Haiti: paramilitary leader released

The interim Haitian government released right-wing paramilitary leader Louis Jodel Chamblain from jail on Aug. 11. Chamblain, a leader in an armed rebellion that ended when President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted in February 2004, had been imprisoned since April 2004 because of his conviction of several crimes committed under military rule in the early 1990s. An Aug. 17, 2004 retrial cleared Chamblain of charges in the 1993 murder of business leader Antoine Izmery, and on May 6, 2005 the Supreme Court overturned his conviction in the 1994 massacre in the Raboteau neighborhood of Gonaives. He remains convicted of the 1994 murder of a priest, Jean-Marie Vincent.

In a press conference on Aug. 12, departing US ambassador James Foley condemned Chamblain’s release as “a scandal for the country and for Haiti’s image around the world.” He contrasted the release with the continued imprisonment of Aristide’s prime minister, Yvon Neptune, who has been held for 14 months in connection with political killings in St-Marc in February 2004, even though no one has shown “the least sign,” Foley said, that Neptune was involved in the deaths. Foley also used the press conference, his last, to deny Aristide’s claim that he was kidnapped by the US in February 2004. “[H]e called me personally to come help him,” Foley said, adding that the US had “saved his life” both in 2004 and during a coup in 1991. (AlterPresse, Agence Haitienne de Presse, Aug. 12)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 14

See our last report on Haiti.