Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Release Father Gérard Jean-Juste

Release Father Gérard Jean-JusteWe are writing to join Human Rights First in asking that Catholic priest and human rights activist Father Gerard Jean-Juste be released from prison immediately.  He has been incarcerated since July 2005 on flimsy allegations that appear to be politically motivated.Dr. Jennifer Furin of Harvard Medical School and Haitian physician Dr. Jacques Boncy have confirmed that Father Jean-Juste has leukemia.  Physicians have warned that if he contracts an infection, Father Jean-Juste’s life could be in danger.  He urgently requires sanitary conditions and a level of medical attention that he cannot be guaranteed while he is in jail.The continued imprisonment of Father Jean-Juste appears to be in reprisal for his legitimate and peaceful criticism of the interim government’s human rights violations.  Father Jean-Juste has been harassed for his human rights and political activities in the past, and in October 2004 was arrested and jailed for seven weeks, only to be released when the charges against him were shown to be baseless.  This harassment represents a clear violation of Haiti’s obligations in international human rights law and of the 1998 U.N. Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

Human rights defenders play a legitimate and essential role in preserving and protecting basic rights and strengthening democratic institutions.  Unfortunately, human rights defenders carry out their important work at great personal risk in Haiti.  The invaluable work of Haitian human rights defenders should be acknowledged by the government, and they should be supported rather than persecuted for their activities.

We, the undersigned, call on the interim government of Haiti to respect the rights of Father Jean-Juste and to release him immediately from detention.  The government should do everything in its power to protect his liberty and his physical wellbeing.

With the help of Human Rights First we will continue to monitor this case closely and appreciate your immediate attention to this matter.  Please contact Archana Pyati of Human Rights First at pyatia@humanrightsfirst.org or 212-845-5279 with any response.

Sincerely,

Rolf Beller
Lillemor Dahlgren
Mia Duquet
Andrew Durbak
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