Seething in Haiti
September 30, 2005
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Judge Jean Pérs Paul orders journalist Kevin Pina arrested on Sept. 9 after he began filming an arbitrary and politically motivated search of Father Jean-Juste's residence.

Seething in Haiti
The Screaming Suit

by Kevin Pina

HIP - Port au Prince, Haiti A few people have said and written that I was released from a Haitian jail on Sept. 12 because of the privilege of my skin color and my holding a valid US passport. I won't deny these privileges, which I continue to use as leverage to tell the story of Haiti's killing fields, but it should be known that the judge who ordered me arrested on Sept. 9 did so precisely because I was white and a US citizen. In his mind my presence was a challenge to his authority and threatened to expose an arbitrary and politically motivated search of Father Gerard Jean-Juste's residence at the parish of St. Claire's church. I was using my privilege against him when I thrust my press pass in his direction and claimed the right to report on his activities. He made his intentions clear after calling me a "terrorist" and a "white bandit" finally concluding, "I am going to show you that this is my country, this is Haiti. I am going to make an example out of you to teach you I am the law here. Handcuff him!"

After the screaming suit in Jean-Juste's residence refused to make his identity known, it wasn't until I was sharing a dirty and smelly cell with 12 other people that I learned he is one of the most powerful judges in Haiti. Judge Jean Pérs Paul is the president of the National Judge's Association of Haiti spawned by the International Foundation of Electoral Systems (IFES) and heavily funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID). IFES formed several such "professional" organizations as part of the campaign to destabilize the constitutional government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide and legitimize his forced ouster on February 29, 2004.

I have since tried to understand the judge's reaction and the role of the cadre of other anonymous judges that are responsible for incarcerating and keeping a good number of folks affiliated with the Lavalas party in jails throughout Haiti today. You see not many people really knew who Judge Pérs Paul was and his role in Jean-Juste's case until he locked me up on Sept. 9. Since then, you can see the likes of JACQUELINE CHARLES of the Miami Herald spinning furiously to cast the judge in a positive light and as a magistrate merely caught in the maze of an antiquated and outdated system. Unfortunately, she doesn't know the half of it.

A strong case can be made that Judge Pérs Paul's threats to "teach me a lesson" reflect one of the fundamental psychological dysfunctions of those behind the coup and who are now responsible for the relentless campaign to persecute Aristide's Lavalas party. While the good judge knows the reality is that foreigners are running his country, he uses his judicial authority to persecute Lavalas, specifically Father Jean-Juste, as a way of proving to himself that he still has some power and control. Judge Pérs Paul and many others in the ranks of the executive and judicial branches of the US-installed government of Gerard Latortue compensate for this sense of powerlessness and degraded national pride by pursuing a relentless political witch-hunt against Lavalas. Pérs Paul knows that at the end of the day the US embassy can yank his chain and so he directs his vicious and petty brand of justice against those his masters have deemed to be the enemy and fair game. This is much in the same way he treated me as a threat to his authority by my mere presence and by making it clear that in his mind his authority is absolute and trumps any rights of the press in Haiti. The word megalomaniac certainly comes to mind. But I get ahead of myself, let's return to the events of that fateful week in September that me led to this insight and a three day lockup, courtesy of Judge Pérs Paul, in one of Haiti's most infamous jails.

On September 9, I was shopping at the Olympic Market in Petion-Ville when I glanced up to see the beaming face of none other than Jodel Chamblain who had recently been released from prison. Chamblain was the second in command of the CIA-trained paramilitary death squad known as the Front for Advancement and Progress in Haiti (FRAPH). While the Haitian judicial system incarcerates priests and former officials of the Lavalas government on flimsy and manufactured charges, Chamblain was allowed to walk. His release was for many the ultimate proof that Haiti's current judicial system is one of the most highly politicized in Haitian history. Now here was this convicted killer, recognizing me from my many visits to the Petion-Ville jail to see Lavalas political prisoner Annette Auguste, smiling in my direction in search of recognition. I ignored him but quietly seethed at his presence knowing that while he perused the produce section, people I consider to be much better human beings were languishing and rotting away in jail cells throughout Haiti.

After paying for my groceries and loading them into the car I headed towards home, the ice was already beginning to melt in the afternoon heat. It was about 3 pm when I received a frantic call. I was told that the police were searching Father Gerard Jean-Juste's residence and that they feared they were going to try to plant weapons to justify keeping him in prison. I explained my ice was melting and I was nearly home but the pleading voice on the other end finally convinced me to turn the car around and head to Ti Place Cazeau where Jean-Juste's parish is located. I was already in a foul mood following my earlier encounter with Chamblain when I arrived to see a police vehicle parked outside of the church. Two SWAT cops dressed in black with guns drawn eyed me suspiciously as I began filming them and the license plate of their vehicle. They said nothing but their harsh stares spoke volumes as I headed into the church.

Now you've got to understand that the Haitian judiciary and their lackeys in the police like to work in secret and don't really appreciate the concept of a free and independent press. All you have to do is ask the family of Abdias Jean, a Miami radio journalist summarily executed by the Haitian police on Jan. 14, 2005 in the neighborhood of Cite de Dieu. Jean made the fatal error of stumbling upon and witnessing the murder of three young boys the police were questioning concerning the whereabouts of vagabonds and Lavalas bandits. The police then chased Jean down, beat him to a pulp and ended his journalistic career with a single shot to the head. To this day no one in the police has been held accountable despite several eyewitnesses who risked their lives by coming forward. You see the Haitian judiciary NEVER investigates allegations of crimes committed by the Haitian police instead reserving their energy for Catholic priests and anyone associated with Lavalas. For all I knew anyone of these cops outside the church could be cut from the same cloth as Abdias Jean's executioners, the probability was high and I became nervous as the sounds of loud rustling and things breaking inside of the presbytery and residence of Father Jean-Juste grew louder. It was at that moment that the seething memory of a smiling and liberated Chamblain collided with my memories of the spirited and jailed priest suffocating in a jail cell tormented by the fact that he knows he's innocent. I braced myself and decided, that for better or for worse, I was going to get into the presbytery with my camera and cover the event.

See Also

To download the seven minute trailer for theHaiti Information Projectdocumentary
Haiti: The Untold Story <click this link

U.N. covers for Haiti's killer cops, threaten American journalist May 18, 2005

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