National Lawyers Guild Applauds Inter-American Court Decision Upholding the Human Rights of Former Haitian Prime Minister Yvon Neptune

 Urges Rapid Compliance With Judgment

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) welcomes the recent decision from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) finding that the State of Haiti has violated 11 provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights by illegally imprisoning former Haitian Prime Minister Yvon Neptune for two years and by continuing to deny him basic due process rights.

“This decision demonstrates how the U.S.-supported Interim Government of Haiti abused the judicial process to lock a political opponent away in horrid conditions, without proof that he committed any crime,”said NLG President Marjorie Cohn. “Unfortunately, it also shows that Haiti’s current constitutional government is willing to keep Mr. Neptune in legal limbo. We hope this judgment will encourage Haiti to stop Mr. Neptune’s persecution and free the remaining political prisoners.” Yvon Neptune was Prime Minister of Haiti from 2002-2004. After Haiti’s February 29, 2004 coup d’etat, the U.S.-supported Interim Government of Haiti (IGH) imprisoned hundreds of political opponents, especially officials and supporters of the Lavalas party. Mr. Neptune was arrested on June 27, 2004, and spent two years in prison, surviving assassination attempts, prison riots and a hunger strike. The Haitian Appeals Court prosecutor found in June 2006 that there was no credible evidence of Mr. Neptune’s involvement in any crime. In April 2007, the Court of Appeals dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction. But the Haitian government has refused to serve that order for 15 months. Mr. Neptune has been free on provisional release since July 27, 2006, but that status can be revoked and he risks being returned to prison at any time.

“This important opinion goes far beyond Mr. Neptune’s case,” said Moira Feeney of the NLG’s Haiti Subcommittee. “The IACHR found the daily conditions in Haiti’s prisons to be ‘inhumane,’ and gave Haiti two years to start bringing prison conditions up to minimum standards. The Court also sharply criticized the routine, but inexcusable delays in Haiti’s criminal procedure. One of Mr. Neptune’s co-defendants has spent four years in jail, with no trial in sight.”

Founded in 1937 as the first racially integrated national bar association, the National Lawyers Guild is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States, with more than 200 chapters. The Guild has a long history of representing individuals whose rights have been violated by governments in the U.S. and abroad. The Guild prepared the first two major human rights reports following Haiti’s 2004 coup d’etat. Professor Cohn has written on the international law implications of the coup; Attorney Feeney has represented Haitian victims of severe human rights violations in U.S. courts.


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