Independent Commission to Speed Up Stalled Investigations into Slayings
10 August 2007
Haiti has created an independent commission to speed up stalled investigations into the slayings of journalists. Eight journalists have been killed in the Caribbean country since 2000, and the notoriously weak and corrupt justice system has yet to convict anyone in the deaths.
The nine-member body, made up of Haitian journalists, will review each case and issue public reports on ways to move the investigations forward, commission president Guy Delva said Friday. “We want to push the justice system to act. If there are obstacles to these cases, we want to know what they are, who is responsible and how to fix them,” said Delva, a correspondent for the Reuters news agency and the head of a Haitian press freedom group.
President Rene Preval pledged full support to the commission, the first of its kind in Haiti. “The state must make providing justice a priority,” Preval said at a ceremony to introduce the commission. “I think the journalists, working together with justice officials, can help reinforce justice in the country.” Delva said the body’s first task will be to revisit the murder of Haiti’s most famous journalist, Jean Dominique, who was gunned down along with a bodyguard outside his radio station on April 3, 2000. Dominique’s life was chronicled in the 2003 documentary “The Agronomist,” directed by American filmmaker Jonathan Demme. The probe into his killing has been plagued by delays, missing case files and the resignation of two investigating judges who received death threats. Three early suspects have been killed, including one under mysterious circumstances in police custody. Dominique’s widow, Michele Montas said revisiting his case offers hope after years of frustration. “He was a symbol that gave a voice to the voiceless, and that voice was silenced,” said Montas, who once fled the country because of death threats and now serves as spokeswoman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “So we’re asking for justice for him and everyone else.”