An on-site investigation may be conducted either at the
invitation of the Government, or on the initiative of the Commission,
but in the latter case, the Government’s consent is required. The
present report concerns the on-site observations conducted as the result
of an invitation by the Government of Haiti.
On September 27, 1977, at the time Haiti deposited its instrument
of accession to the American Convention on Human Rights, Ambassador
Georges Salomon, Permanent Representative of Haiti to the Organization
of American States, made the following statement:
And now the Government of Haiti, ever vigilant, ever respecting
law and order in this very over-populated country, turns to the
Organization of American States and particularly to the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights, which it will soon be invited to Haiti (I
have already received instructions on this question). The Commission
will come, in part, to examine the few cases still pending before the
Commission, but mainly to study, in consultation with the Government,
what measures will best serve to make the Haitian people aware of all
their civil and political rights, and to promote respect for an
expansion of these rights, which are upheld in Haitian domestic laws and
in the Constitution.
The Haitian Government’s invitation to the Commission,
contained in a telegram dated January 30, 1978, reads as follows:
I have the pleasure to inform you that the Government of Haiti
proposes to issue an official invitation to the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights to visit Haiti at a mutually convenient date.
This visit will enable the Commission to assess the progress the country
has made in the area of human rights, and promote respect for and
expansion of human rights.
In a note dated February 3, 1978, the Commission notified the
Government of Haiti of its acceptance of this invitation.
In its forty-third special session held in Caracas on January 26
through February 3, 1978, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
learned of your cable of January 30 addressed to the Executive Secretary
of the Commission, Mr. Edmundo Vargas Carreño.
The Commission would like to express its satisfaction at
receiving this official communication, which confirms the Government of
Haiti’s intention of inviting the Commission to visit the country,
announced by you on September 7, 1977 at the time your country’s
instrument of accession to the American Convention on Human Rights was
Precise instructions have been given to the Executive Secretary
of the Commission, Mr. Edmundo Vargas Carreño, regarding the details of
the visit, which must be conducted according to the rules approved by
the Commission. Mr. Vargas Carreño will be in contact with Your
Excellency upon his return to Washington.
Accept, Excellency, the renewed assurances of my highest
At its meeting held on May 31, 1978, the Commission formed a
special Commission to conduct the on-site investigation discussed in the
above communications. The Commission also decided to propose to the
Government of Haiti that the visit should take place from August 16
through August 25, 1978. On August 2, 1978, the Permanent Mission of
Haiti to the Organization of American States replied in the following
My dear Mr. Executive Secretary:
In reference to your letter of July 21, 1978, I have the honor to
inform you that the Government of Haiti gives its consent to the on-site
visit to Haiti by the Special Commission of the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights to take place August 16 through 25.
I wish the members of the Commission and the staff accompanying
them a fruitful and agreeable visit to the hospitable country of Haiti.
Accept, Mr. Executive Secretary, the renewed assurances of my
The rules quoted by the President of the Commission in his note
of February 3, 1978 are contained in the resolution quoted below:
ON ON-SITE OBSERVATIONS
Article 11 of the Statute of the Commission and Article 50 of its
Rules of Procedure empower the Commission to move to the territory of
any American State, with the consent or at the invitation of the
Government concerned, for the purpose of carrying out an on-site
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights,
To establish the following rules:
1. On-site investigations
that the Commission may decide to conduct shall be carried out according
to the following regulations:
2. The guarantees and
facilities listed in the preceding paragraph shall be extended to the
Secretariat staff accompanying the Commission.
3. The expenses incurred by
the special Commission, each of its members and the Secretariat staff
shall be borne by the Organization of American States, subject to the
pertinent provisions of the regulations.
The special Commission appointed by the Inter-American Commission
on Human Rights to conduct the on-site observation in Haiti consisted of
three members: Mr. Andrés Aguilar, Chairman of the Inter-American
Commission, Mr. Carlos García Bauer and Mr. Marco Monroy Cabra. The
Commission was assisted by staff of the Secretariat of the IACHR.
As usual, the Special Commission took steps to maintain its
independence, and prepared its schedule for the public and private
sectors in Haiti, in order to carry out its mission.
The observation visit took place from August 16 through August
25, 1978. Since Mr. Andrés Aguilar had to leave for New York on August
20, the Special Commission continued to operate with two members, under
the chairmanship of Mr. Carlos García Bauer. Upon its arrival in Haiti,
the Special Commission issued a press release, informing the public of
the reasons for the visit and inviting individuals or organizations to
present communications and to comment on the subject of the observance
of human rights in Haiti. It also held a number of press conferences
explaining the nature of the Commission’s functions and the purpose of
its visit. The activities of the Special Commission received
satisfactory coverage in the printed media and on the radio and
television. The Committee also received the necessary cooperation from
the Haitian authorities.
The Special Commission went to Port-au-Prince, the capital of
Haiti and to two other cities in the interior of the country, Cap Haïtien
and Jacmel. In Port-au-Prince, the Commission met with the President of
the Republic, Mr. Jean-Claude Duvalier, the State Secretaries for the
Departments of the Interior and Defense, Foreign Affairs, Education,
Public Health and Population, and Social Affairs, and also with the
President of the Legislative Chamber and members of the Supreme Court.
It also met with the Archbishop of Port-au-Prince, and had occasion to
exchange views with members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the
Government of Haiti. In Cap Haïtien and Jacmel, the Committee met with
local civil and military authorities.
In both Port-au-Prince and the other places visited, the
Commission received denunciations, and heard statements from a number of
individuals who wishes to speak to it. It also heard from spokesmen from
a number of religious groups, and representatives of professional
associations, student groups, trade unions and political and civic
The Special Commission visited the National Penitentiary in
Port-au-Prince and local prisons in Cap Haïtien and Jacmel. It was able
to talk freely and in private with those prisoners it wanted to see, and
with those who had told the Committee of their desire to submit
complaints. The Committee inspected the cells and examined the prison
conditions, the medical care and the legal aid available to prisoners,
and investigated all questions it considered useful in preparing the
The Commission also visited a number of industries, in particular
Ciment d’Haiti where, some time earlier, there had been union
troubles. In these factories, the Commission met separately and in
private, with employers, workers and union leaders. Unfortunately, the
Special Commission was unable to interview workers and union leaders of
the HASCO, where according to information received, there had been labor
conflicts because the manager or director of the factory, Mr. Hill, an
American citizen, had refused access to the factory premises.
The Special Commission wishes to point out that the government of
Haiti cooperated fully with the Commission during its visit, providing
it with the documents and data requested, and not interfering with its
The sources used in preparing the present report can be
categorized as follows: a. personal observations by members of the
Special Commission; b. information obtained during the interviews; c.
laws and information furnished by the government of Haiti; d.
information obtained from various sources on the observation of human
rights in Haiti, and e. documents presented by the complainants and
The first chapter of the report deals with Haitian law from the
perspective of human rights: international obligations assumed by Haiti,
the Constitution and laws of the country, and government measures taken
in violation of constitutional principles. Subsequent chapters discuss
those rights that the Commission feels are particularly pertinent to the
situation of human rights in Haiti. The report ends with the
Commission’s conclusions and recommendations.
The individual cases brought to the attention of the Commission
and that are cited in the present report, as well as other cases not
reported here, will be the subject of separate studies, as called for in
the regulations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
This report was delivered to the Permanent Mission of Haiti to
the OAS on Monday, July 2, 1979. At that time, the government of Haiti
was given the opportunity, if it so desired, to present within a period
of six weeks, its observations to the report. A representative of the
government, in a letter dated September 1, 1979, requested an extension
of that deadline to October 15. On November 27, 1979, the IACHR received
the response of the government of Haiti to the Commission’s report.
Prior to that date, the government had forwarded a memorandum on the
report which was received on June 18, 1979, and some preliminary
observations dated August 14 of that same year.
On December 7, 1979, Mr. Endicott Peabody, representative of the
government of Haiti, according to a note received on November 16, 1979,
and accompanied by Messrs. James Sollins, David Taylor and Jorge Córdova,
made an oral presentation to members of the Inter-American Commission.
Following its visit to Haiti, members heard testimony and received
information from various sources on the situation of human rights in
In light of the documents and the additional information
received, the Commission decided to update the report to December 13,
1979, the date the report was adopted.