Haiti
 
March 3, 2002

 

Is Another Assassination of JEAN DOMINIQUE about to Take Place?

 

Michèle Montas Dominique

 

Published by flashadmin on Thursday, March 7, 2002, Radio Haiti Editorial 3/3/02

 

Today is March 3, and 23 months ago a journalist committed to the struggle for change was assassinated. That shameful crime aroused indignation throughout the entire country. Such an example of growing impunity brings the attention of the world upon Haiti today.  

On the same date last year, on March 3, 2001, twenty-six organizations from the civil society wrote to the head of the Haitian State. "This committed journalist," said the letter "was not killed under the dictatorships that he had so bravely fought. He was assassinated at a time when a government whose efforts he was supporting toward more justice and stronger institutions was promising, just like you, the rule of law and the end of impunity... If justice is not served today, in the cases of Jean Dominique and Jean-Claude Louissaint, other irreplaceable individuals will be destroyed by the same murderers or other assassins." And it continued by reminding the duties of the Chief of State: "Article 136 of the Constitution makes you, Mr. President, the person responsible for the stability and preservation of institutions. Article 145 of our Fundamental Law makes you responsible for ensuring that court orders are obeyed," said the open letter to the head of the State.  

On this same date last year, March 3, 2001, shortly after that document was broadcasted by our radio station, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide came to Radio Haiti to express his support publicly for the judicial inquiry and pledge that the Executive Branch of government would make available to justice the resources needed to investigate the April 3, 2000 assassinations at Radio Haiti. Today, 23 months later, facts are speaking louder than words:  

Fact: The Chief of State, who has the direct and exclusive authority to renew Judge Gassant’s mandate, has still not done so although that judge diligently and systematically conducted the investigation for 16 months with courage and competence, not allowing himself to be intimidated by individuals presumed above the law. No explanation was given to thousands of persons who, for 23 months, have been calling for justice in this emblematic case.  

Facts: All the resources, i.e. logistical, technical, and financial made available in this judicial case by the preceding government have been cancelled. The special and relatively modest funds which had helped in the success of the trials of Raboteau and Carrefour-Feuille, as well as the funds allocated, among other resources, to the work of the first two investigating judges assigned to the murder cases of Jean Dominique and Jean-Claude Louissaint, allowing them to follow the leads of a difficult investigation in several areas of the countries, were cancelled; so were the resources made available for other investigations such as those about the poisoning of children with diethyl glycol or the kidnapping of baby Nanoune Myrtil at the General Hospital. Among the measures taken to help in the investigation about the murder of the most famous Haitian journalist, police protection was given to the investigating judge and some of the witnesses. Such help is no longer available.  

Fact: The Senate of the Republic, composed exclusively of members of Fanmi Lavalas, returned the Jean Dominique file to the investigating judge, asking for a number of documents prior to any decision about lifting Senator Dany Toussaint’s parliamentary immunity, as requested by Judge Gassant; according to jurists, the release of such documents would amount to a flagrant violation of the investigation’s confidentiality. By doing so, the Senate conferred upon itself the authority of a court, in violation of the separation of powers.  

Fact: The Police, which theoretically answers to the Ministry of Justice, has taken no action on some arrest warrants. Witnesses who have refused to appear in court, alleged assassins, or individuals who have openly committed illegal acts go about their businesses freely, in this case as in others. Meanwhile, a new judge is assigned to the cases of Jean Dominique and Jean-Claude Louissaint, not by the Judges’ Association as required by law, but by the Senior Judge of the Civil Court, whose animosity against Judge Claudy Gassant is commonly known.  

Fact: Will you say to me: The investigation is making progress? Judge Pierre Josiard Agnant, whose expertise is similar to Judge Gassant’s, heard the plaintiff and summoned an alleged witness and an individual who had been charged, based on previous hearings held by Judge Gassant in the course of the investigation. Senator Toussaint, charged by Judge Gassant, bragged and claimed victory. It is not a common practice for an individual who has been charged to select the investigating judge by whom he will be interrogated. Will you tell me that the investigation is also making headway, since things are apparently moving? Because of those very facts, serious questions arise about the political will to render justice to Jean Léopold Dominique, after 23 months and many other assassinations. In the case of Judge Gassant, one could mention the need for the regime to be careful with a few rich and powerful party members that the investigating judge had not spared, or with members of the judicial branch resentful of that judge who spent several months in the spotlight. In the interest of the State: Appease, in the name of forced reconciliation, adversaries or possible political rivals within the same party facing accelerated implosion.  

There are still more serious questions arising: Would it be the case that the healthy wing of this party, who expressed itself for an independent and transparent judicial investigation, is being sacrificed in favor of those who constitute a mafia within the party? Putting the "continuing investigation" on the back burner and forgetting the demands for justice formulated in the emblematic case of Jean Dominique, is that one of the prices that the regime must pay? Power at what price?  

Seriously, what has been Judge Gassant’s professional mistake, when the Supreme Court just ruled in his favor over Senior Judge Lise Pierre-Pierre? Why is the Chief of State keeping so silent? We have the right to know. You may remember, Mr. President, the three famous "roch dife" (firestones): Participation, Justice, and Transparency. If it is confirmed, that decision not to renew the mandate of a competent investigating judge after he conducted an investigation for 16 months may seem like an easy way out, in the short term; however, even if it is never explicitly announced, that decision will exert a powerful effect undermining the credibility of the Chief of State. How can someone really expect that Judge Agnant, no matter how competent or dedicated, will manage to bring himself up to date in a matter of days, and work effectively on a difficult and eminently dangerous case, while obviously he will have no special police protection? Is it possible to believe that the purpose is just "the investigation continues?"  

In the case of the majority party in the Senate of the Republic, as in the case of the Police, the inability to impose guidelines and to clean up, control, and manage is dramatically eroding the authority of the already weakened State, by projecting the image of a lack of cohesiveness, planning, and, above all, the absence of political will. But is that just an image?  

Today, beyond words and promises, the facts indicate that the balls are biased and the regime is affected with a dangerous gangrene. Principles and moral guidelines are compromised every day by political opportunism. Those ideals shared by Jean, including a generous but rigorous socialism, respect for liberties within the framework of democracy, nationalist independence, based on a long history of resistance, those ideals that Jean used to call "Lavalas" are trampled every day in this balkanized State where weapons make right, and where hunger for power and money takes precedence over the general welfare, causing havoc on a party which, paradoxically, controls all the institutional levers of the country. Our concerns run deep, since the cracks are widening and the building will eventually collapse over all of us.  

Today, it may be politically incorrect to demand truth and justice, 23 months after the murders of April 3, 2000. All we want is a decent country, and we will never accept a new assassination of Jean Dominique, even perpetrated insidiously.    

Michèle Montas Dominique

Radio Haiti Editorial 3/3/02

 

 

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