March 21, 2006
Several groups in Haiti and abroad are calling for the release of all of Haiti�s political prisoners by March 29, the 19th anniversary of Haiti�s 1987 Constitution. Many of us had expected that the prisoners would be freed upon the inauguration of President-Elect Preval. But delays in legislative elections have postponed the inauguration, and now it is not likely to happen for 8 weeks or more. Some of the political prisoners, especially former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, whose health continues to deteriorate, might not live that long.
The prisoners and their supporters in Haiti are continuing to fight for freedom, and need our help. The Kolektif Fanmi Prizonye (Prisoners� Families Collective) organized a demonstration outside the Port-au-Prince courthouse today, as it has every Tuesday since the beginning of the year. Yvon Neptune issued a public letter to President Rene Preval from prison, calling on him to free the political prisoners when he can.
Haiti�s current Interim President, Boniface Alexandre, was Chief Judge of the Supreme Court, and before that a government prosecutor. He had a good reputation as a supporter of the rule of law. Other lawyers would often come to him for advice on complex human rights cases. This week�s action is an appeal to that part of Mr. Boniface that once worked for justice. He has a short time left to rescue some of his legacy, to go down in history as the President who finally released the political prisoners instead of being the one who held on to the prisoners as long as he could.
His Excellency Boniface Alexandre
Interim President of the Republic of Haiti
I am writing to you as the Interim President of Haiti, but also as Me. Alexandre, the lawyer, prosecutor and judge who worked hard to establish the rule of law in Haiti and was a role model and advisor to young lawyers. I am asking you to free all of Haiti�s political prisoners by March 29, the 19th anniversary of the Constitution.
As a man of the law, you know well that the detentions of Mr. Neptune, Annette Auguste, Jacques Mathelier and dozens of others has not conformed to Haitian legal procedures or respected Constitutional protections. You are also aware that this illegality has been well documented, by the United Nations, human rights groups such as Amnesty International, and even the U.S. State Department, in its recent human rights report on Haiti. Many prisoners have been kept in jail for two years or more without any legal justification. Some, especially former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, may not survive much longer if they are not released for medical treatment.
This illegal, politically-motivated detention causes much suffering to the prisoners and their families. It also undermines respect for all the law in Haiti, and revives a troubling precedent that most Haitians thought they had left behind on March 29, 1987.� Finally, the existence of political prisoners in your Presidency undermines the good reputation you had worked so hard to build.
You have a short time left in which to make an important decision about your legacy. You can go down in history with the Duvaliers and other Presidents who held onto political prisoners to the very end, or you can be remembered as the President who released the political prisoners when he could.
Please make March 29 a celebration of the Constitution, not a memorial service, for everyone- the prisoners and their families, yourself, and everyone who cares about justice in Haiti.
Thank you for your kindness in reading this letter, and in considering my request.
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 email@example.com.