Half-Hour for Haiti: Haiti’s Constitutional Authorities Should Do Better
Update: We have some good news this week, but also some outrageous news. Good news first. The La Scierie case (which includes Yvon Neptune), is up on appeal, where the defendants are challenging the decision to send the case to trial. Last Friday, June 16, the Appeals Court prosecutor of Gonaives, Roland Paphius issued his recommendations to the Court. The prosecutor asked the Court to drop most of the charges against the defendants, including all against Mr. Neptune. The decision was a courageous one- all of the judicial officials involved in the case are under intense pressure from (foreign-funded) Haitian NGOs to keep all the La Scierie defendants in jail, despite a lack of evidence against them.Me. Paphius’ recommendations are not binding on the court, but can be highly persuasive. We expect the decision on the appeal within a few weeks. Meanwhile, the defendants had also asked the Court for provisional release (main levée) while it considered the appeal. On June 13, the court ordered provisional release for former Minister of Interior Jocelerme Privert. It refused release for Mr. Neptune, on the grounds that he did not make his request on time.Outrageous news: Also last week, the assistant Appeals Court prosecutor of Port-au-Prince, Florence Mathieu had a similar opportunity to take a stand for justice. The pre-trial appeal in the case of three political prisoners- Annette Auguste, “So Ann,”Yvon Antoine and Paul Raymond- all held in connection with theDecember 5, 2003 incidents at the State University, was heard on June 14. It would have been easy for Me. Mathieu to recommend dropping the charges- the evidence was so weak that the trial court prosecutor had already found that there was “no evidence, no indication and no presumption of any involvement” by Ms. Auguste. Amnesty International declared Annette Auguste a political prisoner back in January. There was no direct evidence of involvement against either Antoine or Raymond.
But Prosecutor Mathieu not only declined to recommend dropping the groundless charges, she zealously opposed both dropping the charges and provisional release for the three defendants, who have collectively spent over five years in jail. The Court decided against granting any pretrial releases, and is in the process of deciding the appeal (see the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux’ Analysis of Appeals Hearing).
That Ms. Mathieu would participate in this kind of mistreatment is no surprise. She was appointed to her position by the unconstitutional interim government, which adopted judicial persecution as a routine tool for managing political dissidents. She had previously been appointed prosecutor by the 1991-1994 de facto dictatorship. What is surprising, and outrageous, is that Haiti’s current Constitutional authorities, to whom Me. Mathieu answers, allowed her to take such an unjust position in such a prominent case.
This Week’s Action: Please write to Haitian Minister of Justice René Magloire. Let him know that you expect better from Haiti’s new constitutional government and urge him to move quickly to end the persecution initiated by the Interim Government. A sample letter is below, feel free to customize it. Letters can be sent directly to Minister Magloire by regular mail. Or you can send them to us by fax: (206) 350-7986 (a U.S. number) or email: email@example.com, and we will ensure that they are delivered promptly.
Me. René Magloire
Ministre de la Justice et de la Sécurité Publique
Ministère de la Justice
18 Avenue Charles Sumner
Dear Mr. Minister:
I am writing to express my outrage that one of your Ministry’s prosecutors, Commissaire Substitut Florence Mathieu, continues to persecute political prisoners held in the case of the December 5, 2003 incidents at the State University. At a hearing at the Court of Appeals of Port-au-Prince on June 14, Me. Mathieu insisted that the charges against defendants Annette Auguste, Yvon Antoine and Paul Raymond be upheld, even though there is not a single piece of evidence or a single witness directly connecting any of them to illegal acts at the University. In addition, Me. Mathieu opposed the defendants’ request for pretrial release, even though they have collectively spent more than five years in prison.
The injustice of Me. Mathieu’s position is illustrated by Annette Auguste’s case. On March 28, 2006, the Commissaire du Gouvernement prés du Tribunal de Premiere Instance, Me. Leny Fredd’Herck, declared in his Réquisitoire Définitif that the pre-trial investigation was not able to establish any evidence against Ms. Auguste, and recommended that the charges be dismissed. Three months later, with no new evidence, another prosecutor, Me. Mathieu insisted that Ms. Auguste remain in jail.
Ms. Auguste has been in prison since her illegal arrest by U.S. Marines the night of May 9-10, 2004. On January 10, 2006, Amnesty International declared that Ms. Auguste was a political prisoner, and that her detention was arbitrary. Amnesty called on Haiti’s President, its Prime Minister, its Minister of Justice, and the Commissaire du Gouvernement to immediately release her. Since then, the people occupying all of those positions have changed, and Commissaire Fredd’Herck has officially recommended dropping the charges. But Annette Auguste and her co-defendants remain in jail, now upon the recommendation of Haiti’s Constitutional authorities.
I urge you to immediately take all appropriate action to ensure that your Ministry’s commissaries do not engage in any further persecution of political prisoners, and that they recommend dropping all charges against every prisoner unless their case file contains evidence of criminal activity. I also urge you to do everything in your power to ensure that the right of political prisoners to prompt decisions on their appeals is respected.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
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 HalfHour4Haiti@ijdh.org.