IACHR EXPRESSES ITS CONCERN FOR THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN HAITI
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) presented its Annual Report for 2005 in which it included a section on the situation of human rights in Haiti. In this section, the IACHR reiterated its concern for the continuing escalation in violence that occurred in Haiti during 2005.
The Commission’s report, which was based principally upon information obtained during visits undertaken by the IACHR to Haiti in April, July and November 2005, takes note of deteriorating conditions in the country, which have resulted in large part from an increase in violence perpetrated by armed groups and gangs, together with the fact that the government, with the assistance of the international community, has not guaranteed the security of the population throughout the country.
In addition, the report notes that despite any efforts to capture dangerous criminals, the fact that armed groups and gangs in Haiti have not been disarmed is a principal concern for the Commission, not only for the immediate threat that this violence presents to the lives and physical integrity of Haitians, but also because the future of the country depends upon ensuring that efforts to guarantee security are effective.
The Commission also highlighted the fact that in the absence of effective state control over security, human rights defenders, journalists, persons who are threatened for their political opinions, and others targeted for exercising their democratic rights will continue to be threatened and the possibility of free and fair elections will be diminished, as will opportunities for long term international cooperation and development in the country.
In this connection, the Commission expressed its particular concern with respect to the situation faced by women, children, and human rights defenders, as well as journalists and persons who are the objects of violence and mistreatment for their political affiliation or opinion.
In meetings in April and July 2005 with groups that defend the rights of women, the information provided to the Commission revealed a high degree of sexual violence against women and children perpetrated by armed groups during kidnappings or robberies, and indicated that numerous victims had systematically been forced to provide sexual services to members of the gangs. The Commission was also concerned by information indicating that a majority of victims in armed confrontations between gangs and police were women and children. Further, most of these cases are not the subject of complaints to authorities, rendering it difficult to accurately determine the extent of sexual violence and permitting those responsible to continue to act with impunity. The Commission condemns incidents of this nature and stresses once again the obligation of the State to investigate these events and try and punish those responsible.
The Commission noted that during its visit in November 2005, it received complaints concerning children who had been the victims of child labor, kidnappings, abuse, arbitrary arrest and detention by the police, and general violence attributable to armed groups. In addition, the Commission expressed its concern regarding serious complaints received in relation to ongoing trafficking in children and adolescents for use in domestic work, sexual exploitation and other activities degrading to their condition.
The IACHR expressed its particular concern for violations of the human rights of children and indicated that the violence in Haiti has had a particularly grave impact upon the 2,000 street children who are estimated to live in Port-au-Prince and on the 120,000 children subjected to domestic work throughout the country, many of whom have been the victims of murder, sexual violence, kidnappings and recruitment into gangs. In this regard, the Commission reiterates that children are among the most vulnerable groups in our societies and require special protection from the State in order to effectively safeguard their rights.
In light of these considerations, the Commission once again calls upon the government of Haiti to take the urgent measures necessary, in accordance with applicable international norms and principles, to assert its control over security in Haiti and asks the international community to enhance its efforts to assist the government in this undertaking.
The Commission indicated that it will continue to monitor the situation in Haiti and offered its continuing assistance to the government and the people of Haiti.
Washington D.C., May 2, 2006