PRESS RELEASE

No. 37/02

 

IACHR 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 besetting Haiti.

 

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.

 

The 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. 

 

 

CIDH01188E06

 

Port-au-Prince, Haiti, August 29, 2002