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RSF calls on Haitians to maintain pressure for proper investigation of Jean Dominique murder

(RSF/IFEX) - The following is a 2 April 2003 RSF press release:

3 April 2000 - 3 April 2003

Reporters Without Borders calls on Haitians to keep up pressure for proper investigation of Jean Dominique murder

Reporters Without Borders called today on all Haitians to continue pressing for a full enquiry into the shooting of Jean Dominique at his radio station, Radio Haiti Inter, on 3 April 2000. Last month, a judge ended an investigation without saying who ordered his death, recommending only the trial of six people for carrying out the murder. All have been in prison for more than two years.

Nobody should be content with a legal system that fails to answer the key question of who the mastermind was. The temporary exile of Dominique's widow, Michèle Montas, after an apparent bid to kill her and then the indefinite closure of the radio station unfortunately proves murderers hold sway in Haiti. The departure for exile of seven family members of another murdered journalist, Brignol Lindor, in May last year, only confirms this.

Reporters Without Borders believes that, beyond the threat to the victims' families, the impunity enjoyed by the killers and attackers of journalists is a warning to the media for its criticism of the government. In three years, 29 journalists have fled abroad, endangering the right of Haitians to be informed.

To keep up national and international pressure in the case, Reporters Without Borders is marking the third anniversary of Dominique's death with a poster that asks: "Are killers running the show?" It lists the main obstacles encountered by investigators and concludes: "Enough is enough! Justice for Jean Dominique."

Some 3,500 copies of the poster (English on one side and French on the other) have been printed and distributed to media and Reporters Without Borders members, most of them journalists, all over the world. Special distribution is also planned in Haiti itself.

An enquiry hampered by many obstacles

The outspoken Dominique, Haiti's best-known journalist and political commentator, was killed in the courtyard of his radio station on 3 April 2000. He had criticised all sides - supporters of the former Duvalier family dictatorship, ex-military figures, members of the country's wealthy families and those he suspected in President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas party of wanting to turn the organisation away from its original principles.

The murder investigation was assigned in September 2000 to Judge Gassant after his predecessor, Judge Jean-Sénat Fleury, had resigned after receiving threats. Legal sources said on 28 May 2001 that Sen. Dany Toussaint, an ally of Aristide, had been charged with the murder. Gassant fled to the United States after his mandate expired on 3 January 2002 and was not immediately renewed by Aristide. He had been repeatedly harassed after reportedly indicting Toussaint. Since July last year, the investigation has been in the hands of Judge Bernard Saint-Vil.

For the past three years, virtually all state institutions have obstructed the murder enquiry. The justice ministry never gave Judge Gassant adequate protection despite threats against him. Police refused to carry our arrest warrants and were accused of handing over a leading suspect to a mob that lynched him. The senate refused to lift Toussaint's parliamentary immunity.

Dominique's widow, who has been running the radio station since her husband's death, was the target of an apparent attempt to kill her at her home last December 25, in which one of her bodyguards, Maxime Séide, was shot dead.

On 21 February this year, she announced the station was going off the air because of many threats to its staff. "Three of our people have already been killed and we don't want to lose anyone else," she said. Montas said the station was only closing temporarily.

Judge Saint-Vil sent his report on the case to the state prosecutor on 21 March, naming six people to be tried for carrying out the murder, all of them already in prison. Sen. Toussaint and several of his aides were cleared. No one was accused of organising the murder.

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