(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 presidentâs party. "The governmentâs 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 investigationâs 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 peopleâs 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 Prosecutorâs Office reportedly sent the arrest warrants to the Criminal Investigation Department several months ago. Salomon is considered to be Senator Dany Toussaintâs "right hand man". Joseph is one of the senatorâs 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 judgeâs 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 Dominiqueâs 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 countryâs best-known Haitian journalist and political analyst, was killed in Radio Haïti Interâs courtyard. He was the stationâs director. In a 19 October 1999 editorial, the journalist had sharply called into question Toussaintâs 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 journalistâs 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 countryâs north). The journalist, who is in stable condition, was shot as police officers were shooting just above protestersâ 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 Aristideâs 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.