Five years after journalist Jean Dominique’s murder, it is clear that Haiti’s interim authorities have not kept their promise to revive the investigation, Reporters Without Borders said today, voicing outrage in an open letter to President Boniface Alexandre and Prime Minister Gérard Latortue at repeated judicial negligence and appealing anew for an end to impunity in this case.
The director of radio Haïti Inter and a respected journalist and political analyst, Dominique was gunned down in the courtyard of his radio station on 3 April 2000 along with the station’s caretaker, Jean-Claude Louissaint.
"Five years later, the climate of impunity persists," Reporters Without Borders said in its letter. "The government that succeeded that of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has failed to establish the rule of law in Haiti and its handling of the Dominique case alone is ample evidence of this.
"We have just learned that one of Dominique’s presumed murderers, known as ’Ti Lou’, escaped from the national penitentiary in February. Was this just one more case of negligence, or was it part of a new strategy for preventing the truth emerging about Dominique’s murder?
"For nearly four years, almost all the institutions of the state have obstructed the investigation. The police did not execute arrest warrants. Two witnesses died suspiciously after being arrested. The senate refused to lift the immunity of one of its members. President Aristide refused to extend the term of the investigating judge in charge of the case. There was an attempt on the life of Dominique’s widow, Michèle Montas. Threats forced Haïti Inter to close.
"A judicial investigation concluded on 21 March 2003 with the indictment and imprisonment of six alleged perpetrators but did not identify the instigators. Both Dominique’s widow and the accused filed appeals. On 4 August 2004, the Port-au-Prince appeal court released three of the presumed killers and ordered a new investigation.
"After 11 months of complete paralysis, a Reporters Without Borders delegation in June 2004 obtained your promise and that of justice minister Bernard Gousse to relaunch the judicial process. The supreme court seemed to endorse this promise on 1 July 2004 when it rejected the appeal of three of the defendants (now fugitives) and ordered the appointment of a new investigating judge.
"This hope was doubly disappointed. Firstly, our organization learned with dismay on 4 December that 150 of the 190 documents in the Dominique case file disappeared after the supreme court’s ruling. These documents were nonetheless at the Port-au-Prince court clerk’s office. Secondly, it took eight months for the new investigating juge, Jean Perez Paul, to be appointed.
"The escape of the presumed killer ’Ti Lou’ adds to the sense of bitterness and disgust at the Haitian judicial system’s inaction, which concerns not just the Dominique case. The murder of Radio Echo 2000 journalist Brignol Lindor on 3 December 2001 in Petit-Goâve has never been solved and the case has been paralysed at the supreme court since March 2003. The fatal shooting of Spanish journalist Ricardo Ortega of Antena 3 has also never been clarified.
"This is why we again remind you, President Alexandre and Prime Minister Latortue, of the promise you gave to Reporters Without Borders nearly a year ago. That impunity would end. That the Haitian judicial system would recover some credibility. And that, as the rule of law was restored, press freedom would finally take hold in Haiti."