REPORT ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN HAITI
310. The Commission has observed that most of the complaints of humans rights violations received, have sprung from attempts at political expression among supporters of a return to democracy. Emboldened by the signing of the Governors Island Agreement made by President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the Chief of the Armed Forces, General Raoul Cedras, and additionally, by the acceptance of the Pact of New York, the supporters have publicly expressed their support for the constitutional President. This reaction has provoked a wave of repression on the part of the Armed Forces to prevent fulfillment of these Agreements reached in July 1993.
311. Violations of human rights, including executions without benefit of trial, disappearances, arbitrary arrests normally accompanied by mistreatment, torture, and extortion, of which members of the Armed Forces are regularly accused, are proof of the corruption that exists in that military institution and of its domination over the system of justice in Haiti. Most of these violations have been committed by the Army for the purpose of repressing and frightening the Haitian population and thereby maintaining themselves in power.
312. In particular, the charge of "lavalassien" has been used by the military to justify arbitrary seizures and violent surprise searches. Demonstrations and meetings have been broken up and their participants severely punished. Restrictions on the right to free speech and threats to members of the press and owners of radio stations have continued, as have physical attacks on persons distributing newspapers.
313. The Commission has observed that violations of human rights have increased particularly in rural areas, where the peasant population is bereft of any legal recourse for the assertion of its rights. Most of these violations are committed by Section Heads and their assistants, who are appointed by the Armed Forces and are members thereof. This has given rise to the institutionalized practice of violence.
314. Following Mr. Robert Malval's confirmation as Prime Minister and the lifting of the embargo imposed by the United Nations and the Organization of American States, acts of violence increased and were directed at hindering the installation and operation of the new government and at preventing the functioning of the OAS-UN Civilian Mission, which for its own safety had to leave the country. Also, the violence unleashed by extreme-right groups, supported by paramilitary groups, resulted in the withdrawal of the United Nations Mission (MINUHA) before its arrival.
315. The present climate in Haiti is still characterized by the repression practiced by the military and collaborating armed groups. They, as demonstrated by the murders of Antoine Izméry and Guy-François Malary by "attaches" in September and October 1993, are becoming more brazen and are committing crimes in the full light of day against political activists who have openly supported the regime of deposed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. During the period in question, the Commission recorded many deaths whose political connections were fully demonstrated by the fact that the military could instigate or stop them. Further more, as in the present situation, not only did it provoke and sponsor them, but the military also failed to investigate and punish the perpetrators of these murders, who operated in death-squad like fashion. This prompts the conclusion that they operate because they are granted impunity by the military.
316. Despite the undertaking in the Governors Island Agreement to generate a climate of pacification throughout the country so that President Aristide could return and its reaffirmation by the Chief of the Armed Forces and his General Staff in their talks with the Commission in August 1993, the resurgence of violence and the Army's indifference to combatting it demonstrate the lack of any intention or disposition to lead Haiti to democracy. Indeed, the military appears to see no inconsistency between their military regime and democracy, and disregards the fact that the assumption of power through a coup d'état is inherently anti-democratic, especially in light of Article 3(d) of the Charter of the Organization of American States and Article 23 of the American Convention on Human Rights.
317. By the coup d'état, the military regime has attempted to nullify the Haitian Constitution of 1987, which the population had sweepingly approved. The use of violence by the military to foil the popular will has repeatedly been condemned by the Commission and democratic nations. The Constitution of 1987 is the standard by which the legitimacy of the Haitian government must be measured. Today, all guarantees contained in that Constitution are direly threatened by the Armed Force's monopoly on force. They operate as a police force that does not protect security in the country but instead, represses those who try to change the wretched conditions in which the Haitian people live.
318. The Commission has previously stated that, regardless of the current political situation in Haiti, the American Convention on Human Rights continues in effect, and those who hold power are under the obligation to respect the rights contained in that international instrument.
319. Moreover, the Commission acknowledges that the Governors Island Agreement and Pact of New York are threatened by the repression and violence carried out by the Armed Forces. In effect, while the critical steps called for to secure the transition to constitutional democracy in Haiti are consolidated in those instruments, the obligation of all parties to commit to action to ensure the fulfillment of those steps remains. The Commission is convinced that the member states of the United Nations and the Organisation of American States must go on acting with increased boldness, using every possible means to prevent the further loss of countless lives in flight from repression. As part of these efforts, the UN and OAS should authorize the return of the OAS-UN Civilian Mission to Haiti, whose presence has proved to have a dampening effect on many tense situations. Similarly, the introduction of a UN force of technical training personnel for the police, and an international training program for the military should be carried out.
320. The Commission calls upon member states to comply with their obligations under international conventions and instruments, including the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, to ensure that persons who flee their countries from politial persecution are afforded the right to determine their claims for asylum or refugee status.
321. The Commission is convinced that the essential requirement to remedy the grave human rights situation in Haiti is quick re-establishment of the constitutional democratic regime elected at the polls in December 16, 1990, and deposed in the coup d'état of September 29, 1991. This restoration should be accompanied by fundamental changes such as separation of the Army and the police as provided in the Constitution of 1987. At the same time, the necessary steps should be taken to professionalize an independent police force.
322. The Commission is convinced that in order to safeguard the personal rights and liberties of Haitians and to protect the population from abuses by the military, there must be:
a. a substantial reform of the legal system to ensure that the perpetrators of criminal acts are brought to justice and that persons who are arrested are brought to trial in as short a time as possible, and
b. an immediate disarming and disbanding of the paramilitary forces and sections chiefs who commit indiscriminate acts of violence with impunity.
323. Conscious of the gravity of the present situation in Haiti, the Commission is considering the possibility of making another in loco visit as soon as possible, in order to observe the human rights situation in that country and to maintain a continuing presence in Haiti.