Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Haitians accuse police of killing radio journalist


By Joseph Guyler Delva, Reuters

Jan 20, 2005

 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Jan 19 (Reuters) – Haitian police executed
several youngsters and a radio journalist during a raid in a slum
stronghold of support for the country’s ousted president, witnesses
and a human rights group said on Wednesday.

On Friday, dozens of heavily armed policemen raided Village de Dieu,
a Port-au-Prince shantytown believed to be a bastion of gangs loyal
to former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was driven into exile
during an armed revolt last year.

Police acknowledged killing several people during the raid, and
described them as bandits killed in an exchange of gunfire.

Ronald St-Jean, an activist with the Committee for the Protection of
the Rights of the Haitian People, and several residents said at least
a dozen people were killed by police during the raid. They said
several of them were executed, including a journalist, Abdias Jean,
who may have seen police shoot and kill three youngsters.

“The police called three young men that were coming out of a
corridor. The police were pressing the youngsters to tell them where
armed bandits were hiding,” said Maxon Beauduy, who said he saw the
incident from inside his house. “When they (the youngsters) said they
did not know, the police killed them after blaming them for hiding
criminals.”

Another witness, Magalie Jean, said that as she took cover, she heard
Jean screaming, “Don’t kill me, I am a journalist. Why should I be
killed like that?”

“Then I heard a series of gunshots and it was over for him,” she told
Reuters.

Jacques Vilbrun, who also said he witnessed the incident, said police
severely beat Jean and then, “After beating him, they took him a
little farther and shot him dead.”

A police spokeswoman, Jessie Coicou, refused on Wednesday to confirm
or deny the allegations and urged families to “file complaints before
relevant courts of justice if they think they have a case.”

“The police don’t have to defend themselves before the media. Since I
heard there are several witnesses, I hope they will accept to testify
before a judge,” Coicou said.

“I can tell you that the police high command has never instructed
policemen to perform such behavior,” Coicou said.

Police said the raid was part of a broader effort to crack down on
armed gangs. Some 200 people have been killed since early September
in gang wars and clashes between Aristide supporters and foes.

U.N. troops were sent to stabilize the chaotic country after
Aristide’s departure. The U.N. secretary-general’s special
representative in Haiti, Juan Gabriel Valdes, said last week that he
was concerned about reports that Haitian police have been responsible
for repeated human rights abuses.
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The AJH Secretary General believes he has relaible information that the police did indeed execute journalist Abdias Jean
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Port-au-Prince, January 19, 2005 (AHP)- Guyler C. Delva, Secretary General of the AJH (Association of Haitian Journalists), spoke in condemnation Wednesday of the killing of journalist Abdias Jean in Village de Dieu during a police operation conducted in that populist district on Friday, January 14.

Guy Delva said he has solid information indicating that the crime was committed by police officers who pursued Mr. Jean to a house after he witnessed their crimes.

Two other youths were killed during this police sweep.

Mr. Delva said he was amazed to find that police officers are summarily executing journalists and seizing the tools of their trade because they have witnessed criminal conduct.

“I can not comprehend how such practices can take place at a time when one is talking about the rule of law and democracy”, declared Mr. Delva.

He called for the opening of a rigorous investigation into this case.

For his part, Ronald St-Jean, director of the Committee for the Defense of the Rights of the Haitian People (CDPH), took issue with the recent statements of interim Prime Minister Gérard Latortue assuring that his government would not sink to engaging in arbitrary practices.

By way of examples, Ronald St-Jean cited the case of the summary execution of Lavalas activist Jimmy Charles, whose bullet-ridden body was discovered Saturday in La Saline though he was known to have been in police custody, and the case of journalist Abdias Jean who was killed Friday in Village de Dieu during a PNH intervention in this populist district.

Mr. St-Jean strongly urged that an autopsy be performed on the body of the journalist as a means of producing additional verification.

He also condemned the behavior of the police toward journalists from Télé Ginen during the same operation.

PNH officers had seized the video camera of the journalists and only returned it several hours later without the video cassette that had been in the camera.

According to the CDPH official, this attitude clearly shows that the police are trying to hide their misdeeds.

In addition, Ronald St-Jean denounced the ill treatment inflicted recently upon two other journalists by armed individuals in the populist district of Bel-Air.

AHP January 19, 2005 2:40 PM

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Consternation following the murder of a journalist in Cité de Dieu during a police operation: the mother of the victim accuses the police of having acted deliberately to eliminate an embarrassing witness
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Port-au-Prince, January 19, 2005 (AHP)- The mother of a journalist murdered during a Haitian police intervention in “Village de Dieu”, Port-au-Prince accused officers of the force of having summarily executed their son.

Abdias Jean, correspondent for WKAT 1360 radio in Miami and a law student as well, was killed Friday while he was covering the police sweep that resulted in two other deaths.

According to Mme. Raymonde Jean, the police murdered her son because he was a witness to the abuses committed by the police in Cité de Dieu.

“He was eliminated despite the fact that he had been clearly identified”, she said. She denounced the indiscriminate actions of the police when it intervenes in the populist districts.

For her part, National Police spokesperson, Jessy Cameau Coicou, rejected any responsibility on the part of the police force in the killing of the journalist.

“These are nothing more than gratuitous accusations against the PNH (Haitian National Police)”, Ms. Coicou indicated. The police force has nothing to do with the cases of summary executions and arson attacks on homes of activists who are being sought by the police, she insisted.

The police spokesperson also said that the police have no complaints with the press, and she invited members of the public and journalists alike who are victims of abuses by the police to file a complaint against any officer responsible for abuses.

During the police operation that took a tragic turn for Abdias Jean, PNH officers also mistreated a news crew from the private television broadcaster Télé Ginen, confiscating a video camera and only returning it several hours later but without the cassette containing video of the police action.

The majority of people killed during these police sweeps in the populist districts are generally described by the PNH as bandits who are killed during an exchange of gunfire.

However several other sectors have accused the police of engaging in summary executions, in collaboration with attachés (civilian irregular police auxiliaries). Some residents have even accused the police of setting up a unit called “the zero tolerance brigade”.

These revelations have been backed up by the recent statements of a leader of the former opposition to Aristide. Jean Nazaire Thidé of the National Alliance of Democratic Forces, spoke out Tuesday to denounce the summary executions carried out, he said, by Haitian police officers working together with “attachés”.

“I am astonished to find that the police continue even today to engage in summary executions of Haitians”, said Mr. Thidé, adding that many individuals have been killed even after having been subdued by the police.

AHP January 19, 2005 4:20 PM

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AHP News – January 18, 2005 – English translation (Unofficial)

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The correspondent of a Miami radio station is said to have been killed in Village de Dieu as he was covering a massive intervention by the PNH
————————————————————————

Port-au-Prince, January 18, 2005 (AHP)- The correspondent of a Miami radio station, WKAT 1360, was reportedly killed Friday during a muscular police operation in Village de Dieu, a populist district of the capital.

The correspondent, Abdias Jean, a law student, was struck by a bullet as he was covering the police sweep.

Two other people were also killed during this police intervention and the police confiscated and held for several hours the video camera of a news team from Télé-Guinen. The police did not, however, return the video cassette that was in the camera containing footage of the police sweep.

————————————————————————
A leader of the former opposition to Aristide states that police officers are carrying out summary executions assisted by civilian auxiliaries
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Port-au-Prince, January 18, 2005 (AHP)-Jean Nazaire Thidé, leader of Ranfò (National Alliance of Democratic Forces) on Tuesday denounced the summary executions that are carried out, he said, by officers of the national police in collaboration with “attachés” (civilian auxiliaries of the police).

“I am astonished to find that the police today are continuing to summarily execute citizens”, declared Mr. Thidé, adding that many individuals have been killed even though they had already been subdued by the police.

He also deplored that some human rights organizations that are normally very quick to react, have chosen to remain silent about the cases of summary executions and the return in full force of the “attachés”.

Jean Nazaire Thidé advocated respect for the rights of all Haitians. “We did not wage this struggle in order to launch a wave of killings and executions, but rather to pave the way for the rule of justice”, said Mr. Thidé. The alliance leader had recently called for the departure of the interim Prime Minister and for him to be replaced by a figure well-known in the world of media.

Ronald St-Jean, coordinator of the GDP (Group for the Defense of the Rights of Political prisoners), on Monday denounced what he called a Machiavellian plan devised by a human rights organization reputed to be close to the government, to try to trivialize the case of Jimmy Charles, whose bullet-ridden body was found in a morgue after he had been in police custody.

Ronald St-Jean indicated that this plan will not succeed, because he is already holding talks with MINUSTAH that he expects will lead to an autopsy being carried outas soon as possible on the corpse of Jimmy Charles, to prevent any confusion from developing.

Senior officials of NCHR, the human rights organization referred to by the GDP director, are still refusing to react to the allegations made against them.

AHP January 18, 2005 1:40 PM

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AHP January 17, 2005 11:25 AM

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CARLI condemns the attacks against the journalists of Le Nouvelliste and a news crew from Télé Ginen
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Port-au-Prince, January 17, 2005 (AHP)- The Committee of Lawyers for the Respect of Individual Liberties (CARLI), spoke out Monday to condemn the savage attack against Claude Bernard Sérant and Jonel Juste on Friday January 14 by armed individuals in the populist district of Bel-Air.

CARLI also expressed indignation at the behavior of the police toward television cameramen from Télé Ginen, who were forced to turn over their camera to the police on the pretext that they had done a poor job of filming the unfolding of a police operation at Cité de Dieu on January 13.

According to CARLI, these practices show the extent of intolerance and barbarity that is characteristic of Haitian society, and recalled that journalism is a freely practiced legitimate profession, recognized and protected by the Constitution and international human rights treaties.

“The journalist freely exercises his profession under the law. This exercise can not be submitted to any authorization nor censorship except in the event of war; he can receive and transmit information and ideas by any means of expression available, without regard to borders”, recalled CARLI.

CARLI went on to express its deep concern at reports suggesting that sitting judges are the object of threats, pressure and intimidation from officials at the Ministry of Justice.

CARLI stressed that justice is to be dispensed in an atmosphere free of any unjustified intervention or interference, and asked the authorities instead to offer Haitian judges more resources with respect to the fulfillment of their mission in order to facilitate an improved distribution of justice, which is a sine qua non condition for the construction of a state governed by the rule of law.

Several foreign journalists currently reporting from Haiti have been outraged at the latest attacks suffered by the two groups of Haitian journalists: the two reporters from Le Nouvelliste and a news crew from Télé Ginen.

The foreign reporters considered that the assaults on freedom of the press represent very serious setbacks for any system that wishes to be democratic.

They also denounced any selective or discriminatory coverage of events. “This is an attitude that is contrary to professional ethics and risks encouraging and aggravating the polarization of Haitian society, which is already torn apart”, they said.

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