National Coaltion for Haitian Rights (NCHR)
In a trial that started late on Monday, 16 August 2004 and continued into the early morning hours of 17 August 2004, a jury found Louis Jodel Chamblain and Jackson Joanis not guilty of the charges against them in the 1993 murder case of businessman and fervent Aristide supporter, Antoine Izmery.
Both Chamblain and Joanis remain in custody as they each have additional charges laid against them in separate cases. In the case of Chamblain, he is still facing charges for his alleged participation in the Raboteau Massacre of 1994 and an incident in Cité Soleil in which several homes were set ablaze. Joanis will be forced to respond to charges revolving around accusations of his involvement in the 1990 Piatre Massacre and the 28 August 1994 assassination of Father Jean Marie Vincent.
First on the docket out of the six (6) cases to be heard, the Izmery case was tried in a special criminal court session that appeared to be hurriedly planned and organized, without much public notice.
For NCHR, the verdict is yet another example demonstrating the reinforcement of the stifling impunity that is strangling the country. Given the severity of the case, NCHR questions the reasons for rushing to trial when the Prosecution’s case was clearly ill-prepared and undeveloped.
Additionally, of the eight (8) witnesses cited for the Prosecution, only (1) was present during the hearing and, according to him, he was cited among the list of witnesses by error as he had no personal knowledge concerning the case. Perhaps even more distressing is the allegation that at least one (1) of the members sitting on the jury has FRAPH connections. And the fact that Joanis turned himself in only a few days before the announcement of the special hearings is yet another suspicious element in the case.
Thus, it can be said that the verdict is just only in the sense that given the weak presentation of the case against Chamblain and Joanis, the jury had no choice but to render a verdict of not guilty.
NCHR believes that this trial was an excellent opportunity for the Haitian judiciary to demonstrate its desire to be transformed into a functional and legitimate institution serving the interests of justice and the interests of victims of injustice.
Instead, it demonstrated its weaknesses and inefficiencies by making a mockery of justice and by further burying the truth with regards to what really happened to Antoine Izmery on 11 September 1993.
NCHR will continue to advocate for a judiciary that seeks to render justice for all victims, regardless of their political affiliation, while closely following the continuing legal proceedings against both Chamblain and Joanis.