[Documents menu] Documents menu

From LABOR-L@YORKU.CA Thu Apr 5 11:02:28 2001
Date: Thu, 5 Apr 2001 09:24:22 -0400
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
From: PK Murphy <pk.murphy@IRELAND.COM>
Subject: Fwd: Who killed Jean Dominique?

---- Begin Included Message ----

From: Haiti Support Group <haitisupport@gn.apc.org>
Sent: Thu, 05 Apr 2001 14:11:52 +0100
To: tttnhm@aol.com
Subject: Who killed Jean Dominique?

Who killed Jean Dominique? (3 April 2000–3 April 2001)

Reporters Without Borders, 3 April 2001

An investigation in Haiti
19-25 March 2001
by Reporters Without Borders


Jean Dominique, a Haitian journalist and political commentator, was gunned down in the courtyard of his radio station, Haiti Inter, on 3 April 2000.

The murder of one of the country's most famous journalists deeply shocked Haitians. President René Préval ordered three days of official mourning and 16,000 people attended Dominique's funeral in the national stadium.

Since then, a foundation has been set up (Fondasyon Eko Vwa Jean Dominique) to ensure that those who killed him are punished and that his commitment to mass education is continued.

If they murdered him, they can murder any journalist, says Liliane Pierre-Paul, a former Radio Haiti Inter journalist who now runs Radio Kiskeya. Haitian journalists have taken the killing as a warning to the entire press.

A year after the murder, a delegation from Reporters sans Frontières (Reporters Without Borders - RWB) visited Haiti to see how far the investigation into it had got and highlight the obstacles to its completion.

Haiti has seen a dozen political killings over the past two years and journalists have recently received death threats. A successful investigation of Dominique's murder would be an important break with the practice of impunity in Haitian society.

Because of the current political atmosphere in Haiti, most of the people RWB talked to asked to remain anonymous..

Jean Dominique: a fighter for democracy

Born into Haiti's mulatto aristocracy on 30 July 1930, Dominique trained as an agronomist. But he soon aligned himself with the peasantry and the poor, which in Haiti's highly-stratified society, often meant he was called a traitor to his class. In the late 1960s, he joined Radio Haiti as a reporter and then bought the station in 1971, renaming it Radio Haiti Inter. The station began reaching out, starting the first systematic broadcasting in Creole, the country's main language, instead of French, which is spoken only by a tiny minority of Haitians. He encouraged reports from the countryside and gave more coverage of world affairs.

As a critic of the Duvalier dictatorship (1957-86), he was forced into exile in 1981 after his wife, Michèle Montas, and other Haiti Inter staff were arrested and deported by the regime. He returned after the fall of President-for-Life Jean-Claude Baby Doc Duvalier in February 1986, only to leave again in 1991 when the army seized power. He came back in 1994, after that regime fell too.

After the Duvalier regime collapsed, his fight for democracy and interest in social issues drew him to the Lavalas movement which emerged in 1990 around the presidential candidacy of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. But his independent spirit made him reject any suggestion of running for office himself. When his longtime friend René Préval became president in February 1986, Dominique became an unofficial adviser. He continued to air his news and comment show Inter actualités and an interview programme Face à l'opinion. He made many enemies by harshly criticising the country's moneyed elite, the former Duvalierists, the army, US policy towards Haiti and most recently, certain figures in Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas party.

Dominique was murdered when he arrived before dawn at the radio station in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Delmas. He parked his car in the small yard, got out and turned to go into the building. At that moment, a stranger walked into the yard and fired seven shots at Dominique. Four 9 mm bullets fatally wounded him in the neck and the heart and he died on the spot. The gunmen then shot dead the station's security guard, Jean-Claude Louissant, with a special hollow-point bullet.

Jean was killed because nobody could tell him what to do or say

His wife, Michèle Montas, says he was killed because nobody could tell him what to do or say. He was especially dangerous, she says, because he was going to stop a lot of people making a lot of money but he didn't have files on people, as some believed. He was just good at picking up scraps of information and extracting meaning from them. His daughter Gigi recalls how some people lost their jobs after replying to his blunt questions in interviews.

Results of the official investigation

The enquiry into Dominique's death began with several false leads. A few days after he was killed, the body of his murderer was said to have been found, but it proved that the suspect had died three days before the murder. A few weeks later, Bob Lecorps, accused in 1997 of helping to murder justice minister Guy Malary in 1993, was arrested as he tried to cross into the Dominican Republic. He was soon released for want of a link to the Dominique killing.

Nearly 80 people have been questioned by judges Jean Sénat Fleury and Claudy Gassant, who have successively been preparing the case of Dominique's murder. They have found that:

An investigation by Ana Arana for the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA), published on 12 March 2001, said the first three of the above had links with Ronald Camille (known as Ronald Cadavre), the suspected head of several criminal organisations and a man with a long criminal record. His name was mentioned in an enquiry into the murder of opposition senator Yvon Toussaint. Cadavre is thought to control networks of stolen vehicles and weapons in the capital's port area and to run extortion rackets. Arana says his domain extends from the port to the central market. Cadavre, who has reportedly just won control of the port security service, was questioned by the examining magistrate. His brother Franco is a member of Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas party

The mysterious death of Jean-Wilner Lalanne

As they looked into the origin of the stolen vehicles used in the killing, the investigators came across Jean-Wilner Lalanne, who worked for a network handling stolen cars. He had been arrested in connection with the murder of an engineer in a Port-au-Prince suburb and then freed in unclear circumstances.

Lalanne was arrested again on 15 June 2000 as a suspected link between the gunmen and those who ordered the killing of Dominique. He was shot and wounded in the buttocks and thigh when he was detained and died 13 days later during an operation to mend a broken thigh-bone. The exact cause of his death has not been established. The orthopaedic surgeon who performed the operation, Dr Alix Charles, said he died from a pulmonary embolism, but this appears to be contradicted by the autopsy. Two months later, when a second autopsy was ordered, it was found that Lalanne's body had mysteriously disappeared a few weeks earlier. The examining magistrate has opened an enquiry.

In early July, a few days after Lalanne died, Radio Haiti Inter raised questions about why there was violence when he was arrested. Three of those arrested for suspected involvement in the Dominique killing, including the suspected gunman, Ti Lou, were wounded in the course of being detained. After his arrest, Lalanne said several times he was afraid of being murdered. He was not guarded during his first days in hospital and people were able to visit him without the presence of police. In the 13 days before his operation, he was questioned just once by the examining magistrate, who only asked him about the murder of the engineer.

Lalanne had chosen another doctor for the operation, but it was done by Dr Charles. On 28 June, he was transferred from the general hospital to the Saint-François de Sales hospital where Charles operated the same afternoon, helped by a Dr Delaneau and two anaesthetists, Marie Yves-Rose Chrisostome and Gina Georges. Charles is being investigated on suspicion of manslaughter, but has not yet responded to a summons to appear before a judge. Four other people are in jail in connection with Lalanne's death.

A number of people have wondered about the links between Charles and Dany Toussaint. Charles is a friend of Richard Salomon, said to be Toussaint's right-hand man. It was Lalanne's lawyer, Ephésien Joassaint, who asked Charles to operate. Joassaint had been recommended to Lalanne by Jean-Claude Nord, Toussaint's lawyer.

Obstruction by the Senate

Judge Claudy Gassant, who had been in charge of the case since September, asked Sen. Toussaint in early November to present himself for questioning. Senators claimed Toussaint had parliamentary immunity and did not have to respond, but the Constitution says such immunity only applies when the member of parliament risks arrest, which was not the case.

Pressure on the judge became very heavy. The Senate president, Yvon Neptune, said that an insignificant little judge could not summon a member of the Senate, whose members threatened to investigate the precise reasons for the judge wanting to talk to Toussaint. An associate of Sen. Prince Pierre Sonson said he had been threatened after Sonson called on Toussaint to go before the judge.

Judge Gassant was threatened on 30 January 2001 by a parliamentary deputy, Millien Rommage, a former assistant chief of presidential security and associate of Toussaint. The judge had just been questioning some of Toussaint's associates when Rommage and a carload of heavily-armed men intercepted his car and warned him that if he continued, his car might be fired on.

Toussaint finally asked permission from Senate president Neptune on 21 February to go to see judge Gassant, who subsequently questioned him on several occasions.

Pressure on the judges

Holding up a copy of the Constitution, Judge Gassant told the Reporters Without Borders delegation that he intended to use all his powers under the law to complete his examination of the Dominique case. But he said he was up against the hostility and customary behaviour of certain social classes and professions.

In March, a group of lawyers, including the head of the bar association, Rigaud Duplan, criticised Gassant for not allowing lawyers to be present while he heard evidence from people in the Dominique case. The presence of lawyers is usually accepted, Gassant noted, but is not obligatory under the official criminal investigation guidelines. A few weeks earlier, he had run into resistance from a number of doctors and from the university medical school, who objected to him coming to investigate on their premises. In February, Gassant was reproached by parliamentary deputies for illegally arresting someone in the parliamentary compound, while in fact the person had been detained on the orders of the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Pierre Paul Cotin.

Judge Gassant said he was shocked that the IAPA report contained the names of the people arrested and jailed, who he said were supposed to be protected by the confidentiality of the investigation. He was being guarded by four policemen, he said, and at the height of his conflict with the Senate, he had been escorted by five members of the Swat special operations police. His family was living abroad and he regularly changed his place of residence. One day, three members of his police escort simply left, fearing for their safety.

His predecessor, Judge Jean Sénat Fleury, decide to drop the case after receiving threats. When he summoned Toussaint to give evidence in the Dominique case on 26 July 2000, before he had taken up his post as senator, he turned up with a group of chimères - hired demonstrators from the capital's slums - who shouted insults outside the main law courts where the meeting with Fleury took place.

Dominique's widow Michèle no longer receives anonymous calls but her life is still in danger. I weigh the threats by the number of bodyguards I'm given at any time, she says,