1. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has decided to include in the present Chapter considerations dealing with the Republic of Haiti, a member state of the OAS whose human rights practices merit special attention because it can be said to be in a situation covered by the fifth criteria provided for in the Annual Report of the IACHR for 1997 and mentioned above, i.e. a
or structural situation that may appear in member states confronted, for
various reasons, with situations that seriously affect the enjoyment of
fundamental rights enshrined in the American Convention or the American
Declaration. This criterion
includes, for example: grave
situations of violations that prevent the proper application of the rule
of law; serious institutional crises; processes of institutional change
which have negative consequences for human rights; or grave omissions in
the adoption of the provisions necessary for the effective exercise of
The Commission has elaborated this section of Chapter IV of its
Annual Report in accordance with Article 57(1)(h) of its Rules of
Procedure and has based its analysis on information obtained during the
on-site visits described below as well as on other reliable publicly
available sources. On 18
December 2002, the IACHR transmitted to the State a copy of a draft of
the present section of Chapter IV of the its Annual Report for 2002, in
accordance with the previously mentioned Article, and asked the
Government of the Republic of Haiti to submit its observations on the
section within thirty days. The State has not submitted observations
within that time limit.
The IACHR has conducted in 2002 two on-site visits to the
Republic of Haiti at the invitation of the government of that country.
During the first visit, from May
28 to 31, 2002, the
delegation was composed of Mr. Clare K. Roberts, Member of the IACHR
and Rapporteur for Haiti,
Mr. Santiago A. Canton, Executive Secretary of the Commission, Mr.
Eduardo Bertoni, Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR, Ms.
Christina Cerna, Principal Specialist, and Ms. Raquel Poitevien, Human
Rights Specialist for Haiti. During the second visit,
from August 26 to 29, 2002, the delegation consisted of IACHR member and
Rapporteur for Haiti, Clare K. Roberts, the Special Rapporteur for
Freedom of Expression, Eduardo Bertoni, and the Human Rights Specialist
for Haiti, Raquel Poitevien.
The Commission expressed its gratitude to the Government of Haiti
for all the courtesies extended enabling it to carry out these visits
and for the invitation to return periodically to the country to conduct
follow-up. The visits of the IACHR were conducted in accordance with the
IACHR’s mandate, Statute and Rules of Procedure. The importance of
such visits is reaffirmed by OAS
Permanent Council resolution CP/RES. 806 (1303/02)
A. The May 2002 on-site visit
In the course of the first visit, the delegation met with
officials of the Haitian Government, as well as with representatives of
the opposition and civil society organizations. The delegation also met
with the President of the Republic, Mr. Jean Bertrand Aristide, the
Prime Minister, Mr. Yvon Neptune, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the
Minister of Justice and Public Security, the Minister of the Interior,
the Director General of the National Police of Haiti, the Inspector
General of the National Police, and the Secretary of State for Public
Security. The delegation also held meetings with representatives of
different sectors of civil society, belonging to the Platform of Haitian
Human Rights Organizations. In addition, the delegation met
representatives of different political parties of the opposition grouped
together under Convergence Democratique, as well as representatives of
the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches. The IACHR also met
representatives of the Haitian Press Association, the Haitian
Journalists’ Association, and the Association of Haitian Women
Journalists. Furthermore, the IACHR met representatives of the United
Nations Development Program in Haiti and representatives of USAID. The
delegation, likewise, expressed its gratitude for the opinions of the
Group of Friends of Haiti on the conditions prevailing in that country.
During its May 2002 visit, the Commission took note of the
difficult plight of Haitian society evidenced by several factors
including the extreme poverty in which the majority of the population
lives, the high rate of maternal and child mortality, and the high level
of illiteracy and of malnutrition. The Commission has maintained that
these circumstances create a situation of social crisis which, taken as
a whole, can be considered to impede the enjoyment of certain rights,
including socio-economic rights. It also considered that, in this
context, respect for human rights not only encompasses civic and
political rights, but also economic, social and cultural rights, which
represent a considerable challenge that cannot be tackled without
broad-based participation of the Government, a concrete development
program on the part of the Haitian Government, and the collaboration of
the civil society and that of the international community.
In addition to other aspects of the situation of human rights in
the country, the Commission addressed the particular issue of the
respect for the rule of law in Haiti, which it considers of the utmost
importance to ensure full observance of human rights in the Haitian
Republic. The Commission
has devoted particular attention to issues dealing with the independence
of the judiciary, impunity, citizen security, and freedom of expression.
Rule of law in Haiti
The IACHR underscored the importance of the democratic system and
of the rule of law for the protection of human rights. As stressed by
the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, in
a democratic society, the rights and freedoms inherent to the human
person, the guarantees applicable to them and the rule of law are
interrelated and complementary.
based on the principle that political sovereignty is vested in the
people, and that, in exercising such sovereignty, the people elects its
representatives in whom political power lies, in the respect of the
rights of those who have minority views.
representatives have a mandate from their constituents, who aspire to a
decent life, to liberty and to democracy,
objectives which are achievable only through the effective control of
public institutions and through the existence of a balance between all
branches of government. While citizens elect their representatives, they
are also involved in the decision-making process through a multitude of
forms of expression and peaceful assembly. The
effective observance of human rights requires the existence of a legal
and institutional order, in which the laws come before the will of the
rulers, and in which there exists a balance between all branches
for the purpose of preserving the expression of the popular will.
The Inter-American Democratic Charter provides that the
“[e]ssential elements of representative democracy include, inter
alia, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, access to
and the exercise of power in accordance with the rule of law, the
holding of periodic, free, and fair elections based on secret balloting
and universal suffrage as an expression of the sovereignty of the
people, the pluralistic system of political parties and organizations,
and the separation of powers and independence of the branches of
government.” Furthermore, “[t]ransparency in government activities,
probity, responsible public administration on the part of governments,
respect for social rights, and freedom of expression and of the press
are essential components of the exercise of democracy.”
The Commission was informed by representatives of international
and national organizations of the efforts underway to start a dialogue
between the Government and representatives of the opposition. The
absence of dialogue with different sectors of society unquestionably had
a negative effect on the protection of human rights.
In the experience of the Commission, full observance of human
rights is mainly achieved through dialogue involving all sectors of
society. The Commission has
encouraged such dialogue, which it hopes will enable all sectors of
Haitian society to take part in the shaping of a comprehensive policy on
human rights. In the
current context in Haiti, progress in the effective protection of human
rights will only be possible if sectoral interests are put aside.
The events of December 2001
With respect to the events of December 17, 2001, the Commission
has reiterated its strong condemnation of the acts of violence that
resulted in the deaths of many persons and that caused numerous injuries
and substantial property damage to several citizens.
While the IACHR has no competence to determine the individual
criminal responsibility of persons involved in those events, the
Commission has insisted that the State comply with its international
obligation to investigate and prosecute, in accordance with the
guarantees of due process, those responsible for the acts that took
place in December 2001, and to ensure that those crimes do not go
unpunished. The Commission
has underscored the urgent need of conducting an in-depth, impartial and
objective enquiry into the crimes committed and to determine the
respective responsibilities and punishments. In particular, the IACHR
has mentioned that it was necessary to investigate as to the
responsibility of those who may have ordered, encouraged, or tolerated
the presence of gun-carrying individuals and armed civilian groups.
The Commission has expressed its concern as to information that
it has received, according to which some of the persons identified as
those who carried out some of the human rights violations perpetrated in
December 2001 are not being subjected to a proper investigation.
In this regard, the Commission has noted the initiatives of the
Government of Haiti in coordination with the international community (in
particular the OAS) intended to restore a climate of confidence and
security, through the investigation by an Independent Commission of
Enquiry of the events of December 17, 2001.
The IACHR has welcomed these initiatives and expressed its hopes
that they lead to the identification and punishment of those responsible
for serious human rights violations and help to reinforce the rule of
law in Haiti.
Administration of justice
Judiciary has the fundamental task to apply and to ensure compliance
with the law, and is no doubt the fundamental organ for the protection
of human rights. In the
inter-American human rights system, the adequate operation of the
judiciary is essential for preventing the abuse of power by State
institutions, and, therefore, for protecting human rights.
In order for the judicial branch to be able to serve effectively
as an organ of oversight, guarantee, and protection of human rights, it
must not only exist formally, but must also be independent and
impartial. The existence of
an independent judiciary is essential for the effective enjoyment of
human rights and democracy, and constitutes a right that all member
states of the OAS, including Haiti, are obliged to respect and ensure
for the benefit of all persons under their jurisdiction.
After its August 2000 on-site visit, the Commission expressed
serious concerns about the weakness of the Haitian justice system given
its marked lack of independence from the executive branch and the
impunity prevailing with respect to a large number of crimes.
During its May 2002 visit, the IACHR noted with regret that no
substantial improvements had been made in the administration of justice.
Furthermore, the Haitian judicial system continues to be plagued
by chronic problems, such as shortages of personnel, funds and
logistical resources, which result in delays in judicial proceedings and
systematic violations of due process guarantees. The Commission was also
informed that the judicial apparatus is non-existent at the Communes
The Commission has mentioned on many occasions the need to combat
IACHR has specified that the current state of impunity for violations of
human rights contributes greatly to the perpetuation of violence. In this regard, the investigation, prosecution, and
punishment of the culprits are crucial for the elimination of violence.
The Commission has noted with concern that many cases involving
human rights violations have not been brought before the courts, and
that investigations are progressing slowly or are at a standstill.
The Commission has received specific information about murder
cases that remain in a state of absolute impunity, as investigations are
idle even though they began several years ago. Such cases include, inter
alia, that of the radio journalist Jean Dominique.
The IACHR has noted however that, in some cases, the judicial
investigations have produced results, as in the Raboteau and Carrefour
Feuilles cases, demonstrating that the establishment of facts and the
prosecution of persons responsible for violations of human rights are
possible. However, these
two examples attest to insufficient progress in the elimination of
impunity, given that the vast majority of such cases remain unresolved.
In addition, the IACHR received information of a general nature
according to which the global situation of impunity that exists in a
large number of cases leads the Haitian society to loose faith in its
The proper administration of justice is also ensured in great
part by the independence of the judiciary, in particular by its
independence from the executive branch. The Commission has observed in
Haiti serious weaknesses with regards to this aspect of the
administration of justice. Several
factors attest of the judiciary’s subordination to the executive
branch. These include the fact that the President has the power to
dismiss judges, and the fact that the commissaires
de gouvernement and
their alternates are agents of the executive branch before the courts. Furthermore,
juges de paix are assistants
to the offices of commissaires
de gouvernement (or parquets),
as well as being under their jurisdiction.
The Commission was further informed that the lack of independence
of the judiciary also stems from the fact that it is largely dependent
on the executive for funds. In particular, the Commission has been
informed that although the juges
d’instruction have the authority to pursue their own
investigations, they are not provided with sufficient resources to do
so, that they thus depend on police officers for investigations and that
the National Police, whose duties include investigation of crimes, are
under the supervision of the executive branch. Finally, it appears that
the executive has the power to select, appoint and remove judicial
officials, resulting in interference and serious impairment of the
The Commission has emphasized that the State of Haiti should, in
accordance with its obligations under the American Convention, hasten
the process of correcting the grave situation to which the Haitian
judicial system is subjected, and which is characterized by a lack of
independence, the persistence of impunity, and by budgetary and
In the area of citizen security, the Commission has expressed its
concern at the slow progress that it has observed since its last visit.
On that occasion, the IACHR mentioned on this matter that it had been
informed of improvements regarding the National Police, in particular
with respect to proposed plans dealing with the training of police
officers, and with respect to suggested oversight mechanisms. The
Commission noted however that the 5,600 members of the police force,
whose duty is to guarantee the security of the eight million people, are
manifestly insufficient. The competent authorities have acknowledged
that the police are clustered in urban areas and that rural areas are
without police presence. This void has created a breeding ground for
abuse and cases of public lynching. The IACHR has received complaints of
acts perpetrated by agents of the Haitian National Police, including
acts of abuse of power, acts amounting to degrading treatment, acts of
torture, and extra-judicial executions.
The IACHR has
noted the statements of President Aristide regarding the policy of
“zero tolerance” towards criminal activity.
The Commission has specified that, while it did not wish to make
recommendations as to the type of criminal policy that governments
adopt, it recalled, acting within its authority, that respect for the
individual rights of all persons is essential when enforcing any
The Commission received information from different sources
regarding acts of police violence. Particular mention was made of some
cases of extra-judicial execution. These acts of violence allegedly
committed by agents of the National Police could be due to the fact that
these agents misinterpreted the “zero-tolerance policy “ and thought
that any means were justified to eliminate criminal activity.
On this point, President Aristide told the Commission that he was
completely convinced of the need for such a zero tolerance policy, to be
implemented in strict accordance with the law and with generally
recognized international standards dealing with the respect for the
rights of individuals. The Commission has welcomed this clarification
made by the President and has expressed its hopes that such
clarification regarding the strict compliance with the law and generally
recognized international principles has been transmitted to every member
of the National Police of Haiti.
Various sectors of the population have expressed to the
Commission their concern regarding the activities of so-called
“popular organizations,” which the authorities described as groups
organized within a given community to deal with the problems of that
community. However, according to the information received by the IACHR,
some of these organizations are armed and intimidate the opposition, in
accordance with the instructions received from the authorities. It has
been alleged that some of these organizations have been involved in the
serious incidents that occurred in December 2001.
The rights to participation in government, to assembly, and to
free expression are recognized by the American Convention.
Accordingly, “popular organizations,” acting as free groups
of citizens or grassroots organizations that support the political
agenda of the President, may in certain circumstances be suitable
channels for the exercise of such rights.
This being said, the Commission has specified that the expression
of certain partisan political views cannot be given precedence over
others, nor can they justify acts of violence or restrictions on the
right of other groups or individuals who have different political
positions, including the right that they have to express these
responsibility of a State is triggered if groups of civilians violate
human rights and do so with the support or acquiescence of the
Government. The Commission has called upon the Government to investigate
seriously the acts of violence attributed to some “popular
organizations,” and to adopt, as a matter of the utmost urgency, all
necessary measures to prevent the recurrence of such acts.
The IACHR has also noted that it is
crucial that the use of force be vested exclusively in the public
security forces. It
is essential to investigate the existence of these alleged armed groups
and to disarm them fully as soon as possible. The Commission has
welcomed the recent announcement made by President Aristide regarding
the implementation of a nationwide program of disarmament. The
Commission has specified that it will monitor closely the progress of
the program, which it regards as vital to ensure greater respect for
Freedom of expression
Respect for the freedom of expression is one of the main concerns
of the IACHR in the hemisphere, as evidenced by its decision to create the
Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression, which enjoyed the
support of the Heads of State and Government at the Second Summit of the
Americas held in Chile in April 1998. The IACHR
has devoted particular attention to the status of freedom of expression
in Haiti in its annual reports and in the report of the Office of the
Rapporteur dealing with the visit conducted in February of 2002.
It is important to note, considering the information received in
the course of the May 2002 visit, that many of the observations
contained in the reports of the IACHR and its Special Rapporteur for
Freedom of Expression are still relevant today.
The Commission has expressed concern at the lack of progress of
the investigations dealing with the murders of the journalists Jean
Dominique and Brignol Lindor. The impunity that surrounds these murder
cases contributes significantly to the perpetuation of acts of violence
against other journalists. Furthermore,
the information received indicated that while it is possible in Haiti to
criticize the authorities, in some cases such criticism leads to threats
that expose journalists to situations of risk, which in turn have an
intimidating effect on their work.
According to the information received, such situations have led
journalists to exercise self-censorship or to abandon the profession. It
should be emphasized that freedom of expression is not ensured merely by
the absence of acts of prior censorship. Threats directed at social
communicators also constitute an indirect restriction on freedom of
expression and it is the duty of the State to provide the necessary
protection of such communicators so that they can perform their function
and continue informing the public.
The IACHR received information about the existence of laws that
criminalize offensive statements directed at public officials.
The IACHR has expressed its opinion regarding the incompatibility
of such provisions with Article 13 of the American Convention, inasmuch
as such laws, which are generally known as “desacato”
laws, afford a greater measure of protection to public officials acting
in official capacity than
that available to the rest of society. The IACHR has specified that such legal measures restricting
could sanction abuses, could be used as a means to silence unpopular
ideas and opinions, and could thereby repress the popular debate that is
essential to the effective functioning of democracy. The Commission has expressed its hope that such laws would be
revised by the Haitian State, to make them consistent with Article 13 of
the American Convention, taking into consideration the criteria
contained in the Inter-American Declaration of Principles on Freedom of
The August 2002 on-site visit
During its second on-site visit to Haiti from August 26 to 29,
2002, the delegation of the Commission 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
Commission exchanged views with representatives of the various
intergovernmental organizations working in Haiti. It also met with
representatives of the Protestant, Lutheran, and other churches.
The purpose of the visit was to observe the degree of compliance
with the recommendations made at the conclusion of the May 2002 visit,
and to obtain additional information.
Information was also gathered for completion of a report on the
general situation of human rights in Haiti.
At the conclusion of the visit, the Commission stated that it had
seen no progress concerning the problems it noted at the end of the May
2002 visit. The Commission
affirmed its deep concern over the fragile state of the rule of law in
Haiti, over the lack of independence of the judiciary, the problem of
impunity, the general feeling of insecurity among the population, the
existence of armed groups acting with complete impunity, and the threats
made against some journalists. The
IACHR was also troubled by information that it received on the August 2,
2002, attack on the Gonaïve prison, which resulted in the escape of
approximately 159 detainees. The Commission expressed its hopes that the
Government would conduct the necessary investigation to bring to light
the circumstances surrounding that event.
Commission noted that the lack of dialogue between the government, the
opposition and the other sectors of society has been seriously hindering
the resolution of the problems mentioned above 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. The
IACHR has also specified that while it previously called urgently for a
dialogue allowing all sectors of Haitian society to participate in
framing a comprehensive human rights policy, no progress have been
observed in this respect. The Commission has reaffirmed the need for
such a dialogue.
The Commission took note of Haiti’s difficult socio-economic
conditions, which are characterized by extreme poverty for most of the
population, high rates of illiteracy and maternal-child mortality, as
well as malnutrition. This
situation, taken as a whole, can be considered to impede the enjoyment
of certain rights, including socio-economic rights.
Effective respect for human rights requires not only the
protection of civil and political rights, but also of economic, social,
and cultural rights. This
major challenge cannot be met without the greater involvement of the
Government, and for a concrete development plan, and requires
cooperation with the various sectors of civil society and with the
The IACHR has also received information indicating that violence
has escalated recently in Cité Soleil.
There are alarming reports of girls being raped, of murders, and
of the illegal possession of weapons by civilians. The Commission
considered that the State’s national disarmament campaign has had very
little success. The Commission has emphasized that a State has the duty
to take appropriate measures against the emergence of illegal armed
groups, including measures to disarm them, and must exercise greater
control over the possession and use of firearms. The use of force must
rest exclusively with constitutionally mandated institutions.
Responsible officials must apply due diligence in investigating,
prosecuting, and punishing the members of illegal armed groups.
In view of the importance that the Commission attaches to freedom
of expression, the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Mr.
Eduardo Bertoni, participated in the August 2002 visit. He gathered data
and information on the exercise of that right that will be used in a
report to be published in due course.
Nevertheless, the Rapporteur’s Office received information
regarding and expressed concern over the harassment, threat and murder
of journalists, which curtail the exercise of freedom of expression in
Haiti. The Rapporteur’s Office also received information on the status
of the investigations underway to determine the identity of those
responsible for the murder of the journalists Jean Dominique and Brignol
Since the August 2002 visit, the Commission has received
information on the general situation of human rights in Haiti, including
that submitted by the National
Commission of Human Rights
during a hearing held in its headquarters of Washington DC on 15 October
2002. Moreover, the Commission has taken note of the addresses made
before the OAS Permanent Council by the Assistant Secretary General,
Ambassador Luigi R. Enaudi on November 6th and 20th
2002, and by Ambassador Raymond Valcin, Permanent Representative of
Haiti before the OAS on November 5th, 2002. The IACHR has also taken
into consideration the remarks made by the Head of the OAS Special
Mission in Haiti, Mr. David Lee during the October 3rd, 2002 press
conference, as well as the Preliminary
Report presented by the Ministry of Justice and Public Security of Haiti
Pursuant to Resolution CP/RES. 822 (1331/02) (OEA/Ser.G, CP/doc.3649/02,
26 September 2002).
The Commission notes that, although the Government of Haiti has
taken some initiatives with respect to the issues referred above, there
has been little progress to
remedy those difficulties. In particular, the IACHR observes that,
regarding the administration of justice, there are still several
emblematic cases of human rights violations that remain in impunity.
While the State has taken some initiatives to investigate and subject
the perpetrators of human rights violations to justice, many other cases
remain unresolved, in particular those concerning the events of December
2001. In this regards, the IACHR takes note of the release on July 1st
2002 of the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Events
of December 17, 2001, in Haiti.
With respect to the issue of citizen security the Commission welcomes
the Government efforts to train future members of the security forces,
but notes that it continues to receive reports of police abuse in the
country. Similarly, while the IACHR is pleased to note the
Government’s endeavors to disarm its population, it must express its
concern regarding the limited success of such efforts, the continued
widespread illegal possession and use of firearms, and the repeated
violent actions of certain armed groups and popular organizations. With
regard to freedom of expression, the Commission regrets to note that
there continues to be reports of threats to the press. Finally, the
IACHR notes with regret that severe politically motivated disturbances
and acts of violence occurred in Haiti at the end of November, attesting
of the country’s tense and delicate political situation. In this
respect the Commission observes that, notwithstanding a few exceptions,
most of the candidates to the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) still
need to be nominated in order to allow for future elections.
The Commission has reiterated that the main source of democratic
legitimacy is that granted by popular will expressed in free, periodic,
and universal elections. Nevertheless, elections in themselves are not
sufficient to ensure a fully effective democracy. As indicated in the
Inter-American Democratic Charter, elements essential to democracy
include the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, the
access to and the exercise of power in accordance with the rule of law,
the expression of the sovereign people through the holding of periodic,
free, and fair elections based on secret balloting and universal
suffrage, a pluralistic system of political parties and organizations,
the separation of powers, and the independence of the different branches
of government. Furthermore, other elements essential to the exercise of
democracy include transparency in government activities, probity,
responsible public administration on the part of governments, respect
for social rights, as well as freedom of expression and of the press.
The constitutional subordination of executive and legislative branches
of government as well as their respective bodies to the legally
constituted civilian authority and the respect for the rule of law on
the part of all institutions and sectors of society are equally
essential to democracy. In this context, the rule of law requires the
functioning of an independent and impartial judiciary as a guarantor of
the protection of human rights, as a vehicle for obtaining justice for
victims, and as an organ of oversight and of supervision of the action
of the other branches of government.
The IACHR has specified that it will continue to monitor closely
the situation of human rights in Haiti.
The May and August 2002 visits were important opportunities in this
sense and have contributed to intensify the dialogue that the
Commission, in accordance with its mandate, maintains with Haitian
officials and the Haitian society.
The IACHR has reaffirmed its readiness to work with the
Government and with the Haitian society as a whole in the strengthening,
the defense and the protection of human rights in a context of democracy
and lawful institutions.
Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Advisory Opinion OC-8/87,
Habeas Corpus in Emergency Situations (Articles 27( 2 ), 25(1) and
7(6), American Convention on Human Rights, January 30th,
1987, paras. 24 and 26
Inter-American Democratic Charter, Articles 3 and 4 .
Commission is in the process of preparing a substantive report to be
completed after the Commission’s third on-site visit which will
take place at the beginning of 2003.