101. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR or “the Commission”) has decided to include in the present Chapter consideration 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
Temporary 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. The 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 fundamental rights.
102. The Commission has prepared 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 visit described below as well as on other reliable publicly available sources. On January 25, 2005, the IACHR transmitted to the State a copy of a draft of the present section of Chapter IV of its Annual Report for 2004, in accordance with the aforementioned Article, and asked the Government of the Republic of Haiti to submit its observations on the section within twenty days. The State has not submitted observations within that time limit.
103. The year 2004 witnessed dramatic changes in the political landscape of Haiti, which included the departure of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide at the end of February 2004 following a violent uprising, the installation of a transitional government in March 2004, and the arrival of a new United Nations Mission, United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), in June 2004. The Commission’s activities in Haiti in 2004 were necessarily influenced by these major developments, which the Commission monitored throughout the year. This included a visit by the Commission’s Rapporteur for Haiti from September 1-3, 2004 in order to meet with members of the transitional government and other relevant actors and evaluate the current situation of human rights.
104. Based upon its activities relating to Haiti this year, the Commission has continued to have grave concerns regarding numerous areas in which the basic rights of the Haitian people lack protection and guarantees. At the time of the Commission’s visit to Haiti at the beginning of September, the Commission expressed the hope that Haiti and its people could break away from the difficulties of the past and move toward a future in which the rule of law, democracy and respect for human rights are fully realized. While the Commission continues to embrace this goal, it has become increasingly alarmed over the security situation in Haiti, which has deteriorated significantly in the final months of 2004. In light of these circumstances, the Commission urges the government to take the urgent measures necessary, consistent with international human rights principles and standards, to assert control over security in Haiti and calls upon the international community to strengthen its efforts to assist the government in this endeavor. Without these measures, there will be little chance for Haiti to move forward toward a more prosperous future.
Summary of Key Events in Haiti during 2004
105. As a context for its discussion of the human rights situation in Haiti during 2004, the Commission will provide a brief overview of the major events during the year.
106. In late 2003 and early 2004, numerous violent protests took place in the streets of Port-au-Prince against the Government of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. These events were accompanied by acts of sabotage against journalists and media assets, which were condemned by the Commission’s Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression.
107. On February 5, 2004, conflict broke out in Gonaïves, the country’s fourth largest town, when armed opponents of the government attacked police stations and court houses, forcing the police and local authorities to flee. The leaders of the insurgency included former members of the Haitian National Police (HPN) and paramilitary groups such as the Front Révolutionnaire Armé pour le Progrès (FRAPH), among others. Over the next three weeks, the violence escalated and spread to other parts of the country, and more than 200 people were estimated to have been killed.
108. On February 29, 2004, as the insurgents threatened to advance on Port-au-Prince, former President Aristide left Haiti in disputed circumstances. Within a few hours of Aristide’s departure, Supreme Court President Boniface Alexandre was sworn in as the new Interim President. On March 4, 2004, a Tripartite Council was established, consisting of three members: one representative of former President Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas Party, one of the Democratic Platform, a group opposed to former President Aristide, and one representative of the international community. The next day, the Tripartite Council selected seven eminent persons from key sectors of society to constitute a Council of the Wise and charged it with selecting an Interim Prime Minister. Gérard Latortue, a businessman and consultant with the United Nations living in the United States, was appointed as Prime Minister on March 9, 2004, and a transitional government was formed one week later.
109. In an effort to build a broad political consensus, a “Consensus on Political Transition Pact” was signed on April 4, 2004 by Prime Minister Latortue on behalf of the 13 member transitional cabinet, members of the Council of the Wise, and representatives of various political groups and civil society organizations, with the exception of Fanmi Lavalas. The Pact set out measures to be undertaken concerning such issues as security, fight against impunity and corruption, elections, judicial reform, reintegration of former armed elements, professionalization of the Haitian National Police, and victim support assistance. The Pact also called for the holding of municipal, parliamentary and presidential elections in 2005. A Provisional Electoral Council (PEC) was established to advance this goal, which was initially installed with only eight of the nine required members owing to the Fanmi Lavalas’ refusal to participate, but a ninth member representing justice and civil society sectors was subsequently appointed. Although controversies have marked the work of the PEC, including the resignation of its President in November 2004 over accusations of misconduct, the objective appears to remain holding elections in November 2005 followed by the transition of power to the new government in February 2006.
110. In attempting to recover from the brutal events of February and March 2004 and move the country forward, the transitional government and the people of Haiti continued to face many challenges, including a severe shortage of police and the ongoing crisis caused by persons and groups carrying weapons unlawfully in the country which together have exacerbated the severe problems with human rights and security in the country. As mentioned above, the final months of 2004 witnessed increased violence among illegal armed groups and gangs in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere, which was apparently prompted by a clash with police during a pro-Aristide demonstration in Port-au-Prince on September 30, 2004. These events have led to heightened concerns on the part of the Commission and others concerning efforts to achieve stability in Haiti. More will be said on these issues below.
111. The events at the domestic level in Haiti were accompanied by developments in the international community’s involvement in the country. In particular, on February 29, 2004, the date of former President Aristide’s departure from Haiti, the United Nation’s Security Council adopted Resolution 1529 (2004) authorizing the immediate deployment of a multinational interim force (MIF) for a period of three months. The troops began deploying the same day.
112. This was followed by the adoption by the UN Security Council on April 30, 2004 of Resolution 1542 (2004) creating the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), a UN stabilization force consisting of a projected 6,700 military personnel, 1,622 civilian police and additional local civilian staff. The mission was initially authorized for six months beginning on June 1, 2004, and on November 20, 2004 was extended to June 2005 with the intention to renew for further periods. MINUSTAH’s mandate was defined by the Security Council to include ensuring a secure and stable environment for the constitutional and political process in Haiti, to aid the transitional government in reforming the Haitian National Police, and to assist with comprehensive and sustainable disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programs, among other tasks. As of the end of November 2004, 4,790 of 6,700 planned peace keepers and 1,270 of 1,622 projected civilian police officers had been deployed to Haiti.
113. Other intergovernmental organizations reacted to the dramatic events in Haiti. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM), of which Haiti is a member, condemned the circumstances which led to the departure of former President Aristide and subsequently decided not to allow the transitional government to participate in its Councils. During the final CARICOM summit in November 2004, Haiti’s bid to be readmitted to meetings was rejected, with objecting member states citing human rights and security concerns.
114. For its part, the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) during its thirty-fourth regular session convened from June 6 to 8, 2004 in Quito, Ecuador, adopted Resolution AG/RES.2058 (XXXIV)-O-04 in which it reiterated that the primary concern of the OAS in Haiti is the full restoration of a lasting democratic order and the economic, social as well as political well-being of the citizens of Haiti. The General Assembly also instructed the Secretary General to establish the necessary coordination with the Secretary General of the United Nations and to identify the areas of collaboration between the Special Mission of the OAS and the United Nations, especially those related to the strengthening of democratic institutions, the holding of elections and the promotion of human rights. Furthermore, the General Assembly urged the IACHR to monitor and report on the human rights situation in Haiti and to work with the OAS Special Mission in the promotion and observation of those rights.
115. Since June 2004, numerous initiatives have been undertaken by the organs and institutions of the OAS to implement the terms of General Assembly’s Resolution. A delegation of the OAS Permanent Council conducted a visit to Haiti from September 9 to 11, 2004 in order to assess the situation and impress the need to foster the full restoration of democracy in Haiti. Further, on November 3, 2004, the OAS General Secretariat and the UN signed an agreement to cooperate on organizing, monitoring and conducting the elections in Haiti scheduled for 2005. In addition, Mexico’s Federal Electoral Institute, the UN and the OAS organized a workshop in Mexico City during the week of November 22, 2004 for the preparation of the Haitian elections. The IACHR’s work concerning the human rights situation in Haiti during 2004 is discussed below.
116. Also during 2004, several nongovernmental organizations issued reports concerning the situation in Haiti, including Amnesty International and the International Crisis Group, and developments in the country were the subject of extensive coverage in the international media.
117. It is also important to mention that Haiti was the victim of severe natural disasters in 2004, first in May by the floods caused by torrential rains in the area bordering the Dominican Republic in which more than 1,700 people died, and subsequently in September when Haiti suffered devastating effects from Tropical Storm Jeanne, one of Haiti’s worst natural disasters, which resulted in an estimated 1,900 dead and 900 missing and presumed dead. These disasters and their after effects, including the lack of adequate food, shelter, hygiene and health services and associated spread of illnesses and disease, have exacerbated the problems facing Haiti and its need for strong and decisive international assistance. In this respect, during a donor’s conference in Washington, D.C. in July 2004, approximately US $1.08 billion was pledged to Haiti. While these resources will provide much-needed assistance to Haiti in meeting the many challenges facing it, the Commission understands that there have been delays in disbursing the funds to the country. The IACHR therefore urges the Haitian State and the international community to take the urgent initiatives necessary to hasten the effective delivery and utilization of these resources and thereby advance the recovery process and the allocation of assistance to the population.
Commission’s Activities Concerning Haiti in 2004
118. At the time of the brutal events in Haiti in February and March of 2004, the Commission deplored the violence and the resulting loss of lives, the deterioration of the humanitarian situation, and the abuse of human rights. As events unfolded in Haiti, the Commission urged the parties concerned to resolve their differences peacefully, democratically and constitutionally in accordance with the Inter-American Democratic Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights.
119. Following the installation of the transitional government, the Commission continued to express concerns regarding certain aspects of the human rights situation under the new regime. This included the circumstances surrounding the August 2004 trial of former paramilitary leader Louis-Jodel Chamblain and former police official Jackson Joanis for the 1993 murder of Antoine Izméry, which the Commission considered did not demonstrate a commitment to ending impunity for past human rights abuses through demonstrably fair and effective procedures that conform to international standards.
120. These activities were followed by a visit conducted by the Commission from September 1-3, 2004 at the invitation of the transitional government of Haiti and with the financial support of the Government of France. The Commission delegation was composed of Commissioner Clare K. Roberts, First Vice-President and Rapporteur for Haiti; Brian Tittemore, Senior Human Rights Specialist, Bernard Duhaime, OAS Associate Staff Member and Professor of Law at the University of Quebec at Montreal; Candis Hamilton, IACHR Consulting Attorney; and Julie Santelices, Administrative Assistant. The visit was conducted in accordance with the IACHR’s mandate and functions under the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights, as well as pursuant to the terms of the OAS General Assembly Resolution AG/RES.2058 (XXXIV)-O-04) of June 8, 2004.
121. The visit was the Commission’s first since the armed violence in Haiti in early 2004 and the installation of the transitional government. Accordingly, in the course of its visit, the Commission endeavored to obtain information on the status of human rights protections in Haiti in the aftermath of these events. To this end the Commission met with representatives of the Haitian transitional Government and members of civil society as well as international organizations. The Commission met with the President of the Republic, Mr. Boniface Alexander; the Prime Minister, Mr. Gérard Latortue; the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship, Mr. Yvon Siméon; the Minister of Justice and Public Security, Mr. Bernard Gousse; the Minister of the Interior, Mr. Hérard Abraham; the Minister of Women’s Affairs, Mrs. Adeline Magloire Chancy; the Director General of the National Police of Haiti, Mr. Leon Charles; and the Ombudsman of Haiti, Mr. Necker Dessables. The Commission also held discussions with representatives of different sectors of civil society, including a significant number of nongovernmental organizations with diverse views as well as associations of judges, lawyers and magistrates. In addition, the Commission met with the Head of the MINUSTAH, Ambassador Juan Gabriel Valdes, and other officials of MINUSTAH and the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights (UNHCR). Further, the Commission conducted a training seminar on the Inter-American human rights system with officials and functionaries from various government ministries and agencies.
122. Following its visit, the Commission issued a press release as well as preliminary observations on the situation of human rights in Haiti and presented its observations to the OAS Permanent Council during a regular meeting of the Council on September 7, 2004. The Commission continued to follow events in Haiti in September and October. In light of rising violence and other worrying developments in the country, the Commission considered the situation during its 121st Regular Period of Sessions in October 2004 and issued a press release at the conclusion of the session expressing increasing concerns regarding the situation of human rights in Haiti.
123. Based upon its visit and other activities relating to Haiti during 2004, the Commission has identified numerous areas in which it has grave concerns over the protection of human rights in the country, which are discussed below. It is notable that some of these problems existed prior to 2004 and have been the subject of discussion in previous IACHR Annual Reports and press releases.
Commission’s Observations on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti during 2004
124. In its press release following the September visit to Haiti, the Commission noted that the country continued to face many serious human rights problems, but that the Commission had nevertheless gained a sense of hope that the government and people of Haiti, in collaboration with the international community, could move beyond the difficulties of the past and toward a more promising future. Since that time, however, the Commission has become increasingly concerned regarding the lack of progress in several key areas identified during its visit. Without enhanced efforts by the government and the international community to address a number of central problems, including in particular disarming illegal armed groups and gangs and asserting control over security across the country, progress for Haiti and its people will remain elusive.
Security and Disarmament
125. Among the Commission’s principal concerns throughout 2004 has been the security situation in Haiti. According to the information available to the Commission, the lack of effective security for the population throughout much of Haiti has been and remains an urgent problem. Since the rebellion in February and March, illegal armed groups have retained control over security in many parts of Haiti, particularly in the northern region, and it has been reported that in some instances these groups have operated in cooperation with, or in the place of, the national police. As a consequence, the security of the populations in many of these areas has not been effectively guaranteed by the State.
126. As the Commission noted during its on-site visit, it is essential to the future stability of the country that the Haitian government, in collaboration with the international community, take the urgent steps necessary to regain control over security in all regions of the country, disarm the groups operating there, and guarantee the fundamental rights of persons throughout the State’s territory. The Commission has also reiterated its insistence that the human rights of all persons be respected in the process of restoring order and security to the country and that any human rights violations that occur are effectively investigated, prosecuted and punished, whoever may be responsible. Although a deadline of September 15, 2004 had been established for the disarmament of illegal armed groups by the UN forces and Haitian police, the deadline passed without significant progress having been made to seize arms, regain authority over police stations from rebels and ex-soldiers, and other measures necessary to assert effective control over security throughout Haiti.
127. The lack of disarmament has in turn perpetuated and exacerbated the situation of violence in Haiti. Local officials have indicated that the homicide rate rose in the country in 2004 in comparison with previous years, particularly during the latter part of the year. Much of the violence has occurred in the context of confrontations between illegal armed gangs and police. The impact of the violence has been widespread, affecting not only the police and UN soldiers but the civilian population more broadly. Ambulance drivers have been attacked, kidnappings have been perpetrated, and aid for victims of natural disasters has been looted, leading to increased fear among the population.
128. This increase in violence appears to have commenced on September 30, when Aristide supporters stepped up protests in the capital, Port-au-Prince, to demand his return from exile in South Africa, and where it was reported that police fired on demonstrators, causing two deaths. This was followed by a retaliatory incident on the same day when three police officers are said to have been shot to death and beheaded in episodes perversely labeled by those responsible as “Operation Baghdad”, referring to similar atrocities perpetrated by terrorists in Iraq over the past year. Since September 30, it is estimated that the violence in Haiti has claimed the lives of over 100 people, including 19 police officers.
129. The Commission cannot overemphasize the importance of urgent and effective measures by the government, with the assistance of the international community, to bring this situation under control. Without exercising effective authority over security, the government is not in a position to fulfill its obligation to guarantee the protection of the human rights of the Haitian people. The failure to implement disarmament initiatives quickly and decisively has only emboldened illegal armed groups, and armed gangs and related violence have proliferated in the absence of effective public security, as have other crimes.
130. Beyond jeopardizing the day to day safety of the population, the deficiencies in control over security also have implications for the longer-term progress and prosperity of the country. As discussed further below, deficiencies in security may place in jeopardy the elections scheduled for 2005 by depriving the population of an environment in which they can fully and freely exercise their democratic right to vote and to be elected as reflected in Article 23 of the American Convention. To the extent that the violence is manifested through confrontations between UN forces, police and supporters of the former President, a resolution to these situations must be found in order to ensure that the elections are to be open and inclusive and encompass all political parties, including Fanmi Lavalas. Continued security concerns may also inhibit Haiti’s relations with other states and intergovernmental organizations and financial institutions as well as the delivery and use of international aid, at a time when the consolidation and enhancement of international support is crucial to Haiti’s short and long-term progress.
131. In this respect, the Commission notes that notwithstanding the mandate provided to MINUSTAH to assist in ensuring a secure and stable environment in Haiti, it has operated at less than full capacity in 2004, a situation that the Commission has urged and continues to urge the international community to remedy. The Commission also acknowledges that despite shortfalls in resources, MINUSTAH has undertaken efforts to improve security in the country. This has included initiatives to protect the delivery of humanitarian aid to the victims of the natural disasters in Haiti, as well as an operation executed on December 18, 2004 where peacekeepers succeeded in removing former soldiers who were occupying the estate of the former President. It is only through enhanced troops and police and additional proactive operations that security in Haiti will effectively be brought under control.
Administration of Justice
132. It is apparent from the information available that the lack of progress on security has been attributable in large part to the absence of a sufficiently staffed and trained national police force in Haiti. In this connection, the Commission also continues to be troubled by deficiencies in the state of the administration of justice in Haiti. The sources available to the Commission have indicated that the justice system remains severely weak and continues to suffer from fundamental failings. These include a severe shortage of resources for judges, magistrates, courts, and the police as well as prevalent due process violations such as the prolonged detention of individuals without being brought before a judge. As one example of the critical lack of resources, the Commission was informed during its September visit that the police force is comprised of only between 2,000 and 4,000 members who are responsible for a total population of over 8 million. As indicated above, the police have also been among the victims of violence in the country, with an estimated 19 officers killed since the end of September 2004 alone.
133. The Commission has also taken note of information indicating that some of the instances of unlawful killings may be attributable to the police. It has been reported, for example, that on October 26, 2004, 13 people were executed in the Fort National area of Port-au-Prince by men who, according to witnesses, appeared to be members of the police. Incidents of this nature, as with all extra-judicial executions, must be the subject of prompt, independent and impartial investigations and those responsible must be prosecuted and punished.
134. The Commission is also concerned about apparent arbitrary arrests and detentions that are reported to have occurred during 2004. These include the October 2, 2004 arrest at Radio Caraïbe of former Haitian Senate President Yvon Feuille, former President of the Haitian Chamber of Deputies Rudy Heriveaux, and activist Lesly Gustave, and the October 13, 2004 arrest and detention of Father Gerard Jean-Juste at his parish in Port-au-Prince. In its October 28, 2004 press release on Haiti, the Commission expressed its concern over these incidents. According to publicly-available information, Father Jean-Juste was released 7 weeks later on November 29, 2004, following a hearing before a judge in which it was concluded that there was insufficient evidence to try him. Similarly, the Commission understands that on December 23, 2004, Messrs. Feuille, Heriveaux and Gustave were released from detention while investigations against them continued. The Commission notes that the perpetration of arbitrary arrests and detentions is not a new problem in Haiti but has been the subject of criticism by the Commission in the past. In the present report, the Commission once again emphasizes the prohibition against arbitrary arrests and detentions enshrined in Article 7 of the American Convention, and reiterates the State’s obligation to ensure that its efforts to investigate and prosecute crimes are undertaken through demonstrably fair and effective procedures that conform to international standards of due process, including a detainee’s right to be promptly notified of the charge or charges against him and to be brought promptly before a judge.
135. During 2004, there have also been reports of violence against and among inmates in prisons and other detention facilities, as well as generally substandard conditions in those institutions. In particular, it was reported that on December 1, 2004, a violent episode occurred in the National Penitentiary during which at least 7 inmates were killed. The Commission also received information during the year indicating that some prisons and detention facilities in Haiti are under the control of authorities other than the State, including paramilitaries. As with the issue of arbitrary arrests and detention, violence and poor conditions in prisons is not a new problem in Haiti, and the Commission strongly reiterates its call for the State to ensure that persons subject to detention or imprisonment are not the victims of violence or other ill-treatment at the hands of state agents or other inmates and are not subjected to conditions that fail to satisfy minimum international standards for the treatment of detainees, including those under the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. The State also calls upon the Haitian government to take the urgent measures necessary to assert control over all prisons and detention facilities in the country and to ensure that none remain outside of the authority of the State.
136. During the Commission’s visit at the beginning of September, the State indicated that it was undertaking measures to address some of the problems relating to the administration of justice. It informed the Commission, for example, that legislation was being prepared to transfer authority to appoint, promote and discipline judges from the Ministry of Justice to an independent body, and that the salaries of judges have recently been increased. While these increases may still be insufficient, they were considered by the Commission to constitute a first step in efforts to improve the administration of justice in the country. The Commission was also informed that the government had developed a plan for recruiting and training additional members of the police force in the short and the long term, with an additional 1,500 officers expected to be added before the elections planned for next year. Also according to the government, the process for screening new recruits disqualifies candidates who may be linked to past human rights abuses, and human rights education has been included as a key component in police training. The Commission has encouraged these measures and has emphasized the need for the State, with the support of the international community, to continue to take the actions necessary to address these and other problems affecting the justice system. The Commission also emphasizes the need for police recruits to receive training in the area of human rights, including the international rules and principles governing the use of force, and that any allegations of police involvement in killings and other human rights abuses are promptly and effectively investigated and those responsible are tried and punished. Further, the Commission considers it crucial for human rights training to be extended beyond the police to cover other functionaries involved in the administration of justice, including judges, court officials and other relevant authorities.
137. Connected with the weak state of administration of justice in Haiti is the ongoing problem of impunity for past human rights abuses. During 2004 the Commission received criticisms of the treatment of specific individuals within the State’s judicial system. As noted above, these included alleged improprieties in the August 2004 trial of Louis-Jodel Chamblain and Jackson Joanis for the 1993 murder of Antoine Izméry, including the fact that the trial was held overnight between August 16 and August 17 and that only one prosecution witness was called. Concerns were also expressed during the year regarding the arrest and detention of several members of the former government, including former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune and former Minister of the Interior Jocelerme Privert. During its September 2004 visit, the Commission had an opportunity to meet with both of these former ministers in the National Penitentiary and to verify their condition.
138. In respect of these matters, the Commission has reiterated its concerns regarding the State’s obligation to end impunity for all human rights abuses through demonstrably fair and effective procedures that conform with international standards, as well as the corresponding right of all persons to due process of law and to be heard by a competent, independent, and impartial tribunal, without discrimination of any kind. The Commission has also noted that although certain legal procedures may comply with domestic law, the State is obliged to ensure that the investigation, prosecution and punishment of human rights violations accord with international standards. The Commission considers it important to emphasize the State’s responsibility to investigate and prosecute human rights abuses in accordance with the foregoing standards whoever may be responsible and whenever those abuses may have occurred, including violations committed during the military dictatorship in the early 1990’s or during the previous or current administrations. The State must also take the measures necessary to ensure that any person who may be implicated in such crimes is not incorporated into government security forces.
Situation of Particular Persons and Groups
139. The Commission’s concerns during 2004 have also included circumstances relating to groups of particular focus in the Commission’s work, including women, children, human rights defenders, and journalists as well as persons subjected to violence and other ill-treatment due to their political affiliations or views. For example, during the year, the Commission also received information and reports alleging acts of violence against individuals based upon their affiliation, or perceived affiliation, with the former President and his political party, as well as other incidents of violence allegedly attributable to the supporters of the former government, including an episode in August 2004 in which the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of France was attacked while visiting a hospital in Cité Soleil. The Commission has condemned incidents of this nature and has continued to emphasize the State’s obligation to investigate allegations of such violence and, where substantiated, prosecute and punish those responsible.
140. Also accordingly to information received by the Commission, the rape of women and girls committed by armed groups and bandits, among others, remains a serious problem in Haitian society, and has worsened considerably during 2004 as former paramilitaries have gained power in the country and have continued to use rape as a weapon to achieve political ends. The problem of sexual violence against women and girls is accompanied by other serious human rights violations such as discrimination, and women are particularly hard-hit by deficiencies in the health and education systems. For example, according to local nongovernmental organizations, women earn considerably less than their male counterparts even though an estimated 60% of households are female-headed. It is also estimated that 6.7% of young women are living with HIV/AIDS. Women’s groups have complained that they are increasingly unable to function due to lack of resources and fears of violence. With respect to these problems, the Commission has reiterated the need for the State to take concrete steps to promote and protect the rights of women, which includes the effective investigation and prosecution of complaints of sexual violence perpetrated against women and girls. In this respect, the Minister of Women’s Affairs informed the Commission during its September visit of her Ministry’s efforts to encourage law reform initiatives relevant to needs of women, including proposals to render rape a crime under Haitian law and efforts to develop women’s groups throughout the regions in Haiti. The Commission understands that since that time, the Council of Ministers has allowed the adoption of a decree defining rape as a criminal offense under Haiti’s law. The Commission commends this initiative and will follow up on efforts by the State to implement this crucial law.
141. Children also appear to have been the victims of particularly egregious human rights violations in Haiti during 2004. It has been alleged, for example, that children have been the victims of child labor, kidnappings, and the violence perpetrated by armed groups and are frequently detained with adults in prisons. UNICEF has reported that the violence in Haiti has had a particularly severe impact upon the estimated 2,000 street children on Port-au-Prince and 120,000 girls who work as domestic servants across the country. Children have been the victims of murder and have been recruited into gangs, and child rapes have increased. As the Commission has noted on previous occasions, children are among the most vulnerable members of our societies and are entitled to special protection from the State in order to effectively safeguard their rights. Accordingly, the Commission urges the State to take the measures necessary to give full effect to the right of children under Article 19 of the American Convention to the measures of protection required by their condition as minors on the part of their families, society and the state, as well as the rights and freedoms provided for under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Haiti ratified on July 8, 1995.
142. Further, the Commission has been informed of threats and other acts of violence and intimidation perpetrated against human rights defenders as well as journalists and the media in the country. These incidents included the September 13, 2004 murder of Reverend Moleste Lovinsky Bertomieux, host of a daily program on Radio Caraïbe. As the Commission has observed on many occasions in the past, violations and coercion of this nature, if left undeterred, places human rights defenders and journalists in vulnerable positions and effectively prevents them from carrying out their work. The Commission once again urges the government to take all measures necessary to investigate, prosecute and prevent incidents of this nature.
Social, Economic and Cultural Rights and Related Problems
143. The foregoing concerns identified by the Commission must also be viewed in light of the fundamental societal problems such as extreme poverty, high illiteracy and malnutrition, which continue to deprive Haitians of fundamental economic, social and cultural rights and at the same time exacerbate the consequences resulting from denials of basic civil and political rights. On numerous occasions in the past, the Commission has recognized that this presents a formidable challenge to the Haitian State and has urged the government, in cooperation with all sectors of society and with the support of the international community, to design and implement a plan for development that will address the fundamental economic and social needs of each Haitian citizen.
144. Among the most recent studies on the social, economic and cultural challenges facing Haiti is a November 17, 2004 joint report by the United Nations Development Project (UNDP) and the government of Haiti entitled: “A Common Vision of Sustainable Development.” The report provides information and analyses concerning numerous serious problems in Haiti, including extreme poverty, child mortality, maternal health and mortality, the proliferation of HIV/Aids, malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases, and serious deficiencies in education. For example, according to the report, 76 percent of Haitians live on less than US $2 per day while 55 percent live on less than US $1 per day. Malnutrition and mortality rates are severe particularly for children, where 42 percent of those below age 5 are malnourished and one out of every three deaths in Haiti is a child. The ratio of women dying from childbirth has regressed to the point that it is now the second cause of death for Haitian women. The Report also concludes that at current rates of transmission, an estimated 10.5 percent of the population will be infected with HIV/AIDS by the year 2015, compared to 6.31 percent in 2002 and 4.98 in 1996. The health system in Haiti is in a desperate state, where hospitals are severely understaffed and under-resourced and much of the population lacks the funds necessary to purchase crucial medicines. The scarce resources that are available have been strained by the injuries and illnesses caused by the natural disasters and the on-going violence in the country. Concerning the state of education, the report indicates that more than 21 percent of children ages 6-9 do not go to school at all and only 15 percent of teachers meet the academic requirements to teach.
145. These serious difficulties require urgent attention, to address the immediate threats to the lives and integrity of Haitians caused by the spread of disease and the lack of adequate medicine and health care, and to devise strategies for the longer-term development of Haiti’s health and education systems as well as other means of guaranteeing the fundamental social, economic and cultural rights of the country’s population. In this regard, efforts must be made to expedite the delivery of the $1.08 billion pledged to Haiti during the July 2004 donor’s conference in order to begin addressing the dire situation in the country through recovery and development projects. This in turn will require measures by the government to remove any impediments to the delivery of assistance, including interference by illegal armed groups, and to ensure that projects will be implemented effectively, efficiently and transparently.
146. During its September visit, the Commission was encouraged by indications on the part of officials with the transitional government that human rights played a central role in their work. Since that time the Commission has witnessed a further deterioration of the conditions in Haiti, owing mainly to an increase in violence by armed groups and gangs coupled with the failure of the government, with international assistance, to ensure the security of the population throughout the country. The failure to disarm illegal armed groups and gangs in Haiti is a paramount concern to the Commission not only because of the immediate threat that the ensuing violence presents to the lives and physical integrity of Haitians, but also because much of the country’s future depends upon the successful implementation of security efforts. In the absence of effective state control over security, human rights defenders, journalists, persons targeted for their political views, and other actors crucial to the exercise of democracy will remain in jeopardy and prospects for full and free elections will diminish, as will opportunities for international cooperation and the long-term development of the country. In light of these considerations, the Commission once again urges the government to take the urgent measures necessary, consistent with international human rights principles and standards, to assert control over security in Haiti and calls upon the international community to strengthen its efforts to assist the government in this endeavor.
147. The Commission also wishes to emphasize the importance of moving forward with elections in 2005 as scheduled. Progress has been made in this regard through cooperation between the transitional government, the PEC, the OAS, the UN, among others, and it is only through continued cooperation of this nature that full and free elections and the consolidation of democracy will be possible in accordance with the American Convention and the Inter-American Democratic Charter. The elections must be open and inclusive and, consistent with the pluralistic system of political parties and organizations, should involve the active participation of all parties, including Fanmi Lavalas.
148. In addition, the Commission urges the international community to continue and enhance its efforts to assist and support Haiti in confronting the many challenges that it faces. These measures should include expediting efforts by the government and international donors to deliver the funds pledged to Haiti in July 2004, which in turn requires an environment in which the resources can be utilized in a transparent, efficient and effective manner. It should also include bringing military and civilian components of MINUSTAH to the levels established in Security Council Resolution 1542 (2004) and designing and implementing vigorous disarmament strategies to regain control over security in the country. Financial and related support should be given to the efforts by the UN, and OAS and others, in cooperation with the Haitian government, to develop conditions for elections to proceed in 2005. Finally, the Commission urges the international community to continue to provide the humanitarian assistance necessary for the people of Haiti to recover from the devastating natural disasters that struck the country during the year.
149. The Commission will continue to monitor the situation in Haiti and to offer its assistance to the government and people of Haiti in the coming year.
 See IACHR Special Rapporteurship on Freedom of Expression, “Office of the Special Rapporteur Deplores Attacks on Freedom of Expression in Haiti”, Press Release 98/04 (22 January 2004), available at http://www.cidh.oas.org/relatoria/showarticle.asp?artID=121&lID=1.
 See UN Security Council Resolution 1529 (2004), UN Doc. S/RES/1529 (2004) (29 February 2004), available at http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N04/254/10/PDF/N0425410.pdf?OpenElement.
 See UN Security Council Resolution 1542 (2004), UN Doc. S/RES/1542 (2004) (30 April 2004), available at http://ods-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N04/332/98/PDF/N0433298.pdf?OpenElement
 See UN Security Council Resolution 1576 (2004), UN Doc. S/RES/1576 (2004) (29 November 2004), available at http://ods-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N04/626/12/PDF/N0462612.pdf?OpenElement
 See MINUSTAH, Facts and Figures (as of November 30, 2004), available at http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/minustah/facts.html.
 See Associated Press-“Guyana president says Caribbean Community is justified not letting Haiti attend meetings”, December 6, 2004, available at http://www.haiti-info.com/article.php3?id_article=3152.
 OAS General Assembly Resolution AG/RES.2058 (XXXIV)-O-04, “Situation in Haiti: Strengthening of Democracy” (8 June 2004), available at http://www.oas.org/main/main.asp?sLang=E&sLink=http://www.oas.org/consejo/GENERAL%20ASSEMBLY/default.asp.
 See Amnesty International, Breaking the cycle of violence: A Last Chance for Haiti?, AI Index: AMR 36/038/2004 (June 21, 2004).
 See International Crisis Group, A New Chance for Haiti?, ICG Latin America/Caribbean Report No. 10 (November 18, 2004).
 See “Press Release on Haiti by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights”, Press Release No. 4/04 (26 February 2004), available at http://www.cidh.org/Comunicados/English/2004/4.04.htm; “The IACHR Insists on the Respect for Human Rights During Haiti’s Crisis,” Press Release No. 7/04 (11 March 2004), available at http://www.cidh.org/Comunicados/English/2004/7.04.htm.
 See “IACHR Expresses Concern Regarding Trial for the Murder of Haitian Activist Antoine Izméry,” Press Release No. 17/04 (20 August 2004), available at http://www.cidh.org/Comunicados/English/2004/17.04.htm.
 See “IACHR to Conduct On-Site Visit to Haiti,” Press Release No. 18/04 (31 August 2004), available at http://www.cidh.org/Comunicados/English/2004/18.04.htm.
 See “IACHR Completes Visit to Haiti,” Press Release No. 19/04 (7 September 2004), available at http://www.cidh.org/Comunicados/English/2004/19.04.htm.
 See “IACHR Completes Visit to Haiti,” Press Release No. 19/04 (7 September 2004), available at http://www.cidh.org/Comunicados/English/2004/19.04.htm.
 See “IACHR Expresses Concern Over the Situation in Haiti During its 121st Regular Period of Sessions,” Press Release No. 22/04 (28 October 2004), available at http://www.cidh.org/Comunicados/English/2004/22.04.htm.
 See, e.g., Annual Report of the IACHR 2003, Chapter IV, available at http://www.cidh.org/annualrep/2003eng/chap.4.htm; Annual Report of the IACHR 2002, Chapter IV, available at http://www.cidh.org/annualrep/2002eng/chap.4d.htm; IACHR Press Release No. 24/03 (August 22, 2003); IACHR Press Release No. 11/00 (August 25, 2000)
 See, e.g., Annual Report of the IACHR 2003, Chapter IV, available at http://www.cidh.org/annualrep/2003eng/chap.4.htm; Annual Report of the IACHR 2002, Chapter IV, available at http://www.cidh.org/annualrep/2002eng/chap.4d.htm; IACHR Press Release No. 24/03 (August 22, 2003); IACHR Press Release No. 11/00 (August 25, 2000)