International Press Institute (IPI) & Association of Caribbean MediaWorkers (ACM) push for justice for murdered Haiti journalist

The International Press Institute (IPI) and the Association of Caribbean MediaWorkers (ACM) both called on the Haitian justice system to take seriously the findings of an official investigation into the 2000 murder of journalist Jean Léopold Dominique.

The judge leading the investigation, Yvickel Dabrésil, presented a report to a Haitian appeals court on Friday recommending the indictment of nine persons accused of participating in Dominique’s killing, including the alleged mastermind, former Senator Mirlande Libérus Pavert.

Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide waves to supporters as he arrives in Port-au-Prince, May 8, 2013 to testify on the killing of journalist Jean Léopold Dominique. A new report alleges that a senator close to Aristide was the mastermind behind the killing. REUTERS/Marie Arago

Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide waves to supporters as he arrives in Port-au-Prince, May 8, 2013 to testify on the killing of journalist Jean Léopold Dominique. A new report alleges that a senator close to Aristide was the mastermind behind the killing. REUTERS/Marie Arago

According to excerpts from the report published by La Nouvelliste, Oriel Jean, who in 2000 was the head of security for then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, testified that he was acting on orders from Aristide that year when he asked Pavert to “thwart” Dominique’s “activities”. Jean recounted that Dominique, a highly popular figure in Haiti, was believed to be a possible opposition candidate for president.

Pavert, reportedly now living in the United States, declined to testify before Dabrésil despite “numerous invitations”. Aristide, whose name does not figure among the nine recommended for indictment, told Dabrésil in May 2013 that he heard of Dominique’s murder over the radio “like everyone else.” He appeared to dismiss the accusations against Pavert as “political persecution”.

Media reports Opens external link in new windowindicate that the three-member appeals court will now decide whether to follow Dabrésil’s recommendations.

ACM President Clive Bacchus said: “We urge the Haitian Authorities to ensure that all those responsible for this heinous crime are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We continue to call on CARICOM governments to end conditions that enable criminals and their handlers to escape justice, and pledge to continue to raise public awareness on detecting, reporting and on advocating for action on all instances of impunity for violations of human rights.”

IPI Press Freedom Manager Barbara Trionfi added: “It is vital that the Haitian appeals court seriously consider the evidence presented in Judge Dabrésil’s report and, accordingly, work to bring all those responsible for the murders of Jean Léopold Dominique and his bodyguard, Jean-Claude Louissaint, to justice. There can be no more delay in ending impunity for Dominique’s killing: 14 years is already far, far too long.”

She continued: “As an immediate step, Haiti should seek the extradition of Mirlande Libérus Pavert to answer the accusations raised in Judge Dabrésil’s report.

Born in Port-au-Prince in 1930, Dominique was known for his powerful reporting on corruption and abuse of power; issues that have plagued the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation. He was shot four times while arriving at Radio Haïti Inter on April 3, 2000. Louissaint was also killed in the attack.

Attempts to find those responsible for Dominique’s killing have been hampered by the political sensitivities involved. The case previously has been investigated by a number of different judges, one of whom later fled the country in fear for his safety, Opens external link in new windowreports say.

In a resolution at its Seventh Biennial General Assembly in October 2013, ACM members noted the “continued failure” of Haitian authorities to secure justice for Dominique. The resolution called on CARICOM member states, including Haiti, to “more vigorously pursue justice on behalf of victims of human-rights violations”.

Based in Vienna, IPI is the world’s oldest global press freedom organisation. ACM, founded in 2001, is a network of journalists, media workers and media associations spanning the Caribbean Basin.

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