Update: The best news for justice in Haiti is Tuesday’s U.S. elections. Although Haiti itself was not a major factor in the transfer of congressional power, the new legislature does have a clear mandate for a more just U.S. foreign policy. But history shows that the mandate will not turn automatically into results- what has been won is the opportunity to organize for results. We have started a discussion in our Haiti JusticeBlog of what our legislative priorities should be to ensure a just U.S. treatment of Haiti, and how we should organize to attain them. Please join the discussion by adding your comments to the post titled “What Has Been Won.”
Thanks to everyone who visited the Haiti JusticeBlog over the last week. Some beginner bloggers found that we had not explained how to use it well enough. I am a beginner blogger myself, so by necessity we made it very easy. We now do a better job of explaining how easy, on the blog’s top post.
Coming Attractions: November 17-19 is the School of the Americas Watch (SOAW) Vigil at Fort Benning, Georgia. SOAW’s Journey for Justice Caravan rolls into Texas (now to 11/14) and New Orleans (11/15-16). Jubilee USA’s Drop the Debt, Invest in people! speaking tour visits Chicago:(11/8-11).
This Week’s Action: We invest a lot of energy to free high profile political prisoners, because they attract attention to all human rights violations in Haiti. But we cannot forget that the majority of political prisoners in Haiti are poor, and unknown outside of their neighborhood. Their cases are rarely discussed by human rights groups or in the media, but their imprisonment is just as unjust.
Our June 13 alert called for support for three grassroots activists from rural Petit-Goave, Excellent Laviolet, Aline Joseph and Raoul Orphé, all arrested in connection with a 2002 killing of members of an anti-Lavalas group. We protested their imprisonment because 1) the arrests were illegal- normal procedures under Haitian law were ignored; 2) the warrants in the case were issued three years after the crime (and for Laviolet and Joseph, after the arrests), but shortly after Mr. Laviolet gave a radio interview criticizing the judge in the case, Judge Alex Clédanor for abuse of his judicial authority; and 3) the arrestees were active in pro-Lavalas organizations, while Judge Clédanor is a leading member of an anti-Lavalas political group..
Five months later, the case has not moved forward a single step. In August 2008, the defendants’ lawyers filed a request for pre-trial release, but Judge Clédanor declined to even rule on the request. Judge Clédanor recently left the court for a job with MINUSTAH, the UN mission in Haiti, and according to the Chief Judge of the Petit Goave court, Emmanuel Tataille, he did not leave the case files for Mr. Laviolet, Ms. Joseph or Mr. Orphé. Judge Tataille says there can be no further progress on the case until the case files are returned.
Please write to Minister of Justice, René Magloire, urging him to make sure the case files for Excellent Laviolet, Aline Joseph and Raoul Orphé are returned, and that their cases are processed promptly and fairly. A sample letter is below, feel free to customize it. You may send yours directly to Me. Magloire by regular mail, or to us by fax: (206) 350-7986 (a U.S. number) or email: firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will ensure that they are delivered.
Me. René Magloire
Ministre de la Justice et de la Sécurité Publique
Ministère de la Justice
18 Avenue Charles Sumner
Re: Political Prisoners
Dear Mr. Minister:
I am writing on behalf of three Lavalas activists from Petit-Goave, Excellent Laviolet, Aline Joseph (both arrested February 5, 2006) and Raoul Orphé (arrested on April 11, 2006). All were arrested illegally and imprisoned by Juge d’Instruction Alex Clédanor. The arrests were made and warrants issued three years after the crime, but shortly after some of the accused had publicly criticized Judge Clédanor for abuse of his judicial authority. All of the accused are active in pro-Lavalas organizations. Judge Clédanor is a leading member of Mobilisation pour le développement national (MDN).
The defendants have now collectively spent over four years in prison, without being formally charged with any crime. In August 2006, their lawyers filed a request for pre-trial release, but Judge Clédanor declined to even rule on it. Judge Clédanor recently left the court for a job with MINUSTAH, the UN mission in Haiti. According to the Chief Judge of the Petit Goave court, Emmanuel Tataille, Judge Clédanor did not leave the case files for Mr. Laviolet, Ms. Joseph or Mr. Orphé, so the case cannot proceed under another judge.
I urge you to ensure that the rights of these three citizens are respected, by following up with Judge Clédanor, and if necessary MINUSTAH, to ensure that the case files are immediately returned to the Petit-Goave court, or if they cannot be located, that Mr. Laviolet, Ms. Joseph or Mr. Orphé are released immediately. In addition, please instruct your prosecutor in Petit-Goave to recommend immediate pre-trial release for the three defendants, unless he has compelling justification in his file for continued detention.
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.