IACHR CONCLUDES VISIT TO HAITI
Washington, D.C., June 29, 2009 – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) conducted a visit to Haiti from May 24 to 29, 2009. The delegation was headed by Commissioner Sir Clare K. Roberts in his capacity of IACHR Rapporteur for Haiti. The main purpose of the visit, conducted jointly with UNICEF, was to gather information on citizen security, the situation of human rights and juvenile justice. UNICEF, the regional office of the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights and the IACHR are collaborating in the preparation of special reports on these issues.
In Port-au-Prince the delegation met with representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, the Institute of Social Welfare and Research (IBESR), the Minors Protection Division of the National Police, the Central Direction of the Judiciary Police, the Penitentiary Administration, prison staff and the Office of Citizen Protection. The delegation also met with the two members of the Tribunal for Children. The delegation visited the offices of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). The delegation also met with local and international non-governmental organizations involved in citizen security and juvenile justice issues in Haiti. Additionally, the delegation held a conference on the IACHR and the inter-American system of protection of human rights at the State University of Port-au-Prince.
The IACHR wishes to recognize the efforts undertaken by the Government of Haiti in the area of public security. The delegation received information indicating that efforts have been made to improve security throughout the country. The delegation observed, however, that many aspects of public security remain as a challenge in Haiti.
The delegation conducted a visit to the National Penitentiary, the Delmas Police Station, the Delmas Detention Center for Minors, the Pétion-Ville Women’s Prison, and the Le Carrefour Shelter. On May 27, 2009 the delegation travelled to the city of Gonaives where it met the Government Commissioner, the Chief of Police and civil society organizations and representatives.
During its stay in Gonaives, the delegation visited the police station which houses detainees since 2004, when the local prison burned down. In June 2008, the IACHR had granted precautionary measures on behalf of the detainees at the Gonaives police station. The facility, with a capacity for seventy five detainees, currently shelters more than three hundred. The delegation found that the conditions of detention involve overcrowding, little or no light and ventilation, inadequate sanitation and no access to medical treatment. Although the authorities indicated that a separate facility is under construction, the delegation found that children and teenagers are held together with adults.
As a State Party to the American Convention, Haiti is bound by its Article 19 which provides that “Every minor child has the right to the measures of protection required by his condition as a minor on the part of his family, society, and the state.” Haiti is also bound by the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which all include a duty of special protection, care and aid for the children and an obligation to develop and undertake actions and policies in light of the best interests of the child. Haitian legislation provides that a child in conflict with the law can only be held at a rehabilitation center, with appropriate services for his or her special needs. The delegation observed during the visit to Haiti that there are serious failures with the implementation of this obligation. The Inter-American Commission urges the authorities to take all necessary measures to protect the lives and the personal integrity of the children and teenagers in conflict with the law in Haiti, especially in the case of those held in the police station of Gonaïves.
The Commission expresses its appreciation to the Government and people of Haiti for the cooperation, facilities and hospitality provided in the course of the IACHR’s visit, to the OAS country office in Haiti for its crucial assistance in organizing and executing the visit, and to the civil society and international organizations for their valuable participation in the Commission’s activities.
A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has the mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who act in a personal capacity, without representing a particular country, and who are elected by the OAS General Assembly.
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