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9923: Digital Freedom Network on Jean Dominique (fwd)
by John DeSio, Digital Freedom Network
(December 7, 2001)
Justice remains unserved in Haiti, as the investigation of the murder of the country's most popular journalist has stalled with no action seemingly in sight.
Government officials stall the investigation into the murder of a popular Haitian journalist.
Jean Leopold Dominique, a wildly popular radio journalist in Haiti, was gunned down in front of his radio station on April 3, 2000, in what can only be described as a planned assassination. Jean-Claude Louissaint, who was with Dominique at the time, was also killed.
Several have been named as suspects in the case, but the one most prominent is Dany Toussaint, a young senator with strong ties to Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the country's president. And although many consider Toussaint to be the main suspect, parliamentary immunity may prevent him from ever being tried in the matter.
Toussaint had long tried to take over Dominique's station, Radio Haiti Inter, for some years, due to the broadcast journalist's harsh criticisms of the senator.
"If Dany Toussaint tries anything else against me or the radio and if I am still alive, I will close the place down after I have denounced these maneuvers one more time and I will go in exile once more with my wife and children," said Dominique in a radio address on October 19, 1999, threatening to once again leave his career in journalism to protect his family.
The address spoke out against attempts by the senator to force Dominique to speak out against public officials aligned against Toussaint's party.
Dominique went into exile two previous times following threats made against him and his radio station, but would not have a chance for a third such move. Dominique was killed in front of his radio station shortly before the presidential election.
While the Haitian government declared a national day of mourning and bestowed the government's highest honor on the broadcaster, the government has done little else to help solve the murders. The task of bringing Dominique's and Louissaint's murderer to justice has fallen into the hands of a judge whose work on the case has made him the target of political pressure.
"All I want to do is apply the law," said Judge Claudy Gassant in an interview this past summer with the Miami Herald. "What the others want, I don't know." The "others" are Haiti's powerful elite, who do not want this case to be solved.
When the case first fell on Gassant's desk, he insists that he was not fearful for his and his family's safety. But since that time, he has been threatened by anonymous callers to drop the case, and has even moved his wife and three-year-old son to the U.S. state of Florida for their protection.
The basis for the fear and threats is the fact that many powerful people in Haiti's government, specifically Toussaint, will be implicated in the investigation.
Gassant has also stated that every branch of the government, including his boss, the chief justice of Haiti, will not provide him with the tools needed for the job, and block his investigation at every turn.
"The executive is against me, the legislative is against me, and the judiciary, too," said Gassant. "I'm so afraid I don't know of whom to be afraid."
For their part, Haiti's justice department has denied any roadblock in the case, stating that they have very little to work with, but have provided Gassant with certain amenities, such as bodyguards and a laptop computer, to aid his work in the case.
Regardless of any decision that Gassant may make, his main suspect, Toussaint, may never have to face any trial in the matter, due to his protection under parliamentary immunity.
Toussaint, at first, cooperated with Gassant and submitted to questioning in the matter, but has refused to do so after the judge directly accused him of the crimes. After the judge's charges, Toussaint alleged the judge was using the case for political purposes and declaring his innocence.
The senator's colleagues in Parliament have thus far denied any motion to remove Toussaint's parliamentary immunity, but may reconsider their stance, due to the popular support for the move.
And while many have called for Toussaint to submit to an investigation, one voice has been louder than all the rest — Dominique's own wife.
"If he's innocent as he says he is, he should go to a court of law and defend himself," said Michelle Montas-Dominique to the Miami Herald, the wife of the slain journalist who took over as director of Radio Haiti Inter.
Montas-Dominique, who has been accused by her political foes of engineering her husband's death, has demanded that Toussaint lose his immunity and be forced to end his stonewalling tactics, "What he's trying to do is stop the whole thing."
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Write a letter to Senator Yvon Neptune, leader of the Haitian Senate, asking him to lift Senator Dany Toussaint's parliamentary immunity and allow the Jean Dominique murder inquiry to move forward:
Senateur Yvon Neptune
Le Senat de la Republique
Le Palais Legislatif
Place des Nations Unis
You can use our model letter.
This email is forwarded as a service of the Haiti Support Group.
SEE THE HAITI SUPPORT GROUP WEB SITE: http://www.gn.apc.org/haitisupport
The Haiti Support Group - solidarity with the Haitian people's struggle for justice, participatory democracy and equitable development, since 1992.