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).




A. General Observations

1. 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:

Mr. President:

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.

2. 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 deposited.

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 consideration.

(s) Andrés Aguilar


3. 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 terms:

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 distinguished consideration.

(s) Georges Salomon


4. The rules quoted by the President of the Commission in his note of February 3, 1978 are contained in the resolution quoted below:



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 investigation,

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:

a. The Commission shall determine the composition of the special Commission responsible for on-site observations;

b. The Special Commission or any of its members shall be able to interview, freely and in private, persons, groups, entities or institutions, the Government being obligated to grant the pertinent guarantees to all those who may give the Commission information, testimony or evidence of any kind;

c. The members of the special Commission shall be able to travel freely throughout the country, and shall be provided for that purpose with an official travel document issued by the Government for their identification;

d. The government shall assure the availability of local transportation facilities;

e. The members of the special Commission shall have access to the jails and all other detention and interrogation centers, and shall be able to interview in private those persons sentenced or detained;

f. The government shall provide the special Commission with any document or information regarding the observance of human rights that it may consider necessary for the preparation of its report;

g. The Special Commission shall be able to use any appropriate method to collect, record and reproduce information that it considers pertinent;

h. The government shall adopt appropriate measures of security for the protection of the special Commission;

i. The government shall assure the availability of adequate lodging for the members of the Commission.

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.

B. Organization and Work of the Special Commission

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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 organizations.

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 present report.

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.

5. 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 work.

C. Sources

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 other persons.

D. Organization of the Report

1. 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.

2. 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.

E. Updating of the Current Report

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 Haiti.

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.


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