Port au Prince, Haiti- On July 21, Father Gerard Jean-Juste entered the church of St. Pierre in Haiti to pay his respects to slain journalist Jacques Roches. Roches had been kidnapped and his handcuffed and tortured corpse was found on a street close to the pro-Aristide neighborhood of Bel Air. Haitiâ€™s reactionary elite and the movement known as GNB that helped to oust Aristide, graphically known as the â€œballs up your ass movement,â€ had accused the Haitian priest of involvement in the slaying. The propaganda and pretext for his subsequent treatment had already been set in motion by US-installed Minister of Culture Magali Comeau Denis who declared days earlier that Lavalas, the violently repressed majority political party of ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was responsible for the murder Roches. According to the Agence Haitian de Press (AHP) on July 14, â€œThe police and justice havenâ€™t announced any investigation yet to find the authors of this murder. The minister affirms that it is the Lavalas sector that killed Jacques Roche, the poet who wrote against torture and the citizen who committed himself in the construction of civil society.â€ To date not a single piece of evidence has been presented to back up her claim as if that would really matter in the nightmare of human rights violations that has come to symbolize Haiti today.
According to accounts the atmosphere was tense as Father Jean-Juste, outfitted in appropriate robes of the sacrament, entered the church with six other priests and a Catholic bishop. While paying his respects to the victim, the priest was verbally and physically assaulted by members of the pro-coup Group 184, notably the GNB who had been heralded by Roches in his reporting. Jean-Justesâ€™s attorney, Bill Quigley, who was with him at the time, said, “they shoved him, spit on him, and cursed him. He was assaulted in the church while in full priest clothing.”
The GNB which was funded and cultivated by the Group 184 and is led by reactionary businessman Andy Apaid, is now called by followers of Aristide the â€œballs up the bourgeoisieâ€™s assâ€ movement, and is led by a disgruntled employee of the Haitian parliament under Aristide, Herve Santilus. Santilus reportedly brandished a firearm outside the St. Pierre church and threatened to kill Jean-Juste as they beat him inside. The UN disarmed him and then returned the weapon upon receipt of a permit issued by the US-installed government. The GNB are described as the â€œbrown shirtsâ€ or shock troops of the anti-Aristide movement that has used tactics earning them the reputation of being fascist in nature. â€œA fascist movement backed by the US and the UN and funded by the most reactionary elements of Haitiâ€™s traditional economic eliteâ€ was the description given by a member of Aristideâ€™s Lavalas political party.
Following the attack by the GNB, UN police then removed Jean-Juste from the church service, ostensibly for his own protection. It was actually the UN who detained him and then turned him over to the Haitian National Police (PNH). He was held and intermittently interrogated in the police station in Petion-Ville for twelve hours. He was then placed in prison for alleged involvement in the murder of Jacques Roches. Since then, Jean-Juste has been held in prison based upon the arbitrary application of draconian and anachronistic Napoleonic Codes which rule Haitiâ€™s judicial system. It is called â€œpublic clamorâ€ in the Napoleonic Codes. The US-installed government claims that if enough people call for your arrest and accuse you for a crime, not matter how baseless, you must go to prison. Based upon similar calls by thousands of Lavalas supporters for the arrest of the US-installed government of Gerard Latorture, if it were applied equally and to the letter of the law they would find themselves in jail if not for the guns of the US and the UN who are in Haiti to guarantee their longevity in the name of democracy.
On August 16, internationally known attorney, Bill Quigley, held a press conference at the parish of Father Gerard Jean-Juste to demand his immediate release from false incarceration. During the press conference Quigley stated,
â€œThe police do what the executive branch tells them to do and the judges do what the executive branch tells them to do as well. I think that when the soldiers [UN] and the police who arrested Father Jean-Justeâ€¦ I think they were embarrassed because they knew he not guilty of any crime.
And when we talked to the Justice of the Peace and the Prosecutor, they wouldn’t look us in the face because they were so embarrassed by what they were doing.
â€œWhen we go to the prison you can tell that all the prison guards know that Father Jerry is a political prisoner and he is not guilty of anything. But the worst victims of the justice system in Haiti today are not just Father Jean-Juste and Yvon Neptune and the other people everybody knows but the hundreds of other people who don’t have churches and don’t have families to support them. Because most of the people who are here if they got arrested there is no way they could afford to hire a lawyer or get out of jail so it is very arbitrary, it is very unfair.
â€œBut I want to tell that the whole world is watching Haiti right now. There is a big demonstration in Washington in Sept. That is going to protest against the occupation in Iraq and of Palestine and the occupation of Haiti. And so I think everyone in the world is looking forward to join in solidarity with the people of Haiti to bring about justice in this country.
â€œFather [Jean-Juste] is sick, he was very sick, he was very close to death and he needs to be released from prison now. Because if anything happens to Father Jerry in jail then I know the people of Haiti are going to be very, very disturbed.
â€œThere was a president in the United States called John F. Kennedy and he said something that I think very much applies to Haiti. He said those that make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable. So in order to preserve the peace in Haiti the Haitian government needs to start following the law. And to take human rights seriously, not just for Father Jerry but for every citizen in Haiti.â€
It should be noted that the Haitian police summarily executed another Haitian journalist, Abdias Jean, after he witnessed the execution of two youths by the Haitian police on January 14, 2005. There has been no evidence presented to date to substantiate the killers of Jacques Roches, eyewitness testimony clearly implicates the Haitian police in the slaying of Abdias Jean. To date, not a single member of the Haitian police force has ever been held accountable for human rights violations despite calls by the Secretary General of the UN, Kofi Annan and head of UN military forces in Haiti Brazilian General Heleno Ribeira. It appears the death of Roches outweighs the death of Abdias Jean when it comes to enforcing the current UN mandate in Haiti.
The Haiti Information Project (HIP) is a non-profit alternative news service providing coverage and analysis of breaking developments in Haiti.
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