Ronald Dauphin has been imprisoned without trial for over five years. On May 2, after weeks of negotiation with prison authorities, a physician was allowed to examine Dauphin inside Haiti’s National Penitentiary. The physician concluded that Dauphin should be immediately hospitalized.
Dauphin suffers from strong headaches, digestive disorders and frequent loss of consciousness. He was illegally seized by armed paramilitaries on March 1, 2004 – the day after the democratically elected government of Jean Bertrand Aristide was overthrown in a coup. Dauphin is a political activist and a member of Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas (FL) party. He was not formally accused of any crime until 18 months after his illegal arrest and detention. Along with several other FL members – most notably former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune – Dauphin was accused of participation in the "La Scierie Massacre".
FL opponents claimed that FL officials and supporters killed over 50 people in the city of St. Marc during February of 2004 – weeks before the coup. The Haitian human rights group RNDDH was especially vocal and aggressive in its accusations against FL members – and received funding from the Canadian government for the prosecution of the supposed perpetrators of the "massacre". However, UN investigators – despite UN hostility to FL and support for the coup installed government – have not backed the accusations made by RNDDH. The UN concluded that what happened at St. Marc was that armed groups (supporters and opponents of the Aristide government) clashed and that there were casualties on both sides. Thierry Fagart, head of the UN Human Rights Commission in Haiti, rebuked RNDDH for never substantiating its allegations by even providing a list of the names of the victims.
On May 4, the Marin Interfaith Task Force on the Americas (MITF) asked Joe Tilghman, with the US State Department Office for Caribbean Affairs, to ask his colleagues in Haiti to express concern to the Haitian government about Dauphin’s health and violations of his rights. Remarkably, Tilghman replied to MITF telling them that their concerns about Ronald Dauphin had been forwarded to RNDDH by the US embassy in Haiti.
Dauphin is the last detainee held in connection with the "La Scierie Massacre". One of his codefendants, Wantales Lormejuste, died of tuberculosis in prison in April of 2007. As if to mock his death, a Haitian Appeal Court decision granted his pretrial release posthumously. No one has been convicted or even tried for the events that took place in St. Marc. However, Haitian prison conditions have already imposed lethal punishment.
Diseases thrive in Haiti’s National Penitentiary because inmates do not have adequate access to potable water, food, health care, shelter, or exercise. Cells are so overcrowded that many prisoners must take turns to sleep on the floor.
Father Gerard Jean-Juste, a former political prisoner, is now battling cancer in a hospital in Florida. Friends and relatives suspect that he was poisoned while in prison and that he is still suffering the consequences of his imprisonment. The coup installed regime of Gerard Latortue allowed Jean-Juste a provisional release for medical treatment in January of 2006 only after it came under tremendous international pressure to do so. All charges against Jean-Juste were not dropped until June of 2008.
In June of 2008, the Inter American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) ordered the Haitian government to immediately improve prison conditions. That ruling also ordered the Haitian government to pay $95,000 in damages to Yvon Neptune for numerous violations of his legal rights. The Haitian government has disregarded the ruling.
The Haitian judiciary was stacked with vehemently anti FL judges by the Latortue government and they remained on the job after democracy was formally restored in February of 2006. That would explain the ongoing strategy of foot dragging in cases involving FL members – often in violation of the law – while the defendants deteriorate in prison. In contrast, shortly after the coup, death squad leader Jodel Chamblain was acquitted in a widely ridiculed overnight trial. Similarly, Guy Philippe, who led the paramilitaries who illegally seized Ronald Dauphin, remains free despite an indictment by a Miami Grand-Jury in November of 2005 for cocaine trafficking.
The physician who examined Ronald Dauphin was not permitted access to the infirmary by prison authorities, nor was Dauphin allowed any privacy during the examination.
Neither Amnesty International nor Human Rights Watch has ever commented publicly on Ronald Dauphin’s case. Neither organization responded to requests for a comment.