HAITI (Continuation)



B.         Administration of Justice


193.     The sources available to the Commission indicate that, during 2007, the State, with support from the international community, adopted initial steps to immediately address select deficiencies in the judicial system. Among these were the introduction of a set of draft laws on the independence of the judiciary, the creation of a special commission to address the problem of prolonged pretrial detention, the decision by the President of the Republic to establish a special commission on judicial reform and the related appointment of the post of Secretary of State on Justice, and the creation of a special commission to support the investigation of cases of assassinated journalists. Further, reports indicate that the school of magistrates will soon reopen its doors; meanwhile, select training for judges and lawyers has been undertaken with the cooperation of MINUSTAH. In spite of these developments, the justice system overall remains severely inefficient and slow, and continues to suffer from fundamental weaknesses, including the lack of independence of the judiciary, corruption and misapplication of the law. These include a severe shortage of resources for judges, magistrates, courts, and the police, resulting in prevalent due process violations such as the prolonged detention of individuals without being brought before a judge. While the Commission previously reported that corruption across the public sector is widespread,[207] the Commission hopes that the State’s recent initiatives to introduce and adopt three draft bills on the establishment of the Superior Council of Magistrates, the School of Magistrates and the Statute on Magistrates, will result in marked improvements in the functioning of the judiciary and a procedure to enforce a professional code of conduct and to sanction acts of corruption or breaches in judicial integrity.


194.          The Commission continues to be concerned about reports of arbitrary arrests and detentions, and the abuse of force at the time of arrest. In particular, in early 2007, the police conducted multiple mass arrests in parts of the city by raiding particular locations and rounding up groups of persons. Many of these arrests were conducted without arrest warrants and in many cases were unfounded.[208]  Further, once arrested, the majority of individuals, even where there is insufficient evidence in their files, wait for excessive periods to be heard by a judge. The Commission notes that the carrying out 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.[209] Accordingly, while recognizing the need to apprehend dangerous criminals to ensure public security for the population, 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.


195.          In this connection, the problem of persons in prolonged pretrial detention in Haiti continues to be a primary concern of the Commission with respect to the rights of persons deprived of liberty. At the time of the visit by the Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty, he expressed extreme concern over the persistent high numbers of persons in prolonged pretrial detention, who in many cases are detained for periods longer than the possible sentences for the crimes of which they are accused.  In June, the Rapporteur visited prisons in Port-au-Prince, most notably the National Penitentiary, and found that “the prison population in the 17 prisons throughout Haiti, increased from 2,586 to 6,047 persons between July 2005 and June 2007” and “in June 2007, 84% of the prison population had not been formally charged, and the percentage of persons in detention without having been convicted is estimated at 98% for boys in the Prison for Children in Delmas; 95% in the case of women deprived of liberty in Petion-ville; and 96% in the case of persons deprived of liberty in the National Penitentiary.[210]


196.          Also at the time of the Rapporteur’s visit, sources indicated that a special commission on prolonged pretrial detention had been launched at the initiative of the Ministry of Justice and with participation and technical support of MINUSTAH and other actors. The mandate of the special commission is to reduce the number of persons in prolonged pretrial detention, by reviewing the files of detainees and dispensing with cases, especially minor or flagrant cases (unfounded or the period of detention has surpassed the supposed sentence for the crime charged) in Haiti’s largest prison, the National Penitentiary, and subsequently replicating these efforts in other prisons.  The Commission hopes that the review process incorporates the necessary due process guarantees for detainees and works swiftly to alleviate the problem of prolonged pretrial detention and the overcapacity problem in the prisons. Finally, the Commission recognizes the value of adopting urgent measures such as the creation of the special commission on prolonged pretrial detention, while at the same time encouraging the government, with the support of the international community, to investigate the structural weaknesses and related factors contributing to the problem of prolonged pretrial detention and to adopt relevant long-term measures in order to prevent this problem from becoming systematic and widespread.


197.          In this connection, the Rapporteur raised concerns with respect to the large numbers of persons in detention awaiting trial, the majority of these without access to a legal representative, or knowledge of their juridical status on the charges made against them, thereby rendering access to judicial guarantees and judicial protection impossible. In this regard, the Commission is encouraged by the creation of a special commission established by the State in 2007 to study and reduce the situation of prolonged pretrial detention. Despite its establishment, the commission has encountered difficulties in accomplishing its objectives. For this reason, the Commission wishes to underscore the need to reinforce measures with respect to the judicial supervision of persons held in pretrial detention for prolonged periods, and the review of the juridical situation of persons deprived of liberty, guaranteeing the right to legal defense and judicial guarantees. In this context, the Commission was informed by the State of efforts by the Public Prosecutor at the Civil Court of Port-au-Prince to release over 100 persons held in prolonged pretrial detention during the year.


198.          With respect to prison conditions, the Commission observed conditions in the main prisons of Port-au-Prince and received information about the conditions in prisons across the country. While the visit by the Rapporteur to Haiti’s prisons confirmed previous findings by the Commission regarding prison conditions (see IACHR annual report 2006), it also revealed that such conditions and overcrowding in Haiti’s largest central prison, the National Penitentiary, had deteriorated considerably since last year. The Commission was informed of the sustained efforts by the International Committee of the Red Cross to improve prison conditions and address problems of sanitation and health of the detainees. Despite these critical interventions and those of other international development organizations, the Rapporteur published a statement in June 2007 finding absolute precarious conditions of sanitation and shelter for detainees, as well as lack of access to potable water and medical attention in the prison facilities visited. The Rapporteur expressed alarm with respect specifically to the deplorable situation in the National Penitentiary, characterized by unprecedented conditions of overcrowding, aggravated by an outdated and antiquated structure in a state of disrepair and extremely poor health and sanitary conditions, lack of access to potable water, adequate food or medical attention. These factors have resulted in frequent deaths of persons deprived of liberty in this facility. In this connection, a Haitian human rights organization recently published a report on the prison system in Haiti documenting the cases of twenty deaths of inmates in the National Penitentiary due to poor prison conditions.[211] While acts of violence and poor conditions in prisons are not new problems in Haiti, 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.


199.          Due in part to the increase in the number of arrests since early 2007, and the lack of a prompt and effective response by the justice system, this has resulted in a crisis in the State’s capacity to accommodate a significantly higher number of detainees in its facilities, the majority of which have not undergone significant reconstruction or repair in several years and many of which were not constructed or adapted for the purposes in which they are being used. During the June visit, the Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty confirmed findings by international and national human rights observers that, due to the overcrowding of Haiti’s prison facilities, there is a growing and alarming trend on the part of judges to issue the ‘mandat de depot’ or detention order for the police holding cells rather than the legally mandated prison facilities. Meanwhile, the average period for holding a person in prolonged pretrial detention has not diminished, therefore, individuals are now being held for several weeks to a couple months in facilities without adequate potable water and food (constructed to hold persons for the constitutionally mandated 48 hour period). Consequently, the Rapporteur observed conditions in the holding cells of the Delmas police station and found the conditions of the detainees to be deplorable. During the visit, the Rapporteur observed conditions in the Delmas police station, in which women, men and children shared a common cell, without adequate water, food or any other basic service. Also during the visit to the Delmas police station, the Commission was informed about 13 individuals who had been held in detention in the Delmas station since May 23, 2007 without trial, prior to which, the individuals had spent three months in the detention cell of the Carrefour police station. The delegation was informed that these individuals had originally been arrested by MINUSTAH soldiers in possession of illegal firearms, which were confiscated at the time of the arrest. According to the Haitian National Police, the investigation in this case could not proceed without access to key evidence in the case.


200.          As to the conditions within the police holding cells, they are small, have no windows, no natural or artificial lighting, and no space for beds. The police stations have no budget to maintain detainees over a long period of time, or to provide detainees with potable water, food, access to bathing and sanitation. Sources indicate that the police stations lack adequate security measures to hold detainees for long periods of time, therefore, individuals are typically contained in the cells with no time for exercise. Most police stations have no more than two holding cells per station, at times used to separate adult men from adult women, or to separate adult men from children. It is understood that detainees are now being held in police holding cells while criminal investigations are conducted by judicial authorities. However, according to the criminal procedural code, criminal investigations can last from two months, although there is no designated limit to extending this period, and in practice, investigations can last well beyond two months. The consequences of the recent police practice of holding individuals for prolonged periods in police holding cells may have a severe effect on the life and physical integrity of the detained individuals. Consequently, these conditions fall far below international minimum standard rules for the detention of individuals, and constitute serious threats to the physical integrity of those detained, thus this situation must be addressed immediately by appropriate authorities, so that protected rights in the American Convention, including judicial guarantees, due process and the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment or treatment are duly respected.


201.          With respect to the larger issue of judicial reform and the longstanding problem of lack of independence of the judiciary, the Commission continued to receive information on State initiatives to promote reform in the area of the administration of justice. The Commission received information that, following the development of a plan of action by the Ministry of Justice, in 2007, the Ministry established a special commission on judicial reform which has met regularly and has since issued two reports. The commission includes participation by civil society and constitutes a sign of progress towards the government’s objective of promoting much needed judicial reform. More specifically, the Ministry of Justice introduced three draft bills to parliament relating to the independence of the judiciary, the status of judges and constitutional procedures for appointment, terms and removal from office. Information received indicates that the draft law on the creation of a Superior Council for the judicial branch was passed by parliament recently and the other two are also reportedly soon to be adopted. The Commission is particularly encouraged to receive information about the introduction of the draft laws on the judiciary and hopes that their adoption and implementation will be swift, and that sufficient resources will be allocated to the proper implementation of these laws. The Commission recognizes the importance of initiatives adopted by the Ministry of Justice to promote judicial reform in Haiti, and calls on the international community in particular to support national initiatives with necessary technical expertise and resources to implement profound changes in the judicial system, that which will aim to overcome longstanding deficiencies and render it efficient, impartial and capable of responding promptly and effectively.


C.         Impunity


202.     Of primordial concern to the Commission is the persistent problem of impunity for past human rights abuses and crimes. Over the years that the Commission has closely monitored the human rights situation in Haiti, it has found that impunity for human rights abuses, and criminal acts more generally, is systematic and widespread. The Commission considers it important to emphasize the State’s responsibility to investigate and prosecute human rights abuses in accordance with international standards, whoever may be responsible, and whenever those abuses may have occurred. In this regard, the Commission would like to recognize the recent trial and sentencing of two individuals to life imprisonment on August 30, 2007 for the assassination of the prominent journalist Jacques Roches in July 2005, reportedly the first ever criminal sentence for the assassination of a journalist in Haiti’s history. The government of Haiti informed the Commission that the trial in connection with the assassination of journalist Brignol Lindor was held on December 10, 2007, however the Commission also received information that the trial was fraught with procedural irregularities and failed to meet due process guarantees. Further, the courts have demonstrated initial efforts to address this issue through the holding of criminal trials during the year, and as a result of these efforts, a number of persons were effectively tried and convicted for their involvement in kidnappings and other serious crimes. Information received indicated that the court of first instance in Port-au-Prince, which has an especially large docket, and the Supreme Court in Haiti have recently made special efforts to hold additional hearings and criminal trial sessions. The most recent criminal trial session (without jury) was held in February 2007 and including cases of theft, rape, criminal association, kidnapping, murder, and possession of illegal weapons. The Commission commends judicial officials and, in particular, the Dean of the Court of First Instance of Port-au-Prince and the President (a.i.) of the Supreme Court for their diligence and commitment to review and swiftly dispense with cases, despite limited resources, in order to ensure the right to due process, the right to a prompt and fair trial and the victim’s right to a legal remedy. Finally, the Commission welcomes the recent efforts made by the judiciary to address the numerous criminal cases awaiting trial and hopes that this initiative is further enhanced and supported in order to promptly and adequately address the many pending cases.


203.          With respect to certain human rights cases, the Commission wishes to recognize the decision to establish a special commission to support the investigation of assassinated journalists, appointed by the President of the Republic on August 13, 2007. This special commission is comprised of nine members and is charged with assisting the Haitian authorities in the investigation of the assassinations of various journalists that occurred in Haiti since 2000, including the case of Jean Dominique and Brignol Lindor. While the creation of this special Commission is a sign of recognition and will by the present government to hold perpetrators accountable for unresolved cases of assassination of journalists, the Commission wishes to emphasize that the duty to effectively investigate, prosecute and punish crimes committed within its territory corresponds to the State. For this reason, it is especially important to adopt measures to reinforce the principal state institutions charged with the administration of justice in Haiti, especially the judiciary, in order for it to function effectively and deliver justice promptly.


204.          On the other hand, the Commission continued to receive information regarding serious human rights abuses, which have not received adequate attention or follow-up by judicial authorities. Further, the Haitian judiciary has not yet resolved the hundreds of cases of abduction and rape carried out in complete impunity, and in which members of the HNP are suspected to be involved. The Commission expresses its concern over the continuing impunity in these cases. As the Commission suggested in its 2005 report on the administration of justice in Haiti, addressing the numerous unresolved human rights cases may require innovative approaches aimed not only at providing accountability and reparations, but also preventing the recurrence of such acts in the future.


205.          In respect of these matters, the Commission reiterates 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 the State is obliged to ensure that the investigation, prosecution and punishment of human rights violations are carried out in accordance with international standards. In light of the task ahead, the Commission emphasizes the important role of the international community to support the reinforcement of the judicial system in Haiti, and hopes that it will lend crucial support to the Haitian judiciary, especially through the donation of financial resources and equipment, reconstruction of court houses, training for judges, technical assistance and the implementation of reforms to transform an archaic judicial system to one that reflects current standards of justice.


D.         Situation of Particular Persons and Groups


206.     The Commission’s concerns during 2007 have also included circumstances relating to groups of particular focus in the Commission’s work, including women, children, human rights defenders, and journalists.


207.          During 2007, women in Haiti continued to face discrimination and gender-based violence, while the state response to these violations of human rights continued to be deficient. Health workers report that the number of rape victims had risen constantly through the beginning of 2007. Accordingly, Doctors without Borders, which operates 3 medical centers in Haiti, reported treating 70 rape victims for January (26 cases) and February (44 cases) of 2007, while reports indicate that between February 2006 to February 2007, more than 800 victims of rape were treated.[212]  The Commission is especially concerned with the state response towards the prevalence of discrimination and violence against women and young girls in Haitian society.  The failures of the health, education and justice sectors in Haiti have and still particularly affect women and young girls.  While the acts of kidnappings, rape, murder and intimidation in recent years have affected the majority of the Haitian population in Port-au-Prince, different sources revealed that women and girls are particularly vulnerable to acts of violence and abuse in Haitian society due to deep-seated sociocultural discriminatory norms, patterns and practices based on the concept that women are inferior.  The adoption by the Haitian state of international instruments such as the Convention of Belém do Pará and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (“CEDAW”) reflect an acknowledgement of the discriminatory treatment that women have traditionally received in this society, which has exposed them to various forms of violence and an abusive treatment of their bodies, and the commitment of the State to act with due diligence to prevent, investigate, sanction and redress these acts.   


208.          As noted in the Commission’s previous annual report, the Commission finds that the incidence of cases of rape of women and children remains high, and as many social workers and human rights observers concur, as long as the aggressors are not brought to justice for their crimes, the incidence of sexual violence against women and girls will continue. While the rates of prosecution for rape remains extremely low, women’s right organizations conducting follow-up of cases in the courts indicate that at least two cases of rape were tried and sentenced in 2007, constituting some of the very first convictions for rape in Haiti’s history.[213] Nevertheless, the Commission notes the large gap between recorded cases and those which have reached the stage of prosecution and punishment. 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 include the effective investigation and prosecution of complaints of sexual violence perpetrated against women and girls, as mandated by the Inter-American Convention on the Protection, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence Against Women, adopted by Haiti on June 2, 1997. In this sense, the Commission calls on the State to ensure that the proposed draft laws on domestic labor (restavek), cohabitation and paternity respect international human rights standards and are promptly adopted by parliament. Also, although encouraged by information that other draft laws on gender-based violence and gender equality are being contemplated for submission, the Commission would view as positive the adoption of further steps in the materialization of these initiatives.[214]


209.          On the other hand, the Commission is encouraged by initiatives taken by the Ministry of Women to adopt a policy and plan to eradicate violence against women and to secure adequate services for victims of sexual violence. Further, the Commission recognizes and values the Ministry’s efforts towards the elimination of stereotypes that are discriminatory against women, such as the actions taken in the context of the celebration of Carnival in February 2007, including the public campaign against violence against women and the exploitation of women’s bodies as sexual objects for commercial reasons.[215] However, despite these efforts, it was reported that 50 rapes of women and young girls occurred during the three days of carnival in March 2007.[216]


210.          Additionally, the Commission is encouraged by several steps taken in the beginning of 2007 by the Ministry of Women for the advancement of government policies with respect to gender issues as part of the action plan for 2006-2011. These include the strengthening of dialogue with NGOs and international cooperation agencies, the reinforcement of the organizational and institutional capacity of the Ministry of Women for its adequate functioning. The promotion of the inclusion of gender mainstreaming in various sectors of Public Administration in Haiti, the implementation of initiatives for the recollection of gender indicators in other branches of government as well as other sectors in Haitian society, the strengthening of inter-ministerial dialogue, the implementation of initiatives for ensuring compliance by the State of international and regional human and women’s rights obligations, the strengthening of partnership with the National Institute for Professional Formation[217] for the incorporation of women in employment areas traditionally occupied by men, and implementation of the National Plan against Gender-based violence,[218] among others.[219] Also, the Commission is encouraged by the creation of a unit within the Ministry of Women that has the specific mandate of supporting victims of rape.


211.          Information received in 2007 on the situation of children, builds upon the findings made in 2005 by the Rapporteur on Children.[220] Information received indicated that children continued to be subjected to child labor, organized trafficking, kidnapping, abuse, and arbitrary arrest and detention by police forces. Figures suggest approximately 2,500 street children (80% in Port-au-Prince); 173,000 in domestic laborers; 2,000 trafficked annually to the Dominican Republic; 300,000 AIDS orphans and 9,000 infected with HIV.[221] While gang related violence against children may have diminished in urban centers, many aspects such as the street children phenomenon persist and require immediate attention by relevant authorities in order to ensure adequate protection for vulnerable children. In Haiti, street children constitute some of the most vulnerable children due to their lack of access to shelter, food, education, employment or proper health services. These children are highly susceptible to getting involved in criminal activity, and have reportedly been the targets of recruitment by the armed gangs in the past.


212.          Child trafficking has also been noted as a worrisome trend and threat to the protection of children. Figures show that 300,000 children are victims of trafficking in Haiti, 2000 of whom are trafficked to the Dominican Republic annually. Child rights advocates further indicate that, in some cases, orphanages are being used for illicit purposes, trafficking of children, prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation of children. In this regard, Haitian authorities together with the International Organization of Migration and human rights organizations are working on domestic legislation to regulate trafficking of persons. The Commission hopes that the process of evaluation and adoption of the text by parliament, as with the Children’s Code awaiting parliament’s review, will be swift and will contribute to greater protections for children.


213.          The Commission wishes to express its concern with the situation of children in conflict with the law, particularly the detention of children in a prison facility rather than the legally mandated rehabilitation facility. Haiti’s legal framework with respect to the protection of children in conflict with the law is largely limited to the 1961 law on delinquent youth and children in conflict with the law, which adopts a rehabilitative approach to delinquent youths and calls for special protection of children in conflict with the law. In particular, the law provides for a rehabilitation center for children found to have committed a crime. Under sixteen years of age, children are not considered to be criminally responsible, and are expected to serve a term in a rehabilitation center rather than a detention facility.  In meetings with government authorities, members of the judiciary and civil society, an overwhelming concern was expressed over the detention of children in conflict with the law and the lack of an adequate and legally sanctioned rehabilitation center for this group as well as of a shelter for abandoned and abused children. Such practice contravenes provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights and international standards of protection for children in detention contained in the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice, which provides for the detention of children awaiting trial as a means of last resort. These provisions require that children held in detention shall receive care, protection and all necessary individual assistance-social, educational, vocational, psychological, medical and physical-that they may require in view of their age, sex and personality.


214.          With respect to the conditions for children in detention, during the Commission’s visit in April, there were 125 boys held in the Delmas prison facility and 29 girls held in the Petion ville prison. Sources indicated that very limited services were offered to the boys, such as literacy classes and recreation programs, and no education or other services were available to the girls. Conditions in the facilities are poor. One of the key concerns of child rights advocates, authorities of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor and judges at the Court for Children is the degree of prolonged pretrial detention of children and the lack of appropriate legal services available to children in conflict with the law. In some cases, the charges are for minor offenses, and others have reportedly been arrested illegally, without an arrest warrant or on false charges. Also, as of April 2007, in the case of boys, only 2 of the total 125 detainees had been convicted, while in the case of girls, only 1 of 28 girls had been convicted.


215.          In this respect, during the Commission’s visit in April 2007, the Ministry of Social Affairs indicated that repairs were being undertaken to the Centre d’Accueil (state-run shelter for homeless children and children in conflict with the law) in Carrefour, and therefore, the children had been temporarily moved to a location outside of Port-au-Prince. The Commission has long observed the situation of children in Haiti, noting with particular concern the situation of street children, children in conflict with the law and those subject to physical and sexual abuse, and emphasizes the extreme importance of designing a comprehensive plan and policy on child protection and to ensure that adequate resources are allocated for their effective implementation.


216.            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. The Commission reiterates its concern for the seriously precarious situation of children in Haiti, notes the near absolute lack of protection afforded children. In particular, the Commission observed serious irregularities during the visit to the Delmas prison for boys, not observed in other countries, such as the incarceration of very young children from the age of six, a policy of confinement in detention cells and the detention of very young children with adolescents in the same cell. Accordingly, the Commission urges the State to take the measures necessary to give full effect to the rights of children under Article 19 of the American Convention to the measures of protection required by their condition as children 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.


217.          With respect to freedom of expression, the Commission observed an overall improvement in the situation; however, there are areas that continue to require measures for effective protection of this right. In particular, the aspect of freedom of expression of principal concern by the Commission in Haiti is the impunity for cases of assassination of journalists, which contributes to an attitude of tolerance and may encourage other acts of violence and intimidation against journalists, resulting in additional limitations to the freedom of expression. A majority of journalists and human rights organizations confirmed the state of widespread impunity as it relates to crimes against journalists.[222] Among the suggested measures to be adopted, following a visit by the Office of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression in September 2007, are the duty to ensure the effective and prompt investigation, prosecution, and punishment of cases of assassination of journalists, and to determine whether the murder was related to journalistic activity; to adopt measures to ensure that domestic legislation is compatible with the American Convention on Human Rights regarding the right to freedom of expression, including the decriminalization of desacato; and finally, to create laws in the area of access to information to ensure that access to public information is guaranteed as a human right.


218.          In comparison to previous years, the Commission received fewer complaints relating to violence and threats made in retaliation against human rights defenders for exercising their profession. In these areas, defenders are one of the only sources of information about human rights abuses being perpetrated in the country. The Commission has placed value on the important work of the defenders who, under difficult circumstances continue to promote and protect the rights of Haitians.  In this sense, the Commission reminds the State of its duty to ensure the necessary conditions to facilitate the work of defenders. In 2007, the Commission learned of two cases of threatened human rights defenders, with respect to one of whom the Commission issued a request for information to the State. In this regard, the Commission expresses its preoccupation for the failure to respond to the request for information or to apply the request for precautionary measures in favor of defenders in Haiti since 2005. To date, the Commission has not received information from the State indicating the measures taken to protect the life and integrity of the petitioners in the cases with precautionary measures, noting specifically that information regarding the investigation into these matters has yet to be communicated to the Commission. Accordingly, the Commission emphasizes the extreme risks posed to petitioners who continue to exercise their profession without security measures adopted by the State to ensure their right to life and physical integrity.




219.          Based on its observation of the human rights situation in Haiti during the past several years, the Commission has observed a notable improvement in the situation in Haiti during 2007, specifically the reduction of violent crime, and recognizes the efforts and initiatives taken by the Rene Preval government to address critical issues in Haiti. Further, the Commission recognizes the valuable support provided by the international community to the Haitian government in achieving its development goals. At the same time, the Commission notes that the situation of peace and stability remains fragile, and recognizes that the task of reinforcing Haiti’s institutions and developing measures to address longstanding deficiencies is a process that will require time, adequate financial and human resources and a long-term commitment by the government and the international community. Accordingly, the Commission continues to emphasize the importance of the State in maintaining as a priority, the reinforcement of the rule of law and the administration of justice, efforts to strengthen and reform the public security force, and comprehensive measures to achieve progressive social and economic development, ensuring Haitians’ enjoyment of social and economic rights, notably access to employment opportunities.  Specifically, the most important areas of concern of the Commission regarding the human rights situation of Haitians remain the degree of widespread impunity for human rights abuses and crimes, the lack of effective protections for victims of human rights abuses, and extreme deficiencies in social and economic conditions severely depriving the majority of the Haitian population of access to basic social services, including adequate shelter and potable water, health care, education and employment.


220.          While the Commission recognizes that 2007 was marked by a number of State sponsored initiatives to address deficiencies in select aforementioned areas, it also emphasizes the importance of maintaining such efforts in the long term, ensuring efficient resource management for the implementation of projects, and most importantly, developing a long term strategy and policy of reform to address structural and legislative weaknesses in these areas. In this connection, the Commission reiterates the importance of the international community’s role in providing critical financial and technical assistance to Haiti’s mission to address longstanding issues and to achieve long-term change and stability, and in particular the need to develop programs in collaboration, and coordination, primarily with the Haitian government, and other key stakeholders. In light of its conclusions, the Commission recommends that the Republic of Haiti take the following measures:


1.       With respect to public security, to elaborate a comprehensive security plan for the country, including strategies to control the growth of organized crime and illicit trafficking, and specifically, to adopt long-term and sustained measures to ensure adequate prevention and punishment of violent criminal acts, in particular, to reinforce accountability mechanisms in order to effectively hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes. Equally, to maintain financial and technical assistance for the professional development of the Haitian National Police, and specifically, to take measures to enhance the police academy training curriculum, while also enforcing the chain of command in the force including the effective supervision and control of the conduct of officers and to adopt appropriate disciplinary action where appropriate and with the necessary due process guarantees.


2.       With respect to the prison system and persons deprived of liberty, to take urgent measures to improve the living and security conditions in Haiti’s prison facilities and detention centers in order to ensure that facilities meet minimum international human rights standards, and in addition to the creation of the special detention commission, to adopt best practices and preventive measures on the long-term, which may include necessary institutional reforms, to reduce the period in which individuals are held in pretrial detention. To this end, to improve the mechanism of coordination between international donors and agencies implementing humanitarian and social assistance programs in Haiti’s prison system.


3.       To swiftly adopt legislation that adequately protects women and girls from acts of discrimination and different forms of violence – physical, sexual and psychological – in the private and public spheres.  In this connection, to provide female victims with accessible and effective legal services free of charge to pursue a claim before the courts and to create specialized centers to provide multidisciplinary services to victims of violence, including legal, medical and psychological.


4.       To maintain its commitment to ensuring sustainable peace and security, through recently adopted initiatives to eradicate corruption in state institutions, develop a policy to address drug trafficking, organized crime and arms proliferation, continue to invest in social and economic development projects, and more specifically, to continue the reinforcement of state institutions, especially those charged with the administration of justice and the rule of law.





I do not agree with the inclusion of Haiti in the Chapter 4 of the 2007 report for the following reasons:


1.         In hearing, processing, admitting or ruling on a lawsuit, or in producing a report on events taking place between the first quarter of 2004 and the re-legitimization of democracy in 2006 and 2007, the Commission cannot, in my opinion, ignore the context in which those events occurred, or the manner, time, and place in which they did so, or the atypical nature of what happened.


2.         Indeed, it is not possible to omit the fact that President Jean Bertrand Aristide, who was elected in free and democratic elections, and the government that backed him, were the victims of a conspiracy by various sectors in Haiti with the collusion of international elements that prompted and achieved the removal of the President and the installation of a de facto government. The rule of law, even if it were considered precarious, was preferable to the de facto and disastrous state of affairs that followed it. The forces at work in Haiti were, as is well known, composed of paramilitary and unofficial police gangs that were armed on the border with the Dominican Republic and gradually but aggressively marched on the capital, Port-au-Prince, aided, moreover, by media advocating violence and instigating people to commit crimes. The former rapporteurs for Freedom of Expression, along with other external elements, lent open and resolute support to the media that behaved in these ways, which violate express provisions of the American Convention.


3.         In these circumstances, President Aristide, as he himself commented, was illegitimately deprived of liberty by armed agents of the United States of America, kidnapped, placed on a plane, and transported by force from his country to Africa. Immediately afterwards, occupation forces agreed upon and fostered by the United Nations – and known formally and socially as MINUSTAH – entered Haitian territory. The occupation forces cannot claim not to be a party to anything that happened in Haiti thereafter. Haiti was an occupied territory. Who is accountable for human rights violations during an occupation?


4.         It was public knowledge during the occupation, which still has not completely ended, that the population lived in terror, and infrahuman conditions that surrounded the unwinding of the life of women, men, children and adolescents – in short, the people of Haiti and Haitian society. Lack of drinking water, food, housing, and minimum provisions required to satisfy basic needs. The Commission itself knew what was happening and about the persecution unleashed against political sectors, like the LAVALAS political party. There was information on extrajudicial executions and massacres in districts of Port-au-Prince, such as Bel-Air, Cité Soleil, Delmas, Fort National, Grand Ravine, and Martissant, and others.


5.         The news received and the files lying dormant in the Commission records barbaric acts committed by MINUSTAH and the involvement of this occupying force in cases of systematic violence. It was categorically asserted that the occupying forces lent support to those perpetrating persecutions, kidnappings, cruel and degrading treatment, illegitimate deprivation of liberty, and disregard for the physical, mental and moral integrity of persons in a context bereft of guarantees for the exercise of any rights.  In other circumstances, the Commission was also told that the occupation force failed to act to prevent such acts from being perpetrated.


6.         Under such circumstances, can we qualify abstractly the Haitian State of being a Human Rights violator? We may know who the victim is, but do we know with certainty who the murderer is? The simplest answer would be the State, but wasn’t this State occupied and dismantled? Trying with Dr. Rene Preval to remake itself. Mutatis mutandi, let us ponder the current case of Iraq. Maybe we can come close to identifying the victims, but can we be satisfied with the answer: The murderer is Iraq?  Can Iraq be an abstraction? Who is accountable? Going back to our Hemisphere, to Haiti, does the Commission contribute to the revival of Haiti by incorporating it into Chapter IV? Who will make good the damage done? Will it be the State of Haiti, reconstructing itself by occupying the space that pertains to it, or will it be the occupier that still has not left the space it should never have occupied?



[207] See Global Corruption Report 2007, Transparency International, also available at:

[208] Interview with the Public Prosecutor at the Court of First Instance, Port-au-Prince. (April 2007).

[209] See, e.g., Annual Report of the IACHR 2004, Chapter IV, available at; Annual Report of the IACHR 2003, Chapter IV, available at; Annual Report of the IACHR 2002, Chapter IV, available at; IACHR Press Release N° 24/03 (August 22, 2003); IACHR Press Release N° 11/00 (August 25, 2000).

[210] See IACHR Press Release N° 32/07 “Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty Concludes Visit to the Republic of Haiti” (June 21, 2007), also available at:

[211] See RNDDH Report : International Day of Prisoners : RNDDH conducts survey of the detention centers in Haiti (October 28, 2007).

[212] See “Haiti Kidnap Wave Accompanied by Epidemic Rape”, March 8, 2007, Reuteurs, available at

[213] See “Rapport BilanV: Femmes-Filles Victimes de Violence Accueillies et Accompagnees dans les Centres Douvanjou de la SOFA de Janvier a Juin 2007”, Solidarite Fanm Ayisyen (August 2007).

[214] The draft laws are part of a greater action plan by the Ministry of Gender, set for the years 2006 to 2011, which includes the promotion of women’s rights, increasing the public’s awareness of the problem of violence against women, the analysis of the disparities between men and women in various sectors, and poverty reduction. MCFDF/Priorités 2006-2011, Proposition/Document de travail, September 2006.

[215] See République D’Haiti, « Ministère à la Condition Féminine et aux Droits des Femmes (MCFDF), Carnaval 2007 : Impact de la Campagne de sensibilisation menée par le MCFDF contre les stéréotypes sexuels et les violences faites aux femmes », available at; see also « Haiti – Carnaval et genre : Le ministère à la condition féminine s’insurge contre l’exploitation commerciale du corps de la femme », AlterPresse, mercredi 7 février 2007, available at

[216] See Radio Canada, L’arme de la Terreur, March 7, 2007, available at

[217] Institut National à la Formation Professionnelle.

[218] Plan National contre les violences Spécifiques faites aux femmes.

[219] Ministere a la Condition Feminine et aux Droits des Femmes (MCFDF), Bilan janvier-mars 2007, March 2007, at pages 5-15.

[220] Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro also serves as the “United Nations Independent Expert, United Nations Secretary General’s Study on Violence Against Children”.

[221] Agence Haitienne de Presse, “Lancement à Port-au-Prince d’un symposium de 2 jours autour de la validation d’un plan national de la protection de l’enfant en Haïti”, 26 Octobre 2006.

[222] See Office of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression Press Release N° 178/07 “See Office of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression Concludes Visit to Haiti and Makes Recommendations” (October 4, 2007), also available at: