- Haiti's human rights history is long and abusive, alleviated
only during Jean-Bertrand Aristide's tenure. Besides achieving impressive
social, economic and political gains, he respected and promoted justice
and human rights initiatives.
- For the first time ever, those arrested had formal hearings
before a judge in two days. In 1995, a school for magistrates was opened.
Courthouses and police stations were constructed and refurbished. Protecting
children became paramount, including laws prohibiting all forms of corporal
- A new law repealed child (mostly chattel) domestic service,
and another one prohibited trafficking in persons. Haiti's hated military
was disbanded. Ordinary Haitians experienced unprecedented free speech,
assembly, and personal safety. A National Commission for Truth and Justice
was created to investigate and report on crimes committed during the 1991
- 94 coup period. As a result, former soldiers and paramilitaries were
tried, those found guilty convicted in fair proceedings.
- Compared to pre and post-Aristide years, it was a renaissance
period, erased after the February 29, 2004 coup, ousting the man 90% or
more Haitians love, their only leader who cared since their 1791 - 1804
- Last November, sham presidential and parliamentary elections
prevented real democratic change. Stealth Duvalierist Michel ("Sweet
Micky") Martelly, an anti-populist former Kompa singer, was named
president in a March runoff against Mirlande Manigat, wife of former right-wing
president, Leslie Manigat.
- In both rounds, around 80% of Haitians abstained, knowing
no candidate represented them. Orchestrated in Washington, the result both
times was fraudulent, illegitimate, and predictable, assuring continuing
repression and human rights abuses for another five years, even with Aristide
home from exile.
- Each year, the State Department publishes human rights
reports for over 190 countries. Its complete Haiti one can be accessed
through the following link:
- It covers disturbing human rights violations, explained
by category, despite attempts to downplay them.
- Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
- Haiti's National Police and UN Blue Helmet paramilitaries
commit regular abuses, including random and extrajudicial killings with
no accountability. Most often, investigations are shams. Vigilante incidents
also occur in some areas, including beatings, shootings, and other abuses.
Though dozens of instances were documented, "police made no arrests."
- Current and former police officers participated in kidnappings,
nearly double the 2009 total. Over 120 were reported, though true numbers
were likely much higher.
- "Gonaives Police Commissioner Ernst Dorfeuille Bouquet
(was) arrested and charged (with) kidnapping and killing Monica Pierre"
(in 2008). In 2010, he awaited trial. Other police officers are part of
gangs responsible for multiple kidnappings.
- Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment
- Numerous instances occur, notably in Haiti's notorious
prisons. Moreover, UN Blue Helmets sexually exploit and abuse children,
besides numerous other offenses, including killings and other forms of
- Prison and Detention Center Conditions
- "Prisoners (report) physical abuse by correctional
officers," at times using lethal force to quell disturbances. Overall,
prisons are severely overcrowded, poorly maintained, dangerous, unsanitary,
damaged by Haiti's 2010 earthquake, staffed by repressive guards, and run
by repressive officials.
- Moreover, "(s)ome prisons (have) no beds for detainees;
some cells (have) no access to sunlights. Many prison facilities (lack)
basic services" for healthcare, water, electricity, and isolation
for contagious inmates, putting them all at risk to disease and death.
- Detainees also lack basic hygiene, proper food and enough
of it, minimal healthcare, time of out cells for exercise and fresh air,
or other basic services. "In some prisons....AIDS, malaria, and drug-resistant
tuberculosis (are) serious problem(s)." In addition, Haiti's cholera
epidemic gravely harmed inmates.
- At year end 2010, Haiti's prison population in 17 facilities
was triple their capacity. Moreover, pretrial detention in overcrowded
conditions is a major unaddressed issue.
- Many untried and convicted prisoners are incarcerated
for months or years in temporary holding cells. In some cases, male and
female prisoners are held together for lack of space, and children 16 or
older are confined with adults. However, some as young as 10 are imprisoned,
leaving them especially vulnerable to sexual and other abuses.
- Overall, Haitian prison conditions are appalling by any
standard, affording no safety or justice to those interned.
- Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
- Despite laws prohibiting arbitrary arrest and detention,
as well as the Aristide era requirement to grant detainees a judicial hearing
within 48 hours of arrest, "(o)fficials frequently (do) not comply
- Role of the Police and Security Apparatus
- UN Blue Helmets (MINUSTAH) and Haiti's police are responsible
for law enforcement and maintaining order. However, both authorities commit
numerous human and civil rights violations, as well as other criminal acts.
- Arrest Procedures and Treatment While in Detention
- Often, warrantless arrests are made on unspecified charges.
Judicial hearings aren't provided. Pretrial detention is a serious problem,
in some cases "up to five years - without being informed of charges
- Moreover, few Haitians can afford attorneys, and none
are provided free. Overall, "discriminatory practices include arbitrary
arrests, false accusation, (and) extortion attempts against (detainees)
and their families."
- At year end 2010, of the (reported) 5,331 persons in
custody, only 1,722 were tried and sentenced. Of those awaiting trial,
one-third have been incarcerated for a year of longer. Moreover, prison
populations don't include many others held in police stations for prolonged
periods with no hearings or filed charges.
- Denial of Fair Public Trials
- Although an independent judiciary is mandated, "in
practice the executive and legislative branches exert significant influence
on the judicial branch." In addition, judicial corruption is common.
Longstanding problems include poorly trained judges, justices of the peace,
and prosecutors, as well as failure to convene court sessions on schedule
as required. In fact, the nation's entire criminal justice system affords
little to ordinary Haitians.
- Trial Procedures
- "In practice, authorities widely ignore" constitutionally
mandated fair trial provisions, including the right to counsel.
- Political Prisoners and Detainees
- Claiming "no reports of political prisoners or detainees"
is patently false in a country notorious for holding many hundreds, including
Aristide Fanmi Lavalas supporters.
- Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
- Legal redress for civil and human rights abuses is difficult
to impossible for most Haitians even though numerous cases proliferate.
- Freedom of Speech and Press
- Though mandated by law, activists, human rights workers,
independent journalists, and pro-democracy advocates face possible harassment,
arrest, or assassination. It bears repeating, important gains achieved
during Aristide's years were lost post-coup. Democracy eludes Haitians,
because Washington's iron boot, allied with local oligarchs, denies them.
- Internet Freedom
- Though unrestricted, most Haitians can't afford access.
In addition, poor infrastructure limits others.
- Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
- Though mandated by law, only demonstrations by hard to
get permits are allowed. Violators are routinely assaulted, arrested, or
- Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection
of Refugees and Stateless Persons
- Those challenging government authorities face losing
all their rights, including to life.
- Internally Displace Persons
- Haiti's January 2010 earthquake displaced 1.5 million
or more. To date, little has been done to help them, those affected forced
to mostly survive on their own, as well as cope with an ongoing cholera
- Protection of Refugees
- Rarely is refugee status or asylum granted.
- Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to
Change Their Government
- Understating Haiti's repressive governance, the State
Department said Haitians aren't "always able....to change their government"
freely. In fact, "November elections were marred by fraud, flawed
voter registration lists, ballot stuffing, intimidation, and some violence
at the polls."
- Elections and Political Participation
- Serious irregularities make Haiti's electoral process
illegitimate, including by banning its most popular party by far - Aristide's
- Official Corruption and Government Transparency
- "According to the World Bank's worldwide governance
indicators, government corruption (is) a severe problem." In fact,
it's "widespread in all branches and at all levels of government."
However, few are held accountable.
- Governmental Attitude Regarding International Nongovernmental
Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
- "The Chamber of Deputies and Senate (have) human
rights committee(s)." However, neither published any reports or introduced
- Discrimination, Societal Abuses and Trafficking in Persons
- No law prohibits discrimination with regard to race,
gender, disability, language or social status. Moreover, trafficking in
various forms is rampant, especially affecting women and children. Rape
is also a major problem, notably in quake affected areas. Women are mostly
unprotected, on their own, and extremely vulnerable.
- Persons with Disabilities
- Laws don't protect hundreds of thousands of physically,
emotionally or mentally disabled persons. In fact, only 3% of disabled
children have access to schools.
- Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
- Haiti's large HIV/AIDS population faces considerable
discrimination, especially affecting women.
- The Right of Association
- Though nominally Haitians may form and join unions, mass
privatizations dilute effective representation. According to some, Haiti
is now a laboratory for neoliberal politics and the interests of multinational
corporations, affording none to impoverished workers. Moreover, mass unemployment
negates the right to organize and bargain collectively. As a result, employers
set wages and establish working conditions arbitrarily.
- Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
- Though prohibited by law, violations are commonplace,
including against children afforded no rights in practice. Moreover, under
Haiti's century-old Restavek system, impoverished families unable to adequately
provide for their children send them to live with better off ones in return
for food, shelter, education, and a better life in return for forced servitude
- de facto slaves subjected to verbal and/or physical abuse.
- As a result, some as young as three are beaten, required
to do anything asked, request nothing, speak only when spoken to, display
no emotion, and receive none of the benefits parents expect, just exploitation
and often severe mistreatment, including from relatives.
- Afforded no government protection, they experience horrific
treatment, including whippings, days without food, being attacked by rodents
during sleep or street predators any time, and being easy prey for kidnappers
who seize them for prostitution or forced labor, internally or abroad.
Haiti's January 2010 earthquake exacerbated conditions.
- Working Conditions
- Haitians are the region's lowest paid, earning sub-poverty
wages for those lucky enough to have jobs with no rights afforded them
with regard to health, safety and other workplace conditions.
- A Final Comment
- Overall, the State Department's report reveals disturbing
civil and human rights violations, despite understating them. As a result,
ordinary Haitians are at risk in a nation spurning democracy because Washington
and local oligarchs won't tolerate it.
- At least for the next five years, expect no change under
Martelly, America's selected stooge in Port-au-Prince.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
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