Justice for Jean Dominique: 2000-2015

"Yo Touye Jando" by Maxan Jean Louis

“Yo Touye Jando” by Maxan Jean Louis

Early in the morning of April 3, 2000, a few minutes before the first news broadcast of the day, Jean Léopold Dominique, the director of Radio Haïti Inter, and Jean Claude Louissaint, an employee of the media, were gunned down in the courtyard of the station.  In the months and years that followed, Haitian people from all sectors of society, from peasant farmers to human rights activists, to people living abroad in the diaspora, as well as several international organizations and entities, demanded justice for the slain journalist.

The judicial investigation was a spectacle of deception, audacity, and malfeasance: several witnesses were murdered, died under sudden and mysterious circumstances, or simply disappeared; judges were threatened; some 75% of the evidence in the case vanished from the Haitian high court, and several of the major suspects, including Senator Dany Toussaint, , refused to cooperate with the investigation by claiming immunity, resorting to various technicalities, or simply not appearing in court.

21 March 2003, the formal investigation concluded that a group of relatively minor criminals were the assassins and accomplices; the investigation named no one as the sponsors or instigators of the killing.  Dominique’s widow, Michèle Montas, who herself had barely escaped an attempt on her life on 25 December 2002, in which her bodyguard Maxime Seide was killed, rejected these findings, bringing the case to the Appellate Court.

The result of that investigation were made public 11 years later, on 17 January 2014, leading to the indictment of 9 people, including Mirlande Libérus, a former senator from the Fanmi Lavalas party, accused as being the organizer of the double murder, Harold Sévère, former deputy mayor of Port-au-Prince, and Annette Auguste and Franco Camille, high ranking members of the party. Several of them, including Sévère, were previously arrested in the case but either were released or escaped from prison. Before the case could go to court, the main witness, former security chief at the National Palace, Oriel Jean was shot dead in the street on March 3, 2015.

Dominique’s assassination during the so-called democratic era is one of many political murders that have gone unsolved in a climate of impunity.  As of April 2015, fifteen years after Jean Dominique and Jean Claude Louissaint were murdered, justice has not yet been served.

RECORDINGS

Tribute to a Free Man (Ochan pou yon nonm lib), 31 July 2000

Editorial: They Called Me Cassandra (On m’avait appelé Cassandre), 6 November 2001

Editorial: Why Jean Dominique?, 9 April 2002

Editorial: “They called me Cassandra” (On m’avait appelé Cassandre)

Download: On m’avait appelé Cassandre

Nineteen months after the assassination of Jean Dominique and Jean Claude Louissaint, Michèle Montas penned this editorial about the increasing fragmentation of both the Lavalas movement and political opposition in Haiti, and political leaders’ growing  alienation from the needs and desires of the Haitian masses.  “They called him Cassandra,” she says of Jean Dominique, because like the prophet of Greek mythology, he foresaw these political shifts and spoke out against them, only to be silenced when his words proved true.

“For some, the solution is to destroy the thermometer in order to hide the fever.  To assassinate a journalist, to silence a defender of rights and freedom — will  that change the political situation?  It is clear today that only those critical voices might allow the ruling party to appreciate its proximity to the precipice toward which its leaders rush headlong, dragging with it the entire country.  Only those critical voices might allow the ruling party to save itself from collective seppuku.  And they called him Cassandra.” – Michèle Montas

 

Editorial: Why Jean Dominique?

Download: Why Jean Dominique?

Two years after the assassination of Jean Dominique, why is there such outrage over his death?  Why are people from all sectors of society demanding justice and fighting against impunity?  Michèle Montas answers these questions, and summarizes the judicial investigation so far.  Several groups — peasant organizations, human rights groups, grassroots organizations — have demonstrated their solidarity and demanded that the state and the justice system provide the means for the investigation to advance, in spite of many obstacles.  The Haitian press demands justice as well, because the case of Jean Dominique represents a “sword of Damocles” for freedom of speech in Haiti.  Two years later, they do not yet know who killed Jean Dominique nor who paid to have him killed.

Face à l’Opinion: Senator Yvon Toussaint on State Corruption, 10 Apr. 1996

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Download: Face à l’Opinion: Senatè Yvon Toussaint sou Koripsyon andan Leta Ayisyen, 10 avril 1996 (1)

Face à l’Opinion: Senatè Yvon Toussaint sou Koripsyon andan Leta Ayisyen, 10 avril 1996 (2)

DESCRIPTION

Senator Yvon Toussaint of the OPL party (Organisation du Peuple en Lutte) denounces widespread corruption within the government, specifically the misuse of funds and check fraud (“chèk zonbi”) by employees of the ONA (Office National d’Assurance) and several government ministries. He traces this culture of immorality and corruption to the Duvalier dictatorship: while the regime has changed, the expectation of unscrupulousness on the part of state employees has not. Jean Dominique criticizes the Lavalas party and post-return Aristide rather boldly. Yvon Toussaint was gunned down three years later, in front of his home, on March 1, 1999. His murder has gone unpunished. Interview Jean Dominique.

“Lavalas has, bit by bit, come to resemble what the Duvalieristes were in ’57 and ’58.” – Jean Dominique

“What you’re saying there, Senator… let me summarize it, as I understand it — because if I understand what you’re saying correctly, I have a hard time digesting it. Since the return [of Aristide], as the senator has said – heh. The One has come back to us, The One is back with us, and the first thing – tchhip! – participation is put on the sidelines. It’s not part of the soccer team anymore. Second, while participation’s not on the soccer team anymore, transparency isn’t on the soccer team, either. And there’s a third thing, too, for us to lament: justice is nowhere to be seen. That’s to say that the three rocks [that hold our cooking pot over the fire] that were part of the mandate of December 16, 1990 [when Aristide was first elected] – justice, transparency, and participation – all three of them, since October 15 [1994, when Aristide returned after the coup] – they have been dismissed. And where, where is our cooking pot [the Lavalas movement] now? Our pot, it has no rocks underneath it anymore… eh? This is a real problem we’ve got here…” – Jean Dominique

Face à l’Opinion: Senator Paul Denis on False Checks, Corruption, and Insecurity, 3 June 1996

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Download: Face à l’Opinion: Senatè Paul Denis sou fo chèk, koripsyon ak ensekirite, 03/06/1996 (1)

Face à l’Opinion: Senatè Paul Denis sou fo chèk, koripsyon ak ensekirite, 03/06/1996 (2)

DESCRIPTION

Senator Paul Denis discusses how some 60 million Haitian gourdes went missing from state coffers via “false checks”, through an intricate web of corruption and complicity between people in the Ministry of Finance and the Banque Nationale de la République d’Haïti. A few bank employees were arrested and subsequently released; a widespread investigation was never launched and no one was ultimately held accountable. Denis also discusses the increasing insecurity, violence, and kidnapping in Port-au-Prince, the role of the national police after the disbanding of the Haitian army, and inflation. Paul Denis was a member of the OPL party (Òganizasyon Pèp kap Lite, or the Struggling People’s Party), and later of the Convergence Démocratique.  He became Minister of Justice during the second term of President René Preval. Interview Jean Dominique.