Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Half-Hour for Haiti: Alleged Killers Go Free While Political Prisoners Remain in Jail

March 14, 2006

On March 9, at least six police officers accused of participating in the the Grande Ravine Football Massacre were released on their personal recognizance (See Police Accused of Grande Ravine Massacre Released, Haitian Press Agency). The Football Massacre is one of the most brutal and notorious atrocities yet under the Interim Government of Haiti (IGH): on August 20, police and members of a paramilitary group called the Ti Lame Manchet– the Little Machete Army- attacked the crowd at a football (soccer) game, killing at least ten people, wounding dozens more.

Haiti�s police initially denied the incident, but the internal affairs department did eventually conduct an investigation and issue a report implicating 20 officers in the massacre. �Relatives of massacre victims filed criminal complaints against both police and paramilitaries. Seven officers were placed under arrest, but not any Little Machete Army members. The case was given to Investigating Magistrate Jean P�r�s Paul.

Judge Paul is best known as the judge overseeing the persecution of� political prisoner Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste. Although Fr. Jean-Juste was an excellent candidate for pre-trial release, had no evidence against him, and suffered from leukemia, Judge Paul refused to allow even his provisional release for medical treatment (Fr. Jean-Juste was eventually granted provisional release by the prosecutor).

The police officers were released under Haiti�s main lev�e (personal recognizance) procedures. Although they are technically required to remain available to the justice system, it would be easy for them to hide in Haiti or flee abroad. It is unusual in
Haiti to grant pre-trial release to defendants held on such serious charges, especially where, as here, the judge has not even questioned all of the witnesses. More importantly, the victims, who have reported continuing harassment by Little
Machete Army members, will have reason to fear reprisals from some of the officers. This fear was magnified when the supporters of the highest ranking officer, Division Commander Carlo Lochard, celebrated his release by firing shots in the air
at his house n
ear Grande Ravine.

Two weeks ago we wrote to the new Port-au-Prince Commissaire du Gouvernement
(prosecutor), Me. Leny Fredd�Herck, to urge him to free the political prisoners in his jurisdiction. There has not been any progress on that front (see Hundreds call for release of political prisoners) and the prosecutor�s office should have more forcefully opposed the liberation of the Grande ravine Massacre defendants.

 

This Week�s Action: Write Me. Leny to protest the liberation of the Grande ravine defendants and insist on freedom for the political prisoners. Sample letters in English and French are below, feel free to modify them. You can send the letters by regular
mail or email them to avokahaiti@aol.com, and we will ensure that they are printed and delivered. Also, �HURAH in the U.S. and AUMOHD in Haiti have issued another good Action Alert on this case targeting other IGH officials.

_____________________________________________________________
Me. Leny Fredd�Herck
Commissaire du Gouvernement
Minist�re de la Justice
18 Avenue Charles Sumner
Port-au-Prince, Ha�ti

Dear Me. Leny:

I am writing to protest the release of several people accused in the August 20, 2005 Grande Ravine Football Massacre, while dozens of political prisoners remain in jail despite a complete absence of evidence against them.
As you know, on Thursday, March 9, several police officers arrested in connection with the Football Massacre were released, through the main lev�e procedure. The Judicial Police have presented a file containing evidence against these officers.� At least one of the officers, Carlo Lochard, was personally named in the complaint filed by the massacre victims.

The release of the police officers is premature, and it poses a risk of flight. Judge Jean P�r�s Paul has not even completed his initial investigation in the case: he heard the testimony of some of the victims, but has yet to question all the victims, or many other witnesses. There is little guarantee that the officers in question- accused of a very serious violation of the public�s trust- will return to court if required.
Even more important, the liberation of the police officers presents a risk to the massacre victims. As you know, the members of the Ti Lame Manchet involved in the killings were never arrested, and according to victims, have continued to threaten people in Grande Ravine. Releasing the police officers is a signal that the justice system will not pursue this case, which may embolden the attackers.

While the men accused of the Football Massacre were released despite strong evidence of serious crimes, dozens of political prisoners remain in jail, with absolutely no evidence against them. Many of these have been in prison for two years or more, and the courts have either rejected or ignored their requests for main lev�e.

I urge you to fulfill your responsibilities as the people�s advocate by making every effort to ensure a zealous prosecution of those responsible for the Football Massacre, and of other deadly attacks against innocent civilians.� I also urge you to ensure that the political prisoners are immediately either released, or brought to trial.
Sincerely,
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Cher Me. Leny,

Je vous �cris pour protester contre la mise en libert� de plusieurs personnes accus�es du massacre de Grande Ravine, perp�tr� le 20 ao�t 2005, alors que des douzaines de prisonniers politiques demeurent en prison malgr� l�absence de preuves contre eux.
Comme vous le savez, le jeudi 9 mars dernier, plusieurs agents de police arr�t�s suite au massacre de Grande Ravine ont �t� rel�ch�s via la proc�dure de main lev�e. Pourtant, la Police Judiciaire avait d�pos� un dossier cumulant les preuves contre ces agents. Au moins un des agents, Carlo Lochard, a �t� personnellement nomm� dans la plainte log�e par les victimes du massacre.

La mise en libert� de ces agents de police est pr�matur�e et entra�ne le risque de leur fuite. En effet, le juge Jean P�r�s Paul n�a pas encore termin� son enqu�te pr�liminaire�: il a re�u le t�moignage de certaines victimes, mais n�a pas encore interrog� toutes les victimes ni plusieurs autres t�moins. Il est loin d��tre certain que les agents en question, accus�s d�une s�rieuse violation de la confiance publique, reviendront se pr�senter en cour s�ils sont demand�s.

Encore plus important, la mise en libert� des agents de police repr�sente un risque pour les victimes du massacre. Comme vous le savez, les membres du Ti Lame Manchet impliqu�s dans le massacre n�ont pas �t� arr�t�s et, selon les victimes, continuent � menacer les gens � Grande Ravine. La lib�ration des agents repr�sente un signal comme quoi le syst�me judiciaire ne poursuivra pas cette affaire, ce qui risque d�encourager les agresseurs dans leurs menaces.

Alors que les accus�s du massacre de Grande Ravine ont �t� rel�ch�s malgr� les s�rieuses preuves de leurs crimes, des douzaines de prisonniers politiques demeurent en prison en l�absence de toute preuve contre eux. Plusieurs d�entre eux sont emprisonn�s depuis deux ans ou plus, et les cours ont soit rejet� ou ignor� leurs demandes de main lev�e.

Je vous enjoins de remplir vos responsabilit�s en tant qu�avocat de la population, en d�ployant tous les efforts requis pour que les responsables du massacre de Grande Ravine et d�autres attaques mortelles contre la population civile soient d�ment poursuivis en justice. Je vous enjoins �galement de faire en sorte que les prisonniers politiques soient de fa�on imm�diate soit lib�r�s, soit pr�sent�s devant un tribunal.
Veuillez agr�er l�expression de mes sentiments les meilleurs,

_______________________________________________________
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. To receive Half-Hour for Haiti Action Alerts once per week, send an email to info@ijdh.org.

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