Father Gérard Jean-Juste
Named a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International after being wrongfully jailed in Haiti in 2005, the late Father Gérard Jean-Juste has been called one of the most courageous and unwavering activists the people of Haiti have ever experienced. A Roman Catholic priest, and a steadfast believer in peace, Jean-Juste spread brought his message of love and compassion across the ocean when he founded the Haitian Refugee Center in Miami, Florida in 1978. Over the course of his life and career, Jean-Juste lived alternately in the United States and in Haiti, always working as an activist for political causes and, often, on behalf of human rights issues. After his cousin, Jacques Roche, was murdered in 2005, Jean-Juste was arrested and jailed, despite the overwhelming evidence that he was traveling in Miami during the time of Roche's death. Amnesty International, among other human rights groups around the world, recognized the political move on the part of the interim Haitian government, who was often at odds with the outspoken Jean-Juste, and began petitioning for his release. During his time in prison, Jean-Juste was diagnosed with cancer and was, in 2006, granted a temporary release from prison to seek medical help back in the United States. It was another year and several unfair trials before charges against him were dropped, and on May 27, 2009, Jean-Juste passed away from the cancer he had been diagnosed with while jailed. For his work as a human rights activist, Jean-Juste has been recognized with an Honorary Doctorate degree from the University of San Francisco.