Last Updated: Monday, 30 May 2016, 14:07 GMT

Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2007 - Haiti

Publisher International Federation for Human Rights
Author Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Publication Date 19 June 2008
Cite as International Federation for Human Rights, Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2007 - Haiti, 19 June 2008, available at: [accessed 30 May 2016]
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.

Political context

In 2007, the Haitian Government took a number of initiatives in line with its stated objective of consolidating the rule of law and democracy following the election in February 2006 of President René Préval, after two successive postponements of elections. The Government has undertaken a programme of judicial reform and has sought to improve the situation of magistrates and to fight against corruption. In this framework, the United Nations Convention Against Corruption was ratified and the President has called on the population to fight against this scourge, declaring the year 2007 as "the year against corruption" during his speech at the National Palace on May 18, 2007. In addition to the establishment of the National Commission on Disarmament, Dismantling and Reintegration (Commission nationale sur le désarmement, le démantèlement et la réintégration – CNDDR) in September 2006, which targets various armed gangs operating in the country, the authorities have also continued their policy of training police officers and of increasing police personnel. Some neighbourhoods that were, until 2006, controlled by armed gangs have been pacified, in particular through missions carried out jointly by the Haitian national police and agents of the United Nations Mission for Stabilization in Haiti (Mission des Nations unies pour la stabilisation en Haïti – MINUSTAH).1 Without minimising the deterioration of Haitian institutions and the impact on the country's public life, it is undeniable that the reform of the security sector has at least helped to depoliticise the police and has put an end to the repression of political opponents and attacks on the freedom of the press, which were regularly practised by the police under the regime of President Aristide (1995-2004).

However, despite some progress, the situation of human rights has remained extremely precarious in the country. The problem of insecurity is still a major concern and violence remains endemic, particularly by the presence of criminal gangs, which often act with the complicity of the national police. In 2007, the National Network for Human Rights (Réseau national de défense des droits humains – RNDDH) counted 246 cases of kidnapping, 352 cases of murder, including 22 police officers, and 467 cases of gender-based violence, including 31 cases of rape reported to the State University of Haiti hospital.2

The perpetrators of such abuses are rarely prosecuted, as the courts have only limited resources and the judicial system is characterised by its lack of independence, widespread corruption and failure to comply with procedures.3 Furthermore, the conditions for detainees have been steadily deteriorating: overcrowding, deterioration of health conditions, violence between prisoners, prolonged pre-trial detention, etc.4

The year 2007 has not seen progress in the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights: in 2007, 70% of the population was unemployed and prices of commodities steadily increased (at the end of 2007, prices of staple commodities had increased by 20 to 50%).

Acts of retaliation and serious threats against defenders struggling against impunity

In 2007, human rights defenders in Haiti were often subjected to reprisals when they sought to denounce human rights violations and fight against the widespread impunity in the country. Human rights defenders have also been the target of criticism from some parliamentarians because of their opposition to the possible return of the death penalty in Haiti.

Several members of the Savanette Human Rights Committee (Comité des droits humains de Savanette), including Mr. Dérilus Mérilus, have received death threats after the Committee obtained the re-incarceration of an alleged rapist on October 5, 2007. On October 16, 2007, the Public Prosecutor decided to release the accused. In addition, in November 2007, Mr. Joseph Guyler C. Delva, President of the Independent Commission in Support of the Investigation of Murders of Journalists (Commission indépendante d'appui aux enquêtes relatives aux assassinats de journalistes – CIAPEAJ), introduced in August 2007 by the President, was followed by unknown persons while he was travelling by car in Port-au-Prince. He then had to leave the country temporarily. Since his return on November 25, 2007, he has continued to receive threats.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders is a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH).

1 In October 2007, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to extend the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti until October 2008, and in September 2007 the United Nations Human Rights Council renewed the mandate of the Independent Expert appointed by the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in Haiti.

2 In the absence of reliable official data, cases identified by NGOs measure the magnitude of violations in Haiti, in particular the level of disturbing crimes with sexual characteristics. The fact remains that the real number of human rights violations in Haiti remains undervalued.

3 After its visit to Haiti from April 16-20, 2007, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), while stressing the efforts made by the Government, reported that "the current system and the absence of a state sponsored legal aid service continue to constitute challenges for the respect of human rights and the effective access to justice by the Haitian population" (See Press Release No. 24/07, April 20, 2007).

4 Following his visit to Haiti from June 17-20, 2007, Mr. Florentín Meléndez, President of the IACHR and Rapporteur on the rights of persons deprived of liberty in the Americas, "observ[ed] with extreme concern the persistent high numbers of persons in prolonged pre-trial detention, who in many cases are detained for periods longer than the possible sentences for the crimes of which they are accused. According to the latest statistics of the Direction of the Prison Administration, the month of June 2007, 84% of the prison population had not been judged or formally charged. In this regard, it is important to stress that in the cases observed by the Commission in Port-au-Prince, the percentage of persons in detention without having been convicted is estimated at 98% for children in the Prison for Minors in Delmas; 95% in the case of women deprived of liberty in Petionville; and 96% in the case of persons deprived of liberty in the National Penitentiary" (See Press Release No. 32/07, June 21, 2007). Similarly, the IACHR reported that it is "seriously concerned with the conditions in Haiti's National Penitentiary and police station holding cells. The National Penitentiary, built to hold no more than 800 people, is currently holding more than 2,500 detainees, some 2418 of which are still awaiting trial" (See Press Release No. 24/07, April 20, 2007).

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