Three years after the deployment of MINUSTAH, the human rights situation remains of great concern, and rapid improvements are needed, particularly regarding the right to life and physical integrity and social and economic rights. However, the May 2006 installation of an elected Government following a peaceful electoral cycle and subsequent high-level appointments in the area of rule of law have created the prospect of more efficient State responses to the very serious human rights situation. The Government’s willingness to address key issues such as impunity, corruption and prolonged pre-trial detention, and to implement police and justice reform is a most welcome first step in advancing respect for human rights in the country.
Despite an improvement in the security situation, crime and urban violence remain pervasive. At the same time, improvements in the security situation have revealed the weakness of the judicial system as law enforcement, court and penitentiary systems are unable to manage the influx of persons arrested and detained. Prolonged pre-trial detention continues to be of serious concern, despite government initiatives such as the Commission de la détention (Detentions Commission).
Arbitrary arrests, unlawful police custody, ill-treatment and excessive use of force continue to be reported. Lack of technical expertise, poor communication, negligence and apparent corruption of judicial authorities are reportedly the source of numerous unlawful arrests, prolonged pre-trial detention and a low number of court decisions. Public distrust of the justice system has led many Haitians to avoid the formal court system and rely on informal methods, such as vigilantism,which further undermines the security situation.
Deployed in eight departments, MINUSTAH’s Human Rights Section regularly monitored police commissariats, prosecutors’ offices, justices of the peace, courts and prisons. It has also provided local authorities and the public with information on human rights developments and on the functioning of these key rule-of-law institutions. In February 2007, the human rights component organized two national seminars during which judicial and police authorities worked on addressing the complex challenges relating to the protection of judicial guarantees. The human rights component has supported the institutional development of the General Inspectorate of the Haitian National Police through exchange of information on individual cases and training.
The Human Rights Section of MINUSTAH will continue its monitoring, public reporting, and training activities aimed at strengthening capacities and facilitating institutional reform, including by developing a national human rights agenda,while producing periodic reports to inform key public institutions, such as the police, the judicial system, local administrative authorities and parliament on issues relating to the protection of human rights, the fight against impunity and institutional reform.
In its training activities for law enforcement, judicial and administrative authorities, the human rights section will address key human rights violations and procedural irregularities observed in the field, such as in handling arrests, judicial investigations and indictments, with the aim of reducing the incidence of arbitrary and unlawful detention, prolonged pre-trial detention, poor investigations, lack of coordination between police and judicial authorities, and impunity.
Support will also be provided to the Government, Parliament and civil society in developing a human rights action plan and in reporting to international treaty bodies on human rights. Capacity-building activities will include a special effort to strengthen the programmatic capacities within the Office of the Ombudsman (Office de la Protection du Citoyen- OPC).
The human rights section will also help integrate human rights into the police academy programme, particularly for the General Inspection and the Magistrate School, and help parliamentarians to apply human rights standards to their legislative work. Promotion activities will include activities to inform the public about human rights and the rule of law. Particular emphasis will be placed on training members of the press, assisting national NGOs and bar associations in providing legal aid to indigents, and mainstreaming human rights into the work of MINUSTAH and the UN Country Team.