2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - Haiti

Agent-x - June 2 2012, 7:56 PM

According to the United States Department of State published on 24 May then updated on 2 June 2012, Title 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - Haiti
Publisher United States Department of State
Country Haiti
Publication Date 24 May 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - Haiti, 24 May 2012, available at: unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4fc75a966a.html [accessed 3 June 2012]
Disclaimer This 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.

2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - Haiti


Haiti is a constitutional republic with a multiparty political system.

There were some allegations of fraud and irregularities in the second round of presidential and legislative elections on March 20, but international observers considered the elections generally free and fair. Voters elected President Michel Martelly, who took office on May 14 but was unable to secure the required parliamentary approval of a prime minister until October 4. Thus day-to-day government operations and budgetary discretion remained in the hands of the outgoing Preval government for six months, during which time there were multiple allegations of human rights abuses, corruption, and embezzlement of public funds.

Security forces reported to civilian authorities in principle, but there were instances in which elements of the security forces and some other government officials acted independently of civilian control.

Since 2004 the UN Peacekeeping Force in Haiti (MINUSTAH), made up of approximately 13,000 military and police officers and civilians, has operated in the country with a mandate to assist and advise government and security authorities.

Following the January 2010 earthquake, foreign governments, the international community, and many nongovernmental organizations provided assistance in rebuilding the country, while MINUSTAH continued to help maintain security.

The earthquake effectively destroyed much of the government's infrastructure, and approximately 550,000 persons remained homeless and lived in camps for the internally displaced.

The most serious human rights problems included abuses by government security forces and representatives of the judiciary, including extrajudicial killings by police and government officials; allegations of sexual exploitation by members of MINUSTAH; and chronic, severe corruption in all branches of government.

Other human rights problems included torture and excessive use of force against suspects and prisoners; overcrowding and poor sanitation in prisons; prolonged pretrial detention; an inefficient, unreliable, and inconsistent judiciary subject to significant outside and personal influence; rape, other violence, and societal discrimination against women; child abuse; and human trafficking.

In addition there were multiple incidents of mob violence and vigilante retribution against both government security forces and ordinary citizens, including setting houses on fire, burning police stations, throwing rocks, beheadings, and lynchings.

Although the government took some steps to prosecute and punish some government officials and Haitian National Police (HNP) members who committed abuses, there was considerable evidence of impunity for some government officials, as well as for high-ranking officers in the HNP. The government successfully tried and convicted eight law enforcement officials for their role in the 2010 killing of inmates in Les Cayes prison.

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

a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life

The government or its agents may have committed at least one politically motivated killing, and there were widespread allegations of HNP involvement in extrajudicial killings, some of which led to the arrest, conviction, and sentencing of HNP officers.

A December MINUSTAH report detailed allegations of eight killings committed by members of the HNP.

By law authorities are supposed to refer all cases involving allegations of criminal misconduct in the HNP to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) in the HNP, but the OIG did not pursue most cases.

On March 5, HNP officers allegedly killed Frantz Emmanuel Louis and Sterson Jordanaud Jeune, two of three poster hangers working for the Mirlande Manigat presidential campaign.

The officers reportedly arrested the two men in the Champ de Mars camp near the National Palace, took them to the police station, beat them, and then left with them in a police vehicle.

Their bodies were found at the national hospital morgue the next day; they had been shot to death.

The Port-au-Prince police chief placed seven officers from the riot unit in detention pending an investigation into the matter.

Authorities charged five officers, who awaited trial at year's end.

There were two cases of alleged torture of suspects in police custody that led to deaths.

Police in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Martissant arrested and allegedly beat Jeffony Michel on April 1, then took him to the emergency room at the National Hospital.

Michel was found dead in his cell the following morning.

At the hospital morgue, Michel's cause of death was listed as "shot to death."

The police chief of the affluent Petionville neighborhood in Port-au-Prince and the Port-au-Prince prosecutor oversaw the arrest, interrogation, torture, and death of Serge Demosthene on June 15. Authorities arrested Petionville Police Chief Vanel LaCroix and seven other officers implicated in the affair.

According to an OIG report, Port-au-Prince prosecutor Harrycidas Auguste and LaCroix both admitted being present during the torture and death of Demosthene but blamed each other.

Authorities fired Auguste and charged him with murder but later dropped the charges.

LaCroix and the other officers awaited trial at year's end, but Auguste was reportedly being considered for promotion to investigative judge for financial crimes.

The government tried 14 police and corrections officers, as well as 16 escaped prisoners, on charges of murder, arson, escape, and abetting escape resulting from a 2010 riot and successful escape at the Les Cayes prison.

The incident left at least 12 inmates dead, while 22 escaped, and many others were wounded.

At the trial 15 defendants were present; the rest were tried in absentia, including the former chief of the riot police, Olritch Beaubrun, who remained at large and out of the country.

On December 15, the trial concluded, and the prosecution sought life in prison for the 14 officers and an additional one-year sentence for each of the escaped prisoners.

After deliberation, the judge found eight police officers and one prisoner guilty and imposed sentences ranging from three to 13 years of hard labor.

The prison warden, Sylvester Laraque, was sentenced to seven years' hard labor less time already served.

The judge convicted Beaubrun and the prisoner charged with starting the riot in absentia.

Human rights groups and the Office of the Citizen Protector (OPC) applauded the government for providing some measure of justice but said the sentences should have been harsher.

b. Disappearance

There was one report of a politically motivated disappearance by government agents, when one of three poster hangers working for the Mirlande Manigat presidential campaign disappeared.

He was never found after an alleged altercation with HNP officers in the Champ de Mars camp near the National Palace, but the bodies of two other poster hangers were found the next day (see section 1.a.).

Current and former HNP officers were accused of participation in kidnappings.

In June authorities arrested Emile Augustin, a member of the General Security Unit of the National Palace, on more than 20 charges of kidnapping.

Security officials in the Martelly administration had transferred Augustin to the palace in April, following Martelly's election.

Authorities arrested Augustin after determining that he was using a victim's car to commute to the National Palace.

MINUSTAH reporting through December, based on police station records, showed 159 kidnappings, compared with 121 in all of 2010. It was widely acknowledged among the civilian population, MINUSTAH, and the HNP that a significant number of kidnappings were never reported to the police.

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

The law prohibits such practices, but there were some reports of degrading treatment during the year. There were widespread allegations of police mistreatment of suspects during arrest and preliminary detention, as well as credible allegations of police brutality, several of which resulted in the deaths of suspects in police custody.

Prisoners were also subject to degrading treatment, in large part due to overcrowded and inhumane facilities.

Corrections officers in general did not mistreat prisoners.

There were multiple allegations of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation against members of MINUSTAH.

The case of Johnny Jean, an 18-year-old Haitian man, attracted attention when a video showed Uruguayan peacekeepers pulling his shorts down and abusing him on a MINUSTAH base in Port-Salut.

The Uruguayan minister of defense issued a public apology, promised perpetrators would be punished to the full extent of the law, and repatriated four soldiers implicated in the affair.

The Uruguayan MINUSTAH contingent in Port-Salut was also accused of regularly engaging in transactional sex with local Haitians, usually trading their food rations for sexual favors.

As a mandated UN peacekeeping mission, MINUSTAH has an official "zero tolerance" policy regarding sexual exploitation by members of the mission.

It was not clear, however, that the policy had curbed behavior.

When the media or legal authorities publicized incidents of alleged sexual exploitation or abuse by peacekeepers, MINUSTAH responded by conducting its own private, internal investigation and took action accordingly.

MINUSTAH did not provide case-specific information, but it publishes the number of allegations and substantiations of those allegations yearly.

The online database of the UN Conduct and Discipline Unit showed 14 investigations of MINUSTAH sexual exploitation and abuse, of which 12 were categorized as pending and one was considered "substantiated." A separate database from the Office of Internal Oversight Services showed 13 investigations of sexual exploitation and abuse involving minors.

MINUSTAH's zero tolerance policy was accompanied by a policy not to discuss the details or status of any specific investigations with outside entities.

The UN maintained a "blacklist" of forbidden places for its staff to frequent in Haiti, such as bars or clubs known to support prostitution.

Despite the administrative ban, UN vehicles were often seen parked outside and UN personnel were often seen inside these establishments.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prisons and detention centers throughout the country remained overcrowded, poorly maintained, and unsanitary.

Overcrowding was severe; in some prisons detainees slept in shifts due to lack of space.

Some prisons had no beds for detainees, and some cells had no access to sunlight.

Many prison facilities lacked basic services such as toilets, medical services, potable water, electricity, and medical isolation units for contagious patients.

Prisoners in Les Cayes frequently defecated into plastic bags. Many prisoners and detainees suffered from a lack of basic hygiene, malnutrition, poor quality health care, and illness caused by lack of access to clean water.

Some prisons did not allow prisoners out of their cells for exercise.

The prison system had not recovered from the 2010 earthquake that compromised the holding capacity at facilities in Carrefour, Delmas, Jacmel, and the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince.

Authorities had recaptured only 1,600 of the more than 5,000 detainees who escaped in the wake of the earthquake, which included all 4,215 persons then held at the National Penitentiary.

According to the Department of Corrections (DAP), there were 7,009 prisoners jailed as of December 21, but the human rights nongovernmental organization (NGO) National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (RNDDH) believed there were as many as 7,192. According to local standards, available prison facilities were at 300 percent of their capacity, but by international standards, the prisons were above 500 percent of capacity.

There were also an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 prisoners held in makeshift and unofficial detention centers in police stations such as Petit-Goave, Mirogoane, Petionville, Gonaives, Port-au-Prince, and other locations.

Flooding destroyed regular prison facilities in Gonaives and Petit-Goave; as a result, the Gonaives police station held approximately 250 prisoners and the Petit-Goave police station held 150. Prisoners held in these facilities were under the direct control of the HNP and not the DAP. Local authorities held suspects in makeshift facilities, sometimes for days, weeks, or months, without registering them with the DAP. On some occasions authorities eventually released unregistered suspects on their own recognizance or after they allegedly paid bribes to HNP officers.

In some prisons the incidence of preventable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and drug-resistant tuberculosis remained a serious problem.

An October 2010 cholera outbreak also affected the prisons, and authorities initially restricted access to prisoners from personal visitors, as well as medical and health NGOs, in an attempt to quell the spread of the disease.

The RNDDH reported 275 cases of cholera and 60 deaths among prisoners from January to March alone.

Other common diseases in prisons included scabies and beriberi.

Access to adequate nutrition remained a problem.

In October 2010 the HNP took on contractual and fiscal responsibility for the delivery of food to prisons after discovering corruption and embezzlement in the DAP. Prison authorities generally provided prisoners with one or two meals a day consisting of broth with flour dumplings and potatoes, rice and beans, or porridge.

None of the regular meals served to prisoners provided sufficient calories according to medical standards.

As a result, prisoners were allowed regular deliveries of food from relatives, a commonplace practice that resumed during the year after authorities lifted the suspension on outside access imposed after the cholera outbreak.

The HNP also managed other service contracts at prisons, such as sewage treatment.

Most prisons had insufficient sewage facilities for their populations.

As such, their facilities require more frequent service, but with only one HNP central office to handle all contracts for the police, Coast Guard, firefighters, prison workers, and prisoners, attention to sewage problems often was lacking.

Prisons generally used well water as a source for drinking and bathing water.

Some prison officials used chlorine to sanitize drinking water, but in general prisoners did not have access to treated drinking water.

Corrections officers were severely underresourced and lacked basic riot control and self-defense capacity.

Most prisons employed a single guard in a tower above the facility, armed with a 12-gauge shotgun, a close-range weapon not effective in a prison riot or escape attempt.

Corrections authorities in Port-au-Prince maintained separate penitentiaries for adult men and women.

Children 16 and older were often confined with adults.

Minors and adults usually occupied the same cells due to lack of available space.

When space was available, boys were held in a separate cell of the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince.

All males under 18 years of age were supposed to be held at the juvenile facility at Delmas 33, but the ages of some detainees could not be verified.

Girls were not held separately from women at the Petionville Women's Penitentiary, but convicts were kept in a separate cell from pretrial detainees.

UN prison statistics showed that women accounted for approximately 3 percent of convicted prisoners and 5 percent of pretrial detainees at the end of the year. In areas outside the capital, authorities often did not segregate juveniles from adult prisoners or convicted prisoners from pretrial detainees due to a lack of space, resources, and oversight.

The law permits religious observances in prison, and inmates could request to see a Protestant minister, a Catholic priest, or a Vodou (voodoo) leader.

However, in practice most inmates gained access to religious services only once or twice a year. Few if any organized, regular religious services were provided at prisons, but there were occasional visits from members of religious NGOs to prisoners.

Prison authorities were very receptive to NGOs providing services to prisoners, particularly at the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince.

NGOs provided limited medical services, and there was a three-week educational program for juveniles in Delmas.

The OPC was an outspoken advocate for prisoners and better prison conditions but rarely pursued individual complaints.

The OPC sponsored several small clinics around the nation to bring judges to prisons to focus on adjudicating pretrial detention cases.

These clinics had an immediate effect but resulted only in the release of a few dozen prisoners.

The government, with international assistance, sponsored the construction of new prison facilities throughout the country.

A new prison with capacity for 750 inmates was completed in Croix-de-Bouquets but was not yet operational at year's end. Renovations were under way at the prisons in Cap Haitien, Acahie, Delmas 33 in Port-au-Prince, Petit-Goave, and Fort Liberte.

The DAP permitted the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), MINUSTAH, the RNDDH, the OPC, and other organizations to monitor prison conditions.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the constitution stipulates that a person may be arrested only if apprehended during the commission of a crime or on the basis of a warrant by a legally competent official such as a justice of the peace or magistrate.

Authorities must bring the detainee before a judge within 48 hours of arrest.

Officials frequently did not comply with these provisions in practice.

Citizens also contributed to the disregard of the legal process by bringing alleged suspects by force to local police stations.

On July 24, under the direction of presidential security advisors, the HNP arrested 31 persons following an incident at a rally to welcome President Martelly in Cap Haitien, during which an unidentified individual threw a glass bottle that landed near the president's feet. Contrary to internal protocol and the law, authorities transferred all 31 detainees to the central investigative police headquarters in Port-au-Prince and held them there without charge for nearly two weeks.

After intense pressure from human rights groups, authorities transferred all the detainees back to Cap Haitien and released them.

Role of the Police and Security Apparatus

The HNP is an autonomous civilian institution under the authority of a single director general and includes police, corrections, fire, emergency response, airport security, port security, presidential security, and coast guard functions in separate units.

The HNP is a relatively new organization, having been formed after the dissolution of the Haitian military in 1995. During his campaign President Martelly proposed forming a new military, and on December 6, he issued an executive order creating the State Commission of Organization of the Military Component of the Public Force to restore the country's armed force.

The commission will have six months to consult widely among the domestic and international communities to develop a blueprint for a force to serve the public and address the country's major threats, namely the porous border and environmental disasters.

Officially, the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, through its minister and the secretary of state for public security, provides oversight to the HNP. In practice the minister of justice exerted personal influence on HNP operations and sometimes asked authorities to release suspects, especially during election season.

Within the HNP, the OIG is supposed to conduct internal investigations into allegations of police misconduct and recommend administrative action as well as refer cases of criminal police misconduct to the prosecutor.

However, OIG cases were not effectively transferred or pursued by the prosecutor.

Despite there being more than 100 OIG employees, only one inspector was assigned to the investigative bureau.

In September he was transferred to the Director General's Office and not replaced.

The inspector general, Fritz Jean, resigned in September after the acting justice minister and outgoing prime minister Jean-Max Bellerive allegedly pressured him to reintegrate former members of the HNP who were serving in President Martelly's security entourage.

Inspector General Jean had also just completed an investigation into the involvement of former Petionville police commissioner Vanel LaCroix and former Port-au-Prince prosecutor Harrycidas Auguste in the killing of a witness in police custody (see section 1.a.).

Women make up less than 8 percent of the total police force, despite recruiting drives for female officers.

The HNP claimed it formed a specialized Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) unit, but the highest-ranking female officer assigned command the SGBV unit explained she had no vehicle, no cell phone, no subordinates, and no resources.

The vetting process of current and new officers in the HNP stalled during the year. A joint process between the HNP and UN Police Officers (UNPOL) has been in place for several years, but they did not apply the process uniformly.

HNP leadership fired some officers as a result of the vetting process, but not all names discovered in the vetting process received the same treatment.

There is no permanent internal HNP administrative body to take action when officers fail to meet vetting standards.

According to the RNDDH, the number of HNP officers identified as not meeting vetting requirements was in the hundreds.

The specific limits of the MINUSTAH mandate kept military and law enforcement authorities from conducting unilateral operations.

Frequently there was poor or no coordination between MINUSTAH and Haitian law enforcement.

MINUSTAH units were assigned to patrol camps for internally displaced persons in particular, but without unilateral arrest authority, they were generally unable to intervene during instances of violence.

MINUSTAH leadership acknowledged that most of their troops did not speak French or Creole and had extremely limited access to translation services, which further hampered their ability to coordinate with their HNP counterparts.

Reform and professionalization of the HNP continued as international programs and foreign governments provided human rights and other training and equipment for new recruits and existing officers; police station upgrades; security and humanitarian improvements to prisons; vehicles, computers, and communications equipment; and other technical assistance.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment While in Detention

The law permits police officers to make arrests when a suspect is caught during the commission of a crime, or later with a court-authorized warrant.

Police frequently apprehended persons without warrants or with warrants not issued by a duly authorized official.

Authorities frequently detained individuals on unspecified charges or pending investigation.

Persons arrested reported credible instances of extortion, false charges, illegal detention, physical violence, and refusal to grant due process by agents of law enforcement and the judiciary.

The government frequently did not observe the constitutional requirement to present detainees before a judge within 48 hours, and prolonged pretrial detention remained a serious problem.

Authorities held many detainees in pretrial detention for extended periods

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