10 September 2002 HAITI
Flaws in journalist murder enquiry suggest cover-up by regime, says report
Reporters Without Borders today deplored the failure of the authorities in Haiti to arrest those responsible for last year’s brutal murder of journalist Brignol Lindor and said the government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide appeared to be covering up for the killers.
It called on Aristide to “explicitly condemn all public lynchings” and urged the European Union and the US Congress to impose sanctions on six Haitian officials, including Aristide, who it said were responsible for obstructing the murder enquiry.
The call came in a report by a two-member investigation team from Reporters Without Borders and its sister organisation The Damocles Network which recently went to Haiti to look into the murder of Lindor, news editor of a radio station Echo 2000. He was beaten to death on 3 December last year near the southwestern town of Petit-Goâve by supporters of Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party, encouraged by local officials.
The report (see www.rsf.org for full text) said neither the killers nor the instigators of the crime had been picked up and that the local investigation of the murder was seriously hampered by the chronic lack of police and legal resources in Haiti.
It said the investigating judge and the police had not made any enquiries at the scene of the killing, that arrest warrants for suspects had not been carried out even though these people were freely moving around in public, and that the judge had taken evidence from very few witnesses during his enquiry.
The report said these serious failings recalled similar ones in the currently-stalled investigation of the April 2000 killing of Haitian radio journalist Jean Dominique, where a cover-up is also suspected. This suspicion in the Lindor case was strengthened by President Aristide’s failure to clearly condemn public killings done in pursuit of his call for “zero tolerance” of crime.
Apart from the serious attack on press freedom that Lindor’s murder represented, the report said, what was shown up was the whole policy of “zero tolerance” and the legitimisation of summary executions carried out by the population or para-legal groups.
The two organisations made various recommendations for action to the legal authorities, police and prison officials, and called on Aristide to “explicitly condemn all public lynchings and to state clearly that his policy of ‘zero tolerance’ is strictly subject to the limits of the law.”
It urged the European Union and the US Congress to take individual sanctions against the six named officials, who it said were by their “action or inaction” obstructing the enquiry into the murder. The sanctions included refusal of entry and transit visas for them and their families, as well as the freezing of any bank accounts they had abroad.
The four officials were President Aristide, prime minister Yvon Neptune, justice minister Jean-Baptiste Brown and the head of the national police investigations department, Jeannot François.