Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Haitian Political Prisoner Fr.
Dear Assistant Secretary
I am writing to urge you to
immediately take every possible measure to ensure that the Interim
Haitian Government (IGH) releases political prisoner Fr. Gerard
Jean-Juste immediately. These measures should include suspending all
financial aid and arms transfers to the IGH, and suspending the U.S.
visas of IGH officials involved in Fr. Jean-Juste’s persecution,
including President Boniface Alexandre, Prime Minister Gerard Latortue
and Judge Jean-Paul Perez.
The IGH has held Fr.
Jean-Juste, Haiti’s most prominent political dissident, for five months
without presenting any evidence against him. This unjustified detention
may convert to a death sentence: Dr. Paul Farmer of Harvard Medical
School recently diagnosed Fr. Jean-Juste with chronic lymphocytic
U.S. State Department
officials have justified not intervening by claiming that the Haitian
justice system needs time to work, and that Fr. Gerry is receiving
adequate healthcare in prison. But the State Department’s own
website calls medical care in Haiti “scarce and substandard” and warns
travelers that “medical care in Port-au-Prince is limited, and …
life-threatening emergencies may require evacuation by air
ambulance….” In Fr. Jean-Juste’s case, the government told the
Associated Press in December that its doctors could find nothing wrong
with Fr. Jean-Juste. Doctors who did not diagnose an advanced
cancer last month should not be counted on to treat it now.
Moreover, Dr. Farmer has concluded that adequate facilities for
diagnosing and treating Fr. Jean-Juste are not available in Haiti.
Haiti’s justice system was
corrupt and politicized (the UN called it “catastrophic” in October)
even before December 9, when the Prime Minister illegally fired five
Supreme Court Justices and the courts shut down in protest. The courts
have remained closed, and there is no resolution to the impasse in
Haiti’s justice system has
been particularly unjust to Fr. Jean-Juste. In Amnesty
International’s words, he has been “detained solely because he has
peacefully exercised his right to freedom of expression.” Fr.
Jean-Juste has been arrested illegally twice, and when a courageous
judge released him for lack of evidence in November, 2004, the
government illegally forced the judge off the bench.
<> If Fr. Jean-Juste dies in
prison, it will not be of “natural causes.” It will be because
the IGH, with the acquiescence of the U.S. government, killed him by
keeping him in prison without justification and prevented him from
receiving adequate treatment. There is still time to prevent this
tragedy, and the U.S. has the power to do it. I therefore urge you to
do everything in your power to liberate Fr. Jean-Juste immediately.
For more information about
Half-Hour for Haiti
Program, the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, or human rights in Haiti,