Reporters Without Borders expressed disappointment today that exactly three years after radio journalist Brignol Lindor was murdered, his killers still walk free and that the new Haitian government has taken very little action on the case (or on that of murdered journalist Jean Dominique) despite its promises to a fact-finding mission from the worldwide press freedom organisation last June.
"You said the supreme court would rule on the two cases by the end of July, but since then only the Dominique case has been touched," secretary-general Robert Ménard said in a letter to Haitian prime minister Gérard Latortue.
"Even in that case, no new investigating judge has been appointed to resume the enquiry. We are astonished that a simple procedural matter is holding this up."
The organisation wrote to the justice minister on 3 November pointing out that "the lack of a decision in the Lindor case contradicts your expressed wish to see things move forward quickly." It called for "every effort to be made to ensure the supreme court rules as soon as possible."
"We regret that this letter was not answered despite satisfaction that our mission was able to meet the president, prime minister and other top officials during its visit," it said in today’s letter. "We hope the government will soon respond by taking action in these cases."
Reporters Without Borders produced a report on the fact-finding mission called "Press freedom returns: a gain to be nurtured." It stressed that solving the Brignol and Dominique murders 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."
18 months delay by the supreme court
Brignol Lindor, a presenter with Radio Echo 2000, in Petit-Goâve, was killed on 3 December 2001 by a group of men armed with stones and machetes and belonging to a pro-Lavalas group called Domi Nan Bwa. Despite confessions by some of them to the head of the Haitian Journalists’ Association, Guyler C. Delva, soon after the murder, none of them were arrested.
When the legal investigation ended in September 2002, 10 of the group were charged but the town’s deputy mayor was not, even though he had publicly called for the journalist to be killed. The Lindor family lawyer, Jean-Joseph Exumé, says none of the group are now in prison.
The case has been before the supreme court since spring 2003, when the family took it there in an effort to be formally named a civil party in the case, a status refused them by the lower appeals court.
A simple formality
Jean Dominique, the country’s best-known journalist and political commentator, was shot dead on 3 April 2000 in the courtyard of the radio station he ran, Radio Haiti Inter. The station’s security guard, Jean-Claude Louissaint, was also killed. Ever since then, virtually all state institutions have thrown up obstacles to solving the murder, which Aristide associates are thought to have committed.
The legal investigation ended on 21 March 2003 with the charging of six people, already under arrest, for carrying out the murder. Nobody was named as the person who ordered them to do it however. Both Dominique’s widow, Michèle Montas, and the six accused appealed against the investigation report. The Port-au-Prince appeals court ordered a new enquiry on 4 August that year and the release of three of the suspects. The other three appealed against the decision to the supreme court, automatically suspending the start of a new enquiry.
The court rejected their appeals on 1 July this year. Since then, it has been up to the government legal representative attached to the court to send the case file to his opposite number with the main lower court so its chief, Jean-Joseph Lebrun, can appoint another investigating judge who will reopen the case. But five months after the supreme court ruling, this simple administrative formality has not been carried out.