Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Half-Hour for Haiti: Help Fr. Gerry Return to the Pulpit

Nov 16, 2006

Update: Still no good news on political prisoners, but grassroots groups in Haiti have not given up. Last Wednesday they picketed the Ministry of Justice (click for report and photos), and they were back yesterday. Thanks to everyone who wrote last week to support the prisoners from Petit-Goave.

Coming Attractions: November 17-19 is the School of the Americas Watch (SOAW) Vigil at Fort Benning, Georgia. Aristide and the Endless Revolution is playing at the United Nations Film Festival in Boston on November 18 and 19 . The Haitian Education and Leadership Program (HELP), Haiti’s largest university scholarship program, is having a Haitian Art Auction Fundraiser in New York on December 1.

This Week�s Action is from Professor Bill Quigley of Loyola New Orleans Law School, in support of Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste’s efforts to return to his Ste. Claire’s Parish in Haiti. We are not canon lawyers, and are hesitant to intrude in Church affairs. But Fr. Gerry’s disciplinary proceedings are closely linked in time to his political persecution, and he claims that his rights under canon law have been violated. So we felt it appropriate to ask the Church to look carefully at the allegations and to ensure scrupulous respect for Fr. Gerry’s rights (for more on Fr. Jean-Juste’s political persecution, click here). Moreover, Haitian Church officials have been under immense pressure from people who do not like Fr. Gerry’s message of justice for the poor; hearing from people who Fr. Gerry has inspired to work for justice will provide needed balance.

Bill’s alert is below, followed by a message from Fr. Gerry, then IJDH�s sample letter to Fr. Gerry�s superior, Archbishop Miot, in English and French. Please customize the letter to show how Fr. Gerry�s example has impacted you. You may send the letter directly to Archbishop Miot by regular mail, or to us by fax: (206) 350-7986 (a U.S. number) or email: avokahaiti@aol.com, and we will ensure that it is delivered.
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From Professor Bill Quigley of Loyola New Orleans Law School:
Friends of Pere Jean-Juste:

It is time again to ask for your support for Pere Jean-Juste.

Fr. Jean-Juste has completed a series of chemotherapy treatments in Miami and is hoping that he will receive permission from his doctors to return to Haiti in the next couple of weeks. When he returns to Haiti, Fr. Jean-Juste still faces pending criminal charges and the possibility of being returned to prison. Fr. Jean-Juste is prepared for whatever the government does when he returns.

However, there is another problem. It is with the Church.

Fr. Jean-Juste has been suspended from acting as a priest by the Diocese of Port au Prince. That means he cannot exercise his priestly functions. This happened during the time when the coup government falsely jailed Fr. Jean-Juste after trying to have him assassinated during a funeral mass. While in jail, thousands rallied in support of Fr. Jean-Juste and called for Fr. Jean-Juste to run for President of Haiti. It was at this time that Fr. Jean-Juste was suspended from acting as a priest under the false accusation that he was a candidate for political office. Church leadership was under intense pressure to silence Fr. Jean-Juste’s calls for democracy and human rights.  Fr. Jean-Juste explains in detail what happened below.

Please consider emailing Bishop Serge Miot asking that he re-instate Fr. Jean-Juste as a priest so he can return to Haiti and rejoin his congregation at St. Claire’s.

You can email Bishop Serge Miot at miotserge@hotmail.com.  Please send a copy to the Papal Nuncio of Haiti, Archbishop Mario Giordana at nonciature@yahoo.com.  Please also send a cc to me, at Quigley@loyno.edu, so I can help Fr. Jean-Juste keep track of the people supporting him.

Thank you for all you do for justice and peace.
Bill Quigley Quigley@loyno.edu

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This is Fr. Jean-Juste�s description of what happened:

�While I was dying in jail, around September 2005, Bishop Joseph Serge Miot came in on a Sunday. He talked to me for a while and then handed me a yellow envelope with two pages in it. Inside was a cover letter and the sanction telling me I was suspended from acting as a priest.� I was sanctioned because it was said that I had become a candidate for President of Haiti.

Everyone knows this is a false accusation.� I was in jail during the time to qualify as a candidate.� �Haitian electoral law does not accept candidate registration from a detained prisoner.� I was not a candidate.� �It is not a matter for sanction.

The following week in jail was one of the toughest weeks for me.� I had no other choice than to appeal the sanction and sent the appeal to the Pope via the Nuncio Archbishop Mario Giordana. It was September 30, 2005.

There has been no response from the Holy Father yet.� But, according to canon 1638 of the Canon Law, the appeal is “suspensive”.� That means all punishments are suspended until the Vatican makes a decision.� Bishop Miot says he won’t apply canon 1638. It’s nonsense, in his words.� So he says I cannot act as a priest while the Vatican hears my appeal.

It reveals clearly that in Haiti, facing either the civil or religious machinery, there is no due process especially for the little ones.

I loved Mother Church. I believe in justice for all. I preached loud about equal justice.� I am confident the Vatican will reject the Bishop Miot’s sanction which is not documented at all.

I know that as I am a cancer patient. I may die soon.� I’d love to die at home, on duty.� Living longer abroad without priestly faculties or living shorter at home, on duty, with faculties, I’ll choose my earthly home preparing myself, in Jesus, for the Heavenly Dwelling.�

With God�s blessing, Victory is Coming!
Gerard Jean-Juste

**********************Sample Letter**********************

Archbishop Serge Miot
Coadjutor Archbishop of Port-au-Prince
B.P. 538, Rue Dr. Aubry
Port-au-Prince, Ha�ti, W.I.

Your Excellence:

I am writing to thank you for your support for Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste after his illegal arrests in 2004 and 2005- the support was a courageous and powerful statement in support of the rule of law. As you know, Fr. Jean-Juste himself, once he was released, also continued to stand up for justice, and he was persecuted for doing so. He spent more than seven months in prison on charges that never had any basis in fact. His procedural rights, especially his right to see a fair and impartial judge, were ignored.

Fr. Jean-Juste suffered in prison, but he brought the world�s attention to the suffering of your people. His sacrifice inspired religious and political leaders from throughout the world, human rights groups, and thousands of ordinary people to work for an end to political persecution in Haiti.

I am also writing to ask you to consider restoring Fr. Jean-Juste to his priestly functions. I understand that he was suspended for participating in politics as a Presidential candidate in the recent elections. As you know, Fr. Jean-Juste was not a candidate in those elections, so I fear that the suspension, like his imprisonment, is based on a false allegation. I also understand that Fr. Jean-Juste has appealed his sanctions to the Holy Father, and that Canon 1638 suspends sanctions pending the determination of the appeal. If this is correct, I fear that continuing the sanctions against Fr. Jean-Juste while the appeal is pending is another violation of Fr. Jean-Juste�s procedural rights.

Please review the facts underlying the allegations against Fr. Jean-Juste, and dismiss the allegations if the facts are not demonstrably true; and assure that Fr. Jean-Juste�s procedural rights, especially those granted by Canon 1638, are scrupulously respected.

Thank you for your kind consideration,

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Mgr l�Archev�que Serge Miot
Archev�que coadjuteur de Port-au-Prince
B.P. 538, Rue Dr. Aubry
Port-au-Prince, Ha�ti

Votre Excellence,

Je d�sire par la pr�sente vous faire part de ma gratitude pour le support que vous avez apport� �� P�re G�rard Jean-Juste apr�s qu�il a �t� ill�galement arr�t� en 2004 et 2005. Ce fut en effet une courageuse et forte prise de position en faveur de l��tat de droit. Comme vous le savez, P�re Jean-Juste, une fois rel�ch�, a continu� � se battre pour la justice, et a �t� pers�cut� pour cette raison. Il a pass� plus de sept mois en prison suite � des accusations sans fondement factuel aucun. Ses droits proc�duraux ont �t� bafou�s, particuli�rement son droit � un juge impartial.

P�re Jean-Juste a souffert en prison, mais il a attir� l�attention du monde entier sur la souffrance de votre peuple. Son sacrifice a inspir� d�innombrables leaders religieux et politique de partout au monde, et des milliers de citoyens ordinaires qui, depuis, se sont mis � la t�che pour mettre fin � la pers�cution politique en Ha�ti.

Je vous �cris aussi pour vous demander de prendre en consid�ration la possibilit� de r�tablir P�re Jean-Juste � ses fonctions sacerdotales. P�re Jean-Juste, a, je crois comprendre, �t� suspendu en raison de sa participation � la vie politique en tant que candidat � la pr�sidence lors des r�centes �lections. Pourtant, comme vous le savez, P�re Jean-Juste ne s�est pas port� candidat lors de ces �lections; il m�appert donc que sa suspension, tout comme son emprisonnement, soit fond�e sur de fausses all�gations. Je comprends aussi que P�re Jean-Juste a port� ses sanctions en appel aupr�s du Saint P�re le Pape, et que le Canon 1638 suspend toute sanction en attente du verdict. Si mon interpr�tation est correcte, je crains que la poursuite des sanctions contre P�re Jean-Juste en attente du verdict ne repr�sente un nouveau viol des droits proc�duraux de P�re Jean-Juste.

Je vous prie donc de bien vouloir porter un nouveau regard sur les faits qui soutiendraient les accusations contre P�re Jean-Juste, et de rejeter ces accusations si elles ne reposent pas sur une v�rit� prouvable; et de plus, de vous assurer que les droits proc�duraux de P�re Jean-Juste, particuli�rement ceux que lui conf�rent le Canon 1638, soient scrupuleusement respect�s.

Je vous prie d�agr�er mes salutations distingu�es,

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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.

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Institute for Justice & Democracy In Haiti
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