CONCERNED OVER LACK OF PROGRESS ON HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES IN HAITI
Today, the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS) completed
its second visit of 2002 to Haiti. The delegation consisted of IACHR member
and Rapporteur for Haiti, Claire K. Roberts; the Special Rapporteur for
Freedom of Expression, Eduardo Bertoni; and the human rights specialist for
Haiti, Raquel Poitevien.
The Commission was in Haiti from August 26
to 29, 2002, at the invitation of the Government of President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide and in the context of resolution CP/RES. 806, adopted by the OAS in
January 2002, the aim of which is to restore a climate of trust and security
with a view to resolving the political crisis in Haiti through various
mechanisms. In that context, the IACHR received a mandate to examine the
present status of human rights in Haiti and the events that took place there
on December 17, 2001.
The delegation met with the Prime Minister,
Yvon Neptune; the Ombudsman, Necker Dessables; the Minister of Foreign
Affairs, Joseph Philippe Antonio; the Minister of Social Affairs, Public
Health, and Population, Henry Claude Voltaire; the Chief of Staff of the
Minister of Justice and Public Security, Caius Alphonse; Examining
Magistrates Bernard Saint Vil and Fritzner Duclair; and the Director of the
Haitian National Police, Jean Nesly Lucien.
The delegation also met with representatives of various sectors of
civil society organized as associations, federations, and confederations,
and with representatives of nongovernmental human rights organizations.
The Commission exchanged views with representatives of the various
intergovernmental international organizations working in Haiti. It also met
with representatives of Protestant, Lutheran, and other churches.
The purpose of the visit was to follow up
on the preliminary observations issued at the conclusion of the previous
visit, which took place in May 2002. Information
was also gathered for completion of a report on the situation of human
rights in Haiti.
Nevertheless, the Commission wishes to
state that, during the visit concluding today, it has seen no progress
concerning the problems outlined on the previous visit. The Commission
expresses once more its deep concern over the fragile state of the rule of
law in Haiti, the Judiciary’s lack of independence, the problem of
impunity, the general feeling of insecurity among the populace, the
existence of armed groups acting with complete impunity, and the threats
made against some journalists. The Commission was concerned over information
it received on the August 2, 2002, attack on the Gonaďve prison, which
resulted in the escape of approximately 159 detainees. The IACHR hopes that
the Government will conduct the necessary investigation to bring to light
the circumstances of that escape.
The Commission notes that the lack of
dialogue among leading sectors of society is seriously hindering the
resolution of these problems and reflects a deficiency in the elements
necessary for establishing the rule of law according to the American
Convention on Human Rights and the Inter-American Democratic Charter. On its
previous visit, the Commission called urgently for a dialogue allowing all
sectors of Haitian society to participate in framing a comprehensive human
rights policy. The Commission regrets to report that this has not occurred.
The Commission now reaffirms the need for an intense and substantive
dialogue among all sectors of society to promote solutions to the problems
As it has said before, the Commission finds
worrisome the difficulty of life in Haiti: extreme poverty for most of the
population, high rates of illiteracy and maternal-child mortality, and
malnutrition. Together, these circumstances amount to a social crisis and
constitute multiple violations of human rights. Effective respect for human
rights involves not only civil and political rights but also economic,
social, and cultural rights. This
is a major challenge that cannot be met without extensive participation, a
concrete Haitian Government development plan, and cooperation with various
sectors of civil society and the international community.
IACHR has also learned that violence has escalated recently in Cité Soleil.
There are alarming reports of girls being raped, murders, and illegal
possession of weapons by civilians. The Commission notes that the state’s
national disarmament campaign has had very little success. The Commission
recalls that it is the duty of the state to fight any manifestation of
illegal security forces or parallel power structures and to exercise greater
control over the possession and use of firearms. Power must rest exclusively
in the hands of those having a constitutional mandate, and responsible
officials must apply due diligence in investigating, prosecuting, and
punishing the members of such groups.
In view of the importance the Commission
attaches to freedom of expression, the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of
Expression, Eduardo Bertoni, participated in this visit. The Special
Rapporteur gathered data and information on the exercise of freedom of
expression in Haiti, which will be used to prepare a report in due course.
Nevertheless, the Rapporteur’s office
expresses its concern over the harassment, threatening, and murder of
journalists, which curtails the exercise of freedom of expression in Haiti.
The Rapporteur’s office has received reports of such events and
information on the status of investigations to determine who murdered the
journalists Jean Dominique and Brignol Lindor.
The Commission will continue to closely
monitor the situation of human rights in Haiti. The visit ending today was
an invaluable opportunity to achieve this objective and to intensify the
dialogue that, within its sphere of competence, the Commission maintains
with Haitian officials and society. The
Commission reaffirms its readiness to work with the Government and with
Haitian society as a whole in strengthening the defense and protection of
human rights in a context of democracy and lawful institutions.
The Commission is a principal organ of the
Organization of American States and is charged with promoting the observance
of human rights in the Hemisphere. As
previously stated, the Commission’s visits are conducted in the framework
of OAS resolution CP/RES. 806, dated January 15, 2002.
The Commission thanks the Government of Haiti and the OAS Special
Mission in Haiti for their assistance in facilitating this visit.
Port-au-Prince, Haiti, August 29, 2002