International human rights experts in Haiti have harshly criticized a report released recently by an investigative judge in the provincial northern city of Saint-Marc indicting former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, who has been jailed for about sixteen months now.
Neptune was arrested on June 27, 2004 on accusations he masterminded what his opponents have called a massacre on February 11 in a small village near Saint-Marc. Neptune has repeatedly denied the charges.
The judge in Saint-Marc, Clunie Pierre-Jules, has decided to send Neptune before a criminal court without the assistance of a jury, while the Haitian constitution clearly states that persons accused of crimes that involved blood should be tried with the assistance of a jury.
“The judge’s decision is obviously unconstitutional,” United Nations human rights spokesman Thierry Fagart told reporters.
He said if this decision were to be validated, Neptune and others detained on the same charges would be tried by a single judge.
Fagart said that unique judge would not only decide on possible culpability of the suspects, but also on the time they would have to spend in prison.
UN officials do not support the decision to organize the trial in Saint-Marc, where they say a situation of agitation about that case has been noted for a year and a half now. They say the judge would not have the serenity he would need to decide freely.
“We do not ignore that positions on the issue are very radical and that, if the trial had to take place in Saint-Marc, pressure from different parties would be enormous,” he said.
Fagart said he sent a complete report to the UN high commissioner for human rights, based in Geneva, who will have to act on the matter.