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Amnesty International Declares Fr. Jean Juste a Prisoner of Conscience
Amnesty International considers him a prisoner of conscience, detained solely because he has peacefully exercised his right to freedom of expression. He risks spending a long time in custody awaiting trial on apparently trumped-up charges.
Haiti: Arbitrary arrest/prisoner of conscience: Gérard Jean-Juste (m), aged 59, Catholic priest
PUBLIC AI Index: AMR 36/008/2005
UA 195/05 Arbitrary arrest/prisoner of
conscience 25 July 2005
HAITI Gérard Jean-Juste (m), aged 59, Catholic priest
Catholic priest Gérard Jean-Juste was taken into custody at a police station
"for his own protection" on 21 July, after he was assaulted, but while he was
at the police station he was accused of murder. He was abroad at the time of
the murder of which he has been accused, but he is a prominent opponent of the
government. Amnesty International considers him a prisoner of conscience,
detained solely because he has peacefully exercised his right to freedom of
expression. He risks spending a long time in custody awaiting trial on
apparently trumped-up charges.
Rev. Jean-Juste has been an outspoken supporter of former president
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and critic of the present government, in his sermons
and in radio broadcasts. On 21 July he attended the funeral of journalist
Jacques Roche, at a church in the Pétionville suburb of the capital,
Port-au-Prince. He was assaulted and threatened by a mob outside the church,
who said he was one of those responsible for the violence that is sweeping the
capital. He was taken to Pétionville police station by officers from the
Haitian police and the UN civilian police force, CIVPOL. None of his attackers
is known to have been detained.
At the police station, officer Jean-Daniel Ulysse, from the Central Command of
the Judicial Police (Direction Centrale de la Police Judiciaire, DCPJ) accused
him of the murder of the journalist. Although he was supposedly there simply
for his own safety, he was locked up in a cell at the police station with
another 43 detainees. The following day he was transferred to the National
Penitentiary, where he is in solitary confinement. According to his lawyer, he
has reportedly been charged with the murder of Jacques Roche. However, Rev.
Jean-Juste and his lawyers were not shown an arrest warrant or any other
official statement of the charges. He is one of dozens of Aristide supporters
who have been arbitrarily detained in this way.
Journalist Jacques Roche was kidnapped on 10 July, and murdered when the full
ransom demanded was not paid. Rev. Jean-Juste was in the United Sates at the
time, returning from Miami on 15 July.
Rev. Jean-Juste has been a target for government repression for some time. On
13 October 2004, he was arrested by police without a warrant at his church,
Saint Claire’s, in Port-au-Prince. A warrant issued on 18 October accused him
of "plotting against the internal security of the state." He was released on 29
November, after six weeks in custody. When he flew in from Miami on 15 July, he
was stopped at Port-au-Prince airport, searched and questioned. He was ordered
to present himself to the judicial police on 18 July, and two days later he was
questioned by the investigating magistrate, regarding the accusation leading to
his October arrest.
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted on 29 February 2004, after an armed
rebellion led by former military officers took control of the whole country.
The same day, a US-led multinational force was deployed in Haiti, authorised by
the UN Security Council. An interim government was put in place in early March
with Gérard Latortue sworn in as Prime Minister. In June 2004, the UN
Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) was sent to assist the interim
government in securing the country, reforming the national police and
protecting human rights. Since October 2004, the violence has escalated,
particularly in the capital, where armed gangs, some of which allegedly have
political affiliations to Aristide’s party, are responsible for numerous
killings and grave human rights abuses.
AI Index: AMR 36/008/2005 25 July 2005