CPJ urges Haiti’s Préval to make Dominique case a priority

New York, April 3, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists remembers Jean-Léopold Dominique, owner and director of Radio Haïti-Inter and one of the country’s most renowned journalists, who was gunned down six years ago today in a still-unpunished assassination.

CPJ called on Haiti’s president-elect, René Préval, to make the murder investigation a priority of his administration after he takes office on May 14.

“President-elect Préval faces enormous problems when he takes office, one of the most significant being Haiti’s overburdened and dysfunctional judicial system,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “The Dominique case is emblematic of those shortcomings. President-elect Préval would go a long way toward restoring faith in his country’s judicial system by thoroughly investigating this murder and bringing the perpetrators to justice.”

The long-stalled case has been characterized by incompetence and a lack of political will, CPJ research shows. No progress has been reported in the investigation since the case was assigned to Judge Peres Paul a year ago, but problems emerged from the beginning. Some of those difficulties:

•Authorities made only made sluggish headway when Claudy Gassant, the first examining judge, was in charge of the investigation during Préval’s first term.

• Gassant left Haiti for the United States in January 2002, after Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s election as president. Gassant said he had been threatened and had received inadequate protection. Gassant had questioned Sen. Dany Toussaint, a member of Aristide’s Famni Lavalas party, in connection with the slaying. Toussaint was angered by an October 1999 Radio Haïti Inter editorial that had sharply criticized him.

• In 2003, Judge Bernard Saint-Vil, who replaced Gassant, sent a 33-page indictment to prosecutors accusing purported gang members Dymsley Millien, Jeudi-Jean Daniel, Philippe Markington, Ralph Léger, Ralph Joseph, and Freud Junior Desmarattes of the killing. Dominique’s wife, Michèle Montas, claimed that the authorities had “failed to charge the

• In August 2003, charges against Desmarattes, Léher, and Joseph were dropped after the accusers appealed the indictment. The other three suspects escaped from the Port-au-Prince Penitentiary—Markington in January 2004, and Daniel and Millien in March 2005. The three remain at large.

Dominique was shot seven times by two unknown gunmen on April 3, 2000, outside the entrance to his Port-au-Prince station. The gunmen then shot the station’s security guard, Jean Claude Louissaint, two times and escaped in a waiting Jeep Cherokee. Dominique’s wife, Michèle Montas, arrived at the station minutes later in a separate car. Both men died in the Haitian Community Hospital in Pétionville.

Radio Haïti-Inter stopped broadcasting indefinitely in February 2003 due to constant threats and harassment. The closing came shortly after a Christmas 2002 assassination attempt against Montas that claimed the life of a bodyguard. She left Haiti and now lives in the United States.

A number of other Radio Haïti-Inter journalists went into exile after being threatened. They include Jean Roland Chery, Immacula Placide, Guerlande Eloi, Pierre Emmanuel, and Gigi Dominique.