Haiti and the Jean Dominique Assassination: An Interview with Mario Joseph and Brian Concannon
–Journal of Haitian Studies, Vol. 13, No. 2, 2007
Haïti : Jean Dominique, sept ans déjà! La justice a-t-elle oubliée?
–Amnesty International, April 3, 2007
AHP News, April 2 – English Translation (Unofficial)
How important is Jean Dominique? by Michèle Montas and Jan Dominique
Six years ago, on April 3, 2000, journalist Jean Léopold Dominique was killed yards away from his station, Radio Haïti.
It has been six years and still justice has not been served for this free speech activist. As of today, his murderers, as well as those who murdered Jean Claude Louissaint, and two years later Maxime Seide to shut down the movement for justice, are still walking the streets freely.
With the oh-so troubling voice of Radio Haiti no longer around, the April 3 murder cases have not moved for three years in a conspiracy of silence and impunity.
The pre-trial “instruction” proceedings, taken over by four different judges, lasted 2 years and 10 months. It was agitated and bloody. Suspects died in prison under strange circumstances. Witnesses were killed. A judge went into exile after receiving threats. Almost every State institution tried to stop the investigation: arrest warrants ignored by the police, Senate opposition to waving off a Senator’s parliamentarian immunity, police officers publicly threatening a judge, the Head of State temporarily refusing (in 2002) to renew the mandate of the judge leading the case.
After a not so subtle intervention by the Minister of Justice of the time, the investigation theoretically reached its conclusion on March 21, 2003, a month after Radio Haïti was forced to shut down following an assassination attempt, a murder and numerous threats to its journalists. Even though the instruction proceedings from May 2000 to January 2002, had heard tens of witnesses and had implicated about 20 accused, Judge Bernard St Vil formally charged six individuals for the death of the journalist. No one who actually ordered or planned the murder was named.
On April 3, 2003, the family of the journalist made appeal the pre-trial investigation’s conclusions. On August 4, 2003, Port-au-Prince’s Court of Appeals ordered a new investigation and freed three of the six convicted individuals. The other three appealed to the Supreme Court, thus suspending the entire case. Meanwhile, those three individuals, Jeudy Jean Daniel, Dimsey Milien and Markenton Philippe, broke out of prison.
On March 14, 2004, the police followed two of Judge St-Vil’s orders and arrested a former assistant to the mayor of Port-au-Prince, Harold Sévère, charged on January 28, 2003, and Roustide Pétion, alias Douze, for their alleged implication in the April 3 murders.
On June 29, 2004, the Supreme Court rejected the « Appeal of sirs Dymsley Millien named Tilou, Jean Daniel Jeudi named Guimy and Markington Phillipe against the order of the Court of Appeal of Port-au-Prince ».
Thus, the Supreme Court confirms the Court of Appeal’s verdict that a new judge should be named to find the sponsors of the crime. On April 3, 2005, five years exactly after the April 3 murders, the case was handed to a new judge. To this day, a year later, the case is still on hold according to the RNDDH which has followed the case closely for the past six years: « The case of Jean Léopold Dominique and Jean Claude Louissaint has been handed to Judge Jean Pérez Paul, President of the Association Nationale des Magistrats Haïtiens (National Association of Haitian Judges) (ANAMAH).
This judge, well known for his December 30, 2005 order in favour of alleged kidnappers, decided to hand back the case to Chief Judge, protesting that the Ministry has not given him sufficient means to do his work. But the judge did not resign; he is still working on other cases. Since when does a judge choose his own cases? And no one says a word. » the RNDDH said.
Six years after the April 3 murders, how important is Jean Dominique?
Anaesthetized by the victims in succession, in a strong climate of impunity and with so much crime it’s almost common, some might ask why we keep fighting for this case, it’s because it is the most well-known one of our recent history, and it should not be left forgotten because some people are trying to put us to sleep by repeating over and over again that ‘an investigation is under way’. Shouldn’t it be time for reconciliation and economic partnership? Who cares about justice? After all, aren’t we holding, for many years now, conventions of corruption, violence and impunity in a society which has made forgetting the best tool to survive?
Despite recurring political turbulence related to corruption, after Duvalier, after the coup or after Aristide, the nation never seems to ask people to pay their dues. Kidnappers are freed almost as soon as they are arrested. The same stands for assassins. While a case like Raboteau, which had the strongest evidence ever put together in our judiciary system, is stopped for procedural defect, and no one from our so-called civil society complains, you can count on one hand the number of legal penalties that are not cancelled by the eternal justice of the winners.
This impunity is everywhere in our daily lives, from defamation in our media to the filth thrown in the streets. A friend was telling me about a car driver who was asking a merchant to move her stand which was right in the middle of the Rue du Centre and the answer he gets is « pouki m’ta fè sa, pa gen leta ». Everybody can break the law without the fear of being punished, whether it is minor infractions or murders. Impunity is leading us into this daily anarchy, and still we keep our eyes shut, accomplices or guilty.
How important is Jean Dominique? Once we have chosen impunity for the murders of the four Jean, Jean Marie Vincent, Jean Pierre Louis, Jean Lamy and Jean Dominique, shouldn’t we have expected the murder of Brignol Lindor, or the sponsored murder of deputy Marc André Dirogène or the torture inflicted on our poet and journalist Jacques Roche? How can we be surprised by this dangerous spiral of aggression which has made so many of us feel sorrow and pain? By seeing justice as troubling, aren’t we all guilty of murder and corruption? Aren’t we all accomplices by staying shamefully silent?
How important is Jean Dominique? Some will say that demanding justice for Jean Dominique or others today is not politically correct, as it may disturb this fragile and artificial stability that some try to call reconciliation.
Why insist on justice today for Jean Dominique?
The answer lies in all those who are abused daily by little gang leaders, who are excluded, marginalized and denied of justice, those who massively voted on February 7 for the end of insecurity, knowing very well that this monster feeds off of impunity and injustice, those who have fought for 30 years against a corrupt State, to put an end to the destructive games of power and money, and to change their lives. Those who do not have the courage, or the lucidity to understand that impunity can no longer be the result of power, money, judiciary or political games, of “kache fey kouvri sa”, they will be the next victims, just like the State of law and the democracy we are trying to build
New York, April 3, 2006.