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Avellon Williams 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI- Law enforcement officials, judges, and lawyers were too scared to report to work last week after armed bandits seized the Court of First Instance building in a brazen confrontation. One person was shot and scores of law enforcement officers too afraid to report to work.

Izo gang members in Haiti /Image, H24/

During the invasion on June 10, the fourth crime spree at the courthouse since May, workers said members of the “Five Segonn” gang shot a security guard, broke windows, vandalized courtrooms, and seized court files. Several commissioners’ vehicles were also taken by the gang, which is based in Village-de-Dieu and headed by a man named Izo.

Attorney Arnel Remy said in a report, “I just escaped death. If it weren’t for God, I would’ve been dead on the spot.”

“As a lawyer, I have a responsibility to demand that no one, lawyers, judges, clerks should not come to the Courthouse for the moment.”

Remy was speaking moments after fleeing in a car with five others from the courthouse, as shots were fired at the vehicle. The driver of Remy’s car lost control, but no one was injured.

In the days that followed, similar gripping accounts flooded social networks and local radio as judges, lawyers, litigants, and prisoners relayed their narrow escapes from injury or death. Desperate to escape, some scaled the walls of the courthouse or climbed on prisoners’ backs.

Over the weekend, police officers – whose agency celebrated its 27th anniversary – were assigned to guard the courthouse. Yet the bandits outgunned them with higher caliber weapons, leaving them helpless.  

/Image, ALJ/

The attack is the fourth on the courthouse, which was burglarized by unidentified armed individuals on May 10, June 5, and 7. The attack is yet another example of the Haitian government’s careless attitude about securing the courthouses and providing a functioning judicial system, victims and observers say.

Members of the judicial system have been urging Haiti’s government to relocate the Court of First Instance in Port-au-Prince for over a year now. According to complaints, the building is in a chronic state of dysfunction because of increased violence and kidnappings in Port-au-Prince’s Bicentenaire neighbourhood , where it was relocated after the Champ de Mars courthouse was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake.


Lawyers in Haiti’s Bar Association held a sit-in in April to demand that the government move the civil court to a safer area. As a result, the Dean’s Office was relocated to expedite urgent cases, instead of the whole courthouse, as lawyers requested.


Following each courthouse attack, government top prosecutor Lafontant has said an investigation is underway. No official findings, however, have been released. 

Lafontant assured each time that no sensitive documents were stolen. However, judges and lawyers have reported that they have lost client files while fleeing the violence.

According to Remy, this attack brought Haiti’s Justice system to its knees.

Jacques Lafontant /Image, HB24/

Jacques Lafontant, the government commissioner of Port-au-Prince, said that gangsters stole four vehicles belonging to different commissioners during the attack on Friday. According to eyewitnesses, the bandits pushed the vehicles toward their base in Bicentenaire Village, located in the capital.

During that weekend, gangs hijacked two buses carrying at least 30 passengers in Martissant.

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Avellon Williams

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