Haitian human rights activist still missing

After the disappearance of Haitian human rights activist Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine more than two months ago, his supporters are pressing the government of President Rene Preval, along with the governments of the United States, Canada and Brazil and the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (Minustah), to step up efforts to locate his whereabouts. Mounting evidence suggests that Lovinsky (who goes by his first name) was kidnapped for political reasons.

Lovinsky, 41, went missing on Aug. 12 while leading a joint U.S.-Canadian human rights delegation in Haiti. Since then, a criminal gang has claimed responsibility for Lovinsky’s abduction and has demanded a ransom for his release. The Haitian government and police have released little information about their efforts to free the human rights activist, leading to charges that authorities are not truly interested in finding him.

Roger Annis of the Canada-Haiti Action Network, who was a member of the delegation, said that when they first reported Lovinsky’s disappearance on Aug. 13, police showed no interest in the case and did not even bother asking them any questions. Lovinsky’s supporters inside and outside Haiti have mounted protests to force the Haitian government and its backers to make a serious effort to secure his release.

Lovinsky’s two teenage children, Stéphane and Olivier Pierre-Antoine, have released an open letter urging the Haitian government and the international community to help find their father.

According to Brian Concannon Jr. of the Oregon-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, Lovinsky made many enemies in the course of his work.

Lovinsky earned the enmity of “almost everyone responsible for human rights violations in Haiti, including Haiti’s conservative business elite, the right-wing politicians, the Duvalierists, the interim government and the international community,” including the U.S., Minustah and international financial institutions, Concannon said.

“Lovinsky makes them uncomfortable because he will follow human rights violations to their source, and fearlessly condemn whomever he finds is involved in the violation,” Concannon said. “He manages to keep human rights and justice issues on the radar screen” through public rallies and demonstrations, web-based analyses, press releases and interviews.

“Lovinsky is also the most outspoken and effective opponent to the resurrection of the Haitian army,” Concannon said. “He organizes photo exhibits to remind Haitians of the military’s atrocities and brutality, and speaks out directly against the army’s return in the press. Although his views on the army are widely shared, many people decline to express those views in public for fear of retaliation.”

“The foundation for Lovinsky’s effectiveness is the fact that his analysis and his advocacy are rooted among Haiti’s poor,” he continued. Noting that Lovinsky has a master’s degree in psychology and could simply “play the role of expert” in a comfortable office if he wanted to, Lovinsky instead “takes his education and skills to the street, working directly with poor people, using his skills to carry their voice to places it otherwise would not be heard.”

Concannon, a lawyer and member of the UN human rights mission in Haiti from 1995-96, said the evidence suggests that Lovinsky was likely kidnapped for political reasons. “The elapse of seven weeks since the last communication suggests that the original ransom demand may have been a ruse to hide a politically motivated abduction,” he said. He noted that in Haiti it is very uncommon for kidnappers to hold a person so long.

More ominously, Concannon noted that Lovinsky also “frequently criticized groups with a history of killing their opponents, including the country’s political and economic right wing, the army and paramilitary groups.” However, Concannon cautioned that he has not seen any information that points to one group or individual who might be responsible for kidnapping Lovinsky.

Supporters say Lovinsky is still presumed to be alive.

tpelzer @shaw.ca

Editor’s note: Supporters of Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine have produced an online petition demanding the speedy and safe return of Haitian human rights activist. The petition can be signed here:

The text of Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine’ children’s appeal reads as follows:

A message from the children of disappeared Haitian human rights leader Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine

Our names are Stéphane and Olivier Pierre-Antoine, the children of Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine.

This week will be the sixth one that we spend without our father, who is kept hostage and it has been more than 42 days since we did not receive any notice from him being alive. The hours and the days go by without anyone, except his close relatives, seeming to worry about his fate.

We have felt a big void in our hearts since this disappearance. This deplorable situation prevents us from sleeping, eating and forces us to concentrate our thoughts on the slow agony that our father is living. Deprived of freedom, our father incurs the risks to catch diseases, to be victim of physical violence by his abductors and to have his spirit devoured by despair.

We ask you, who probably are fathers and mothers, to listen to the words of two teenagers who crave the presence of their father. Listen well to this outcry of pain and anguish that comes directly from our heart. It is not only our father that we miss, we are also deprived of our dear friend, of our counselor and of our spiritual guide. We ask the authorities of the country and the Haitian people to do all that is in their power to free our dad. We particularly ask his abductors to grant us the return of our daddy who is so dear to us.

Even if we are aware that a release is a complex and long process, it has been more than a month than we did not see our dad and we want to insist on the unbearable wait that we are confronted with. In the name of Human Rights and of the inherent duty to save people in lethal danger, we massively call on the Haitian authorities and the international community to help us find the means that will allow the release of our dad.

We do not doubt that in the future, all efforts will be set in motion to make the release of our dear dad an absolute priority. We wish for energetic and effective measures to be deployed to this end. We take this opportunity to cordially thank all those who, in a way or another, brought us their moral support during this sad period of our life.

Stéphane Pierre-Antoine and Olivier Pierre-Antoine