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
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
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
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.