RIGHT OF ASSEMBLY AND RIGHT OF ASSOCIATION
American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man
Every person has the right to assemble peacefully with others in a formal public meeting or an informal gathering, in connection with matters of common interest of any nature.
Every person has the right to associate with others to promote, exercise and protect his legitimate interests of a political, economic, religious, social, cultural, professional, labor union or other nature.1
1. Articles 31 and 32 of the Constitution of Haiti guarantee the rights of assembly and association. These articles read as follows:
Haitians may assemble peaceably and without arms, even for the purpose of discussing political affairs, without prior authorization, in conformity with the laws governing the exercise of this right. This provision shall not apply to public gatherings which shall be entirely subject to police regulations (Article 31).
Haitians shall have the right of association, of forming political parties, labor unions and cooperatives (Article 32).
2. The right of assembly guaranteed by the Constitution has been seriously restricted in practice, mainly for political reasons, by the measures taken by the government to prevent the organization and development of political parties in the country.
3. Moreover, Article 31 on the right of assembly is one of those articles that the Legislature has often suspended, as it has done at the present time (Decree of September 19, 1978).
4. While the right of association was not one of the rights suspended by the Legislature, it was severely limited by Article 236(bis) of the 1948 Penal Code, which requires government authorization to form a group of more than 20 persons desiring to meet regularly for religious, literary, political or other purposes. The text of this regulation is as follows: “No association of more than 20 persons whose purpose is to meet daily or on certain regular days, to discuss religious, literary, political or other matters may be formed except with the consent of the government, and under such conditions as the authorities may wish to set. The total number of persons indicated in this article shall not include those persons living in the house where the association is meeting.”
5. This article may also serve to prevent any political group or association, no matter what its nature, from acting freely.
6. One of the matters that was of particular interest to the Special Commission was trade union freedom. This is what prompted members of the Commission to visit a number of factories to interview workers. It is evident that, far from being promoted, unionization is discouraged by intimidation. The workers consulted said that they wanted to form trade unions, but were afraid of losing their jobs if they were active in this area. At the Ciment d’Haiti, the Special Commission met with union groups, one of which had been elected by middle management and the other by the blue-collar workers. It was alleged that the firm tolerated the relatively moderate demands of these groups so that it could show that trade union freedom did indeed exist. The Special Commission also notes the fact that there are no labor federations or confederations operating in Haiti.
1 American Convention on Human Rights
Article 15. Right of Assembly
The right of peaceful assembly, without arms, is recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and necessary in a democratic society in the interest of national security, public safety or public order, or to protect public health or morals or the rights or freedom of others.
Article 16. Freedom of Association
1. Everyone has the right to associate freely for ideological, religious, political, economic, labor, social, cultural, sports, or other purposes.
2. The exercise of this right shall be subject only to such restrictions established by law as may be necessary in a democratic society, in the interest of national security, public safety or public order, or to protect public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others.
3. The provisions of this article do not bar the imposition of legal restrictions, including even deprivation of the exercise of the right of association, on members of the armed forces and the police.