Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 July 2014, 14:54 GMT

U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - Haiti

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1995
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - Haiti, 30 January 1995, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa3f30.html [accessed 24 July 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.
 

 

Haiti underwent profound changes in 1994. An illegal military regime, which had assumed power after ousting President Jean- Bertrand Aristide in a 1991 coup, retained firm control of the country for the first 9 months. During this time, the level of human rights abuses escalated. Meanwhile, the international community was imposing additional pressures on Haiti--including a near-total economic embargo--in response to the military leaders' failure to abide by their agreements with the international community in 1993 to step down from power.

The human rights abuses during these 9 months of the de facto regime included political and extrajudicial killings by the security forces and their allies; disappearances; and politically motivated rapes, beatings, and other mistreatment of citizens, both in and out of prison. Although the Constitution places responsibility for public security and law enforcement on the Haitian armed forces (Forces Armees d'Haiti, or FAd'H, which include the police), under the de facto regime the FAd'H and its various affiliates completely disrupted the rule of law and used their monopoly of power for financial gain as well as to subjugate and abuse the populace.

Paramilitary personnel in civilian clothes, including "attaches" and provincial section chiefs (the latter were adjuncts to the FAd'H, authorized under military regulations), both assisted the FAd'H and conducted much of the intimidation and violent repression. Other supporters, including a group that had emerged in 1993 as the Revolutionary Front for Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH), allied themselves with FAd'H leadership. FRAPH consolidated its position throughout the country in the first part of 1994, opening offices in most towns and villages, and infiltrating poorer neighborhoods.

The human rights monitors of the United Nations/Organization of American States International Civilian Mission (ICM), who returned to Haiti in late January after having left in October 1993, documented the ongoing state of repression and brought it to international attention. They were, however, themselves subject to harassment and threats from the de facto authorities and their allies. After April, lack of security confined the ICM largely to Port-au-Prince and other main cities. The de facto authorities expelled the ICM in early July 1994; afterwards, other human rights and local organizations reported an increase in violations.

On July 31, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), "gravely concerned" by the "deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Haiti, in particular the continuing escalation of the illegal de facto regime of systematic violations of civil liberties," adopted Resolution 940, which called for the formation of a multinational coalition to use "all necessary means" to remove the illegal regime and return Haiti's legitimate Government to power.

On September 19, the U.S.-led Multinational Force (MNF) peacefully entered Haiti, 1 day after an accord worked out by former President Jimmy Carter, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell, and Senator Sam Nunn, who traveled to Haiti and negotiated on behalf of the U.S. Government at the request of President Clinton. The accord required General Raoul Cedras and the military regime he headed to resign from power by October 15.

Following its deployment, the MNF worked to establish a secure and stable environment, and it restored Haitian cabinet ministers to their Ministries. Parliamentarians were able to return to their offices to work on urgent legislation, including an amnesty bill and a constitutionally mandated law to create a national police force separate from the armed forces and under the supervision of the Ministry of Justice. Following the departure of General Cedras and other leaders of the de facto regime, President Aristide returned to Haiti on October 15, culminating the restoration to power of the legitimate Government. The ICM monitors also returned during this time.

Parliament adopted the amnesty legislation in early October and the police bill in early November, as well as a law banning paramilitary forces. The Government worked with U.S. officials to evaluate members of the FAd'H and create an interim public security force of 3,500, whose training included a human rights component. This security force was deployed throughout the country by year's end, under the supervision of International Police Monitors (IPM's) from over 20 nations, and assisted by police trainees. The Government also developed plans for a new police academy to train between 3,000 and 4,000 new civilian police in 4-month intensive courses beginning in early 1995. In late December, the Government announced a reduction in FAd'H personnel from 6,000 to 3,500.

Yearend MNF reports stated that a secure and stable environment had been established and that political violence had been drastically reduced. At the same time there was a noticeable increase in crime, primarily around the capital. By the end of 1994, the executive branch had promulgated the police law but not the amnesty bill. The mandates of all members of the Chamber of Deputies, two-thirds of the Senate, and most municipal offices neared an end. All three branches agreed to select members for a Provisional Electoral Council to conduct mandated legislative and municipal elections early in 1995.

Weakened first by years of government mismanagement and then by international sanctions after the 1991 coup, the economy deteriorated drastically in 1994, and the already difficult living conditions of the general populace declined even more. While contraband gasoline continued to enter the country, its price soared, limiting citizens' ability to operate their automobiles. Fuel shortages also curtailed public transportation, isolated far-flung towns, and reduced the availability of electric power. On the return of President Aristide, however, the international community began to work with the Government to rebuild Haiti's economy. Humanitarian assistance programs were expanded, and programs to provide access to medical care continued.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

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

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

In the 5-month period until its expulsion by the de facto regime on July 13, the ICM recorded 340 cases of extrajudicial killings and suspicious deaths. In the months following the ICM's departure from Haiti, one coalition of local human rights organizations reported 41 extrajudicial killings for the month of July alone. Local organizations reported that extrajudicial killings continued at that rate in August and early September.

Prior to September 19, military and police authorities, assisted by their civilian adjuncts, were responsible for several multiple killings and "security actions." In February police killed at least six young men who belonged to a political organization in a raid on a house in the Cite Soleil neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. Police sources asserted the deaths resulted from a gang dispute. ICM monitors, however, found evidence of a well-planned police raid on the group. At the end of April, military authorities in Gonaives, who were seeking a pro-Aristide activist, opened fire on a wide area of beach in the slum area of Raboteau, killing as many as 26 persons. They asserted the action was in response to a terrorist attack on the police station, but there was no evidence of any such attack. Also in July, citizens discovered the shallow graves of 12 young men in Gressiers, near Leogane. The police asserted that the 12 were car thieves killed in a gun battle, but local residents reported hearing no shots nearby, and the police did not explain the unorthodox burial. In late June and July, the military commander in Les Cayes department instituted a series of sweeps, allegedly seeking those responsible for an attack on the military post in Camp Perrin. At least five of the men the police arrested during these sweeps died in police custody, following reported beatings and torture.

Attaches, FRAPH members, and armed urban bandits called "zenglendos" took advantage of the climate of impunity to carry out both political and criminal killings. Following the murder of a FRAPH member in late December 1993, unidentified terrorists set fires which engulfed several blocks in Cite Soleil, resulting in at least six deaths, many more missing, and hundreds left homeless. Witnesses gave evidence supporting FRAPH complicity. Armed civilians killed a group of four known Aristide supporters in a late May attack, also in Cite Soleil.

In a high-profile incident, unknown persons shot and killed Father Jean-Marie Vincent, an associate of President Aristide and former activist priest, outside the chapter house of his order in Port-au-Prince on August 28. An ambulance and police investigatory team arrived within minutes, before the killing had even been reported. A week later, an unidentified gunman killed a local attorney in a drive-by shooting, within sight of police headquarters, allegedly because of his work on a prominent murder trial. The authorities, responding to intense pressure particularly on the Vincent murder (see Section 2.c.), claimed to have undertaken investigations but they made no serious effort and never announced any results.

Through the first 9 months of 1994, residents continued to discover the bodies of persons killed by gunshot or machete in the streets of Port-au-Prince. Certain roads were particularly well-known as drop-off sites for corpses, which sometimes remained there for several days until health authorities picked them up. Given the complete lack of police or judicial investigation, it is difficult to determine how many of these were politically motivated cases, as opposed to criminal, but there is sufficient evidence to support the presumption that a significant number were, in fact, political killings. FRAPH members or other armed civilians reportedly had seized some of these persons prior to the discovery of the remains. The de facto government not only took no action to curb political killings but even accused the ICM and other human rights groups of purchasing cadavers and leaving them in the streets to discredit the military regime.

Political violence was dramatically reduced in the weeks after the entry of the MNF on September 19. While politically motivated violence continued in isolated instances, it became infrequent by early November, although there was a noticeable increase in common crime, particularly around the capital. In one instance, armed civilians attacked peaceful pro-Aristide demonstrators in Port-au-Prince with grenades on September 29, killing several people. A FRAPH attack against populist marchers September 30 resulted in two dead. Anti-Aristide elements remained, particularly in remote areas, where they killed and intimidated local inhabitants in several instances. Neighbors beat a well-known Haitian painter to death in early October; some human rights groups alleged that the assailants were attaches. The death of the deputy mayor of the central plateau town of Mirebalais, who was found beheaded in early November, may have been involved in a dispute with a local section chief. In incidents in both Port-au-Prince and the provinces, crowds beat--sometimes to death--individuals they named as attaches, members of FRAPH or, in two cases in the central plateau and northern provinces, members of the FAd'H.

The MNF also documented attacks against members of the Haitian armed forces and FRAPH adherents. Two opposition members of Parliament reported their houses were attacked during the weekend of President Aristide's return to Haiti, and mobs tore down police stations in several towns, including the capital. At the end of the year, the U.N. Secretary General reported to the UNSC that "following the arrival of the MNF and the subsequent disintegration of the FAd'H, the human rights situation has improved. Politically motivated violence and human rights abuses have decreased, though individual acts still occur sporadically and the ICM, for instance, has investigated beatings of detainees by the FAd'H. It has also received reports of violent attacks by former section chiefs, attaches, or alleged FRAPH members. Since the killing of the second deputy mayor of Mirebalais on November 4, 1994, however, the ICM has not heard of any murder ascribed to the former military or paramilitary forces."

b. Disappearance

The ICM reported 131 cases of disappearance or "seizures" from January through June, and human rights organizations continued to report disappearances throughout the summer and until the arrival of the MNF. Historically, those who disappear in Haiti either are never found or are found dead. There is credible evidence of FRAPH and attache participation in many of these reported disappearances. Information gathered by the ICM and other human rights groups, as well as that uncovered in refugee case investigations, indicates that both armed civilians and military personnel in civilian clothing seized people and took them to private "jails" where these armed groups mistreated and sometimes killed their victims.

There were no reports of disappearances after the entry of the MNF.

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

Although the 1987 Constitution prohibits unnecessary force or restraint, psychological pressure, or physical brutality, the military regime and the de facto authorities largely ignored these constitutional protections, and ill-treatment remained widespread until the entry of the MNF in September. The de facto authorities routinely employed brutal beatings with fists and clubs, torture, and other cruel treatment on detainees. When the MNF inspected the prison in Les Cayes, it found 40 detainees, some of whom had beating wounds on the buttocks which went to the bone. The de facto authorities tolerated and condoned widespread physical abuse of detainees, creating a climate of impunity which resulted in some particularly vicious activities. The authorities and their paramilitary adjuncts reputedly made use of the "djak", in which a victim is tied in a position which permits a more thorough beating by club, and of "kalot marasa," a torture technique in which the assailant claps both hands over a victim's ears simultaneously, bursting the eardrums. In the southwest town of Chardonnieres, the local corporal cut off the ear of an accused thief and carved his initials in his flesh. The authorities disciplined him--and then only nominally--only after he beat a priest who was related to a senior officer.

Paramilitary assailants (and reportedly military officers in mufti) increasingly used rape as an instrument of intimidation. The ICM registered 52 cases of politically motivated rape from January through May, and reports continued to be received after the ICM's expulsion. In some cases, the victim herself had been involved in some political activity. A more common pattern, however, was the use of rape or other sexual abuse as a means of intimidating a woman's politically active male relatives and neighbors. In some instances, assailants reportedly abused girls as young as 12 or 13 years of age. The majority of such rapes occurred in the slums of Port-au-Prince, although some cases were reported in the provinces.

Prisoners and detainees suffered from a lack of the most basic hygiene facilities as well as from inadequate food and health care, including medical treatment for injuries received in custody. In most prisons, prisoners and detainees had to rely on family to bring food and medicine; there were many reliable reports, including in both Les Cayes and Leogane, of the authorities denying families entry for that purpose. The authorities routinely violated the law by detaining children together with adults. A nongovernmental organization (NGO) that had performed prison monitoring was unable to continue in 1994, after threats and attacks forced its director into exile in late 1993. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) did, however, appoint a permanent representative in Haiti and was able to obtain permission for some monitoring from the de facto government. The ICM monitors were able only occasionally to gain access to detainees, and not at all after April. After the MNF's deployment, the ICRC continued to monitor prison conditions with a full team of delegates. Although the MNF was able to make improvements, the military regime had allowed the prisons to deteriorate so much that the Aristide Government had not been able to develop a comprehensive rehabilitation plan by year's end.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Arbitrary arrest and detention were a persistent human rights problem in Haiti since the 1991 coup. The ICM, in a last press release before its July 1994 departure, simply listed this category of violation at "several hundred."According to the Constitution, the authorities may arrest a person only if they apprehend the suspect during the commission of a crime, or if an authorized judge has issued a warrant. The authorities must bring the person before a judge within 48 hours of arrest. In practice, however, soldiers and provincial officials regularly used arbitrary arrest and detention to intimidate the people and to extort money from them. The frequency of this practice makes it difficult to determine the number of arrests on purely political grounds, but the two were often interrelated. Provincial section chiefs generally knew well the members of local grassroots organizations and reportedly detained them during times of political tension and released them upon payment of a bribe.

Police also sometimes arrested family members of a wanted man and held them to force him out of hiding. For example, police arrested 17-year-old Balaguer Metayer in November 1993 when they sought his brother in connection with "terrorism" in the Gonaives area. Despite strong international pressure and a court order in Haiti, the police held the youth until August, when they abruptly released him. Most arbitrary arrest cases pass unnoticed outside the victim's family. In some instances, international pressure succeeded in bringing about the release of some detainees, such as Aristide supporter Gardy Leblanc in Miragoane in August and an approved refugee applicant in the southern town of Chantal.

The Constitution provides for the separation of the police from the armed forces. President Aristide sent legislation to the Parliament to fulfill this provision by creating a new civilian police force under the supervision of the Ministry of Justice. After parliamentary approval, the Government promulgated the new law on December 26.

Following the restoration of the legitimate Government by the Multinational Force, the international community initiated a program to create an interim police force meeting internationally recognized human rights standards to assume public security responsibilities and to select, train, and deploy a new civilian police force. The program included four elements: International Police Monitors (IPM's), an Interim Public Security Force (IPSF), police trainees from the U.S. safe haven in Guantanamo, and a new police academy. In consultation with U.S. officials and human rights organizations, the Aristide Government evaluated former FAd'H personnel for human rights abuses and criminal activities. The nearly 3,000 personnel selected comprise the IPSF. To augment the IPSF, a group of 964 police trainees from the migrants in the U.S. safe haven in Guantanamo were selected and trained. Both the IPSF and the trainees--who assist them by performing routine police functions such as managing traffic--received training that included strong human rights components.

At year's end, the interim police had been deployed throughout the country, under the direct supervision of the over 1,000 law enforcement personnel from some 20 nations who make up the IPM's. The IPM's are deployed to each of Haiti's districts in mentor the police and monitor their activities and prevent violations of internationally recognized human rights standards.

By December, preparations by the Haitian Government and U.S. officials were well advanced for the creation of a police training facility to build a new, professional police force recruited openly and fairly from throughout Haiti. The academy, which was to open at the end of January 1995, would train an initial complement of 4,000 police in a series of 4-month courses. These new police will replace IPSF personnel as they graduate.

By the end of the year, the MNF, acting under the mandate of UNSC Resolution 940 to use all necessary means to establish a stable and secure environment, had detained approximately 30 persons, until such time as they could be turned over to a competent Haitian judicial authority for eventual disposition as may be appropriate under Haitian law.

The Constitution prohibits involuntary exile of citizens. While some have left the country voluntarily 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 and the right to a fair public trial. However, this right is widely and severely abridged, primarily because the judicial system is highly inefficient and corrupt after years of governmental neglect and popular contempt dating back to the Duvalier era. Political figures across the spectrum recognize that reform of the judicial system is critical; it is understaffed and its members lack training and adequate compensation.

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, interrogation without legal counsel present is the norm, and the use of beatings and torture to extract confessions was widespread prior to deployment of the MNF. Governments since the Duvalier era have appointed and removed judges at will and have exerted political influence at every stage of the judicial process. Although the Aristide Government has asserted it will select judges in accordance with the Constitution, the Parliament has not yet adopted legislation establishing the mechanisms necessary for selection of judicial personnel.

The Code of Criminal Procedure fails to assign clear responsibility to investigate crimes and divides authority to prosecute among police, prosecutors, and investigating magistrates. The Code stipulates two criminal court sessions per year, each lasting 2 weeks, to try all major crimes requiring a jury trial. Failure to reform the Code has resulted in a huge backlog, with detainees sometimes waiting for years in pretrial detention for a court date. For example, during the August session of the criminal assizes, the court heard only eight cases. At the beginning of September, there were 534 civil prisoners at the national penitentiary, of whom only a fraction were serving sentences. The rest were accused persons held without bail. If ultimately tried and found innocent, the detainee has no recourse against the Government for time already served.

Although the Government began to plan reforms of the judicial system, at year's end the system remained highly inefficient and corrupt, and the Government had brought to justice few perpetrators of human rights abuses. The Government did initiate a system of "triage" in which three judges would review the cases of persons for whom incarceration is no longer appropriate. In addition, working with U.S. officials, the Government began to select Ministry of Justice personnel to receive training courses in basic administration of justice issues.

Although the Constitution includes the right to counsel, there is no law that the Government must provide counsel in the event that the accused cannot afford it.

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

The Constitution provides that no house search or seizure of papers may take place except in accordance with the law. Correspondence is also defined as inviolable.

Prior to September 19, soldiers and other armed persons frequently entered private homes for illegal purposes in Port-au-Prince and the provinces. In August there was a rash of attacks on the homes of politicians, including parliamentarians and the mayor of Petionville, the capital's main suburb. Attaches and FRAPH members were involved in raids on homes, but victims also reported seeing soldiers personally known to them and dressed in civilian clothing among their attackers. In addition, gangsters violently raided entire neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, taking advantage of their ties to police and the general climate of impunity to steal and rape. When the armed persons entered looking for a particular individual, they frequently beat or otherwise harmed family members during the search.

The police, along with armed civilians acting at their behest, frequently used roadblocks to conduct illegal searches, especially during periods of real or perceived political tension. The discovery of pro-Aristide posters or literature during a police search of a house or vehicle frequently resulted in physical abuse and illegal arrest. There were credible reports that police and military also seized private correspondence during such searches.

After the arrival of the MNF and the restoration of the legitimate Government, such abuses were dramatically reduced.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, and, in the last quarter of 1994, these rights were increasingly exercised. The more open climate contrasted with the first 9 months of the year when the military regime and de facto authorities significantly abridged freedom of expression and the press through intimidation and the resultant self- censorship. The authorities routinely harassed radio and print journalists and vendors of pro-Aristide publications. The de facto regime increased restrictions on the press in late May and again with the illegal institution on August 1 of a state of siege, issuing a decree forbidding the press to publish "foreign propaganda" or information that might "alarm the populace." The decree threatened the broadcast media, warning that their facilities were subject to military requisition. In mid-August, the regime forbade the media to use statements and information from foreign embassies and their press services. The regime also restricted foreign journalists from traveling outside of Port-au-Prince and entering certain "strategic zones." The de facto authorities deported a U.S. news team in August after filming at the airport and detained the team's two Haitian employees for 10 days.

With an illiteracy rate of approximately 80 percent, broadcast media, especially Creole-language radio, are the principal means by which the populace receives information. For most of the year, there were 14 radio stations in Port-au-Prince, 6 of which offered news programming. Four radio stations operating before the September 1991 coup closed permanently, but some stations sympathetic to President Aristide, including Tropic FM, continued to operate. Two independent daily newspapers operate in Port-au-Prince. Pro-Aristide weeklies published in Haiti and the United States were sold in the streets through most of the year; in September, the locally published Libete ceased operation, citing increased threats to distributors. However, the journal resumed publication soon after arrival of the MNF.

In the months following the restoration of President Aristide's Government, several new journals appeared, among them a U.S.-based magazine, strongly anti-Aristide in its outlook. The press covered the activities of the newly restored Government and the MNF extensively and without censorship. Radio Antilles, a radio station that had gone off the air in 1991, returned on New Year's Day 1995. The national television station was off the air for a time following the intervention, but, just as it resumed broadcasting in December, the Minister of Information dismissed its director, a Malval appointee, sparking a mass resignation of employees.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The de facto authorities severely restricted the constitutional rights of freedom of assembly and association following the 1991 coup. Until the arrival of the MNF, the fear of a military or paramilitary attack was sufficient to prevent most meetings, including those of nonpolitical organizations, from taking place. There were credible reports from all parts of the country that the military engaged in a systematic effort to inhibit association. In July police and armed civilians attacked a regular meeting of the K-16 political coalition, led by legitimate Port-au-Prince mayor Evans Paul and Senator Turnep Delpe. The participants scattered; the police detained one person for a day but killed no one. The police arrested some community organizers, even of nonpolitical organizations, and sometimes beat, harassed, or intimidated them into fleeing their own communities. Grassroots liberation theology organizations known as "Ti Legliz" remained a strong base of support for President Aristide in the countryside. These groups and their leaders were particular targets of military and paramilitary harassment. The police prevented civic education, community health, and literacy organizations from operating normally.

In a report to the U.N. Security Council covering the end of 1994, the U.N. Secretary General said, "Haitians can now enjoy their fundamental rights, in particular freedom of expression, association and assembly. In a number of places, however, people have said that they are afraid to meet or demonstrate, because of continued activities by former FRAPH members or attaches. Politically motivated arrests by local judicial officials associated with FRAPH have occurred, but arrests for the expression of political views have largely ceased. Large numbers of displaced people have come out of hiding and returned to their homes. Overall, there is a feeling of liberty and a sense of security which did not exist previously. This is particularly striking in the areas where the MNF has been deployed. The flurry of acts of vengeance and retribution which erupted immediately prior to, and after, the return of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on October 15, 1994, was short-lived. The President has repeatedly called for reconciliation and his appeals have been heeded by the population."

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution protects the right to practice all religions and faiths, provided that practice does not disturb law and order. Religion is an integral part of Haitian life and culture and is practiced widely. There are no government restrictions on missionary activities, affiliation with overseas coreligionists, religious instruction, or publishing.

There were few high-profile attacks on churches or church- related organizations in 1994. There were, however, a number of attacks on, and threats against, individual priests openly supportive of Aristide or opposed to the de facto authorities. The August murder of Father Vincent (see Section 1.a.) was probably tied to his actual and symbolic role in organizing citizens rather than his religious affiliation. At the same time, unidentified persons threatened Pere Samedi, a Ti Legliz priest active in the slums of Jeremie, and many churches throughout the country bore anti-Aristide graffiti, as well as slogans directed against socially activist priests. In Aquin, gunmen fired upon the local Catholic church. A local army officer in Chardonnieres arrested and beat a priest who was distributing religious youth journals in early August, and armed civilians attempted in July to attack a Belgian priest active in the human rights community in Port-au-Prince.

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. The departure of boat people is technically illegal, but the authorities rarely enforced the pertinent laws. Occasionally they took some token legal action against organizers, and in a few instances they fired on departing boat people to deter them by intimidation. Members of the military and police also attempted to intimidate persons applying at U.S. refugee processing centers in Haiti by harassing and occasionally beating them. Individuals in the military and under the de facto government occasionally harassed repatriated boat people in isolated incidents, but the authorities did not pursue a policy of general repression against them.

The number of internally displaced persons increased due to economic, political, and security concerns. Historically, internal migration in Haiti has largely been from the countryside to the city, but after the September 1991 coup many Haitians reversed this flow, returning to their former abodes. This migration continued at the same time that many rural families also were moving into the capital and other cities in pursuit of economic opportunities. One estimate by local human rights organizations places the number of internally displaced Haitians in 1994 at 300,000.

Departures by sea to escape the country's economic and political problems continued. During the first half of the year, the United States continued its policy of returning Haitians interdicted on the high seas directly to Haiti under the terms of the Alien Migrant Interdiction Operation agreement. Both the de facto government and the restored democratic Government cooperated in implementing the terms of this agreement. The United States began offering the boat people the option of shipboard refugee hearings in May and discontinued involuntary repatriation completely in July, taking them to safe haven at U.S. naval facilities at Guantanamo, Cuba, instead. After the return of President Aristide, the United States repatriated Haitians from the safe haven. The Aristide Government also cooperated in the repatriations of Haitian citizens from other countries, including The Bahamas and Cuba.

After commercial flights to and from Haiti ceased in July, the de facto government occasionally obstructed, but ultimately did not prohibit, the departure of citizens across the land border.

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

The September 1991 military coup forcibly abridged the right of citizens to change their government. Coup leaders forced President Aristide to flee the country, and most senior members of his administration either went into hiding, fled the country, or took refuge in foreign embassies. The continuing adamant refusal of the military regime and its backers to allow the people's will to be expressed was the root of most politically motivated human rights violations. Voters elected members of Parliament and such local officials as mayors along with President Aristide at the end of 1990. The coup leaders persecuted some local elected officials and ousted them from office after the coup.

Despite international diplomatic efforts and sanctions, a military triumvirate continued to control the security forces and thus the country. Commander in Chief General Raoul Cedras, Chief of Staff General Philippe Biamby, and Metropolitan Police Chief Michel Francois adamantly opposed the return of the constitutionally elected President. Members of Parliament remained in place and played a continuing role in political events. In early 1994, many members of Parliament, as well as other politicians, worked together on a "parliamentary plan" to resolve the political crisis.

After its failure, a group of renegade Senators, including eight who had been elected in illegal elections on January 18, 1993, seized control of the Senate, effectively prohibiting the legitimate Senate president from exercising the functions of his office. The Chamber of Deputies was unable to achieve a quorum during the summer of 1994, preventing the passage of any legislation. In May the illegal parallel Senate rubberstamped the appointment of de facto President Emile Jonassaint and the nominations of his cabinet members, but all legal semblance of a Parliament had disintegrated by September 12, the closing date for the year's Chamber of Deputies session.

President Aristide had appointed Robert Malval Prime Minister in 1993. He resigned in December of that year but continued as acting Prime Minister until October. The military leadership and the de facto authorities prevented him and his ministers from carrying out most of their functions throughout the first three quarters of 1994. Following the arrival of the MNF, President Aristide convoked the National Assembly in special session under terms of the Constitution to consider amnesty legislation for coup-related crimes, a bill creating a national civil police force separate from the military, and other legislation. The Parliament passed both an amnesty bill and legislation creating a new police force. With the end of parliamentary and municipal mandates near, legislators, politicians, and the President reached a consensus in December on a Provisional Electoral Council (CEP). By year's end, the CEP was drafting legislation necessary to carry out the elections, which are expected to take place in April or May 1995.

There are no legal impediments to women's participation in politics or government, but in practice the generally lower societal status of women limits their role in these fields. While there are only 3 women among the 79 members in the Chamber of Deputies, there are also 3 women heading ministries in the Aristide Cabinet, and 1 female Deputy Minister.

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

About a dozen local human rights groups exist in Haiti, and most grassroots organizations, whether geographically or politically based, track violations against their members. By September only a handful of attorneys offered pro bono legal assistance to these groups, and all exercised caution as result of threats to their safety. Prior to September 19, human rights organization officials reported repeated threats. In July, for example, gun-wielding civilians attacked a Belgian priest active in the Haitian religious community and the human rights field, but the attackers fled when local residents challenged them. Local human rights groups managed to operate freely enough to gather data on reported violations, and to offer humanitarian assistance (e.g., shelter, food, medical care) to those whom the authorities abused or persecuted.

The ICM, a team of international human rights observers under joint United Nations and Organization of American States auspices, returned to Haiti in January, after a 3-month withdrawal. The monitors, who numbered about 90, remained until July 13, when the de facto government declared the ICM to be in illegal status and ordered its expulsion. Until then, the military and the de facto civilian authorities largely tolerated the ICM's activities, although local officials intermittently blocked ICM monitors from access to prisons. The monitors reported ongoing threats, however, from paramilitary operatives and attaches. In March armed civilians harassed a team of investigators in the central plateau town of Hinche while local military officers stood by without acting. In late April, a team in Borgne was the object of an orchestrated military demonstration, apparently with the active complicity of general staff officers from Port-au-Prince. The international community generally recognized the ICM as both a reliable investigatory body and a buffer, during its presence, against more egregious violations, at least on the part of the regime itself. The ICM resumed operation in October following the arrival of the MNF.

Representatives of international human rights organizations visited Haiti from time to time. These groups also faced threats and harassment, but their high profile permitted them to operate relatively freely. In May the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) visited to gather information on the human rights situation. The IACHR attempted to return in August, but the de facto authorities refused to grant clearance for a charter flight to land. The IACHR finally visited in October and noted the improvement in human rights observance after arrival of the MNF. The ICRC established a permanent representative in Port-au-Prince and was able to perform some prison monitoring, although the de facto government was slow in responding to requests to visit detainees. Following the MNF's deployment, the ICRC continued to monitor prison conditions at the National Penitentiary and at prisons outside Port-au-Prince.

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, however, provide for freedom of religion and guarantees equal working conditions regardless of sex, beliefs, or marital status. It specifically states that handicapped persons shall have the means to assure their autonomy, education, and independence.

Women

Although women are often the breadwinners for rural and urban poor families, they do not enjoy the same economic and social status as men. In some social strata, tradition limits women's roles; peasant women, for example, remain largely in the traditional occupations of farming, marketing, and domestic tasks. Poorer families sometimes ration education money to pay school fees for male children only. Nonetheless, women have occupied prominent positions in both the public and private sectors in recent years.

Knowledgeable local authorities report that both criminal and domestic violence and rape occur but are rarely reported or prosecuted. After the MNF's deployment, victims increasingly reported criminal incidents, including rape. In November and December, victims reported one to two rapes per week in Port-au-Prince. Existing laws and penalties against these crimes would be adequate were they enforced.

Children

Rural families continued to send young children to serve as unpaid domestic labor for more affluent city dwellers. The use of children in this manner is not limited to the wealthy class; middle and lower class families also follow the practice, called "restavek." A 1991 U.N. study cited the estimated 109,000 restavek children as an example of slavery practiced in the 20th century. Employers compel the children to work long hours, provide them with poor nourishment, little or no education, and frequently beat them or abuse them sexually.

Port-au-Prince's large population of street children includes runaway restaveks, as well as children orphaned or separated from their families. The abysmal state of the economy only worsened the plight of such children, who are held in little regard. Rumors of street children being targeted by paramilitary operatives were probably based on the general disregard for the well-being of such children. Local human rights groups do not regard the plight of restavek children as a priority and do not report on abuses of children or actively seek to improve their situation. The Government took no measures to protect or otherwise provide for the restaveks or the street children.

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. There are longstanding social and political animosities among Haitians, often tied to ethnic/racial heritage or class; some of these animosities date back before Haiti's revolutionary period.

There are two official languages: Creole, which is spoken by virtually all Haitians, and French, which is spoken by about 20 percent of the population. The inability to read, write, and speak French has long limited the political and economic opportunities available to the majority of the population. Many argue that the French-speaking elite have used language requirements as an additional barrier to the advancement of the Creole-speaking majority.

People with Disabilities

Despite the constitutional provision for means of autonomy for the handicapped, there is no enacting legislation mandating provision of access for people with disabilities. There is no overt ill-treatment of people with disabilities, but, given the desperate poverty in which the vast majority of Haitians live, those with disabilities face a particularly harsh existence.

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 requires a union, which must have a minimum of 10 members, to register with the Ministry of Social Affairs within 60 days of its establishment. Union membership, marginal before the 1991 coup and even more so now, is estimated at 1 percent of the total labor force. There are five principal labor federations: the Autonomous Central of Haitian Workers, the National Confederation of Haitian Teachers, the Federation of Unionized Workers, the Confederation of Haitian Workers, and the Independent General Organization of Haitian Workers. Each of these organizations maintains some fraternal relations with various international labor organizations.

Given the effect of the international sanctions on the formal sector of the economy, and, with unemployment running as high as 80 percent, unions were almost irrelevant, except as an instrument for keeping track of and offering limited assistance to their members. During the period of de facto rule, the military continued to employ widespread repression and violence against those who engaged in trade union activities. Many union leaders closed their offices and went into hiding in the aftermath of the 1991 coup. Armed civilians attacked a meeting of officials of one of the large unions in August 1994 and beat several of those present. Unions, as well as all other citizen groups or assemblies, could meet only with the express written permission of the military. Since the return of President Aristide, labor unions, like other institutions of civil society, have been free to associate. In meetings with the Government and representatives of the international community, unions have sought to encourage investment and an increased job market for their members.

A tripartite commission of labor, management, and government began to revise the Labor Code in 1986 and concluded its negotiations in 1992. However, Parliament has yet to approve the new Code. The revised Code recognizes the right to strike but restricts the duration of certain types of strikes, as did the previous code. It also stipulates that the Ministry of Social Affairs must recognize workers' right to strike in each case before a strike is legal.

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. While the de facto authorities curtailed union activities, job losses as a result of economic conditions had a far more damaging impact on union activities. Prior to the 1991 coup, organized labor activity was generally concentrated in the Port-au-Prince area, primarily in a large private sugar refinery, in the assembly sector, and in state enterprises, all three of which suffered drastic job losses following the coup.

Collective bargaining, which has never been widespread, was nonexistent in 1994. Employers generally set wages unilaterally. While Haiti has no export processing zones, prior to the trade embargo it did have a sizable export-oriented assembly sector. The Labor Code does not distinguish between industries producing for the local market and those producing for export. Many assembly sector companies were the focus of developmental efforts; they received greater outside scrutiny and were consequently somewhat more generous with benefits and wages. Employment in the export assembly sector, however, declined drastically from 1991 through 1994, resulting in a loss of an estimated 34,500 jobs. As the assembly sector contracted, unions that were particularly strong in this sector declined accordingly.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Labor Code prohibits forced or compulsory labor, but the Government rarely enforces these provisions. Children continued to be subjected to forced domestic labor (see Section 5).

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The minimum employment age for minors in all sectors is 15 years. Fierce adult competition for jobs ensures that child labor is not a factor in the industrial sector. Children under 15 commonly work at odd jobs in both rural and urban settings to supplement family income. The Ministry of Social Affairs is responsible for enforcement of child labor laws, but the International Labor Organization has criticized the enforcement as inadequate.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The law establishes a minimum wage, and a few weeks before the September 1991 coup, Parliament set a new minimum wage of about $1.85 (26 gourdes) per day for workers in the industrial sector. Although the minimum wage technically became law before the coup, the Government never published the legislation in the official Gazette; nevertheless, companies in the assembly sector adopted it. Even if the private sector applied the revised minimum wage widely, it would not provide a worker and family with a decent living. The minimum wage law also applies to agricultural workers, but the authorities do not enforce it. Thus the majority of wage earners, who work in the agricultural sector, must survive on considerably less than the minimum wage.

The Labor Code governs individual employment; it sets the normal workday at 8 hours and the workweek at 48 hours, with 24 hours of rest on Sunday. It also establishes minimum health and safety regulations. Employers in the industrial sector, which is concentrated in the Port-au-Prince area and more accessible to outside scrutiny, generally observe these laws in practice. However, the Ministry of Social Affairs does not enforce them. It also does not enforce Labor Code provisions on health and safety. With more than 50 percent of the population unemployed, workers are not able to exercise the right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to continued employment.

 

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