Jean Morose Viliena

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Jean Morose Viliena was born in 1972. He worked as a grade school principal.

In the context of political unrest, following the violent overthrowing of the former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004, Viliena was elected in 2006 Mayor of Les Irois, a small town on the southwestern coast of Haiti.

Viliena was the candidate of the Mouvement démocratique et rénovateur d’Haïti (MODEREH) party and allegedly had a strong support by the “Committee for Resistance in Grande-Anse” (“KOREGA”) – a powerful political machine which dominated the local politics in the southwestern Haitian region through organised violence, influence of elections, interference with investigations and prosecutions and suppression of critics and political opposition.

Once Mayor of Les Irois, Viliena became the head of the local branch of KOREGA and allegedly led an armed militia of KOREGA supporters between 2007 and 2009.

In July 2007, David Boniface, a school teacher and human rights activist, denounced Viliena for assaulting a neighbour during a street cleaning operation. Later that same day, Viliena and members of his militia allegedly shot and killed David Boniface’s brother, Eclesiaste, in reprisal.

In April 2008, Viliena announced his intention to shut down the Les Irois community radio station, which Nissage Martyr was hosting in his home. Martyr was allegedly beaten and shot during an invasion of his home by KOREGA militia in April 2008. As a result, he lost his right leg.

During the KOREGA militia raids in 2008, Juders Ysemé was allegedly shot in the face by and permanently blinded in his eye.

In October 2009 KOREGA militia on Viliena’s orders allegedly set fire and destroyed 36 houses belonging to suspected Struggling People’s Party members, including the home of David Boniface and his family, the home of Nissage Martyr, and the home of Juders Ysemé.

Boniface, Martyr and Ysemé allegedly continued receiving threats after the attacks to prevent them from seeking justice.

In August 2012, Haitian President Michel Martelly re-appointed Viliena as interim Mayor of Les Irois, despite his indictment for various offences pending in Haiti. Viliena continues to govern Les Irois from his home in the Boston area, Massachusetts, US.

Legal procedure

In 2008, Haitian authorities opened a murder investigation against Viliena, following which he fled to the United States in January 2009.

In January 2010, A Haitian court indicted Viliena and 19 of his associates for murder, battery and property destruction, committed in 2007 and 2008. Yet, he was not prosecuted.

Since his flight to the US and despite his indictment in Haiti, Viliena has continued to travel between the two countries in total impunity. The alleged burning of 36 houses in Les Irois by KOREGA militia took place during one of Viliena’s visits to Haiti.

On 23 March 2017, David Boniface, Nissage Martyr, and Juders Ysemé filed a law suit against Viliena before the United States District Court in Massachusetts. The plaintiffs were allegedly persecuted for challenging corruption and violence in their government. In particular, they accuse Viliena of murder, torture and destruction of property.

The case was filed on the basis of the Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victim Protection Act, two statutes which permit civil suits for some human rights violations in courts in the United States; and on the basis of Haitian law in relation to allegations of arson.

On 24 March 2017, Nissage Martyr passed away, while attending a gathering in Les Irois. His son, Nissandère Martyr filed a legal petition to open a criminal investigation into his father’s death in Haiti.

The lawsuit is still pending.

Fact Sheet
Name: Jean Morose Viliena
Nationality: Haitian
Context: Haiti
Charges: Crimes against humanity, murder, torture, battery, destruction of property
Status: Indicted in Haiti; Civil law suit filed in the United States
Judgement Place: Haiti; United States
Particulars: In 2010, authorities in Haiti indicted Viliena for his involvement in murder, battery and property destruction committed between 2007 and 2008; he is yet to stand trial. In 2017, three of Viliena’s alleged victims filed a lawsuit against him before the US District Court in Massachusetts on the basis of the Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victim Protection Act, alleging Viliena’s involvement in murder, torture and destruction of property against the plaintiffs, among others.