Haiti's Most Famous Political Prisoners Announce Hunger Strike

By Bill Quigley, Professor of Law, Loyola University New Orleans.  Bill is in Haiti as a volunteer attorney with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, www.ijdh.org Contact duprestars@yahoo.com Phone in Haiti 509.401.4822

    Political prisoners Yvon Neptune, Haiti's former Prime Minister, and Jocelerme Privert, former Minister of the Interior, survived the massive prison revolt at the National Penitentiary of Haiti on February 19, 2005. The Saturday afternoon revolt began with the firing of heavy automatic weapons at the main gate of the prison and the sudden disappearance of all the guards.  In the chaos one guard was killed and 490 of the 1250 prisoners left.

Ministers Neptune and  Privert were forcibly taken out of the prison by former military people concerned for their safety.  Once secure, they immediately called on international authorities to guarantee them a safe return to the prison.  They were returned to the penitentiary by the UN authorities within hours of the end of the revolt.

    Speaking from a cement cell with no running water, no bathroom, and no electricity, Yvon Neptune and Minister Privert vowed not to eat to until the injustice and insecurity of their confinement is addressed. Privert has been in prison since April 2004 and Neptune since June 2004 and neither has a trial date set.

    Yvon Neptune said, "My life has been in real danger since the elected President of our country was removed in February of 2004.  This is the third time my life has been put in danger in prison.  There was an assassination plot against me in the fall confirmed by the National Police.  Then there was the prison massacre on December 1, 2004, in which unknown numbers of prisoners were killed.  When the prison was attacked this weekend, my life was again clearly and seriously in danger.  I could easily have been killed by people inside or outside of the prison.  Who is it that keeps putting me in situations where I might be killed?"

          After Neptune and Privert returned to the prison by the UN, Haitian authorities wrongfully reported that the two men had been captured by national police, a charge Neptune said is a total lie and a story repudiated by the UN.

    Neptune concluded by asking, "We have been patient for over eight months.  We have given time for the government and the international community to act. Enough is enough."

Forwarded by the Haitian Lawyers' Leadership Network

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