14 July 2006
HAITI: No sign of justice a year after journalist Jacques Roche was murdered
14 July 2006 - A year after Le Matin journalist Jacques Roche was kidnapped in Port-au-Prince on 10 July 2005 and was found dead four days later, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has voiced anger and bitterness that the investigation has ground to a halt and the suspects who were arrested have not been brought to trial
14 July 2006 - A year after Le Matin journalist Jacques Roche was kidnapped in Port-au-Prince on 10 July 2005 and was found dead four days later, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has voiced anger and bitterness that the investigation has ground to a halt and the suspects who were arrested have not been brought to trial. "Roche's death showed to what degree the militias in the pay of the former regime of Jean-Bertrand Aristide were not disarmed after Aristide's fall in February 2004," the press freedom organisation said. "The trauma caused by this murder will never be overcome as long as it remains unpunished. And what is worse, one of the presumed killers was freed without explanation." Reporters Without Borders added: "At a time when Haiti is trying to return to the road of peace and democratic stability, one of the new government's priorities should be to provide resources to the judicial system." A book reviewer, Creole-language poet and editor of the Le Matin's arts and culture pages, Roche was abducted as he was driving in the Nazon district of Port-au-Prince. His kidnappers initially threatened to kill him if they were not paid US$250,000 dollars, but later agreed to reduce their ransom demand. His body was found handcuffed to a chair on a street in the capital on 14 July 2005. He had been tortured and shot. His sudden murder, while negotiations were still under way between the kidnappers and his family, cast doubt on the assumption that he had been abducted just for ransom. Sources close to the case told Reporters Without Borders at the time that Roche had almost certainly been handed over to a different gang, one with political motives. The judicial police detained Father Gérard Jean-Juste, Aristide's "spiritual adviser," on 22 July 2005, a day after he attended Roche's funeral, triggering an uproar among all the mourners, who suspected him of being linked to Roche's death. He was later freed on health grounds and allowed to travel to the United States for treatment. He is still there. Officially he still faces investigation by the Haitian judicial authorities in connection with both this case and a theft of firearms from the national palace. Roger Etienne was arrested on 18 August 2005 on suspicion of being one of Roche's kidnappers. Yolène Gilles of the National Human Rights Defence Network (RNDDH) has confirmed to Reporters Without Borders that he is still being held at the national penitentiary. Two other suspects, known simply as "Mentor" and "Edgard," were arrested at the same time and placed in custody. None of these men has appeared in court. Meanwhile, the investigating judge in charge of the case - who is also in charge of the case of Radio Haïti Inter director Jean Dominique, who was murdered in 2000 - is currently said to be "travelling." Finally Johnny Cicéron was arrested on 14 October 2005 on suspicion of involvement in Roche's murder. He escaped and was recaptured on 4 May 2006. Then he was released on 22 May 2006 without any explanation. Seventeen other suspected gang leaders were released the same month on the official grounds of "lack of room in the prisons" or "incomplete case file."