UN criticizes Haiti's political crisis and urges elections

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council criticized “the protracted political, constitutional, humanitarian and security crises in Haiti” and again urged the government to hold long-delayed legislative elections and prepare for presidential elections this year.

A council statement approved by all 15 members stressed that “the democratic will of the Haitian people must be respected” and underscored the need to address election-related security, transparency and logistical issues so voting can take place.

“The Security Council urges all political stakeholders in Haiti to set aside their differences in the interest of the people of Haiti, to engage constructively to enable the organization of upcoming elections and to ensure elections take place in a peaceful environment, and calls on the international community to support Haiti in this endeavor,” the statement said.

Haiti has faced more than a year of opposition protests calling for the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse over corruption charges which he refused to do. Opposition leaders and supporters claimed his five-year term ended on Feb. 7 and he should step down then.

But on that day, Moïse announced that authorities had arrested 23 people accused of plotting an alleged coup to kill him and overthrow his government including a high-ranking police official and a Supreme Court judge favored by the opposition as a potential transitional president.

The Security Council adopted the presidential statement before a Haitian appeals court on Wednesday ordered the release of more than a dozen people accused of plotting the coup against Moïse, a decision that opposition leaders celebrated.

Moïse has insisted his term ends in February 2022 since he wasn’t sworn in until 2017. Prior to that, a provisional president ruled Haiti for one year following chaotic elections marred by allegations of fraud. Moise has repeatedly said he will step down in February 2022 and has called for legislative and presidential elections to be held Sept. 19, with a runoff scheduled for Nov. 21.

Critics accuse Moïse of amassing more power in recent months, noting that he already had been ruling by presidential decree ever since he dissolved the majority of Parliament in January 2020 after failing to hold legislative elections in 2019 amid political gridlock.

The Security Council expressed concern at human rights violations and abuses, “including those involving the alleged use of deadly force against protesters, as well as reported arbitrary arrests and detentions.”

It stressed the importance of an independent judiciary, underscored the need to strengthen the rule of law, and urged the government “to step up its efforts against corruption and to ensure accountability and transparency in connection with these efforts.”