Jean Michel Richardson v. Haiti, Case 12.389, Report No. 129/01, OEA/Ser./L/V/II.114 Doc. 5 rev. at 200 (2001).
JEAN MICHEL RICHARDSON
December 3, 2001
On September 21, 2000, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
(hereinafter the Commission or the IACHR) received
a petition lodged by Mr. Jean Michel Richardson (hereinafter the petitioner)
against the Republic of Haiti (hereinafter the State or Haiti),
the facts of which characterize alleged violations of his rights to personal
liberty (Article 7), a fair trial (Article 8), and judicial protection (Article
25), in connection with the States generic duty to respect and ensure
the rights (Article 1(1)) established in the American Convention on Human
Rights (hereinafter the Convention or the American Convention).
The petitioner claims that on February 8, 1998 he was arbitrarily detained
by members of the police in Jean Rabel, a municipality in the Department of
Nord Ouest under the jurisdiction of Port de Paix, and taken to the Petion
Ville prison, where he remains, never having been brought before judges with
jurisdiction over such matters. He further alleges that as a result of several
petitions lodged in the domestic jurisdiction, the competent judicial authority
ordered his release on June 1, 1998; however that order has not been executed
The State has not presented a reply to the petitioners allegations
and has not questioned the petitions admissibility.
The IACHR, pursuant to the provisions of Articles 46 and 47 of the
American Convention, decides to admit the petition as regards potential violations
of Articles 1(1), 7, 8, and 25 of the American Convention and to begin proceedings
on the merits of the case. It further decides to notify the parties of this
decision, to publish it, and to include it in its Annual Report to the OAS
II. PROCESSING BY THE
On September 21, 2000, Mr. Richardson lodged a petition with the IACHR.
On November 10, 2000, the Commission transmitted the petition to the State
and requested information within 30 days, pursuant to Article 30 of the Regulations
in effect at that time. On November 16, 2000, the State acknowledged receipt
of the Commissions November 10
letter. On December 1, 2000, the IACHR received additional information
from the petitioner, including: (1) a copy of the habeas
corpus appeal for his release; (2) a copy of the order from Dean Leonard
of Port de Paix indicating that he was not competent to decide on Mr. Richardsons
release; (3) a copy of the Court of Appeals decision not to grant Mr. Richardson
his freedom, taking into account the findings of the Court of Port de Paix;
and (4) a signed copy of a document from the former Government commissioner
of Port de Paix on his imprisonment. On April 11, 2001, the petitioner presented
additional information on the case: a letter from Government commissioner
Josue Pierre Louis, dated February 15, 2001, requesting that the chief of
the National Prison Administration (APENA) release Jean Michel Richardson
in virtue of the order issued on June 1, 1998 and several local communiqués
on Mr. Richardsons release.
On June 12, 2001, the IACHR gave the State a copy of the petitioners
letter and the annexes and reiterated its request for information by transmitting
a copy of the petitioners past letters. On September 12, 2001 (received
on September 24), the State reported merely that it had received the Commissions
June 12 letter on August 2, 2001. On September 27, 2001, the Commission informed
the State that it was still awaiting the information it had requested. On
October 29, 2001, the petitioner submitted a new letter reiterating that he
remained in detention, despite the orders to release him and the steps he
had taken before different government agents. At the time this report was
considered, the State had acknowledged receipt of the Commissions letters,
but had not provided any information on this petition.
POSITION OF THE PARTIES
The petitioner alleges that on February 8, 1998 he was arbitrarily
detained by members of the police in Jean Rabel, a municipality in the Department
of Nord Ouest under the jurisdiction of Port de Paix, and taken to the Petion
Ville prison, where he remains, never having been brought before the competent
Mr. Richardson claims that he has taken the following recourses under
domestic jurisdiction: firstly, he filed suit with the Civil Court of First
Instance in Port-au-Prince; on June 1, 1998 the judge declared Mr. Richardsons
arrest and prolonged detention to be illegal, ordered his immediate release,
and ordered the Office of the Attorney General to execute that decision. According
to the petitioner, the release order was not executed, because it requires
the Government commissioners authorization.
Secondly, he turned to the Civil Court of First Instance in Port de
Paix, which in a July 28, 1999 judgment found that it was not the competent
jurisdiction to examine his case. He appealed that decision to the Court of
Appeals of Gonaïves, which in a January 24, 2000 judgment confirmed the decision
of the Court of First Instance of Port de Paix. On February 15, 2001, the
Government commissioner for the jurisdiction of Port-au-Prince called on the
chief of the National Prison Administration (APENA) in Petion Ville to release
Mr. Richardson in virtue of the order issued on June 1, 1998. The petitioner
alleges that despite the domestic proceedings, in which a court of first instance
ordered his immediate release, he remains in prison and has not had the right
to a trial.
B. The State
The State has not responded to the petitioners allegations and has not
questioned the admissibility of this petition.
IV. ANALYSIS OF ADMISSIBILITY
A. Preliminary questions
The IACHR notes that the State has merely reported that it received the Commissions
letters dated November 10, 2000 and June 12, 2001. At no time has it responded
to the petitioners allegations or questioned the petitions admissibility.
The IACHR would like to stress that Haiti undertook various international
obligations through the American Convention on Human Rights, including those
provided for in Article 48(1)(a) of the Convention, which stipulates that:
"[w]hen the Commission receives a
petition or communication (
) (a) it
shall request information from the government of the state indicated as being
responsible for the alleged violations (
information shall be submitted within a reasonable period (
(e) The Commission may request the states
concerned to furnish any pertinent information." The Convention,
therefore, requires States to provide the information requested by the Commission
in the processing of an individual case.
The IACHR feels it must also indicate that the information requested by the
Commission is information that would enable it to reach a decision in a case
submitted to it. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has indicated that
cooperation by the States is an essential obligation in international proceedings
in the inter-American system:
contrast to domestic criminal law, in proceedings to determine human rights
violations the State cannot rely on the defense that the complainant has failed
to present evidence when it cannot be obtained without the State's cooperation.
State controls the means to verify acts occurring within its territory. Although
the Commission has investigatory powers, it cannot exercise them within a
State's jurisdiction unless it has the cooperation of that State.
The IACHR and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have also indicated
that the silence of the accused or elusive or ambiguous answers on its
part may be interpreted as an acknowledgment of the truth of the allegations,
so long as the contrary is not indicated by the record or is not compelled
as a matter of law."
The Commission therefore reminds Haiti that it has a duty to cooperate with
the organs in the inter-American human rights system, for optimal fulfillment
of its functions to protect human rights.
ratione personae, ratione loci, ratione temporis, and ratione
materiae of the Commission
The petitioner is authorized under Article 44 of the Convention to lodge a
complaint with the IACHR. The petition names as the alleged victim one individual
whose rights Haiti undertook to respect and ensure pursuant to the American
Regarding the State, the Commission notes that Haiti has been a State Party
to the Convention since September 27, 1977, when it deposited the respective
instrument of accession. The Commission is therefore competent ratione
personae to examine the petition.
The Commission is competent ratione
loci to hear the petition, because it alleges the violation of rights
protected by the American Convention within the territory of a State Party
to the Convention. The IACHR is competent ratione
temporis, because the obligation to respect and ensure the rights protected
under the Convention was already in effect in the State on the date of the
events alleged in the petition. Finally, the Commission is competent ratione
materiae, because the petition denounces events related to human rights
protected by the American Convention, such as the right to personal liberty
(Article 7), a fair trial (Article 8), and judicial protection (Article 25).
C. Other admissibility
a. Exhaustion of domestic remedies
Article 46(1)(a) of the Convention stipulates that admission
of a petition shall be subject to the requirement "that
the remedies under domestic law have been pursued and exhausted in accordance
with generally recognized principles of international law." The
Conventions preamble states that the IACHR grants international
protection in the form of a convention reinforcing or complementing the protection
provided by the domestic law of the American states.
The rule of exhaustion of domestic remedies allows States to resolve the problem
in their domestic legal system before facing international proceedings, which
is legally sufficient in the international human rights jurisdiction.
In this case the State did not argue the failure to exhaust domestic remedies
and so a tacit waiver of the objection of non-exhaustion of domestic remedies
In this regard, the Inter-American Court has stated that, the objection
asserting the non-exhaustion of domestic remedies, to be timely, must be made
at an early stage of the proceedings by the State entitled to make it, lest
a waiver of the requirement be presumed.
The IACHR concludes that this requirement was met.
b. Filing deadline
Article 46(1)(b) of the Convention stipulates that the petition must be lodged
within a period of six months from the
date on which the victim was notified of the final judgment exhausting
domestic remedies. In the petition in question, the IACHR has established
the States tacit waiver of its right to invoke the failure to exhaust
domestic remedies; therefore, the requirement set forth in Article 46(1)(b)
of the Convention does not apply. However, the requirement in the Convention
to exhaust domestic remedies is separate from the requirement to present the
petition within six months of the ruling that exhausts those remedies. The
Commission must therefore determine whether or not the petition was presented
within a reasonable time frame. In that regard, the IACHR observes that the
petitioner indicated that he was detained on February 8, 1998 and that on
two occasions authorities issued orders to release him that have not been
executed. Specifically, there was the February 15, 2001 letter from the Government
commissioner that referred to the order issued on June 1, 1998. The IACHR
notes that the original petition was lodged on September 21, 2000. In light
of the particular circumstances of this petition, the IACHR feels that it
was presented within a reasonable time frame.
c. Duplication of proceedings and res judicata
Neither party has claimed that the subject of this petition is pending in
another international proceeding for settlement or that it is substantially
the same as one previously studied by the Commission or by another international
organization. The Commission therefore feels that the requirements
set forth in Articles 46(1)(c) and 47(d) of the Convention have been met.
d. Characterization of the events
In this case, the petitioner did not invoke any specific standards in the
American Convention, the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of
Man, or any other applicable international instrument. Neither the Convention
nor the Rules of Procedure require petitioners to specify which Articles they
feel were violated. In this regard, Articles 46 and 47 of the American
Convention lay out the requirements for the admission of petitions; those
requirements do not include specifying which Articles the petitioner alleges
were violated. Moreover, Article 32 of the Commissions Regulations that
were in effect at the time the initial petition was lodged lists the elements
that a petition must contain when it is presented. Article 32(c) of those
Regulations provides for the possibility that "no specific reference
is made to the article(s) alleged to have been violated." Article 28
of the Rules of Procedure that took effect May 1, 2001 indicates that one
requirement for petitions to be considered is that they must contain, inter
alia: "(d) an account of the act or situation that is denounced,
specifying the place and date of the alleged violations." It does not
however require petitioners to specify which Articles allegedly were violated
through the denounced events.
The Commission feels that the original petition
and the additional information provided contain all the facts that could be
relevant to arrive at a legal decision.
The petitioners claims regarding his alleged illegal detention, as well
as the failure to have him appear before a competent judge and to execute
the order to release him, if proven, could characterize violations of the
rights to personal liberty (Article 7), a fair trial (Article 8), and judicial
protection (Article 25) enshrined in the American Convention.
The Commission therefore finds that the petition cannot be rejected, pursuant
to the provisions of Articles 47(b) and (c) of the Convention.
Upon examining this case, the Commission concludes that it is competent
to hear the case and that the petitioners allegations regarding violations
of his rights enshrined in Articles 7, 8, and 25 of the American Convention
are admissible pursuant to Articles 46 and 47 of the Convention. The Commission
further decides to notify the parties of this decision and to publish it and
include it in its Annual Report to the OAS General Assembly.
Based on the foregoing de facto
and de jure arguments,
INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS,
To declare this petition
admissible in relation to the alleged violation of the rights enshrined in
Articles 7, 8, and 25 of the American Convention, pursuant to Articles
46 and 47 of the Convention.
To notify the parties of this decision.
3. To continue to examine the merits of the case.
To publish this decision and include it in its Annual Report
to the OAS General Assembly.
and signed at the headquarters of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights,
in Washington, D.C., on the third of December, 2001.
(Signed:) Claudio Grossman, President; Juan Méndez, First Vice-President;
Marta Altolaguirre, Second Vice-President; Commissioners Hélio Bicudo, Robert
K. Goldman, Peter Laurie, and Julio Prado Vallejo.
Court of Human Rights, Velásquez Rodríguez
case, Judgment of July 29, 1988,
para. 135 and 136.
 IACHR, Report Nº
28/96, Case 11.297, Guatemala, October 16,
1996, para. 43.
Rodríguez case, Judgment of July 29, 1988, para. 138.
IACHR, Report Nº 28/96,
Case 11.297, Guatemala, October
1996, para. 45.
 The IACHR has previously defined a victim to be every person
protected by the Convention as established generically in Article 1(1)
in accordance with the regulations establishing the rights and freedoms
specifically recognized therein. See:
1998 Annual Report. Report No. 39/99, Mevopal Petition, Argentina.
See: Second paragraph in fine of the Preamble to the American Convention.
 See Inter-American
Court of Human Rights, Velásquez Rodríguez
case, Preliminary Objections, Judgment of June 26, 1987, para.
88. See also: IACHR Report Nº 30/96, Case 10.897,
Guatemala, October 16,
1996, para. 35
and Report Nº 53/96, Case
8074, Guatemala, December 6,
1996. 1996 Annual Report of the IACHR. And Report Nº 25/94, Case 10.508,
Guatemala, September 22,
1994, page. 52. 1994 Annual
Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
 Inter-American Court of
Human Rights, Velásquez Rodríguez case, Preliminary Objections, Judgment of June
1987, Series C, Nº
1, para. 8; Fairén Garbi and Solis Corrales
case, Preliminary Objections, Judgment of June
1987, Series C, No.
2, para. 87; Gangaram Panday case, Preliminary Objections, Judgment of December
1991, Series C, Nº
12, para. 38; and Loayza
Tamayo case, Preliminary Objections,
Judgment of January 31,
1996, Series C, Nº
25, para. 40.
Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Hilaire case, Judgment of September
1, 2001, para 40.