Port-au-Prince, Haiti (December 22, 2010)–US aid worker Paul Waggoner fears for his life in the notoriously dangerous National Penitentiary. Waggoner co-founded Materials Management Relief Corps (MMRC), a nonprofit corporation that provides humanitarian aid to the people of Haiti in response to the January 2010 earthquake.
Waggoner is accused of kidnapping a child despite undeniable evidence that the child in question had died at Haitian Community Hospital on February 23, 2010, while Waggoner was organizing supplies at the hospital. Waggoner did not administer any medical care to the infant. A board-certified, US physician has signed an affidavit stating that the child in question died and the father viewed the body. The doctor’s affidavit also acknowledges that the father declined to take the child’s body as he did not have the resources to bury it, instead allowing the hospital to dispose of the body. A death certificate has also been presented to the courts.
Waggoner’s case in Haiti has been sent to Investigative Magistrate, a process that could take up to three months. Despite being imprisoned, no charges have been filed against Waggoner.
In a letter written by Waggoner on December 21, 2010, he said: “I am broken and can’t understand why this is happening to me. I have done nothing wrong. Why can’t anybody help me and get me out of here? I’m scared I’ll never be released. I have been moved and can no longer feel the sun on my skin. It is so dark and I am so afraid.”
The conditions in Haiti’s National Penitentiary are horrific. As many as 70 inmates are crowded into 20-by-20 foot cells without plumbing in lockdown conditions. Diseases, like tuberculosis and AIDS, are rife in the prison. Haiti is also currently battling a cholera epidemic, a disease which can be deadly if not treated promptly.
Despite being incarcerated at the National Penitentiary since December 16, 2010, the US Embassy made its first visit to the prison December 22, 2010. It has been confirmed that Embassy staff is working with the US Diplomatic Security Service as a liaison with the Haitian National Police.
MMRC is pleading for the US Embassy to take a stronger stance in securing Waggoner’s immediate release. Americans are urged to contact US government officials to demand Waggoner’s freedom; contact information may be found at http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm. People may also call Overseas Citizens Services (202-647-5225).