doc. 6 rev.
13 April 1998
Original: Spanish







          1.       The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, exercising its jurisdiction as established in the American Convention on Human Rights and other applicable instruments, has continued to observe developments in the human rights situation in Haiti.  Haiti has been included in this section of the Annual Report because the situation in the country during 1997 met the requirements of the new criterion established by the Commission.  This criterion applies in the case of temporary or structural situations in countries which have democratically-elected governments but which, for various reasons, are facing situations in which the full benefit and enjoyment of the fundamental rights set forth in the American Convention or in the Declaration are seriously jeopardized.


          2.       In view of the fact that the Government of Haiti has invited the Commission to conduct an in loco visit in 1998, [1] this report will deal with the most important aspects of the human rights situation, which will be investigated by the Commission during its upcoming visit to the country.  Consequently, this report will not contain any conclusions or recommendations, as these will be included in the General Report on the Human Rights Situation in Haiti, to be drafted by the Commission at a later date.




          3.       The political situation in Haiti is in a delicate state of crisis, which, along with other factors, has had an adverse effect on the full exercise of human rights.  Although Haiti has endeavored to reinforce a democratic government, those efforts have been undermined by a climate of confusion and unrest.  The partial legislative elections in the month of April were highly questionable.  The voter turnout was very low, and there were serious irregularities, including reports of fraud in some election circuits.  As a result, it has so far been impossible to organize a second round of partial elections


          4.       In addition, the resignation of Prime Minister Rosny Smarth in June 1997  created a climate of political instability and insecurity.  In view of this situation, the United Nations extended the mandate of the peace-keeping forces to November 30, 1997.  The mandate of the OAS/UN  International Civil Mission in Haiti (MICIVIH) was also renewed, and it will remain in the country throughout 1998.


          5.       According to information received by the Commission, the socio-economic situation in Haiti is extremely troubling, and it is having an increasingly severe impact on the economic rights of the Haitian people.


          6.       The forecasts for an economic growth rate of 4% for the 1996-97 fiscal year were not attained, and the country's economy grew at only 1.5%.  Inflation caused the cost of living to go up, and prices for essential goods have risen sharply, while the local currency, the "gourde," has fallen in value.  This has created a situation of insecurity for the poorest segments of Haitian society, as well as for the middle class made up of members of the professions.


          7.       These socio-economic problems have exacerbated social inequalities which are reflected in widespread feelings of dissatisfaction and an alarming degree of social tension.


          8.       As regards the human rights situation, there is a consensus that the Haitian government has shown respect for these rights.  Although there have been human rights violations, most of which are based on structural problems inherited from the past, there is no systematic pattern of violations attributed to the government.


          9.       The government has made an effort to bring about improvements in various sectors.  For instance, in the area of administration of justice, the government has attempted to mitigate the problem of prolonged pretrial detention periods by creating a consultative committee to correct the slowness of the justice system.


          10.     Another important step forward on the part of the government was the creation of the Office of the Inspector General, in charge of investigating abuses by police officers.  Other positive developments include the following:  the creation of the School of the Judiciary; the designation of an ombudsman; and the National Criminal Unit, which is responsible for assisting in human rights cases.


          11.     Despite the government's undeniable efforts to improve the human rights situation in Haiti, the problem of personal insecurity remains.  Violence in the streets, the phenomenon of the "zenglendos," [2] and land problems persist.  The land problem has led to the illegal occupation of private property and government land.  In all of these cases, there has not been a clear response on the part of the government.


          12.     The impunity with which these violations were committed has created a pervasive terror among the people and a tendency for them to exercise "people's justice," or to take the law in their own hands.  This has also given rise to moves by the people to organize their own armed self-defense, which is seem on an increasingly broad scale.  The Commission has given special attention to this type of action, because of the impact it has on the rule of law.




          13.     One source of concern to the Commission, which will be examined during its visit in loco, is the administration of justice.  In fact, one of the problems identified in reviewing the human rights situation in Haiti is the unsatisfactory operation of the judicial branch.


          14.     The Commission received information to the effect that the Haitian judicial system has a shortage of well-trained and dedicated court personnel, because of the shortage of economic and logistical resources.


          15.     The Commission was also informed that in many areas of the country, the peace courts and public prosecutor's offices have shut down indefinitely because of a lack of staff and resources.  In some densely populated cities, there is neither a civil court nor a jail.  Many courts do not have orderly records, which makes it impossible to follow the development of court cases.


          16.     According to information submitted to the Commission, 80% of the persons being held in national prisons are awaiting trial, while at the national prison in Port-au-Prince, this figure is as high as 94%.  At the Fort National prison, also in the capital, the MICIVIH found 67 minors being held in 1996, and only six of them were serving a sentence.  By March 1997, 26 of the 67 had been released, and one had escaped.  Nonetheless, of the 26 released, only four had served their sentences, and of the 40 still being held, only two have been processed by the courts.  One minor has been in jail awaiting trial for over two years, and ten others have been there for more than a year.


          17.     In 1997, prisoners in at least two prisons organized demonstrations to protest their prolonged detention.  In January, the inmates of Jérémie complained that the promises to accelerate court appearances and processing of cases made by the judicial and prison authorities following a hunger strike in 1996 had not been kept.  In Mirebalais, a hunger strike staged in January concluded when the inmates were permitted to talk to journalists.  In March they organized another protest.


          18.     According to nongovernmental sources, pretrial detention periods have been prolonged for unlawful reasons, such as the following:  a lack of organization of administrative personnel in the courts (office of the clerk of court); the failure to make timely appointments of judicial and prison officials; the failure on the part of the new judges to follow through on the cases pending; the fact that case records are lost or forgotten because of the heavy work load of the judges; the transfer of prisoners for disciplinary reasons; and, the lack of satisfactory records in the prisons.


          19.     In November 1996, the government responded to the problem of extended pretrial detention by setting up a new consultative committee to help with the problem of the slowness of the justice system.  This committee received a mandate to examine the legal status of prisoners and present its recommendations to the Minister of Justice.  In view of the gravity of the situation in the National Penitentiary, the consultative committee decided to focus on that establishment.  In its report presented in January 1997, the committee referred to cases of arbitrary arrest, judgments or sentences that were disproportionate to the crimes committed, and loss of court records.  The report included recommendations of short- and long-term measures to improve the judicial and prison systems.


          20.     Towards the end of February 1997, the Minister distributed a circular requiring all police superintendents to publish updated lists of their cases and to give advance notice to the Ministry of Justice of the series of criminal cases so that funds could be assigned in due time.  In March, the Minister issued three more circulars:  the first was addressed to police superintendents and examined the legal provisions of proposed court orders; the second reminded all police chiefs, justices of the peace, trial judges, and deans of their obligation to visit the prisons and jails within their jurisdiction; finally, the third one, addressed to police chiefs and deans, established legal standards for preventing arbitrary arrest.


          21.     However, six months after the consultative committee presented its report, we can see from the statistics gathered in September by the MICIVIH that it has had very little impact.





Nº of Sentenced








Les Cayes









Saint Marc







          22.     Another area of concern for the committee is the situation of the prisons in Haiti.  In 1995, the creation of the National Prison Administration (APENA) helped improve prison conditions.  However, it should be noted that this institution, which was semi-autonomous and attached to the Ministry of Justice in the beginning, was converted into a simple department of the National Haitian Police in 1997, in clear disregard for international rules and norms.


          23.     The National Police is responsible for control of the prisons in Haiti, and there is currently no program to train the persons working in the prisons.


          24.     The Commission has been told that the prison situation continues to be below international standards, because of problems such as overpopulation, a scarcity of prison staff, inadequate facilities, and lack of medical care and logistical support.


          25.     The Commission also received information to the effect that convicted prisoners are not separated from detainees awaiting trial.  Similarly, because of the crowded conditions, minors in general are not separated from adults. [3]


          26.     In 1997, there was no evidence of systematic abuse of the human rights of prisoners.  However, several reports of beatings in the prisons in  Fort Liberté, Port-de-Paix, Gonaives, and Cap-Haitien have reached nongovernmental organizations.  In most cases investigations have been opened.




          27.     Another subject of great importance to the Commission, which it will also look into during its visit to the country, is the role played by the new National Haitian Police (PNH).  Nongovernmental organizations have acknowledged that the National Police gained in trust and credibility in 1997, while at the same time it reduced its dependency on the United Nations civilian police force.  The police now has a greater presence, and it is better equipped and trained. [4]   However, human rights problems persist.


          28.     The Commission was informed that between January and October of 1997, PNH officers killed 46 persons, and in half of those cases, serious human rights violations seem to have been committed.  According to the same sources, the total deaths since the PNH began operating in June 1995 are up to about 137. [5]


          29.     Nongovernmental organizations have reports of cases of excessive use of force during demonstrations.  In May, it was alleged that a student was killed by a shot fired by a PNH officer during a demonstration at the Lycée Pétion [Pétion High School]. [6]   In January, the MICIVIH publicly deplored the use of force by the forces of law and order that dispersed a peaceful demonstration on the part of some 150 members of community organizations.


          30.     This year the reports of physical punishment on the part of the PNH have climbed.  In the Ouanaminthe prison, for instance, 20 of the 25 detainees reported that they had been beaten while in police custody.  Sporadic cases of beating were also reported in Port-de-Paix, Cap Haitien, Saint Marc, Pont Sondé, and Gonaives.  The Commission was also informed of the beating inflicted on Chena Pierre Martial, the deputy from Trou-du-Nord.  Later, the Office of the Inspector General dismissed the seven officers responsible for that incident. [7]


          31.     In 1997, the Office of the Inspector General began police investigations into the constant abuse of authority.  Three officers of the PNH who had been detained since February for the summary execution of Jean Bernard Charles in Port-au-Prince were temporarily released in September, without any explanation by the judge.  A short time afterwards, the office of the Inspector General revoked their appointments following an investigation into the events.  In the case of the five persons who died in Delmas 81 in Port-au-Prince in November 1996, an internal investigation concluded that it was a case of summary execution.  One of the alleged perpetrators is in prison, while the other two were taken into police custody and later released.


          32.     In general, the police authorities have made undeniable efforts to discipline their subordinates.  However, when the cases go to court, the judges nearly always adopt a condescending attitude towards the members of the police.  Overall, the Office of the Inspector General referred 36 cases of murders perpetrated by the police to the courts, but none of them were fully prosecuted.  According to some sources, at the end of November, there were 65 police officers in prison for various offenses, most of them criminal offenses.


          33.     The MICIVIH pointed out that the police are more and more disregarding the constitutional time limit of 48 hours to bring persons taken into custody to court.  In some cases, they have authorized "permits" to extend the 48-hour period, which is an obvious violation of the Haitian Constitution.  The Commission also received complaints in January 1998 that vague accusations were being used to fulfill the requirement of "flagrante delicto." [8]


          34.     At the same time, the absence of police in rural areas has led to a situation in which members of the Communal District Administrative Council (CASEC) or other government agents have to take on police functions.  According to the MICIVIH, in l'Asile, Grand Anse Department, members of the PNH and CASEC created a network of volunteer "agents" who execute court orders or summons to appear in court.  In Anse-a-Veau, the communal police officers make arrests.  In 1997, certain reports came out citing cases of abuse and extortion attributed to members of CASEC.  In Jérémie, for instance, a member of CASEC was tried and convicted in absentia to a term of 11 months and required to pay damages on charges of illegal arrest and abuse.


          35.     In an attempt to combat corruption and impose discipline, the High Council of the National Police adopted a series of internal measures in September, and the Commission will be evaluating their effectiveness.




          36.     The Commission attaches particular importance to observance of the right to judicial protection.  Little progress was made in 1997 towards obtaining justice for victims of human rights violations during the time of the de facto government.  The National Criminal Unit (Unité Pénale Nationale) created by the Ministry of Justice in November 1996 to help in human rights cases does not have the resources to duly perform its functions.  The Special Investigations Unit, a team financed internationally and responsible for investigating political assassinations, has achieved meager results.


          37.     Only the International Lawyers Bureau has seemed to make progress in preparing two cases for trial:  the massacre in Cité Soleil in December 1993; and, the massacre in Raboteau in 1994.  Despite its efforts, the cases were not ready for criminal trials last year.  At the start of the criminal trials in Gonaives in September, the government prosecutor met with nongovernmental organizations to explain that the Raboteau case would require more preparation time because of the large number of victims and witnesses.  There are more than twenty officials of the FAd"H [sic] being held in connection with that case, including the notorious Captain Cenafils Castera and Norélus Mondélus.  Arrest warrants continue to be issued for the Raboteau killing.  In July, two former members of the Haitian Armed Forces were arrested in Port-au-Prince for their alleged participation in that massacre.


          38.     According to Human Rights Watch, the cases of Cité Soleil and Raboteau have been at an impasse because of the lack of cooperation from the United States authorities.  First, since 1995 the United States has refused to return to Haiti thousands of documents taken by the United States troops of the FAd"H and the paramilitary group FRAPH (Front pour l'Avancement et le Progres d'Haiti) [Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti].  Then, last year the United States Department of State refused to turn over to the International Lawyers Bureau material on investigations conducted by the American Embassy in Haiti, shortly after the massacres in Cité Soleil and Raboteau.


          39.     During the criminal proceedings in Jacmel, two important human rights cases were brought to trial and resulted in acquittals.  The acquittal of Thélusmé Jean-Gilles, who was accused of the murder of Marie Délene Nicolas, a well-known "Lavalassian," in October 1993, angered the public.  Nongovernmental organizations maintain that the verdict was due to the incompetence of the prosecution, which failed to present information essential to the case.  But the most questionable trial was the trial of Baguidy Calixte, the former district chief of Léogane, who was accused of killing Pachino Dord, a colleague of President Aristide, in 1994.  The judicial authorities failed to notify the families of the victim, and the attorneys and witnesses of the prosecution that despite the day of national mourning for the sinking of the ferryboat Fierté Gonavienne, the proceedings were to be held.  In view of their absence, the trial judge declared that the prosecution's accusations were without merit.


          40.     According to information presented to the Commission, in Saint Marc Adrien Saint-Julien, the former commander of Marchand Dessalines, was acquitted on two counts of murder committed in 1992 against Loukens Pierre and Antoine Pauléus.  The trial was plagued by irregularities.  The Gonaives Justice and Peace Commission pointed out that the fundamental witnesses were never summoned to give testimony and that a conversation between the jury and the defense attorney was allowed.  There were also reports that the prosecutor was negligent in his preparations for the case.


          41.     On a positive note, the Commission was informed that the Senate approved the Judicial Reform Bill in July 1997.  This law provides for the creation of a Special Committee of Magistrates with responsibility for trying cases involving human rights violations during the de facto administration.  The bill specifies that the statute of limitations does not apply to crimes committed during the de facto regime.


          42.     It should also be noted that the Judicial Reform Bill, which was not approved by the other legislative chamber, has been questioned on a number of points by the Haitian Bar Association, human rights organizations, and public opinion.  The bill is criticized for not addressing the fundamental problems of the Haitian justice system, but for being limited instead to just addressing certain problems of the moment, which is not useful for the system of justice per se.


          43.     Nongovernmental human rights organizations have indicated that the negligence with which criminals have been processed is conducive to a recurrence of "people's justice."  Over thirty persons, considered to be "Zenglendos" [9] or witches, were killed this year by inflamed crowds.  In one case, a crowd of people in Chantal killed two persons suspected of being "Zenglendos" with machetes and sticks, and then burned their bodies.  Human rights organizations reported that in mid-September, Louinor Jean-Louis and Vesta Jeune were accused of having caused the death of a baby and so were killed by a large crowd wielding machetes.  There were a number of lynchings reported in the community of Tiburón, where there is no police station and where the peace tribunal is ineffective.  The National Haitian Police has made few arrests in these cases.


          44.     Various well-known persons from the de facto regime will be brought to trial this year:  Gros Carlo, the "attaché" supposedly involved in the murder of Antoine Izméry, arrested in May and currently in custody in the Pétionville prison; and Onondie Paul, second in command at Marchand Dessalines.





          45.     The draft report on the situation of human rights in Haiti was approved by the Commission during its 98º period of sessions.  It was sent to the State on March 13, 1998, pursuant to Article 63 (h) of the Commission's Regulations, in order to allow for the submission of observations within thirty days.


          46.     The Hatian State failed to present observations within the time limit provided.


          47.     On April 13, 1998 the Commission approved this report and its publication within Chapter V of the present Annual Report.

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     [1]    By letter JUR/97-406 dated April 29, 1997, Fritz Longchamps, Minister of Foreign Affairs, invited the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to conduct a visit in loco to Haiti to observe the human rights situation in the country.

     [2]   For the most part, they are former members of the Haitian Armed Forces who have become thugs.

     [3]   Human Rights Watch Americas, 1998 Report on the Status of Human Rights in the World, pp. 40-44.

     [4]   See the Human Rights Watch Report, Footnote 3 supra.

     [5]   See "Haiti Insight," published by the National Coalition for Haitian Rights, 1997.

     [6]   Ibid.

     [7]   Human Rights Watch, 1998 Report, Footnote 3 supra.

     [8]   National Coalition for Haitian Rights, footnote No. 6 supra.

     [9]   See footnote No.2 supra.