Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 July 2014, 14:56 GMT

U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Haiti

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1994
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Haiti, 30 January 1994, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa4c20.html [accessed 22 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.
 

The Haitian military has effectively ruled the country since its unconstitutional, violent overthrow and expulsion of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in September 1991. From January to August, Haiti was ruled by an unconstitutional de facto regime, the second since the coup. On July 3 the military high command signed an agreement with President Aristide on Governors Island, New York to restore constitutional order. Pursuant to the accord, on August 30, Prime Minister Robert Malval, appointed by President Aristide, was sworn in to office. The military high command failed to respect the provisions of the Governors Island accord which delayed full implementation by the end of the year. Malval held de jure power throughout this period but was unable to effect full control of the Government, and actual power remained in the hands of the military and its supporters. Ministers in the Malval Government were often prevented from carrying out their duties by threats, violence, and other forms of intimidation. On October 14, Justice Minister Guy Malary was killed in downtown Port-au-Prince. Although the killers had not been identified by year's end, there is strong reason to believe they were supporters of the military. Prime Minister Malval resigned on December 15, in keeping with his announced intentions, but stayed on as acting Prime Minister pending appointment of a replacement.

The Haitian armed forces, which have considerable legal and institutional autonomy, are responsible for law enforcement and public security. The police, all of whom are stationed in Port-au-Prince, are an integral part of the armed forces. In both urban and rural areas, armed forces units serve as police, despite a constitutional requirement to separate these two bodies. Paramilitary personnel in civilian clothes (known as "attaches" in the city or "section chiefs" and "adjoints" in rural areas) conduct most of the intimidation and violent repression for both the police and the army. Military, police, and paramilitary personnel committed numerous serious human rights violations with impunity in 1993.

The Haitian economy is characterized by severe overpopulation vis-a-vis ever dwindling arable land due to environmental devastation, high infant mortality, a heavy dependence on imports and foreign assistance, a predominantly rural population living on rapidly eroding land, wide disparities of income, and a small manufacturing base. While never strong, the economy declined in recent years, owing to political instability and government mismanagement. That decline continued in 1993 and was intensified by the Organization of American States' (OAS) trade embargo and the United Nations' fuel embargo, as well as the suspension of all but international humanitarian assistance following the 1991 coup.

Haitians suffered frequent human rights abuses throughout 1993, including political and extrajudicial killings by the security forces and their allies, disappearances, beatings and other mistreatment of detainees and prisoners, arbitrary arrest and detention, executive interference with the judicial process, and continued infringement of the rights of citizens to change their government. More than 200 civilian human rights observers from the United Nations and the OAS were deployed throughout the country from February through October when they were withdrawn due to perceived threats and intimidation. Their presence temporarily helped curb political violence and human rights violations, but indiscriminate violence remained substantial, especially in rural areas, where two-thirds of Haitians live. There was a substantial increase in crimes of violence, including politically motivated killings, beginning in July and August, as tensions rose over the Governors Island accords and military efforts to derail their implementation. Most of the violence is directed at stopping the transition to democracy.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

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

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

Levels of violence were high throughout 1993 and were exacerbated by the manifest unwillingness of the military and de facto government to respect human rights, curb extrajudicial killings, and pursue criminal justice. Until its withdrawal in October, the wide-scale presence throughout Haiti of the U.N./OAS International Civilian Mission (ICM) human rights observers helped prevent even greater violence.

The ICM began formally collecting and publishing data on human rights abuses in June, and the mission registered over 100 homicide cases from June to September. It is difficult to assess the actual number of political and extrajudicial killings, because judicial authorities rarely conducted criminal investigations into any unexplained deaths, including violent ones such as murder, whether political or not. For example, the ICM registered a disturbing increase in killings in Port-au-Prince and environs in July and August. According to the ICM, the number of murders in the city climbed from 5 in May and 9 in June to 67 for the combined months of July and August. Of these 67 killings, ICM officials believe at least 7 may have been politically motivated. The ICM registered three deaths in official custody from suspected unnatural causes from May to August, but informed observers believed the number of such deaths was significantly higher. Some local groups published much higher estimates, but their methodology was not as careful as the ICM's and their figures could not be verified.

No serious investigation of these killings was undertaken by judicial or military authorities. The Haitian army general staff, under strong pressure from the ICM, transferred a few army officers for repeated abuses and dismissed one officer on human rights grounds in 1993. As a general pattern, however, the military avoided disciplining even flagrant abusers. An army corporal accused of the August murder of a peasant in the Central Plateau was transferred to a nearby department. Although initially described by military authorities as "under arrest and investigation," the soldier was, in fact, loosely confined to barracks, and there was little indication of any "ongoing" investigation.

Elements of the military and their unpaid deputies, or "attaches," continued their vigilante actions, particularly in Port-au-Prince. There was strong evidence of systematic complicity between city police and criminal and vigilante gangs. Attache violence resulted in at least one death and numerous injuries at a September 8 city hall ceremony to mark the return of Port-au-Prince's pro-Aristide mayor, ousted following the coup. Several days later, armed civilians attacked Aristide supporters during a church service, killing prominent pro-Aristide activist Antoine Izmery and one other person. Justice Minister Guy Malary was similarly murdered in public on October 14. No investigation or arrests have been made in either case.

One homicide case with political implications was investigated by judicial authorities during the year: the July 1991 torture and murder of five youths while in police custody. Following the arrest of the policeman accused of the murder, President Aristide publicly praised him in a September 11, 1991, speech. A Port-au-Prince magistrate determined in July, despite compelling evidence to the contrary, that "reasonable doubt" existed concerning the guilt of the accused policeman and dropped all charges.

b. Disappearance

Haitian human rights advocates point out that, because many Aristide activists remained in hiding, it was difficult to verify reports of disappearances. The ICM recorded 1 reported disappearance between February and May, then 10 in June. There were eight abduction and subsequent release cases and five disappearances in July and August. Historically, the "disappeared" in Haiti are either never found or found murdered. Increased political tension in the latter half of the year may have altered and exacerbated patterns of violent intimidation.

The bullet-riddled body of a relative of a local journalist was discovered July 13 on the coastal road north of Port-au-Prince. The journalist had photographed soldiers pistol-whipping their way to the front of a gas line during the U.N./OAS fuel embargo. After an independent local daily published the photo, the reporter was arrested and beaten and family members were harassed, leading to the disappearance and murder of the journalist's cousin. Criminal elements associated with Port-au-Prince's 22nd police company were suspected of involvement in the crime; the Government took no action to investigate or prosecute.

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

The Constitution guarantees each citizen the right to life, health, respect of the human person, and individual liberty. In addition the Constitution prohibits unnecessary force or restraint, psychological pressure, or physical brutality. These constitutional protections were largely ignored, and ill-treatment remained widespread, particularly the threat of physical violence used by police and soldiers to extort money from detainees and their families. Brutal beatings with fists and clubs, torture, and other cruel treatment of detainees were common. In June a pregnant woman arrested for theft in the southern town of Jeremie was beaten so badly that she lost her child.

Three labor leaders arrested and beaten in April were held at the Port-au-Prince military hospital for several days following their legal release. They were probably detained and treated at the military hospital because the extent of their injuries would have aroused local and international outrage had they been released immediately.

Prison conditions are abysmal. Detainees regularly have no access to legal counsel and continue to suffer from a lack of the most basic hygienic facilities as well as inadequate food and health care. Children are regularly detained together with adults in violation of the rule that children should be detained separately. The 1987 Constitution calls for prisons to be administered by the Ministry of Justice. The army continues to control them, although the military authorities have asked to be relieved of responsibility for prison administration. The ICM attempted to monitor prison conditions throughout the country and to prepare registers of all prisoners but periodically was denied access to prisoners.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Arbitrary arrest and detention remain among the most persistent human rights abuses in Haiti. The ICM recorded more than 300 cases of arbitrary arrest from June to August. According to the Constitution, a person may be arrested only if apprehended during the commission of a crime or if a judicial warrant has been issued and must be brought before a judge within 48 hours of arrest. In practice, however, arbitrary arrest and detention as well as interrogation without legal counsel present are common and are frequently used by soldiers and provincial officials to intimidate and extort money from the populace. The frequency of this practice makes it difficult to determine the number of arrests on purely political grounds.

The Constitution calls for the separation of the police from the military, with the civilian police under Justice Ministry authority. One goal of the Governors Island accord was passage of enabling legislation aimed at finally separating the police from the army. On the basis of this legislation and with U.N.-sponsored training and assistance for the new police force, a new rural police force was to be deployed to the provinces to replace the infamous "section chiefs," a form of local constabulary in rural areas who are responsible for numerous arbitrary arrests. Section chiefs commonly obtained their positions by bribing the military commanders who appoint them, recouping their "investment" in turn by accepting money from individuals called attaches or adjoints who also extort money from the peasant population under threat of arbitrary arrests and beatings.

Politically active clergy were frequently victims of arbitrary arrest and harassment by the military and the paramilitary attaches, as part of a more general intimidation campaign against Aristide sympathizers, particularly in the countryside. In February pro-Aristide bishop Willy Romelus was attacked by civilians after giving a funeral mass at the Port-au-Prince cathedral. The bishop was escorted from the cathedral site by U.N./OAS civilian observers. Arrests and harassment of journalists are frequent and form part of an overall pattern of government and military intimidation of the media.

Two American citizens were illegally detained in 1993, at the behest of relatives, in cases involving family land disputes. One American citizen was illegally detained for "lack of respect to a uniformed police officer on duty."

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

This right is widely and severely abridged. The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary and the right to a fair public trial. It 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 is widespread. Moreover, contempt for the judiciary dating back to the Duvalier regime rendered it a vestigial branch of government, understaffed, poorly trained, and inadequately compensated. Seven years after the Duvaliers' fall, the judicial branch's lamentable state has not improved. All governments since 1986 have continued the practice of appointing and removing judges at will and of exerting political influence at every stage of the judicial process.

The Code of Criminal Procedure does not clearly assign responsibility to investigate crimes, and there are no penalties for delay or inaction. Authority to prosecute is divided among police, prosecutors, and investigating magistrates. Overlapping authority invites the abdication of responsibility and encourages tacit complicity in widespread corruption.

The Code also stipulates two criminal court sessions per year to try all major crimes requiring a jury trial. These sessions usually last only 2 weeks, and in some years only one session is held. Failure to reform the Code has resulted in a huge backlog, with detainees sometimes waiting years in pretrial detention for a court date. A U.S. citizen charged with murder (he was 15 years old at the time he was alleged to have committed the crime) has been detained for more than 2 years awaiting trial. Taking the month of April as an example, the Port-au-Prince metropolitan military announced total arrests for the month to have been 1,018. Some 212 prisoners were released in April, with 90 referred to the public prosecutors' office for possible charges. During the same month, the Chamber of Deputies' Justice Committee counted 700 prisoners at the National Penitentiary, including about 250 military prisoners. Fewer than 100 of the total penitentiary population were actually serving sentences. The rest were accused persons held without bail. If the accused is ultimately tried and found innocent, he has no recourse against the Government for time already served.

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

Throughout 1993 there were many credible reports of soldiers and other armed persons entering private homes for illegal purposes. Similar arbitrary searches were equally common in the provinces, with clergy suspected of pro-Aristide sympathies a particular target. In addition, armed urban bandits called "zenglendos" violently raided entire neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, confident that the police, with whom they are alleged to have strong ties, would not intervene.

Police roadblocks were also used frequently to conduct illegal searches, especially during periods of real or perceived political tension. In January police beat and held at gunpoint a foreign missionary at a police roadblock for having in his possession weekly newspapers, sold openly in Port-au-Prince, which mentioned President Aristide. Police shot and wounded another foreigner in February for accidentally running a roadblock. The discovery of pro-Aristide posters or literature during a police search of a house or vehicle frequently resulted in illegal arrest. There were credible reports that police and military also seized private correspondence during such searches.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

Freedom of speech and the press is provided for by the Constitution but is often abridged because of intimidation and self-censorship. With an illiteracy rate of approximately 80 percent, broadcast media, especially Creole-language radio, have unusual importance, and independent broadcast media were particular targets. In February Conatel, the Haitian board governing communications, invoked a Duvalier-era decree to order all radio station directors to suppress all information that might "alarm the populace."

Nineteen radio stations operate in Port-au-Prince, 11 of which offer news programming. Four radio stations operating before the coup closed permanently. News broadcasts exercise sporadic self-censorship, conditioned by events and political tensions. Print media enjoyed greater freedom, possibly as a result of their relatively small readership. Two independent daily newspapers operate in Port-au-Prince; pro-Aristide weeklies published in Haiti and in the United States were freely sold in the streets, although vendors of some of these publications were harassed sporadically. The army and the police also frequently harassed, beat, or detained persons they found in possession of pro-Aristide literature. There were numerous incidents of illegal detention and petty harassment of radio and print journalists during 1993.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly and association, but these rights were severely restricted following the 1991 coup d'etat. There were credible reports from all parts of Haiti that the military engaged in a systematic effort to inhibit any type of association during 1993. Soldiers fired into the air to disperse gatherings. Some community organizers, even of nonpolitical organizations, were arrested and sometimes beaten, harassed, or intimidated into fleeing their own communities. Grassroots liberation theology organizations in the countryside remain a strong base of support for President Aristide. These groups and their leaders were particular targets of military and paramilitary harassment, such as short-term arrests clearly intended to intimidate. These arrests often followed the discovery of pro-Aristide materials during illegal military searches of homes, vehicles, and church rectories. Most civic education, community health, and literacy organizations were prevented from operating normally.

c. Freedom of Religion

Religion is an integral part of Haitian life and culture and is practiced widely. Roman Catholicism and voodoo (a mixture of African beliefs and Christianity) are the two major religions. Members of various Protestant denominations and foreign missionary groups openly seek converts. There are no government restrictions on missionary activities, affiliations with overseas coreligionists, or religious instruction or publishing.

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

There were credible reports that many Haitians moved from one area of the country to another to evade abusive local authorities. Estimates of those numbers vary widely, and a lack of statistics make it difficult to establish the actual number. However, it is likely that several thousand Haitians are internally displaced.

There were no cases of government restriction on foreign travel in 1993. Although the clandestine departure of migrants is technically a violation of Haitian immigration law and punishable by fines or jail sentences, the authorities made only token efforts to interfere with such migration, occasionally in the form of soliciting small bribes to permit departure. Authorities intermittently detained and prosecuted suspected organizers of the voyages.

Throughout 1993 U.S. authorities engaged in interdiction and repatriation of illegal Haitian migrants bound for the United States. Although Haitian boat people face the same difficult conditions affecting Haitians in general, in interviews the U.S. Embassy refugee program has conducted with returnees, no credible claims of retribution have been made by those repatriated Haitians who are not involved in organizing the voyages. Persons suspected of organizing the illegal departures are generally taken into police custody and detained briefly. Since February 1992, the U.S. Embassy and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) have provided in-country processing of refugee applications by Haitians claiming well-founded fear of persecution, and INS has granted refugee status to approximately 2,000 Haitians who are then transported to the United States.

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

The right of citizens to change their government was forcibly abridged by the September 1991 military coup, and again in October 1993 when the army and its allies refused to implement the Governors Island accords. President Aristide was forced to flee the country after the coup, and most senior members of his administration either went into hiding, fled the country, or took refuge in foreign embassies.

The Parliament and such local officials as mayors were elected along with President Aristide at the end of 1990. Some local elected officials were persecuted and ousted from office after the coup. Members of Parliament remained in place and have played a continuing role in political events since the coup. In January the de facto government mandated, pursuant to an "executive order," by-elections for nine senate and four chamber seats. Pro-Aristide political parties refused to run for the vacant seats. The by-elections were conducted irregularly and the results were not recognized by the international community. Members of Parliament and leaders of political parties agreed at the United Nations in July that those elected to parliamentary seats in January would refrain from participating in legislative business until a solution to the problem could be found by the incoming constitutional government.

There are no de jure impediments to women's participation in politics or government. De facto impediments include economic factors such as poorer families "rationing" education money to pay school fees for male children only, and the general lower status of women which limits their role in these fields.

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, but only a few were active. All of the local human rights groups depended upon five attorneys in Port-au-Prince who offered pro bono legal defense assistance. These attorneys were also training paralegals to defend cases in the provinces. Human rights organization officials reported repeated threats but still managed to operate relatively freely. Haitian human rights figures and groups have publicly criticized the Government, although more so under the previous de facto regime than in the late-1993 political climate of intimidation and increased violence. Most such groups do not have the means or training to investigate government activities. One human rights group conducted a prison visit/reform program during 1993. The program halted when the group's director was threatened by armed civilians who invaded his home in late October; the director ultimately was forced to leave the country.

The ICM, a team of international human rights observers which eventually numbered more than 200, were deployed throughout Haiti under U.N. and OAS auspices until October. The ICM's activities were largely tolerated by military and de facto civilian authorities, although access to prisons was blocked intermittently by local officials. On two occasions ICM vehicles were deliberately damaged: one was stoned by a pro-Aristide mob and another was battered by soldiers and armed civilians. ICM personnel were followed and intimidated by army enlisted men in the Artibonite Valley and in the Central Plateau, two areas known for strong pro-Aristide sympathies and repressive local military commands, but no ICM personnel were harmed. ICM personnel were temporarily evacuated to the Dominican Republic in October because of concern for their personal safety during heightened political tension over implementation of the Governors Island accords. At the end of the year, ICM personnel had not yet returned but were expected to begin returning by the end of January 1994.

Representatives of international human rights organizations visited Haiti regularly. These groups also faced threats and harassment, but their high profile permitted them to operate relatively freely. In August the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights visited to gather information on the human rights situation. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Haiti was part of that delegation.

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

Women

Officially, there is no discrimination against women. While the 1987 Constitution does not specifically prohibit discrimination against women, it does establish fundamental rights for "all citizens." Women have occupied prominent positions in both the public and private sectors in recent years. In some social strata, however, women's roles have been limited by tradition. Peasant women remain largely in the traditional occupations of farming, marketing, and domestic tasks. Violence against women is known to occur with some frequency, but, because of societal traditions, it is generally not reported to police authorities.

Although women are traditionally often the breadwinners for rural and urban poor families, they do not enjoy the same economic and social status as men. Knowledgeable local authorities report that both domestic violence and rape are common but are rarely reported or prosecuted. Existing laws and penalties against these crimes would be adequate were they enforced.

Children

The practice of forced domestic labor by children, called "restavek" in Haitian creole, continued unabated during 1993. An estimated 109,000 restavek children were cited in a 1991 U.N. study as an example of slavery practiced in the 20th century. Young children from rural families are "adopted" and "educated" by more affluent city dwellers to serve as unpaid domestic labor. The children are compelled to work long hours, receive poor nourishment, little or no education, and are frequently beaten and sexually abused. Most of Port-au-Prince's large population of street children are runaway restaveks, and child prostitution rings are alleged to purchase restavek children from their "adoptive families." 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.

Only 2 percent of the Health Ministry budget was devoted to health programs such as immunization and oral rehydration which serve children. However, humanitarian assistance to Haiti is specifically targeted at the most vulnerable groups of the population. It is probable that infant and child mortality has deteriorated over the last year given the general long-term decline in social and economic conditions in Haiti – a decline that began before the September 1991 coup. In the absence of thorough survey data, it is impossible to determine the magnitude of such a decline.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Some 95 percent of Haitians are descendants of African slaves who won their war of independence from France in 1804. Most others are mulatto or of European, Middle Eastern, North American, or Latin American origin. Haitian law makes no distinctions based on race. There are longstanding social and political animosities among these various groups, however, many of which 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. Those unable to read, write, and speak French are limited in their political and economic activities. Many argue that the country's French-speaking elite have used language requirements as a barrier to the advancement of the country's Creole-speaking majority.

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. There are no laws mandating provision of access for people with disabilities.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The Constitution and the Labor Code guarantee the right of association. Workers, including those in the public sector, are specifically granted the right to form and join unions without prior government authorization. A union, which must have a minimum of 10 members, is required to register with the Ministry of Social Affairs within 60 days of its establishment. Union membership, marginal before the coup and even more so now, is estimated at 1 percent of the total labor force. The influence and effectiveness of organized labor has been severely limited and eroded as a result of political repression and economic breakdown. 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 affiliation with various international labor organizations.

The military continued to employ widespread repression and violence against trade union activities. Many union leaders closed their offices and went into hiding. Three union leaders were arrested and severely beaten by police in April. Unions, as well as all other citizen groups or assemblies, may meet only with the express written permission of the military. The military forced established unions of telephone, electrical, and journalism workers either to change or completely replace their leadership. The military also intimidated leaders of rural agricultural unions and peasant cooperatives by arrests, beatings, and banning of meetings.

Tripartite negotiations (labor, management, and government) begun in 1986 to revise the Labor Code were concluded in 1992. The revised Labor Code has not yet been approved by Parliament. The revised Code recognizes the right to strike but restricts the duration of certain types of strikes, as did the previous Code. The Code also stipulates that the Ministry of Social Affairs must recognize workers' right to strike in each case before a strike is legal. There were several attempts at major public or private sector strikes in 1993, but they were not widely observed, owing to the atmosphere of severe repression that followed the coup, as well as the economic impact of the U.N./OAS embargo.

b. The Right To Organize and Bargain Collectively

Trade union organizing activities are protected by the Labor Code, and those who interfere with this right may be fined. Employers, including export firms, however, still routinely attempted to prevent workers from organizing labor unions, and government enforcement remained mostly ineffective. While union activities were curtailed by the de facto authorities, job loss as a result of economic conditions had a far more damaging impact on union activities. Prior to the coup, organized labor activity was generally concentrated in the Port-au-Prince area, primarily in a large private sugar factory, in the assembly sector, and in state enterprises, all three of which suffered drastic job losses following the coup. The Haitian-American Sugar Company, which alone employed 7,000 unionized workers, has been closed for more than a year. State enterprises also suffered large job losses as the state-run flour mill, daily newspaper, and cement factory shut down.

Collective bargaining, which has never been widespread in Haiti, was nonexistent in 1993. Wages are generally set unilaterally by employers.

While Haiti has no export processing zones, prior to the OAS trade embargo it did have a sizable export-oriented assembly sector. The Haitian 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 such as on-site medical care, vitamin supplements, interest-free loans, and subsidized meals than domestically oriented producers. In addition, wages in the assembly sector are generally above the official minimum wage. Total employment in the export assembly sector declined by about 75 percent, corresponding to an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 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 enforcement of these provisions is practically nonexistent. 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. Enforcement of child labor laws is the responsibility of the Ministry of Social Affairs but has been criticized by the International Labor Organization as inadequate.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The minimum wage is set by law. A few weeks before the September 1991 coup, Parliament set a new minimum wage of about $2.15 (26 gourdes) per day for workers in the industrial sector. Although technically it became law before the coup, the legislation was never published in the official gazette; nevertheless, companies in the assembly sector have already adopted it. Even if it were widely applied in the private sector, the revised minimum wage would not provide a worker and family with a decent living. The minimum wage law applies also to agricultural workers but is not enforced. Thus the majority of Haitians, who work in the agricultural sector, must survive on considerably less than the minimum wage.

The Labor Code governs individual employment contracts. The Code 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. These laws and regulations are somewhat better observed in the industrial sector, which is concentrated in the Port-au-Prince area and is more accessible to outside scrutiny. However, official enforcement, which is the responsibility of the Ministry of Social Affairs, has been lax. Labor Code provisions on health and safety are not enforced. 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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