REPORT ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN HAITI
301. The deterioration in the human rights situation in the first eight months covered by this report (January-August) had a devastating impact on the Haitian people as a result of the violence against them by the military dictatorship.
302. Subsequently, with the change in the political situation resulting from the military occupation of Haiti by the Multinational Force, pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 940, enabling constitutional President Jean- Bertrand Aristide to be reinstated, the Commission notes the beginning of fundamental changes, especially in the human rights situation. The departure of the dictatorial regime put an end to the general climate of terror and human rights violations that prevailed in Haiti, and enabled political activities to resume in many areas of the country and substantial freedom of the press to be reinstituted. However, the Commission is aware that serious problems inherited from the military regime remain for the constitutional government to deal with as soon as possible to keep them from endangering the newly formed democracy.
303. The systematic oppression during the military regime was designed to wipe out any kind of organized activity, freedom of speech and of assembly, and any activity in support of the democratic regime. Cases of arbitrary arrest, beatings, illegal raids, confiscation and burning of property, forced disappearances and torture increased during the year covered by this report, compelling the victims and their families to abandon their homes and go into hiding, thereby trampling on the rights of the children. The continuing flight of the people inhibited their ability to organize, thereby weakening the political, social and economic structures that might have threatened the illegal de facto regime. As a consequence of this oppression, the guarantees set forth in articles 4, 5, 7, 8, 13, 15, 21 and 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights, of which Haiti has been a party since 1977, were violated.
304. In early January 1994, the military regime applied new oppressive methods, which were particularly effective in terrorizing the people, including rape of women for their militancy and or their association with militant family members favoring the return of President Aristide. In Haiti, those rapes were an instrument of repression for political purposes. The intent of those responsible was to destroy any democratic movement through the terror created by those sexual crimes. The Commission considers that this kind of rape constitutes a form of torture within the meaning of article 5 (2) of the American Convention.
305. Massacres against rural populations, under the guise of putting down rebel groups, and the appearance in the streets of Port-au-Prince of badly disfigured and mutilated corpses, were also used as an instrument of oppression and political intimidation. The Commission noted that the right to life set forth in Article 4 of the American Convention was one of the rights most commonly violated, reaching such a level of extreme cruelty that entire towns were surrounded by the military and the people were murdered indiscriminately.
306. Currently, disarming the people is one the most serious problems confronted by the constitutional government of Haiti. Widespread possession of weapons endangers the stability of the new regime and prevents the establishment of the rule of law. In this regard, the Commission considers that specific measures should be taken immediately to disarm the people completely. Although the Multinational Force purchased and confiscated around 19,000 weapons, the weapons and the apparatus of the dictatorship have not been completely replaced in some areas of the country. They continue to be the cause of insecurity and fear in the people, particularly in those areas not reached by the Multinational Force.
307. The Commission is aware of the difficulties in completely disarming the people, but it considers that the Haitian Government, and the Multinational Force should redouble their efforts and continue searching for hidden weapons still in the possession of the section chiefs, the "attachés," "macoutes" or FRAPH members that enable them to continue to stir up violence. Moreover, the constitutional government should implement a strict control program on the possession of weapons, which is permitted under the Constitution so long as they are registered with the police. With new registration, existing permits would be canceled and only those issued by the new police would be accepted.
308. The colaboration of the Haitian Armed Forces with the Multinational Force has in some cases created an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion among the people. For example, the fact that complaints and information on weapons possession or hiding places provided to the Multinational Force is checked by the Haitian military casts doubt on the effectiveness of the disarmament process. Moreover, the detention by the Multinational Force of known "attachés" or "macoutes", who are then turned over to the police, who in turn releases them, results in a prevailing sense of insecurity so that "marronage" (going into hiding) persists.
309. The Commission notes with satisfaction that the necessary steps are being taken to set up a new police service under the civilian control of the Ministry of Justice, and that there are plans to establish a Police Academy to train members of an independent and efficient police service. However, it is essential for the Haitian Government to apply criteria in selecting police personnel which ensure that persons with records of human rights violations are not selected. In making these selections, it would also be important to have the assistance of the OAS/UN Civilian Mission, which has a vast amount of information on the human rights violations that occurred during the dictatorship.
310. The Commission is convinced that to achieve genuine human rights protection for the Haitian people and to ensure that perpetrators of criminal acts are brought to justice, the judicial system will have to be substantially reformed as soon as possible. While plans and programs have been initiated to reorganize the judiciary, it is urgently necessary to implement training programs to ensure that there is in place a judicial system that will be able to deal with the people's present problems.
311. The problem of the lack of an effective judicial system is closely linked with the absence of a police force that can gain the people's confidence and maintain law and order. Starting with the 1991 coup d'état, the judiciary has been dominated by the military which installed a majority of the justices of peace and judicial officials, including administrative and quasi-judicial staff, such as the section chiefs. Many of these people continue in their posts despite having been involved in human rights violations. This has deeply affected the morale of the people who do not dare to report or testify about crimes for fear of encountering officials who supported the military dictatorship.
312. The Commission considers that to achieve genuine reform of the judicial system, the focus must be on persons possessing the necessary competence, moral character and impartiality. It is essential for the international community to make every effort to provide human and material resources to achieve this important goal. The Commission is pleased that countries such as the United States, France, and Canada, along with the UN and the OAS, have demonstrated their interest in helping to rebuild Haiti's legal institutions.
313. In respect of the situation in the detention centers, the Commission found that the prison system inherited by the constitutional government is in crisis. The National Penitentiary should be shut down because it is far below minimum international standards. The government should invite international prison system experts to convert one of the military camps into a model national prison. Such camps will no longer be necessary with the planned reduction in the armed forces.
314. The Commission notes with satisfaction the democratic government's plans to transfer jurisdiction of the prisons from military to civilian control. However, it wishes to point out that the most urgent problems of the prison system should be addressed immediately. These are: insufficient food and lack of medical care, and the absence of judicial process for inmates. The Commission considers it necessary to establish a special commission, under the Justice Ministry, to review the situation of inmates immediately. International aid will be required and the Commission urges the international community to provide assistance in this activity also.
315. The institutionalized practice of unpunished violence resulting form the domination of the military over the administration of justice prevented victims of human rights violations from enjoying their right to a fair trial. The Commission considers that the government has an inescapable duty to investigate and determine responsibility for human rights violations against the Haitian people during the three-year military dictatorship. The Commission notes with satisfaction the establishment of the Justice and Truth Commission by the Haitian Government and to expresses its confidence that this institution will carry out its tasks promptly and efficiently.
316. Reestablishment of the constitutional government in Haiti and economic aid programs by the international community have created a promising climate both inside and outside the country. In particular, great expectations have arisen among the Haitian people, who have long suffered from every kind of deprivation. The economic and social situation in Haiti is characterized by economic stagnation and widespread unemployment. Lack of basic public services such as water and electricity, plus insanitary conditions and malnutrition suffered by most Haitians, underscore the urgent need to provide financial assistance and technical cooperation from the international community to assist in the development of the country. Unfortunately, the delay in furnishing financial aid has made it impossible to meet these needs to improve the daily life of the poorest sectors of the country, which has generated frustration among them. It is crucial for the country's economic capacity to be bolstered as soon as possible by aid from the international community.
317. Pursuant to the duties assigned it by the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights, the Commission will continue its efforts to protect and promote human rights in Haiti, and it reaffirms its continued cooperation with the constitutional government of the Republic of Haiti.
(January 31 to June 30, 1994)
Source: OAS/UN International Civilian Mission, Research Department.
(January 31 to June 30, 1994)
(January 31 to June 30, 1994)
Source: OAS/UN International Civilian Mission, Human Rights Division.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States considered the human rights situation in Haiti at its eighty-fifth session (from January 31 to February 11, 1994) and decided to carry out an on-site visit to that country.
The purpose of the visit is to continue to observe the human rights situation in Haiti and to evaluate the exercise of, and respect for, those rights in accordance with the American Convention on Human Rights, to which Haiti is a party, and to draw up any recommendations the Commission deems necessary.
The Commission will carry out its visit from May 16 to 20, 1994. The Special Delegation of the IACHR will consist of the following persons: Dr. Patrick Robinson, Prof. Claudio Grossman, and Ambassador John Donaldson, members of the Commission. The Delegation will be assisted by Dr. Edith Márquez Rodríguez, Executive Secretary of the IACHR, Dr. Bertha Santoscoy-Noro, Human Rights Specialist (already in Haiti), Dr. Relinda Eddie, Dr. Isabel Ricupero, Mr. Serge Bellegarde of the Translation Office, and Ana Cecilia Adriazola, Secretary of the IACHR.
In the course of its mission the Delegation expects to meet with and obtain information from representatives of all sectors of Haitian society in order to gain more insight into the human rights situation in Haiti.
The Commission will stay at Hotel Villa Créole and be available to anyone who wishes to present individual denunciations of human rights violations, on Wednesday, May 18, from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
The Commission will end its visit with a press conference to be held at the Holiday Inn on May 20 at 10:30 a.m.
Port-au-Prince, May 11, 1994
In the face of the worsening situation with regard to human rights in Haiti, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights decided during its 84th session held in February 1994 to conduct an on-site visit to that country. That visit was conducted from May 16 through 20.
The delegation comprised the following persons: Patrick Robinson, Amb. John Donaldson, and Prof. Claudio Grossman, members of the Commission. It was assisted by Edith Marquez Rodriguez, Executive Secretary of the IACHR, Bertha Santoscoy, Relinda Eddie, and Isabel Ricupero, attorneys at the Commission; Serge Bellegarde, OAS interpreter, and Mrs. Ana Cecilia Adriazola, secretary of the delegation.
Today marks the conclusion of the visit of the IACHR's special delegation. That visit was conducted within the parameters of its competence as established in the American Convention on Human Rights to which Haiti is party.
During its stay in Haiti, the delegation met with Prime Minister Robert Malval and with Ministers Victor Benoit, Rosemont Pradel, Louis Dejoie II, Berthony Berry; with Amb. Colin Granderson, Director of the OAS/UN International Civilian Mission, and Mr. Tiébilé Drame, a member of that Mission; with papal nuncio Monsignor Lorenzo Baldisseri; with the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Frantz Robert Mondé, and with the President of the Senate Firmin Jean Louis. The delegation also asked to meet with the Chief-in-Command of the Armed Forces of haiti, General Raoul Cedras, and members of the Chief of Staff as well as the Chief of Police, Lt. Col. Michel François, but received no response to their request.
The delegation also met with the coordinator of the former Presidential Commission, Father Antoine Adrien; with representatives of nongovernmental organizations --grassroots organizations and human rights groups-- and with leaders of several political parties to learn about the human rights situation in the country. It also interviewed representatives of the print and broadcast media from whom they heard testimony on the state of freedom of expression in Haiti. The IACHR delegation also met with representatives of the industrial sector and the churches.
Because they were unauthorized to do so, the delegation was unable to visit the penitentiary in Port-au-Prince. They were therefore unable to ascertain directly the condition of the prisons and the situation with regard to judicial process for prisoners.
During its stay, the delegation of the IACHR obtained considerable information and repeatedly heard testimony from victims of human rights violations.
The delegation was able to confirm the serious deterioration in the human rights situation in Haiti since its last visit in August 1993. The delegation has in its possession detailed and reliable information on numerous violations of the right to life, executions, and disappearances which have taken place in the past four months. It has documentation with the names and circumstances involving 133 cases of extrajudicial executions between February and May this year and more than 210 reports of these types of crimes.
The delegation also received information on severely mutilated bodies and had direct confirmation in one such case. Information received by the delegation indicates that the purpose of these acts is to terrorize the population.
In the face of the tragic scene of human corpses being eaten by animals the delegation endorses Prime Minister Malval's proposal to enlist the assistance of the international organizations in removing corpses given the inaction of those who are in power.
The delegation also received numerous reports of arbitrary detention, routinely accompanied by torture and brutal beating by agents of the Armed Forces of Haiti and paramilitary groups, especially members of the Revolutionary Front for Advancement and Progress in Haiti (FRAPH), who act in concert with the Armed Forces and Police. The delegation saw for themselves victims of torture and noted the circumstances under which such torture had taken place. It also received documentation on 55 cases of political kidnapping and disappearances during February and March. Since then, 20 people have been released and 11 have been found dead. To date, no information is available on the fate of the other 24 missing persons.
The delegation received strong evidence that in Port-au-Prince, armed paramilitary groups have raided neighborhoods, notably in Cite Soleil, Sarthe, Carrefour, Fonds Tamara, among others, murdering and pillaging residents who, for the most part, support the return of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Reports received by the delegation point to an increase in the number and brutality of human rights violations by the Army, FRAPH, and other paramilitary groups working in tandem with the military (attaches) in the country's interior. They also heard testimony proving conclusively the liability of the army in massacres of defenseless groups of the population in Raboteau, Gonaives, Department of Artibonite, on March 22 last. There, between 15 and 20 residents were executed with no justification. Information the delegation also received leads to the conclusion that the army attacked defenseless groups of the population in the Departments of the Center (Saut d'Eau) and the North (Borgne).
These attacks bear similar traits: actual military campaigns where army units, assisted by FRAPH and other paramilitary groups, surround and burst into certain areas under the pretext of combatting subversive groups, indiscriminately beating residents and committing acts of arson, destruction and theft, followed by arbitrary detentions.
The delegation further observed that most of the violations reported follow a systematic pattern of repression, indicative of a political plan to intimidate and terrorize the people of Haiti, especially sectors that support President Aristide or that have expressed themselves to be in favor of democracy in Haiti. According to information received, victims are kidnapped, forced to get into vehicles and are taken blindfolded to clandestine places of detention where they are interrogated and tortured. Some victims have been released, others have succumbed as the result of severe beating
The delegation received reports of rape and sexual abuse against the wives and relatives of partisans of the democratic regime whose wives and children happen to be on the spot when they are being sought out. These wives and children are abused by the military, "attaches", or members of FRAPH, when they are unable to locate the partisans. Thus, sexual abuse is used as an instrument of repression and political persecution. Despite the reticence of the victims in reporting these crimes, the delegation received conclusive proof of 21 incidents of violations occurring from January to date. During its visit, the delegation met directly with 20 victims of this horrible practice. The international community has repeatedly recognized the universal character of women's rights as well as the fact that rape is one of the greatest crimes against them.
Given the seriousness of this crime, the Commission will give special importance to rape in the report it will submit to the upcoming session of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States.
In fulfillment of the functions assigned to it under the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights, the delegation observed the status of other rights, in addition to those mentioned above.
With respect to the right of assembly, the delegation has concluded that exercise of this right does not exist for those who support a return to democracy. When groups of individuals try to exercise this right they are arrested and brutally beaten by members of the military and police force, and accused of organizing meetings in support of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. In a recent incident, 20 participants were arbitrarily arrested at a meeting for legal training organized by the diocese in Hinche, Department of the Center, on April 29, and accused of being terrorists.
The delegation wishes to express its concern with regard to exercise of the right to freedom of expression. Information received would confirm restrictions endured by representatives of the press and radio in Haiti. These have led to self-censorship of the media to the detriment of its functions of keeping the Haitian public informed. The delegation heard testimony of acts of intimidation and repression of journalists exercising their profession.
With regard to the problem of displaced persons (maroons) the delegation confirmed that political activists, community leaders and numerous opponents of the de facto authorities have had to live as fugitives in their own country, forced as they are to abandon home and family. The delegation received convincing information that the number of displaced persons continues to increase at an alarming rate and it therefore behoves the international community to take a direct interest in this situation.
The delegation received claims from Haitian nationals who have returned home that they have been subjected to persecution and violations of their right to physical and moral integrity. The Commission will open cases concerning these complaints.
One common trait that emerges from these violations reported to the delegation is the total ineffectuality of the judiciary or other mechanisms to prevent or punish human rights violations in Haiti. The result is outright impunity for the perpetrators of these violations.
The delegation wishes to note that as the body responsible for observing respect for human rights embodied in the American Convention on Human Rights, it cannot fail to mention the right to participate in government established in Article 23 of that Convention. The attempt to install a "government" without the vote of the people and in breach of the Haitian Constitution is a flagrant violation of the political rights of the people of Haiti.
The delegation wishes to note for the record the importance, seriousness and objectivity of the work and reports of the OAS/UN International Civilian Mission which it observed throughout its visit. The delegation expresses deep concern in the face of the acts of intimidation and aggression, on March 23 last, to which members of the Mission were subjected in the Hinche region (Central Plateau) by a number of demonstrators acting at the bidding of members of FRAPH. The delegation condemns the passive stance of the military authorities there in putting an end to these acts which once again are indicative of their open complicity with the members of FRAPH.
The delegation feels that given the seriousness of the prevailing situation in Haiti, the number of observers of the OAS/UN International Civilian Mission must be increased to more adequately cover the entire country.
In conclusion, the delegation notes that, based on its observations, the overall picture with regard to the human rights situation is one of a very serious deterioration in the most elementary human rights in Haiti --all part of a plan to intimidate and terrorize a defenseless people. The delegation holds those in de facto power in Haiti responsible for these violations. They have engaged in conduct that make them liable to be charged with international crimes, which give rise to individual liability.
The delegation will report on the outcome of this visit to the Twenty-fourth Regular Session of the OAS General Assembly, to be held in Belem, Para, in Brazil this coming June.
The delegation wishes to thank the various sectors and individuals in Haiti for their cooperation and assistance during their visit.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will continue to observe the human rights situation in Haiti. It will conduct any visits it considers necessary, in exercise of its functions, and will keep the Organization of American States and the international community informed accordingly.
Port-au-Prince, May 20, 1994
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reaffirms its profound concern pertaining to the flagrant and systematic human rights violations occurring in Haiti as a result of the increased repression carried out by the authorities who illegally hold power in that country.
The commission has conducted three visits and presented three special reports to the General Assembly of the OAS since the overthrow of the constitutional government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide which was chosen in an internationally supervised and confirmed free and fair election. On the basis of its continuing examination of Haiti, most recently in May 16-20, 1994, the Commission has documented an appalling number of human rights violations that are directly related to the continuing unlawful exercise of power by the Haitian military and its appointees. The Commission confirmed during its last on site visit that the situation of human rights in Haiti had seriously deteriorated since its previous visit in August of 1993, and that there had been an escalation in the number and brutality of human rights violations committed by members of the military, paramilitary groups and police. The Commission also confirmed the total ineficiency of the judiciary or other mechanisms to prevent or punish human rights violations in Haiti. As a result, perpetrators of human rights violations act with outright impunity.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights also views with special concern the expulsion of the UN/OEA International Civil Mission from Haiti on July 11, 1994. Given the extremely grave situation of human rights in Haiti, the Commission notes the importance, seriousness, and objectivity of the work and reports of the OAS/UN Mission which permitted the protection of some persons and allowed the flow of information regarding human rights violations in Haiti. The facts and cases which the Mission has been able to collect and provide were important for the work of the Commission. The expulsion of the OAS/UN Mission deprives the Haitian people of a witness to the violations and the human rights institutions of a source of data which is indispensable for their work.
In the light of recent developments, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights considers that it would be advisable to conduct a visit to Haiti as soon as possible so as to observe the human rights situation in accordance with the American Convention on Human Rights, to explore ways to end violations, and to develop alternative means of gathering information.
Washington, D.C., July 27, 1994
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has been following, with ever-growing concern, the continuing deterioration of the human rights situation in Haiti. The armed forces, in effective control of the country, have continued to commit murders, forced disappearances, torture, sexual violations, illegal detentions and other types of violent acts against a defenseless people.
The situation has been further aggravated by the expulsion of the Civilian Mission, which provided a flow of information to the world community and by its mere presence acted as some restraint on the violence of the military. The cold-blooded assassination of Father Jean-Maire Vincent this week is only the latest of this series of gross acts of violence which have been conducted with impunity.
The Commission intends to devote a part of its upcoming session in September, 1994 to a detailed examination of the situation in Haiti and the steps which it can take to contribute to the alleviation of the continuing pattern of violation of human rights there.
Washington, D.C., August 31, 1994
At its 87th session (September 19-30, 1994) the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States considered the human rights situation in Haiti and decided to accept the Government's invitation to visit the country.
The Commission will make the visit between October 24 and 27, 1994. The Commission's special delegation will consist of the following persons: Prof. Michael Reisman, Chairman of the IACHR; Dr. Patrick Robinson and Prof. Claudio Grossman, members of the Commission; Dr. Bertha Santoscoy-Noro, Human Rights Specialist, in charge of Haiti; and Drs. Relinda Eddie, Isabel Ricupero, and Meredith Caplan (already in Haiti).
The purpose of the visit is to continue to observe the human rights situation in Haiti, to assess the exercise of and respect for those rights in terms of the American Convention of Human Rights, to which Haiti is a party, and to make any recommendations the Commission deems necessary.
In the course of its mission, the delegation hopes to meet with representatives of all sectors of Haitian society so as to come to a better understanding of developments in the human rights situation in Haiti.
The Commission will be at the disposal of anyone wishing to lodge individual complaints of human rights violations on Tuesday, October 25, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon at the Hotel Villa Créole.
At the conclusion of its visit, on October 27 at 9 a.m., the Commission will hold a press conference at the Holiday Inn.
Port-au-Prince, October 19, 1994
At its 87th period of sessions, (19 to 30 September 1994), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights accepted the invitation by Haiti's Constitutional Government to carry out an on-site visit to observe the human rights situation in the country. The on-site visit was conducted between October 24 and 27, 1994.
The Commission's special delegation was composed of Professor Michael Reisman, President of the Commission, Mr. Patrick Robinson, Professor Claudio Grossman, Members of the Commission, Doctor Bertha Santoscoy-Noro, Human Rights Specialist, in charge of Haiti, and Doctors Relinda Eddie, Meredith Caplan and Isabel Ricupero, staff attorneys. Serge Bellegarde served as translator. Gloria Hansen and Cecilia Adriazola provided secretarial and administrative support.
The IACHR special delegation's visit, which concludes today, was carried out in accordance with its mandate set forth in the American Convention on Human Rights, to which Haiti is a party.
During its visit in Haiti, the Commission met with the President of the Republic, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, to whom it expressed the Commission's profound satisfaction with the restoration of the democratic regime in the country. The Commission reiterated its interest in continued collaboration in all matters that fall within its mandate.
The Commission interviewed the Chief of the Armed Forces, General Jean-Claude Duperval about the changes that are being effected within the Armed Forces.
The Commission met with Ambassador Colin Granderson, head of the OAS/UN Civil Mission, and Mr. Tiebile Drome, and with the diplomatic representatives of the five Friends of Haiti: Argentina, Canada, The United States, France and Venezuela. Furthermore, the Commission met with members of the Parliament, with the coordinator of the former Presidential Commission, Father Antoine Adrien, and with the Mayor of Port-au-Prince, Mr. Evans Paul.
The Commission also met with representatives of human rights groups, grassroots organizations and leaders of political parties to collect information on the human rights situation in the country. The Commission interviewed representatives of the oral and written press, who expressed their opinion on the situation of freedom of press in Haiti. The Commission also met with representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross, representatives of labor-unions, the Chamber of Commerce, the industrial sector and various churches.
The Commission visited the National Penitentiary Center in Port-au-Prince and went to the cities of Saint-Marc and Gonaives, where it met with victims of human rights violations which were committed during the military dictatorship. The Commission visited the prisons in both locations, to collect direct information on the legal situation, conditions of hygiene and nutrition of the prisoners, and on general prison conditions.
During its stay in Haiti, the Commission received information and numerous complaints from victims of human rights violations during the dictatorial regime.
Beginning on September 19, 1994, the date of the arrival of the Multinational Force (MNF), a process of fundamental change has commenced in Haiti. The change is especially dramatic in contrast with the situation observed by the Commission during its prior visit in May of this year. The termination of the dictatorial regime and the return of the constitutional President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, are essential steps in the process of ending the general atmosphere of terror and human rights deprivations which prevailed in Haiti.
The President's return has initiated many other important changes. In Port-au-Prince and in some other important urban areas, the population is now free to express, its support for the constitutional regime. Freedoms of speech, of the press, and of association are reviving after their systematic suppression during the dictatorship. The Commission has observed a resumption of political activities in many parts of the country.
Despite the significant progress recorded in the country, serious problems, inherited from the military dictatorship, persist.
A critical challenge for the transition to a civil society with a constitutional culture, is disarming the paramilitary groups. During the military dictatorship, paramilitary groups were armed and were responsible for many violations of human rights. In the weeks leading up to the arrival of the Multinational Force, the military dictatorship stated publicly that it intended to distribute arms to irregular forces. Until now, the MNF has collected what appears to be a relatively small number of the arms at large and there are reports of arms caches that have not yet been identified.
The MNF destroyed the heavy weaponry of the Haitian military that had been used in the coup. Yet, the arms and the apparatus of the dictatorship continue to be critical factors in parts of the country, where the MNF has not yet established a presence. The Commission has received evidence that a state of insecurity still prevails in parts of Artibonite, in Jacmel, in Petit-Goave and in Desdunes, to name only a few examples. One manifestation of the insecurity is "Marronage", as well as the continued internal displacement of persons. In some departments, chefs de section continue to operate despite the fact that they were involved in human rights violations.
Witnesses who appeared before the Commission and who represent a wide range of positions and views agreed that disarming the paramilitary groups is an essential step and a prerequisite for establishing a civil society based on the rule of law. The Commission appreciates the difficulties involved in finding hidden arms caches, but urges a redoubling of efforts and a most vigorous prosecution of the disarmament process. The Commission would note that the possession of fire arms is regulated in the Haitian Constitution, which requires holders of such weapons to declare them to the police.
There is still no legitimate police force in Haiti nor an adequate and efficient judiciary. Public order relies on the presence of the multinational force. Although the moderation and civility demonstrated by the Haitian people thus far have been extraordinary, the MNF, on occasion, has found itself drawn into a police function for serious and urgent situations. There has also been an anomalous situation in which known Attaches and Macoutes have been apprehended by the MNF and turned over to the Haitian police, who have released them. As a result, the system has not yet been able to begin to deal with those who might have been implicated in international crimes and crimes against humanity.
The establishment of a neutral, professional and efficient police is, by common acknowledgement, an indispensable step. The Commission has noted with satisfaction the plans for a police academy as a means for training a professional corps. But there is an immediate need for an independent and efficient police force and judiciary. Hence it is essential that, in addition to the efforts to develop permanent institutions, a force be deployed immediately on a provisional basis. That force must enjoy legitimacy and must meet the population's needs for order. The most stringent criteria should be applied by the Haitian Government in selecting these police personnel. Needless to say, the police in a constitutional system must be subordinate to civil authority.
Equally, while the plans to restructure the judiciary are being put in place, there is an urgent need for training programs to establish an interim judiciary. The emphasis must be on human rights, personal integrity and commitment to constitutional government and justice.
The prison situation that the Constitutional Government has inherited is in crisis. The National Penitentiary should be closed, for it is far below the minimum international standard. In its place, the Government may wish to invite international prison experts to transform one of the military camps into a model national prison, as such camps will no longer be necessary in light of the proposed reduction in the size of the armed forces. International assistance will be required and the Commission urges the international community to assist in this effort. The Commission applauds plans to transfer jurisdiction of the prisons from the military to a civil authority. But the most urgent problems in the prison system have to be addressed immediately. In two of the three prisons the Commission visited, prisoners are not fed by the authorities. In the other, they are provided one meager ration per day. The state must feed those it has imprisoned.
The Constitutional Government has inherited a prison system in which hundreds of people have been kept, in some cases up to twenty months, without ever having been presented to a judge. This is a violation of the American Convention and the Haitian Constitution. The Commission deems urgent the establishment of a special commission as soon as the Minister of Justice is confirmed, to review immediately the status of persons detained in prisons.
An accounting of exactly what happened during the military dictatorship and, in particular, a detailed review of the human rights violations suffered by the Haitian people is necessary, if Haiti is to rebuild its society and Government. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have held that where there have been violations of human rights, a government has a duty to investigate, establish responsibility, and publish its findings. The absence of legal procedures for accomplishing this is not only a violation of the American Convention but also a serious obstacle to the healing of society through truth and reconciliation. There are many models for fulfilling this obligation, both national and international, and the Commission does not suggest any one in particular. The Commission would repeat, however, that investigation of human rights violations is an obligation that cannot be waived.
The Commission would hope that the Haitian Government moves quickly to establish by law, a domestic compensation committee, composed of Haitian jurists of repute, to hear claims of Haitians who allege that they have suffered violations of their human rights. Some individuals involved or closely associated with the military are alleged to have engaged in confiscation and unlawful seizure of private property, a right also recognized by the American Convention. The claims these events have given rise to should be heard and compensated as soon as possible. Any new commissions, as well as the reconstructed court system, should make Creole an operational language.
The Commission would like to thank President Aristide for his invitation to visit Haiti. The Commission would also like to thank all the authorities, organizations and persons who have worked with it during its visit.
In accordance with its functions under the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights, the Commission will continue its activities of protection and promotion of human rights in Haiti. The Commission offers its fullest cooperation to the Constitutional Government of the Republic of Haiti.
Port-au-Prince, October 27, 1994