Reporters Without Borders welcomed an appeal court ruling on the murder case of journalist Jean Dominique that will allow the stalled proceedings to resume after being blocked in court for nearly 11 months.
"The authorities have kept their promise," said Robert Ménard, secretary-general of the international press freedom organisation, whose delegation met President Boniface Alexandre and other top government members on this and other cases in June. At its June meeting with President Alexandre, Prime minister Gérard Latortue and justice minister Bernard Gousse the organisation was assured that the appeal court would rule on the cases of murdered journalists Jean Dominique and Brignol Lindor before the end of the judicial year at the end of July.
"This decision confirms that, in connection with these cases, the attitude of the new authorities is totally different from that of the former government. But it still does not mean an end to impunity," said Ménard. "A new examining magistrate needs to be named and to have the means to ensure those who carried out and those who ordered the killings are punished," he said.
Contacted by Reporters Without Borders, the Justice Minister said that the Brignol Lindor case was "proceeding well" and the appeal court ruling would be made before the end of July. He added that he had received an intermediate report on the investigation into the 7 March death of Spanish reporter Ricardo Ortega and that it would be sent to the Spanish authorities next week.
In a report published on 6 July 2004, Reporters Without Borders stressed that the handling of the Dominique and Lindor murder cases was "crucial to making journalists feel secure again. Solving these crimes would show that a return to the rule of law is under way for the whole society as well as for journalists, who have no defence against armed groups," it said. "The authorities will have kept all their promises when the appeal court rules on the Lindor case and provides information on the investigation into the death of Spanish reporter Ricardo Ortega", he concluded.
On 1st July 2004, the appeal court rejected an appeal by three of the suspects, who have all been on the run since the fall of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. An examining magistrate will now have to be named by the head of the lower court Jean-Joseph Lebrun.
Jean Dominique, who ran Radio Haïti Inter, was shot dead on 3 April 2000 along with the station’s security guard, Jean-Claude Louissaint. After four years in which every obstacle was put in the way of the investigation, it finally concluded on 21 March 2003. Six people, already in custody, were charged with carrying out the murder but no-one was charged with having ordered it.
Brignol Lindor, who presented a programme on Radio Echo 2000, a small radio station in Petit-Goave (70 kms south-east of the capital Port-au-Prince), died in a hail of stones and machete blows on 3 December 2001 at the hands of members of the Domi Nan Bwa, organisation close to the ruling Fanmi Lavalas party. The file has been with the appeal court since March 2003.
Ricardo Ortega, corespondent for Antena 3, was fatally wounded while covering a demonstration on 7 March 2004 against then President Aristide. He died shortly after arrival in hospital. On 8 June, Justice Minister, Bernard Gousse, told Reporters Without Borders that he had called for a first report on the progress of the investigation into the shooting. He promised to send it to the Spanish representatives in Port-au-Prince as soon as he received it.