REPORT ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN HAITI
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
From the above exposition the Inter-American Commission is able to
draw conclusions and make recommendations. First of all, it wishes to state that
it has found in the highest officers of the Government of Haiti a positive
attitude to move forward in the protection and promotion of human rights,
including political rights, through the exercise of which it is sought to
establish representative democracy. The
Commission heard with satisfaction the commitment on the part of the Government
that the Armed Forces of Haiti, will guard order and safety of the population
and of the candidates during the electoral process to begin shortly and will
prevent a recurrence of the events of November 29, 1987.
The Commission sensed a climate of latent insecurity that tends to break
out in response to a variety of problems, sometimes culminating in acts of
utmost severity. The extreme violence of agents of the Army, and of the
section chiefs and armed civilians associated with ruling sectors that have
fallen from power, prompts harsh acts of violence by victims, which in turn are
put down by the Armed Forces. In
the Commission's view, it is essential that
this vicious circle of violence be broken, and the main burden of responsibility
for accomplishing this devolves upon the Army and the Police.
They must respect the human rights of civilians in their demonstration
control methods, and effectively protect civilians who are set upon by groups of
armed civilians or by soldiers in their own ranks.
In this regard is for the Government to take the initiative that members
of the Armed Forces and Police, in charge of maintaining safety, will receive
exemplary sanctions when found responsible of abuses against the civilian
What emerges then is a clear picture of institutionalized violence by the
very forces whose obligation it is to preserve the peace and protect citizens
from violations of the right to life. The
same conclusion can be reached with regard to the physical integrity of
citizens. The institutional forces
consisting of the army, the police, the section chiefs and their para-military
henchmen, far from assuring humane treatment of prisoners, are chronic
violations of this basic human right.
The Inter-american Commission must observe that the absence of
judicial actions against persons suspected responsible for grave human rights
violations constitute an ommission that must be promptly corrected.
The Commission is aware of the legal and factual difficulties that such
actions face. However, the
Commission must point out that an action by the State in this regard will
contribute not only to repair the material and moral injuries caused, but also
will have a preventive effect to avoid the recurrence of new violations.
The inefficiency of the Judicial Branch and the fact that it is to a
degree the captive of the power interests, make the populace highly insecure
about the safety of their rights, and are cited by some people as the reason for
taking the law into their own hands. This
situation is particularly dramatic in rural areas, where the inhabitants are
bereft of any legal recourse for the assertion of their rights and are at the
mercy of the section chiefs and their "adjoints."
The testimony taken and information gathered have convinced the
Commission that, in practice, the section chiefs widely exceed their assigned
functions, and it feels, therefore, that the system must be radically changed so
that those police officers will be truly responsive to the will of the people
democratically expressed. This is
why the Commission has listened attentively to the statements of both the
Minister of the Interior and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed
Forces with a view changing the duties, functions and origins of the section
The inefficiency of the Judicial Branch is also reflected in the
irregular procedural status of many individuals in custody.
It is therefore of the essence to take a census of the penal population
in order to ascertain their procedural status and set at liberty those against
whom there are no well-founded charges.
This will help improve the deplorable conditions that the Commission
found in the jails.
The Commission observed the presence of a healthy freedom of expression
in Haiti, though it was told that there are restrictions on this right that must
be quickly changed. The Commission
finds that the journalists and
owners of mass media have good reason to fear the possibility of something
happening to them, especially during the election campaign and in the
countryside. Because of this, the
Commission is of the view that the Government and the Armed Forces must make
every possible effort to protect the journalists and guarantee their safety in
the real exercise of their right to freedom of expression, an essential
prerequisite for truly free and honest elections.
It is also for the Government to disarm the groups of civilians and
retired military men who still are in illegal possession of weapons.
The Commission is convinced that this would measurably reduce the
insecurity of the population and help avert an escalation of conflict and
additions to the terrible loss of life that has already taken place. The Commission must express its satisfaction at hearing that
the highest authorities are putting into practice programs that will separate
the Police from the Army as prescribed by the Constitution, and hopes this
process will be completed as quickly as possible.
The Commission has further observed that political, labor and
humanitarian groups are exercising their right to association.
However, the freedom to exercise this right is under the same cloud of
insecurity that lowers over all the others, and the Commission is of the view
that the Government should enforce continued freedom to exercise it.
275. Finally, the Commission must reaffirm that the Haitian State, as a party to the American Convention on Human Rights, is under the obligation not only to respect those rights, but also to enforce the freedom to exercise them fully. It hopes that in the coming election campaign, human rights will be exercised in a climate of security that will enable all political forces and the Haitian population at large to express themselves and act in complete freedom and without fear. In this way, it feels, the current democratization will surround the act of voting with the broadest range of human rights, including the economic, social and cultural rights, whose realization is essential to attainment of the Haitian people's legitimate aspiration to a decent life. This, in the view of the Commission, would truly strengthen representative democracy which, as has been repeatedly stated, affords the best guarantee of the full realization of human rights.