University of Minnesota

Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti, Inter-Am. C.H.R., OEA/Ser.L/V/II.46, Doc. 66 rev. 1 (1979).




Following its on-site observation in Haiti, and in consideration of the other evidence listed in the present report, the Commission has reached the following conclusions:

1. Two stages in the observance of human rights can be distinguished in Haiti: a. the first is characterized by the nonobservance of human rights, the right to life, personal security or personal freedom, or the right to due process. B. the second stage, which began in 1971. During the visit, there were certain indications that the current government wishes to improve the situation with regard to respect for an observance of human rights. The President of the Republic expressed his intention personally to the Special Commission. Nevertheless, the Commission has information of events that have happened and on legal acts passed after the visit of the Special Commission, which leads it to believe that this intention has not been carried out.

2. During the latter period, the right to life was violated particularly in 1975 and 1976; it has in fact been proven that numerous people died in summary executions or during their stay in prison, or because of lack of medical care. It should nonetheless be observed that there has been a notable improvement as regards this right.

3. There are reliable indicators that many individuals were victims of torture inflicted in certain cases by the neighborhood chiefs, both during interrogations after arrests and during imprisonment.

4. It has been proven that numerous persons are detained without having benefited from any form of legal procedure, and without having access to an attorney. There is no clear-cut separation of powers in Haiti. Legal guarantees are seriously restricted by virtue of the “state of siege” that are in effect on an almost permanent basis, and by virtue of the Security Court instituted by the law of August 25, 1977, establishing procedures with limited guarantees as to the right of a legal defense. The Judiciary does not appear to have the independence necessary to exercise its functions.

5. It may be said that freedom of inquiry, opinion, speech and dissemination of thought does not exist. There are taboo questions which cannot be discussed, such as all matters concerning the President’s family, the dictatorship, the extra-budgetary revenues of the Régie du Tabac, etc. There is recourse to procedures such as warnings and admonitions of increasing severity to journalists, issued by the Ministry of the Interior; there is also prior censorship, closing of newspapers, threats, assaults and incarcerations.

6. Freedom of religion and freedom of worship are fully guaranteed.

7. Freedom of association is extremely restricted. Article 236(bis) of the 1948 Penal Code, which requires government authorization to form a group of more than twenty people, prevents the creation of any literary, political or other type of association. Trade union freedom does not exist as such. There are neither federations nor confederations or trade unions; the right to strike is limited. The government has made it difficult to form political parties and associations in general.

8. There have been violations of the right to residence, movement and nationality. In fact, numerous people have been exiled and, despite the amnesty, certain of them have not been able to return to the country. Likewise, numerous persons have been deprived of their nationality for their political ideas.

9. While it is true that there have been legislative elections, the law of September 19, 1978, gives the President of the Republic full powers, and suspends numerous civil and political rights and certain prerogatives of the Judiciary. Moreover, there are no political parties and the people do not effectively participate in government affairs.

10. With regard to the effectiveness of the right to education, health, welfare, and the right to work and to a fair wage, it may be said that it is almost nonexistent, particularly because of the extreme poverty, illiteracy, poor hygiene, high birth rate and high infant mortality rate, high rate of unemployment, the lack of medical materials, the low per capita income, etc., which prevent the citizens from enjoying the economic, social and cultural rights set forth in the OAS Charter and in numerous international instruments.


In light of the preceding conclusions, and taking into account the background information and the events that took place after its visit, the Commission recommends to the government of Haiti:

1. That it bring its domestic legislation into line with the provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights to which Haiti is a Party. To this end,

a. It repeal Article 236(bis) of the 1948 Penal Code which seriously hampers exercise of the right of association;

b. It repeal the law authorizing loss of citizenship, except for cases called for under international law;

c. it repeal the Press Law of September 28, 1979, which seriously hampers exercise of freedom of information.

2. That it investigate and punish those responsible for the numerous violations of the right to life and physical security.

3. That it eliminate the numerous restrictions imposed in the practice on freedom of expression and dissemination of ideas.

4. That it permit, without restriction or conditions, entry into the country of Haitian nationals who are living abroad as a result of expulsions decreed by the government, or for any other reason, and who wish to return to their country.

5. That it make the amendments needed to the Constitution so that the actual exercise of the political rights upheld in Article 23 of the American Convention can be guaranteed.

6. That it take the measures needed to improve prison conditions.

7. That it take such measures as may be necessary, using all resources available, to improve the social and economic conditions of the country, in order to lessen the inequalities which are an obstacle to observation of human rights. Cooperation will be needed from international agencies, particularly from the Organization of American States, if this is to be achieved.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights makes a special appeal to international organizations to give Haiti the aid it urgently needs to improve living conditions among the population, and to exploit its resources, so that the country can establish respect for an full enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.


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