Originally: The U.N. Forces and Impunity in Haiti
Justice is the foundation of peace. Since the departure of Duvalier in 1986, justice has been the main claim of the Haitian people. Last weekend, the Haitian justice system was flouted once again by the interim government as well as the international community. It is clear that the U.S. government had made a deal with Yvon Neptune, the ex-prime minister of Aristide before the latter left on February 29, 2004. The U.S. ambassador in Haiti, James B. Foley, had openly praised the role of Neptune in a peaceful transition while Aristide thugs were burning down businesses in downtown Port-au-Prince.
Yvon Neptune was jailed on charges in the political massacre of La Scierie in the western town of St. Marc. Human rights groups and the press have reported that twenty-nine to fifty people were killed between February 9 and 29, 2004 under the orders of Yvon Neptune, prime minister and head of the Superior Council of the National Police under Aristide regime. Some victims were chased and gunned down from one of President Aristide’s helicopters. The others were captured and burned alive by a group of Aristide thugs called Bale Wouze (“clean sweep”). Women were raped in police stations. Since then, four suspects have been jailed as well as the ex-prime minister, Yvon Neptune. But the U.S. government and the international community have openly put pressure on the interim government to free him.
This past weekend, rumors spread that Neptune had left the country for Miami, via Santo Domingo. Neptune had resumed a hunger strike twelve days ago to obtain his release. In a report, a group of Argentine doctors from the U.N. forces said his life was in danger and that he had between twenty-four and forty-eight hours to live. The authorities then announced that they were about to take “important decisions” and they invoked “humanitarian reasons” as well as the highest interests of the nation while asking the population to remain calm. While it was clear that the government had given up under international pressure, Neptune–supposedly almost dead–refused to leave the country and demanded his unconditional release. The government than stated that “such demand is absolutely unacceptable. Mr. Yvon Neptune remains at the disposal of the judicial system for the pursuit of the investigation.” The lawyer of the victims of St. Marc, Samuel Madistin, also said that the departure of Neptune was unacceptable and that the government had proven that it was a valet of the international community. The government’s maneuvers for Neptune’s departure were condemned by Haitian human groups and political parties.
The organization of an impartial and fair trial is a demand of the Haitian people and civil society alike. The trial concerning the La Scierie massacre must serve as a model. The inaccessibility to justice of the socially marginalized is one of the causes of impunity and violence in Haiti. Without justice, there will be no peace. The departure of Neptune without a fair trial will be a slap in the face of the Haitian judiciary. With violence and daily kidnappings spreading in the capital six months before the elections, such a departure will be a visa to more violence and impunity. If Neptune leaves, the international community will clearly be an accomplice of impunity in Haiti.
Nancy Roc won UNESCO’s Jean Dominique Prize for Freedom of the Press in 2002 and the Freelance International Press’s Best Radio Journalism prize in 2004 for her broadcast “Metropolis” on Radio Metropole in Port-au-Prince.