Port-au-Prince Monferrier Dorval.Legal community protests On September 3, judges, lawyers and law students took to the streets of the capital and several other cities to decry the killing and demand justice. Law students have since staged two other protests in Port-au-Prince, which police dispersed with tear gas. On September 10, one protester was shot and killed.  “It’s time to say no to the rampant crime. It’s time to start caring about this violence,” one of the professor’s students told VOA. “Today it’s him. Tomorrow it could be us.” Reynold Georges, Moise’s former legal adviser, told VOA he has discussed security risks the judiciary faces with the president but was told there were no plans to relocate to a more secure location.“It’s obvious this act was planned, concocted,” Georges said. “If we accept this crime, we cease being a nation.” Gervais Charles, the former head of the Port-au-Prince Bar Association, told VOA the September 3 march was only the beginning, and that the judiciary has more events planned. “Our motto is ‘Justice for Dorval,’ equal to the [South African] motto of ‘Free Nelson Mandela,’ ” he said. “Nothing will move forward in terms of the judicial system until that happens.”

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