Aug 15, 2006
Update: It worked! Annette Auguste, who has spent the last 826 nights sleeping in a prison cell, will spend tonight home with her family. �So will Georges Honor� (813 nights) Yvon Antoine (Zap Zap) (812 nights) and Paul Raymond (388 nights). Their lawyer Mario Joseph of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux just called with the news from the prison. The day in court was straightforward, because for once it was honest: the prosecutors conceded that there was no evidence against Ms. Auguste (as they had conceded in March), and the judge accordingly made a finding of not guilty.
Above all, Annette Auguste and her co-defendants deserve our thanks and praise for insisting on justice through the dark days of Haiti�s brutal Interim Government, and the frustratingly slow transition to democracy.� Their perseverance through such injustice and suffering is a model to us all, and an inspiration for creating a stable democracy in Haiti so that political dissidents never again need to worry about becoming political prisoners.
But those 826 nights- 90 of them under an elected President- demonstrate that being persistent and being right is not enough to guarantee justice. We are only celebrating tonight because top-notch legal representation in Haitian courts was combined with a persistent campaign, in Haiti and abroad, to pressure the justice system to finally give the defendants their day in court. Ms. Auguste�s supporters fought for justice on the streets, courageously organizing demonstrations despite the great risk. Mario Joseph and his BAI colleagues were equally courageous and persistent fighting in the courts. Supporters of justice in Haiti abroad, including Rep. Maxine Waters, and Amnesty International which twice issued calls for Annette Auguste�s release, kept the cases on the world�s radar screen. Finally, all of us who wrote, faxed and called on behalf of the political prisoners demonstrated that there was a constituency for justice in Haiti that would not give up.
We also would not be celebrating if Haiti�s new Constitutional government and some members of the justice system had not pushed the system to work democratically. Today�s result was too slow, and there is too much more to be done. Some prominent political prisoners like Ameus Mayette remain in jail, Yvon Neptune and Fr. Jean-Juste are out of prison, but still have cases against them. No one knows how many lower-profile political prisoners remain in jail, but they probably number in the hundreds. But we now know that the system can work, and that we can help make it work.
No action to take this week. �But we�ll have an action next week. Before he hung up today, Mario asked me to make sure that we thank everyone who pitched in from abroad to make this victory possible. Then he ended with �and don�t forget the other prisoners�.�
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.