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The struggle for the safe release of Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, Haitian human rights activist

August 20, 2008
Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine bravely led a protest against the United Nations on July 28, 2007, just a few days before he was disappeared. – Photo: Nia Imara
Editor’s note: A chorus of extraordinarily influential voices is calling for the freedom of Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, the epitome of the Haitian genius for political organizing with superhuman courage and integrity, who was disappeared one year ago. Here are several of those voices: Mumia Abu-Jamal, Selma James, Pierre Labossiere, Kevin Pina, Michele Pierre-Antoine and President Bertrand Aristide.

by Mumia Abu-Jamal

For Haitians, this August is a reminder of the kidnapping and disappearance of their brother, Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, who was taken after a meeting with a U.S.-Canadian human rights delegation visiting Haiti in early August 2007.

Pierre-Antoine was a co-founder of the Fondayson Trant Septenm (Kreyol for September 30th Foundation), a group which assisted and supported the people during – and especially after – the 1991 and 2004 coups against the democratically-elected president, Bertrand Aristide. Members of the Fondayson have been targeted for years.

Around the world, activists have been organizing in Lovinsky’s support, calling on various governments: Haiti’s President Rene Preval, Brazil, which forms the bulk of the United Nations forces in the country, Canada, the U.S. and France, which organized the latest coup against Haitian democracy.

When Pierre-Antoine was abducted, it forced other democracy and human rights activists in Haiti to go into hiding to avoid waves of state repression.

Haiti has a proud and illustrious career on the world’s stage, becoming the first free Black republic in the West after its 1804 revolution against France, which abolished slavery almost 70 years before the Civil War spelled the end to human bondage in the U.S. Their freedom spread the bright lights of liberty and independence throughout the Caribbean. And when South America rose against Spain, it was to Haiti that their Liberator Simon Bolivar turned for support, arms and a place to rest.

For their bold struggle to bring Black freedom to the West, the U.S. and Europe have unleashed an unholy war. France forced reparations (!) on Haiti – an act unprecedented in history – forcing the victor in war to pay away its wealth for almost a century. The U.S. repeatedly invaded the country, brutalized its people, and imposed an assortment of puppet dictators to exploit the country for foreign benefit and national impoverishment, for generations!

Because Haiti’s popularly elected Bertrand Aristide dared to oppose Haiti’s rich elite and tried to make things nominally better for its peasantry, U.S. Marines forced him into exile.

Because Lovinsky comes from the popular mass movements, he was snatched off the streets of Haiti a year ago, and the movement is building to bring him back home to his family, his community and the popular movements of which he was a part.

Haiti must never be forgotten, and neither must we forget Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine.

For petitions to circulate and sign, email womenstrike8m@servor101.com or call (215) 848-1120. Or sign online at www.petitiononline.com/lovinsky/petition.html.

© Copyright 2008 Mumia Abu-Jamal. Read Mumia’s latest book, “We Want Freedom: A Life in the Black Panther Party,” winner of the 2005 People’s Choice Award, available from South End Press, www.southendpress.org or (800) 533-8478. Keep updated by reading Action Alerts at www.mumia.org and www.moveorg.net. To download mp3s of Mumia’s commentaries, visit www.prisonradio.org or www.fsrn.org. For recent interviews with Mumia, visit www.blockreportradio.com. Encourage the media to publish and broadcast Mumia’s commentaries and interviews to inspire progressive movement and help call attention to his case. Send our brotha some love and light at: Mumia Abu-Jamal, AM 8335, SCI-Greene, 175 Progress Dr., Waynesburg PA 15370.

People around the world stand together to demand Lovinsky’s safe return

by Selma James and Pierre Labossiere

On the 70th anniversary of the publication of “Black Jacobins,” CLR James’s celebrated history of Haiti’s 1804 revolution, starvation threatens half Haiti’s population. This was reported (Guardian 29 July), but its causes were not.

Haitians were the first to overthrow slavery, decades before the U.K. and U.S., making way for emancipation and liberation movements everywhere. Haiti directly aided South American Liberator Simón Bolivar. The world thus owes a huge debt to the Haitian people, and their survival ought to be of particular concern.

Haiti paid for its victory. France imposed a crippling debt, forcing Haiti to pay for its loss of slaves. The U.S. intervened with military coups and invasions – the latest in 2004 against elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a hugely popular liberation theology priest. A tiny elite now profits from sweatshops which exploit an impoverished population, and from the destruction of local farming by subsidized U.S. rice which most people can no longer afford.

Remarkably, the same revolutionary determination CLR described moves the Haitians now. But unlike CLR, many who admire revolutionaries in the past don’t appreciate them in the present.

Today, 12 August, marks the first anniversary of the disappearance of one of Haiti’s best loved advocates. Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, co-founder of Fondasyon Trant Septanm for victims of the 1991 and 2004 coups, was abducted after meeting a U.S.-Canadian human rights delegation to report on abuses by U.N. troops which have occupied Haiti since 2004.

Professor Slavoj Zizek named Aristide as the living person he most admires, “a model of what can be done for the people even in a desperate situation” (Guardian Weekend 9 Aug). Lovinsky shared Aristide’s goals and methods: ending poverty and human rights abuses through grassroots mobilization. Before his abduction, Lovinsky campaigned for changes to the constitution so Haiti would never again have a military. He was to stand for the senate – an election he was sure to win.

Marches and vigils for his safe return are being held today in Haiti, Guyana, Canada and the U.S. and on the steps of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London.

Selma James, the London-based leader of Global Women’s Strike, can be reached through lori@crossroadswomen.net. Pierre Labossiere, co-founder of the Haiti Action Committee, can be reached at pierre@haitiaction.org.

Fears of a cover-up grow a year after Haitian human rights hero Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine was disappeared

by Kevin Pina

Events marking the one-year anniversary of the abduction and disappearance of Haitian human rights activist Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine took place in several major cities last week. Demonstrations and vigils were held in Port au Prince, Haiti, where several hundred supporters marched to the Palace of Justice to demand that the government of President Rene Preval and the United Nations release a report on their investigations into his disappearance. Similar actions took place in London, Oakland and Los Angeles.

Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine was last seen in Haiti after leaving a meeting with a human rights delegation from the United States and Canada on Aug. 12, 2007. His abandoned vehicle was found the next morning and he has not been heard from since. Although his alleged abductors contacted friends and family two days later demanding a $300,000 ransom, most people including Amnesty International believe this was a ruse to cover up what was actually a political abduction aimed at silencing Pierre-Antoine. They point to the fact that most kidnappers maintain contact in an effort to negotiate and arrange for payment.

Amnesty International issued an appeal last January stating: “Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine’s abduction was reportedly made to look like a kidnapping for ransom. On Tuesday, 14 August, the alleged abductors called Pierre-Antoine’s family asking for a ransom of USD 300,000. However there has been no further contact from the abductors.”

So who is Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine and why is there a growing chorus of international condemnation of the government of President Rene Preval and the U.N. regarding his case? According to Amnesty International, “Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine graduated in psychology from the Haitian State University and obtained further specialization on child psychology in Montreal, Canada. He has been involved for several years as a grassroots community organizer, mainly working with children. In the early 1990s, he co-founded the Foundation for the Support of Children (Fondsayon Kore Timoun Yo) for young street children in Port-au-Prince and a centre for teenage mothers (Foyer pour Mères Adolescentes).”

Pierre-Antoine is also one of the founders of the Fondasyon Trant Septanm (September 30th Foundation) and is a leading advocate and voice for victims of the 1991 brutal military coup in Haiti. He is also one of the fiercest critics of the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004 and is closely associated with his Lavalas political movement. Pierre-Antoine was appointed general coordinator of the National Office on Migration during the last presidency of Jean-Bertrand Aristide and was forced into exile after the U.S.-installed regime of Gerard Latortue took power. He returned to Haiti to continue his human rights work in February 2006.

Brian Concannon is an attorney who works with a rights group called the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti or IJDH. Concannon, who is also a close friend and colleague of Mr. Pierre-Antoine, spoke of his decision to return to Haiti in 2006: “I know it was a difficult decision for Lovinsky, because he knew the risks and he had a family that he loved. But in the end, Lovinsky felt he could not stay out of Haiti any longer, that he was needed to help organize progressive grassroots voices in Haiti.”

Concannon recalled the pressure Pierre-Antoine faced after returning to his homeland: “I last saw Lovinsky in person in February 2007. At the time he was receiving threats and frequently changing where he slept. He knew he was in danger, but also knew that in Haiti’s democratic transition that the traditional forces would have the upper hand. He knew that if the people did not organize, life would become more difficult for the majority of Haitians who are poor.”

Days before his abduction, Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine announced his intention to run as a candidate for the Haitian Senate under the banner of the Fanmi Lavalas Party, Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s political party.

Wilson Mesilien, who has been standing in for Pierre-Antoine as acting director of the Fondasyon Trant Septanm, has condemned what he has called “a wall of silence” when referring to the investigation of Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine’s disappearance by the government of President Rene Preval and the United Nations in Haiti. A lack of any discernable progress made by them in the case has led to speculation ranging from a concerted effort to keep Pierre Antoine’s disappearance quiet to charges of complicity in his abduction.

When asked about progress made by Haitian authorities towards solving Pierre-Antoine’s case, Brian Concannon stated, “I have not heard of any report from any Haitian authorities on Lovinsky’s disappearance despite requests from Lovinsky’s family, Fondasyon Trant Septanm, members of the U.S. Congress and human rights and Haiti solidarity activists from around the world.”

In describing the progress of investigations made by the Haitian police in the case, Concannon commented, “We also know that the police have repeatedly failed to follow up on leads they have been provided. It is hard to escape the conclusion that the Haitian government is not reporting on its investigation because it is not conducting one.”

Other critics point to numerous death threats made against Mesilien and his family as proof of an organized effort to silence criticism of the authorities concerning their lack of a serious investigation. Amnesty International was moved to issue an appeal last December “calling for the authorities to ensure Wilson Mesilien’s protection in accordance with his wishes.”

Equally disturbing is the fact that the United Nations leadership has failed to recognize Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine’s abduction and disappearance altogether. According to a report delivered to the U.N. General Assembly on Jan. 10, 2008, by the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID), there were no reported instances of persons disappeared in Haiti during the year 2007. The WGEID is part of the U.N. High Commission on Human Rights and as such is in the loop to receive regular human rights reports filed by the U.N. mission in Haiti.

More than five months after Pierre-Antoine’s disappearance and public acknowledgement of the case by U.N. authorities in Haiti, the WGEID completely omitted any reference to it in their report to the General Assembly. Brian Concannon is puzzled by this glaring omission. He responded, “I cannot explain why Lovinsky was left out of the Working Group’s report. The U.N. Mission in Haiti issued a press release about it. The abduction was in the news. Amnesty International and other human rights groups issued action alerts. The omission was especially troubling because Lovinsky was such a high profile human rights activist and candidate for the Senate elections.”

Whatever the reason behind the omission of Pierre-Antoine’s case in the WGEID’s report, it is sure to stoke fears of an organized effort to cover up the facts of his abduction and disappearance one year ago in Haiti. Demonstrations and vigils demanding accountability in the investigation of the disappearance of Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, like those that occurred last week, are expected to continue to grow as a result.

Kevin Pina, an independent journalist and filmmaker, resides in Haiti and is special correspondent to Flashpoints, heard weekdays at 5 p.m. on KPFA 94.1 and dozens of other stations and on the web at www.flashpoints.net.

Open letter to Haitian authorities

by Michele Pierre-Antoine

A year ago to date, on Aug. 12, 2007, my husband, Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, returning from an out-of-city stay, hurryingly left his place of residence to go to an appointment scheduled by phone by individuals who likely meant to entrap him. It was the last time, up to now while I am writing to you, that he was seen by the members of his family. It was also the beginning of a crescendo of agony for his loved ones as well as for his friends and allies.

Twelve long months have gone by since this disappearance was reported to all concerned constituencies of the country: Presidency, Ministry of Economy, Parliament, Ministry of Justice, National Police of Haiti, U.N., OEA etc.

To this day, the Pierre-Antoine family has noted with disappointment – but without surprise – the apparent lack, short of saying the total absence, of results following actions and investigations with which the authorities should proceed.

Today, my stance is one of a traumatized spouse, of a shocked and powerless head of household mother, who remains helplessly silent when facing the questions that the two sons of Lovinsky ask on a daily basis about what actually happened to their beloved father.

No information was given on the progress of the investigation and I come to the point of wondering if there really is a genuine intent to reach concrete and official conclusions.

A year after this event, the Haitian authorities as well as public opinion seem to have forgotten this citizen whose disappearance, as human being, should mobilize our minds. The worst is the mental, mortal agony endured by the members of his family; it is also the outrage generated by the perversity of his abductors and the flagrant indifference of his closest assistants.

There is no doubt that such an active and vibrant citizen as Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine does not disappear, does not evaporate into thin air without leaving any trace. In fact, the traces and indicators left during and after his abduction were not judiciously followed or explored enough in order to reach concrete results.

I want proof of the fingerprints found in the vehicle used by Lovinsky, the sensational and revealing declarations made to the press by an influential member of the political party of which Lovinsky is a member.

Personally, I had, in a not so distant past, related to the police that, in a spur of hope, I had dialed Lovinsky’s cell phone number, and I was appalled to talk with a correspondent who calmly answered, without seeming concerned that he held in his hand a personal object that belonged to a mysteriously disappeared person, which should bear weight of proof, would justice prevail in this country.

When thinking about the disappearance of Lovinsky, the members of his family and myself come to the conviction that if his physical body escapes our view, he remains alive in our hearts and souls as a remarkable husband, a father concerned about the education and future of his children and a wise mentor for his entourage.

Of course, one may not adhere to his ideological convictions and political practices, but one cannot fail to admire his activism, his seriousness, his respect for words of honor, his team spirit and especially his love for Haiti. We are lacking words and images to describe Lovingky’s incomparable and magnificent qualities.

We keep the very best memories of him in our hearts.

Embracing the shoulders of my two sons who mourn the disappearance of their beloved dad and await his probable return, I have no other choice than to rely on the conscience of all concerned authorities to shed light around his disappearance.

In fact, it is time to break down this atmosphere of suspense and of uncertainty; it is about time to break the silence observed around this matter, a silence converted into a tacit plot, woven to maintain secrecy on the intellectual authors of this hateful act.

Once again, I appeal to the conscience of each and every one of you to let the truth emerge and put an end to this unspeakable tragedy, for Lovinsky as well as for the members of his family. I also appeal to the conscience of the members of the new government, so that they may re-launch the file of Lovinsky and let the truth shine.

In conclusion, I join my boys to express my gratitude and my thanks to the true friends and supporters of Lovinsky, to all those who offered their moral support, to all those who made incommensurable sacrifices to express their disapproval of this act, on the streets of various cities of Haiti, United States and other countries, as well as in front of various Haitian diplomatic outlets abroad, to all those who wrote articles on this matter through audio, written, televised media and through the Internet and, lastly, to all those who, in one way or another, showed their empathy around this sad and painful circumstance.

May they rest assured that beyond all abominations, the family of Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine remains stronger than ever. Sustained by hope!

Michèle Pierre-Antoine is the wife of Lovinsky.

A sad anniversary for our brother Lovinsky

by Dr. Jean-Bertrand Aristide

Justice and peace spring from our inherent dignity and inalienable rights. As stipulated in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

Today, this spirit of brotherhood prevents us from remaining silent. Yes, it is already one year since the disappearance of our brother Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine. On this sad anniversary, as we call for his safe return, we defend our inherent dignity and inalienable rights. Lovinsky’s absence certainly increases great passions, such as the passion for justice and peace.

Indeed on this sad anniversary all of us who share in a commitment to non-violent struggle for justice and peace once again proclaim that the human rights of all must be protected by the rule of law. Authorities in Haiti must address this tragic kidnapping for a safe return of our mission brother.

May the spirit of this brotherhood revitalize and strengthen Lovinsky’s family as well as all innocent victims who have suffered since the Feb. 29, 2004, kidnapping.

Dr. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, former president of Haiti who was kidnapped by U.S. Marines on Feb. 29, 2004, now lives in exile in Pretoria, South Africa.

Sign the on-line petition for the safe return of Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine at www.petitiononline.com/august/petition.html.

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