New York, April 4, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists urged Haitian transitional authorities today to revive the stalled investigation into the murder of Jean-Léopold Dominique, one of the country’s most renowned journalists.
Last Thursday, Haiti’s Minister of Justice Bernard Gousse announced the nomination of a new examining judge, Jean Perez Paul, who will conduct the third investigation into the killing. Paul’s appointment took place nine months after an appeals court ruled that proceedings had to resume after being blocked for almost a year.
In a letter to the National Coalition for Haitian Rights, Haiti’s Minister of Justice added that the files of the Dominique case remained intact, despite reports that suggested that some of the documents were missing or misplaced.
The Dominique case has been fraught with legal obstacles since the radio journalist’s death five years ago. The first examining judge, Claudy Gassant, left Haiti for the United States in January 2002, saying he had received inadequate protection after being threatened. One of the suspects Gassant questioned about Dominique’s murder was Senator Dany Toussaint, a member of Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s then-ruling Famni Lavalas party, who was angered by an October 1999 Radio Haïti Inter editorial that sharply criticized him.
In 2003, Judge Bernard Saint-Vil, who replaced Gassant, sent a 33-page indictment to prosecutors accusing Dymsley Millien, Jeudi-Jean Daniel, Philippe Markington, Ralph Léger, Ralph Joseph, and Freud Junior Desmarattes of the killing. An appeal by Dominique’s wife, Michèle Montas, claimed that the investigation remained “incomplete,” and that the authorities had “failed to charge the masterminds behind the murder.”
On August 3 of 2003, the Court of Appeals ordered the third investigation into the murder and released three of the six accused killers: Desmarattes, Léher, and Joseph. The other three escaped from the Port-au-Prince Penitentiary and remain at large—Markington in January 2004, and Daniel and Millien more than a month ago.
“The two previous investigations have been characterized by incompetence and a lack of political will,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “We urge Haitian authorities to protect Judge Perez Paul’s safety and integrity so that perpetrators of the crime can finally brought to justice.”
Dominique’s international reputation has kept his story alive in the press. The outspoken owner and director of the independent station Radio Haïti Inter was shot seven times by two unknown gunmen on April 3, 2000, outside the entrance to the station, in Port-au-Prince. The gunmen then shot the station’s security guard, Jean Claude Louissaint, two times and escaped in a waiting Jeep Cherokee, according to CPJ sources.
Minutes after the attack, Dominique’s wife, Michèle Montas, arrived at the station in a separate car. Both victims died in the Haitian Community Hospital in Pétionville.
Radio Haïti-Inter stopped broadcasting indefinitely in February 2003, due to constant threats and harassment. The closure came not long after a December 25, 2002, Christmas assassination attempt against Montas at her home, during which one of her bodyguards was killed. She and journalists Jean Roland Chery, Immacula Placide, Guerlande Eloi, Pierre Emmanuel, and Gigi Dominique have left Haiti and now live in exile.