November 22, 2005
Half-Hour for Haiti: Urge U.S. Catholic Bishops to Stand Up for Fr. Jean-Juste
First, we have lots of good news. Jean Louis Carlson, the subject of last week’s alert, was freed on Wednesday. Thanks to everyone who responded to our alert and to the earlier alert by HURAH. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) found the Petition filed on behalf of Yvon Neptune admissible. The Petition was filed last April by the Hastings Human RightsProject forHaiti at Hastings Law School in San Francisco, the Bureau des AvocatsInternationaux in Haiti, and IJDH. Admissibility means that the IACHR has found that the petition “contains allegations that tend to establish violations of” the American Convention on Human Rights and will now conduct a full investigation. A group of activists, lawyers and elected officials filed another IACHR Petition against the U.S. and Brazil on November 15, alleging that those two countries are legally responsible for recent massacres in Haiti.The governing Bureau of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers issued a strong resolution protesting the persecution in Haiti.
Upcoming events: On December 10 (Human Rights Day), the Haiti Solidarity Committee will organize a March for the Release of Fr. Jean-Juste in Miami at noon.
This week’s action : Monday marked four months since Fr. Jean-Juste was illegally arrested and imprisoned (see Fr. Jean-Juste’s Letter from the National Penitentiary ) The Interim Government of Haiti (IGH) refuses to release him, despite having no evidence of wrongdoing, and in spite of an impressive international mobilization-over 400 religious leaders of many faiths joined Bishop Thomas Gumbleton in a letter to Haitian officials, Amnesty International declared Fr. Jean-Juste a prisoner of conscience, over 2,000 people signed Human Rights First’s petition, and hundreds more have written to the Haitian government. Twenty-nine members of the U.S. Congress expressed their “profound concerns” about Fr. Jean-Juste’s “unjust imprisonment.”
There are signs that the IGH is feeling all this pressure, but the pressure needs to be raised to another level. The Catholic Church has the moral and political clout in Haiti to make the difference- Fr. Jean-Juste was released a year ago shortly after Archbishop Miot of Port-au-Prince courageously testified at his hearing. But since July neither the Haitian Bishops nor the Church in the U.S. (Fr. Jean-Juste was ordained in New York) have spoken out against Fr. Jean-Juste’s persecution.
We are circulating a petition urging the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to join the mobilization and condemn Fr. Jean-Juste’s imprisonment.. The petition text is below, and you can sign it online at http://www.ipetitions.com/campaigns/FrJeanJuste . If you can circulate it in your community, download a copy from our website, and send it directly to the Bishop’s Conference by December 5. We are off to a good start- over 500 people signed the petition at the School of the America’s vigil over the weekend. But we need more people to chime in. Catholics are especially encouraged to sign the petition, but non-Catholics are invited as well.
Fax No. 202-541-3339
Bishop William S. Skylstad, Bishop of Spokane
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 4 th Street NE
Washington , DC 20017-1194
Most Reverend Bishop Skylstad:
We, the undersigned, urge the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to condemn the illegal imprisonment in Haiti of Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste, a Catholic priest and champion of the poor.
Fr. Jean-Juste, who was ordained in New York, was arrested without a warrant, in violation of Haiti’s Constitution, on July 21, 2005. He has been imprisoned in dangerous conditions ever since. The Interim Government of Haiti (IGH) has accused Fr. Jean-Juste of murder, but has produced no evidence against him. This is Fr. Jean-Juste’s second illegal, political imprisonment. Police arrested him in October 2004, while he was feeding hundreds of poor children their only meal of the day. The IGH accused Fr. Jean-Juste of murder then too, but a courageous judge released him when the prosecutor produced no evidence and Archbishop Miot of Port-au-Prince showed equal courage by testifying at his hearing. The IGH responded by forcing the judge off the bench and harassing Fr. Jean-Juste. In the week before his July arrest, Fr. Jean-Juste was detained at the airport, questioned twice at a police station and summoned to court once.
Fr. Jean-Juste has been suspended from priestly duties by the Haitian Bishops’ Conference, because he is accused of violating canonical norms by running for President. The evidence for this punishment is not strong- Fr. Jean-Juste never registered as a candidate, he never announced that he was a candidate and no political party ever named him as a candidate. But the strongest evidence of a canonical norm violation would not justify four months’ imprisonment or the Church’s silence in the face of a priests’ persecution.
A growing movement of people of faith, human rights groups and political leaders from all over the world has called for Fr. Jean-Juste’s release. Over 400 religious leaders of many faiths joined Bishop Thomas Gumbleton in a letter to Haitian officials, Amnesty International declared Fr. Jean-Juste a prisoner of conscience, over 2,000 people signed Human Rights First’s petition, and hundreds more have written to the Haitian government. Twenty-nine members of the U.S. Congress expressed their “profound concerns” about Fr. Jean-Juste’s “unjust imprisonment.”
The U.S. Catholic Bishop’s Conference should join these voices of faith and principle, by condemning Fr. Jean-Juste’s persecution and taking every action in its power to advance his liberation.
For more information about the Half-Hour For Haiti Program, the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti or human rights in Haiti, see www.ijdh.org.