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7820: Investigation into the assassination of Jean Dominique blocked again (fwd)
Key words: impunity, human rights, justice, Jean Dominique
Reporters sans frontières (RSF) Urgent Notice - 9 May 2001
(unofficial translation from French by Charles Arthur for the Haiti Support
The investigation into the assassination of the journalist Jean Dominique
In a letter addressed to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Reporters Without
Borders (RSF) expresses its concern about the reduction in security measures
for Judge Claudy Gassant, who is charged with the investigation into the
April 3 2000 assassination of Jean Dominique, director of Haiti Radio Inter.
The organisation has asked that security is immediately reinforced. "It is
unbelievable that the Minister of Justice publicly declares that all possible
means have been placed at the disposal of the judge, whereas in fact this is
not true at all," said an indignant Robert Ménard, general-secretary of RSF.
He also protested against the acts of intimidation against Judge Gassant
carried out by police chief, Evens Saintune. RSF requested that the President
use all his influence to bring an end to such pressures.
According to information received by RSF, Judge Gassant confirmed on May 8
2001 that he was worried about his security and was ready to resign if the
government did not reinforce his protection. The seven police officers who
had been assigned to his security had been transferred and had not been
replaced. The judge stated he was now only protected by four civilians, who
were less well equipped. "It is difficult for me to carry out arrests under
these conditions," he underlined. Contrary to the remarks by the Minister of
Justice, who declared at the end of April that everything necessary for his
security would be placed at his disposal, Judge Gassant asserted that he had
not obtained the manpower requested. He also made it clear that a letter
addressed to the Minister of Justice, Gary Lissade, at the beginning of
April, in which he requested, in particular, bulletproof vests, better
equipment for the men in his security detail, and another vehicle, remained
In a telephone conversation with RSF, Claudy Gassant in addition asserted
that he had been the object of several acts of intimidation at the hands of
police chief, Evens Saintune, over the last few weeks. He reported that on
April 16 2001, police chief Saintune, accompanied by ten armed men,
intercepted him to ask him to put his armoured vehicle at the disposal of the
Ministry of Justice. Having his orders disobeyed, the police chief became
aggressive, hitting the car door as Gassant tried to get out of his car. The
judge, who set off again a few minutes later, finally returned the vehicle on
2 May, after two further incidents involving police chief Saintune. According
to Claudy Gassant, the Minister of Justice confirmed that he had ordered the
police chief to demand the return of the vehicle, without giving explanation.
The judge today has only one car compared to four at the end of March.
Claudy Gassant is the second investigating judge to be charged with the Jean
Dominique case. His predecessor, Fleury Jean-Senate, gave up the case after
coming under undue pressure. Judge Gassant himself has been threatened on
several occasions. On January 30 2001, Millien Rommage, a Family Lavalas
deputy, accompanied by several heavily armed men, threatened to riddle his
car with bullets "if he continued." Rommage is a political ally of Senator
Dany Toussaint, who appears to be connected to a number of people involved in
In its report published on 2 April 2001, RSF denounced the investigation for
its failings at several points. In June 2000, Jean Wilner Lalanne, suspected
of having served as an intermediary between those who gave the orders and
those who carried out the crime, died in dubious circumstances following his
arrest. I January 2001, the judge also ran up against opposition from the
Senate when he summoned Senator Dany Toussaint to give evidence.
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