Marjorie Rivette: Still in Prison

Just One Woman in a Faraway Land

On March 8th, 2002 - International Women's Day - Marjorie Rivette was just one of hundreds of thousands of women prisoners held in jails throughout the world, a huge proportion of them following legal processes which were flawed by sexist assumptions. The Haiti Support Group chose the day, which seems to have been hijacked from the class struggle which gave it birth to become an occasion for the giving of flowers (grown in most cases by women farmers in the Third World, where land which should be used to feed families is diverted to serve the whims of the West) and celebration of ‘feminity’ (whatever that is) to highlight her case.

Who is Marjorie Rivette?

She is a 30-year old woman who is a journalist by profession. She worked for the Haitian NGO, the Centre de Recherche et d'Action pour le Développement (CRAD) where she was the editor of the women's magazine 'Kòmè/Commère', and also as a journalist at Radio Haïti Inter.

What's happened to her?

On the night of 30 April 1999, at her home in Delmas, Port-au-Prince, her husband Jean-Bertrand Pierre-Louis received a gun-shot wound from which he subsequently died. Since 1st May 1999, Marjorie Rivette has been incarcerated in the Fort National prison in Port-au-Prince. She was accused of murdering her husband although she has never stopped claiming that his death was the result of a tragic accident.

The trial

Marjorie Rivette's trial took place from 1pm on August 1st to 8am on August 2nd 2001 - lasting nineteen consecutive hours. At the end of the trial, the jury declared that they had found Rivette guilty of voluntary homicide but that the act was not premeditated and that there were mitigating circumstances. However the judge sentenced Rivette to five years in prison.

Why is there a struggle for justice for Marjorie Rivette?

The trial displayed the following characteristics: There was no proper case to answer. No case worthy of that name had been put together to be presented to the court. No proof had found to show without doubt that the death of Jean-Bertrand Pierre-Louis was not the result of an accident.

The trial was unfair and sexist. Haitian society was not represented at the trial for out of the whole twelve person jury only one was a woman. The majority of those in the court demonstrated that they were prejudiced in advance against Rivette - prejudiced against a courageous and determined woman, against a professional woman, a journalist involved in the defence of human rights, against all women who stand up and refuse to let their rights be ridiculed.

The trial ignored the findings of the jury. The judge's sentence failed to respect the jury's verdict which had recognised the lack of premeditation and the mitigating circumstances. If he had taken these faindings into account the correct sentence, according to Haitian law, should have been three years. As Rivette had already spent two years, three months in pre-trial detention, this period should have been deducted from the sentence and she should therefore have served a remaining period of nine months.

Today, March 8th 2002, Marjorie Rivette is still in prison in Fort National, Port-au-Prince. For two years and ten months she has been deprived of all contact with her four-year old son.

Today, International Women's Day, the Haiti Support Group joins the Marjorie Rivette Solidarity Committee* in demanding that:

-   the law is correctly applied in the Marjorie Rivette case,

-   juries should fairly reflect the composition of society and that men and women should be equally represented,

-   the State should not tolerate and should act against all sexist behaviour in the courts.

Today, International Women's Day, the Haiti Support Group has sent a letter to the Clerk's office of Haiti's Supreme Court of Appeal asking it to look again at the case and see to it that the law is correctly applied.

A copy of the open letter can be viewed on the Haiti Support Group web site: http://www.gn.apc.org/haitisupport

 

*The Marjorie Rivette Solidarity Committee is composed of  :

·   L'Amicale des Femmes Journalistes (AMIFEJ) ;

·   Le Centre de Recherche et d'Action pour le Développement (CRAD);

·   La Cathédrale Sainte Trinité (stafff and members of the church); 

·   The relatives and friends of Marjorie Rivette; and

·   Three women's organisations:

- Enfofanm, an organisation that defends women's rights and specialises in

documentation/archives and communication;

- Fanm Yo La/Les Femmes sont Là, women's collective struggling to combat

social and political exclusion; and

- Kay Fanm/La Maison des Femmes, which intervenes particularly on the issue

of violence against women.