Last Updated: Friday, 19 September 2014, 13:55 GMT

U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1996 - Haiti

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1997
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1996 - Haiti, 30 January 1997, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa2438.html [accessed 22 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1997

 

Haiti's second democratically elected President, Rene Preval, took office on February 7, continuing the significant progress in the transition to democracy that began with the restoration of deposed former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in October 1994. The parliamentary democracy provided for in the 1987 Constitution was put into effect with the installation in 1995 of the bicameral, 110-member National Assembly. This body, for the first time, took up its responsibilities to direct government spending and serve as a counterweight to executive authority. Mayors and local councils, also elected in 1995, reflected broad, popular participation in democratic local government. Elections for some complementary local government bodies called for in the Constitution had not been organized by year's end. The judicial system – while theoretically independent – remained weak and corrupt after decades of government interference and corruption.

Then-president Aristide revoked the commissions of the majority of members of the former Haitian armed forces in January 1995, and he also asked parliament to take up a constitutional amendment to abolish the armed forces. The legislature will be constitutionally able to do so at the end of its term, in 1999. The newly deployed civilian Haitian National Police (HNP) is the first police force that meets constitutional provisions. The 5,200-officer force assumed full responsibilities on December 6, 1995, when then-President Aristide dissolved the interim police force and integrated its 1,598 members – 699 former soldiers and 899 former migrants – into the HNP. Other elements of the post-crisis security forces – the Presidential Security Unit, National Palace Residential Guard, and the Ministerial Security Corps – were gradually integrated into the national police structure. Over the course of the year, the HNP leadership, in cooperation with the international community, undertook a serious training and development effort to improve officers' skills, increase accountability, and bring the force into compliance with international standards. The United Nations Support Mission in Haiti (UNSMIH) has about 1,300 peacekeeping troops and 300 civilian police responsible for assisting the Government to maintain a secure and stable environment. Several mayors have created quasi-official forces to serve as municipal police. These groups lack legal standing, authority to carry weapons, or legitimate powers of arrest. The Port-au-Prince quasi-official force numbers about 60 men; that of Delmas, an adjoining suburb, about 30. The mayors of several other towns have much smaller corps. Some members of local government councils (CASEC's) have assumed arrest authority in defiance of the law. Members of the HNP, the other security forces, and the informal municipal police committed some serious human rights abuses.

Haiti is an extremely poor country, with a per capita income of about $260. It has a market-based economy with state enterprises controlling such sectors as telecommunications and utilities. The majority of the population works in subsistence agriculture, earns less than the average income, and lives in extreme poverty. A small, traditional elite controls much of the country's wealth. A small part of the urban labor force works in the industrial and assembly sectors. Assembled goods – textiles, leather goods, handicrafts, and electronics – are a major source of export revenue. Other important exports are mangoes, coffee, and sisal.

The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens, continuing the overall improvement in the human rights climate since the end of the military regime. However, a significant number of serious abuses occurred, and cases of abuse remained steady in frequency and severity during the course of the year. Persons linked to palace security forces killed 2 opposition politicians, and the police killed at least 19 persons. Police officers shot and killed 16 persons while making arrests or controlling demonstrations and wounded more than 30 others in these situations. Police were also responsible for more than 86 cases of mistreatment of detainees, including repeated, severe beatings and psychological pressure during interrogations. The HNP Director General, following the recommendations of his Inspector General, fired at least 15 officers and placed 12 in detention pending prosecution for human rights abuses; he disciplined others for misconduct. The Inspector General, however, was slow in tackling politically sensitive cases. The police leadership made some progress in addressing management weaknesses which limit accountability for police misconduct, but many senior and midlevel positions remained unfilled.

Although independent in theory, in practice the judiciary is weak and corrupt. The Government plans sweeping judicial reforms, but Parliament had not passed a proposed reform law by year's end. The weak judicial system remained incapable of processing detainees in accordance with the law, and a large proportion of crimes, including some that may have had political motivations, remain unsolved. The authorities on occasion restricted freedom of assembly and illegally detained more than 30 persons who were members of the political opposition. Other arbitrary arrests, the clogged judicial docket, lengthy pretrial detention, poor prison conditions, illegal searches, and vigilante activity – including killings – also contributed to widespread human rights violations. Societal discrimination against women and abuse of children remain problems, particularly the widespread practice of rural families sending young children to the larger cities to work as unpaid domestics (restaveks).

The Government's limited effort to redress the legacy of human rights abuse from the 1991-94 period met largely with failure. The public prosecutor mishandled the trial of those suspected of killing former Justice Minister Guy Malary, and a jury acquitted the two suspects. Other important cases, such as those from the April 1994 Raboteau killings, languished in the courts. Judicial officials failed to begin processing many other complaints, although a few convictions were obtained. The Justice Ministry did not widely disseminate the report of the National Truth and Justice Commission and did not implement its recommendations, including that of compensation for victims.

Respect for Human Rights

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

Political and extrajudicial killings by the authorities increased slightly in 1996 compared with 1995, while remaining far fewer in number than during the 1991-94 period, according to UNSMIH reports, the HNP Inspector General, and other sources. In August persons linked to palace security forces killed two opposition politicians, Jacques Fleurival and pastor Antoine Leroy, apparently in the course of an illegal arrest. Separately, a member of the palace guard was reportedly linked to the June murder of the mayor of Chansolme, a small town in the northwest.

HNP members killed at least 19 persons. Police officers and ministerial security guards killed five persons in a chaotic police operation against armed gangs in Cite Soleil on March 6; they killed two other suspects who fired upon the police. In one June incident, police detained four suspects, drove them to a remote area, shot them, and left them for dead; two survived. In another incident in June, police at the Croix-de-Bouquets station shot two detainees, deposited one corpse in the latrine, and beat two other detainees to death. Police were also responsible for 16 additional deaths when officers used excessive force in making arrests or controlling demonstrations. Among them were five men shot when police caught them in a pickup truck filled with arms and ammunition in Delmas on November 5; one body examined later in the morgue had handcuffs on one wrist.

The quasi-official security force attached to the Port-au- Prince mayor's office probably was responsible for the summary execution of three persons suspected of theft in August.

Unknown perpetrators killed 11 police officers, including several cases in which political motives cannot be excluded. Estimates of the number of former soldiers killed by unknown persons in August and September – possibly in retaliation for the ex-soldiers' perceived role in antigovernment activity – range from 2 to 30. Instances of mob killings of suspected criminals continued to exceed 100. In one case in March in Morne Cabrit, a crowd stoned to death three suspected bandits, tortured a fourth, killed him with machetes, and hung the corpse upside down from a tree by the roadside. Except in the Morne Cabrit incident, the authorities rarely took action in these cases.

The public prosecutor (the Port-au-Prince Commissaire du Gouvernement) had the responsibility to investigate the deaths of Leroy and Fleurival. The Government suspended the chief of palace security, his deputy, and seven Presidential Security Unit guards allegedly at the scene and dismissed the member of the palace guard linked to the Chansolme mayor's death. The police Inspector General completed reports on several cases of summary execution or excessive force, and the Director General subsequently took disciplinary action – including 15 dismissals as well as suspensions and letters of reprimand. Due to weak or nonexistent mid-level supervisory leadership, however, some officers dismissed for misconduct returned to duty or continued to draw pay. The Government brought to trial two suspects in the 1993 political killing of Justice Minister Guy Malary. In part because of poor preparation by the prosecutor, the jury acquitted both suspects. As a result, the authorities postponed planned trials for other serious human rights abusers, including those suspected of the April 1994 killings at Raboteau.

There was no progress in resolving past killings such as those of Mireille Durocher Bertin, Jean Marie Vincent, and Claudy Musseau. The National Police's Special Investigative Unit continued to investigate notorious human rights abuses from previous years – including high-profile killings committed following then-President Aristide's return in 1994 – but only the Malary case was brought to trial.

b. Disappearance

There were no credible reports of politically motivated disappearances.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The 1987 Constitution prohibits the use of unnecessary force or restraint, psychological pressure, or brutality by the security forces. However, training of police in human rights provisions of the Constitution is still limited, and members of the security forces frequently violated these provisions. Police officers used excessive – and often deadly – force in making arrests or controlling demonstrations and wounded more than 30 in such situations. The police also continued to beat demonstrators in a few instances.

The National Police tortured suspects in isolated incidents. In one particularly serious case, police chained several detainees suspected of drug trafficking to a tree and beat them over a period of 3 days. One victim was pregnant and shortly afterward miscarried. The U.N. mission noted unconfirmed reports that police in two stations used electricity to torture detainees.

Cases in which the National Police mistreated detainees – sometimes severely – increased dramatically in 1996. The UN/OAS International Civilian Mission (ICM) documented 86 instances of mistreatment in the first 5 months of 1996, and such violations of human rights continued throughout the year. Most often, police beat suspected members of armed gangs during the course of interrogation, sometimes with objects such as weapons or plastic pipe. Reported measures of psychological pressure during interrogations include blindfolding or using hoods on suspects, issuing death threats, and holding detainees under running water. Other victims had their heads shaved. The HNP is investigating the majority of cases documented in the ICM report.

Other abuses of police authority also resulted in cruel treatment of citizens. In July a police officer shot a female acquaintance in the vagina following a dispute. Police on leave were likely responsible for wounding seven persons during a public festival the same month. In sporadic cases, off-duty officers also used their weapons in disputes with taxi drivers or in nightclubs.

The quasi-official forces connected, respectively, to the Port- au-Prince and Delmas mayoralties on several occasions beat female vendors who allegedly were violating market rules.

Prison conditions remained poor. Prisoners and detainees, held in overcrowded and inadequate facilities, continued to suffer from inadequate basic hygiene, 24-hour confinement to cells, and poor quality health care. Overcrowding in certain regional facilities worsened dramatically. In Gonaives, for example, the prisoner population increased fivefold, exacerbating already overcrowded conditions and posing a threat to the health and life of prisoners there. Prison observers noted that, on occasion, prisoners claimed that guards beat their charges.

The Government, with the help of the international community, made some progress in improving prison conditions. Prisoners nationwide generally received two adequate meals per day – a substantial improvement over 1995, when seven persons in the national penitentiary died of a vitamin deficiency. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) funded the installation of rudimentary clinics in the country's prisons. The Government failed, however, to keep these facilities adequately stocked with medicines and other health care supplies. It also failed to develop and enforce consistent standards of overall prisoner care.

Persons detained in politically sensitive cases were often kept in police station holding cells, rather than in regular prison facilities. These and other holding cell detainees depended largely on their families for food and medicine; the Government made no provision for their care. In some cases, police officers used their personal funds to buy food for such persons.

The authorities freely permit the ICRC, the Haitian Red Cross, the ICM, and other human rights groups to enter prisons and police stations, monitor conditions, and assist prisoners with medical care, food, and legal aid.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution stipulates that a person may be arrested only if apprehended during the commission of a crime or if a judicial warrant has been issued. The authorities must bring the detainee before a judge within 48 hours of arrest. However, the authorities frequently ignored these provisions in practice.

Arbitrary arrests increased significantly. The ICM estimated that, at the end of September, 57 persons were awaiting trial on charges of threatening state security. In July and August, the Government arrested some 30 persons – members of the political opposition or former soldiers – on poorly substantiated charges of threatening state security. In two cases, police arrested family members – instead of the person sought – for antigovernment activity, despite the constitutional prohibition against arresting any person in place of another. Judicial officials or police subsequently released the family members. In another case, the brother of a former police chief continued to be kept in a police holding cell for "his own protection," according to the police officer in charge. Arbitrary arrests by those lacking arrest powers – some elements of the security forces, quasi-official forces, and local government councils (CASEC's) – occurred sporadically. The police also made arrests based on flawed warrants or in the presence of a justice of the peace, which is legally insufficient.

A jury acquitted two suspects in the killing of former Justice Minister Malary, but the authorities illegally kept the pair in detention while developing new charges against them for other murders.

Detainees who had never seen a judge or whose cases stagnated in the judicial system continued to crowd the prisons nationwide. An overburdened and inadequate judicial system frequently detained suspects well beyond the 48 hours permitted for arraignment, although respect for the 48-hour rule increased. Cases bound over to higher courts also languished. More than 80 percent of the inmates in the prison system were awaiting trial.

The Constitution prohibits involuntary exile of citizens. While some left the country for personal or political reasons, the Government did not make use of exile as punishment.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but the judiciary is not independent in practice. Years of rampant corruption and governmental neglect have left the judicial system poorly organized and virtually moribund. The judicial apparatus follows a civil law system based on the Napoleonic Code; the Criminal Code dates from 1832.

At the first level, the justices of the peace issue warrants, adjudicate minor infractions, take depositions, and refer cases to higher judicial officials. Investigating magistrates and public prosecutors cooperate in the development of more serious cases, which are tried by the judges of the first instance courts. Appeals courts judges hear cases referred from the first instance courts, and the Supreme Court deals with questions of procedure and constitutionality.

The Constitution provides for the right to a fair public trial, but this right was widely abridged. Unaddressed systemic weaknesses continued to contribute to a huge backlog of criminal cases, with some detainees waiting years in pretrial detention for a court date. Under the Code of Criminal Procedure, responsibility to investigate crimes is unclear, and authority to pursue cases is divided among police, prosecutors, and investigating magistrates. The code further stipulates two criminal court sessions per year, each lasting 2 weeks, to try all major crimes requiring a jury trial. Although the court system held more such sessions in more locations, the backlog continued to increase. Moreover, if an accused is ultimately tried and found innocent, he has no recourse against the Government for time served.

The Constitution expressly denies police and judicial authorities the right to interrogate persons charged with a crime unless the suspect has legal counsel present or waives this right. Nevertheless, most accused cannot afford legal counsel and the law does not require that the Government provide legal representation. Thus, despite the efforts of local human rights groups and the international community to provide legal aid, many interrogations without counsel continued to occur.

The Government devoted some effort to the task of reforming the judicial system. The Justice Ministry cooperated with international donors in providing training to sitting magistrates, improving the administration of the public prosecutors offices, strengthening judicial supervision, and establishing prison registries. In September the Government submitted to the National Assembly a draft law setting out sweeping judicial reforms, but the parliament had taken no action on the proposal by year's end.

There were no reports of political prisoners, although the Government detained some political opponents on charges of threatening state security (see Section 1.d.).

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The Constitution prohibits interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence. Police and other security force elements did, however, conduct illegal warrantless searches, particularly in connection with a high-profile kidnaping case and with alleged destabilizing activities in August and September. Members of quasi-official forces also conducted illegal searches and seizures of property.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, and the Government generally respects these rights; however, there were some exceptions. The press energetically exercised this freedom. Print media from opposite ends of the political spectrum often criticized the Government.

With an illiteracy rate of approximately 80 percent, broadcast media, especially Creole-language radio, have an unusual importance, and some 32 radio stations operate in the capital alone. Broadcast media tended to criticize the Government less than the press but freely expressed various political viewpoints. There were no reports of censorship, nor did the media appear to practice self-censorship. The government-sponsored daily newspaper remained closed following a 1995 dispute between the former information minister and the paper's editor.

Foreign journalists generally worked without hindrance, although the police did arrest one foreign reporter for photographing a corpse in the street. Police also clashed with domestic journalists at least four times, seizing cassettes and other journalistic records. Several journalists reported experiencing rough treatment at the hands of the police during these confrontations. Unknown armed individuals attacked two regional, privately owned radio stations in May, destroying transmitting equipment. Others shot at the government-owned national television headquarters in August.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The authorities generally respected the constitutional rights of freedom of assembly and association. Political parties across the spectrum were able to meet and recruit members. New political organizations, including several dedicated to the rights of former soldiers, formed. In some instances, however, unrelated law enforcement actions may have restricted these rights. Late in the year, the authorities began to release some political detainees when investigations revealed no evidence of wrongdoing.

In August police arrested 15 former soldiers, 2 party activists, and 2 other persons meeting at the Port-au-Prince headquarters of an opposition political party, the Mobilization for National Development (MDN); in February, police had harassed MDN party members outside the capital. The authorities later charged those arrested in August with threatening state security. Over the next 2 months, police arrested several other MDN members and former soldiers on similar charges and issued a warrant for the arrest of the party's secretary general, Hubert de Ronceray. In September police also arrested a less well-known opposition political figure, Carmen Christophe, a former mayor of Port-au-Prince. The leader of the opposition political party Creddo, former military ruler Prosper Avril, likewise faced a warrant for his arrest on similar charges. The authorities also conducted illegal searches with the apparent intent of harassing opposition political figure Duly Brutus and members of his family.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for the right to practice all religions and faiths, provided that practice does not disturb law and order, and the Government respected this right. The Government did not restrict missionary activities, affiliation with overseas coreligionists, or religious instruction or publishing.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

There are no legal restrictions on the movement of citizens within the country. An unknown number of undocumented migrants put to sea seeking better economic opportunities in other countries.

The Government operated a national migration office to assist citizens repatriated from other countries, notably the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic.

The Government has no policy regarding foreign nationals seeking refuge or asylum from third countries; no such cases were reported. The issue of provision of first asylum did not arise.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

The Constitution provides for regular elections for local and parliamentary offices and for the presidency. Voters elected officials to the national and local governments in a series of free and fair elections in 1995, although administrative incompetence marred the early rounds of the legislative and local elections. Elections for the Senate, where one-third of the seats were due to become vacant at year's end, and for some complementary local government bodies called for in the Constitution were months behind schedule. The Government constituted a new Provisional Electoral Council in November, and it scheduled Senate and local elections for March 1997.

No legal impediments to women's participation in politics or government exist. The generally lower status of women, however, limits their participation in these fields. Of the 83 members of the Chamber of Deputies, 3 are women. The 27-member Senate has none. President Preval named a few women to prominent positions in his Government, including the Women's Affairs Minister, the Secretaries of State for Tourism and Justice, and the Presidential spokesperson. The President also placed some female advisers on his palace staff.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

A wide variety of human rights groups operated without government restriction, commenting on human rights cases. The Government tolerated their views but was rarely responsive to their recommendations. About a dozen local human rights groups monitored conditions in the country, with some working on civic education and legal aid as well.

In August the Government requested and received an extension of the UN/OAS International Civilian Mission's mandate to December. The ICM investigated all reports of human rights violations, issued periodic reports and press releases, conducted civic education, and trained local human rights groups. The ICM also worked with the Government in a variety of ways to develop its institutional capacity to prevent and provide redress for human rights abuses.

The National Coalition for Haitian Rights (formerly the National Coalition for Haitian Refugees) was the only other international human rights organization to maintain a permanent presence. Representatives of other international human rights organizations visited freely from time to time. The ICRC was active throughout the year, particularly in prison renovation and assistance to prisoners.

The National Truth and Justice Commission, chartered by President Aristide in 1994 to document the abuses of the previous regime, presented its report to the Government in late January. The Justice Ministry did not disseminate the report widely, however, and the Commission's recommendations for redress and judicial reform remained unimplemented at year's end.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

The 1987 Constitution does not specifically prohibit discrimination on the grounds of race, sex, religion, disability, language, or social status. It does provide for equal working conditions regardless of sex, beliefs, or marital status. However, there is no effective governmental mechanism to administer or enforce these provisions.

Women

Domestic violence against women and rape occur, but most victims and witnesses do not report these crimes to the police. The Haitian Center for Research and Action for the Promotion of Women published a preliminary report of a 1995 survey of 1,705 Haitian women. Of that group, 37 percent stated that they or someone they knew had been raped or otherwise sexually abused; in 42 percent of these cases, the assailant had no familial or other close connection with the victim. Of those interviewed, 33 percent reported that they or someone they knew had been the victim of other types of physical violence. Nearly two-thirds of the victims had never reported the abuse, most for fear of public shame or of retribution from their assailants, but some because they felt judicial penalties were insufficient. The law provides penalties for these crimes, but the authorities do not enforce these provisions adequately.

The Ministry of Women's Affairs is charged with promoting and defending the rights of women and ensuring that they attain an equal status in society, but it did little in this regard. In December Parliament proposed elimination of the Ministry.

Women do not enjoy the same social and economic status as men. In some social strata, tradition limits women's roles. Peasant women, often the breadwinner for their family, remain largely in the traditional occupations of farming, marketing, and domestic labor. Very poor urban women, who head their families and serve as its economic support, also often find their employment opportunities limited to traditional roles in domestic labor and marketing. Laws governing child support recognize the widespread practice of multiple-father families but are rarely enforced. Well-educated women have, however, occupied prominent positions in both the private and public sector in recent years.

Children

The Government's programs do not promote or defend children's rights. Government health care and education programs for children are inadequate or nonexistent. Poorer families sometimes ration education money to pay school fees for male children only.

Rural families continued to send young children to serve as unpaid domestic labor for more affluent city dwellers, a practice cited by a 1991 U.N. study as an example of slavery in the 20th century. One international organization estimated in 1996 that 240,000 to 300,000 children are victims of this practice, called "restavek" (which means "lives with" in Creole). It is not limited to the wealthy class, as middle and lower class families also use restavek children. Employers compel the children to work long hours, provide them little nourishment, and frequently beat and abuse them. The Ministry of Social Affairs believes that many restavek children are mistreated.

Local human rights groups do not report on the plight of restavek children as an abuse or seek to improve their situation. The Ministry of Social Affairs believes that it can do little to stop this practice, regarding it as economically motivated; the Ministry assigned three monitors to oversee the welfare of restavek children. Society holds such children in little regard, and the poor state of the economy worsened their situation. Port-au-Prince's large population of street children includes many runaway restaveks.

People with Disabilities

The Constitution provides that disabled persons shall have the means to ensure their autonomy, education, and independence. However, there is no legislation to implement these constitutional provisions or to mandate provision of access for people with disabilities. Although they do not face overt ill-treatment, given the severe poverty in which most Haitians live, those with disabilities face a particularly harsh existence.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Some 99 percent of Haitians are descendants, in whole or in part, of African slaves who won their war of independence from France in 1804. The remaining population is of European, Middle Eastern, North American, or Latin American origin. The law makes no distinction based on race. Longstanding social and political animosities are often tied to cultural identification, skin color, and overlapping issues of class, in this starkly inegalitarian society. Some of these animosities date back to before Haiti's revolutionary period.

The Government recognizes two official languages: Creole, which is spoken by virtually all Haitians; and French, which is spoken by about 20 percent of the population, including the economic elite. The inability to communicate in French has long limited the political and economic opportunities available to the majority of the population. The Government prepared most documents only in French, and, despite the Justice Minister's order to use Creole in the courts, judges conducted most legal proceedings exclusively in French. Creole was, however, the language chosen for parliamentary debate in the lower house.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The Constitution and the Labor Code provide for the right of association and provide workers, including those in the public sector, the right to form and join unions without prior government authorization. The law protects union activities and prohibits a closed shop. The law also requires a union, which must have a minimum of 10 members, to register with the Social Affairs Ministry within 60 days of its formation.

Six principal labor federations represented about 5 percent of the total labor force, including about 2 to 3 percent of labor in the industrial sector. Each maintained some fraternal relations with various international labor organizations.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The Labor Code protects trade union organizing activities and stipulates fines for those who interfere with this right. Unions were generally free to pursue their goals, although the Government made little effort to enforce the law. Organized labor activity was concentrated in the Port-au-Prince area, in state enterprises, the civil service, and the assembly sector. The high unemployment rate and antiunion sentiment among some factory workers limited the success of union organizing efforts.

Collective bargaining continued to be nonexistent, and employers set wages unilaterally. The Labor Code does not distinguish between industries producing for the local market and those producing for export. Employees in the export- oriented assembly sector enjoyed better-than-average wages and benefits.

There are no export processing zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Labor Code prohibits forced or compulsory labor. The Government failed to enforce this law, however, and children continued to be subjected to forced domestic labor (see Section 5).

d. Minimum Age of Employment for Children

The minimum employment age in all sectors is 15 years. Fierce adult competition for jobs ensured that child labor is not a factor in the industrial sector. Children under the age of 15 commonly worked at informal sector jobs to supplement family income. The International Labor Organization criticized the Ministry of Social Affairs' enforcement of child labor laws as inadequate.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The legal minimum daily wage is about $2.40 (36 gourdes). Annually, a minimum wage worker would earn about $800, an income considerably above the national average but sufficient only to permit a worker and family to live in very poor conditions. The majority of Haitians work in subsistence agriculture, a sector where minimum wage legislation does not apply.

The Labor Code governs individual employment contracts. It sets the standard workday at 8 hours, and the workweek at 48 hours, with 24 hours of rest on Sunday. The code also establishes minimum health and safety regulations. The industrial and assembly sectors largely observed these guidelines. The Ministry of Social Affairs did not, however, enforce workhours or health and safety regulations.

With more than 50 percent of the population unemployed, workers were not able to exercise the right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to continued employment.

Search Refworld

Countries