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Cablegate: President Preval Discusses Court Reform And

VZCZCXRO8957
OO RUEHQU
DE RUEHPU #0863/01 2791747
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 061747Z OCT 09 (CCY ADBF7E5D MSI9776-632)
FM AMEMBASSY PORT AU PRINCE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0430
INFO RUEHZH/HAITI COLLECTIVE
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 2391
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 0429
RUEHSA/AMEMBASSY PRETORIA 2104
RUEHMT/AMCONSUL MONTREAL 0409
RUEHQU/AMCONSUL QUEBEC 1468
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUCOWCV/CCGDSEVEN MIAMI FL
RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM J2 MIAMI FL

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 PORT AU PRINCE 000863

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y--PARAGRAPH NUMBERING

SIPDIS

STATE FOR S, C, WHA/CAR, DRL, S/CRS,
INL FOR KEVIN BROWN, HEATHER WILD AND MEAGAN MCBRIDE
INR/IAA
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD
STATE PASS AID FOR LAC/CAR

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/01/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL EAID SNAR HA
SUBJECT: PRESIDENT PREVAL DISCUSSES COURT REFORM AND
ELECTIONS

PORT AU PR 00000863 001.5 OF 003


Classified By: Ambassador Kenneth H. Merten. Reason: E.O. 12958 1.4 ( b), (d)

1. (S) SUMMARY. During a September 30 - October 1 visit to
Port-au-Prince, Department Counselor Cheryl Mills met with
President Rene Preval and Prime Minister Michele
Pierre-Louis. Preval discussed justice reform and his intent
to replace potentially all (or all but one) Supreme Court
judges. He also expressed his commitment to having the
Constitution amended before the next President takes office,
thus setting a deadline for parliamentary elections. Preval
stressed this point in a meeting he called for with the
diplomatic community on October 5. END SUMMARY.

PREVAL TO FIRE SUPREME COURT
----------------------------

2. (S) Department Counselor Mills and the Ambassador met with
President Preval on September 30. Preval began the meeting
by re-iterating his commitment to first addressing basic
problems linked to security and stability (including
elections and justice reform) before undertaking new GOH
actions in the areas of investment or agriculture. In his
view, the justice system stands as ''the last bastion of
those opposed to reform.'' Preval stressed that he viewed
the Supreme Court as ineffective and that most Supreme Court
judges had been nominated illegally (their appointment did
not follow the Constitutional procedure by which the Senate
proposes candidates and the President then appoints judges
for a 10 year mandate each). Preval said that he intended to
replace all (or all but one) of the judges in the following
weeks, focusing mainly on appointing non-corrupt and
competent judges. Preval clarified that he would not fire
the current judges until he is ready to appoint new ones. He
also expressed concern over the lack of integrity of the
president of the Senate Commission on Justice and Security,
Senator Youri Latortue, implying ties to the drug trade. He
supported his viewpoint by recalling the USG,s alleged
refusal to allow Latortue to travel to the United States.

3. (C) Mills responded by affirming USG support to the GOH in
reforming the justice sector, in consolidating stability, and
in its counternarcotics efforts but underscored that any
change to the Supreme Court or any other aspect of the
judicial system - particularly one this radical - must be
done in a transparent manner in full accordance with the law.
DOJ's Carl Alexandre outlined for Preval the preliminary
findings of the USG interagency team conducting an assessment
of USG assistance to the justice sector. Alexandre said the
team had identified the following issues as areas for concern
in reforming the justice sector: the nomination of a
president of the Supreme Court, the reform of the criminal
code, the high level of pre-trial detention, the need for
investing resources in the justice system as was done in the
police sector, and the humanitarian concerns arising from
overcrowding and corruption in the correction services.

4. (C) Preval responded by stating that the biggest
impediment in reforming the justice system and addressing the
expressed concerns was the lack of willingness by the
concerned actors, and that he would address these by first
installing competent judges in the Supreme Court.

CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE AT ALL COST
---------------------------------

5. (C) Preval then discussed his desire to have parliamentary
elections in time for the purpose of having the next
legislature pass the constitutional amendments. Given that
the proposed amendments would reduce the frequency of
elections and create a Constitutional Council to act as
mediator between the Executive and Legislative, Preval
stressed that the amendments were vital to increasing
political stability and that they must be passed before the
next President comes into power in February 2011. ''If we
missed this opportunity,'' he said, ''we will have to wait
for 2016 to try this again.'' Preval then re-affirmed his
position that the current provisional electoral council (CEP)
is competent and unbiased. However, he conceded that CEP
vice-president Rodol Pierre,s public accusation that the
CEP,s president committed fraud was inappropriate (Pierre
made public accusations after his protege candidate lost in
the South). Preval stressed that he was willing to agree on
a political consensus to make some changes within the CEP
(especially in the case of Rodol Pierre), but that he would
not jeopardize the constitutional amendment process in any
way by postponing elections. Preval mentioned that May 12,
2010 is the last day the new legislature could review the
constitutional amendments (unless there is an agreement among
the political actors), and that elections must therefore take
place so as to have a new parliament at the latest in April.

PREVAL MEETS WITH INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
-----------------------------------------

6. (SBU) Preval summoned much of the diplomatic community to
the Palace for a briefing on October 5. He explained that
parliamentary elections were necessary and that they needed
to happen quickly. While not specifying exact dates, he
outlined a general timetable that would meet the ''need to
seat those elected before May 12.'' He explained that the
Haitian government would be coming to key donors that had
funded elections in the recent past and would be asking for
financial and technical help. He also explained that these
elections were of particular importance due to the need for
the newly seated parliament to vote on the constitutional
reforms. If the constitutional reforms passed, he said,
Haiti would no longer need to come annually to donors asking
for money to support elections; this would happen only once
every five years.

7. (SBU) Preval also briefed on his plans for the CEP. He
explained that there was pressure from a few quarters to
create a new CEP. These calls reflected the views of a tiny
minority. He opined that observers had determined that the
April elections were held correctly and with complete
impartiality (a word he emphasized repeatedly, saying that
the main job of any CEP was to ensure that the elections were
impartial). Given that time is short, he said he hoped to
keep all current members of the CEP but one; the individual
he himself appointed prior to the April elections. He will
choose a replacement for that person. He promised to write
to each of the groups that had nominated members to the CEP
(Representatives of the Catholic Church, the Protestant
churches, the Episcopal Church, disabled person, women's
groups, etc.) and ask them whether they continued to stand
behind their current representative on the CEP - with the
hope and expectation that each group would. This way he
believed that elections will be able to move forward quickly.
After his prepared remarks, President Preval answered
several questions at one point raising his right hand and
smiling while commenting, ''I swear I will leave the
Presidency as planned.'' He repeatedly emphasized that ''we
are in a hurry'' to get these elections done in a timely
fashion. The diplomatic community was generally supportive
of his plan, but expressed hope that the Haitian Government
could share a more exact elections timetable and a more
defined request for support in the near future.

8. (C) COMMENT. Preval,s commitment to addressing
outstanding problems in the justice sector comes late in the
game if justice sector reforms are to succeed in his last
year in office. Replacing all Supreme Court judges will not
be received well by the political opposition (something he
says he expects), as he will be seen to be appointing his
allies and undermining the institution's independence. His
positions on the integrity of the CEP and the Senatorial
elections are at odds with the perceptions of the political
parties and the international community (whose opinion is
held in private), and do not address those legitimate
concerns of fraud and bias raised by opposition leaders which
Preval and the CEP simply ignored. It is important that
legislative elections be held as close to their original
schedule (November 2009) as possible, both for the
credibility of the electoral process in Haiti and for the
possibility of securing needed constitutional reforms. This
would require pre-elections preparations to begin immediately.

8. (U) Counselor Mills cleared this cable.
MERTEN

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