In its Annual Report for 1983-1984, the Commission dealt extensively with the status of human rights in Haiti. After the report was published, the Government of Haiti invited the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to conduct an on-site observation visit, which will take place in the second half of 1986.


          During the period covered by this report, the Haitian Government announced several measures it said were designed to attain greater political liberalization and democratization in the country.


          In that context, as defined by the present government, it should be noted that on April 22, 1985, President Jean-Claude Duvalier announced on the occasion of the fourteenth anniversary of his government that he would authorize political parties to operate freely and would establish the post of Prime Minister.


          On April 29, President Duvalier decreed amnesty for all political prisoners being held, a total of 36.


          On June 5, the Haitian National Assembly adopted, at the proposal of the President, an amendment to the 1983 Constitution. This amendment gives the President greater power and allows him to dissolve the legislature if a serious conflict arises between the Executive and Legislative branches. In addition, the amendment gives the President-for-Life the right to appoint his successor and to select a Prime Minister.


          On June 9, 1985, the Haitian legislature unanimously passed a law regulating the operation of political parties. This law, the first of its kind since the Duvaliers assumed power in 1957, stipulates that for political parties to participate in the political life of the country, they must recognize “the President for life of the Republic as the Supreme Arbiter and Guarantor of the stability of the nation’s institutions.”


          Moreover, political parties must have at least 20 founders and be registered by the Ministry of the Interior and National Defense. They must also have at least 0.3% of the voting population on their roles—or approximately 18,000—and submit to the Ministry of the Interior and National Defense the names and addresses of each of their members. Any change in the membership of a party must be reported to that Ministry. In addition, headquarters of parties must be in Port-au-Prince, and they must not be connected with any union or professional, cultural or religious organization nor may they spread “totalitarian, fascist, communist or nazi” ideologies.


          Parties affiliated with a religion will be declared illegal, and political meetings in houses of worship are prohibited. No political party may be affiliated with an international organization, whether it be political, labor or religious, nor may it be financed—either directly or indirectly—by such organizations. Political parties may express their views in their own periodicals, and during an electoral campaign, each party may broadcast a total of two hours on government radio and television. Finally, parties will be tax exempt, and must annually publish their financial statements and report the source of their funding.


          In addition, the Haitian Government banned a peaceful demonstration against President-for-Life Duvalier and in favor of presidential elections, which was organized by 18 young people with the collaboration of former minister and sociologist Hubert De Ronceray. That demonstration, which was scheduled for June 21 and planned to wind up at the National Palace, would have been the first of its kind.


          A number of Haitian political leaders criticized the new law governing operations of political parties, and urged that the system of President-for-Life be ended. In response to former Minister De Ronceray’s appeal for presidential elections, President Duvalier scheduled a plebiscite in his country on July 22 for the people to decide on the question of the President-for-Life system and the recently enacted law on political parties. The government announced that the results of the plebiscite had shown overwhelming support for President Duvalier: 99.93% of the voters approved and only 448 against. The Minister of State, Jean Marie Chanoine, declared on a government television channel that, in view of this result, the opposition should decide between two choices: leave the country or support the government.


          On July 24, three Belgian priests, Hugo Triest, Jean Hostens and Yvan Pollefeyt, were expelled from the country. Father Hugo Triest, director of the Catholic radio station Radio Soleil, which had advised its listeners before the plebiscite about how they should vote, was accused, along with the other two priests, of violating the country’s immigration laws, and their residence permits were revoked. Father Triest was given 24 hours to leave the country and the other two, 48 hours. The Haitian Episcopal Conference lodged a formal protest with the government on these expulsions, in a letter signed by eight bishops, accusing President Duvalier of persecuting the church. The bishops called for a day of fasting and prayer on August 2.


          Although the Commission expects to conduct a more detailed study on the human rights situation in Haiti during its visit in January 1986, it wishes to state for now that it regards the amnesty for political prisoners as a positive step. However, the Commission finds that the amendments to the Constitution and the new law regulating the operation of political parties do not give the Haitian people hope for democratization of the regime.



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