|Mr.Colin L. Powell
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
Washington, D.C. 20520
United States of America
Paris, 11 January 2002
The Damoclès Network, an association fighting against impunity and Reporters sans frontières (RSF - Reporters without Borders), an international organisation that defends press freedom request the Cabinet of the European Union and the United States Congress to impose individual sanctions on Haitian officials and politicians that, by omission, hinder all inquiries aimed at shedding a light on the assassinations of Jean Dominique, director of Radio Haiti Inter, assassinated on the 3rd of April, 2000 and Brignol Lindor, a journalist working for Radio Echo 2000, assassinated on the 3rd of December, 2001.
The two organisations are extremely concerned with the fact that the impunity that reigns in these two cases is being served as a strategy by the authorities to muzzle journalists that are considered to be too critical towards the government.
The attacks being carried out against press freedom are systematic. In 2001alone, forty journalists were attacked or threatened. Those responsible for these acts of violence, in most cases partisans of Fanmi Lavalas (currently in power), were not harassed. Over a dozen journalists have also been forced into exile.
On the 3rd of December, the journalist Brignol Lindor, in charge of the news of the radio station Radio Echo 2000, a private station in Petit-Goâve, was killed by stones and machetes. On the 30th of November, Dumay Bony, deputy mayor of Petit-Goâve, cited the journalist and called for a system of "zero tolerance " to be enforced against members of the opposition. Launched by president Aristide, the policy of "zero tolerance" gives a free hand to policemen to deal with any offenders caught red-handed. According to an inquiry carried out by the Association of Haitian Journalists (AJH), members from the popular organisation, "Domi Nan Bwa", close to Lavalas, admitted having murdered Brignol Lindor. The public prosecutor’s office of Petit Goâve issued nine arrest warrants to members of "Domi Nan Bwa" as well as to Dumay Bony himself. To this day not one of the arrest warrants have been put into effect.
Impunity also continues in the case of Jean Dominique, a journalist and political analyst shot down on the 3rd of April 2000 in the courtyard of his radio station Radio Haiti Inter. Known for his independant tone, Jean Dominique criticized former supporters of Duvalier, the military and prominent bourgeoisie families of whom he suspected, within the party of Lavalas, the party of the president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, just before dying, of wishing to divert attention away from "the movement towards his principles". The inquiry into his murder has confronted a number of obstacles and has not yet been accomplished to this day.
The investigating magistrate in charge of handling the case, Jean-Sénat Fleury, dropped the case after some pressure. On the 26th of July 2000 he had invited Dany Toussaint, not yet a senator, to stand as a witness. The latter appeared with a group of "chimera’s " (henchmen recruited from working-class neighbourhoods of the capital) who had come to yell hostile slogans under the steps of the courts of law.
Judge Claudy Gassant took over the case in September 2000. On several occasions he was threatened with a weapon by representatives of the state, among them the deputy Millien Rommange (Fanmi Lavalas), the police superintendent, Paul Evens Saintune, and members of the security service of the presidential palace.
The measures of security promised to the judge by the Minister of Justice, Gary Lissade, were often delayed in being put into action and were regularly altogether withdrawn.
The Senate is also obstructing the investigation. In November 2000, Claudy Gassant in turn invited senator Dany Toussaint to stand as witness. The senator turned down the request and put forward the parliamentary immunity granted to the senator. Finally, on the 21st of February 2001, Dany Toussaint appeared voluntarily before the judge. After being heard on several occasions by the latter, Dany Toussaint was charged in May. Denouncing a "huge plot ", the senator then opened a procedure challenging Judge Gassant over witnesses that were illegally obtained from a prison. In August 2001, Claude Gassant asked the Senate to vote to take away his parliamentary immunity. This has not yet been passed.
Elsewhere, journalists suspected of having participated in the assassination of Jean Dominique, have died under troubling circumstances. In this way, Jean-Wilner Lalanne, suspected of having been used as a middle-man between the people behind the murder and the murderers themselves, died in June 2000 from a minor operation, following his arrest. Also, in November 2000 the circumstances of the death of Panel Rénélus, the supposed murderer of Jean Dominique, which was brought on by a crowd of demonstrators the day after his arrest by the police remains unclear and shady. Claude Gassant asserted that he "was thrown into the crowd " by the police.
Finally, the judicial police department have not yet given any orders to carry out the arrest warrants which were issued to Richard Salomon and Franck Joseph, respectively right-hand man and bodygaurd of Dany Toussaint, both suspected of having taken part in the murder of Jean Dominique. Elsewhere, Paul Raymond, the spokesman of TLK (Ti Kominote Legliz) and René Civil, the spokesman for Jeunesse Pouvoir Populaire (JPP- Youth Power Movement), held a press conference in September 2001, despite the fact that they had been issued warrants of arrest by the police.
In the face of such systematic violations against press freedom in Haiti, violations which are jeopardizing democracy and the constitutional state, we request that you impose two types of sanctions on officials and Haitian politicians, who, from their position of authority, are hindering the progress of investigations and are maintaining a climate of impunity for the authors responsible for carrying out acts of violence against journalists.
Informed of the economical sanctions that have been imposed on Haiti by the European Union, our two organisations consider, nevertheless, that targeted measures would be a more efficient method to restore press freedom as well as the constitutional state in this country.
We hope that our initiative is taken into consideration and we look forward to hearing from you . Meanwhile, we send our regards and thank you for your attention.