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25842: Concannon: (news)Half-Hour For Haiti: Release Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste (fwd)
From: Brian Concannon Jr. <email@example.com>
July 26, 2005
Half-Hour for Haiti: Release Political Prisoner and Democracy Activist Fr.
Gérard Jean-Juste (Again)
Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti
First the good news: our mobilization is having an impact. The
grassroots outrage at the July 6 Cite Soleil shootings by UN Peacekeepers
forced the UN to abandon its claim of no civilian casualties, issue an
apology and even announce an investigation. Second, the movement for
hum\an rights in Haiti is accelerating. The last 10 days have seen
protests against the Cite Soleil killings in 15 cities in Haiti, Brazil,
Canada, France and the U.S. Amnesty International has declared Fr.
Jean-Juste a prisoner of conscience,and according to U.S. government
sources the Embassy in Port-au-Prince has been inundated with calls about
The bad news is that the repression in Haiti continues to mount as the
elections scheduled for October, November and December approach. Catholic
activist Paul Raymond was illegally expelled from his refuge in the
Dominican Republic and illegally imprisoned in Haiti on Friday, July 22.
Fr. Jean-Juste appeared in court last Wednesday, and although the judge
found no reason to hold him, the police arrested him the next day, July
21, again illegally, and he remains in jail.
Fr. Jean-Juste?s most recent arrest has nothing to do with fighting crime.
He was arrested after he had been attacked by a mob while officiating at
the funeral of writer Jacques Roche. The police initially assured him he
was in protective custody, and then claimed he was charged with Roche?s
murder. When it was pointed out that Fr. Jean-Juste was in Miami at the
time of the murder, the charges were changed to kidnapping. No judge
issued an arrest warrant, and Fr. Jean-Juste has not been allowed access
to a judge, despite a constitutional requirement that he see a judge
within 48 hours. To their discredit, United Nations Civilian Police
participated in the illegal arrest, by handing Fr. Jean-Juste to the
Haitian police without ensuring that he would be treated legally.
Fr. Jean-Juste?s arrest is well timed to silence the Interim Haitian
Government?s (IGH) most prominent opponent in the lead up to the
elections. Fr. Jean-Juste has insisted that there can be no fair
campaigning or voting while hundreds of political prisoners fill the jails
and police regularly open fire on legal anti-government demonstrations.
Most Haitians agree with him: less than two weeks before the end of the
registration process on August 9, less than 15% of eligible voters have
even registered. Many of those who have registered stated that they did
so because registration is required for the national identity card and
that they have no intention to vote.
Fr. Jean-Juste?s detention prevented him from speaking out about Sunday?s
National Voter Registration Day. It prevented him from commenting on
yesterday?s announcement by former Lavalas party legislators now close to
the IGH and the U.S. that the party would participate in elections (the
Lavalas party denied that the announcement was true, see Aristide's Party
to Run in Haiti Elections). His continuing detention will continue to
silence Haiti?s most influential political dissident.
The United States Government is the principal patron of both the IGH and
its efforts to marginalize the Lavalas party. The U.S. could free Fr.
Jean-Juste and stop the repression immediately. The U.S. installed Prime
Minister Gerard Latortue, who had lived in Florida for decades. America
tax dollars fund the lion?s share of the IGH budget, American guns arm the
repressive police, and American diplomatic support shelters the IGH from
the consequences of its human rights record. U.S. Assistant Secretary of
State Roger Noriega and other American officials have pushed both the IGH
and UN to take a harder line against Lavalas supporters, while encouraging
the former legislators to jump abandon the party leadership?s call to
boycott elections unless the repression stops.
Action: Please write, fax or call the U.S. Ambassador to Haiti, James
Foley, to insist that the U.S. ensure that Fr. Jean-Juste is freed
immediately, and that the repression against political dissidents stops.
The important point to make is that the U.S. cannot continue to hide
behind claims that it is urging the Haitian government to follow the law.
A sample letter is below. Faxing may be difficult; Ambassador Foley?s
telephone number is 011-509-223-4711.
Fax: 011-509-223-9038 or 011-509-223-1641
Hon. James B. Foley
U.S. Ambassador to Haiti
3400 Port-au-Prince Place
Washington, D.C. 20521-3400
Dear Ambassador Foley:
I am writing to urge you to ensure that Fr. Gérard Jean-Juste is
immediately freed from his illegal detention, and that the IGH immediately
stops its campaign of repression against political dissidents.
As you know, Fr. Jean-Juste was arrested without a warrant on July 21,
after he had been attacked at a funeral service, and is being held
illegally. You also know that this is merely the latest in a long series
of politically-motivated attacks against Fr. Jean-Juste, including seven
weeks of illegal incarceration last fall, and interrogations by police and
a judge on July 15, 18 and 20.
I appreciate that your Embassy has spoken to the Interim Government of
Haiti about political prisoners in the past, but this is simply not
enough. The persistence of the persecution of Fr. Jean-Juste and the
holding of political prisoners illegally for more than sixteen months
demonstrates that the IGH has little respect for the Haitian Constitution
and international law. Ordinary moral suasion obviously does not work
The United States Government, as the IGH?s principal patron, has the
leverage to ensure justice for Fr. Jean-Juste and Haiti?s other political
prisoners. You personally implemented a series of sanctions and stronger
measures against Haiti?s elected government in 2003 and 2004 because you
opposed some of that government?s policies. Failing to use those, and
even more forceful measures in response to the IGH?s campaign of terror
against political dissidents that is shocking the world?s conscience
implies support for or acquiescence in the repression.
I am confident that your intervention could ensure that Fr. Jean-Juste
returns to his parish and resumes his neighborhood feeding programs and
other important work. Please set an example that justice matters by doing
everything in your power, including withholding all economic, political
and weapons support, unless the IGH immediately releases Fr. Jean-Juste.
Half-Hour for Haiti Alerts are issued every week by the Institute for
Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH). For more information on Fr.
Jean-Juste?s persecution, the Half-Hour For Haiti Program,or human rights
in Haiti, see www.ijdh.org.