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a226: Haiti / Jean Dominique case : new act of intimidation against examining judge few days before the renewal of his mandate (fwd)

From: RSF Americas <ameriques@rsf.org>

<fontfamily><param>Geneva</param>This information was released by RSF
on December 28 2001.

Press freedom

28 December 2001


Jean Dominique case

New act of intimidation against examining judge few days before the
renewal of his mandate

In a 28 December 2001 letter to Minister of Justice Gary Lissade, RSF
expressed its grave concern after Judge Claudy Gassant, who is
responsible for the investigation into the assasination of journalist
Jean Dominique, was the victim of an act of intimidation by National
Palace security agents. RSF urged the minister to take all measures
necessary to ensure that the authors of the assault are called to
order. A few days before the renewal of the examining judge's mandate
(scheduled for 4 January 2002), RSF expressed its satisfaction with the
work accomplished by the judge and explained that "to ensure
efficiency, it is necessary that Judge Gassant continues to lead this
case. Following this latest assault and considering the case's
importance, we also ask you to study the possibility of appointing
other magistrates to assist the judge in his examination of the case,"
explained Robert Ménard, the organisation's secretary-general. Ménard
also recalled that the previous examining judge in the case had opted
to resign following repeated pressure.

According to information collected by RSF, Judge Gassant, who is
overseeing the investigation into journalist Dominique's assassination,
was the victim of an act of intimidation by security agents at the
National Palace (presidential palace) on 21 December. According to the
judge, while he was sitting in a car behind another vehicle at the
National Palace, the driver of the second vehicle deliberately backed
up, crashed into the judge's car and pushed it over a distance of
several metres. Police officers then came to the scene and aimed their
rifles at the magistrate. They later explained that they were
protecting a convoy of four National Palace vehicles that were
returning from a special operation. The police officers eventually left
the scene without apologising to the magistrate. RSF recalled that
Police Superintendent Evens Saintune threatened the judge several times
in May.

Judge Gassant's mandate is expected to be renewed on 4 January.
According to the Criminal Code, examining judges are appointed for
three-year renewable terms. Appointed three years ago, Judge Gassant
has been leading the investigation into Dominique's assassination since
September 2000. The previous judge responsible for the case had
resigned after being the target of pressure.

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. He was the station's director. Jean-Claude
Louissaint, the station's night watchman, was also killed in the
attack. In his 19 October 1999 editorial, Dominique had sharply
criticised Dany Toussaint, a Fanmi Lavalas member who has since been
elected to the Senate. In August 2001, the examining judge in the case
asked the Senate to lift Toussaint's parliamentary immunity, because of
his assumed implication in the journalist's assassination. The Senate
has yet to respond to the request.

<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