May 31, 2005
Thank you for everyone who responded to last week’s appeal to support lawyer Ira Kurzban, who was excluded from Haiti when he arrived at the airport as part of a human rights delegation. There is still time to sign that petition (http://www.ipetitions.com/campaigns/Kurzban ).
Several action alerts were circulated a few weeks ago on behalf of Yvon Neptune, the former Prime Minister and current political prisoner, who is on day 45 of a hunger strike (started April 17) to protest his illegal imprisonment. Those action alerts, including the May 3 Half Hour for Haiti, received a tremendous response. Unfortunately, that response was not enough, as Mr. Neptune remains in prison.
Mr. Neptune was brought before a judge last Tuesday, on a stretcher, for a hearing that should have taken place 11 months ago. According to several reports, the judge did not make a determination as to whether Mr. Neptune should be freed, even though the Constitution requires such a determination within 48 hours of arrest (for Neptune, that was on June 29, 2004), so the detention is still illegal.
A formal decision approving Neptune’s arrest at this juncture will not suffice. First, judges in Haiti are not independent. Earlier this year, the Minister of Justice punished two judges who released political prisoners, by illegally taking their cases away from them (see Declaration of Mario Joseph, Av.* in Yvon Neptune’s case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights). Last July the Haitian Judges Association protested widespread politicized interference by the executive branch. Second, a single short hearing does not change the fact that the government has held Neptune for almost a year without presenting evidence against him or otherwise seriously pursuing the case. Third, under Haitian law, pre-trial investigations may not exceed three months without special authorization. The investigation in this case has lasted almost four times that period, without any special authorization.
The Interim Haitian Government (IGH) is hoping that last Tuesday’s hearing will make us forget about Yvon Neptune. The IGH has tried to sweep the issue under the bed by barring Haitian and international reporters from seeing him in prison. We need to show the IGH, and its international sponsors, that we will not forget about Yvon Neptune or the Haiti sother politicial prisoners. Please email, call or fax the embassies of the U.S., France and Canada, to let them know that: 1) you are still concerned about Yvon Neptune’s life, 2) justice in his case requires dropping the charges and releasing him, and 3) those governments can make that happen.
A sample letter and contact information is below, more information on Yvon Neptune and his legal status, as well as links to other campaigns supporting his release are available at www.ijdh.org.
Yvon Neptune, Haiti’s last Constitutional Prime Minister, turned himself in to police on June 27, 2004, as soon as he heard of a warrant for his arrest. Since then, Neptune has remained in prison, and until last Tuesday, had not been brought before a judge.
Neptune began his hunger strike on April 17, at first not even drinking water. Shortly before our May 3 action alert, an international medical team announced that Neptune did not have long to live. At about the same time, Neptune started drinking water and taking some vitamins, which has prolonged his life up until now. He is very weak, and growing weaker, although he is still lucid.
For several months, a host of voices, from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, from the UN Security Council, from the CARICOM countries, human rights groups, religious leaders and ordinary citizens throughout the world, have called on the IGH to either let Neptune go to trial or let him go free.
The IGH is in a position to persecute Neptune because wealthy governments, especially the U.S., France and Canada, put it there and continue to prop it up. Those governments could ensure Neptune’s immediate freedom by conditioning future support on it.
Dear Mr. Ambassador:
I am writing to urge you to act immediately to effect the release of political prisoner Yvon Neptune. As you know, Mr. Neptune has been held illegally for over 11 months. Last Tuesday’s hearing does not justify the detention because the judge has not issued the required order, because the time period for the pre-trial investigation has elapsed, and because a single hearing does not change the fact that the Haitian government has held Mr. Neptune for almost a year without presenting evidence against him or otherwise seriously pursuing the case. The Interim Government of Haiti’s (IGH) claim that it is leaving the case up to a justice system that has so far done nothing but persecute him is meritless, especially in light of the IGH’s illegal retaliation against judges who release political prisoners.
The IGH must ensure that Mr. Neptune is freed by publicly informing the judge that it no longer desires to prosecute the case against him. Your government can ensure that this happens by informing the Haitian government that it will withhold all support from the IGH unless it complies with the Haitian Constitution and international human rights standards by immediately freeing Yvon Neptune. Please act now.
U.S. Ambassador to Haiti, James B. Foley
United States Embassy
Telephones: 011-509-223-4711, or 222-0200 or 0354
Fax: 011-509-223-1641 or 9038
Email to Dana Banks, Human Rights Officer: BanksD@state.gov
Canadian Ambassador to Haiti, Claude Boucher
Embassy of Canada
Telephone: 011-509- 249-9000
Ambassador of France in Haiti, M. Yves GAUDEUL
Embassy of France
51 place des H�ros de l’Ind�pendance – BP 312
Fax : 011-509-223 5675