REQUESTED - Sample letters attached
Prove That Human
Rights Matter: Fight For The Release of Haiti's Political Prisoners
for Justice and Democracy in Haiti
P.O. Box 745, Joseph, OR 97846
(541) 432-0597, www.ijdh.org, firstname.lastname@example.org
Prove That Human Rights Matter: Fight For The Release
of Haiti's Political Prisoners
December 10, 2004
Today, Human Rights Day, commemorates the UN General Assembly's proclamation
of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948. The
anniversary provides an opportunity to celebrate the human rights movement's
many accomplishments over the last 56 years, but also a chance to recognize
the work left to be done.
To the 700 political prisoners in Haitian jails, the Universal Declaration's
promise of the rights to liberty (article 3), to protection against
arbitrary arrest and detention (article 9) and to fair and public hearings
(article 10) is a dream deferred. The cells are packed with political
prisoners- many need to wait for their turn to sleep on the floor- while
their files are empty of legal justification for their detention.
The Haitian government denies it holds any political prisoners. Finance
Minister Henri Bazin declared Tuesday that "the people put in jail
are people who have been accused of committing violent crimes and were
killing people." But the Universal Declaration and the Haitian
Constitution require the government to prove this in court, not in press
conferences. Very few political prisoners have been brought before a
judge, although many have been in jail since March.
Three political prisoners have been brought to court. A judge ordered
local official Jacques Mathelier freed on July 12, but prison authorities
transferred Mathelier out of that judge's jurisdiction, and he remains
in prison. On November 22, another judge declared the arrest of grassroots
activist Jean-Marie Samedi "illegal and arbitrary," and ordered
"his immediate liberation… regardless of any appeals."
The government has ignored this order.
The experience of the third political prisoner, Fr. Gérard Jean-Juste,
shows why the human rights movement matters. After his October 13 arrest,
hundreds, if not thousands of people contacted the Haitian government,
the U.S. and the UN to urge that Fr. Jean-Juste's rights be respected.
After a month the government brought him before a judge, but ignored
the judge's liberation order. Ten days later UN Secretary General Kofi
Annan called for the release of all of Haiti's political prisoners.
A week after that, Fr. Jean-Juste walked free.
Fr. Jean-Juste will spend Human Rights Day with his parish, while Jean-Marie
Samedi, Jacques Mathelier and hundreds of other political prisoners
will assess the meaning of the Universal Declaration from their prison
cells. Not because Fr. Jean-Juste had a better legal claim- hundreds
of cases are equally weak- but because people all over the world insisted
that the interim Haitian government comply with minimum human rights
standards in that case.
Together we can show that human rights matters for all Haitians. Sample
letters for the U.S. government and the United Nations are below. Although
Haiti's interim government bears the primary responsibility for political
prisoners, both the U.S. and the UN have obligations and opportunities
to ensure the protection of human rights in Haiti. The U.S. is the interim
government's principal international patron, and U.S. consultants work
in the Ministry of Justice, the courts and the prisons. The UN peacekeeping
mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH works closely with the Haitian police, sometimes
providing backup for illegal arrests of political prisoners. Plus their
phone lines work.
Please honor the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with your letter,
fax, email or telephone call today in support of political prisoners
in Haiti. For more information on human rights in Haiti, or to view
the Universal Declaration, see our website,
Brian Concannon Jr.
Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti
December 10, 2004
Hon. James B. Foley
United States Ambassador to Haiti
United States Embassy
Boulevard Harry Truman
Dear Ambassador Foley:
As you know, the Catholic Church's Justice and Peace Commission estimates
there are over 700 political prisoners in Haitian jails. Although the
interim Haitian government claims that all of its prisoners are criminals,
they have been unwilling to test this claim in court. Most political
prisoners have not been brought before a judge. Some, like Jean-Marie
Samedi and Jacques Mathelier, have obtained liberation orders, which
the interim government ignores.
Today marks the 56th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights. On December 10, 1948, the UN General Assembly declared that
"[e]veryone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth
in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind" (article
2); that "[n]o one shall be subject to arbitrary arrest, detention
or exile" (article 9); and that "[e]veryone charged with a
penal offense has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty
according to law in a public trial" (article 11).
These basic guarantees are enshrined in the United States' legal tradition,
as well as in Haiti's Constitution. I urge you to use all of the United
States' considerable influence with the interim Haitian government to
make sure that all of Haiti's political prisoners be immediately released
unless the interim government can justify their detention in a fair,
Fax to: U.S. Embassy, Port-au-Prince - 011-509-223-9038
State Department Haiti Desk, Washington - 202 -647-2901
Call: U.S. Embassy, Port-au-Prince - 011-509-223-4711
Anthony Beaver/John Mariz, State Department Haiti Desk - 202- 647-5088
Email: email@example.com (Roger
Noriega Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs;
BanksD@state.gov (Dana Banks, Human Rights Officer,
U.S. Embassy, Port-au-Prince)
SEND COPIES TO AS MANY OF THESE PEOPLE AS YOU
Fax No. (212) 963-4879
Hon. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General
United Nations Headquarters
First Avenue at 46th Street
New York, NY 10017
Dear Secretary-General Annan:
Thank you for speaking up for Haiti's political prisoners on November
23, and for reminding Haiti's interim government that "the arbitrary
detention of people solely for their political affiliation is in contravention
of fundamental human rights principles." Unfortunately, between
that speech and today's commemoration of the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights, only one political prisoner has been released.
The Catholic Church's Justice and Peace Commission estimates that over
700 political prisoners in Haiti will observe this year's Human Rights
Day in crowded cells. Many have been incarcerated since March. Most
have never been allowed before a judge. Some, like Jean-Marie Samedi
and Jacques Mathelier, have obtained liberation orders, which the interim
The UN Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, works closely with the Haitian police,
often providing support for arrests that are made without a warrant.
MINUSTAH's role in Haiti, its participation in arrest operations, and
the UN's historical role in promoting human rights all place an obligation
on you and on MINUSTAH to ensure that political prisoners benefit from
the basic guarantees of the Universal Declaration and the Haitian Constitution.
Accordingly, I urge you to use all of your considerable influence with
the interim Haitian government and the international community to ensure
that all of Haiti's political prisoners are immediately released unless
the interim government can justify their detention in a fair, impartial
With Copies to: firstname.lastname@example.org (Toussaint Kongo-Doudou,
Chief of Communications, United Nations Support Mission To Haiti)