NY Rights Group Calls For Release Of Father Gerard Jean-Juste

Hardbeatnews, NEW YORK, N.Y., Thurs. July 28, 2005: New York-based rights group, Human Rights First, is calling for the release of Haitian activist, Father Gérard Jean-Juste, who was arrested and jailed on Thursday, July 21, 2005 for allegedly ordering the death of journalist Jacques Roche, who was killed in the capital city of Port-au-Prince.

Jean-Juste is being held in solitary confinement at the Haitian National Penitentiary.

Neil Hicks, director of International Programs of the organization, said the priest is one of a few tireless advocate for human rights and for the poor and “the interim government should support their work, not persecute them.”

Father Gérard Jean-Juste founded the Haitian Refugee Center in Miami, Florida in the 1970s, and served as its Executive Director for more than a decade. During that time, he worked closely with Human Rights First, then the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights) and others to help refugees fleeing persecution under the Duvalier regime. He returned to Haiti in 1991, where he became parish priest at the Sainte Claire Catholic Church.

After an armed rebellion ousted former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on February 29, 2004, Father Jean-Juste became an outspoken critic of human rights abuses perpetrated by armed forces with ties to the interim government, led by Prime Minister Gérard Latortue. He was arrested last year as well for “plotting against the security of the state.”

Amnesty International has also called for the immediate release of the imprisoned priest, whom the group calls a prisoner of conscience stating that Father Jean-Juste was in the US when the journalist was killed, and that the murder occurred after friends of Roche received a ransom demand– a sign that the killing was part of a kidnapping-for-profit scheme rather than a politically motivated crime.

Human Rights First bills itself as a group that works in the United States and abroad to create a secure and humane world by advancing justice, human dignity and respect for the rule of law. – Hardbeatnews.com