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a365: Sanctions Urged Against Blockers of Murder Probes

From: JD Lemieux <lxhaiti@yahoo.com>

The Black World Today

Sanctions Urged Against Blockers of Murder Probes

By Ives Marie Chanel

PORT-AU-PRINCE, (IPS) - Advocates of media freedom and
public accountability have asked the European Union
(EU) and United States to slap sanctions on 24 Haitian
officials and political leaders accused of obstructing
investigations of two journalists' assassinations.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and its Damocles
Network, set up to keep pressure on authorities
worldwide to bring to justice what it calls predators
of press freedom, say each of the officials has in
some way blocked inquests into the April 2000 killing
of Jean Leopold Dominique, director of Radio Haiti
Inter, and the December 2001 slaying of Brignol
Lindor, a journalist at Radio Echo.

In a letter to the U.S. Congress and to the EU
presidency, the media advocates expressed fear that
''the impunity which reigns in these two cases is the
result of official strategy, the intent of which is to
muzzle journalists considered too critical toward the

The letter asks U.S. and EU officials to deny travel
visas to the 24 Haitians and their families, and to
freeze the individuals' overseas bank accounts.

The Damocles Network's list includes the names of
President Jean- Bertrand Aristide, Prime Minister Jean
Marie Cherestal, three ministers, a junior minister,
seven senators, seven police officials, two judicial
officers, and two mayors.

Robert Menard, Paris-based RSF's secretary-general,
said he holds Aristide personally responsible for the
stalled investigations into the two journalists'

Menard, who ended an investigative visit to Haiti over
the weekend, said he had concluded there was no
political will to establish the facts surrounding the
two murders.

''What does appear to be true is that Aristide, his
police force, and his judicial system are doing
nothing to move the investigations forward'', Menard
said Thursday, during a visit to Petit Goave, where
Lindor was killed.

His comments followed a wave of death threats and
other forms of intimidation against journalists, a
number of who have left the country or sought safe

''Every single journalist cannot leave the country. We
must find some way to continue to function normally'',
said Michelene Hilaire, president of the Petit Goave
Journalist's Association.

For his part, Aristide has asked media here to
differentiate between ''psychological fear and true
fear.'' During a meeting with several dozen senior
journalists last week, he nevertheless reiterated his
commitment to guarantee media freedom.

On the ground, however, residents and journalists
alike condemned the authorities for not taking
decisive action to ensure their safety.

''I cannot go back to L'Acul to tend my garden. I
complained to the police and they told me there was
nothing they could do'', Love Augustin, a witness to
the Lindor killing, told IPS.

Augustin recounted that more than 50 people armed with
machetes, axes, and stones had attacked him on the day
the journalist was killed. They accused him of being a
member of the opposition and thus, a legitimate target
for them, but he was released when Lindor's vehicle
pulled up nearby.

''They wanted to kill me but when the journalist's car
arrived in the area, one of them yelled, 'Leave him
alone, there's Brignol. The mayor has asked for the
zero-tolerance formula against him.' I ran to hide and
then I heard he was killed'', said Augustin.

The "zero-tolerance formula" is a reference to a
policy designed to clamp down on crime but also
applied to political dissent. Lindor's killers, all
but one of whom remain at large despite confessing,
are believed to be members of gangs loyal to the

''We're living in fear here. The entire family has had
to leave town. They sleep in a different spot every
night'', said Bertha Lindor, a cousin of the murdered

One of Lindor's alleged killers was arrested Jan. 7,
police and judicial officers said, but the others
remain at large despite having confessed to the crime.

''We made several attempts to arrest these people but
it's hard given the nature of the terrain. They sleep
in the woods during the day and roam at night. But it
is illegal to arrest people after 6:00 P.M.'', said a
local police officer on condition of anonymity. The
sole arrested suspect reportedly belongs to the gang
Domi Nan Bwa ("Sleep in the Woods").

Meanwhile, the probe into Dominique's death remains
stalled. Investigating Magistrate Claudy Gassant left
the country Jan. 9 after his mandate expired Jan. 4.
Aristide has yet to renew it or name a replacement.
This, after authorities allegedly failed to deliver on
promised security measures to protect Gassant, whose
predecessor, Jean-Senat Fleury, abandoned the case
after receiving death threats.

Senator Dany Toussaint has been implicated in the case
in May 2001 but the Senate has effectively quashed his
arrest warrant by so far refusing to waive his
parliamentary immunity.


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