September 20, 2005
There are three big upcoming Haiti events, the first two in Washington DC: on Thursday, September 22, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation will present a panel discussion, “ Haiti: The Time For Action Is Now,” as part of its 35th Annual Legislative Conference at the Washington Convention Center, room 202B, from 12:30-1:30. On Friday, September 23, the International Tribunal on Haiti will come to order at 7PM at George Washington University, 1957 E St. NW. The third event will take place in dozens of communities worldwide, in support of demonstrations that day in Haiti: the September 30, International Day of Solidarity with Haiti. There are 22 22 confirmed events in four countries outside of Haiti so far, and many others developing. For more information, or to organize your local event, email email@example.com. Bishop Thomas Gumbleton has issued a call for Religious Leaders to Sign Letter for Release of Fr. Jean-Juste, and has asked for signatures to be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by September 28.
Following last week’s action, prosecutor Jean-Pierre Audain Daniel resigned in disputed circumstances. It is not certain what role our mobilization played in that decision, but it is certain that his departure did not lead to freedom for any political prisoners. We will need to continue to target other judicial officials until the political prisoners are freed.
We will start this week with Judge Jean Peres Paul, the juge d’instruction or investigating magistrate on the case of Rev. Gerard-Jean Juste . Judge Peres also ordered the September 10 arrests of journalists Jean Ristil and Kevin Pina. A juge d’instruction combines what the anglo-american system calls prosecutorial and judicial powers. The judge conducts a pre-trial investigation on serious criminal cases- he or she interviews witness and the accused, issues arrest warrants and ultimately decides whether there is enough evidence to send a case to trial. The juge d’instruction does not preside at trial or make a final determination of guilt.
Judge Peres issued a mandat de depot (detention order), the document that currently holds Fr. Jean-Juste in prison. The mandat appears to make the imprisonment technically legal, but the surrounding circumstances indicate that the prosecution is politically motivated and not supported by facts:
1) Fr. Jean-Juste has been politically persecuted for almost a year now. He spent seven weeks in prison last fall before being released for lack of evidence. The judge who made that order was later illegally removedby the Minister of Justice. In the week prior to his July 21 arrest, Fr. Jean-Juste was detained for questioning by the police, summoned a second time, and then summoned by Judge Peres. None of these interrogations revealed any basis for pursuing a criminal case.
2) The July 21 arrest was illegal, executed without a warrant and without any probable cause. The UN forces and the Haitian police who made the arrest told Fr. Jean-Juste he was being held for his own safety.
3) As a well-known priest with a large parish, who has repeatedly made himself available to police and the courts, Fr. Jean-Juste is an excellent candidate for release on his own recognizance (as the judge ruled last fall). Although Fr. Jean-Juste’s lawyers filed a motion for release in August, Judge Peres has declined to rule on that motion. This had the effect of preventing Fr. Jean-Juste, a potential Presidential candidate, from registering his candidacy by last Thursday’s deadline.
4) Tomorrow will mark 2 months of imprisonment for Fr. Jean-Juste, and so far no evidence of his guilt has been revealed, inside the courtroom or out.
Judge Peres is currently the head of ANAMAH, the Haitian Judges’ Association. ANAMAH has received substantial funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (see Haiti Human Rights Investigative Report, Center for the Sutdy of Human Rights, page 21), and was part of a coalition of civil society organizations that supported the forced ouster of President Aristide.
Action: Write to Judge Peres, to show your concern that he may be involved in abuse of the justice system. Inform him that you are following the case of Fr. Jean-Juste and other political prisoners in Haiti, and that you will urge your government to restrict entry to anyone involved in political persecution in Haiti. A sample letter is below, letters may be written in French, English or Haitian Creole. It is best to send it by regular mail, even better to send it on organizational or professional letterhead.
Me. Jean Paul Peres
Juge et Juge d’Instruction
Ministère de la Justice
18 Avenue Charles Sumner
Dear Judge Peres:
I am writing as someone concerned about human rights in both your country and mine. I am disturbed by reports of abuse of the justice system in Haiti to persecute political opponents of the Interim Government, including Fr. Jean-Juste. I have been following the latter case, and am concerned that: 1) there appears to be no factual basis for the pursuit of the case; 2) the procedure has involved several irregularities, including an illegal arrest without a warrant; 3) the current case fits in a long context of unjustified legal proceedings against Fr. Jean-Juste since last October; and 4) you failed to act on Fr. Jean-Juste’s request for main leve, which prevented him from registering as a Presidential candidate.
Although I believe in respecting the judiciary’s independence, I do not believe that that respect should extend to tolerating abuse of judicial procedures through unjustified and illegal prosecutions. I also do not believe that my country should allow people involved in political persecution to either visit or immigrate here. Accordingly, I will continue to follow the cases of government opponents, and if it appears that those cases are unjustified and used as a means of political persecution, I will inform my government of that fact, and urge that the persecutors be denied entry for any reason.
[Name, Country of Residence]
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.