University of Minnesota

Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti, Inter-Am. C.H.R., OEA/Ser.L/V/II.77, Doc. 18 rev. 1 (1990).




266. 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.

267. 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 population.

268. 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.

269. 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.

270. 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 chiefs.

271. 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.

272. 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.

273. 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.

274. 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.



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