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The Politics of Injustice in Haiti:
The Cases of Auguste and Chamblain,
by Sasha Kramer & Zoe Moskovitz
On August 18, 2004 a jury acquitted Jodel Chamblain of the 1993 murder of Antoine Izmery in a trial, over in less than 14 hours, that Amnesty International called an "insult to justice." The sentiment expressed in the Amnesty report was echoed in editorials in both the New York Times and the Washington Post. The verdict calls into question the integrity of the new justice system of the interim government that hailed Chamblain a "freedom fighter" for his role in unseating the democratically elected government of Jean Bertrand Aristide. A search of international news sources reveals that the only person who expressed satisfaction with the trial was Mr. Chamblain himself, who is quoted as saying it was "fair and equitable."
Jodel Chamblain and his codefendant Jackson Joanis were convicted in absentia of the murder of Antoine Izmery in 1995 in a landmark trial for the Haitian judicial system. Under the Haitian constitution both men are entitled to a retrial. Despite the fact that there were numerous witnesses present when Izmery was killed, only one of the eight witnesses called for the retrial appeared in court and he claimed to have no information. Many of the witnesses that testified in the original trial are said to be in hiding. The lack of witnesses willing to testify and the verdict itself are not surprising given the current climate of political repression and the fact that Justice Minister Bernard Gousse suggested that Chamblain might be pardoned based on his ,"great services to the nation.," Chamblain is still being held pending retrial on charges related to the Rabotteau Massacre that took place in 1994 (for detailed information on the charges against Chamblain see: Haiti Assassination Trial An Affront to
We visited the Petionville penitentiary where Chamblain was ostensibly being detained the week before his trial and saw him conferring with an OAS official behind the security desk at the entrance of the jail. Several anonymous sources have suggested that Chamblain does not actually sleep at the prison but at the hotel around the corner and international observers visiting the prison noted that the view into his private cell was blocked by a drawn curtain; it is important to note that no other prisoners enjoy anywhere near this level of privilege and privacy.
The conditions of his imprisonment and subsequent acquittal of Jodel Chamblain provide enough fodder for those who would critique the current Haitian judicial system, but these issues become even more shocking when contrasted with the case of political prisoner Annette Auguste. Annette Auguste, known as So Anne, is a popular Haitian singer, pro-democracy activist and outspoken supporter of President Aristide.
On the night of May 10, 2004 US Marines entered So Anne's house without a warrant using plastic explosives. They killed her two dogs and cuffed and hooded members of her family, including four minors under the age of 15. Marine's initially claimed that they had received information that she was stockpiling weapons in her home and planned to attack US interests in Haiti. Although no weapons were found on the premises. So Anne was held for two weeks without charges.
According to So Anne's husband, Wilfrid Lavaud, it was acknowledged at her first hearing that there was no warrant at the time of her arrest, but at the second hearing the prosecution produced a back dated warrant. So Anne was later charged with having mobilized people to attack anti-government demonstrators at the Faculty of Human Sciences of the State University on December 5, 2003. The judge presiding over her case found no evidence linking her to this demonstration and ordered her release but the government prosecutor refused saying he was waiting for more charges.
Since then, a series of ridiculous charges have been leveled against her that appeal to prejudices from anti-vodou to anti-Islam sentiment as evidenced by Marine spokesman David Lapan's statement made shortly after her arrest. He said, "I can't specifically get into intelligence information that we have about activities that she and others were involved in - but a mosque is, at least, mentioned in some of these activities."
Although the propaganda campaign is fierce, no official charges have been filed and no trial date is set. So why is the interim government dragging it's feet in this case where there is a clear lack of evidence, while hastily acquitting Chamblain without even bothering to compile the evidence that already convicted him so effectively?
It's obvious that both So Anne and Chamblain are receiving treatment based on their political allegiances. So Anne is in prison because of her outspoken support for ousted President Jean Bertrand Aristide and her ability to mobilize the pro-democracy movement in Haiti. Jodel Chamblain is free because of his role in Aristide's overthrow.
Amnesty has called the case of Jodel Chamblain ,"a test of the judicial system in Haiti," under the interim government. In this trial the interim government has demonstrated its unwillingness or inability to uphold the standards of fairness and political impartiality essential for a functioning justice system. Amnesty International defines a prisoner of conscience as ,"persons or people detained because of their beliefs or because of their ethnic origin, sex, color, language, national or social origin, economic status, birth, or other status who have not used or advocated violence...[but are] imprisoned simply for the peaceful exercise of their human rights.," We ask that Amnesty International recognize that So Anne is a prisoner of conscience, suffering under the same corrupt system that acquitted Chamblain, and mount a campaign to bring her justice. Furthermore, we feel that it is absolutely essential for Amnesty to monitor the ongoing human rights violations in Haiti, tolerated, if not encouraged by the interim government.
If you would like to participate in the campaign to free Annette Auguste there are two concrete actions that you can take:
1) Join us in demanding that the governments of the United States and Haiti - now nearly indistinguishable related to her incarceration - unconditionally and immediately release So Anne who has committed no crime other than expressing her commitment to social justice and her loyalty to the Lavalas party. You can sign our petition to the US and Haitian government at:
"Release Annette Auguste:
2) As of now, So Anne has been unable to obtain legal representation because it is too expensive. The only tangible asset she has is the wonderful music that she creates. At present, she has selected 11 songs to be released on a special CD entitled ,"Rezistans,". The proceeds from the sales of the CD will go directly to her legal defense fund. So Anne and her family will need $2500 to produce and release the first 1000 CD's.
You can also support So Anne's legal defense fund by purchasing a copy of her newest CD:
REZISTANS: Haitian Songs of Resistance.
Note: PayPal account NOT required.
This donation is NOT tax deductible
This donation (above) is NOT tax deductible
Alternatively you can make a tax deductible donation directly to So Anne's legal defense fund at
This donation (below) is tax deductible
Help with the Release...
of So Anne and her music
|The Roots of Lies
and Falsehood Are Not Deep
Statement released by Annette Auguste "So Anne"
I am pleased to be able to send this second communication from my prison cell in the Petionville Penitentiary to the world. They have kept me virtually incommunicado from the press since May 10, 2004, forcing me to be resourceful in pleading my case. The roots of the truth are indeed deep while those of lies and falsehoods are not.
I state again that I am a prisoner of conscience being persecuted for my political beliefs. It has become clear to everyone by now that the administration of George Bush and his handpicked Prime Minister Gerard Latortue have jailed me for political reasons.
Allow me to recount the circumstances of my arrest and incarceration and to add a few new facts purposefully hidden from public view:
1) During the early morning hours of May 10, 2004, American military personnel from the Interim Multinational Force violated my rights when they attacked and invaded my residence with explosives; they handcuffed me and everyone in my household under the pretext that there were assault weapons in my house. This brutal invasion caused a 12 year old to jump from a balcony onto a rooftop nearby resulting in a serious leg injury. American military authorities said that I represented a threat to them, that I was part of a plot to attack them in collusion with Muslims from a mosque in my neighborhood. As truth would have it, I did not have assault weapons in my house and I was not part of a plot with Muslims against American military personnel, nor was I ever any threat to them.
2) The Haitian National Police violated my human rights by collaborating with American military personnel in the Interim Multinational Force to arrest me at my home, without a warrant, in the early morning hours of May 10, 2004. On June 9, 2004, the legal council for the general command of the Haitian police presented a warrant to the court claiming that this was the document they had in their possession when the US Marines invaded my home. This warrant was dated March 14, 2004 and stood in direct contradiction with police testimony given in court on May 11, 2004. In a hearing on that date, Judge Bredi Fabien, asked the police if they could prove their claim and produce a legal warrant for my arrest. The police representatives clearly responded that they did not have a legal arrest warrant to show the judge. Thank God the judge wrote these facts in his report of May 11, 2004. This clearly showed that the police later prepared a post-dated warrant in direct violation of ethics and of the Haitian constitution.
3) Government prosecutor, Daniel Audain, started criminal prosecution against me because the organization NCHR (National Coalition for Haitian Rights) stated that I was among the people who on December 5, 2003, beat up the rector of the State University, Pierre Marie Paquiot, on the premises of the school of Humanities. That day, December 5, 2003, I was in a recording studio called ANSITO RECORDING SYSTEM, on the premises of Top 50 in Port au Prince, where I was recording songs composed by myself and my choir, Koral La. Since August 20, 2003, I had been going to this studio every day until February 1, when I went into the hospital, Canape-Vert, for surgery. After judge Bredi Fabien heard me on May 11, 2004, he asked that I be provisionally released. Government prosecutor Daniel Audain, refused to execute the judge's request stating that he was waiting for other charges to be made against me.
4) During the last weekend of June, a Haitian national, Sonia Desrosiers, declared on the radio in Port au Prince (RadioVision2000) that the minister of justice, Edouard Gousse, sent her to the government prosecutor, Daniel Audain, to file a complaint against me. Sonia Desrosiers, followed the order given to her by minister Gousse. Sonia's declaration had many contradictions.
a) Sonia stated that on March 5, 2000, I used my telephone 557-6555, to invite her to a party at the home of President Jean Bertrand Aristide. When she arrived at the party she saw that she was in a ceremony where they were sacrificing a baby. Telephone 557-6555 is a cellular phone that I purchased at the company Haitel on January 4, 2003. I did not have this phone on March 5, 2000.
b) Sonia stated that during the sacrifice of the baby, the participants were asking that President Aristide stay in office the full five years as mandated by the Constitution of the country. Yet on March 5, 2000, it was Rene Garcia Preval who was President of Haiti.
The reality is, I have been in jail since May 10th, 2004 despite the fact that there is no legal justification for it. Congresswoman Maxine Waters wrote US Secretary of State Colin Powell concerning this matter. Secretary Colin Powell stated that there is evidence that may yet prove that I am a threat to American military personnel; this evidence is apparently too secret to release. There is however, clear political justification to continue my incarceration. The reality is that I am in jail for no other reason than that I am perceived as a leader and member of Fanmi Lavalas. I am in jail because I was defending the vote the people of Haiti gave to Jean Bertrand Aristide in the elections of November 26, 2000. It is for this reason, and this reason alone, that Secretary Powell and the current unconstitutional regime that the Bush Administration put in power are keeping me behind bars.
Annette Auguste "So Anne"