Haiti’s justice minister faces possible censure after failing to appear Thursday before a Senate committee to explain how the United States was able to take custody of rebel leader Guy Philippe and transport him to Florida on drug-related charges.
Camille Junior Edouard, minister of justice and public security, had been summoned by Haitian lawmakers in the capital, Port-au-Prince. He also ignored two earlier requests.
“The minister disrespected the Senate because he is reaching the end of his mandate,” Jean Renel Senatus, chairman of the Justice and Public Security Commission, told reporters at the parliament building.
Edouard’s term as minister began last spring and officially concludes February 7, when President-elect Jovenel Moise takes office with a new administration.
Edouard could face censure or a vote of no confidence for not cooperating. Senators will debate that late this month.
A censure vote might not make much difference initially, because his term ends soon, but it could have more lasting consequences. The lawyer, who has served as an adviser to at least one parliamentarian, is considered likely to seek office in the future.
“It is like he asks [senators] to give him bad marks” that could impede a longer political career, Senatus said.
Lawmakers want details about the Haitian government’s role in the case of Philippe, captured January 5 at a suburban radio station and handed over to U.S. drug enforcement agents who’d sought him since 2005. Philippe recently was elected to Haiti’s Senate, but had not been sworn in.
Philippe’s seizure triggered protests in Haiti and Miami, where the suspect has been detained. Some have questioned what they see as the unlawful extradition of a senator-elect, insisting the senate position grants Philippe immunity from prosecution. Still others want Philippe to face charges in Haiti.
District Attorney Danton Leger has told Haitian media he did not anticipate Philippe’s removal and had hoped to first try the suspect himself. He had issued an arrest warrant for Philippe, suspected in an attack last May on a police station in the southern city of Les Cayes.
Philippe, a former police commissioner in the northern city of Cap-Haitien and in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Delmas, also played a key role in the violent 2004 uprising that toppled then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
In a Miami federal courtroom last Friday, Philippe pleaded not guilty to charges involving money laundering and smuggling cocaine into the United States. Prosecutors were given 15 days to present evidence supporting the charges.