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9851: Haiti : RSF urges parliamentary commission to decide in favour of lifting Dany Toussaint's parliamentary immunity (fwd)

From: RSF Americas <ameriques@rsf.org>

30 November 2001


Assassination of journalist Jean Dominique

RSF urges parliamentary commission to decide in favour of lifting Dany
Toussaint's parliamentary immunity

In a letter to the seven members of the Senate commission responsible
for studying the examining judge's request for the lifting of Senator
Dany Toussaint's parliamentary immunity, RSF urged them to declare the
judge's request as admissible. The organisation warned the senators
against the temptation "to hide behind procedural issues or legal
quibbles" in order to avoid submitting the judge's request to a vote by
elected representatives of the Upper Chamber. RSF Secretary-General
Robert Ménard asked them to set aside one judge's decision which,
raising doubts concerning Judge Gassant's impartiality, demanded a stay
of the execution of his request. RSF recalled that this judge's
decision was based on the illegal questioning of defendants.

The organisation also asked the seven commission members to recommend
that senators vote in favour of lifting Toussaint's immunity. "By doing
so, you will demonstrate that senators are not above the law and you
will give Mr. Toussaint, who is currently the principal suspect in
journalist Jean Dominique's assassination, an opportunity to defend
himself against the accusations weighing against him," underlined
Ménard. "Because this is such an important case for Haitian society, we
also ask the parliamentary commission to decide that this vote will be
put on the Senate's agenda as soon as possible," concluded Ménard.

According to information collected by RSF, on 26 November 2001, the
parliamentary commission responsible for studying the request for the
lifting of Senator Toussaint's immunity announced that it would be
making its report public on 4 December. At a 23 November press
conference in Port-au-Prince, Ménard had stated that, "the fact that
Dany Toussaint has yet to have his parliamentary immunity lifted is a
clear attack on and obstacle to seeing justice served. If [his
immunity] is not lifted, it would be a tough blow for democracy." He
also expressed concern that the Senate commission would conclude that
the issue does not fall within its


On 10 August, Minister of Justice Gary Lissade sent a request from
Examining Judge Claudy Gassant to the Senate, seeking the lifting of
Senator Toussaint's parliamentary immunity. Toussaint has been
implicated in the investigation into the assassination of journalist
Dominique, director of Radio Haiti Inter, and Jean-Claude Louissaint, a
security guard at the radio station. The minister also passed on a
judge's decision to the senators which, questioning Judge Gassant's
impartiality in the handling of the investigation, demanded a stay of
the execution of his request. This judge had been approached by
Toussaint's lawyers on the basis of interrogations of several persons
who were detained in the context of the case. These interrogations have
since been declared illegal, and the person who carried them out, Judge
Jean Gabriel Ambroise, was penalised by the minister of justice.
Ambroise had acted on a request by the senator's lawyers.

Invoking other priorities, the Senate has yet to take a decision. The
parliamentary commission charged with examining the request only met
for the first time on 17 September, five weeks after the request was
sent. The members of the commission are Madames Bazile, Forte, Libérus
and Misters Célestin, Désir and Magloire. It is presided by Yvon
Neptune, who is also Senate speaker.

On 3 April 2000, Dominique, Haiti's most renowned journalist and
political analyst, was killed in the courtyard of his radio station,
Radio Haiti Inter. Well known for his independent voice, Dominique was
critical of former Duvalier officials and soldiers, as well as the
bourgeoisie. More recently, he criticised those he suspected within
Fanmi Lavalas (President Jean Bertrand Aristide's party) of seeking to
"divert the movement from its principles." In his 19 October 1999
editorial, the journalist had sharply criticised Toussaint, who was
indicted at the end of May 2001.

<italic>Reporters Sans Frontières defends jailed journalists and press
freedom throughout the world, that is, the right to inform and be
informed, in accordance with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights. Reporters Sans Frontières has nine sections (Austria,
Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland and
United Kingdom), representatives in Abidjan, Bangkok, Montréal, Tokyo
and Washington, and about a hundred correspondents worldwide.

Régis Bourgeat

Despacho Américas / Americas desk

Reporters sans frontières

5, rue Geoffroy-Marie

75009 Paris - France

tél. : +33 (0) 1 44 83 84 57

fax : +33 (0) 1 45 23 11 51

e-mail : ameriques@rsf.org

	/ americas@rsf.org