September 24, 2002
His Excellency Jean-Bertrand Aristide
President of Haiti
Via facsimile: 011-509-223-0241
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply troubled by the latest developments in the case of Haitian journalist Brignolle Lindor, who was murdered on December 3, 2001, by members of a pro-government organization.
Lindor, news director of the private station Radio Echo 2000, was killed by a machete-wielding mob near the coastal town of Petit-Goâve, some 40 miles west of the capital, Port-au-Prince.
On September 16, investigating magistrate Fritzner Duclaire closed his eight-month investigation into the case after indicting 10 men for Lindor’s murder, according to news reports. Duclaire also issued arrest warrants for the men, who reportedly belonged to Dòmi nan bwa (Asleep in the Woods), a grassroots organization that has been linked to Your Excellency’s Lavalas Family party.
At Radio Echo 2000, which is based in Petit-Goâve, Lindor hosted the political talk show “Dialogue.” He had received numerous threats from local authorities for inviting members of the 15-party opposition coalition Democratic Convergence to appear on his show.
Your Excellency launched a “zero tolerance” anti-crime campaign in June 2001, implying that street criminals caught red-handed could be summarily punished without trial. On November 30, Petit-Goâve’s then deputy mayor Dumé Bony publicly announced that Lindor was working for the opposition and that the “zero tolerance” policy should be applied to him. According to several Haitian journalists, this policy has been widely interpreted in Haiti as a call for the extrajudicial executions of opposition activists.
Around noon on December 3, Dòmi nan bwa leader Joseph Céus Duverger was attacked and badly injured by opposition supporters. Seeking retaliation, a group of about 20 members of Dòmi nan bwa started looking for opposition members. Shortly after, they stopped Lindor and a colleague, who were driving to one of Lindor’s other jobs, as a customs official. Lindor’s colleague fled, but Lindor was attacked and killed after he tried to take refuge in the nearby home of a local town counselor. According to the testimony of witnesses cited by the journalists’ group Association des Journalistes Haïtiens, before killing Lindor, his attackers mentioned that the journalist was one of the targets of the “zero tolerance” policy.
CPJ believes that Lindor’s life might have been saved if he had not been publicly denounced as an opposition member. While we are pleased that charges have finally been brought against the suspects, we are dismayed investigating magistrate Duclaire’s findings have exonerated former deputy mayor Bony, who called for application of the “zero tolerance” policy on Lindor. Moreover, of the 10 indicted suspects, only one of them has been arrested. Because the suspects are members of a pro-government organization, the failure to arrest them can only encourage impunity and cast doubts on the seriousness of government efforts to prosecute them.
Your Excellency, we urge you to do everything within your power to ensure that those responsible for the murder of Lindor are brought to justice and are punished to the full extent of the law.