University of Minnesota

Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti, Inter-Am. C.H.R., OEA/Ser.L/v/II.88, Doc. 10 rev. (1995).




300. Based on the account of the development of the political and human rights situation in Haiti in 1994, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights offers the following conclusions and recommendations.

301. The deterioration in the human rights situation in the first eight months covered by this report (January-August) had a devastating impact on the Haitian people as a result of the violence against them by the military dictatorship.

302. Subsequently, with the change in the political situation resulting from the military occupation of Haiti by the Multinational Force, pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 940, enabling constitutional President Jean- Bertrand Aristide to be reinstated, the Commission notes the beginning of fundamental changes, especially in the human rights situation. The departure of the dictatorial regime put an end to the general climate of terror and human rights violations that prevailed in Haiti, and enabled political activities to resume in many areas of the country and substantial freedom of the press to be reinstituted. However, the Commission is aware that serious problems inherited from the military regime remain for the constitutional government to deal with as soon as possible to keep them from endangering the newly formed democracy.

303. The systematic oppression during the military regime was designed to wipe out any kind of organized activity, freedom of speech and of assembly, and any activity in support of the democratic regime. Cases of arbitrary arrest, beatings, illegal raids, confiscation and burning of property, forced disappearances and torture increased during the year covered by this report, compelling the victims and their families to abandon their homes and go into hiding, thereby trampling on the rights of the children. The continuing flight of the people inhibited their ability to organize, thereby weakening the political, social and economic structures that might have threatened the illegal de facto regime. As a consequence of this oppression, the guarantees set forth in articles 4, 5, 7, 8, 13, 15, 21 and 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights, of which Haiti has been a party since 1977, were violated.

304. In early January 1994, the military regime applied new oppressive methods, which were particularly effective in terrorizing the people, including rape of women for their militancy and or their association with militant family members favoring the return of President Aristide. In Haiti, those rapes were an instrument of repression for political purposes. The intent of those responsible was to destroy any democratic movement through the terror created by those sexual crimes. The Commission considers that this kind of rape constitutes a form of torture within the meaning of article 5 (2) of the American Convention.

305. Massacres against rural populations, under the guise of putting down rebel groups, and the appearance in the streets of Port-au-Prince of badly disfigured and mutilated corpses, were also used as an instrument of oppression and political intimidation. The Commission noted that the right to life set forth in Article 4 of the American Convention was one of the rights most commonly violated, reaching such a level of extreme cruelty that entire towns were surrounded by the military and the people were murdered indiscriminately.

306. Currently, disarming the people is one the most serious problems confronted by the constitutional government of Haiti. Widespread possession of weapons endangers the stability of the new regime and prevents the establishment of the rule of law. In this regard, the Commission considers that specific measures should be taken immediately to disarm the people completely. Although the Multinational Force purchased and confiscated around 19,000 weapons, the weapons and the apparatus of the dictatorship have not been completely replaced in some areas of the country. They continue to be the cause of insecurity and fear in the people, particularly in those areas not reached by the Multinational Force.

307. The Commission is aware of the difficulties in completely disarming the people, but it considers that the Haitian Government, and the Multinational Force should redouble their efforts and continue searching for hidden weapons still in the possession of the section chiefs, the "attachés," "macoutes" or FRAPH members that enable them to continue to stir up violence. Moreover, the constitutional government should implement a strict control program on the possession of weapons, which is permitted under the Constitution so long as they are registered with the police. With new registration, existing permits would be canceled and only those issued by the new police would be accepted.

308. The colaboration of the Haitian Armed Forces with the Multinational Force has in some cases created an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion among the people. For example, the fact that complaints and information on weapons possession or hiding places provided to the Multinational Force is checked by the Haitian military casts doubt on the effectiveness of the disarmament process. Moreover, the detention by the Multinational Force of known "attachés" or "macoutes", who are then turned over to the police, who in turn releases them, results in a prevailing sense of insecurity so that "marronage" (going into hiding) persists.

309. The Commission notes with satisfaction that the necessary steps are being taken to set up a new police service under the civilian control of the Ministry of Justice, and that there are plans to establish a Police Academy to train members of an independent and efficient police service. However, it is essential for the Haitian Government to apply criteria in selecting police personnel which ensure that persons with records of human rights violations are not selected. In making these selections, it would also be important to have the assistance of the OAS/UN Civilian Mission, which has a vast amount of information on the human rights violations that occurred during the dictatorship.

310. The Commission is convinced that to achieve genuine human rights protection for the Haitian people and to ensure that perpetrators of criminal acts are brought to justice, the judicial system will have to be substantially reformed as soon as possible. While plans and programs have been initiated to reorganize the judiciary, it is urgently necessary to implement training programs to ensure that there is in place a judicial system that will be able to deal with the people's present problems.

311. The problem of the lack of an effective judicial system is closely linked with the absence of a police force that can gain the people's confidence and maintain law and order. Starting with the 1991 coup d'état, the judiciary has been dominated by the military which installed a majority of the justices of peace and judicial officials, including administrative and quasi-judicial staff, such as the section chiefs. Many of these people continue in their posts despite having been involved in human rights violations. This has deeply affected the morale of the people who do not dare to report or testify about crimes for fear of encountering officials who supported the military dictatorship.

312. The Commission considers that to achieve genuine reform of the judicial system, the focus must be on persons possessing the necessary competence, moral character and impartiality. It is essential for the international community to make every effort to provide human and material resources to achieve this important goal. The Commission is pleased that countries such as the United States, France, and Canada, along with the UN and the OAS, have demonstrated their interest in helping to rebuild Haiti's legal institutions.

313. In respect of the situation in the detention centers, the Commission found that the prison system inherited by the constitutional government is in crisis. The National Penitentiary should be shut down because it is far below minimum international standards. The government should invite international prison system experts to convert one of the military camps into a model national prison. Such camps will no longer be necessary with the planned reduction in the armed forces.

314. The Commission notes with satisfaction the democratic government's plans to transfer jurisdiction of the prisons from military to civilian control. However, it wishes to point out that the most urgent problems of the prison system should be addressed immediately. These are: insufficient food and lack of medical care, and the absence of judicial process for inmates. The Commission considers it necessary to establish a special commission, under the Justice Ministry, to review the situation of inmates immediately. International aid will be required and the Commission urges the international community to provide assistance in this activity also.

315. The institutionalized practice of unpunished violence resulting form the domination of the military over the administration of justice prevented victims of human rights violations from enjoying their right to a fair trial. The Commission considers that the government has an inescapable duty to investigate and determine responsibility for human rights violations against the Haitian people during the three-year military dictatorship. The Commission notes with satisfaction the establishment of the Justice and Truth Commission by the Haitian Government and to expresses its confidence that this institution will carry out its tasks promptly and efficiently.

316. Reestablishment of the constitutional government in Haiti and economic aid programs by the international community have created a promising climate both inside and outside the country. In particular, great expectations have arisen among the Haitian people, who have long suffered from every kind of deprivation. The economic and social situation in Haiti is characterized by economic stagnation and widespread unemployment. Lack of basic public services such as water and electricity, plus insanitary conditions and malnutrition suffered by most Haitians, underscore the urgent need to provide financial assistance and technical cooperation from the international community to assist in the development of the country. Unfortunately, the delay in furnishing financial aid has made it impossible to meet these needs to improve the daily life of the poorest sectors of the country, which has generated frustration among them. It is crucial for the country's economic capacity to be bolstered as soon as possible by aid from the international community.

317. Pursuant to the duties assigned it by the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights, the Commission will continue its efforts to protect and promote human rights in Haiti, and it reaffirms its continued cooperation with the constitutional government of the Republic of Haiti.


Home || Treaties || Search || Links