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Interactive dialogue on Haiti

38th session of the Human Rights Council
Statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein

3 July 2018


I am glad to have this opportunity to discuss with you the work of my Office in Haiti. You will recall that in March 2017, following the termination of the mandate of the Independent Expert, the Council requested that the Government of Haiti prepare a national action plan to implement the recommendations of the human rights mechanisms, together with a broad range of stakeholders and with the assistance of my Office, as well as a timeline for achieving the objectives of that plan, and a national mechanism for reporting and monitoring targets and indicators related to human rights.

I regret to report to you that there has been very little progress in all these areas. The assistance provided by my Office, in particular through the Human Rights Section of  the UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti, has included continuous training and capacity-building, involving significant financial and human resources. However, the prolonged absence of a high-level human rights focal point in the Executive branch has impeded progress, and it speaks for the overall lack of strategic and political engagement by the Government for meaningful improvement of the human rights situation in the country. While the office of the Ombudsperson, as the national human rights institution, has demonstrated dynamism and commitment, the Interministerial Committee for human rights has not significantly progressed in its work to establish a framework for action.

In 2014, a first draft of a national human rights plan was drawn up by the Interministerial Committee, under the leadership of the Minister Delegate for Human Rights. Four years later, we stand no closer to its finalization.

I very much regret this lack of progress, and our Office stands ready to continue – and, indeed, intensify – our support. But stronger engagement by the Haitian authorities will be essential to advance towards a comprehensive and workable national plan of action for human rights.

As outlined in the report submitted to you, that plan should address key challenges, including economic and social rights and the right to development, pervasive illiteracy and poverty. The impact of recent climate change, and natural disasters, have further set back the cause of development, and 36,500 people remain displaced from the 2010 earthquake, in often very precarious conditions. The report also outlines a range of challenges in the field of transitional justice. Combatting impunity for the grave and extensive human rights violations committed by successive régimes is vital, not only to ensure justice for the victims but also to establish public confidence in the institutions of justice and government.

Moreover, legislative and institutional reforms are urgently needed, with concrete measures to address the severe overcrowding in prisons. Due to the failure by courts to process cases, prolonged pretrial detention is of particular concern:: the average detainee in Haiti will spend over three years in detention before he or she goes on trial. My Office also continues to be concerned about repeated allegations of human rights violations committed by members of the police force, which again undermine public trust in justice. These are frequently compounded by failure to hold the alleged perpetrators accountable, as illustrated by the serious human rights violations committed by Haitian National Police in 2017 during separate operations in the Lilavois and  Grand-Ravine neighborhoods of the capital, Port-au-Prince. To date, judiciary proceedings have been initiated to make those responsible accountable.

Progress in improving the human rights situation in Haiti is essential. The country has made strides towards stability. Its return to constitutional order, following presidential, legislative and local elections in 2015 to 2017, is a very significant achievement. Only by protecting and promoting human rights can that stability be ensured.  The people of Haiti deserve vigorous action to ensure respect for their fundamental rights. I will therefore extend the continued support of my Office, and recommend that the Council continues to be frequently appraised about the progress of the preparation and implementation of the action plan as well as of the human rights situation in Haiti. I look forward to your contributions to this discussion.