Sanctioned ex-Haitian prime minister says Ottawa 'misinformed'

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Sanctioned former Haitian prime minister says Ottawa was “misinformed”

The ex-politician, now based in Miami, in the United States, intends to defend his arguments in Federal Court, but two experts consulted by La Canadian Press report that virtually no one has managed to win such a case in the past.

Former Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe accuses Ottawa of having “misinformed” before imposing sanctions on his assets. (File photo)

Former Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, saying he is a “victim” of being unfairly sanctioned by Canada, which considers him an accomplice of gangs in Haiti, accuses Ottawa of relying on “Google searches” and of being “misinformed” before targeting him.

I am a victim of this targeting policy. In reality, it is a political targeting aimed at eliminating an entire class of Haitian politicians to favor another class under a false pretext of association with gangs, said in an interview the one who filed, last December, an application for judicial review.

According to Mr. Lamothe, Global Affairs Canada redirected him to two articles found by a Google search after he asked what evidence the government had showing that it facilitated Haitian criminal gang activity. The former prime minister would not provide a copy of the articles mentioned during the interview, claiming that his lawyer had advised him against doing so.

Getting involved without repeating the mistakes of the past is Justin Trudeau's goal to help Haiti, where a security and humanitarian crisis has persisted for more than eighteen months. He announces more than $22 million more in humanitarian aid. There will be no military presence on Haitian soil, but the assurance of a dispatch of two Royal Navy ships. Report by Valérie Gamache

These two articles don't even mention my name or implicate me in anything. So I wonder, so far, what I am being accused of, says the one who is one of the 17 people sanctioned by Ottawa in the face of the insecurity crisis in Haiti.

The situation in this Caribbean country has reached a critical level in recent months, with armed gangs spreading terror, raping women and blocking the population's access to essential services.< /p>

In response to questions sent by The Canadian Press, Global Affairs Canada said by email that the federal government cannot comment on Mr. Lamothe's case as it is under judicial review. The ministry has therefore not confirmed that it sent two articles to Mr. Lamothe to justify his addition to the list of persons sanctioned.

The government […] determines the most appropriate circumstances under our sanctions legislation to list individuals or entities based on actions on the ground and the availability of credible information, had- argued in a written statement previously sent.

Global Affairs Canada declined a request to interview any senior sanctions officials.

A protester holds a piece of wood simulating a rifle during a demonstration for the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry, in Port-au-Prince, October 3, 2022.

Under its Special Economic Measures Act, Justin Trudeau's government has implemented sanctions regimes to crack down on thousands of people over the past few years. These provisions have been used to target individuals believed to be responsible for the crisis in Haiti, but also for the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the violation of human rights in Iran.

< p class="e-p">Mr. Lamothe claims to have been, during his term as Prime Minister, from 2012 to 2014, the nightmare of criminal gangs and to have maintained the same posture afterwards.

The one who was a member of the government of former President Michel Martelly, also sanctioned by Canada, believes that Haiti was facing neither the problems of the rise of criminal gangs nor the insecurity during his political involvement. According to him, all the gang leaders were in prison.

Thus, defending his honor and dignity is Laurent Lamothe's main motivation for challenging the sanctions against him.

“I have children. […] I am a former representative of the country. I have a track record and I'm human. »

— Laurent Lamothe, former Prime Minister of Haiti

It is clear to him that Ottawa did not do its research well before sanctioning him and got involved. is misled. That a country which is the standard-bearer of human rights throughout the world like Canada […] bases itself on two Google articles, one page each, which do not even mention my name, it's x27;is outrageous, he says.

When asked about the role played by his former political formation, the Parti haïtien Tèt Kale (PHTK), in the current crisis in Haiti, Mr. Lamothe replied that he was not a member. Asked about the fact that many people sanctioned by Canada have been part of governments led by the PHTK, he notes that this party has won the last two elections monitored by the international community.

Mr. Lamothe suggests that Canadian sanctions indirectly benefit the current unelected government of Ariel Henry. Probably because most of those sanctioned were in one way or another part of his opposition, he says.

The Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refuted that premise last November, arguing that Canada's approach was in no way driven by what a political party or the Haitian government wants.

Either way, it remains to be seen whether Mr. Lamothe will win his case in Federal Court.

Justin Trudeau and Ariel Henry had a “very constructive conversation,” the Canadian Prime Minister said on Thursday, February 16. (File photo)

Michael Nesbitt, an associate professor at the University of Calgary, can't recall any past victories on the matter. I can't think of a meaningful challenge if there was one, summarizes the sanctions expert.

Global Affairs Canada does not x27;did not respond to questions from The Canadian Press seeking data on the number of challenges made in recent years.

There are two avenues available to sanctioned persons to attempt to have their name removed from the list of sanctioned persons. They can turn to the office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mélanie Joly, or the ministry for which she is responsible. The other avenue of challenge is the application for judicial review to the Federal Court.

These cases are interesting because it is an analysis of the regulatory regime that is put forward. in place, says lawyer Julia Webster, partner for Baker McKenzie.

She explains that once the Federal Court is seized of the case, it is really a question of how much discretion the Minister has, how much deference the courts will show to the decision of the minister.

The second avenue of appeal for those sanctioned to have their name removed from the list of sanctioned persons is to turn to the office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mélanie Joly. (File photo)

In 2018, Ukrainian politician Andriy Portnov turned to the Federal Court and tried unsuccessfully to obtain the evidence justifying the freezing of his assets under a law other than that with which Mr. Lamothe was sanctioned.

Ottawa had pleaded that the documents could not be released under legislative provisions protecting sensitive information concerning international relations or which constitute advice and recommendations made to the cabinet.

In 2021 , the Federal Court dismissed Venezuelan politician Rangel Gomez's claim regarding that same law – the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act. As part of this legal action, Global Affairs Canada had provided an internal memo that listed news reports accusing Mr. Gomez's government of allowing trafficking and smuggling at mine sites.

In return, Canada itself removed, in 2019, a person from one of its lists of sanctioned individuals. The former head of Venezuela's intelligence service, Manuel Cristopher Figuera, had thus been expelled because he had joined a movement – now fallen – of uprising against the dictatorship of Nicholas Maduro.

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