the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), principal organ of the Organization of American States (OAS) mandated to
promote and protect human rights in the
Hemisphere, completed a five-day visit to the Republic of Haiti. The delegation of
the Commission was composed of Ms. Marta Altolaguirre, President of the
Commission, Mr. Clare K. Roberts, Vice-President of the IACHR and
Rapporteur for Haiti, Mr. Mario Lůpez Garelli, Attorney and Senior Human
Rights Specialist and Mr. Bernard Duhaime, Human Rights Specialist.
Commission visited Haiti from August 18th to 22nd
2003 at the invitation of the State and in accordance with its mandate
provided for in the OAS Charter and in the American Convention on Human
Rights and with the OAS Resolutions CP/Res. 806 and AG/Res. 1841. The
IACHR traveled to the cities of Port-au Prince, Cap Haitian and GonaÔves
to observe the situation of human rights. On this visit, the Commission
focused more particularly on the issues of administration of justice, rule
of law and impunity.
its visit, the delegation met with officials from the Haitian government
as well as representatives of civil society, of political organizations
and of human rights organizations. The delegation met the Prime Minister,
Mr. Yvon Neptune, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Justice
and Public Security, the Director General of the National Police of Haiti,
the Inspector General of the National Police, the President of the Supreme
Court, the President of the Appeals Court, the Chief Prosecutor and the
Chief Justice of the First Instance Tribunal of Port-au-Prince,
Cap-Haitien and GonaÔves, as well as the Departmental Delegate and Chief
of Police of Cap-Haitien et GonaÔves. The delegation also met with the
Human Rights Ombudsman and representatives from the School of Magistrates.
It also met, in all three cities, the representatives of many human rights
non-governmental organizations, of the Bar Associations, of associations
of magistrates and of certain political parties.
Commission has taken note of the current difficulties facing the Republic
of Haiti, more particularly the severe economic hardship and a
long-lasting and tense political crisis, as the backdrop to observing the
Stateís performance relating to respect for human rights and in ensuring
that all persons under its jurisdiction are free to exercise such rights
the above, and as noted repeatedly in the recent past, the IACHR is very
concerned by the situation of human rights in Haiti, more specifically
with respect to the right to liberty and security of the person, the right
to judicial guarantees and the right to judicial protection, as provided
for in the Inter-American Human Rights instruments. The Commission wishes
to emphasize the importance of such rights and their necessary
inter-relation with the proper functioning of democratic institutions and
the existence of the rule of law, as emphasized in the Inter-American
The IACHR considers
that serious problems still exist in Haiti as to the respect of the right
to personal liberty and security. More specifically, the Commission has
noted that arrests are not always accomplished in accordance with the law
and applicable procedures and that persons are often subsequently detained
for periods longer than those provided by domestic law.
Moreover, the Commission has also noted that persons often have
difficulty to in obtaining recourse to a competent court to decide on the
lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention
IACHR has also observed severe problems as to the right of a person to a
hearing, within a reasonable time, by a competent, independent, and
Commission is still concerned about the number of persons who are detained
in jails without having been brought before a judge.
The Commission was informed that as many as 70 to 80 percent of the
persons detained in Haiti have not been brought before a judge.
While the Commission has taken note of the considerable efforts
undertaken by the State to train judges and magistrates, it also considers
that more needs to be done in order to ensure that the other constraints
to timely processing of arrested persons becomes the norm rather than the
exception. The Commission
also recommends that legislation be passed to properly structure the
School of Magistrates.
Commission is particularly concerned by the significant limitations
existing on the independence of the Haitian judiciary. The IACHR has noted
that Haitian legislation and administrative practices, particularly those
dealing with the appointment, promotion and sanction of magistrates and
judges and those dealing with budgetary and managerial aspects of the
judicial institutions can result in dependency
on the executive branch. More alarming, the Commission has received
credible information according to which certain judges and magistrates
have been pressured by authorities, by gangs or violent and sometimes
armed groups seeking to influence the outcome of certain cases,
particularly when they are dealing with politically charged matters. Some
judges and magistrates have even admitted fearing for their lives or
physical integrity when dealing with such cases. Similar fears have been
expressed by human rights defenders and attorneys, who, along with the
judges and magistrates, are at the front line of the protection of human
to the due process guarantees, the IACHR notes, that some persons
subjected to criminal judicial proceedings do not enjoy the right to be
assisted without charge by a translator or interpreter, if he or she does
not understand or does not speak the language of the tribunal or court.
Similarly, certain individuals subjected to criminal prosecution, do not
enjoy the right to be assisted by counsel provided by the state if the
accused is unable to engage his or her own counsel within the time period
established by law.
addition, the IACHR has observed serious problems dealing with the right
to judicial protection. The Commission is particularly concerned by the
fact that warrants and judicial orders, particularly release orders, are
sometimes not executed by the competent authorities. Similarly, the IACHR
has noted that, while some progress have been made by the State to end
impunity dealing with certain cases, the problem remains a severe one.
Several high profile cases have yet to be resolved, particularly
those dealing with the events of December 17th 2001, the Jean
Dominique and Brignol Lindor cases, to name a few.
IACHR is also very concerned by reports of the existence in Haiti of armed
groups who act unlawfully and with impunity, sometimes terrorizing the
population in certain areas. The Commission considers that the Stateís
failure to guarantee the populationís security in certain areas of the
country and to end impunity and guarantee the right to judicial protection
hinders the rule of law.
must be noted that a significant number of State officials has denied the
existence of most of the problems mentioned above, or have blamed them
entirely on the economic crisis or on the biases of the local human rights
community, of the press and of political opponents.
The Commission considers that the first step to amelioration of the
human rights position in Haiti is for the State and state agencies to
recognize that certain of their practices may constitute infringements of
the fundamental rights of its citizens. Accordingly, it must be cognizant
of its duty to investigate efficiently such allegations.
Commission is particularly pleased with the very active participation of
the persons who appeared before it, both from State agencies and from
civil society, and reiterates in this respect that, in accordance with the
Commissionís Rules, the State must grant all appropriate guarantees of
protection to those who provided the delegation with information,
testimony or evidence of any kind.
The IACHR is grateful to
the Government of the Republic of Haiti for its assistance in the
preparation of the visit, for the facilities that it has provided as well
as for ensuring the Commissionís security. The Commission is grateful
for the hospitality of the Government and people of Haiti.
It is also indebted to the non-governmental organizations, the
institutions of civil society and the international organizations, in
particular the OAS Special Mission in Haiti, for the success of the visit.
The Commission wishes to emphasize, once more, its offer to cooperate with
governments of the Hemisphere to promote, ensure, and protect human
Port-au Prince, August 22, 2003