Half-Hour for Haiti: Write to Judge Holding Three Grassroots Activists
Some good news to start: Thierry Fagart, the top human rights official with the UN Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), blasted the Interim Government of Haiti (IGH) on Friday, calling Haiti’s human rights situation “catastrophic”. He pointed to summary executions, mob violence, torture and arbitrary arrests connected to the government, and urged the IGH to end human rights abuses immediately. Mr. Fagart also declared that the proposed trial of political prisoner Yvon Neptune would be a flagrant violation of the Constitution, because it would deprive Mr. Neptune of his right to a jury trial.
The solidarity movement can take much credit for this statement, as it comes after hundreds of telephone calls, letters and emails sent to Mr. Fagart and other UN officials. Haiti’s human rights catastrophe is not new- it has been well documented for over nineteen months (see http://www.ijdh.org/reports.htm)- but this is the first time that the UN has publicly acknowledged its scope. Although Friday’s message was a good start, the UN needs to do much more to fulfill its mandate to protect citizens under threat of harm, and we need to keep up the pressure. The UN has not issued a single public human rights report in 18 months, even through it has announced investigations into at least three police killings (see June 28:Release the MINUSTAH Prison Massacre Report). MINUSTAH peacekeepers continue to support the Haitian police as they carry out arbitrary arrests and brutal operations (see Harvard Law School’s Keeping the Peace in Haiti?: An Assessment of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti ).
A month ago we asked you to write Judge Jean Paul Peres, the juge d’instruction or “investigating magistrate” on the case of Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste , and urge him to end the political persecution of Fr. Jean-Juste. Judge Peres reports receiving an annoying number of letters, but the letters have not made him abandon the persecution. Several legal and human rights groups are taking the next step- they have prepared a package documenting Judge Peres’ abuse of the justice system, which will be presented to U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials along with a request that Judge Peres be barred entry to the U.S. If your organization is interested in joining this effort, or sending a similar package to another government, let us know.
Action : This week we are calling everyone to write to Judge Mimose Janvier, the investigating magistrate in the cases of three imprisoned grassroots activists: musician Yvon “Zap-Zap” Antoine, arrested March 2, 2004, and Paul Raymond and Mario Exilhomme, both extradited from the Dominican Republic to Haiti on July 22, 2005.
The investigating magistrate 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.
Haitian law allows the judge three months to either bring formal, justified charges against an accused, or dismiss the case. Mr. Antoine’s three months elapsed sixteen months ago, and he has not been brought to court for several months. The three months for Mr. Exilhomme and Mr. Raymond expire this Saturday, and neither has been brought to court since his first post-arrest hearing in July.
Show Judge Janvier your concern that she may be involved in abuse of the justice system. Inform her that you are following the cases of political prisoners in Haiti, and that you will urge your government to restrict entry to anyone involved in political persecution. A sample letter is below, in French and English. It is best to send it by regular mail, even better to send it on organizational or professional letterhead.
Me. Mimose Janvier
Juge et Juge d’Instruction
Ministère de la Justice
18 Avenue Charles Sumner
Dear Judge Janvier:
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. I understand that you are the juge d’instruction in the cases of Yvon “Zap-Zap” Antoine, Paul Raymond and Mario Exilhomme, all three of them political dissidents in prison without any apparent progress in their cases. Mr. Antoine has been incarcerated for almost 20 months, Mr. Raymond and Mr. Exilhomme for three. As you know, Haitian law sets a limit of three months for the instruction process.
Imprisoning these three political dissidents without pursuing their cases violates both Haitian law and international human rights principles. 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 prosecutions 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]
Cher Juge Janvier:
Je vous écris de par l’intérêt personnel que je porte aux droits humains, tant dans votre pays que dans le mien. Les informations que je reçois, selon lesquelles on abuse du système judiciaire haïtien pour persécuter les adversaires politiques du gouvernement intérimaire, me troublent au plus haut point. On m’informe que vous êtes le juge d’instruction pour les dossiers d’Yvon « Zap-Zap » Antoine, Paul Raymond et Mario Exilhomme, tous trois dissidents politiques, emprisonnés depuis des mois sans progrès apparent dans leur dossier : 20 mois dans le cas de Mr Antoire, et 3 mois dans les cas de Mr Raymond et Mr Exilhomme. Comme vous le savez, la loi haïtienne prescrit un délai maximal de trois mois pour la procédure d’instruction.
L’emprisonnement de ces trois dissidents politiques sans faire avancer leur dossier constitue une flagrante infraction tant à la loi Haïtienne qu’aux principes internationaux des droits humains. Bien que je croie en l’importance de respecter l’indépendance du système judiciaire, je ne crois pas que ce respect doive s’étendre à la tolérance d’un abus des procédures judiciaires via des poursuites injustifiées et illégales.
Je ne crois pas non plus que mon pays devrait permettre aux personnes se livrant à la persécution politique de visiter ou d’immigrer ici. En conséquence, soyez assuré que je continuerai à suivre cette histoire ainsi que celles d’autres opposants au gouvernement, et que si de tels abus judiciaires continuent à servir de moyens de persécution politique, j’informerai mon gouvernement de ce fait, et demanderai instamment que les persécuteurs soient interdits d’accès au pays pour quelque raison que ce soit.
Veuillez agréer ici l’expression de mes sentiments les plus sincères,
[nom, pays de 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.