The Globe and Mail
On the afternoon of July 6, Haitian president Jovenel Moïse telephoned his oldest son, Joverlein, to catch up. The conversation was wide-ranging. The elder Mr. Moïse discussed his efforts to amend the country’s constitution and inquired after his three-year-old granddaughter.
“It was really relaxed,” Joverlein, a 29-year-old clean-energy entrepreneur, recalled in an interview with The Globe and Mail. “We talked about politics, we talked about family.”
It was the last time the pair would speak. Early the next morning, gunmen burst into the president’s home and shot him to death. Joverlein, who was staying at a house just 15 minutes away, gathered his wife, daughter and two younger siblings, and left the country that day.
Now living in Quebec, the younger Mr. Moïse is determined to get answers about the assassination, whose masterminds have yet to be identified.
This week, he filed a motion in a Port-au-Prince court to join the investigation and prosecution. The legal manoeuvre, part of the judicial systems of countries such as Haiti that use French-style civil codes, allows a person hurt by a crime to recoup damages from the perpetrators.
In Mr. Moïse’s case, the intention is to put pressure on Haitian authorities to step up their investigation, which is more than three months old. He is asking for purely symbolic damages of five Haitian gourdes, or roughly six cents.
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He said he believes powerful people in the country were behind the crime, and that he has information that could help solve it.
“As a son, it’s important to know what happened to my father so I can grieve much more peacefully,” Mr. Moïse said. “As a Haitian citizen, we all need to know who assassinated our democratically elected leader … and we need to see these people pay.”
Garry Orélien, the judge investigating the case, will have to decide whether to allow Mr. Moïse to join.
Continued unrest in Haiti has complicated the process of investigating the assassination. This week, protesters shut down traffic with barricades of burning tires, frustrated by a growing wave of kidnappings by armed gangs that control much of Port-au-Prince. The Haiti-based Centre for Analysis and Research in Human Rights has counted 782 abductions in the country so far this year.
Last weekend, a gang known as 400 Mawozo kidnapped 18 people – 16 U.S. missionaries, a Canadian missionary and a Haitian driver – on a highway near the capital. Gang leader Wilson Joseph threatened in a video Thursday to kill all of them if his ransom demands are not met. “I’ve left a gun pointed at every one of their heads,” he said. “I will make you shed tears of blood.”
Later in the day, Léon Charles, the head of Haiti’s national police, resigned without providing a reason.
“There are dark days in Haiti right now. All the streets in Port-au-Prince are barricaded – the entire perimeter around my office is impassable,” said Patrice Florvilus, one of Mr. Moïse’s lawyers.
The instability made it difficult for Mr. Moïse to find a legal team in Haiti willing to take his case. Ultimately Mr. Florvilus, a Haitian-Canadian best known for suing United Nations troops for starting a cholera epidemic in Haiti, and Dieunel Fleury Jean, a human-rights lawyer, stepped up. They have the help of Philippe Larochelle, a Montreal-based lawyer who represented Paul Rusesabagina, a hotelier who sheltered refugees during the 1994 Rwandan genocide and whose story was dramatized in the movie Hotel Rwanda.
The seven-page legal filing says Joverlein Moïse was “in contact with members of the presidential family during the attack” and has “significant knowledge of certain facts and circumstances related to the assassination.” He declined to describe these in detail to The Globe, saying he had decided not to make them public before he has had a chance to share them with judicial officials in Haiti.
“It was catastrophic,” he said of the night of the assassination. “We are still in shock.”
His complaint says the crime “appears to have been orchestrated by individuals or groups of individuals with political, diplomatic and economic influence” and suggests that government officials were involved.
In the days after the assassination, police in Haiti arrested or detained dozens of people, including Colombian mercenaries, presidential bodyguards, a former senator, an ex-judicial official and an evangelical pastor. But those close to the slain president have insisted the people who conceived of and financed the plot have still not been brought to justice. They have pointed fingers at the country’s oligarchs, who lost their electricity monopoly and ability to borrow from the state pension fund during the elder Mr. Moïse’s time in office.
The younger Mr. Moïse’s complaint also asks Mr. Orélien to look into a supposed arrest warrant for the late president issued by another Haitian judge, Jean Roger Noelcius, in Feb. 2019. Some of the arrested mercenaries have reportedly told Haitian police they were trying to serve the warrant on the president, but few details about the document itself have so far emerged.
Mr. Florvilus said he has received information that Mr. Noelcius has fled to Canada.
“We want to know what motivated that magistrate to issue an arrest warrant for the president,” Mr. Florvilus said, adding that even other judges apparently did not know that the warrant had been issued. “We’re giving the judge pathways for his investigation.”
Mr. Larochelle said that joining the prosecution would allow Mr. Moïse to give input into the investigation and receive updates from Mr. Orélien.
“The idea is to push politely, but firmly, into the back of the investigative judge so that something happens,” Mr. Larochelle said. “His intervention as a civil party will allow him to have access to the case. He can follow and monitor and appraise. He can request the investigation depose people or explore certain avenues.”
The only child from his father’s first marriage, Joverlein Moïse grew up in Haiti before moving to Canada nine years ago. He came for university, and to be closer to his mother, who lives in Quebec. For the past four years, he has divided his time between Montreal and Haiti, where his company has a large solar farm in the country’s northeast, he said.
His sister, Jomarlie, and brother, Jovenel Jr., have returned to Haiti, where his stepmother, Martine Moïse, is running for president. Joverlein has so far chosen to remain in Canada, out of concern that being in Haiti would pose a risk to his safety.
“The majority of people behind what happened last July 7 are still walking free,” he said. “The entire family is united in this fight, and we know it could go on a long time. But we know it will end in the conviction of those who planned and carried out this villainous act.”
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