Haiti : update of the Jean Dominique investigation and the situation of journalists / Amnesty International.

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Haiti : update of the Jean Dominique investigation and the situation of journalists / Amnesty International.
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London, U.K. : Amnesty Intl., Intl. Secretariat, 2002

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4-tr-Am.I.-2002B

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amnesty international


HAITI
Update of the Jean Dominique
investigation and the situation
of journalists


I 71


Al Index: AMR 36/013/2002
INTERNATIONAL SECRETARIAT, 1 EASTON STREET, LONDON WCIX ODW, UNITED KINGDOM


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HAITI

Update of the Jean Dominique investigation and
the situation of journalists

Introduction

This document gives a brief update to HAITI: "I have no weapon but my journalist's trade ":
human rights and the Jean Dominique investigation (AI Index AMR 36/001/2002, 2 April
2002), an exploration of the obstacles hampering efforts to bring those responsible for killing
Haiti's most well-known journalist to justice. On 3 April 2000 Jean Dominique was shot
dead by an unknown assailant outside the courtyard of his radio station, Radio Haiti Inter;
station guard Jean Claude Loussaint was killed with him. The killings were a serious blow to
Haiti, not least because Jean Dominique had been an outspoken and highly respected advocate
for change throughout four decades.

Following the second anniversary of his killing, progress in the Jean Dominique investigation
stalled for months; only after the naming of a new investigating magistrate in July 2002 did
work resume. Similarly, investigations into the December 2001 killing of another journalist
have been only imperfectly carried out. Meanwhile, a significant number of journalists
continue to be threatened and attacked. Taken together these factors seem to indicate a
diminishing level of respect for free speech, and particularly for the critical role ofjournalists,
in Haiti.

Moreover, while Haitian authorities have repeatedly stated their general commitment to
freedom of speech, they have also begun to condition these statements in ways which raise
doubts as to whether they take their commitment seriously. In one example, President Jean
Bertrand Aristide told a group of supporters of his Fanmi Lavalas party, gathered in late
September to commemorate the 11th anniversary of the coup which toppled him, that "the
government does not intend to tolerate any threats against the press, regardless of where they
come from." However he also warned that "when lies and set-ups are used to try to make
believe that the press is gagged and when certain sectors threaten the press to cause confusion,


Amnesty International November 2002


AI Index: AMR 36/013/2002







2 HAITI: Update of the Jean Dominique investigation and the situation of journalists



it is again an extension of the coup d'6tat."' Again on 16 October, he told a group of Haitian
reporters from the United States, "no one working in the press must feel threatened or
intimidated, nor should they create false scenarios" and added that "no journalist should
invent pretexts for finding a visa through telling lies."2 It is feared that such statements could
be interpreted by the authorities and party supporters who have been overtly challenging the
critical role of journalists as encouragement for their activities.


As a result of these developments, freedom of expression and the treatment of journalists in
Haiti have come under increasing domestic and international scrutiny. A delegation from the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, including Eduardo Bertoni, the Commission's
Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, visited Haiti from 26 to 29 August 2002, in
response to an invitation from the Haitian government. A communique posted after that visit
stated that


The murder of journalists in Haiti, along with a large number of complaints regarding
harassment and threats against journalists, the media, and other social communicators,
have created an unfavorable atmosphere for freedom of expression. [...] It is
disturbing that those whose freedom of expression is curtailed cannot always rely on
effective judicial protection to detect those responsible, put a stop to intimidation, and
ensure reparation for the damage done.3


Similarly, during a press conference at the end of his visit in September, the new United
Nations Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti Louis Joinet, indicated


I Unofficial translation to English. Quotes cited in "Aristide r(affirme sa volont6 de continue A respecter
la liberty de la press tout en affirmant que les montages constituent la plus grande menace centre la
presse" Agence Haitienne de Presse, 28 September 2002.

2 Unofficial translation to English. Quotes cited in "Jean Bertrand Aristide lance A nouveau des flbches en
direction de la presse" Mitropole (via internet), 16 October 2002.

3 "Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the OAS Expresses Concern over the Situation of
Journalists and the Media in Haiti CIDH 6202, 4 September 2002.


Amnesty Intemational November 2002


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HAITI: Update of the Jean Dominique investigation and the situation of journalists 3


that attacks on freedom of expression, whether involving the press, political activists or
human rights defenders, constituted one of his three principal areas of concern in Haiti.4


Judicial investigations into killings of journalists


In April 2002, at the time of the publication of Amnesty International's last document on the
case, the investigation into the killing of Jean Dominique and Radio Harti Inter station guard
Jean Claude Louissaint had stalled due to confusion over who was responsible for carrying it
forward. Investigating judge Claudy Gassant, widely praised for his tenacious work on the
case in spite of numerous threats and pressures, fled the country in January 2002 after
President Jean Bertrand Aristide chose not to extend his expired mandate. The judge
explained that he had left because ongoing threats and the lack of official status left him
feeling vulnerable.


On' 2 April, marking the second anniversary of the killings, President Aristide announced that
he had renewed Judge Gassant's mandate. However, the judge maintained that he was never
formally notified of the extension, and that the government's failure to do so indicated that he
would still face a precarious security situation should he return to Haiti. Meanwhile, in
January 2002 the authorities had announced the formation of a three-judge commission to
carry on the investigation; in mid-April however the judges concerned were reported to have
formally requested to be dismissed from the case. No explanation was given for this move,
and no one was announced to replace them.


On 9 July, responsibility for the dossier was given to investigating magistrate Bernard Saint
Vil.5 In an important move to secure progress in the case, he pledged to use previous judges'

Intervention of M. Louis Joinet, Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti, at a
press conference in the conference room of the United Nations Development Programme in Port-au-Prince,
Haiti, 27 September 2002.

5 See open letter from Amnesty International to then Minister of Justice Jean Baptiste Brown, TG
AMR 36/02.05, 19 July 2002.


Amnesty Intemational November 2002


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4 HAITI: Update of the Jean Dominique investigation and the situation of journalists


work as a basis for his own. In August he interviewed Senator Dany Toussaint, previously
indicted by Judge Gassant, as well as other concerned parties. However, several arrest
warrants issued in the case remain unenforced, and the issue of Senator Toussaint's
parliamentary immunity has yet to be resolved. Human rights organizations also express
concern at Judge Saint Vil's ability to handle this important dossier given his current
workload; he is said to be simultaneously responsible for over 300 cases.


The investigation into the 3 December 2001 death of Radio Echo 2000 news director Brignol
Lindor, killed in Petit Goave, department of the West, by a mob which included members of
a pro-Fanmi Lavalas organisation, has also received much attention. In April investigating
judge Fritzner Duclaire submitted a preliminary report to the prosecutor, who returned it to
him for further investigation. Authorities indicated that up to 35 people had been interviewed
in the course of the enquiry into Brignol Lindor's death. On 16 September the judge
resubmitted his report.


The judge indicted ten men, including members of the pro-Fanmi Lavalas organisation.
Arrest warrants were issued for those who were not already in custody. However, though he
was among those interviewed by the judge, the man who was mayor of Petit Goave at the
time of Brignol Lindor's killing, and who in the days leading up to his death had publicly
called for 'zero tolerance' against the journalist on the grounds that he supported an
opposition party, was not among those indicted. This omission prompted sharp protests from
human rights and journalists' groups, and the organisation Association des Journalistes
Haitiens, Association of Haitian Journalists, indicated on 3 October that it would file a legal
complaint. The complaint has been filed, at the request of Brignol Lindor's family members,
now in exile in France, with the Court of Appeal in Port-au-Prince.


Reported attacks on journalists since April 2002


Since publication of its April report, Amnesty International has continued to receive
numerous reports of threats and acts of violence against journalists. Some have been forced


Amnesty International November 2002


Al Index: AMR 36/013/2002








HAITI: Update of the Jean Dominique investigation and the situation of journalists 5


to leave the country or to go into hiding within Haiti. Some of these incidents are described
below.


- On 26 September, Radio Kiskeya station in Port-au-Prince suspended its broadcasts and
evacuated its premises after having reportedly learned of plans for an imminent arson attack.
The station was also believed to have received threats by phone and fax, attributed by staff to
parties angered by the coverage of the disappearance of a local community activist and the
arrest of a campaigner for the rights of victims of fraudulent cooperative schemes. Station
Caraibes FM, which itself had received threats in the past, closed in solidarity, while stations
Signal FMand Radio Ibo also reported receiving threats. On 27 September, Prime Minister
Yvon Neptune visited the Kiskeya station and announced an investigation into the threats. As
mentioned above, however, in a speech commemorating the anniversary of the 30 September
1991 coup, President Aristide reiterated his government's support for freedom of speech but
also denounced "lies and set-ups ... used to try to make believe that the press is gagged."6


- On 10 September, two journalists in Gonaifves, department of the Artibonite, were said to
have gone temporarily into hiding after receiving threats from members of pro-government
groups who accused them of biased reporting. Jean Robert Francois, correspondent for
Port-au-Prince station Radio Mitropole, and Henry Fleurimond, the same for Radio Kiskeya,
reportedly received the threats directly and by telephone.


- On 8 September, in Miragodne, department of the West, Radio Vision 2000 journalist Ann
Myriam Loiseau was reportedly shoved and verbally assaulted by a uniformed police officer
in the street near her home. The information received indicates that the incident occurred
after she told the officer, who was on duty, that she was a journalist. In the same town on 30
August, Radio Galaxie journalist Lucknell Adinor was reportedly struck by police as he was
trying to cover a demonstration; the confrontation was said to have occurred after he refused
when police ordered him to remove barricades set up by demonstrators.


Amnesty International November 2002


6 Op cit, AHP.


Al Index: AMR 36/013/2002







6 HAITI: Update of the Jean Dominique investigation and the situation of journalists


- On 20 August, Radio Saca director Joseph Claudy Milord was reportedly struck by the
local mayor inside the local court building, the tribunal de paix, of Grand Goave, department
of the West. Reports indicated that the official was incensed at the station's reporting of his
involvement in local land deals. The mayor was subsequently arrested on order of the
prosecutor's office, but provisionally freed from custody later the same day. Grand Goave
has reportedly been the scene of ongoing demonstrations of local people following this
incident.


- Journalists have been among those injured in the course of demonstrations over government
measures with regard to the national university, the Universitd d'Etat d'Haiti. In one example,
on 14 August a student demonstration before the Ministry of National Education, Ministere de
l'Education Nationale, was allegedly disrupted by pro-government counter-demonstrators
throwing rocks, and vehicles belonging to Tdld Haiti and Radio Ginen were reportedly
damaged. In another such incident on 22 August, journalists and student demonstrators were
reportedly attacked by rock- and bottle-throwing pro-government demonstrators at the Ecole
Normale Supdrieure in Port-au-Prince.


- On 15 July, Radio Caraibes investigative reporter Israel Jacky Cantave was abducted by
unidentified assailants along with his cousin as they were driving home from work.7 They
were found the next evening, beaten and bound with duct tape, in an abandoned lot in Port-au-
Prince. Cantave had reportedly received death threats linked to his investigative work in slum
areas in the days preceding the attack. The Secretary of State for Communications Mario
Dupuy initially declared that the government would not tolerate such acts of aggression
against journalists. On 28 August, Cantave fled Haiti after reportedly having continued to
receive threats. In September Secretary of State Dupuy alleged that he, and the official
newspaper I'Union, had received threats from Radio CaraTbes personnel angered at their


7 See Urgent Action 218/02, AI Index AMR 36/010/2002, 17 July 2002. In a 13 August reply to
Amnesty International, the Ministry of the Interior and Territorial Collectivities indicated that the
authorities were investigating the case.


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HAITI: Update of the Jean Dominique investigation and the situation of journalists 7


disputing of Cantave's version of events; while in October, the head of the Central Direction
of the Judicial Police indicated that police findings did not support Cantave's account. As at
this writing, the prosecutor was continuing his investigation. Human rights organizations
stressed that a full and impartial enquiry was necessary, and that expression of suspicion by
authorities against journalists in general would not improve the level of respect for freedom of
speech in Haiti.


- Two journalists were among those arrested following a protest by workers at the Guacimal
plantation near St. Raphael, department of the North on 27 May.8 Two elderly trade unionists
were killed during the disturbances between demonstrating workers and supporters of the
plantation owners. The latter group included local officials. Darwin St. Julien of newspaper
Haiti Progres and Allan Deshommes of Radio Atlantique were said to have been seriously
injured, but were reportedly denied urgently needed medical care after having been taken into
custody. They were released on 8 June. Darwin St. Julien, who was struck with a machete
near the right eye, is said to have yet to recover sight in that eye, while Allan Deshommes is
believed to still suffer pain from head injuries. Two of the trade unionists detained with them
remain in custody without charge.





INTERNATIONAL SECRETARIAT, 1 EASTON STREET, LONDON WC1X ODW,
UNITED KINGDOM








8 See open letter from Amnesty International to Minister of Justice Brown, TG AMR 36/02.04, 19 July
2002. See also "HAITI: Violence in St Raphael plantation must be investigated' AMR 36/007/2002,
News Service No. 93, 31 May 2002.


Amnesty International November 2002


Al Index: AMR 36/013/2002