New York, April 2, 2004—Marking the fourth anniversary of the murder of Jean Léopold Dominique, one of Haiti’s most renowned journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) calls on the new Haitian authorities to revive the stalled investigation into his killing and put an end to impunity in this case.
“After years of delays and inaction, a strong push for a full and impartial investigation into the murder of Jean Léopold Dominique by the transitional authorities would help restore faith in the Haitian judicial system, affirming a commitment to press freedom,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper.
Last month, in the latest development in the case, former Port-au-Prince deputy mayor Harold Sévère and security agent Rouspide Pétion were arrested for their alleged involvement in the murder, according to The Associated Press.
This news comes more than two months after Dymsley Millien, Jeudi-Jean Daniel, and Philippe Markington, three men accused of killing Dominique, escaped from the Port-au-Prince National Penitentiary by breaking through a wall with a group of prisoners on January 1.
Jean Léopold Dominique, the outspoken owner and director of the independent station Radio Haïti Inter, was shot dead by two unknown gunmen, who also killed the station’s security guard, Jean Claude Louissaint. Dominique was 69 years old.
Shortly after 6 a.m. on April 3, 2000, Dominique arrived at Radio Haïti Inter to host the 7 a.m. news program, according to CPJ sources in Haiti. After Louissaint opened the gate to the station’s premises, which are along the road from Port-au-Prince to the suburb of Pétionville, Dominique parked his car. As he was about to enter the radio station, gunmen entered the compound on foot and shot him seven times.
The gunmen then fired two shots at Louissaint before escaping in a Jeep Cherokee that had been waiting for them outside the compound.
The assassins were said to have been spotted near the station before Dominique’s arrival, although their weapons were not visible at that time. Minutes after the attack, Dominique’s wife, Michèle Montas, arrived at the station in a separate car and found the wounded bodies of her husband and Louissaint. Both victims died of their wounds in the Haitian Community Hospital in Pétionville.
After questioning more than 80 suspects and ordering six arrests, examining judge Claudy Gassant left Haiti for the United States in January 2002, saying he had received inadequate protection from threats. One of the suspects questioned for possibly masterminding the murder was Famni Lavalas party senator Dany Toussaint, who was upset by an October 1999 Radio Haïti Inter editorial that criticized him sharply.
On March 21, 2003, Judge Bernard Saint-Vil, who replaced Gassant, sent a 33-page indictment to prosecutor Josué Pierre-Louis accusing Millien, Daniel, Markington, Ralph Léger, Ralph Joseph, and Freud Junior Desmarattes of the killing.
On April 3, Montas appealed the indictments, saying that the investigation into her husband’s killing was “incomplete,” and that the indictments “failed to charge the masterminds behind the murder.” On August 3, the Court of Appeals ordered a new investigation into the murder and released three of the six accused of perpetrating the killing: Desmarattes, Léher, and Joseph.