21st July 2015: The Court in Haiti has found former mayor of the small town of Les Irois, Jean Morose Viliena, guilty of violent crimes after an eight-year fight for justice. In 2007, Viliena and several associates broke into the Boniface family home where they murdered Eccliasiaste Boniface because his brother David, a human rights worker, had helped a women file a complaint against the Mayor for harassment. They were also responsible for sending death threats, burning down houses, beating and shooting people.
The Mayor had connections in the political and justice system of Haiti and therefore the case has come up against repeated obstacles. Bureau Des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), partner of SRT grantee Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), began supporting the victims in 2012. After a long and difficult process, a trial was set for April 2015 but was postponed after BAI announced there would be international legal observers present. After more delays the trial finally started in early July and resulted in the judge sentencing the defendants to seven years in jail. Viliena has not yet been arrested but police have instructions to jail him as soon as he is found.
This case establishes a precedent that political violence can be prosecuted despite the perpetrators’ power and connections. This is of particular importance with Haiti currently preparing to run elections for a number of Senate seats.
Following the Court’s decision, our grantee partners spoke with David Boniface by phone. He said, “I thank all of you for your support and hard work throughout this process. I congratulate you on a job well done. It is the first time that I have seen something like this happen, from the beginning to the end, we worked hard and we won. Thank you for keeping me alive.”
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