Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Haiti’s jailed former PM resumes hunger strike


By Joseph Guyler Delva, Reuters
April 29, 2005

Haiti’s jailed former primeminister, Yvon Neptune, is “closer to death than life” after resuming a hunger strike 10 months after being jailed on accusations of organizing a massacre, a human rights group said on Friday.

Neptune, who served under ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and
has called the massacre allegations politically motivated, started a
hunger strike on Feb. 20 but began eating again on March 10 after he was
transferred to a hospital in Port-au-Prince run by a U.N. peacekeeping
force.

The head of the Committee to Protect the Rights of the Haitian People,
Ronald St-Jean, said Neptune went back on hunger strike on April 17 and
was now in critical condition.

“Neptune is closer to death than life after 10 days without drinking or
eating anything,” St-Jean told Reuters. “We urgently call on the
international community to intervene and save Neptune’s life,” he said.

U.N. officials said they would check on Neptune’s condition.

Neptune and detained former interior minister Jocelerme Privert are
accused of masterminding what Aristide’s opponents have called a
massacre on Feb. 11, in La Syrie, a small village near St Marc, 60 miles
(100 km) north of the capital.

The incident occurred during an armed revolt by street gangs and former
soldiers that drove Aristide from power.

An interim government was appointed to run the country until elections
later this year, and a 7,000-strong U.N. force of troops and police is
trying to keep the peace in the impoverished Caribbean country. But
political violence has continued, and Aristide supporters accuse the
interim authorities of targeting them.

The massacre accusation was brought by the National Coalition for Haiti
Rights (NCHR-Haiti), and a St Marc group called RAMICOS, which opposed
Aristide and his Lavalas Family party, including through violence. The
two organizations say 50 people were killed by Aristide supporters.

The U.N. independent expert on human rights in Haiti, Louis Joinet, has
dismissed accounts of a massacre.

After an investigation this month, Joinet concluded that both supporters
and foes of Aristide were killed in clashes.

“What I believe, contrarily to those who contest my thesis, is that we
really can talk about a confrontation,” he said.

Privert was taken before a judge in St Marc on April 18, but could not
be interrogated in the absence of his lawyer and was not formally
charged, said his wife, Ginette Privert.

Neptune, who was treated for over a month at the U.N. hospital, was also
taken last week to St Marc but was not brought before the investigating
judge to be formally charged.

In addition to continuing political violence, Haiti has also been
wracked by escalating lawlessness.

A political leader, Dr. Jean Enold Buteau, brother of Education Minister
Pierre Buteau, was kidnapped by armed men on Thursday but released
overnight. Sources close to the family said a ransom was paid.

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