Haiti Human Rights Alert: Attacks Against Rev. Gérard Jean-Juste on March 24 and 25, 2005
March 26, 2005
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Haiti Human Rights Alert: Attacks Against Rev. Gérard Jean-Juste on March 24 and 25, 2005

Each of the last two nights has seen attacks against Fr. Gérard Jean-Juste or his church, Sainte Claire's Catholic Church, located in a poor neighborhood of Delmas, Haiti. Fr. Jean-Juste is a prominent activist for peace and justice in Haiti, and spent seven weeks as a political prisoner in October and November 2004. Despite his high profile and the history of politically-motivated attacks against him, the United Nations Stabilization Mission to Haiti (MINUSTAH) declined to respond to his call for help after Friday's attack. We urge you to contact MINUSTAH today to insist that the Mission provide protection for Fr. Jean-Juste, especially at this evening's Easter Vigil mass at Ste. Claire's.

Late at night on Thursday, March 24, Fr. Jean-Juste surprised an intruder by the back door of the Ste. Claire rectory. The man fled, but later that night neighbors caught a man they believe to be the intruder, and handed him over to the police. On Friday evening, March 25, men dressed in black in one or more pickup trucks arrived outside Ste. Claire's and started shooting wildly, reportedly with automatic weapons. People contacted MINUSTAH on Fr. Jean-Juste's behalf, and were told by top officials that MINUSTAH would send people right away. As of late morning on Saturday, MINUSTAH police had not arrived, although Fr. Jean-Juste reports a MINUSTAH helicopter did fly over his church in the morning.

Late tonight Ste. Claire's will hold an Easter Vigil mass. The church will be filled with parishioners, most from the poor neighborhoods that have been targeted for political violence over the last year. There may be no electricity outside, and there will be few people out besides the churchgoers. Gunmen attacked Haitian Catholic churches filled with pro-democracy activists in 1987 (the St. Jean Bosco Massacre) and 1993 (the Antoine Izmery Assassination). We must not let this happen again.

Please contact MINUSTAH immediately to insist that the Mission assure the security of Fr. Jean-Juste and Ste. Claire's church, especially at this evening's Easter Vigil mass. Your call or email does not need to be complicated, just communicate that: 1) you care about Fr. Jean-Juste, and 2) MINUSTAH should protect him. Calling is best because of the urgency, but if you are unable to get through (it may take a few tries, calls to Haiti are difficult today), please send an email or fax. More background information on Fr. Jean-Juste and MINUSTAH is below.

Contact Information

Lt. General Augusto Heleno Ribeiro Pereira
UN Military Commander in Haiti: 011-509-554-8074

Damian Onses-Cardona
Spokesperson for Gen. Pereira
011-509-557-5118 (cell)
011-509-510-2563, ext. 6303.

Touissant Congo-Doudou
Head of Communications
MINUSTAH: 011-509-557-5906

David Beer
Commissioner of CIVPOL
the UN Civilian Police in Haiti
fax: 011-509-244-9366.

Juan Gabriel Valdes
Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General to Haiti
011-509-244-9650 or 9660
fax 011-509 244 3512.

Background Information

Fr. Jean-Juste

On Wednesday, October 13, 2004, Haitian police forcibly entered Ste. Claire's church and arrested Fr. Jean-Juste, without a warrant, while he was feeding the hungry children of his parish. The men were heavily-armed men, some wore Haitian National Police (HNP) uniforms, some did not, and many wore masks. The police dragged Fr. Jean-Juste out though a window of the rectory, cutting his leg on broken glass. Fr. Jean-Juste spent almost a month in jail before seeing a judge. Gérard Latortue, Haiti's interim Prime Minister, and Justice Minister Bernard Gousse claimed that Fr. Jean-Juste was linked to terrorist activities, and prosecutors alleged he was connected to two murders, but no one produced a single piece of evidence linking Fr. Jean-Juste to any illegal activity. The judge ordered Fr. Jean-Juste released for lack of evidence, but the government waited seventeen days to execute the order, then retaliated against the judge by illegally taking all of his cases away from him.

Fr. Jean-Juste speaks out forcefully against all forms of violence, from the pulpit and on his radio shows. He spoke out against the state-sponsored violence of the Duvalier regime, the de facto dictatorship (1991-1994) and the Haitian army. He also speaks out against violence by the victims of that violence and by supporters of Haiti's Constitutional governments. When opposition politicians were attacked following the April 2000 funeral of assassinated journalist Jean-Dominique, Fr. Jean-Juste spent his entire two-hour radio show imploring everyone to return to their homes.

Fr. Jean-Juste has been highly effective at fighting political and economic violence through peaceful means. When he was forced into exile for criticizing the Duvalier dictatorship, Fr. Jean-Juste retaliated with a lawsuit, winning a judgment against Jean-Claude Duvalier in Miami Federal Court. In 1979, he co-founded the Haitian Refugee Center in Florida, which provided assistance to thousands of refugees from the Duvalier regime, and fought unjust immigration policies all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In Haiti, Fr. Jean-Juste encouraged victims of the de facto dictatorship to organize and to force Haitian courts to deliver justice. On August 16, 2004, Haiti's interim government held a re-trial in the case of slain pro-democracy activist Antoine Izmery. Although he knew the prosecution was not serious (the Washington Post called it "Sham Justice in Haiti"), and feared arrest, Fr. Jean-Juste bravely appeared, the only summoned witness to do so.


The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) is a Peace-Keeping mission authorized by UN Security Council Resolution 1542, which mandates the mission to: "to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence....." (Article 7(I)(f), available at http://www.ijdh.org/UNRes1542.pdf?OpenElement). MINUSTAH has more actively enforced this part of its mandate since February 28, when Haitian Police fired on a peaceful demonstration while MINUSTAH troops looked on. But human rights groups report that over the long term "MINUSTAH has provided cover for abuses committed by the HNP during operations in poor, historically tense Port-au-Prince neighborhoods, "(Keeping the Peace in Haiti?, Centro de Justicia Global and Harvard Law Student Advocates for Human Rights, http://www.ijdh.org/#unhaiti, p. 38), and consistently fails to protect ordinary citizens from political violence ("the failure to do so when civilians beg for UN assistance is simply incomprehensible", Id. p.29).

MINUSTAH's failure to provide protection for Fr. Jean-Juste is particularly egregious in the context of recent attacks against the pro-democracy movement. After the February 28 shootings, MINUSTAH promised to provide better protection, and for a few weeks it did. But on Thursday morning, another peaceful, pre-announced demonstration was met with gunfire, killing three people.

For more information about Fr. Jean-Juste, MINUSTAH, and human rights in Haiti in general, consult www.ijdh.org.

Brian Concannon Jr.
Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti
541-263-0029 (cell)

see also:

Haiti church fired on during radio interview
with Father Jean-Juste
Friday, March 25

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