Illegal Arrest of Catholic Priest, Rev. Gérard Jean-Juste

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Illegal Arrest of Catholic Priest, Rev. Gérard Jean-Juste

Post by admin » Thu Oct 14, 2004 5:06 pm

Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti
P.O. Box 745, Joseph, OR 97846
(541) 432-0597,,

Haiti Human Rights Alert: Illegal Arrest of Catholic Priest, Rev. Gérard Jean-Juste
October 13, 2004

On Wednesday, October 13, 2004, Haitian police forcibly entered the Sainte Claire Catholic Church in Port-au-Prince and arrested the Pastor, Rev. Gérard Jean-Juste, without a warrant, while he was feeding the hungry children of his parish. Fr. Jean-Juste is a prominent activist for peace, justice and the rights of immigrants in Haiti and the U.S. There are also reports of arrests of two other priests, Rev. Francois and Rev. Sauvagere, as well as raids on three additional churches.

The Sainte Claire Church is located in Petite Place Cazeau, a poor neighborhood of Delmas, a Port-au-Prince suburb. On Wednesdays, Fr. Jean-Juste r
uns a soup kitchen that gives many area residents, especially children, their only meal of the day. During the feeding program, heavily-armed men surrounded the church and announced their intention to arrest Fr. Jean-Juste. Some wore uniforms of the Haitian National Police (HNP), some wore no uniforms, and many wore masks. The police refused to produce a warrant, and when asked what the charge was, replied that the priest "was a threat to public order." Later, interim Prime Minister Gérard Latortue told journalists there was a warrant, but could not say what the charge was.

When Fr. Jean-Juste refused to leave his feeding program, the police raided the church and dragged him out of the rectory. Witnesses reported that the police punched the priest, and Fr. Jean-Juste reported an injury to his foot. He was transported to a police station holding cell, where he is now being held incommunicado.

Interim Prime Minister Latortue claimed he had intelligence that Fr. Jean-Juste asso
ciated with people who were planning to commit violence against the government later this week, and that the Ste. Claire raid was a pre-emptive strike.

The illegal arrest continues a month-long wave of systematic attacks against civil society institutions, including labor unions, radio stations, lawyers and members of Parliament, as well as lethal police raids in poor neighborhoods. It is particularly troubling that the persecution extended to Fr. Jean-Juste, one of Haiti's most persistent and influential voices for peace over the last two decades. The arrest shows a brazenness and disregard of Haitian and International law not seen since the Duvalier dictatorships.

A. Fr. Jean-Juste

Fr. Jean-Juste speaks out forcefully against all forms of violence, from the pulpit and on his radio shows. He spoke out against the state-sponsored violence of the Duvalier regime, the de facto dictatorship (1991-1994) and the Haitian army. He also speaks out against violen
ce by the victims of that violence and by supporters of Haiti's Constitutional governments. When opposition politicians were attacked following the April 2000 funeral of assassinated journalist Jean-Dominique, Fr. Jean-Juste spent his entire two-hour radio show imploring everyone to return to their homes.

Fr. Jean-Juste has been highly effective at fighting political and economic violence through peaceful means. When he was forced into exile for criticizing the Duvalier dictatorship, Fr. Jean-Juste retaliated with a lawsuit, winning a judgment against Jean-Claude Duvalier in Miami Federal Court. In 1979, he co-founded the Haitian Refugee Center in Florida, which provided assistance to thousands of refugees from the Duvalier regime, and fought unjust immigration policies all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In Haiti, Fr. Jean-Juste encouraged victims of the de facto dictatorship to organize and to force Haitian courts to deliver justice. On August 16 of this year, Haiti's interim govern
ment held a re-trial in the case of slain pro-democracy activist Antoine Izmery. Although he knew the prosecution was not serious (the New York Times called it "Sham Justice in Haiti"), and feared arrest, Fr. Jean-Juste bravely appeared, the only summoned witness to do so.

B. Systematic Attacks Against Civil Society and Supporters of the Constitutional Government

On September 7, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued a statement expressing concern "over several key areas in which the basic rights and freedoms of Haitians remain weak and imperiled." On September 16, Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue lashed out at his critics during an interview on Radio Caraibes, complaining that human rights criticism was making his relations with donor countries difficult. Later that day police officers raided the offices of the Confederation of Haitian Workers (CTH) labor union and arrested nine union members, all without a warrant. The official justification for the arrest wa
s that the defendants were "close to the Lavalas authorities." All are still in custody as of October 13. Hours later, masked men in military attire attacked the office of the Committee for the Protection of the Rights of the Haitian People (CDPH).

On October 2, the police raided a radio station and arrested two Senators and a former Deputy from the Fanmi Lavalas party who had criticized the Interim Government during a radio program. As with today's raid on Ste. Claire's Church and the arrests at the CTH union, the radio station arrests were done without a warrant and "justified" outside of the judicial process with vague statements about connections to violence. When a lawyer, also a former Deputy, came to represent the arrestees, he was arrested too. The lawyer and one of the Senators was released on October 5, the other two legislators remain in jail as of October 13 (for more information on these events, see ).

Fr. Jean-Juste, the nine union members and two
legislators join many pro-democracy activists and officials of Haiti's Constitutional government in jail, including former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, former Minister of the Interior Jocelerme Privert and former Delegate Jacques Mathelier. All are held illegally: Neither Prime Minister Neptune nor Minister Privert have ever been brought before the judge who issued their arrest warrant. Mr. Mathelier was brought before a judge, who ordered his liberation on July 12, but prison authorities transferred Mathelier out of that judge's jurisdiction, where he remains three months later.

On September 30, police interrupted a legal demonstration commemorating the anniversary of Haiti's September 30, 1991 coup d'etat. Human rights observers accompanying the demonstration reported that police fired on the march, after several attempts to disperse it failed. On the morning of October 1, interim Prime Minister Latortue conceded in a radio interview that the police had shot at protesters and indivi
duals had been killed, and indicated that the authorities would take action against further protests.

Latortue's announcement was followed by two weeks of police raids in poor neighborhoods, considered to be bastions of support for Haiti's Constitutional government. One raid on Wednesday, October 6, a purported arms search in the poor neighborhood of Bel-Air, yielded seventy-five illegal arrests, but not a single weapon. Although it is difficult to confirm the deaths, at least two dozen people have been killed by police and their paramilitary allies so far in October.

The United Nations troops in Haiti have not intervened to restrain illegal police behavior. UN troops guarded the perimeter of the radio station during the October 2 arrests. According to a BBC translation of an interview broadcast October 8 on Haiti's Radio Metropole, the UN Commander General Augusto Heleno Ribero Pereira, in discussing police raids in poor neighborhoods declared that "we must kill the bandi
ts but it will have to be the bandits only, not everybody."

The U.S. government has not intervened to restrain the interim government's persecution of civil society, despite having both the ability and the responsibility to do so. The U.S. played a leading role in installing interim Prime Minister Latortue after forcing out Haiti's elected President in February. The U.S. is currently Haiti's largest donor and international patron. The U.S. has not made a single public statement urging the interim government to respect the Constitution or refrain from persecution throughout the month-long wave of attacks on civil society. To the contrary, the U.S. has provided diplomatic cover to the repression, with completely unsubstantiated statements that the violence is being directed by Haiti's Constitutional President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, now in exile in South Africa.

What You Can Do

The best way for people outside of Haiti to stop the attacks against civil society is to pressure
the U.S. Government and the United Nations to intervene to stop it. Please call, fax or email, asking the U.S. and the U.N. stop the attacks, and ensure that Fr. Jean-Juste and all the other political prisoners are freed immediately.

U.S. Ambassador to Haiti, James B. Foley
Phone: 011-509-222-0200 or 011-509-222-0354
Fax: 011-509-223-9038 or 011-509-223-1641

With copies to:
STATE DEPARTMENT HAITI DESK: Desk Phone: (202) 736-4628, Fax: (202) 647-2901
Ladd Connell - Haiti Desk Officer
Roger Noriega, Phone: (202) 647-5780; E-mail:

Special UN Envoy to Haiti: Mr. Juan Gabriel Valdes
UN Military Commander in Haiti: Lt. General Augusto Heleno Ribeiro Pereira
UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) Phone: 011-509-244-9650 or 9660
With copies to: UN Secretary-General: Kofi Annan: Fax: (212) 963-4879

For more information, and upd
ates on this situation, see, .

Brian Concannon Jr.
Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

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Flashpoints Radio: broadcast of Father Jean-Juste's arrest

Post by admin » Thu Oct 14, 2004 5:56 pm

U.S. radio interview of Father Jean Juste during the course of his arrest

Flashpoints Radio

broadcasting from Pacifica Radio Station KPFA - Berkeley, CA Investigative News Radio Weekdays at 5 PM Pacific Time live over the internet:

Flashoints Radio's Dennis Bernstein interviews Kevin Pina and Haitian Priest Father Jean-Juste: arrested by masked police as he was feeding poor children in Church - Transcript

October 13, 2004.

Bernstein: In a chilling interview just before airtime, Flashpoints reached long-time Haitian pro-democracy theologian, Father Gerard Jean-Juste as he was arrested. Jean-Juste, a pastor [priest] at Saint Claire's church for the poor was surrounded by masked men as he served poor children lifesaving meals. The masked men then came inside the church and arrested Jean-Juste and took him to jail, dragge
d him away in front of the kids. In one moment we'll hear a bit of that chilling interview with Father Jean-Juste, just as he was arrested and right after. We were told, in fact, that he was bleeding at the time that we spoke with him But first we go live to Port au Prince where we are joined by our special correspondent Kevin Pina. Kevin, I know that you spoke with Father Jean-Juste just before he was arrested; would you remind people who he is and the significance of this kind of arrest?

Pina: Well, Jean-Juste has been a long-time pro-democracy advocate; he's a liberation theology priest; I first met him in 1991 following the first military coup against Jean Bertrand Aristide. He was in at the parish of Saint Gerard. He was in hiding. He was known to have helped many people following that murderous coup by the military on September 30, 1991. I've taken many delegations, Global Exchange and others, we've gone there on Sundays, every Sunday Jean-Juste has a day for the poor children in his neighbo
urhood, where he gives free meals to a lot of the poor children. For many of them it's the only hot meal they get every week. He's a man who is much loved in the community; he's a man is who is very well known for his strength and his courage and as you said tonight, Jean-Juste has been arrested by the de facto government of Gerard Latortue.

Bernstein: Now, we spoke to him after he was arrested. You spoke to him right before. What did he tell you?

Pina: He said that what he thought they were accusing him of was importation of guns; he had heard some of that. He said that they were accusing him of harbouring gunmen in his church. He made it really clear that anyone who knows him knows that he is a man of non-violence, that he is a man of strong convictions, but he does not condone violence. He said he though that this was a 'desperate move' on behalf of the government to shut up, to close the mouths of anyone feels does not believe as they do. He said he thought this was a 'sad
day for democracy in Haiti,' and that it was the end of freedom of expression, and that he would 'pray for them from his jail cell.'

Bernstein: We spoke to him right after you; we managed to get him while he was being held in police custody. Again, we are talking about Father Gerard Jean-Juste, a leader in the pro-democracy movement, a very strong advocate for the poor, and his church, Saint Claire, a church for the poor where, Kevin mentioned, many of us have visited him and learned a great deal from him. Anyway, here is our reaching him in police custody.

Jean-Juste: I am under arrest, they just took off the handcuffs from me.

Bernstein: They just put the handcuffs on you now?

Jean-Juste: They just took them off of me and my hands are bleeding, and so they are taking me from one commissariat, from one headquarter, from my parish, now to Petionville, they're heading with me.

Bernstein: So they came to your church and arrested you while you were feeding the children?

Jean-Juste: Yeah.

Bernstein: And you are in a car now, or, in a police car, where are you?

Jean-Juste: I am right now by my church in a commissariat area, the police headquarters, and they are going to take me to a jail in Petionville.

Bernstein: They're taking you to a jail in Petionville.

Jean-Juste: I can't speak longer.

Bernstein: Why are they arresting you?

Jean-Juste I don't know yet, I don't know yet. They thought I was accessing.

Bernstein: Are the children o.k.?

Jean-Juste: Yes, the children are o.k. I sent all of them home. I was supposed to say mass at 4:30 for my people, that's all.

Bernstein: And why did they say they're arresting you?

Jean-Juste: Nothing, The police say they are doing their job.

Bernstein: Did they just surround the church wearing masks? Is that what happened?

Jean-Juste: Yeah. They still have masks on. I have five of them with masks on.right now.wearing masks.

Bernstein: And the
y came inside the church?.

Jean-Juste: Ok.[background noise.]

Bernstein: Are you o.k. now, where can we reach you, in Petionville?

Jean-Juste: If you can call the Nuncio for me, or the Pope to say that ..that they are taking one of their Priests to jail. I tried to find my Bishop, no answer.

Bernstein: So you want us to call the Pope or the Nuncio, or to alert the church.

Jean-Juste Yeah..

Bernstein:.That one of their Priests who works with the poor is being arrested

Jean-Juste O.k. I have to go; the police told me I have to go. O.k.

Bernstein: Are you physically o.k.?

Jean-Juste: I have to go sir.No.wounded [barely audible.], it's o.k.

Bernstein You're wounded? O.k.My name is Dennis Bernstein. We just spoke with Father Jean-Juste, a long time, well-known supporter and radio broadcaster with the Lavalas movement, who works with the poor, was just arrested in his church while they were feeding the children. I'm not
sure which meal they were in the middle of when a group of men came in with masks on, arrested him, handcuffed him. Apparently he is bleeding; it was hard to get the information.

Back to live coverage with Bernstein and Kevin Pina.

Bernstein And that was an interview we did just before airtime as Father Jean-Juste was taken into custody. Kevin Pina is on the line with us from Port au Prince. We are extremely concerned. He was asking us to contact the Nuncio, to contact the Pope; he said that he could not get in touch with his Bishop. Talk a little bit about the concern here, and the context Kevin Pina.

Pina: You've got to remember that on Monday a spokesperson from the Haitian National Police had announced publicly on the radio that they had information, or that they claimed that they had information that there were certain priests in the capital who are harbouring people who are responsible for the latest round of violence that began after September 30th, after the police fired on unar
med demonstrators, who were demanding President Aristide's return. Literally hundreds of people have been arrested this week in massive sweeps, in joint operations between

Brazilian forces and the Haitian National Police. They have targeted mainly the pro-Aristide, the poorest neighbourhoods in the capital: La Saline, Bel Air, Martissant, Cite' Soleil, , Delmas 2, Delmas 4, Delmas 30, Delmas 31, and Delmas 33. So, in a lot of respects there was a 'tip off' that this sort of thing was going to happen. The police were making noises earlier this week. Father Jean-Juste had heard, he had told me that he had heard some of them say that that was why they were arresting him. He said he wasn't sure, but that he had heard that. He denied any involvement in it. He said, again, 'anyone who knows me knows that I am a man of non-violence,' and there is no basis to these charges.

Bernstein: We're speaking with Kevin Pina; he's talking to us live from Port au Prince, where the attack
s, the arrests, the beatings, the false charges, the undermining of democracy and the poor in Haiti continues, unabated. This is another example of the nature of Bush policy. Do we know where Father Jean-Juste is now? Is there any hope that the Catholic church could intercede, could protect one of their priests here?

Pina: Well you've got to remember that the Catholic church is itself highly reactionary in Haiti and highly polarized itself. The only one who you could consider progressive among the hierarchy of the church is Monseigneur Romulus. We have not heard from him, he is in Jeremie. I'm not even certain that he knows this arrest has gone down. A lot of people are in shock. The entire neighbourhood actually rose up as they took him out. Rocks and bottles were thrown at the police cars as they left with him. Based on what he said with your interview, which happened after I talked to him, he was most likely taken to the Delmas 33 commissariat, which is close to his neighbourhood, Petite Place Caz
eau. From there, as he said, he is more than likely now been transferred to the same facility where So Anne, the famous Haitian folk singer, who was arrested by Marines on May 10th, is being held in Petionville. There is a small penitentiary there where they put they most high profile political detainees, political prisoners if you will, up in Petionville. I would assume, based on what he has said, that that is where they are holding him now.

Bernstein: Alright Kevin, we would like you to stay on this story, we know that you will, and if you find out any information about his situation now, or anything about how he's being treated, we want to know that. And finally we also [should] know, I believe you'd mentioned briefly in what you were saying, that the paramilitaries - the former death squadrons - have now been allowed into the capital?

Pina: That's correct. The former military entered into the capital in force. Many in Lavalas are claiming that the United Nations is basically compli
cit in a de facto political coup d'etat by allowing the former military to come into the capital today in force.

Bernstein: And these are people who are former death squad activists who were convicted of mass murders in some cases?

Pina: Many of them are. These are people who helped to overthrow Aristide in 1991, in that brutal military coup, when Father Jean-Juste was forced into hiding back then. They came into the capital in strength today, they were unchallenged by the United Nations; their spokesman claimed that they already have several armed units in the capital, and that they would begin operations against what they called 'Lavalas bandits,' beginning tomorrow. Remember that tomorrow is also the 10th anniversary of Aristide's return and the restoration of democracy in 1994. Many people, many observers on the ground view this week's massive arrests and the arrest of Jean Juste in that context. That they were afraid that tomorrow there will be large demonstrations mounted again on tha
t anniversary to demand the return of Jean Bertrand Aristide once again to his rightful place as the democratically-elected President of Haiti.

Bernstein: Kevin, please keep in touch, keep us posted on this.

Pina: I will, thank-you Dennis.

Bernstein: The voice of Kevin Pina. And who in the world is reporting about this? It's as if it's not happening. You're listening to Flashpoints.

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