1. In December of 1979, the IACHR submitted its Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti (OEA/Ser.L/V.II.46 doc. 66 rev. 1), prepared on the basis of an in loco observation carried out in that country from August 16 to 25 of 1978, to the General Assembly of the OAS.
In that report, the Commission pointed out concrete violations of the right to life, to personal integrity, to personal liberty, to judicial guarantees, freedom of investigation, opinion, expression and dissemination of thought, freedom of association, freedom of residence and movement, the right to nationality, and political rights.
With respect to economic, social and cultural rights, the Commission reached the conclusion that enjoyment of these rights by the people of Haiti is impeded by the “conditions of extreme poverty, illiteracy, poor health, a high birth and infant mortality rate, unemployment, lack of health facilities, low per capita income, etc.”.
In its report, the Commission also set forth to the Government of Haiti a number of recommendations aimed at improving the observance of human rights in that country.
2. In the following years, on the basis of the American Convention on Human Rights, to which Haiti is a State Party, and in accordance with the provisions of its Statute and Regulations, the Commission has closely followed developments in the situation of human rights in Haiti, and has reported its observations to the OAS General Assembly.
The Commission pointed out in those reports that the situation of the rights mentioned has not changed significantly in Haiti, and recognized progress only with respect to the right to life.
3. Over the period covered by this report, the Government of Haiti has shown reluctance to respond to requests for information made by the Commission, concerning both individual and general matters, the latter being requested in order to obtain the view of the Government. This attitude, in the judgment of the Commission, represents a failure to comply with the obligations undertaken by Haiti upon ratification of the Pact of San Jose, and it greatly impedes the task entrusted to the Commission to safeguard respect for human rights of the people of Haiti.
4. Nevertheless, the Commission has information that, to date, the Government of Haiti has not adopted measures implementing the recommendations made by the Commission in its 1979 report, and on the contrary, persists in keeping the country under a virtual state of emergency, in which citizens have no other guarantees than those which the Executive grants them.
In effect, the practice of granting president Duvalier full powers to govern the country during the recess of the Legislature continues. The recess lasts 9 months, during which the people of Haiti are deprived of the constitutional guarantees that protect human rights.
5. The writs of habeas corpus continues to have little or no force, due to the fact that there is virtually no independent judiciary. Magistrates and judges normally obey orders from the Executive. According to the Constitution, the President appoints members of the Judiciary from the President of the Supreme Court to the lowest Justice of the Peace.
Citizens continue to be arrested by the “national security volunteers” (Tonton-macoutes) and may be detained, even incommunicado, for indefinite periods, without being brought before a competent judge. Furthermore, conditions of detention continue to be deplorable.
6. The press has been practically silenced. The communications media, closed in November of 1980, remain in suspension, and several journalists, who at that time were expelled from the country are still in exile.
On March 13, 1984, by means of communications sent to the Chief of the Army, to the General Supervisor of the National Security Volunteers, to the Minister of Justice and to the Chief of Police of Port-au-Prince, President Duvalier prohibited all forms of torture, ordered unrestricted freedom of press, and absolute observance of respect for human rights.
On the basis of this presidential decree, Gregoire Eugene, President of the Christian Democratic Party of Haiti, who has recently returned from exile, renewed publication of the magazine “Brotherhood”, a publication of his party. On June 18, 1984, Eugene was arrested, and the equipment needed for publication of “Brotherhood” was not returned. In an editorial comment, Eugene had harshly criticized the life-time presidency of Mr. Duvalier, which he described as unconstitutional.
7. Operation of political parties continues to be impeded, to the degree that, in legislative elections that were held in February 1984, of the 309 candidates to fill 59 seats in the House of Representatives, only one, Mr. Serge Beaulieu, was an opposition candidate. Mr. Beaulieu was constantly harassed throughout the campaign and was finally detained on March 3, 1984.
In May 1984, by means of a Decree of the Ministry of the Interior, all political activity in the country was prohibited. With the exception of the government’s party, no other political party may function. Publication of any political pamphlet or publication was also prohibited.
8. In addition, the situation with regard to economic, social and cultural rights has also not changed in ways that enhance the well-being of the people. Haiti continues to be the poorest country in the hemisphere and one of the poorest in the world, and is the only country in the Americas which, according to World Bank statistics, ranks among the lowest-income developing countries, with a per capital GNP of only $305.00 in 1983 (Statistical Bulletin of the OAS).
Furthermore, Haitians have an average life expectancy, at birth, of 54.5 years, an infant mortality rate of 177.7 per thousand births, a general mortality rate per thousand inhabitants of 13.0, and an illiteracy rate that is 67.7 percent among men and 76 percent among women. (Economic and social progress in Latin America, Report of the IDB 1983, and Statistical Bulletin of the OAS). Haiti also has a high rate of open unemployment and underemployment, and one of the lowest per capita incomes in the world.
These data reflect a situation of extreme poverty that is endured by over half the population of Port-au-Prince and virtually all of the rural population of the country.
9. In this context, in accordance with information obtained by the Commission, on May 23, 24 and 25 of 1984, there were serious disturbances in the cities of Gonaïves and Cap-Haïtien. The people went to the streets demanding food and work. The Government attempted to halt the demonstrations and for that purpose sent the Minister of Social Affairs, Theodoro Archile. These disturbances, after the intervention of the armed forces, left a number of dead and wounded, the number of which the Commission has not been able to confirm. It has also been reported that many citizens were detained.
10. Prior to this, and also as a result of the extreme poverty, what has come to be called “the flight of the Haitian people” occurred. Hundreds of thousands of Haitians left the country in fragile boats, risking their lives in search of work and food. They thus came to the coasts of the United States, Venezuela and some Caribbean islands. This phenomenon continues today, although on a smaller scale.
11. To judge by these and other reports available to the Commission, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights can state that the situation of human rights in Haiti continues to be deplorable. The people of Haiti continue to experience extreme poverty, anxiety and insecurity and the government has not shown itself capable or interested in correcting the situation.
On the contrary, analysis of government actions over the period covered by this report and the general situation of the country reflect an attitude on the part of the government of persistent failure to respect the fundamental rights of man, which gives rise to serious doubts about the possibility of real democracy in the country or significant improvement in the situation of human rights in Haiti.