Originally: NCHR-Haiti Does Not Speak for the National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR)

New York, March 11, 2005 – Pierre Esperance, Director of NCHR-Haiti, released earlier today a statement critical of the decision by UN and Haitian authorities in Haiti to provide emergency medical treatment to former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune whose health has steadily worsened since he began a hunger strike 19 days ago. “Neither Mr. Esperance, nor any member of the staff of NCHR-Haiti, speak for or on behalf of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR), its board or its staff,” said Jocelyn McCalla, Executive-Director of the NY-based human rights organization. Initially established as a field office of the NCHR in 1992, NCHR-Haiti has functioned independently for several years, raising its own funds and setting its own agenda and governance structure.

NCHR launched the NCHR-Haiti office in 1992, at the height of military rule, to enhance its ability to monitor, report on and advocate for human rights in Haiti. NCHR provided support to the victims of human rights and in 1995 launched a human rights training program to broaden the constituency for human rights. But NCHR decided early on to make it possible for NCHR-Haiti to grow into an independent entity, led and staffed by Haitians trained in human rights advocacy. NCHR did so by helping NCHR-Haiti to secure funds that foundations and other donors then made available directly to NCHR-Haiti. The two independent groups have cooperated in areas of common concern and hope to continue to do so should opportunities arise. However, positions expressed by NCHR-Haiti do not represent the positions held by NCHR, and vice-versa. “We hope that in the near future NCHR-Haiti will adopt a new name that more accurately reflects its standing and mission in Haitian society.”

The Haitian judicial system delivers little other than injustice

“We note with regret that NCHR-Haiti has draped itself in nationalist flags to protest the decision by UN and Haitian authorities to place Mr. Neptune in a UN-operated medical facility, under UN and Haitian police guard. In doing so, NCHR-Haiti has placed itself in the dangerous position of defending a dysfunctional Haitian judicial system which delivers little other than injustice,” stated Mr. McCalla.

The Haitian judicial system has failed Mr. Neptune in several ways. “First, to our knowledge, he has not been formally charged since the investigative magistrate charged with pursuing the matter has done little or no such investigation since her appointment several months ago. We learned a few weeks ago that the government had not provided the magistrate the means or the security detail necessary to conduct such a high-profile investigation. We learned further that the magistrate spent at least half of her time living away from her assigned jurisdiction of Saint-Marc. Second, on the basis of a minor technicality, Haiti’s highest Court denied his appeal for a change of venue from Saint-Marc to Port-au-Prince. Mr. Neptune reportedly failed to provide the requisite fee of 200 gourdes, or approximately US $1.20 for the Court to consider his plea,” said McCalla, adding “The sum total of the lack of action by Haitian government authorities on this case because of inertia, incompetence, omission or ill will amounts to a travesty of justice.”

The Haitian judicial system is ill-equipped to handle highly sensitive and political cases, and it is therefore unlikely that it can function free of political interference, whether from government or non-governmental parties. Last year, NCHR called on the Haitian authorities to establish jointly with the UN a Special Tribunal to handle such cases. Foremost among the cases over which such a tribunal would have jurisdiction is the case of the assassination of renowned Haitian radio broadcaster Jean Leopold Dominique. Mr. Dominique was killed almost 5 years ago on April 3, 2000. Although evidence gathered in investigations carried out so far pointed to the involvement of key government and Lavalas party officials, the case has barely moved past the investigative stage. A Special Tribunal, composed of Haitian and international judges of irreproachable reputation, could and should be established promptly in Haiti to handle cases such as that of Jean L. Dominique and Yvon Neptune. The model for such a court already exists in Sierra Leone and it has proven that it can function well, guaranteeing the rights of the accused as well as those of the plaintiffs. “We renew our call for a Special Tribunal and invite Haitian and UN authorities to establish it by April 3, 2005, on the fifth anniversary of Mr. Dominique’s political assassination,” said Mr. McCalla. “Meanwhile, appropriate measures must be taken to insure that Mr. Neptune is not subjected to cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment. Perhaps the only way left for Haitian authorities to rise to today’s challenge is to release him promptly.”