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Haiti13 May 2008

Finger pointed at US interposition force in the 2004 death of journalist Ricardo Ortega

An official Haitian investigation has officially blamed the foreign interposition force present in Haiti after the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on 29 February 2004 for the murder of Ricardo Ortega of the privately-owned Spanish TV channel Antena 3.

The conclusions of Haitian judge, Bernard Saint-Vil, were released by the Spanish journalist’s parents, José Luis Ortega and Charo Fernández, after their visit to Haiti, on 9 May 2008.

Ortega was shot dead in Port-au-Prince on 7 March 2004, before the arrival in the country of the UN Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (Minustah) on 1st June 2004.

Reporters Without Borders joins with the family in asking for the investigation to be continued at an international level.

“The conclusions of the judge, Bernard Saint-Vil, invalidate the theory, which has long been circulated, that the bullets which fatally wounded Ricardo Ortega came from the supporters of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, during demonstrations after he was ousted from power,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

“Considering the events go back some time, the circumstances of the death and the implication of a foreign military force, the continuation of the investigation at an international level and in particular in the United States, might be difficult. That is why we agree with the request of Ricardo Ortega’s parents for the Spanish government to mobilise the governments of countries represented in the interim force at the time of the killing”, it added.

Ortega had arrived in Haiti as special correspondent for Antena 3 on 28 February 2004, one day before the departure of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. He was fatally wounded during fighting between supporters and opponents of the ousted president on 7 March, when he and his interpreter went to the aid of an American colleague who had been wounded in crossfire. Ortega was hit in the body as he left the patio of a building where he had taken refuge and was crossing the road. He was pronounced dead soon after his arrival at the Canapé-Vert hospital. His interpreter was also killed.

The investigation at first focused on armed supporters of Jean-Bertrand Aristide but witness accounts gathered by a journalist colleague on Antena 3, Jesús Martín, who was sent to Haiti six months later, confirmed the thesis that the shooting had come from US troops “without anything happening that could have been interpreted at the time as a threat”, the family said in a statement.

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