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RSF once again concerned by impunity in assassinated journalist Jean Dominique?s case

(RSF/IFEX) - In a letter to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, RSF expressed its profound concern about the continued non-execution of four arrest warrants which were issued as part of the investigation into the assassination of journalist Jean Dominique. The organisation asked the president to do everything in his power to ensure that the targeted individuals are arrested as soon as possible. "It is scandalous that Paul Raymond and René Civil, two of the individuals who are supposedly being sought by the police, were able to hold a news conference without being disturbed," said RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard. He also expressed his concern that certain barriers encountered by the investigation have originated from within the Criminal Investigation Department itself. The arrest warrants were issued against four men who are linked to the Fanmi Lavalas, the president’s party. "The government’s passive approach to this case is increasingly beginning to look like complicity. We ask that you respect the commitment you made on 3 March to mobilise all the resources necessary to ensure the investigation’s success. Otherwise, how are we not to believe that the assassins will enjoy total impunity?" asked Ménard.

Moreover, RSF protested the shooting of Jean Ronald Dupont, a Radio Maxima FM journalist, and the assault on Jean-Marie Mayard, a Radio Métropole correspondent. Mayard, who was assaulted by members of a people’s movement which is close to the Fanmi Lavalas, is the tenth journalist to be threatened or assaulted by supporters of the governing party since 1 January 2001. None of the attackers have been prosecuted or otherwise punished.

Impunity surrounding the Dominique case

According to information collected by RSF, Criminal Investigation Department officials have reportedly not issued an order to execute the arrest warrants against Richard "Cha Cha" Salomon and Franck Joseph, who have both been charged in the context of the Dominique murder case. Dominique was the director of Radio Haïti Inter. The Public Prosecutor’s Office reportedly sent the arrest warrants to the Criminal Investigation Department several months ago. Salomon is considered to be Senator Dany Toussaint’s "right hand man". Joseph is one of the senator’s bodyguards. Also charged in this case, Toussaint is currently the object of a request for the lifting of his parliamentary immunity. The Senate has yet to respond to the examining judge’s request.

Moreover, Raymond, spokesperson for the TKL organisation, and Civil, spokesperson for Jeunesse pouvoir populaire (JPP), held a press conference on 28 September, even though an arrest warrant was issued against them as part of the investigation into Dominique’s assassination. The arrest warrant was issued by Claudy Gassant, the examining judge in the case, after the officials from the two organisations refused to respond to the repeated summonses he had sent them in order to hear them as witnesses in the case.

On 3 April 2000, Dominique, the country’s best-known Haitian journalist and political analyst, was killed in Radio Haïti Inter’s courtyard. He was the station’s director. In a 19 October 1999 editorial, the journalist had sharply called into question Toussaint’s ambitions. Toussaint, who was elected to the Senate in May 2000, is a Fanmi Lavalas member. In August 2001, Judge Gassant asked that his parliamentary immunity be lifted, because of his assumed implication in the journalist’s killing.

Assaults and threats

Also according to information collected by RSF, Dupont, a Radio Maxima FM journalist, received a head injury on 2 October while covering a demonstration in Cap-Haïtien (a city in the country’s north). The journalist, who is in stable condition, was shot as police officers were shooting just above protesters’ heads in an effort to disperse them.

Three days earlier, Mayard, a Radio Métropole correspondent in St Marc (ninety-five kilometres north of Port-au-Prince), was assaulted by members of the organisation "Bale wouze", which is also close to the Fanmi Lavalas. His attackers insulted and threatened him and broke his cassette recorder as he was returning from one of President Aristide’s meetings. One of his attackers reportedly told him, "If you continue to broadcast information which is unfavourable to the Lavalas government you are a dead man."

A total of ten journalists have been threatened or assaulted by Fanmi Lavalas supporters since 1 January. None of the attackers have been punished. During a 9 January press conference, Civil and Raymond notably called for the killing of Liliane Pierre-Paul, from Radio Kiskeya, Max Chauvet, director of the daily "Le Nouvelliste", and several opposition figures. Though the prosecution did summon Raymond a few days later, he was not penalised in any significant way.

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