PRESS RELEASE

No.  33/03

IACHR CONCERNED BY RECENT EVENTS IN HAITI

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is gravely concerned about the violence surrounding a student demonstration in Port-au-Prince on December 5, which, according to a number of sources, resulted in wounds to several people and major material damage and was insufficiently or improperly handled by the security forces. Several sources reported that the students were attacked by members of popular organizations associated with Famni Lavalas. The Commission notes that this occurrence follows a series of several other assemblies or demonstrations of a political nature that were characterized by acts of violence committed by groups of persons who opposed their being held.

Today the IACHR wrote to the Government of Haiti, conveying its grave concern and asking it to provide specific information on the violence that has been a hallmark of political assemblies or demonstrations in recent months.

The Commission considers that all Haitians, whatever their political allegiance, are entitled to full and free exercise of their right to freedom of expression and the right of assembly, in a nonviolent fashion in accordance with the law and the Inter-American norms for the protection of human rights. The IACHR considers that the State has an obligation to guarantee the free and full exercise of these rights, which may only be curtailed by restrictions expressly contemplated in the American Convention on Human Rights. The State is also obligated to guarantee public safety as well as human rights, resorting only to means that are necessary and proportional to the circumstances, in accordance with the Convention.

The Commission wishes to state that it is particularly alarmed by the recent resurgence of politicized violence in Haiti, above all since the IACHRís visit last August. The Commission urges the Haitian State to take all necessary means to put an end to this escalating violence, which is conducive to possible violations of human rights. While recalling that Haitians have a responsibility to exercise their rights peacefully and in the respect of the rights of others, the IACHR insists that the State has an international obligation to respect the rights upheld in the Convention and to guarantee their free and full exercise to all persons within its jurisdiction.

 

Washington, December 9, 2003