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Continuing Grave Human Rights Problems in Haiti

Continuing Grave Human Rights Problems in Haiti
May 14, 2004

Lawyers Delegation Documents Continuing Grave Human Rights Problems in Haiti

A Delegation from the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) visited Haiti from April 12-19, and documented serious continuing violations of human rights, including killings, disappearances, burning of homes and intimidation, often directed at supporters of Haiti’s elected government. The Delegation found a high degree of insecurity affecting all Haitians, as criminal gangs, often lead by convicted killers, control large parts of the country and operate with impunity. The Delegation also found that the Multinational Interim Force (MIF) in Haiti was not acting to curb violence by paramilitary gangs, and was involved in illegal, warrantless arrests and holding of prisoners without documentation or legal justification. The delegation issued a report available on the National Lawyers Guild’s website, www.nlg.org.

On February 29, 2004, Haiti’s democratically-elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was forcibly removed from power. In response to reports of serious human rights violations occurring in the aftermath of this coup d’état, the NLG sent two delegations to Haiti to investigate and report on the human rights situation. The first delegation visited Haiti from March 29-April 5, 2004, including the capitol, Port-au-Prince and areas in the south of Haiti. It issued a summary report on April 11, 2004 (available at www.nlg.org). That delegation confirmed reports of politically-motivated killings and other human rights violations, and found that these violations were not adequately reported by the media and local human rights groups. Around the same time, delegations from Amnesty International, the Quixote Center and Human Rights Watch documented these and other serious problems. A separate delegation of international law experts traveled to Jamaica in April, to speak with President Aristide (press statement at www.nlg.org).

The second NLG delegation visited Port-au-Prince and cities to the north, including Gonaives, Cap Haitian and Milot. Delegation members interviewed human rights lawyers, police officials, members of the MIF, political leaders of the Lavalas party, officials of the de facto Haitian government, a representative of the U.S. embassy, journalists, leaders of popular organizations, religious leaders, leaders of the armed rebel movement, local elected officials, and many other Haitian citizens.

The Delegation confirmed that many of the serious, sometimes deadly human rights violations documented by previous delegations continued. Everywhere it went, people reported the presence of lawless armed gangs, some including known human rights violators. Many areas were openly controlled by gangs, some of whom claimed to be the reconstituted Haitian Armed Forces. Supporters of Haiti’s elected government reported continued repression, including killings and burning of houses. The Delegation noted an absence of active, trained police and judicial officials.

The Delegation noted the failure of the MIF to stop violence, especially outside of the city centers, or to respond to the systematic repression of peasants, Lavalas activists and supporters, government officials and judges. It found that U.S. troops were making illegal arrests without any judicial authority, and were holding prisoners without documentation or legally cognizable justification.

The Delegation calls for the restoration of the Rule of Law in Haiti, including: a) the immediate arrest of all people convicted of human rights violations; b) establishment of a climate of security, with special protection given to supporters of the Constitutional government and others targeted by violence; and 3) the immediate restoration of Haiti’s elected government.

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