PORT-AU-PRINCE – A judge who presides over high profile criminal cases narrowly survived an assassination attempt.
Judge Carves Jean was pulling up to his house in the suburb of Pernier at 9.30 p.m. last Thursday when he was shot twice in the left shoulder. Jean abandoned his car and fled to a neighbor’s house before being taken to hospital.
Speaking to the Haitian Times from his home where he was convalescing, Jean said he “thanked God” he was alive.
Before he was released from hospital on Friday, National Police Chief Mario Andresol visited the judge and pledged to find the perpetrators. Police spokesperson Frantz Lerebours said the investigation was in the hands of the judicial police and that there were no firm leads or suspects so far.
Jean says he didn’t see who shot him, but thought the attacker had been waiting for him outside his gate.
The shooting was widely condemned by human rights organizations and groups representing lawyers and judges as well as by the UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSTAH). Durin Duret Jr., the president of the National Association of Haitian Judges also had tough words for the government.
“We hardly have any security,” said Duret. “Anyone can walk into a courtroom without being searched. A judge working in these conditions can’t say he’s safe.”
Duret is calling on the justice minister to work with the police to come up with a plan to improve safety measures.
Duret and police chief Mario Andresol both suspect the shooting was linked to
the fact that Judge Jean handles many criminal cases involving gangs accused of kidnapping and armed robbery. Duret added that Jean is known for handing down some of the stiffest sentences.
In July, Jean presided over a highly publicized case involving gang leader William “Ti Blan” Baptiste and nine members of his crew. They all received hard labor sentences ranging from three years to 14 years for Baptiste.
Jean says he’s “never had trouble with anyone,” and never felt afraid in his 15 years on the bench. He says he won’t let the attack stop him, but he is worried that it could intimidate other judges.
Lerebours said the police are working with Jean on how to ensure his safety and would meet with judges to discuss improving security especially when they are handling sensitive cases. However he added that the police don’t have the means to assign an officer to every judge.