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Haïti24 January 2002

Judge’s mandate is not renewed in Jean Dominique murder case

image 192 x 159 (JPEG) Reporters Without Borders (RSF) protested to Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide today against the non-renewal of the investigating judge’s mandate in the Jean Dominique murder case. The judge, Claudy Gassant, was replaced on 23 January by three others, Josua Agnant, Bernard Sainvil and Joachim Saint-Clair. RSF secretary-general Robert Ménard said in a letter to President Aristide that "the murder of Jean Dominique and the numerous obstructions to Judge Gassant’s investigation are a symbol of the impunity that exists in Haiti. With the replacement of Gassant, there is now virtually no hope of finding out the truth about the killing, especially if the authorities continue to block the investigation." RSF praises the professionalism and seriousness with which Judge Gassant carried out his enquiry in the face of constant threats and pressure. Jean Dominique’s widow, Michèle Montas, and many Haitian journalists’ associations had called for the judge’s mandate to be renewed.

RSF learns that President Aristide replaced Gassant on 23 January with Judges Josua Agnant, Bernard Sainvil and Joachim Saint-Clair. Gassant, whose term expired on 4 January, has been in the United States since 9 January. He had replaced Judge Jean Sénat Fleury as the investigating judge in September 2000 after Fleury resigned for reasons of personal security.

The progress of Judge Gassant’s investigation has been constantly obstructed. His naming of Sen. Dany Toussaint, a member of the ruling Fanmi Lavalas party, as the main suspect in the murder, was followed by numerous threats against the judge by grassroots organisations. Several witnesses of the murder have also died in suspicious circumstances that point directly to the police and the Haitian authorities. Gassant was also obliged to conduct his enquiry amid continual police harassment. The last of a long list of these was on 21 December 2001, when a presidential palace security vehicle deliberately crashed into the judge’s car and threatened him with a gun. In a report on the case on 2 April 2001, RSF deplored the fact that the enquiry had several times almost been shelved. In June 2000, Jean Wilner Lalanne, suspected of having been a link between the masterminds of the murder and those who carried it out, died in suspicious circumstances after being arrested. In January 2001, the senate opposed Judge Gassant’s application to question Sen. Toussaint about the murder.

Jean Dominique, who was well-known for his independence on the air, was gunned down in the courtyard of his radio station, Radio Haiti Inter, on 3 April 2000. Targets of his criticism had included former Duvalierists and soldiers as well as the country’s powerful families (the "bourgeoisie") and, not long before he died, those he suspected inside Fanmi Lavalas of trying to "divert the movement away from its original ideals."



In this country
3 December - Haiti
Seven years after radio journalist’s murder, convicted killers still at large
13 May - Haiti
Finger pointed at US interposition force in the 2004 death of journalist Ricardo Ortega
11 April - Haiti
Responses from Sen. Rudolph Boulos and Harold Sévère to Reporters Without Borders release on Jean Dominique murder
25 January - Haiti
Victory over impunity “within reach” in Lindor murder after seven are convicted in absentia
13 December - Haiti
Two gang members get life for journalist’s murder, a third is acquitted

in the annual report
Haiti - Annual Report 2008
Haiti - Annual report 2007
Haiti - Annual report 2006


In this country
7 November - International
Leaders at Ibero-American summit urged to defend press freedom
15 June - Antigua and Barbuda
Two CARICOM journalists expelled without justification
10 May - International
Leaders attending EU - Latin America summit urged to do more for press freedom
13 October - International
Call for vigilance and responsibility from leaders at Ibero-American summit
17 November - IBERO-AMERICAN SUMMIT
18-19 November - Costa Rica

Cuba and Colombia: a nightmare for journalists

in the annual report

reports
14 March 2008 - Cuba
No surrender by independent journalists, five years on from “black spring”
5 June 2007 - Venezuela
Closure of Radio Caracas Televisión consolidates media hegemony
22 May 2007 - Colombia
Paramilitary "black eagles" poised to swoop down on press
archives

Americas press releases
3 June - United States
President Obama urged to raise freedom of expression in his Cairo speech
29 May - Venezuela
Open letter to President Hugo Chavez to protest about official hounding of Globovisión
27 May - Mexico
Crime reporter abducted and killed in Durango state
20 May - Cuba
Anyone can browse the Internet... unless they are Cuban
15 May - Cuba
Journalist gets three-year jail sentence

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