Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

CONGRESSWOMAN WATERS URGES PRESIDENT BUSH TO TAKE ACTION TO OBTAIN THE RELEASE OF FATHER JEAN-JUSTE FROM PRISON IN HAITI


August 5, 2005
Today, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) sent a letter to President Bush, urging him to take action immediately to obtain the release of Father Gerard Jean-Juste from prison in Haiti.  Copies of the letter were sent to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Ambassador James Foley, the U.S. Ambassador to Haiti.  The text of the letter follows:I write to express my outrage over the unjust arrest of Father Gerard Jean-Juste in Haiti and to urge you to take action to obtain his immediate and unconditional release from prison. Father Jean-Juste is the pastor of Saint Claire Church in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  He is a widely-respected Catholic priest and a courageous advocate for peace and justice.  He runs a soup kitchen for hungry children in his parish, and he 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.  When Father Jean-Juste and
several other priests marched out of the church sacristy to say blessings
over the coffin, a group of anti-Lavalas partisans reportedly attacked him.
Members of the group slapped him, spat on him, and grabbed his church
vestments.  Haitian police took him to a police station and then told him he
was under arrest.  His attackers were never arrested.  Father Jean-Juste is
currently being held in the Haitian National Penitentiary.
Haitian police claimed Father Jean-Juste was
arrested because a “public clamor” at Mr. Roche’s funeral accused him of
murdering the journalist.  This ridiculous accusation was made despite the
fact that Father Jean-Juste was in Miami at the time of the murder.  It is
outrageous that the Interim Government of Haiti arrested a religious leader
because of the demands of a few partisan extremists.Father Jean-Juste’s arrest is another example of the
systematic repression of Haitians who are suspected of supporting the
Lavalas party.  Father Jean-Juste joins numerous Lavalas leaders in Haiti’s
overcrowded prisons, including Former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, former
Interior Minister Jocelerme Privert, and Haitian singer Anne Auguste.  There
are an estimated 700 political prisoners in Haiti, and many of them are
Lavalas members who have been detained for months without formal charges.
Human rights organizations have reported that summary executions are common
in Haiti, and many Haitians believe that Lavalas supporters are targeted for
both arrests and summary executions.I am deeply concerned that Father Jean-Juste may
have been arrested to prevent him from becoming a candidate for the Lavalas
party in the upcoming Haitian elections, which are scheduled for October and
November of this year.  As long as Father Jean-Juste and other potential
Lavalas candidates remain in prison, Lavalas will not be able to participate
effectively in these elections.I implore you to contact the Interim Government of
Haiti at once and urge that Father Jean-Juste be immediately and
unconditionally released.  I appreciate your attention to my concerns, and I
look forward to discussing Father Jean-Juste’s fate and the future of Haiti
with representatives of your Administration.

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