The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) has made public a 60-page denunciation of the political persecution that Yvon Neptune, a former Prime Minister of Haiti, has endured at the hands of the Haitian government for the past four years. "From the beginning, the State failed its obligation to protect Mr. Neptune’s right to be heard by a court competent to hear the charges against him, as well as to an effective recourse," the IACHR ruled. It concluded that Haiti HAS violated 11 different provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights by imprisoning Neptune and keeping the case hanging over his head two years after his release from prison. Whether such high profile and detailed criticism (first made public in June) will finally end Yvon Neptune’s legal battles remains to be seen.
The IACHR’s binding decision was that the Haitian government must immediately serve an appeals court order that would help end
Yvon Neptune served as Prime Minister of Haiti from 2002-2004 in the democratically elected government of former President Jean Bertrand Aristide. After Haiti’s February 29, 2004 coup d’état, the unelected Interim Government of Haiti (IGH), backed by the UN Security Council, assumed power for two years and imprisoned hundreds of political opponents, especially officials and supporters of the Famni Lavalas (FL) party founded by Aristide. It also stacked the judiciary and police with its loyalists.
In July of 2006, two months after a democratically elected government finally took over from the IGH, Yvon Neptune was granted provisional release for health reasons. The presidential election of 2006 was won by Rene Preval in a stunning rebuke to those who backed the coup of 2004, including the UN Security Council. Like Neptune, Preval was a former Prime Minister under Aristide. Repression against Lavalas eased after the election, but the impact of the IGH continues to make itself felt.
The charges against Yvon Neptune remain in force to this day because the Preval administration has refused to serve a Haitian appeals court order that finally dismissed the case in April of 2007. The Preval government told the IACHR that it does not have the power to serve the appeals court order (without clearly specifying who did have the power). The IACHR dismissed the government’s argument out of hand. "Officials serve appeals court orders every day." explained Brian Concannon, Yvon Neptune’s lawyer before the IACHR, "The government could easily do that tomorrow."
While Yvon Neptune continues to be hounded for his noninvolvement in a debunked "massacre", he is better off than his codefendant, Ronald Dauphin, who is still in prison after four years, with no trial scheduled.
Father Gerard Jean-Juste, another prominent Lavalas activist who became a political prisoner under the IGH, did not have charges against him dropped until June, more than two years after Preval’s election.
Why have Lavalas activists been persecuted years after an election that should have put an end to their troubles? A compelling explanation was offered by US journalist and filmmaker Kevin Pina who lived and worked in
"After initially boycotting the elections, Lavalas finally supports Preval’s candidacy in 2006 with clearly stated objectives in mind. First and foremost was to stop the relentless political repression and persecution they suffered after Aristide was ousted in February of 2004. Secondly, they wanted to free all of the Lavalas political prisoners…, lastly but equally important, was their call for the return of Aristide from exile. None of these demands have been fully realized because Preval was eventually saddled with what the UN and the international community tout as a ‘coalition government’. This concept of ‘coalition’ forced Preval to abandon the demands of his electorate…."
Under pressure from the
There were also major problems with the elections that were finally held in 2006. Aside from the widespread repression of Lavalas supporters and leaders, compelling evidence of fraud intended to block Preval’s victory emerged during the presidential election. A shortage of voting centers, especially in Lavalas strongholds, also imposed major sacrifices on
Brian Concannon has argued "IGH holdovers in the executive branch may be less important than the ones in the judiciary." His point is underscored by the fact that Judge Cluny Pierre Jules, who played major role in the persecution of Yvon Neptune, is an IGH appointee who remains on the bench, as does Judge Peres-Paul, responsible for the imprisonment of Father Gerard Jean-Juste.
Aside from IGH appointed judges, the vehemently anti-Lavalas Haitian human rights group, the National Network for the Defense of Human Right (RNDDH), relentlessly pursued Yvon Neptune. Led by Pierre Esperance, RNDDH has received over a hundred thousand dollars from the Canadian government since 2004 while it was still known as the National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR). The funding requests to
By telephone, Yvon Neptune told HaitiAnalysis that he found the IACHR ruling "encouraging" but that he "would not venture to guess" why the Preval administration has still not served the court order dismissing the case.
Asked if a shift in Preval’s loyalties has taken place since the election of 2006,
Brian Concannon believes that