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: Gilles Danroc on Justice, Peace, and Everyday Repression Under the Military Regime, 1991-1994, 10 July 1995

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Face à l’Opinion: Gilles Danroc sou Jistis, Lape, ak Represyon Kotidyèn anba Rejim Militè, 1991-1994, 10/8/1995 (1)

Face à l’Opinion: Gilles Danroc sou Jistis, Lape, ak Represyon Kotidyèn anba Rejim Militè, 1991-1994 (2)

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Belgian priest, writer, and human rights activist Gilles Danroc headed the “Commission Justice et Paix” the human rights arm of the Catholic Church in Haiti, in 1995. In the Dossier répression au quotidien en Haiti, written with Daniel Roussière, he assesses the situation of everyday repression of civilians under the Cédras military regime of 1991-1994, with particular attention to the repression of peasants in the Artibonite/Gonaïves region, the state of rule of law and addresses issues of freedom, justice, reconciliation and poverty. Danroc argues that Haitian society is structured on repression and terror, and the subsequent voluntary silencing and forgetting of that repression, and that reconciliation will only be possible if there is an active search for truth and justice. Interview Jean Dominique.

“Reconciliation, in my opinion, is when a society has accepted the truth and desires justice. A people without memory, they are not a people at all. So if Haiti wants to have a future, it must have a memory that is structured, solid, clear, and luminous.” – Gilles Danroc

***

“Reconciliation cannot happen without rule of law. Law — the constitution — is higher than mere power. It’s not power that makes the law, it’s the law that makes power.” – Gilles Danroc

Face à l’Opinion: Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine on Justice, Impunity and Memory in the Aftermath of the Coup Years, 16 Dec. 1997

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Face à l’Opinion: Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine sou Jistis, Inpinite ak Memwa Aprè Ane Koudeta yo, 16/12/1997 (1)

Face à l’Opinion: Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine sou Jistis, Inpinite ak Memwa Aprè Ane Koudeta yo, 16/12/1997 (2)

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From 1995 to 2000, the Fondation 30 septembre led weekly demonstrations throughout the country demanding justice for victims of the 1991-1994 military coup. Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, human rights defender, psychologist and founder of the group, discusses the Fondation’s battle against impunity and forgetting, the process of documenting the victims and their testimonies, with particular emphasis on seeking justice and reparations for the victims of Raboteau and other massacres. Ten years after this interview, in August 2007, Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine disappeared under mysterious circumstances; his body was never found. Interview Jean Dominique.

 

“It is a battle of memory against forgetfulness, because we think that we cannot build the democracy we want for this country if we continue to erase what happened. It is impossible. It is impossible.” – Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine

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“We believe that we must say that the work we are doing is not just for the dead. We are doing this work for those who had loved ones who were victims – the relatives of the victims – and for the victims who survived. And for the entire population, so they don’t forget what happened. Because this represents a huge danger to us, to our society, if society forgets what happened. We risk living through it again. And who can claim, today, that Haiti is immune to another coup d’état? Who can claim, today, that society has set up barriers to a coup d’état ever happening in this country again?” – Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine

***

Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine: Forgetting is not democratic. Forgetting is something that encourages, that favors the executioners. When we forget, it’s like we’re signing a blank check over to the executioners.

Jean Dominique: What you mean by that, Lovinsky, is that when victims forget, when society forgets, the executioners can repaint their faces, make themselves over to appear to be just like newborn babies, like innocents, and with that mask of innocence, they can get themselves in a place where they can start all over again. That’s what you’re saying.

Face à l’Opinion: Rodolfo Mattarollo: OAS/UN Report on Human Rights in the Coup Years , 11 Oct. 1999

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Face à l’Opinion: Rodolfo Mattarollo: Rapò OEA/ONU sou Dwa Moun an Ayiti, 11/10/1999 (1)

Face à l’Opinion: Rodolfo Mattarollo: Rapò OEA/ONU sou Dwa Moun an Ayiti, 11/10/1999 (2)

DESCRIPTION

Rodolfo Mattarollo discusses the results of an OAS/UN report on the state of human rights, justice, and impunity in Haiti in the aftermath of the coup d’état and the brutal regime of Raoul Cédras (1991-1994), during which an untold number of people were killed, disappeared, raped, and tortured. Mattarollo focuses on the need to establish and document the truth – which is particularly complicated in Haiti, because so many of the victims were poor, anonymous peasants – and on having solid judicial structures and legal institutions in the fight against impunity. He speaks particularly of the Raboteau massacre of 1994, in which military forces gunned down pro-Aristide demonstrators in the Raboteau neighborhood of Gonaïves. Mattarollo, who was exiled from his homeland of Argentina during that country’s military regime, was lawyer, human rights defender, and Adjunct Executive Director of the International Civilian Mission in Haiti (MICIVIH) from 1996 to 2000. As the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) ambassador to Haiti from 2010, Dr. Matarollo provided active support to the plaintiffs in the judicial case against former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier.  Interview Jean Dominique.

For more information: Rodolfo Mattarollo: Rien n’a été en vain (in French)

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)

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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.

Face à l’Opinion: Anderson Charles, Jean François Germain, and Anosthène Eliscar on Peasant Organizations and Agricultural Policy in Haiti, 17 Jan. 1996

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Download: Face à l’Opinion: Anderson Charles, Jean Francois Germain, ak Anosthene Eliscar sou Mouvman Peyizan ak Politik Agrikòl an Ayiti (1)

Face à l’Opinion: Anderson Charles, Jean Francois Germain, ak Anosthene Eliscar sou Mouvman Peyizan ak Politik Agrikòl an Ayiti, 17/01/1996 (2)

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Three members of peasant organizations, Anderson Charles, Jean François Germain, and Anosthène Eliscar, discuss agricultural policy, the current situation of peasant farmers in Haiti, their dreams and goals, and the resources available to bring those dreams to fruition. They discuss, in particular, the problems facing national agricultural production as it is threatened and undersold by cheap imports from abroad, waste of resources, the abuse and exploitation of peasant farmers by big landowners, the seizure of peasant land and questions of land ownership, violence against peasants by the army and the National Police of Haiti (PNH), and the peasantry’s role in participatory democracy under Aristide. Interview Jean Dominique.

“If we had a private sector that was truly patriotic or nationalist, and would work on these things, it would let people take a break and breathe. That means creating a plan both for the peasant sector, and for city people, and we will be able to grow more food to eat, and in that way, we will no longer depend on imports from overseas.” — Jean-François Germain

 

Face à l’Opinion: Magalie Marcelin and Marie-Laurence Jocelyn Lassègue on Violence Against Women, 19 Nov. 1997

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Face à l’Opinion: Magalie Marcelin ak Marie-Laurence Jocelyn Lassègue sou Vyolans kont Fanm 19/11/1997 (1)

Face à l’Opinion: Magalie Marcelin ak Marie-Laurence Jocelyn Lassègue sou Vyolans kont Fanm 19/11/1997 (2)

DESCRIPTION

Feminist leaders Magalie Marcelin (the founder of the women’s rights organization and women’s shelter, Kay Fanm, who died in the January 12, 2010 earthquake) and Marie-Laurence Jocelyn Lassègue (former Minister of Women’s Affairs and former Minister of Culture and Communications) speak about violence against women. The speakers explain that violence against women goes beyond rape and physical violence: it is systematic, and has to do with how men are socialized, with power relations, and the structure of the justice system in Haiti. They discuss efforts to reform the justice system to hold perpetrators accountable and to encourage long-silenced women to speak up about gender-based violence. Interview Jean Dominique.

“Yes, it’s a question of power. When we say it’s a question of power, that means who has the power to make decisions, who has the power to exercise their will as they please, who has the power to make others respect their authority.” – Magalie Marcelin

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“There is a banalization, and that banalization is not at all banal, Jean. The sense in which it is not banal is that it is a tool that is in place to maintain the status quo.” – Magalie Marcelin

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“When we speak of violence against women, and the court system against violence against women, that’s a court that exists to save women, and to save men, too, in that sense that they will become more human.” – Magalie Marcelin

Face à l’Opinion: Father Rénald Clérismé on the First Anniversary of Jean-Marie Vincent’s Assassination, 24 Aug. 1995

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Face à l’Opinion: Pè Rénald Clérismé sou Premyè Anivèsè Asasina Jean-Marie Vincent, 24/8/1995 (1)

Face à l’Opinion: Pè Rénald Clérismé sou Premyè Anivèsè Asasina Jean-Marie Vincent, 24/8/1995 (2)

DESCRIPTION

Father Jean Marie Vincent, a Catholic priest who founded the peasant rights association “Tet Kole Ti Peyizan Ayisyen” in the small town of Jean Rabel, was assassinated on August 28, 1994 under the military regime. On the first anniversary of Father Vincent’s death, Jean Renald Clérismé, a former Catholic priest (and eventual Minister of Foreign Affairs of Haiti from 2006- 2008) remembers Jean Marie Vincent, his devotion to the peasantry (“Jean-Marie grew up with a boundless love for the peasantry”) and his commitment to liberation theology and universal dignity for all. Clérismé also discusses development and underdevelopment, corruption, and the role of the international community in Haiti, as well as Aristide’s return and the US and UN occupations of 1994-1995. Clérismé explains that in order to truly honor Jean-Marie Vincent’s memory, they must seek justice not only for him but for all the victims of the regime, including the poor and invisible. Interview Jean Dominique.

“Everyone is demanding justice for Janboul [Jean-Marie], justice for [Antoine] Izméry, justice for [Guy] Malary, because those people were visible. But a penniless unfortunate on the street, that they seize and they beat, and they take him and rape his brothers, rape his sisters, rape his mother – those people, too, they deserve to be commemorated, for us to say that they were people too and to put them together with Janboul. We can’t honor Janboul if we don’t put those people’s problems together with the commemoration we’re doing for him.” – Rénald Clérismé