In the interest of shedding more light on the events surrounding the murder of Jean Dominique and his radio station's security guard, Jean-Claude Louissant, on April 3, 2000, I have posted below pages 97 to 100 of my book 'Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti'.
These pages provide further insights into what was happening at the time. Please also read my interview with IJDH attorney's Mario Joseph and Brian Concannon on the murder, which I have posted a link to below the excerpt from my book.
THE ASSASSINATION OF JEAN DOMINIQUE AND THE INTERNAL
CRISIS WITHIN THE POPULAR MOVEMENT
In attempting to mount a popular democratic political project in the context
of extreme poverty and under continual attacks, Fanmi Lavalas (FL) suffered a number of setbacks;
one of the most severe occurred in the run-up to parliamentary elections
on April 3, 2000. Jean Dominique, a popular Haitian journalist and a
longtime Lavalas activist, was brutally murdered, shot four times in the chest
as he arrived for work at Radio Haïti. The station’s security guard, Jean-
Claude Louissant, was also killed in the attack. President Préval ordered
three days of official mourning, and 16,000 people attended a funeral held for
the two. Both Préval and Aristide attended the funeral, and soon thereafter a
movement congealed to pressure the government to bring about justice.
Following Dominique’s death, an investigation into his murder quickly
sparked controversy. Although the murder occurred during Préval’s first
administration, the investigation faced continued delays and problems,
resulting in criticism leveled against the new Aristide administration.
Opponents in the opposition-affiliated media and NGO community cited
these as a sign of Aristide’s participation in or cover-up of the crime, an insinuation
also made toward the end of The Agronomist, a 2003 documentary by
Academy Award–winning director Jonathan Demme about Dominique’s
However, my interviews with government workers and FOIAs obtained
unearthed a combination of factors that slowed the case, not the least being
that one of the main suspects, Dany Toussaint, was secretly plotting against
Aristide and others in FL.221 I interviewed two attorneys, Mario Joseph and
Brian Concannon, who had both been attorneys in the Raboteau Massacre
trial. Because of their successful work in this trial, they were asked by both
the Préval and Aristide administrations to follow the Dominique case.
To complicate matters, chief suspect Dany Toussaint was elected senator,
giving him immunity from prosecution.222 Toussaint had built up a
network of close friends within the police and owned a well-known gun
store on Laboule 12 in the capital. Another complicating factor was that,
just prior to his death, Dominique had been highly critical of Rudolph
Boulos, a leading anti-Lavalas voice in the country and the CEO of Pharval
Laboratories, a company that Dominique blamed for selling contaminated
cough syrup that had been responsible for the deaths of sixty children.
Another powerful enemy of Jean Dominique was the industrialist Oliver
Nadal, who Dominique had consistently railed against for his involvement
in the Piâtre massacre.
Most of the press attention focused on the rift between Dominique and
Toussaint that had occurred some months prior to the assassination.223 What
is clear is that Dominique was an opponent of Boulos, Nadal, and the right
wing in Haiti, as well as an opponent of Toussaint, whom he saw as the most
dangerous internal threat to Haiti’s pro-democracy movement, a foreboding
that turned out to be true. Mario Joseph described how the government
needed to follow all possible leads into Dominique’s murder, including investigating
"Mr. Toussaint’s response to the investigation certainly raised some suspicions.
The way he responded to the case did make it look like he had something
to hide. That justified continuing the investigation against him, but
from the information I saw it did not justify abandoning the other leads.
There were many other people with a motive to kill Jean Dominique, including
people in the opposition and in the top echelons of wealthy Haitian society.
It is possible they were working with Mr. Toussaint, or without him; we
just never saw enough information to make that determination."224
Ultimately, the FL-dominated legislature voted to lift Dany Toussaint’s
senatorial immunity, but at one point he entered the senate’s chamber with
"Mr. Toussaint had, at times, voluntarily cooperated with the investigation,
but he also at times refused to cooperate, so Judge Gassant asked the Senate
to lift his immunity. I do not remember the day, but I believe it was after
President Aristide’s inauguration in 2001, the Senate scheduled a hearing
on Judge Gassant’s request. I did not have any inside information, but it
was generally believed that the Senate would vote to lift the immunity.
Many Senators felt that there were good reasons to pursue Senator
Toussaint, others felt that it was important for the Senate’s reputation that
it cooperate as much as possible with such an important investigation. On
the day of the hearing, Senator Toussaint entered the Senate Chamber with
a large security contingent, all heavily armed. It is illegal to bring any guns
into the Senate Chamber. Ordinarily the Parliamentary Security searched
everyone coming into the Parliament building and confiscated any
weapons. But Senator Toussaint’s contingent was too heavily armed for
anyone to stand in its way."225
Toussaint and another senator would in time be working with others (through a network of contacts inside the police and other state agencies) in order to undermine the Lavalas administration, all the while secretly in league with sectors of the opposition and ex-FAd’H paramilitaries. Concannon adds:
"Although I believe the Senators would have liked to vote to lift Senator
Toussaint’s immunity, they were not willing to die for that vote. They did the
most they felt they could do under the circumstances: they did not deny
Judge Gassant’s request, which would have ended the investigation against
Toussaint, but they sent it back to the judge, asking for additional information.
This way both the investigation and the Senators remained alive, even if
both were reduced in stature. Senator Toussaint’s intervention obviously
made it look like he had something to hide. I expect the Senate hoped that
there would be some outrage, which would change the balance of power and
allow a more vigorous pursuit of Senator Toussaint."226
The true architect of Jean Dominique’s death remains uncertain. Various
scenarios exist. Jean Sénat Fleury, who was made the first investigating judge
on the Jean Dominique case, explains that the first person he called in to
interview was a man by the name of Markington, who admitted having witnessed
the murder of Dominique. Because of this Fleury immediately
ordered Markington arrested.227
Fleury maintains that Markington, who worked as a police informer, had
mysteriously acquired an Argentinean visa. “After I had him arrested and
placed in jail, soon after I found out that Markington had offered to acquire a
visa for the wife of another judge. This other judge released Markington.”228
After having met twice in long meetings with Préval, Fleury decided to leave
the case, as he saw that powerful forces were behind getting Markington out
of jail, making the case impossible for him to investigate.229 Since it is very difficult
to acquire a foreign visa so quickly, especially in Haiti, Fleury suggests
that the most likely culprit was “the laboratory” (as the CIA is known in
Haiti) or people who were somehow associated with it.230 As Dominique, a
prominent left-wing voice in the country, had many powerful enemies, his
death not only eliminated an important voice in Haiti’s democratic struggle,
but also “caused more division and rupture.”231
Fleury says he never saw any clear evidence linking Toussaint to the
killing, though possibilities existed.232 Toussaint “was dangerous,” connected
to narcotrafficking and a real “engine of corruption.” At the same
time, Toussaint had many powerful and murky enemies who were very dangerous
in their own right.
Dominique’s death silenced one of the pro-democracy movement’s most
important and critically supportive voices and a journalist who could anger
the powerful like no other. Over the coming years, when Jean Dominique was
needed more than ever, Toussaint would increasingly exploit his position to
undermine the government and popular movement from within. Aristide
himself later explained that Toussaint “was working for them [referring to
the U.S. and its local allies] from the beginning, and we were taken in. Of
course I regret this.”233
FOOTNOTES FOR THIS SECTION
220. A number of groups such as the NCHR and the Haiti Democracy Project (a D.C.-
based lobbyist organization financed in part by extremely wealthy Haitian elites)
utilized the delays in the Dominique murder investigation to heap all the blame on
Haiti’s elected president in order to push for regime change. James R. Morrell,
Haiti Democracy Project, interview with author, Washington, D.C. (2005).
221. Jeb Sprague, “Haiti and the Jean Dominique Investigation: An Interview with
Mario Joseph and Brian Concannon,” Journal of Haitian Studies13/2 (2007):
222. Ibid., 143.
223. Michelle Karshan, phone conversation with author (2011).
224. Sprague, “Haiti and the Jean Dominique Investigation,” 138.
225. Ibid., 140.
227. Jean Sénat Fleury, phone conversation with author (2012).
230. Ibid. Interestingly, the left-wing newspaper Haiti Liberté arrived at a similar
conclusion soon after the death of Jean Dominique.
233. Sprague, “Haiti and the Jean Dominique Investigation.”
Please also read the interview on the Jean Dominique murder investigation with IJDH attorney's Mario Joseph and Brian Concannon, available online here: http://www.academia.edu/1791470/2007_Haiti_and_the_Jean_Dominique_Investigation_An_Interview_with_Mario_Joseph_and_Brian_Concannon_Journal_of_Haitian_Studies._Fall_2007_Vol._13_No._2._P._136-150