Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Political Prisoners in Haiti : Who Fr. Gerry Left Behind

Political Prisoners in Haiti :
Who Fr. Gerry Left Behind
Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti
February 2, 2006

 

Haiti’s most prominent political dissident, Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste, arrived in Miami on Sunday, January 29, following a worldwide mobilization on his behalf.  Fr. Gerry’s persecution has not ended- he was released provisionally for treatment of life-threatening leukemia- and the Interim Government of Haiti (IGH) claims it still intends to prosecute him on charges that have neither legal nor factual basis (see IJDH’s legal memorandum).

Fr. Jean-Juste leaves many political prisoners behind him in prisons. No one knows how many there are- prison authorities limit human rights groups’ access to prison records, and the human rights mission of MINUSTAH, the UN Peacekeeping mission, has not done a census.  But we do know that over 1800 prisoners (90% of the total population) have never been convicted of a crime, and at least dozens of these people were engaged in political activity before their arrests. The IGH’s keeping of political prisoners has been denounced by the UN Human Rights Commission’s Haiti Expert, Louis Joinet,  MINUSTAH, human rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights First, and legislators from the U.S. and Ireland .

Below are eleven political prisoner cases that have been documented. They are the tip of the iceburg, as they represent a small fraction of the total amount of Haitians imprisoned for their political activity. In most cases, the person was arrested and held illegally from the beginning. In all cases, the courts have failed to process the cases according to the rules of procedure.

1.  Yvon Neptune, Haiti’s last constitutional Prime Minister, was arrested in June, 2004, and held for over a year without having access to the courts. He was formally charged in September 2005, in a document that the top UN Human Rights official in Haiti called “a Flagrant Violation of the Constitution.”  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found a petition on his behalf admissible, and calls for his release have come from 25 members of the U.S. Congress, the head of the UN Mission in Haiti, and the U.S. Ambassador to Haiti. For more on the persecution against Mr. Neptune, see the Petition to the Inter-American Commission on his behalf. Mr. Neptune’s case is currently before the appeals court on an appeal by his co-defendants.

2. Annette Auguste, “Sò Anne” a folksinger, grandmother and grassroots activist, was arrested on May 9, 2004 (Mother’s Day) by U.S. troops, and has been held for 20 months without charge and without effective access to the courts.  Amnesty International issued an appeal for her release on January 11, 2006 (see also : Free Haiti political prisoner Sò Anne on Mother’s Day – May 5, 2005).

Ms. Auguste has been held on suspicion of “incitement to violence,” but the government has presented no evidence against her. Her lawyers have twice requested the judge overseeing the case to grant a “provisional release pending trial” (main levée d’écrou) in accordance with the Haitian Code of Criminal Procedure, most recently in August. The judge has never responded to these requests. Ms. Auguste’s case has been in the pre-trial instruction stage for 20 months. Haitian law requires the instruction to be completed in three months, unless there is a court ordered extension. There have been no such extensions ordered in this case.

3. Bob Molière is a grassroots activist and used-mattress salesman.  Mr. Molière was arrested illegally, without a warrant, by Haitian police on April 18, 2005.  He was detained for four months before seeing an investigating judge, most of that in an isolation cell where he was denied contact with his family. He was brutally tortured by police interrogators. Mr. Molière has not been charged, and the government has yet to present any evidence against him.
Presently, Mr. Molière is held in an extremely overcrowded cell at the National Penitentiary. For months, Mr. Molière was housed with 96 other prisoners in a cell without beds or running water.  Prisoners at the penitentiary take turns lying on the floor in order to sleep, and must use buckets or plastic bags to relieve themselves because there are no toilets.  Now he is among 20 prisoners housed in a cell designed for four.  The prison food is inadequate and causes illness and allergic reactions. His lawyers have requested the judge overseeing the case to grant a “provisional release pending trial” (main levée d’écrou) in accordance with the Haitian Code of Criminal Procedure, but the judge has never responded to the request. Mr. Molière’s case has been in the pre-trial instruction stage for over nine months. Haitian law requires the instruction to be completed in three months, unless there is a court ordered extension. There have been no such extensions ordered in this case.

4. Jacques Mathelier, the former Delegué (the local representative of the Executive Branch) of the South Department, was arrested on June 26, 2004, on charges that he encouraged violence, arson and an attempted assassination.  But the IGH has produced no evidence of Mathelier’s guilt.  A judge in Les Cayes noted the absence of evidence against Mathelier in July 2004, and threatened to dismiss the case if the prosecutor could not provide more evidence. The IGH responded by transferring Mathelier out of that judge’s jurisdiction, to the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince, then replacing the judge with a more compliant one. The new judge formally charged Mathelier, without even questioning him, or citing any additional evidence of criminal activities. Mr. Mathelier’s lawyers have appealed the charging documents, and the case is before the court of appeals.

Mathelier demonstrated exceptional faith in the ideals of justice in February 2005. He escaped with hundreds of other prisoners during a prison break on February 19, but four days later, when the prison appeared safe, he turned himself in.

Mathelier’s house was burned down in March, 2004.  His wife was threatened by the director of National Penitentiary for speaking out about the situation of political prisoners in Haiti in early 2005.  On one occasion, Mrs. Mathelier was assaulted by police or prison guards at the National Penitentiary.  

5. Jocelerme Privert, Haiti’s last Constitutional Minister of the Interior, was arrested on April 4, 2004, in the middle of the night (the Constitution prohibits arrests between 6PM and 6AM) in an illegal operation personally led by the Minister of Justice. Mr. Privert was not brought before a court within the 48 hours required by the Haitian constitution.  He was not charged for seventeen months; when he was finally charged the top UN Human Rights official in Haiti called the charging document “a Flagrant Violation of the Constitution.” Privert’s lawyers appealed the charges in October, 2005, but the Court of Appeals has not decided the appeal.

6. Amanus Mayette, is a former member of Parliament from Saint-Marc. He was arrested on March 19, 2004, and was held for 18 months without charge. According to a report by the Haiti Accompaniment Project,  Mayette was arrested at his house by masked men wearing black uniforms. They cuffed his hands, chained his legs and put a bag over his head. They drove him around and threatened to kill him unless he provided the names of Lavalas members. They deposited him at the offices of the Director of Judicial Police (DCPJ) where he was questioned by Director Michael Lucius. Four hours after his initial arrest, Mayette reports he was re-cuffed, re-chained, again hooded, and taken away in a truck. Security forces again threatened to kill him for not talking, before eventually taking him to the Petionville police station. When he was finally charged the top UN Human Rights official in Haiti called the charging document “a Flagrant Violation of the Constitution.” Mayette’s lawyers appealed the charges in October, 2005, but the Court of Appeals has not decided the appeal.

7. Paul Raymond is a grassroots activist and leader of the Little Community Church Movement (TKL) based in the former parish of St. Jean Bosco in the slum of La Saline.  He was arrested in the Dominican Republic, where he was staying legally, and extradited to Haiti in June, 2005. The government has held him ever since, without formal charges and without presenting evidence of his guilt. His lawyers have requested the judge overseeing the case to grant a “provisional release pending trial” (main levée d’écrou) in accordance with the Haitian Code of Criminal Procedure, but the judge has never responded to the request. Mr. Raymond’s case has been in the pre-trial instruction stage for over seven months. Haitian law requires the instruction to be completed in three months, unless there is a court ordered extension. There have been no such extensions ordered in this case.

8.  Mario Exilhomme is a grassroots activist. He was arrested in the Dominican Republic, where he was staying legally, and extradited to Haiti in June, 2005. The government has held him ever since, without formal charges and without presenting evidence of his guilt. His lawyers have requested the judge overseeing the case to grant a “provisional release pending trial” (main levée d’écrou) in accordance with the Haitian Code of Criminal Procedure, but the judge has never responded to the request. Mr. Exilhomme’s case has been in the pre-trial instruction stage for over seven months. Haitian law requires the instruction to be completed in three months, unless there is a court ordered extension. There have been no such extensions ordered in this case.

9. Harold Sevère, a former mayor of Port-au-Prince, was arrested on March 14, 2004. Almost two years later, he has not been charged with any crime.  In December, 2004, Judge Brédy Fabien ordered Mr. Sevère free on his own recognizance, after the government could produce no evidence against him. The government has refused to execute that order, and illegally took the Sevère case and all other criminal cases from Judge Fabien. Mr. Sevère’s case has been in the pre-trial instruction stage for over twenty-two months. Haitian law requires the instruction to be completed in three months, unless there is a court ordered extension. There have been no such extensions ordered in this case.

10. Anthony Nazaire, a former officer in the National Palace Security Unit, was arrested on March 12, 2004. Almost two years later, he has not been charged with any crime.  In December, 2004, Judge Brédy Fabien ordered Mr. Nazaire free on his own recognizance, after the government could produce no evidence against him. The government has refused to execute that order, and illegally took the Nazaire case and all other criminal cases from Judge Fabien. Mr. Nazaire’s case has been in the pre-trial instruction stage for over twenty-two months. Haitian law requires the instruction to be completed in three months, unless there is a court ordered extension. There have been no such extensions ordered in this case.

11. Yvon Antoine “Zap-Zap” is a musician and grassroots activist.  He was arrested on March 2, 2004, and almost two years later, he has not been charged with any crime. His lawyers have requested the judge overseeing the case to grant a “provisional release pending trial” (main levée d’écrou) in accordance with the Haitian Code of Criminal Procedure, but the judge has never responded to the request. Mr. Antoine’s case has been in the pre-trial instruction stage for over twenty-three months. Haitian law requires the instruction to be completed in three months, unless there is a court ordered extension. There have been no such extensions ordered in this case.

 

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