David Boniface is a grade school teacher in Les Irois, a human rights defender, and a supporter of the Struggling People’s Party (Organisation du Peuple en Lutte). In Les Irois, the Struggling People’s Party is the main opposition party; Mayor Jean Morose Viliena was elected as a members the rival MODEREH party (Mouvement démocratique et rénovateur d’Haïti), and the powerful political machine, KOREGA.
Working with local human rights groups, Boniface served as a trial observer in Les Irois. In July 2007, he appeared in court to denounce Mayor Viliena for assaulting a neighbor during a municipal street cleaning operation. In retaliation for Boniface’s in-court appearance, Viliena came to the Boniface home later that night and led an armed group of KOREGA supporters in the brutal killing of David Boniface’s younger brother, Eclesiaste, while David was away at church. David and the Boniface family were victimized again in 2009, when Mayor Viliena ordered members of the KOREGA militia to set fire to the Boniface family home, in a rampage of arsons that destroyed 36 homes belonging to perceived Struggling People’s Party supporters.
Nissage Martyr was a local merchant and farmer in Les Irois who ran afoul of Mayor Viliena and the KOREGA militia after he rented part of his home to a community radio station operated and financed by members of the Struggling People’s Party, New Vision Radio. Martyr supported the radio station, which was the first of its kind in Les Irois. The station provided an essential service to the community, broadcasting local news and political debates as well as gospel music and evangelical hours. Because of Martyr’s association with the radio station, Viliena and the KOREGA militia brutally beat and shot him during an April 2008 invasion of Martyr’s home. Martyr was maimed in the shooting. Since the amputation of his right leg, he has lost the ability to support his family. But Martyr’s ordeal was not over. In October 2009, Martyr’s home was burned down by members of the KOREGA militia, acting under Viliena’s orders. After that, Martyr continued to receive threats from Viliena’s supporters, including taunts that they would return to cut off his remaining leg. Nissage Martyr died suddenly on March 24, 2017, one day after CJA’s lawsuit was filed.
Juders Yseme is a youth from Les Irois who enjoyed spending time at New Vision Radio and befriended Martyr and the station operators. Yseme was visiting the station in Martyr’s house when Viliena and the KOREGA militia launched their 2008 raid. While trying to escape from the militia, Yseme was shot in the face and permanently blinded in one eye. In 2009, Yseme’s home—built with his own hands—was burned down in the KOREGA militia’s arson rampage. Yseme continues to receive threats from Mayor Viliena and his associates in the KOREGA militia.
Our clients, Messrs. Boniface, Martyr, and Ysemé, have pursued all avenues for justice in Haiti, despite threats to their safety and the safety of their families. Since the attacks of 2007 – 2009, Mayor Viliena and his associates have continued to threaten our clients in a bid to prevent them from seeking justice. Our courageous clients refuse to be silent.