Haiti Human Rights Alert:
CONGRESSWOMAN WATERS URGES SECRETARY OF STATE POWELL TO DEMAND THAT THE INTERIM GOVERNMENT OF HAITI RELEASE FATHER GERARD JEAN-JUSTE FROM PRISON
Washington, D.C. — Today, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) sent a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell, urging him to take action to obtain the immediate release of Father Gerard Jean-Juste, the pastor of Saint Claire Church in Haiti, who was arrested by Haitian police on October 13, 2004, and who remains illegally detained in prison in violation of Haitian law. The Congresswoman=s letter is a follow-up to a previous letter on Fr. Jean-Juste=s behalf, which was sent by the Congresswoman to Secretary Powell on the day of Fr. Jean-Juste=s arrest and which has yet to receive a response. The text of today=s letter follows:
“I urge you to take action to obtain the immediate release of Father Gerard Jean-Juste, the pastor of Saint Claire Church in Haiti, who is currently illegally detained in prison in violation of Haitian law. Fr. Jean-Juste is a widely-respected advocate for peace and justice in Haiti. He should never have been arrested.
“Fr. Jean-Juste has always spoken out forcefully against all forms of violence. He opposed the state-sponsored violence of the Duvalier regime and the military dictatorship from 1991 to 1994, and he speaks out against violence in Haiti today by everyone in Haitian society, regardless of their political affiliation.
“According to reports, Saint Claire Church was surrounded by heavily-armed men, some of whom were hooded and some of whom were members of the Haitian National Police, while Fr. Jean-Juste was feeding hungry children in the church on Wednesday, October 13, 2004. These heavily-armed men subsequently arrested him, although they did not have a warrant for his arrest. Fr. Jean-Juste currently remains illegally detained in prison in violation of Haitian law.
“As you know, I wrote to you on the day of Fr. Jean-Juste’s arrest, asking you to take immediate action to protect his life, and I am still waiting for your response. While I am relieved to hear reports that Fr. Jean-Juste is still alive, those same reports cause me to be deeply concerned about the conditions of his imprisonment. I am told that he shares a small cell with 18 other prisoners, that has no beds or water for bathing, and that the bathroom is a smelly bucket in the corner of the cell. If these reports are accurate, these conditions are inhumane. They are especially inhumane given the fact that Fr. Jean-Juste has not committed any crime.
“Please contact the Interim Government of Haiti immediately to demand that Fr. Jean-Juste be released at once. I would appreciate a call as soon as possible to discuss Fr. Jean-Juste’s fate and to advise how our government intends to move forward in response to my concerns. I look forward to speaking with you.”