Political Prisoner Rev. Gérard Jean-Juste Released

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Political Prisoner Rev. Gérard Jean-Juste Released

Post by » Tue Nov 30, 2004 11:10 am

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

Political Prisoner Rev. Gérard Jean-Juste Released

November 29, 2004

Today, November 29, 2004, Rev. Gérard Jean-Juste, the pastor of Sainte Claire Catholic Church in Delmas, Haiti, was released after almost seven weeks of illegal detention. The release follows a sustained campaign of international support for Fr. Jean-Juste by prominent religious figures, lawyers, grassroots groups and human rights advocates in Haiti and throughout the world. The release shows that collective action for justice can succeed, and offers hope for Haiti's other 700 political prisoners.

Fr. Jean-Juste is a prominent activist for peace, justice and the rights of immigrants in Haiti and the U.S. He was
arrested without a warrant by masked Haitian police on Wednesday, October 13, 2004, while he was feeding the hungry children of his parish. Gérard Latortue, Haiti's interim Prime Minister, claimed that there was a warrant, but no warrant was ever produced, nor was any evidence linking Fr. Jean-Juste to any crime. Prosecutors alleged he was connected to two murders, but did not produce the victims' names or any details of their deaths. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice alleged that Fr. Jean-Juste was involved in financing anti-government violence, but never produced a single witness or shred of evidence to support the allegations.

The international outcry over Fr. Jean-Juste's illegal detention forced Haiti's interim government to bring him before a judge on November 12. The judge found nothing in the file, and very quickly ordered that the case be dismissed and Fr. Jean-Juste be released. The interim government finally honored that order today. On the way from the Omega prison to the P
ort-au-Prince Archbishop's residence, Fr. Jean-Juste thanked everyone for all the solidarity, support and advocacy he received during his imprisonment.

Credit for obtaining the release order should go to Fr. Jean-Juste's legal team, Haitian lawyer Mario Joseph of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and William Quigley, Professor of Law at Loyola University in New Orleans. Both worked long hours under difficult and dangerous conditions to uphold the rule of law.

But legal skill alone was not enough to free Fr. Jean-Juste, or any of the more than 700 political prisoners remain in Haiti's jails (according to the Catholic Church's Justice and Peace Commission), almost all with no more in their files than Fr. Jean-Juste had. The interim government systematically denies political prisoners access to the courts, and ignores liberation orders for those who manage to appear before judges- former Delegate Jacques Mathelier (July 12) and grassroots activist Jean-Marie Samedi (Novem
ber 22), both remain in jail despite valid release orders.

The difference in Fr. Jean-Juste's case was the massive international mobilization for justice by dozens of organizations and hundreds of individuals who issued statements, made phone calls, sent faxes and wrote letters to Haitian, U.S. and UN officials. Too many people and groups contributed to name them all, but they include Rep. Maxine Waters and 30 other members of the U.S. Congress, Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot of Port-au-Prince, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit, Pax Christi USA, the Haiti Action Committee, Human Rights First, Amnesty International, the What If? Foundation, the Haitian Lawyers' Leadership Network, the Catholic Worker, the International Committee to Free Father Jean-Juste, the Let Haiti Live Coalition, Fondation 30 Septembre, Veye Yo, the Inter-Hemispheric Resources Center and the Haiti Information Project.

Our sources confirmed that the mobilization inundated the Haitian and U.S. governments and the UN with fax
es, emails and phone calls. The UN responded on November 22, with Secretary General Kofi Annan's call for the release of Haiti's political prisoners. The Haitian government initially responded to the pressure by justifying the arrest in press conferences. As the calls kept coming in, they were forced to defend their action in court, where truth prevailed.

The mobilization proved that the Haitian Creole proverb, men anpil, chay pa lou, (with many hands, the load is light) still applies, and that we can still make a difference through collective advocacy, in Haiti, in the U.S., and in the international arena.

We need to apply theses lessons next to the hundreds of political prisoners that Fr. Jean-Juste left behind, most even more vulnerable than he was, as they lack his prestige and international contacts. Many have been tortured and deprived of healthcare and adequate food, some have completely disappeared. As Fr. Jean-Juste said this evening: "I hope that my freedom will be the first step to
freedom for the many political prisoners still in Haitian jails. We need to keep the pressure on!"

IJDH, along with the other organizations that fought for Fr. Jean-Juste's freedom, will soon initiate similar campaigns for other political prisoners. Please take a few minutes to act on their behalf, so that they may taste the same freedom that we enjoy. We will send out action alerts in the days ahead, or you may check for information at www.ijdh.org, www.lethaitilive.org, www.haitiaction.net. If you are not on the IJDH mailing list and would like to be, please send your contact information to info@ijdh.org.

Brian Concannon Jr.
Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti


Post by T-dodo » Tue Nov 30, 2004 1:42 pm

Based on this report, it appears we are back with a different type of dictatorship, this time imposed by the USA, since they are responsible for the current order. We understand the Haiti situation is a difficult one - by their inability to find consensus, Haitians have proven that they cannot self govern - but state-sponsored human rights violations is a different story.

The United States would have difficulty dissociating itself from the actions taken in Haiti. After all they hand picked the Prime Minister. They should and could require that a minimum of effort is made by the current regime to try to act within the laws when human rights violations are concerned. To allow for that kind of ineffectiveness is tolerating mediocrity, not to mention the unnecessary suffering of human beings.

Freedom is a right for every human being, Haitian or not. The State has an interest to invest resources in the judicial system to minimize the ne
ed for dictatorial tactics to ensure public safety and security. To return to the methods used under the Francois Duvalier regime to maintain order is not the way to move forward towards a lasting solution in Haiti. By not making a priority to bridge the gap between the elite and the people in Haiti, the current administration has lost all credibility.

The de facto government has shown his lack of understanding of the situation in Haiti, by not trying to unite the two major political forces in Haiti: the people through the Lavalas party and the elite. Opting for dictatorial tactics instead underscores the lack of creativity and imagination of the current Haitian leadership that plagued the country's management throughout its history. Anyone who had any hopes of change in the country, despite the violation of the constitutional order, should now resign themselves to a continuation of the same succession of inefficient management of the country.


Post by T-dodo » Wed Dec 01, 2004 8:23 am

I want to add how prompt and accurate Windows on Haiti was in publishing this news analysis of Brian Concannon Jr. announcing the release of Jean-Juste. Although Jean-Juste was released since Monday night, the news did not reach yet all the Haitian radio stations and other news media outlets in Miami by Tuesday afternoon.

At that time, about 4:30 p.m., AM 1320 radio in Miami, through his host, announced without confirmation that there was a report from a friend - he called listeners, friends - that Jean-Juste has been released, and requested an acquaintance to call on his cell to confirm the news. The host added that he quickly reviewed the wire reports, since he did not have time before starting the show, and that he could not confirm the report.

Meanwhile, since 11:10 a.m., Windows on Haiti had already posted the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) press release and commentary on the release of Jean-Juste. I call
ed the radio station, was put on the air and informed that I read on WOH in the morning the press release of Jean-Juste by Brian Concannon and the gist of the analysis of IJDH. The host of the station, Hernst Phanord, repeated for his listeners that the news of the release came from Windowsonhaiti.com. Well done, WOH!

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One Down, 700 To Go

Post by admin » Sat Dec 04, 2004 10:18 pm

One Down, 700 To Go
December 2004
By Brian Concannon, Jr.

A cause for Thanksgiving arrived last Monday, four days late for the official celebrations, but still most welcome. Haiti's most famous political prisoner, Fr. Gérard Jean-Juste, drove away from the Omega prison in Carrefour to the Archbishop's residence in Port-au-Prince.

During seven weeks of incarceration, Haiti's interim government spared no effort to build a case against Fr. Jean-Juste in the Court of Public Opinion. Prime Minister Gérard Latortue announced there was a valid warrant for his arrest, Justice Minister Bernard Gousse promised evidence that the priest was financing violence, the police declared him responsible for disturbing the peace and for attacking them. The prosecutor insisted Fr. Jean-Juste was an accomplice to two murders.

The interim go
vernment worked just as hard to avoid presenting its case in a Court of Law. No judge approved the arrest beforehand, or confirmed it afterwards (both Constitutional requirements, in Haiti as in the U.S.). Fr. Jean-Juste's legal team- Haitian lawyer Mario Joseph of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and Professor William Quigley of Loyola University in New Orleans- insisted again and again on their client's right to see a judge, to no avail. Police and prison officials transported Fr. Gerry from police station to prison to other prisons, but never to a courthouse.

The reasons for the government's fear of the courthouse became clear when the case finally went before a judge on November 12. There was no arrest warrant. Not a single piece of paper in the file linked Fr. Jean-Juste to criminal activity, not a single witness spoke against him. The prosecutor still insisted that Fr. Gerry was a double-murderer, but could not name the murder victims, or say how they died, or where, or wh
en. The government presented nothing to suggest that Fr. Jean-Juste did anything other than feed poor children and speak out against torture, killing and other violence.

The judge, one of Haiti's most respected, quickly threw the case out and ordered Fr. Jean-Juste released. The government held Fr. Gerry for ten more days, but was eventually forced to obey the release order.

The legal case against Fr. Jean-Juste was no weaker than the cases against most of Haiti's other political prisoners (the Catholic Church's Justice & Peace Commission estimates there are 700 of them). People suspected of criticizing the interim regime or supporting the elected government it displaced are routinely arrested, and just as routinely kept away from judges who might test the government's accusations.

If Fr. Jean-Juste can today walk freely, feed children and say Mass, it is because an international outcry forced the interim government to respect the rule of law in his case. Congressw
oman Maxine Waters led 31 members of the U.S. House of Representatives (including Barney Frank and James McGovern of Massachusetts) in urging Secretary of State Colin Powell to call for the release of Father Jean-Juste, and "all political prisoners and imprisoned community leaders who have not been charged, or are not being lawfully detained, under Haitian law."

Religious leaders like Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot of Port-au-Prince and Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit deployed their moral authority against the illegal detention. Religious, solidarity and human rights groups throughout Haiti, North America and Europe made statements, circulated information and lobbied authorities. Most important, hundreds, perhaps thousands of ordinary citizens wrote, called or faxed Haitian, U.S. and United Nations officials, to let them know they cared about justice in Haiti.

If Prime Minister Latortue counted on Fr. Jean-Juste's release to muffle this outcry, he may have acted too late. The case
drew world attention to all of Haiti's political prisoners. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan warned that "the arbitrary detention of people solely for their political affiliation is in contravention of fundamental human rights principles," and called for the release of all political prisoners.

On November 10, the countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) refused to recognize the interim government, declaring that they would not ``compromise on the fundamental principles of respect for human rights, due process and good governance.'' Grenada's Prime Minister Keith Mitchell urged Haiti to put ``a stop to the harassment of the political opposition.''

The interim regime denies there are any more political prisoners, and says that the jailed pro-democracy activists are common criminals. But everyone from the police to the Minister of Justice joined Mr. Latortue in saying the same thing about Fr. Jean-Juste, and in the moment of truth none of them produced a grain of evidence.

World leaders must continue to insist on justice for the 700 political prisoners that Fr. Jean-Juste left behind, especially as International Human Rights Day, December 10, approaches. The rest of us must make sure they do so. Members of Congress, Prime Ministers and UN Secretary Generals do the right thing much more often when their constituents ask them to. Each of us may not have much individual influence, but Haitian history shows over and over again, from the Revolution to the liberation of Fr. Jean-Juste, that men anpil, chay pa lou (many hands make the load light).

Brian Concannon Jr., Esq. directs the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, which represents Fr. Jean-Juste. The Institute's website, www.ijdh.org, contains more information on Haiti's political prisoners and what you can do about it.

Leonel JB

Post by Leonel JB » Sun Dec 05, 2004 6:22 am

I agree with that thread. But I have a problem, if this were baseball, the batting would be lousy. 1/700, we are not doing so well.

I feel powerless. We are going to see worse with the second term of Mr Selected President once more.

Remember those thugs who tortured our people during the Duvalier era? Guess what? They have been on U.S. payroll ever since, and they are waiting for the Bush administration to send them back, to reinforce the killers in Haiti...

Komanman, mwen paka wE pouki sa moun yo pa vle demokrasi an Ayiti.

Why a little country, with no threat to his neighbors, have to endure such animosity? Of course, with the help of a lot of "San manman" in different classes (elite, mass etc) ... vye entElektyel soudevlope, vye elit aloufa gwo lide ti memwa, ti jandam konkou gifilip ak chanblen ki pa konn klas yo ak idantite yo, makout ak madan makout pwostitye ki panse ayiti se pou blan ak grimo li ye.

panse nou fE oun bel kalkil? Oun vrE gE sivil pap respekte ni pov ni rich... Nou tout ap pEdi. Bann Kreten.

L'union fait la force

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