Half-Hour for Haiti:
First, an apology- many people found last week’s alert confusing. We appreciate you contacting us about it, and promise to be more clear in future alerts. If you want to sign the International Declaration of Support for the Haitian People, send an email with your name, city and state to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week’s alert is an opportunity to convince our Congressional Representatives to stand up for justice in Haiti. Rep. Maxine Waters has asked all her colleagues in the House to join her in a letter to President Bush, urging him to immediately intervene for the release of political prisoner Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste.
Signing Rep. Waters’ letter (below) should be an easy decision for any member of Congress who believes in justice. It is well-documented and obvious that Fr. Jean-Juste’s arrest was illegal and part of a campaign of political harassment. . Your Representative’s place on the political spectrum or opinion of the Lavalas movement is not relevant- what matters is a belief in the rule of law.
This is an excellent time to contact Congress, because members are in the districts for the summer recess, where they are particularly attuned to constituent concerns. We’ve been told that calls from a dozen or more friends, family or members of your solidarity, church, school or other group can get this action onto your member’s radar screen. Unfortunately, time is tight- the deadline for signatures is the close of business Thursday, so please act now.
Action : Contact your member of the House of Representatives; urge him or her to sign onto Rep. Waters’ letter to President Bush by Thursday. The best way top do this is to speak with the Member at a local event. Second best is calling the Washington office, and asking to speak with the legislative aide who covers foreign affairs. Send a follow-up email. Local office numbers should be in your phone book, Washington offices can be reached through the House Switchboard, (202) 224-3121. Local event schedules, all numbers and email addresses are available on each member’s website. To find that, click US House of Representatives website, and type in your zipcode.
- Fr. Jean-Juste’s arrest was illegal: he was arrested without a warrant while attending a funeral. He had already been questioned twice in the preceding week on different charges by police and a judge, none of whom found any reason to arrest him ( more information on the arrest .).
- The arrest is the latest in a long series of politically-motivated attacks against Fr. Jean-Juste. In October, he was arrested illegally and held for seven weeks in prison, with absolutely no evidence against him .
- Amnesty International , and Human Rights First, among others, have called for Fr. Jean-Juste’s release.
- Do not let the Member or aide dismiss you with concerns about the Lavalas movement. Appeal to our shared fundamental belief in justice and freedom of conscience- that imprisoning people for their political opinions is wrong, no matter what those opinions are. “Letting the Haitian justice system take its course” is not acceptable: the last time Fr. Jean-Juste spent seven weeks in prison illegally. The U.S. is the Haitian Interim Government’s principal patron, and has more than enough leverage to pry open the political prisons if it wants to.
Already Standing Up For Justice : Reps. Tammy Baldwin , Corrine Brown, Sherrod Brown, Carolyn Cheeks-Kilpatrick, John Conyers, Barbara Lee, Kendrick Meek, Major Owens, Donald Payne and Jan Schakowsky signed the letter by Tuesday afternoon. If you are in one of their districts, please thank them for their support of justice in Haiti.
Support the Release of
Father Gerard Jean-Juste,
Who is Unjustly Imprisoned in Haiti
DEADLINE: Thursday, August 11, COB
August 12, 2005
President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington , DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We write to express our profound concerns about the unjust imprisonment of Father Gerard Jean-Juste in Haiti. We urge you to take action at once to seek his immediate and unconditional release from prison.
Father Jean-Juste is a widely-respected Catholic priest and a courageous advocate for peace and human rights in Haiti. During the 1970’s, he founded the Haitian Refugee Center in Miami, Florida, where he worked to provide assistance to refugees who were fleeing persecution under the Duvalier regime. He returned to Haiti in 1991 and currently serves as the pastor of Saint Claire Church in Port-au-Prince and runs a soup kitchen for impoverished children in his parish. Fr. Jean-Juste has always spoken out forcefully against all forms of violence.
Father Jean-Juste was arrested on July 21, 2005, while attending the funeral for Jacques Roche, a Haitian journalist who was kidnapped, held for ransom and then murdered. Haitian police claimed he was arrested because a “public clamor” at the funeral accused him of murdering Jacques Roche, although he was in Miami at the time of the murder. He currently is being detained in the Haitian National Penitentiary.
Amnesty International has determined that Father Jean-Juste is a prisoner of conscience, who is detained solely because he has peacefully exercised his right to freedom of expression. Amnesty International has urged that he be immediately and unconditionally released.
We respectfully request that you urge the Interim Government of Haiti to release Father Jean-Juste immediately and unconditionally. We appreciate your attention to our concerns.
cc: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
Special Representative Juan Gabriel Valdés, MINUSTAH
Ambassador James Foley, U.S. Embassy in Haiti
Douglas M. Griffiths, Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy in Haiti
Dana Banks, Human Rights Officer, U.S. Embassy in Haiti
For more information about the Half-Hour For Haiti Program, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti or human rights in Haiti, see www.ijdh.org.