Massacre charges haunt former Haiti PM

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By Jonathan M. Katz.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- A former Haitian prime minister is pressing the government to comply with an international court ruling and resolve allegations that he masterminded the killings of political opponents.

Yvon Neptune, prime minister under ousted former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was accused by a U.S.-backed successor government of orchestrating the slayings of at least 25 people some two weeks before Aristide went into exile following an armed rebellion.

Neptune was imprisoned for more than two years without trial, fueling allegations of political persecution.

Much of that time was spent in Port-au-Prince's overcrowded National Penitentiary.

He was released in 2006 after a hunger strike that left him emaciated and unable to stand, but the Haitian government's charges against him were not dismissed.

In a recently released ruling, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered President Rene Preval's administration to either dismiss charges or hold a trial.

The Costa Rica-based court also awarded Neptune US$95,000 for compensation related to his detention.

Haitian officials, who did not return requests for comment Wednesday, have not complied with either order by the court, which investigates human rights violations when justice cannot be guaranteed in national courts.

In a Tuesday interview with The Associated Press, Neptune, who has maintains his innocence, said he believes political rivals have refused to drop charges of having "ordered and participated in the massacre" to prevent him from leading a reorganization of Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas political party.

"As long as this thing is left like that, dragging and dragging and dragging, I'll be in a very awkward position.

I won't feel completely free to do the things I would like to do," Neptune said.
Now in visibly better health, sporting a meticulously trimmed white mustache and goatee, the 61-year-old Neptune said he is willing to face trial to clear his name of the 2004 slayings in the western town of St. Marc.
"I am not afraid of any constitutional, real judicial process," Neptune said at his rented villa in the mountains above Port-au-Prince.

Four years after the February 2004 killings, it is still not clear what occurred in St. Marc.
A Haitian court ruled it did not have jurisdiction to try the case in April 2007, saying only a special parliamentary tribunal could try a government official.

But the case stalled because the parties were never served the ruling and given a chance to appeal, said Brian Concannon, director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, which represented Neptune before the Costa Rica-based court.

Neptune, who said he rarely leaves his mountaintop home for fear of re-arrest or reprisals, said he agreed to an interview in hopes of pressuring Haitian officials to resolve the case against him.
Neptune said he sometimes hosts Lavalas organizers at his home to discuss restoring the party -- a feat he said would not require returning Aristide from exile in South Africa.

Wilgeens Rosenberg, July 12 2008, 1:27 AM

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it is an important legal issue. waht's amazing about the constitution and the tribunal in haiti and your posting is... read more >
Lavaud Desmoulins, 13-Jul-08 8:02 am


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