MARIE YOLENE GILLES – Human Rights Advocate

Human rights defenders and journalists are increasingly at risk in Haiti. Since the killing of prominent radio journalist and long-time democracy and human rights activist Jean Dominique in April 2000, freedom of expression has been severely undermined and a number of journalists and human rights defenders have been attacked or killed. December 7 2002, three members of Viola Robert’s family were taken into custody by the Haitian National Police (HNP) and were found murdered the following morning. An internal HNP investigation has resulted in the arrest of three officers of the HNP, while a fourth has evidently gone into hiding. Reports indicate a systematic pattern of murder and intimidation surrounding the investigation of these crimes. Marie Yolene Gilles the principal member of the Coalition Nationale des Droits des Haitians (CNDH) investigating these killings and instrumental in speaking out against the HNP officers implicated in these crimes, has received anonymous threatening telephone calls at her home. She was warned that if she continues to be active in this case she will be killed. On February 11th and 13th 2003, armed men approached her house and discharged firearms in the air, in what can only be seen as blatant acts of intimidation carried out with apparent impunity. It has been reported that a potential witness was killed by hooded men on December 17, 2002. Viola Robert has been forced into hiding.

LRWC wrote advising that the Republic of Haiti is obliged, both under its domestic laws and its international obligations, to investigate and put an end to this pattern of violence and intimidation. LRWC stressed the urgent need to provide Marie Yolene Gilles with effective protection from those elements within the HNP which have apparently sought to silence her and to bring the perpetrators of the crimes referred to herein to justice.