Two residents holding yellow envelopes while standing near the entrance of Cap-Haïtien’s Court of First Instance in front of a graffiti that reads Aba Manigat, Creole for Down [Joseph] Manigat, the court’s dean. Photo by Onz Chéry for Go West Now

Overview:

Cap-Haïtien’s attorney and bailiff from the Court of First Instance condemn the police for shutting down the court in protest. The protest was sparked by the dean’s alleged decision to release the girlfriend of a bandit who was killed by a police officer during a confrontation, in which the officer also lost his life.

CAP-HAITIEN — Last week, police officers from Haiti’s Departmental Service of Judicial Police (SDPJ) shuttered the Court of First Instance in Cap-Haitien twice in protest. They accused its dean, Joseph Manigat, of freeing the girlfriend of a deceased bandit who had been killed by a slain SDPJ officer. Manigat is also alleged to have directed the police to return all items confiscated from the deceased bandit, including a vehicle.

Several regulars at the court, including attorneys and bailiffs, vehemently objected to the SDPJ's forceful closure, labeling it an overreach of power. They appealed to higher-ranking police officials to prevent another closure.

Attorney Lunique Charles stated, “The police officers had no right to close the court. The justice system must take measures to counter such actions in coordination with the general directorate of the police and the general inspection. The police ought to support the justice system, not undermine it.”

The court’s closure marks the latest incident in an ongoing conflict between the police and the justice system in Cap-Haitien. Despite both institutions being designed to work in harmony, police officers have been behaving as if they hold superior authority. Earlier this year, police officers attacked City Attorney Charles Durand. The assaulting officers were removed from isolation following a police protest.

One bailiff, who chose to remain anonymous due to safety concerns, questioned, “How can police officers simply close a court? They're disrupting everyone's lives. They’re not supposed to do this. I'm against it.”

Manigat could not be reached for comment, and City Attorney Charles Durand was not available to answer questions from Go West Now either.

Police officers spray painted Jistis pou polisye Remy Synce, Creole for Justice for police officer Remy Synce, on the Court of First Instance wall. Photo by Onz Chéry for Go West Now

On May 13 and May 16, unidentified SDPJ officers, their faces obscured by ski masks, closed the court for several hours. They demanded justice for their colleague, Remy Synce, who was shot dead in February in Petite Anse, a neighborhood on the fringes of Cap-Haitien’s downtown area.

Synce and his wife were ambushed by armed bandits on a motorcycle after leaving the bank on the evening of Feb. 19. Synce exchanged gunfire with the bandits, killing one, Emile Alcima, but was also fatally shot. His wife survived a gunshot wound to the arm.

Alcima’s girlfriend, Jenny Love Decimus, and brother, Jocelyn Alcima, were arrested the same night for interrogation, and Alcima’s vehicle and other belongings were confiscated by the police.

The dates of Decimus’ release from prison and the police’s return of Alcima’s belongings remain unclear.

On May 13, SDPJ officers began protesting these decisions, taking their grievances to the street with signs, spray-painting the Court of First Instance and closing it. They also called for Manigat’s resignation or dismissal.

An unnamed SDPJ officer told local reporter Romain Phanel, better known as Ti Zo Le Specimen, “We kindly ask you to step aside and let those with moral integrity do the job. Take your decisions with you. We no longer acknowledge this dean in the department.”

Email me at [email protected]
Onz Chery is a Haiti correspondent for Go West Now. Chery started his journalism career as a City College of New York student with The Campus. He later wrote for First Touch, local soccer leagues in New York and Elite Sports New York before joining Go West Now in 2019.

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