TROUBLE IN PARADISE – Aristide Nine charged in 2000 murder of Haitian journalist Jean Dominique

By Amelie Baron

PORT-AU-PRINCE Sat Jan 25, 2014 5:53am GMT

The investigation into one of Haiti’s most notorious political assassinations on Friday, accusing nine people of having a hand in the killing of radio journalist Jean Dominique, including several close associates of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

A former senator, Mirlande Libérus from Aristide’s political party, was indicted as the organizer of the double murder in April 2000 of Dominique, owner of Radio Haiti Inter, and a security guard, according to a summary of the judge’s report made public by an Appeals Court panel on Friday.

The two victims were shot by unidentified gunmen as Dominique drove into the radio station’s offices in Port-au-Prince, according to the judges.

Libérus was given the mission by Aristide to silence the popular journalist, the report said, citing witnesses who testified before Judge Yvikel Dabrésil.

The judge did not indict Aristide as part of the conspiracy.

Aristide did not issue a statement after the judge’s report was made public. His lawyers did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Dominique’s widow, Michele Montas, welcomed news of the report, saying it was a “positive step” after many years of seeking justice.

“It’s been 10 years since I gave my testimony in the case,” Montas told Reuters.

Montas moved to New York after the killing and is a former spokeswoman for the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. She declined further comment saying she has not seen a copy of the judge’s report.

The judge’s full report is due to be published in the coming weeks, after it has been formally accepted by the Appeals Court, according to Guyler Delva, who heads a local committee of investigating the cases of murdered journalists.

“It’s very encouraging,” said Delva, a former correspondent for Reuters who now runs a government-funded news website, Haiti News Network. He said it was unclear why Aristide had not been indicted. “How could you indict Libérus for receiving the order to get rid of Dominique, and not the person who gave the order,” he said.

The nine accused include Senator Libérus and Harold Severe, the former deputy mayor of Port-au-Prince. The others are Annette Auguste, Franco Camille, Merité Milien, Dimsley Milien, Toussaint Mercidieu, Jeudi Jean Daniel and Markington Michel.

None of the accused has so far been arrested and some are believed to be living abroad, including Libérus, who local media reports say resides in the United States.

Due to its political sensitivity the case has taken years to prosecute and slipped through the hands of numerous judges, one who fled the country in fear.

In all seven judges worked on the case over the span of almost 14 years. If and when a trial will be held remains unclear as the case could still be appealed to the Supreme Court.

An agronomist by training, Dominique was born into Haiti’s light-skinned mulatto elite, but broke ranks to become a champion of the country’s poor peasants.

The story of his life – and death – was made into an award-winning documentary, “The Agronomist,” by filmmaker Jonathan Demme, director of “The Silence of the Lambs.”

Wearing a trademark black leather cap, Dominique revolutionized Haitian broadcasting by addressing his audience in native Creole, rather than French, and denouncing abuses by those in power.

His scathing on-air editorials made him an enemy of Haiti’s dictators, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude “Baby Doc.”

Dominique later turned his tongue against Aristide’s political party, Lavalas, accusing it of corruption and abuse of power, and was widely considered as a rival to Aristide’s bid to return to power in 2001.

(Writing and additional reporting by David Adams; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

THE ACCUSER                   THE ACCUSED


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10 thoughts on “TROUBLE IN PARADISE – Aristide Nine charged in 2000 murder of Haitian journalist Jean Dominique

  1. This is a Joke ! Why Aristide is not Indicted ? This is not Justice, This is Injustice. Where is The “Justice” they’re Talking about ?. An Insult to Jean Dominique and his Wife, also to any Civilized Society and most particularly to the Haitian People. C’est pour Faire Dormir les Enfants. WHERE ARE THE so called ” HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS ORGANIZATIONS” ???

  2. We Americans really do not understand the dynamics of Haiti.

    When South Africa wanted to rid itself of Aristide, no other nation would accept him.

    He promised the Americans that he would stay out of POLITICS. Instead, he would focus on EDUCATION.

    That sounded cool to the American mentality.

    Unfortunately they did not understand the equation in Haiti.


    We injected Aristide into the battle and he is now accelerating towards control. EDUCATION will be the basis of his action. EDUCATION will see the students take the streets and light the fires. Students – for generations – have been the fuel that lights the fire to remove governments.

    So it was.

    So it is.

    So it will always be.

  3. Now Michel Montas should be able to Press Charges Against Aristide. Also Jean Dominique Driver’s Parents should Follow the same Path based on the Judge’s Report. NO MORE EXCUSES !!!

  4. Aristide ta dwe ont te konplètman éliminé 29 septanm 1991. DETONASYON!

  5. Hospital workers carry the body of prominent Haitian radio journalist Jean Léopold Dominique after he was shot in front of his radio station in Port-au-Prince, Haiti Monday April 3, 2000. Dominique, a strong advocate of a free press in Haiti, was shot dead as he arrived for work Monday at Radio Haiti-Inter. A guard was also killed. DANIEL MOREL / AP

    By Jacqueline Charles

    The unresolved demons in Michèle Montas’ life underscore how even the influential in Haiti can’t push the levers of a justice system that’s badly in need of reform.

    Forced into exile by the Duvalier dictatorship — only to return to Haiti, and be forced out again by an assassin’s bullet — Montas today finds herself at the center of two epic legal cases winding at snail-pace through the judicial system.

    In one courtroom, an investigative judge is trying to determine who ordered the assassination of her husband, agronomist-turned-famous journalist Jean Léopold Dominique and a guard in the courtyard of his Radio Haiti-Inter 13 years ago this month.

    In another, a three-judge appeals panel is determining whether former President-for-Life Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, 61, should stand trial on human rights abuses that Montas and others say they suffered under his dictatorship from 1971 to 1986.

    “What matters to me is the process,” said Montas, a former spokeswoman for U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and whose grandfathers were justices on Haiti’s supreme court. “Somewhere in me, there is that time when we had a judicial system that functioned.”

    But in Haiti, where crimes routinely go unpunished, the justice system hasn’t worked in a long time. Clerks still keep records by hand, legal proceedings are held in French although most speak Creole, and, according to a recent human rights report, judges often complain of being “unable to dispense justice calmly, because of explicit threats made against them or their families.”

    “There is still a long way to go before the justice system is working as it should be,” said the report’s author, Michel Forst, the ex-UN Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti.

    Still, Montas, a former radio journalist, pushes forward in her quest for answers.

    “In the case of Jean, I hope things will come out. The truth is probably the first step toward rule of law. I just want the truth,” she said. “In the case of Duvalier, what I want is for people to hear what happened. It’s not about a dictator who is old and sick. It’s about what impact he has had on the country.

    “We are still paying the price for 30 years of dictatorship and many people don’t realize it,” she said.

    On Thursday, after a two-week hiatus and a power outage inside the sauna-like courtroom, Duvalier’s appeals hearing resumed with testimony from Henri Faustin, who was imprisoned for more than a year as a student.

    Duvalier wants the court to dismiss an investigative judge’s order that he stand trial on corruption charges. Montas and 29 others, including Faustin, are seeking to have crimes against humanity charges reinstated. The judge rejected those charges last year.

    The case has divided Haitians with some suggesting to Montas that both Dominique and Duvalier are old stories that should be left in Haiti’s tragic past.

    “Impunity, for me, is not just a question of assassination. It’s about everything in Haiti. It’s about our future,” said Montas, 66. “What does that mean when we cannot even try a guy who has taken $600 million out of Haiti’s’ coffers? That is what Duvalier did.”

    On Feb. 28, after refusing three previous requests by the court to appear, Duvalier finally faced his accusers — except for Montas.

    She was 1,500 miles away in New York where she has lived since leaving Haiti 22 months ago after stepping down as special adviser to the head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission.

    From her New York city high rise, where she’s surrounded by Haitian paintings and a portrait of Dominique, she keeps tabs on the legal wrangling. She adds the latest developments in Dominique’s case to a 38-page chronology that includes names of those implicated, summoned to give testimony and killed.

    The case is currently in the hands of its tenth investigative judge, not counting those who outright refused to handle it when it landed on their desk. The current judge, Yvickel Dabresil, is tasked with determining “the intellectual author” of the hit. Quietly, Montas, however, fears that he, too, will do as his predecessors: quit under pressure or out of fear for his own safety.

    “Almost everyone who has touched this case is dead,” she said.

    On Christmas Day 2002, while at home in Petionville, Montas almost joined the list herself when two unidentified gunmen fired shots at her, killing bodyguard Maxime Sëide. The bullet holes remain in her gate. When she most recently lived in Haiti, she traveled with six U.N. bodyguards and two armored cars.

    “Why did they come and shoot at me? Because I was asking for justice everyday on the microphone?” she said. Two months later, fearing more deaths, she shut down the radio station, and again fled into self-exile.

    Last month, Dabresil, the investigative judge, summoned former President René Préval and ex-investigative judge Claudy Gassant to give closed-door testimony.

    In 2001, Gassant told The Miami Herald that he feared for his life because powerful people in then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s government might be implicated in the murders. Once a supporter of Aristide’ and his Lavalas Family party, Dominique had become an outspoken critic on the airwaves.

    “The executive is against me, the legislative is against me, and the judiciary, too,” said Gassant, who later fled to South Florida. “I’m so afraid I don’t know of whom to be afraid.”

    Gassant declined to discuss last month’s meeting with the judge. Préval, who was a good friend of Dominique’s, told The Herald, “It’s natural that the judge would want to talk to me.”

    Some have suggested that Montas seek justice in an international court. That remains an option for Duvalier, she said.

    She accuses Duvalier of “destroying hope” when on Nov. 28, 1980 his regime arrested her and several other journalists and imprisoned them in a 5-by-8 cell on the grounds of the presidential palace before shipping them into exile.

    But she said there will be no international tribunal in the case of Dominique, whose decades-long struggle for democracy and championing of poor farmers was captured on the big screen by filmmaker Jonathan Demme in the documentary The Agronomist. His death on the eve of legislative elections in Haiti was declared by the Organization of American States “an attack on freedom of the press as well as democracy.’’

    “I want him to find justice in his own country because that is what he would have wanted. So many people have died since ‘86,” Montas said. “I told myself that if we can use this case to push the issue of impunity to the outmost, then we should do it.”

    “No one is going to give me Jean back. I know that,’’ she said. “But what’s essential for me is that people see him for what he represented.”

  6. The so called human rights watch groups wants to hang the corpse of former Haiti s’ president Jean-Claude Duvalier for human rights violations. Many world leaders from developed and underdeveloped countries have been brought to justice, a U.S. president “SLICK WILLY” was impeached for immorality, why a former catholic priest turned evil the omnipotent Jean Bertrand Aristide is still a fugitive at-large?

  7. My heart goes out to Michelle. The fact that these killers are walking around free is why everyone with money in Haiti thinks they can do whatever they want to other people and get away with it.

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