Thanks to the courage of survivors and whistleblowers, Haiti’s government is taking important steps to bring top sports officials implicated in child abuse to justice and out of sport.
On July 2, Haiti’s former minister of sports, Evans Lescouflair, was arrested by Interpol in Panama where he had sought to escape Haitian justice. Lescouflair stands accused of repeatedly raping an 11-year-old student while he was a teacher. He is also facing a civil lawsuit brought by several other people who have brought forward evidence that he sexually abused them.
“With Lescouflair in jail facing justice at last, our goal as survivors is to send a message that all children in Haiti and worldwide deserve full protection from sexual abuse at all times,” said Claude-Alix Bertrand, a childhood survivor of abuse who is also Haiti’s ambassador to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). “Sport should should not be a place where powerful leaders abuse children and get away with it. We must use this case as a catalyst for permanent change to protect children in sport and beyond.”
Lescouflair was also a top official at the Haitian Football Federation, and was president of a youth football club.
This case follows the December 2020 suspension and lifetime ban for Haitian Football Federation President Yves Jean-Bart for sexually abusing women and girls on Haiti’s national football team. After an investigation, FIFA, the world football federation, banned Jean-Bart from football for life.
However, FIFA has not removed other Haitian federation officials who were involved in covering up sexual abuse and who still work with Haiti’s women’s national team, and has not attempted to collect the US$1 million fine it issued Jean-Bart.
Whistleblowers and survivors have been threatened to prevent them from bringing evidence of sexual abuse. After Jean-Bart’s appeal hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in April, witnesses received threats by text that read: “I have your coffins prepared.”
Human Rights Watch has reported on new waves of violence threatening the justice system in Haiti. Haitian authorities should take steps to ensure access to justice, to protect whistleblowers and survivors, and to arrest and sanction sexual abusers in sport and their accomplices.
International sports bodies FIFA and the International Olympic Committee should support athlete survivors by banning child abusers from sport and upholding their own child safeguarding policies.