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Haiti2 April 2004

Fourth anniversary of journalist Jean Dominique’s murder

Four years after the murder of journalist Jean Dominique, Reporters Without Borders has written to Haiti’s new prime minister, Gérard Latortue, to ask him to put an end to impunity in this case.

"The many obstacles in the investigation into the murder of Radio Haïti Inter’s director and its caretaker, Jean-Claude Louissaint, exposed the nature of a regime which put impunity at the centre of its strategy for silencing its detractors," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said in his letter. Those who attacked or killed journalists critical of the government were never punished, he said.

"The time has come to make a clean break with impunity," Ménard continued. "As Jean Dominique’s murder was the one that most marked Haitian society in recent years, the resolution of this case will be the sign that the Aristide era is over, that Haitian justice is again beginning to work and that the rule of law is in the process of being restored," he wrote.

The recent execution of two arrest warrants against suspects was an initial, hopeful sign, he said, but more remained to be done: the supreme court must rule on an appeal so that a new investigating judge can be named and the police must find the defendants who escaped from the national penitentiary.

"As well as the peace and comfort this would bring to Jean Dominique’s family, the end of impunity in this case would be a landmark in the establishment of real press freedom in Haiti," the letter concluded.

An investigation fraught with pitfalls
Haiti’s most famous journalist and political analyst, Dominique was gunned down in the courtyard of his radio station, Radio Haïti Inter, on 3 April 2000. Louissaint, the station’s caretaker, was killed in the same attack.

Virtually all of the state’s institutions helped to obstruct the investigation for nearly four years: the police failed to execute arrests warrants; two witnesses died in suspicious circumstances after their arrest; the senate refused to lift a senator’s immunity; President Aristide refused to renew the mandate of the investigating judge in charge of the case; an attempt was made to murder Michèle Montas, Dominique’s widow; and threats were made against Radio Haïti Inter forcing it to close.

The investigation concluded on 21 March 2003 when the new investigating judge issued his final report together with the list of persons indicted for the murder. Six alleged perpetrators already under arrest were indicted but no instigator was identified. Both Dominique’s widow and the defendants appealed against the investigating judge’s conclusions.

The Port-au-Prince appeal court on 4 August 2003 ordered a new judicial investigation and the release of three of the six people who had been indicted. The other three then filed an appeal before the court of cassation (supreme court). This court has not issued any ruling and the case is paralysed. Meanwhile, the three defendants who were still in detention have escaped.

Two and half weeks ago, on 14 March, the police arrested former Port-au-Prince deputy mayor Harold Sévère and Roustide "Douze" Pétion for their presumed involvement in the murders of Dominque and Louissant. Sévère had been indicted on 28 January 2003.

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

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

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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