14th August, 2021
Haitian judge Mathieu Chanlatte, charged with probing last month’s shocking assassination of President Jovenel Moise has quit the case.
Chanlatte recused himself on Friday, just four days after being handed the case.
His resignation comes two days after one of his court clerks was found dead in a local hospital under circumstances that remain unclear.
Chanlatte cited safety concerns and a lack of support to carry out such a high-profile and difficult investigation, Magistrate Bernard Saint-Vil, the dean of the Court of First Instance in Port-au-Prince, told The Miami Herald.
Saint-Vil had named Chanlatte to oversee the case on Monday.
Saint-Vil said he received the investigative judge’s signed letter on Friday afternoon.
“I now have to find another judge,” Saint-Vil said, expressing the hope that he could name a new investigative judge by early next week.
Chanlatte confirmed his decision to step away from the case.
“I decided to make this decision because all the authorities who had to provide for my needs in terms of personal security did not respond favorably to my requests after a week of going and coming incessantly to them,” he told The Miami Herald.
In Haiti, an investigative or instructing judge works much like a grand jury.
It is up to him or her to take over the investigation where police left off and ultimately bring charges in the case.
Security concerns are common in high-profile cases in Haiti, where investigative judges in the past have been forced to flee for the U.S. and Canada because of death threats.
Two judges and court clerks involved in documenting evidence in the case reported receiving death threats and pressure to fabricate reports.
Before Chanlatte’s selection, a number of judges had expressed concerns about their security if they were to be assigned the case.
Saint-Vil said Chanlatte brought up his security and a lack of support during a conversation both men had Friday morning.
“He said that he, his wife and two daughters were sleeping in a house and up until now, he had not received any security, he had not received an armoured vehicle, or anything, and that he was going to recuse himself,” Saint-Vil said.
Haitian police have arrested 44 individuals, including 18 Colombian commandos, four Haitian Americans and 20 Haitian nationals.
Of the Haitian nationals, 20 are police officers, including the coordinator of the president’s security and the head of the General Security Unit of the National Palace, or USGPN.
The motive for the brazen July 7 killing, which also left first lady Martine Moise, seriously wounded, remains baffling – along with who financed and ultimately authored the crime.