Sanctioned ex-Haitian prime minister says Ottawa 'misinformed'

Sanctioned ex-Haitian prime minister says Ottawa 'misinformed'

 Sanctioned ex-Haitian prime minister says Ottawa was “misinformed” /></p>
<p> Lynne Sladky Archives Associated Press Laurent Lamothe filed an application for judicial review in Federal Court. </p>
<p>Former Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, who says he is a “victim” of being unfairly sanctioned by Canada as an accomplice to gangs in Haiti, accuses Ottawa of relying on “Google research” and “misinformed” before targeting him.</p>
<p>The ex-politician, now based in Miami, in the United States, intends to defend his arguments in Federal Court, but two experts consulted by <i> The Canadian Press</i>point out that hardly anyone has succeeded in winning such a case in the past.</p>
<p>“I am a victim of this targeting policy. In reality, it is political targeting aimed at eliminating an entire class of Haitian politicians to favor another class under the false pretext of association with gangs,” said in an interview the one who filed a request for judicial review.</p>
<p>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 the activity of Haitian criminal gangs. The former prime minister refused to provide copies of the articles mentioned during the interview, claiming that his lawyer had advised him not to do so.</p>
<p>“These two articles don't even mention my name and don't implicate me in anything. So I wonder, so far, what I am being accused of, “says the one who is one of 17 people sanctioned by Ottawa in the face of the insecurity crisis in Haiti.</p>
<p>The situation in this Caribbean country has reached critical levels in recent months, with armed gangs spreading terror, raping women and blocking the population's access to essential services.</p>
<p>In response to questions sent by <i>The Canadian Press</i>, 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 not confirmed that it sent two articles to Mr. Lamothe to justify adding him to the list of sanctioned persons.</p>
<p>“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,” it said. argued in a written statement previously sent.</p>
<p>Global Affairs Canada declined a request to interview any senior sanctions officials.</p>
<h2 class=Regime de sanctions

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 people considered responsible for the crisis in Haiti, but also for the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the violation of human rights in Iran.

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 not facing problems with the rise of criminal gangs or 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,” he says.

It is clear to him that Ottawa did not do their research well before sanctioning him and were misled. “For a country that is the standard-bearer of human rights around the world like Canada […] to base itself on two one-page Google articles that don't even mention my name, it's outrageous,” says he.

When asked about the role played by his former political formation, the Haitian Tèt Kale Party (PHTK), in the current crisis in Haiti, Mr. Lamothe replied that he is not a member. Asked about the fact that many people sanctioned by Canada were part of governments led by the PHTK, he noted that this party 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 the people sanctioned were in one way or another part of his opposition,” he recalls.

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

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

Michael Nesbitt, associate professor at the University of Calgary, does not recall any past victory in the matter. “I can't think of a significant challenge if there was one,” summarizes the sanctions expert.

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

There are two avenues to sanctioned persons in an 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 to seek judicial review in Federal Court.

“These cases are interesting because it's an analysis of the regulatory regime that's put in place,” says attorney Julia Webster, partner for Baker McKenzie.

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

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

Ottawa had argued that the documents could not be released under legislative provisions protecting sensitive information concerning international relations or which constitute advice and recommendations made to 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, the Canada itself removed, in 2019, a person from one of its lists of sanctioned individuals. The ex-head of the intelligence service of Venezuela, Manuel Cristopher Figuera, had thus been struck off because he had rallied to a movement – ​​now fallen – of uprising against the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro.

< p>With the collaboration of Dylan Robertson

Also read:

  • Former Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe challenges Canada's sanctions
  • Canada wants to convince allies to crack down on political elites in Haiti