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Repression against Haitian trade unionists

ICFTU ONLINE..., 10 April 2000

Brussels, October 4 2000 (ICFTU OnLine): The names of several Haitian trade union leaders are on a black list drawn up by the hard-line faction of the Lavalas Party, which intends to assassinate them, said the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) in a letter of protest to René Préval, President of the Republic of Haiti. The organisation strongly condemned a whole series of rights violations targeted at the Haitian trade unions.

The ICFTU finds it unacceptable for a government to threaten the trade union leaders who represent a real voice for democracy in Haiti. The Confederation informed President Préval that it is aware of many repressive measures against the trade union leaders of the CATH, KOTA, CTH and the OGITH, the very people whose names appear on the black list by the Lavalas party's hard-line faction.

Furthermore, Laurius Joseph, a trade union leader, was unfairly dismissed as mayor, after being democratically elected in the May 2000 municipal elections. Mr. Joseph, who is president of the Anse-à-Foleur (OTRA) Workers' Organisation for Recovery, has been replaced by a Fanmi Lavalas Party cartel. Since then, he has been forced into clandestinity.

Rosny Aristide, a member of the OTRA and close to Laurius Joseph, has been held in police cells since September 22. He and 12 other members of the Laurius Joseph Electoral Cabinet have all had arrest warrants issued against them, and have also been forced to go underground. The ICFTU has demanded the immediate withdrawal of the arrest warrants and the release of Mr. Aristide.

The protest letter also points out that a policy of repression against trade union leaders will do nothing to further the democratic process that began in Haiti at the beginning of the '90s. The trade union movement, the ICFTU stresses, is important to ensuring the necessary stability for the improvement of the country's socio-economic situation.

Given the seriousness of the events, the ICFTU has decided to take the matter up with its Human and Trade Union Rights Committee, an important step which adds to the criticisms already expressed within the international community, notably by the UN, the European Union and the Organisation of American States.

In its Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights, published last September, the ICFTU noted serious shortcomings in Haiti's labour legislation and industrial relations practices. Among the many problems listed by the ICFTU are the outdated labour code, the governments restrictions on the right to organise and the violations of trade union rights linked to privatisation.