Reporters Without Borders received the following responses from Senate vice-president Rudolph Boulos and Harold Sévère to its press release about the Jean Dominique case on 2 April, on the eve of the eighth anniversary of his murder.
“I have read with great interest your press release on the unfortunate affair of the murder of the journalist Jean Leopold Dominique. Regarding the references to me in this press release, I find it necessary to make the following corrections to help you better understand the complexities of this case’s development.
As a senator of the Republic, I have always answered the questions of the investigating magistrate in this affair and have afforded him adequate ways and means of obtaining my clarifications. On two occasions we agreed on a meeting. He did not show up, and through my lawyers sent me a list of handwritten questions. I sent the list back with answers to the questions.
In your press release you mention that Mr. Dominique shortly before his murder "spoke on the air" about a medication produced by the Pharval laboratories that caused the death of a hundred children in 1996. For my part, I can tell you that hundreds of journalists, government ministers, and the president of Haiti himself also expressed themselves on the Pharval issue at the time. These repeated interventions did not result in the murder of any of them. The radio broadcasts of Mr. Dominique would not constitute a motive for an act as odious as his murder.
In your press release, you mention that Mr. Harold Severe, "now in self-imposed exile," had been arrested as one of the "suspected instigators of the murder." For my part, I inform you that Mr. Severe was an employee of the National Palace at the time of the murder of Mr. Dominique. And to conclude let me recall for you the declarations of Mr. Guy Philippe, questioned in September 2000 on the Jean Dominique affair. To the question of Mr. Leo Reyes, a Dominican journalist of the newspaper El Nacional, "Who killed Jean Dominique?" his response was, "Only the government in Haiti has the capacity to assassinate". ”
“I was interested to read your press release linking my name many times to the case of Mr. Jean Léopold Dominique’s murder, and to my great surprise I have just learned of a letter sent to you on 3 April by Senator Rudolph Boulos that also mentions my name as being a National Palace employee at the time.
For your information, I have never been in exile. I am circulating freely in my country. My arrest on 14 March 2004 at Port-au-Prince airport has never been mentioned in the Jean Dominique case. On the contrary, the Haitian judicial authorities found nothing to reproach me with. As regards Senator Boulos’s response mentioning that at the time of Jean Dominique’s murder I was then at the National Palace, I wonder if people have all their wits about them because, at that time, I was working at the National Insurance Office (ONA) as head of logistics.
Contrary to what you said in your press release, I was questioned by investigating judge Bernard Saint-Vil in 2003, following an article in the anti-Lavalas newspaper Haïti Observateur that mentioned my name as a person who could provide information about the Jean Dominique case. Judge Saint-Vil’s questions had only one aim: to shed light on this murder.
I was arrested on 14 March 2004 and released in December 2005 on the decision of investigating judge Brédy Fabien, a decision confirmed by the then chief prosecutor, Daniel Audain. This release was annulled by the country’s then political authorities. I was questioned again by judge Jocelyne Janvier, who did not press any charges against me, and I was released again on 15 April 2006 as a result of a judicial decision.
I do not understand why people persist in singling me out, as I spent 25 months locked up in a Port-au-Prince prison for no reason, without anyone being able to tell me why I was being held. I strongly and firmly condemn this machination aimed at discrediting me. I suggest that you make no more mention of my name in your press articles about this case.”
2.04.08 - Eight years of inexplicable impunity in the murder of Jean Dominique
On the eve of the eighth anniversary of radio Haïti Inter director Jean Dominique’s murder, Reporters Without Borders today said it was baffled by the failure to render justice in this case, especially as the existence of a clear political and judicial will to combat impunity in the past two years has resulted in convictions in two other cases of murders of journalists.
Dominique and Haïti Inter’s caretaker, Jean-Claude Louissaint, were gunned down in the courtyard of the station on 3 April 2000.
“In the course of 2007, there were two convictions in the case of Brignol Lindor, the Radio Echo 2000 journalist who was murdered in Petit-Goâve in 2001, and one conviction in the case of Jacques Roche, the editor of the cultural section of the daily Le Matin, who was kidnapped and murdered in Port-au-Prince in 2005,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“At the same time, investigations into more recent cases led to quick arrests,” the press freedom organisation continued. “And on 10 August 2007, President René Préval, a friend of Dominique’s, installed an Independent Commission to Support Investigations into Murders of Journalists (CIAPEAJ) in the presence of his widow, Michèle Montas. The political and judicial will is there, and we now have proof that impunity is not inevitable.”
The organisation added: “This makes it all the harder to explain why the Dominique case is alone in going nowhere, eight years after his murder. Political factors may have had an impact but they offer no justification for the failure to ever solve this case.”
The investigation into the murder of Dominique and Louissaint concluded on 21 March 2003. It resulted in six men being charged and arrested: Dymsley “Ti Lou” Milien, Jeudi “Guimy” Jean-Daniel, Philippe Markington, Ralph Léger, Freud Junior Demarattes and Ralph Joseph. The charges against the last three were dismissed on 4 August 2003, after they appealed against the indictment.
Ti Lou, Guimy and Markington managed to escape during a prison mutiny in February 2005. Markington fled to Argentina, from where he contacted Reporters Without Borders to insist on his innocence. Ti Lou and Guimy went back to being gang leaders in the Port-au-Prince neighbourhood of Martissant. Ti Lou is now dead.
Former Port-au-Prince deputy mayor Harold Sévère (now in self-imposed exile) and Ostide “Douze” Pétion were arrested on 14 March 2004 as the suspected instigators of the murder. Annette Auguste, who was already being held in connection with other criminal activity, was also accused of involvement on 10 May 2005.
But none of these three has ever been interrogated. There has never been any attempt to verify presumed hit-man Ti Lou’s statement that he was paid 10,000 dollars to murder Dominique. And the death of two witnesses in suspicious circumstances has never been explained.
The supreme court ordered the case reopened on 29 June 2004. But it took nearly a year for a new investigating judge to be appointed, on 3 April 2005, exactly five years after the murder, and the new judge has not had access to the files and has not been given the necessary resources. In all, six judges have been in charge of the investigation, one after another.
The case suffered another setback on 4 April 2007 with the murder of Robert Lecorps, a businessman who was also suspected of involvement in Dominique’s murder. Police superintendent Daniel Ulysse, who was head of the judicial police at the time of Dominique’s murder, was arrested on 10 December 2007 on suspicion of having obstructed the investigation. But the police took nearly a month to execute the warrant for his arrest that was issued by judge Fritzner Fils-Aimé, now in charge of the case.
It has never been possible to corroborate the statements of former senator Dany Toussaint, who has often been cited as a suspect in the case. And since the start of this year, Judge Fils-Aimé has been trying to obtain a statement from senate vice-president Rudolph Boulos, the owner of the pharmaceutical company Pharval.
Shortly before his murder, Dominique spoke on the air about Afébril, a contaminated cough mixture produced and distributed by Pharval that allegedly caused the death of about 100 children in 1996. The CIAPEAJ, the commission created by President Préval, wrote to the senate president on 17 February calling for Senator Boulos to respond to the summonses issued by Fils-Aimé. In a reply one week later, Boulos refused on the grounds of “parliamentary immunity.”