On August 18, 2004 a jury acquitted Jodel Chamblain of the 1993 murder of Antoine Izmery in a trial, over in less than 14 hours, that Amnesty International called an "insult to justice." The sentiment expressed in the Amnesty report was echoed in editorials in both the New York Times and the Washington Post. The verdict calls into question the integrity of the new justice system of the interim government that hailed Chamblain a "freedom fighter" for his role in unseating the democratically elected government of Jean Bertrand Aristide. A search of international news sources reveals that the only person who expressed satisfaction with the trial was Mr. Chamblain himself, who is quoted as saying it was "fair and equitable."
Jodel Chamblain and his codefendant Jackson Joanis were convicted in absentia of the murder of Antoine Izmery in 1995 in a landmark trial for the Haitian judicial system. Under the Haitian constitution both men are entitled to a retrial. Despite the fact that there were numerous witnesses present when Izmery was killed, only one of the eight witnesses called for the retrial appeared in court and he claimed to have no information. Many of the witnesses that testified in the original trial are said to be in hiding. The lack of witnesses willing to testify and the verdict itself are not surprising given the current climate of political repression and the fact that Justice Minister Bernard Gousse suggested that Chamblain might be pardoned based on his ‚"great services to the nation.‚" Chamblain is still being held pending retrial on charges related to the Rabotteau Massacre that took place in 1994 (for detailed information on the charges against Chamblain see: Haiti Assassination Trial An Affront to All Those Who Have Worked and Died for Justice http://www.haitiaction.net/News/IJDH/8_17_4.html)
We visited the Petionville penitentiary where Chamblain was ostensibly being detained the week before his trial and saw him conferring with an OAS official behind the security desk at the entrance of the jail. Several anonymous sources have suggested that Chamblain does not actually sleep at the prison but at the hotel around the corner and international observers visiting the prison noted that the view into his private cell was blocked by a drawn curtain; it is important to note that no other prisoners enjoy anywhere near this level of privilege and privacy.
The conditions of his imprisonment and subsequent acquittal of Jodel Chamblain provide enough fodder for those who would critique the current Haitian judicial system, but these issues become even more shocking when contrasted with the case of political prisoner Annette Auguste. Annette Auguste, known as Sò Anne, is a popular Haitian singer, pro-democracy activist and outspoken supporter of President Aristide.
On the night of May 10, 2004 US Marines entered Sò Anne's house without a warrant using plastic explosives. They killed her two dogs and cuffed and hooded members of her family, including four minors under the age of 15. Marine's initially claimed that they had received information that she was stockpiling weapons in her home and planned to attack US interests in Haiti. Although no weapons were found on the premises. Sò Anne was held for two weeks without charges.
According to Sò Anne's husband, Wilfrid Lavaud, it was acknowledged at her first hearing that there was no warrant at the time of her arrest, but at the second hearing the prosecution produced a back dated warrant. Sò Anne was later charged with having mobilized people to attack anti-government demonstrators at the Faculty of Human Sciences of the State University on December 5, 2003. The judge presiding over her case found no evidence linking her to this demonstration and ordered her release but the government prosecutor refused saying he was waiting for more charges.
Since then, a series of ridiculous charges have been leveled against her that appeal to prejudices from anti-vodou to anti-Islam sentiment as evidenced by Marine spokesman David Lapan's statement made shortly after her arrest. He said, "I can't specifically get into intelligence information that we have about activities that she and others were involved in — but a mosque is, at least, mentioned in some of these activities."
Although the propaganda campaign is fierce, no official charges have been filed and no trial date is set. So why is the interim government dragging it's feet in this case where there is a clear lack of evidence, while hastily acquitting Chamblain without even bothering to compile the evidence that already convicted him so effectively?
It's obvious that both Sò Anne and Chamblain are receiving treatment based on their political allegiances. So Anne is in prison because of her outspoken support for ousted President Jean Bertrand Aristide and her ability to mobilize the pro-democracy movement in Haiti. Jodel Chamblain is free because of his role in Aristide's overthrow.
Amnesty has called the case of Jodel Chamblain ‚"a test of the judicial system in Haiti‚" under the interim government. In this trial the interim government has demonstrated its unwillingness or inability to uphold the standards of fairness and political impartiality essential for a functioning justice system. Amnesty International defines a prisoner of conscience as ‚"persons or people detained because of their beliefs or because of their ethnic origin, sex, color, language, national or social origin, economic status, birth, or other status who have not used or advocated violence...[but are] imprisoned simply for the peaceful exercise of their human rights.‚" We ask that Amnesty International recognize that Sò Anne is a prisoner of conscience, suffering under the same corrupt system that acquitted Chamblain, and mount a campaign to bring her justice. Furthermore, we feel that it is absolutely essential for Amnesty to monitor the ongoing human rights violations in Haiti, tolerated, if not encouraged by the interim government.
If you would like to participate in the campaign to free Annette Auguste there are two concrete actions that you can take:
1) Join us in demanding that the governments of the United States and Haiti — now nearly indistinguishable related to her incarceration — unconditionally and immediately release Sò Anne who has committed no crime other than expressing her commitment to social justice and her loyalty to the Lavalas party. You can sign our petition to the US and Haitian government at:
2) As of now, Sò Anne has been unable to obtain legal representation because it is too expensive. The only tangible asset she has is the wonderful music that she creates. At present, she has selected 11 songs to be released on a special CD entitled ‚"Rezistans‚". The proceeds from the sales of the CD will go directly to her legal defense fund. Sò Anne and her family will need $2500 to produce and release the first 1000 CD's.
If you are interested in supporting this effort you can help Sò Anne by sending a donation to the production of her music for public release. If we get enough to produce her CD everyone who made a donation of $15 or more will be mailed one copy of her CD. The CD will be mailed to you as soon as we have received enough orders to cover the initial production costs. To pre order a copy of So Anne's CD or donate to her legal defense fund or for more information on the current situation in Haiti visit the Haiti Action Committee website at www.haitiaction.net.
or go directly to thhe following link: