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7820: Investigation into the assassination of Jean Dominique blocked again (fwd)

From: Tttnhm@aol.com

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 
blocked again.

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 
this case.

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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The Haiti Support Group - solidarity with the Haitian people's struggle for 
justice, participatory democracy and equitable development, since 1992.