Disarmament delayed, justice denied
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July 28, 2005
Haitians remain mired in a human rights crisis despite the presence
of a UN peacekeeping force, the Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).
In fact, little tangible progress has been made to protect human rights
since the interim government took office in early March 2004 and in
the year since MINUSTAH arrived in the country. Violent crime, confrontations
between armed groups and gangs, and unlawful use of force by police
continue to claim the lives of civilians on a daily basis.
Haiti’s human rights problems could worsen in the run-up to elections
scheduled for the end of 2005. Politically motivated arbitrary detentions,
ill-treatment, extrajudicial executions, deliberate and arbitrary killings
of civilians, rape, death threats and intimidation are routine and are
perpetrated with impunity. The abuses are taking place against a background
of increased insecurity and endemic criminal violence. The alleged perpetrators
include armed gangs with or without political ties to former President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, rogue police officers, former rebels and demobilized
members of the former Haitian Armed Forces (Forces Armées d’Haïti,
FADH), and organized crime.
Much of the current crisis stems from the armed rebellion that forced
out former President Aristide in February 2004 and from the dispute
within Haiti over the legitimacy of the interim government headed by
Gérard Latortue. Since 30 September 2004, hundreds of people
have reportedly been killed in an upsurge of political violence that
followed a series of demonstrations organized by Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s
Fanmi Lavalas Party to commemorate the 13th anniversary of the military
coup that deposed President Aristide in 1991. Many of the killings are
believed to have been carried out by armed gangs allegedly supporting
Jean-Bertrand Aristide and by Haitian National Police (HNP) officers.
These gangs are said to be responsible for numerous killings, including
Haiti's recurring political crises are rooted in long-term patterns
of human rights abuses committed with impunity. The current crisis is
The political violence is compounded by a grave humanitarian crisis.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas and ranks 153 in the world
in terms of the Human Development Index. Life expectancy at birth, for
men and women alike, is less than 50 years, while infant mortality was
79 per 1000 live births in 2002. Illiteracy is widespread and nearly
two-thirds of the population live under the national poverty line. Rates
of illiteracy and poverty are highest in the countryside where around
two-thirds of the 8 million population lives. Haiti has also the highest
prevalence (5.6 per cent) of HIV-AIDS outside the sub-Saharan region.
Access to retrovirus medicine remains scarce as the national health
system is severely under-funded.(1)
This appalling situation compelled the international community to mobilize
its resources. On 19 and 20 July 2004, at the International Donor’s
Conference in Washington DC, the international community addressed the
enormous task of rebuilding Haiti. Amnesty International urged participants
to support plans to protect and promote human rights and to ensure that
adequate funds were made available to this end. The response was generous
and exceeded expectations. However, the succeeding months have seen
only limited fulfilment of the promises made. Meanwhile, Haitians continue
to face enormous problems in all aspects of their lives.
The proliferation of arms has exacerbated the political crisis. In view
of this, disarmament has become the main and most pressing issue as
Haiti heads towards elections in October and November 2005 that should
mark a return to democratic rule.
In a June 2004 report, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan concluded that
"a long-term effort and an international commitment are needed
to rebuild the economic and social structures, and support the Government
and people of Haiti in building democratic institutions together".(2)
This commitment was reiterated on 12 January 2005 by the UN Security
Council, which expressed "its support for United Nations presence
in Haiti as long as necessary".(3)
In early 2004 popular discontent and protest against Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s
government was rapidly gaining momentum. Repression of government opponents
was harsh, carried out by police and armed gangs known as chimères,
reportedly in the pay of the administration. On 5 February, conflict
broke out in the city of Gonaïves and the insurgency quickly spread
to other regions. Insurgents were mainly officials of the former Haitian
Armed Forces, disbanded in 1995, members of the disbanded paramilitary
organization Revolutionary Front for the Progress and Advancement of
Haiti (Front Révolutionnaire pour l’Avancement et le Progrès
d’Haïti, FRAPH) and a criminal gang based in Gonaïves
that called itself the Cannibal Army (Armée cannibale). The armed
rebels operated under the leadership of Guy Philippe, former National
Police Commissioner, and Louis-Jodel Chamblain, former second in command
of the FRAPH and a convicted perpetrator of human rights abuses.
On 29 February, President Aristide left the country in disputed circumstances
while the rebels were threatening to march into Port-au-Prince. Boniface
Alexandre, President of the Supreme Court, was quickly sworn in as the
new transitional President. The same day, a US-led Multinational Interim
Force (MIF) was deployed in the country on a three-month mission authorized
by the UN Security Council. On 9 March, Gérard Latortue was appointed
interim Prime Minister.
In June MINUSTAH took over from the MIF with a mandate, among other
things, to support the transitional government in ensuring security
and stability and to assist in the reform of the Haitian National Police
Political violence increased dramatically in the capital after 30 September
when there was a mass demonstration by Fanmi Lavalas Party supporters.
After that, numerous abuses, including the decapitation of three policemen,
were allegedly committed by members of armed gangs supposedly linked
to the Fanmi Lavalas Party. Members of the HNP also allegedly committed
several abuses, including extrajudicial executions. In October, UN Civilian
Police (CIVPOL) and HNP agents began joint operations in poor neighbourhoods
of the capital in an attempt to curb endemic violence while in several
regions of the country, demobilized soldiers and former rebels acted
as the de facto authorities posing a serious threat to human rights.
An Amnesty International delegation visited Haiti in March and April
2004. Its delegates received numerous testimonies about grave human
rights abuses perpetrated by the national police, rebels and armed gangs
of rival political views in the context of the violent rebellion in
February 2004. Information gathered during the visit was published by
Amnesty International on 21 June 2004 in a report, Breaking the cycle
of violence: A last chance for Haiti?(4)
In October and November 2004 Amnesty International delegates returned
to the country to look into ongoing human rights concerns. The delegation
visited Port-au-Prince (the capital), and the cities of Mirebalais,
Hinche, Cap Haitian, Gonaïves and Petite-Goâve. Delegates
met government authorities, police officials, MINUSTAH officials, human
rights organizations, victims and families of victims, human rights
lawyers and activists, including women’s rights activists, and
groups helping to rehabilitate victims of human rights abuses. The delegates
found that serious violence, blatant impunity and the absence of the
rule of law were widespread across the country. Some of the material
used to compile this report was collected during this visit. Other material
is the result of the organization’s ongoing research. The cases
cited provide illustrative examples of some of the patterns of human
rights violations that Amnesty International has identified.
Amnesty International is publishing this report to draw the attention
of the international community to the continuing and unresolved human
rights concerns in Haiti. The organization also seeks to highlight the
serious abuses committed by armed gangs, as well as MINUSTAH’s
setbacks in protecting the lives of civilians and re-establishing the
rule of law. Amnesty International hopes that information published
in this report will encourage MINUSTAH to take adequate measures to
prevent abuses against unarmed civilians. It also hopes to contribute
to a debate within Haiti to end the culture of impunity and long history
of serious human rights abuses.
1. The imperative for disarmament
"The proliferation of weapons and armed groups and the climate
of impunity which continue to prevail have impeded the respect for human
"The unified commitment of the interim government to a comprehensive
approach to disarmament, demobilization and reintegration was found
The consolidation of peace, security and the rule of law is contingent
on the successful disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR)
of all armed groups. All initiatives aiming to restore basic human rights
must be based on effective DDR which must, therefore, be the priority
for the interim government, for Haitian society, for MINUSTAH and for
the international community in general.
The control of arms has been a major concern since Jean-Bertrand Aristide
was reinstalled as President in 1994 after the military that deposed
him three years earlier was removed from power by a US-led military
invasion. A huge quantity of arms and small weapons is circulating in
Haiti in the hands of former rebels and former military, criminal gangs
with and without political affiliation, security guards and civilians.
All Haitians have the constitutional right to possess firearms with
an authorization from police authorities but the circulation and possession
of arms, largely on an illegal basis, has become widespread over the
Research by the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey (SAS) in 2004 and early
2005 indicates that in Haiti there are nearly 170,000 small arms in
the hands of individuals, diverse armed groups and criminal gangs, security
agencies and law enforcement officials.(7) According to SAS, there is
no complete, accurate or updated registry of firearms; a national firearms
registry did exist but was discontinued, although some permits were
issued in early 2005. Official figures included in the report indicate
that as of 2001, the national police had registered 20,300 legal weapons
owned by civilians.(8)
The public display of weapons by former rebels and former military has
been a recurrent phenomenon and has been tolerated by the authorities
and MINUSTAH officials. Even though the government was frequently threatened
with a coup by the former military, no persuasive action to disarm them
or remove them from public buildings they were occupying (including
police stations) was taken until December 2004.
Since the interim government took office in early March 2004, no serious
efforts have been made to address the disarmament issue despite a sharp
rise in violence and deaths by firearms. It became clear that the government
lacked the political will to address the matter seriously even though
it has the support of MINUSTAH in elaborating and implementing a DDR
programme. The UN Secretary-General and the UN Security Council repeatedly
called on the Haitian authorities to address the issue of disarmament
with utmost urgency, but the implementation of a comprehensive DDR programme
is still awaited.
The minimal DDR activity during a year of UN presence may have a profoundly
negative impact on the political environment surrounding the forthcoming
elections – and this needs to be addressed by the international
community. Already, the dangerous mix of arms proliferation, high unemployment
(nearly 60 per cent) and mistrust between different social and political
sectors in Haiti has contributed to a highly volatile situation, only
partially countered by the presence of MINUSTAH.
A limited attempt was made during 2004 to encourage Haitians to disarm
voluntarily. However, the initiative lacked a specific framework within
which to address broader issues of disarmament. The interim government
set 15 September 2004 as the deadline for the voluntary handover of
After that date, the authorities raised the possibility of more proactive
action by the national police with the collaboration of MINUSTAH to
disarm illegal armed groups. However, the deadline passed almost unnoticed
and it became clear that neither the Haitian authorities nor MINUSTAH
had developed a coordinated framework to start the disarmament process
or, if it existed, it was not implemented.
Furthermore, it appeared that the Haitian authorities were tolerating
some illegal armed groups, such as the former rebels and former military
plus their acolytes, while simultaneously pursuing armed gangs allegedly
supporting Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Amnesty International delegates observed
in October/November 2004 that former FADH members displaying their weapons
in public, in the capital and other cities, were not challenged by HNP
or MINUSTAH officers. In the same period, before the MINUSTAH operation
on 20 March 2005 that ended an occupation of the police station in Petite-Goâve,
Amnesty International delegates observed that former military were enforcing
the law, again without being challenged.
As 2004 progressed, the interim government began to confront its ineffectiveness
in relation to DDR, while MINUSTAH turned to small community-based projects
to tackle criminality and the circulation of arms. The experience of
an earlier UN Development Programme (UNDP) project in the area of Carrefour-Feuilles
(south-west of Port-au-Prince) proved to be very valuable in terms of
assessing the response from the communities targeted. The community
was approached for over a year in order to establish a climate of confidence.
Arms were turned over on a voluntary basis in exchange for access to
micro-credit programs. The extension of this pilot project to other
regions of the capital was being considered by MINUSTAH at the end of
The interim government’s ability to address disarmament during
2004 was partially constrained by the lack of state authority throughout
most of the country. Public services and public administration collapsed
during the February 2004 rebellion; law enforcement officials fled;
police stations, prisons and courts were looted, burned and destroyed;
local delegates at different administrative levels went on the run or
were removed from office. In this vacuum of state authority, former
rebels and former military gained control over much of the country,
arms in hand. However, as the first half of the year 2005 ended, it
became clear that the interim government lacked the political will to
address the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration issue in a
comprehensive and systematic manner.
The former military, encouraged by their advantageous position, made
the interim government accede to their demands for financial compensation
and further integration into the national police for those who so desired.
A Demobilized Soldiers Management Bureau (Bureau de gestion des militaires
démobilisés) was set up to address the grievances of the
former military. It asked for back pay since demobilization in 1995
and for payment of the military pension funds. The interim government
agreed to pay in total US$ 28 millions to the ex-FADH in three instalments.
However, no measures have been taken to ensure that the former military
will turn in their arms and no assurance of a final demobilization has
been set as a condition for final payment. Although many former military
expressed their desire to disarm and demobilize, there is disagreement
between different factions and many have refused to hand over their
On 3 February 2005, nearly a year after the start of the rebellion that
ousted President Aristide and his government, the interim government
finally announced a presidential decree setting up the National Commission
on Disarmament. A few weeks later, representatives of the government
and civil society were nominated as members of the Commission. However,
at the time of writing, the Commission did not have a DDR framework
to implement, and lacked the necessary funds to operate and to sustain
the reintegration of disbanded combatants – an essential element
of the DDR process.
In its mission report of April 2005, the UN Security Council expressed
its concern about "the Commission’s limited scope and its
ambiguous attitude to addressing the issue fully, particularly vis-à-vis
the former military personnel."(9)
On 12 March 2005, former military personnel symbolically turned in their
weapons in Cap-Haitian, marking their return to civilian life. However,
during the official ceremony attended by, among others, Prime Minister
Gérard Latortue and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General,
Juan Gabriel Valdés, only seven decrepit weapons were turned
in by 325 newly demobilized military. Concerns remain that arms are
being transferred to other factions of former military or are being
stored. The killing on 8 April 2005 of two leaders of the former military
during confrontations with MINUSTAH and HNP officers, Ramisinthe Ravix
and René Jean Anthony (alias "Grenn Sonnen"), could
have repercussions on the future of the DDR programme aimed at the former
military as the unity among this group over accepting to disarm may
Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration also need development
in terms of infrastructure, public services and institutions. Disarming
and demobilizing combatants and reintegrating them into society cannot
be done in a political and legal vacuum. The HNP cannot absorb all the
candidates eligible for demobilization without a strategy and long-term
programmes to provide adequate training and ensure professionalization.
Promotion of sustainable employment and skills training should be a
priority in reintegration programmes for former rebels and gang members,
and should be aimed at ensuring their livelihood.
2. MINUSTAH, a year on
June 2005 marked the first anniversary of the deployment of MINUSTAH
in Haiti. The deployment of MINUSTAH, which began slowly in June 2004,
had gathered pace by the end of 2004. By May 2005, 6,211 of the 6,700
military personnel authorized by the UN Security Council and 1,413 of
the anticipated total of 1,622 UN Civilian Police (CIVPOL) had been
deployed.(10) In June 2005, the remaining forces were still awaited
while the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, proposed in its 13 May 2005
report that the military power of the mission be increased to 7,500
Brazil assumed command of MINUSTAH military forces by sending more than
1,200 troops. Argentina, Uruguay and Chile also have an important military
participation in MINUSTAH while Chilean, Juan Gabriel Valdés,
is the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Haiti and
leads the mission.
The UN Security Council, in Resolution 1542 of 30 April 2004, mandated
MINUSTAH to (among other things):
o Ensure a secure and stable environment to allow the political process
to take place in Haiti by: helping the interim government extend state
authority throughout Haiti; bringing about a process of national dialogue
and reconciliation; and organizing, monitoring and carrying out free
and fair elections.
o Assist the interim government in monitoring, restructuring and reforming
the Haitian National Police (HNP) through vetting, training, monitoring
and mentoring of police officers.
o Assist the interim government and the HNP with comprehensive disarmament,
demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programmes, and the restoration
of the rule of law, public safety and public order.
o "Protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence
within its capabilities",(11) support the interim government and
Haitian NGOs in promoting and protecting human rights, and ensure individual
accountability for human rights abuses and redress for victims.
o Monitor and report on the human rights situation, including the situation
of returned refugees and displaced persons.
MINUSTAH’s mandate strongly emphasized the need to support the
interim government while inaction by the Haitian authorities on several
key matters, such as DDR, restoration of the rule of law and individual
accountability for human rights abuses, could be detrimental to the
mission’s efforts in these areas. Furthermore, poor relations
between the interim government and civil society could hamper efforts
to implement a national dialogue and reconciliation process, and to
protect and promote human rights.
Given the human rights situation in Haiti, MINUSTAH has been criticized
for its lack of strong action to prevent human rights abuses, principally
those perpetrated by Haitian police officers.(12) MINUSTAH personnel
told Amnesty International’s delegation that the mission lacks
the executive power to undertake independent policing activity and to
comply fully with specific provisions in its mandate, particularly to
protect civilians under imminent threat. The support that MINUSTAH may
have from the Haitian population fades away with every abuse reportedly
committed with impunity by the national police. Support has also faded
away among inhabitants of deprived neighbourhoods and among Lavalas
supporters – presently the largest political force in Haiti –
because MINUSTAH is mandated to assist the national police, which continues
to commit widespread abuses against members of both these sectors of
Securing the country
Some progress has been made towards creating a secure environment in
which humanitarian assistance is assured. This has been particularly
important since the floods in Gonaïves in September 2004. However,
much remains to be done as threats against civilians, mainly in the
capital, are persistent and have increased since March 2005. Common
criminality, including kidnapping of civilians and armed attacks against
civilians, continue to create fear and panic among the population. It
also poses a threat to the forthcoming elections. The number of kidnappings
for ransom is increasing and in early May, for the first time, foreign
MINUSTAH civilian workers were held hostage.
The 25 February 2005 report from the UN Secretary-General conveys an
improved security situation in Haiti.(13) It notes that "significant
improvement has been achieved since late November 2004, with the increased
military and civilian police manpower allowing MINUSTAH, in cooperation
with the Haitian National Police (HNP), to conduct successful security
operations, thus clearing the way towards improved stability."
However, until the DDR process is completed and sufficient police officers
are deployed, the security situation will remain volatile.
One of the difficulties MINUSTAH continues to face is a lack of military
power and intelligence to secure the areas where violence affects Haitians
every day. This was, and to some extent still is, the case in deprived
neighbourhoods of Port-au-Prince, such as Cité Soleil, Bel-Air,
Martissant, Delmas and Village de Dieu. Civilians are the daily victims
of armed gangs and of repressive operations by police. Although MINUSTAH
maintains a minimal presence in such areas, the impact of its military
presence is limited to the main streets where its patrols are present.
In the small winding alleys that stretch throughout Cité Soleil,
the civilian population continues to suffer grave abuses as the armed
gangs kill, rape, burn and loot with impunity. In other deprived neighbourhoods
of the capital, security is compromised by armed gangs operating there
and by police operations that are conducted without the presence of
a MINUSTAH/CIVPOL counterpart.
On 20 March 2005, MINUSTAH suffered its first casualties during separate
operations to take back into state control two police stations in Petite-Goâve
and Terre-Rouge. The police stations had been occupied by former military
since November 2004 and no police officers were present. Law enforcement
was carried out by the former military without any legitimacy. Acts
of intimidation, harassment and reprisal against Lavalas supporters
were reported to Amnesty International’s delegation in Petite-Goâve
in November. The Justice of the Peace of Petite-Goâve had to rely
on the former military to make arrests and deliver summons. Former military
were holding in custody four people in the occupied police station.
Similar situations existed in different areas throughout the country
where the former military were strong despite MINUSTAH presence.
Reports during the initial stages of MINUSTAH’s deployment suggested
an overemphasis on protecting MINUSTAH and other UN personnel and assets
in Port-au-Prince and Gonaïves, to the detriment of the civilian
population. Some MINUSTAH contingents reportedly failed to assist civilians
who were being openly harassed or threatened by police officers or criminals
even when they were nearby. This could have been the result of a misunderstanding
of MINUSTAH’s rules of engagement or of a strict compliance to
the mandate provision stating that the civilians should be protected
from "imminent threat of violence… without prejudice to the
responsibilities of the Transitional Government and of police authorities."
However, on 4 March 2005, MINUSTAH military personnel reportedly did
interpose themselves between pro-Lavalas demonstrators and HNP officers
who had been deployed to control the crowd. The MINUSTAH manoeuvre was
praised by the demonstrators but created tension between MINUSTAH officials
and government authorities who qualified it as a breach of MINUSTAH’s
mandate. The incident took place a few days after HNP officers reportedly
killed at least one person during a peaceful demonstration that was
being observed by MINUSTAH personnel.
On occasion there has been tension between the role of protecting civilians
on the one hand and supporting the HNP on the other. With the former,
there was a clear incentive to develop a conciliatory relationship with
residents from deprived neighbourhoods in particular and gain their
trust, but such an approach could inhibit the full support of police
operations in the area. Some MINUSTAH forces were reported to be actively
patrolling areas in the capital and forging a good relationship with
Protecting and promoting human rights
One of the most serious concerns about the implementation of MINUSTAH’s
mandate has been the absence of frequent, comprehensive and public reports
during the first 10 months by the Special representative of UN Secretary-General
and by CIVPOL’s Commissioner. The absence of such public reports
means it has been difficult to find out what steps have been taken to
protect and promote human rights. As of April 2005, there had been almost
no public reporting containing comprehensive information about human
rights implementation in accordance with MINUSTAH’s mandate as
outlined in Resolution 1542.
In November 2004, Amnesty International urged the Haitian authorities
to establish a thorough, independent and impartial inquiry into allegations
of human rights violations committed by Haitian police officers, including
the reported extrajudicial executions at Fort National (see Section
Amnesty International welcomed the announcement made by a CIVPOL spokesperson
in November 2004 of an investigation into the executions at Fort National.
However, no information on the progress of this investigation has been
made public. Similarly, no findings of the investigation into the killing
by police of at least seven prisoners at the National Penitentiary on
1 December 2004 have been published.
Amnesty International believes that the results of such investigations
should be made public to ensure the maximum impact on the general population
in Haiti and the perpetrators of human rights violations, whether they
be state agents or civilians. Such reports should be broadly disseminated
nationally and internationally.
Amnesty International has repeatedly recommended that peacekeeping operations
issue frequent and comprehensive public reports of their activities
and findings, especially in the area of human rights. The organization
is concerned that silence will send a message of tolerance of abuses.
MINUSTAH’s publicity of human rights abuses perpetrated by state
and non-state agents would help combat impunity and raise awareness
of human rights in Haiti. A broad dissemination to national and international
audiences would send a clear message of the mission’s commitment
to uphold human rights and tackle impunity.
3. Haitian National Police and human rights
"Lè yo rentre nan zòn la, tout moun viktim"
(When they [the policemen] come here, everybody is a victim)(14)
"The mission was struck by statements by interim authorities that
no human rights violations in the country were committed by the State."(15)International
standards governing the use of force and firearms make clear that deadly
force should be used only as a last resort in response to imminent threat
of death or serious injury and only when all other measures have been
exhausted.(16) Police officers in Haiti, however, regularly flout these
standards in their use of lethal force, as well as national law and
the 1995 internal ethic code, including the police’s motto "Protéger
et servir" (protect and serve).
One of the main challenges for the interim government was to ensure
the respect and protection of human rights, as the HNP had been responsible
for numerous human rights violations under the previous government.
Amnesty International had documented patterns of excessive force and
made recommendations to the Haitian authorities to make police accountable
to the rule of law.
This challenge is particularly important given the increasing insecurity
created by waves of political violence and organized crime that have
spread throughout the capital and other parts of the country.
Police officers often find themselves fighting against gangs that are
heavily armed and better equipped than they are. Several police officers
have been killed in these confrontations.
The police force is understaffed, badly equipped and insufficiently
trained despite sustained efforts by the international community to
assist in their training and professionalization since it was created
in 1995. The high degree of politicization during Aristide’s government,
linked to high levels of corruption within the HNP, was in part responsible
for its poor performance. Allegations of serious human rights violations
committed by the police continued.
Many Haitians in deprived neighbourhoods of the capital described the
police to Amnesty International not as protectors, but as something
to be feared, almost akin to a hostile force. Parents and friends of
people killed by police officers told Amnesty International of their
distress at being targeted solely for their political opinions or social
status. In poor neighbourhoods of the capital, gang members –
mostly young males and children – survive through crime. Reports
suggest that when police carry out operations in such areas, they target
young males as potential criminals ("bandits") and many are
killed as a result of excessive use of force by the police.
Police accounts of confrontations or "shoot-outs" with "bandits"
continue to be disputed in many cases by witnesses. Amnesty International
considers that the manner in which deadly force is frequently employed
and the absence of prompt, thorough and effective investigations is
consistent in many instances with a pattern of unlawful killings or
Such cases include the killing of at least 11 people at Fort National
and Carrefour Péan in October 2004. Until now, the findings of
investigations have not been made public nor has anyone been held to
account. First-hand information gathered by Amnesty International delegates,
including from witnesses, implicates police officers in these killings,
contradicting official denials.
Amnesty International is gravely concerned that the transitional authorities
are failing to prevent serious human rights violations by the national
police. The organization raised these and other concerns directly with
the Haitian authorities, with the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General
in Haiti and CIVPOL’s Commissioner in the hope that allegations
of extrajudicial executions and other grave human rights violations
would be investigated and the perpetrators held to account.
A number of police officers wear balaclavas, which is perceived by some
civilians and human rights defenders as intimidating. Amnesty International
delegates observed that police agents were not displaying any kind of
personal identification or badge other than, occasionally, the police
logo. Thus it is virtually impossible to identify an officer by rank,
name or number. Victims of police abuses therefore often have no means
of identifying their assailants, severely curtailing their ability to
file complaints against HNP officers. Victims of police abuses usually
have to seek the support of national or international NGOs to raise
their cases with the authorities, but the possibilities for redress
remain extremely limited.
Amnesty International believes that there is a lack of political will,
resources and mechanisms to establish whether police officers are responsible
for human rights violations. An independent commission to investigate
police abuses has not been established despite commitments from the
interim Prime Minister, Gérard Latortue. Prosecutions for extrajudicial
killings, ill-treatment and other human rights abuses remain notional.
Investigations more often than not fail to establish who the suspected
perpetrator was and do not conform to international standards. The scenes
of shootings are not protected; forensic and ballistics evidence is
contaminated, removed or disappears. Victims of firearms are normally
brought to the Haitian State University Hospital (Hôpital de l'Université
d'État d'Haïti, HUEH) morgue but autopsy reports are non-existent.(17)
Some parents of victims refrain from going to the morgue for fear of
reprisals or because they cannot afford to pay the sum needed to take
the corpse away for a proper burial. Unclaimed bodies at the morgue
are reportedly disposed of at Titanyen, a wasteland North of Port-au-Prince,
along with other waste material from the hospital.(18) Some victims
are allegedly brought from the crime scene directly to Titanyen, and
Haitian law and state obligations
The Haitian Constitution guarantees the right to life.(19) It also defines
the police as an armed body operating under the Ministry of Justice
and "established to ensure law and order and protect the life and
property of citizens".(20)
Police agents are reportedly operating under a Code of Deontology (an
internal set of moral rules or duties) approved in 1995. Breaking these
rules can result in disciplinary measures or criminal punishment.
"When he’s authorized by law to use force and in particular
to use his firearms, the police agent can only make the strictly necessary
use and proportionate to the goal he wants to achieve" (Article
9 of the 1995 Code of Deontology).(21)
The Haitian Criminal Code has provisions to counter violence by state
"When a state employee, or a civil servant, or an administrator,
or an agent or employee from the government or the police, or an executor
of judicial warrants or of judgements, a commander in chief or sub-commander
from public office, had, without a legitimate motive used or ordered
to use violence against persons in the exercise or at the occasion of
the exercise of its functions, he would be punished, according to the
nature of the violence…"(22)
Where abuse by state agents results in death, the Criminal Code prescribes
forced work for life, the maximum punishment under Haitian law since
the death penalty was abolished.(23)
Haiti is a party to several international human rights treaties, including
the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and
the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading
Treatment or Punishment. As such, it has pledged to observe the fundamental
freedoms and human rights laid down in these standards, including the
right to life, liberty and security of person. Provisions on the right
to life are also included in the American Convention on Human Rights,
ratified by Haiti in 1977.
Amnesty International is concerned that in several cases the security
forces have contravened national and international laws prohibiting
the arbitrary deprivation of life and acted outside the limits set by
international standards governing the use of deadly force. The standards
relevant to the use of firearms against citizens are laid down in the
UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the UN Basic Principles
on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.
The government’s responsibility in relation to extrajudicial executions
is further spelled out in the UN Human Rights Committee’s General
Comment on Article 6 of the ICCPR:
"The protection against arbitrary deprivation of life …is
of utmost importance. The Committee considers that States parties should
take measures not only to prevent and punish deprivation of life by
criminal acts, but also to prevent arbitrary killing by their own security
forces. The deprivation of life by the authorities of the State is a
matter of the utmost gravity. Therefore, the law must strictly control
and limit the circumstances in which a person may be deprived of his
life by such authorities".
The conduct of HNP agents does not appear to have conformed to Article
3 of the Code of Conduct which says that force may only be used "when
strictly necessary". The official commentary on the Code of Conduct
says that the use of force should be "exceptional", and that
it should only be used for two purposes: the "prevention of crime"
and "effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of offenders or
suspected offenders". The Code of Conduct says that the force used
should be proportional to the objective, ie it should only be used "to
the extent required" for the performance of officials’ duties
while enforcing the law.
The Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal,
Arbitrary and Summary Executions include, among other things, the investigation
of extrajudicial executions and the legal proceedings needed to bring
the perpetrators to justice. The Principles also spell out the right
to fair and adequate compensation for the families and dependents of
Amnesty International is concerned that none of these Codes or principles
are respected by the HNP and are not duly implemented by the Haitian
Extrajudicial executions and unlawful killings
Extrajudicial executions continue and are routinely denied by the police.
Amnesty International has raised several cases with the authorities
where it believed that police may have used excessive force during law
enforcement operations. These include:
o On 27 October 2004, four young men were reportedly summarily executed
in broad daylight in the Carrefour Péan suburb of Port-au-Prince.
According to testimonies gathered by Amnesty International at the site
of the killing, about 15 police agents in five police cars arrived in
the area at around 11am. Two of the cars were parked perpendicular to
the wall. The four young men were taken to between the cars and shot
dead. One of them had his hands tied behind his back. Shortly after
the cars left, police in another car arrived and fired indiscriminately
into houses in an adjacent street. Several houses had bullet holes and
bullets remained implanted in walls. The four bodies were left in the
street on display; they were only picked up by the police two days later.
The identity of the victims remains unknown to local residents and Amnesty
International. The authorities deny that such an operation ever took
o In November 2004, according to reports received by Amnesty International,
police officers wearing plain-clothes from the Company for Intervention
and Maintenance of Order (Compagnie d’intervention et de maintien
de l’ordre, CIMO) – a HNP special unit – some hiding
their faces with balaclavas, killed at least six people in Village de
Dieu, a poor neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince. There has been no official
acknowledgement of the incident nor have all the victims been formally
identified. The authorities deny that such an operation took place.
o On 14 January 2005, police officials conducted an operation in Village
de Dieu apparently aimed at deterring armed "bandits" in the
area. Two youths were reportedly killed by the police. Abdias Jean,
a journalist who investigated the incident, was reportedly killed by
the same police officers. To date, no one has been held to account for
Case example: Killings in Fort National
Thirteen young people were apparently shot dead by police in cold blood
in the Fort National neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince on 26 October 2004.
Not all the bodies have been found, and not all the details are clear,
but the names of nine victims, are known to Amnesty International: Réginald
François; Wilfrid Pierre; "Jean Jean", aged 25; Laura,
a 17-year-old woman; Francisco; Jephté; Fanfan Versius, aged
22; Enzo; and Ricardo.
The killings happened after four police vehicles and an ambulance arrived
in the afternoon at Estimé Street, Fort National. The occupants
of the police vehicles were reportedly wearing black uniforms with the
word "POLICE" written on the back. They had their faces covered
with balaclavas. Some took up firing stances on the street, others entered
one of the narrow alleys that are typical of Port-au-Prince’s
According to testimonies, the police went to the house of Ti Richard.
He was out, but 13 other people were there. The police allegedly ordered
them to lie on the ground and shot them without provocation or apparent
The bodies of four of the people in the house were later found at the
morgue of the Haitian State University Hospital. Others have never been
found – they are widely believed to have been taken to Titanyen,
a dump in the outskirts of Port-au-Prince where bodies are often left.
Despite numerous witnesses and other evidence, the department director
of the HNP, Renan Étienne, stated that he had not ordered any
operation at Fort National on 26 October. An HNP spokeswoman stated
on 28 October that she had "contacted the police units carrying
out operations that day, but there was no reported incident in Fort
National, and there was no police action in this neighbourhood".(25)Other
cases of possible extrajudicial executions and unlawful killings in
o On 5 January, Jimmy Charles was arrested by soldiers from MINUSTAH
and handed over to the HNP. He was taken to the Anti-Gang police station
in Port-au-Prince. He was later released but his bullet-ridden body
turned up at the national hospital morgue on 14 January.
o On 30 January, 17-year-old Wilken Bosse was dragged out of his house
in Corridor Bassia and shot dead on the street reportedly by police
officers. At 5am on the same day, 46-year-old Rodrigue Bonin (also known
as La Rivière) was dragged out of his house and shot twice in
the head allegedly by police officers. He died in hospital on 4 February.
o On 4 February, a 14-year-old boy, Jeff Joseph, was killed, reportedly
by police officers on his way to a shop on San Fil Road, Bel-Air.
o On 5 February, Steve Blemy, aged 21, was killed, reportedly by police
officers wearing black uniforms, in Fontforts Street, Bel-Air, Port-au-Prince.
o On 28 February, police officers opened fire on a peaceful pro-Lavalas
demonstrators in Bel-Air (Port-au-Prince) killing at least one person.
o On 27 April, police officers reportedly fired indiscriminately on
peaceful pro-Lavalas demonstrators near the UN headquarters in Port-au-Prince
killing at least five people and wounding several others. Four died
later from their wounds. The victims, one woman and eight men, were:
Reginald Colon, aged 32; Stevenson St-Cloud, 21; James Lahens; Mackenzie
André; Roland Gustave; Nelson Auguste; "Ti Jelé";
Claudine Joseph; and Delage Mesnel.Arbitrary arrests
The police and judicial authorities have a long tradition of arresting
people as a preventive measure, without any legal grounds or based on
any accusation. Detainees can then be locked away for long periods.
In many cases, they have to pay for their release or to be brought before
a judge to rule on the legality of their detention. The majority of
the detainees cannot afford any legal counsel.(26)
Haitian law stipulates that an arrest can be carried out when executing
a warrant issued by a judicial authority or when someone is caught in
the act of committing a crime. Despite these clear provisions, numerous
arrests are made without either of these conditions being respected.
Lavalas supporters have been targeted in police sweeps across poor neighbourhoods
of the capital where support for their party is strong. In other regions,
where the police presence is smaller, Lavalas supporters are targeted
for arrest by former military and their attachés.
Hundreds of people remain in prison. Most have not been formally charged.
Some are still being held despite a direct order for their release issued
by the judicial authorities.
4. Human rights abuses by armed groups and gangs
Since the beginning of 2004, violence by illegal armed groups and gangs
has soared in the capital, at time paralysing economic activities in
the downtown area.
Diverse armed groups involved in the rebellion that ousted Jean-Bertrand
Aristide and the armed gangs that supported him are at the root of this
violence. These groups include the Cannibal Army, renamed the Artibonite’s
Resistance Front (Front de Résistance de l’Artibonite);
the former military regrouped under the leadership of Louis-Jodel Chamblain
and Guy Philippe, known as the (Northern Resistance Front); as well
as the armed gangs loyal to Jean-Bertrand Aristide known as chimères.
All are responsible for numerous human rights abuses. Amnesty International
is deeply concerned that these groups and gangs are still armed and
active, and continue to commit human rights abuses with impunity.
From 30 September 2004, the criminal activities of armed gangs became
evident, in particular during the demonstrations to commemorate the
13th anniversary of the military coup that toppled Jean-Bertrand Aristide
in 1991, and which marked the outbreak of several violent incidents
allegedly carried out by armed gangs supporting Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
The authorities moved swiftly to curb the criminality and violence in
downtown Port-au-Prince through large scale police operations.
However, the outcome of police interventions did not bring security
to citizens and traders working in the affected areas. On the contrary,
the operations were marred by serious human rights violations, including
illegal arrests, ill-treatment and unlawful killings.
The inter-gang warfare seems to have abated with the killing by rival
gang members, on 31 March, of Thomas Robinson, alias "Labanye",
who controlled the Boston neighbourhood in Cité Soleil and who
reportedly had allegiances with the former opposition to Lavalas and
the current government. In spite of this, the population of Cité
Soleil in particular, continues to be the victim of human rights abuses
by the gangs controlling the area. Violence against women is this deprived
neighbourhood is a major concern (see section 6).
Former military personnel
The interim government and MINUSTAH appear to be showing increasing
leniency towards the former military and other illegal groups. In particular,
they have failed to prevent them from engaging in illegal activities
and committing human rights abuses such as arbitrary killings, arrests
and holding prisoners without any legal basis, intimidating the population,
and threatening to depose the interim government.
Tensions between the government and the former military continue to
pose a threat to the restoration of lasting peace and democracy. There
is reported to be growing resentment among the former military over
recent compensation given to those who were demobilized in 1995. Former
military personnel who were dismissed before the demobilization decree
was issued also demanded compensation, which the government has refused.
As a result, they are threatening to oppose any DDR programme.
The number of demobilized members of the former Haitian army that have
regrouped into armed factions is estimated to be between 3,000 and 5,000
men across the country. Larger numbers are quoted by the former military,
who say that not all the men bearing arms were in the army in 1995.
Amnesty International’s delegates observed that many of the so-called
former military were too young to have been enrolled in the army in
The former military have sporadically been seen patrolling the streets
of Port-au-Prince, carrying arms and wearing military fatigues. They
were reportedly unchallenged by the HNP or MINUSTAH military personnel
even though they had legal basis and were therefore illegally armed.
This complacency by the government has allowed the former military to
compete with the police, thereby consolidating their presence and authority
at a local level. In several municipalities the former military were
the de facto authorities because the police was not present since February
2004. Amnesty International observed that former military were actively
involved in issuing "arrest warrants", maintaining security
and illegally detaining and imprisoning members of the community.
The responsibility for these abuses lies ultimately with the government
(for failing to take action to disarm and dismantle these groups and
bring those responsible for abuses to justice) and MINUSTAH (because
it is mandated to protect civilians and help establish and maintain
the rule of law).
According to the Platform of Haitian Human Rights Organizations (Plateforme
d’organisations Haïtiennes des droits humains, POHDH), in
July 2004, between 60 and 70 per cent of reported human rights abuses
were perpetrated by former military. Despite this information and the
cases documented by POHDH, none of the perpetrators has been held to
account by the authorities.
Amnesty International hopes that a clarification of the interim government’s
policy vis-à-vis the activities of former military will result
in a cessation of human rights abuses and illegal activities, and in
turn, greater security for all Haitians.
The sinister reputation of rural section chiefs and their "attachés"
is forged on numerous reports of abuse, extortion, killings and other
human rights violations during the Duvalier regime and the military
rule of 1991-1994.(27) Disbanded once in early 1991 and then again in
1995 by President Aristide, they have made a comeback in several parts
of the country, particularly in the Central Department.
Taking advantage of the vacuum of authority that prevails in some areas
since the departure of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, several section chiefs
have been reinstated by local former military commanders or on their
own initiative but with the endorsement of the commanders.
At the beginning of the year, section chiefs were reported "in
office" in some communes of the Central Department: Ranquitte,
Savanette, Belladère, Thomonde, Grand-Bois region, Las Cahobas,
Source Carbajal and Cerca Carbajal.(28) Other communes outside the Central
Department where they have been reportedly operating are Chantal (Southern
Department), Trou du Nord, Milot, Grande Rivière du Nord, Plaine
du Nord, Pignon, Accul du Nord, La Victoire, and Sainte Suzanne. The
Police are absent from these communities as are other state representatives.
Most of the section chiefs took control where elected delegates to the
Administrative Council of the Communal Section (Conseil d’Administration
de la Section Communale) had abandoned their positions for fear of retaliation
or were simply dismissed when the interim government took office. According
to reports from remote areas, MINUSTAH and police personnel are seldom
seen outside the departmental capitals thus leaving most of the sections
distant from important urban centres without state authority and at
the mercy of illegal armed gangs.
5. Administration of justice
The interim government has repeatedly stated its commitment to prevent
and punish violations of human rights in Haiti. However, crimes such
as unlawful killings, arbitrary and illegal detentions, ill-treatment
of prisoners and deaths in custody are still commonplace and remain
unpunished. The response of the authorities to these events has been
a tendency to justify police actions and discredit the victims, systematically
labelling them as "bandits".
There is no doubt that failure to address impunity for these crimes
in the past resulted in continuing human rights abuses and has prolonged
the conflict. Durable peace will not be achieved unless those responsible
for crimes under national and international law are held to account,
and the victims gain redress.
There are several human rights guaranteed by international standards
that aim to safeguard people during the investigation of an offence.
These include the presumption of innocence; the prohibition against
torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; the prohibition against
compelling people to confess guilt or testify against themselves; and
the right of access to legal counsel.
Article 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights states:
"Everyone has the right to simple and prompt recourse, or any other
effective recourse, to a competent court or tribunal for protection
against acts that violate his fundamental rights recognized by the constitution
or laws of the state concerned or by this Convention, even though such
violation may have been committed by persons acting in the course of
their official duties."
Furthermore, states parties to the Convention undertake to develop the
possibilities for judicial remedy and ensure that the competent authorities
enforce such remedies.
The administration of criminal justice in Haiti remains highly dysfunctional.
The independence and impartiality of the judiciary have been put to
the test, particularly in the many cases that have a political nature.
The weakness of the judiciary continues to be a cause of serious concern.
Amnesty International received reports of a series of arrests and detentions
that possibly have political connotations. Delays in bringing detainees
before a judge and lack of judicial supervision are common in the administration
of justice. People have been detained on the basis of a single denunciation
and with no preliminary inquiry. An order to appear before a judge (mandat
d’améner) issued by a justice of the peace often turns
into an arrest followed by long-term pre-trial detention.
Amnesty International is concerned by the large number of arbitrary
arrests and about ill-treatment during arrest and in detention; restricted
access to lawyers, families and adequate medical care; and the inability
of detainees to challenge the legality of their detention.
Long-term and preventive detention
Long-term and preventive detentions remain the rule and not the exception
in Haiti. The prisons are crowded with detainees arbitrarily arrested
and held for long periods without being able to challenge the legality
of their detention.
Haitian law prohibits indefinite and arbitrary detention, and requires
that all those arrested be brought before a judge within 48 hours. (29)
This legal limit is routinely ignored.
Case example: former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune
The most notorious case of long-term preventive detention involves former
Prime Minister Yvon Neptune. He surrendered himself to police on 27
June 2004 after he was accused by a local human rights organization
of masterminding the reprisal killings of opposition activists in the
La Scierie neighbourhood of Saint-Marc on 11 February 2004. It took
nearly a year before appearing before a judge and be formally charged.
On 9 July 2004 his lawyers filed a motion challenging the jurisdiction
of St-Marc judges on the grounds that Yvon Neptune would not receive
a fair trial. Six months later the Supreme Court (Cour de Cassation)
dismissed the motion saying that a minimal filing fee had not been paid.
On 19 February 2005, five armed men took control of the National Penitentiary
in Port-au-Prince where Yvon Neptune was detained. Nearly 500 prisoners
were set free and Yvon Neptune was taken from the prison by the attackers.
He contacted MINUSTAH and presented himself once again to the authorities.
On 22 April, Yvon Neptune was brought to Saint-Marc to appear before
the investigating judge. Reportedly, his lawyers were not informed so
could not accompany him, but the case could not be heard because the
investigating judge did not show up at the court. Soon after Yvon Neptune
was transferred to an annex of the National Penitentiary where he remains
under custody. He went on hunger strike to protest against the delays
in his case and to seek release. On 1 May, he was told he could be transferred
to a hospital in the Dominican Republic on medical grounds. He refused
to leave Haiti. Finally, on 25 May, Yvon Neptune appeared before the
investigating judge in Saint-Marc.
Amnesty International believes that Yvon Neptune has been denied many
rights, including equality before the law, the presumption of innocence,
the right to be tried without undue delay, and the right to a fair and
public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established
by law. It also believes that Yvon Neptune is being detained on the
basis of his political views and considers him a political prisoner
of the interim government. Amnesty International urges the judicial
authorities and the interim government to release Yvon Neptune pending
trial, which should comply with international standards of fairness.
6. Women and children facing abuses
In times of conflict and political violence, women and girls often suffer
disproportionately. This is exactly what has happened in Haiti. The
open conflict that raged across the country in early 2004 has given
way to random violence with political overtones, but throughout women
have been victims of human rights abuses.
Human rights abuses against women, including rape and other sexual abuse,
and domestic violence, are difficult to document comprehensively. Only
a fraction of such abuses are reported to human rights and women’s
organizations as the victims fear for their lives or reprisals from
In virtually all cases, the perpetrators get away with their crimes.
Most of the survivors interviewed by Amnesty International said that
reporting their cases to the police was not only useless but might compromise
their safety. Barely any cases of rape or other violence against women
have been reported in the local press.
Similarly, street children are also highly vulnerable to political violence
and armed conflict. In Port-au-Prince, 3,000 children are estimated
to live in the streets and are severely marginalized by the population.
Not infrequently, they are the target of vigilante groups.
Violence against women
Violence against women is particularly prevalent in the absence of the
rule of law, as is the case in much of Haiti. Women are victims of random
violence in poor neighbourhoods of the capital and of terror campaigns
using rape, murder, arson and looting. As the majority of heads of households
in Haiti, women also bear the brunt of the increasing insecurity in
the country, which has a direct impact on the economic activities in
the informal sector in which most women derive their livelihood.
Politically motivated rapes have been reported during and shortly after
the armed rebellion of February 2004. The high incidence of this form
of violence against women remains of great concern. Women are targeted
because their husbands or relatives are believed to support Lavalas
First-hand testimonies gathered from survivors by Amnesty International,
as well as information made available to the organization, suggest that
the attacks against women are consistent with a number of patterns including
extreme violence.(30) The women and girls are usually attacked in their
homes or in the home of relatives or friends. The attack is often perpetrated
by groups of heavily armed men who burst into the homes and subject
their victims to gang rapes and other forms of sexual violence.
The men are often masked, concealing their identity. Rapes are often
carried out in front of the victim’s children or other relatives.
Most women survivors of sexual violence have nowhere to go and so are
forced to stay in their own homes, often where the attacks took place.
Others, as a result of fear or pressure from their husbands or partners,
are forced to abandon their homes. Cases have been reported where the
husband has thrown his wife out of the house after she was raped fearing
that she might be infected with sexually transmitted diseases or HIV.
Case example: Rape by unknown aggressors
During the night of 22 September 2004, in Delmas 17, Port-au-Prince,
four hooded and armed men wearing civilian clothes came to Jane’s
house (real name withheld). Her husband was out but three of her friends
and her young son were sleeping there. Even though Jane was eight months
pregnant she was forced to lie face down along with the other three
women. They were beaten and kicked, and the men stepped on their backs
before raping them. The young child witnessed the assault and was gagged
with a scarf. The men left with all Jane’s belongings, including
the children’s clothes.
Jane went to the hospital several times but could not get a medical
examination to certify her condition following the attack. She subsequently
gave birth to a baby who is reportedly suffering from severe health
complications. She cannot afford to seek medical treatment for her baby.
When Jane’s husband returned home, he reportedly threw her out
of the house because she had been raped and "might have infections".
Jane told Amnesty International that she felt too "humiliated and
terrified" to report the attack to the police.
Many women cannot identify their attackers because the men conceal their
identity under a mask. However, some women have said that their attackers
were gang members who control their neighbourhood or members of a rival
gang coming into their neighbourhood. This pattern seems to be the case
in Cité Soleil, where gangs with different political allegiances
confronted each other for more than a year with virtually no response
from the authorities. Amnesty International is concerned that women
in Cité Soleil remain extremely vulnerable in the context of
generalized violence and lawlessness. It continues to receive reports
of gang members raping and subjecting women to other forms of violence
with total impunity.
Under Haitian law, rape is a crime punishable by imprisonment. However,
there is an extremely low rate of conviction for rape. One reason is
the failure of Haiti’s authorities to prosecute reported cases
of rape, particularly when state agents are implicated. This contributes
to the perpetuation of violence against women. Women cannot seek redress
nor, in most cases, do they receive adequate medical treatment and psychological
support from public institutions. This is partly because of the scarcity
of resources available in the public health system, a problem compounded
by the high levels of poverty.
Women working in the informal sector, mainly as street vendors, are
under constant threat of indiscriminate violence from armed "bandits"
who create a climate of terror -- a situation that is rarely challenged
by law enforcement officials.
Case example: Rape allegedly by police officers
On 9 July 2004, between 11pm and midnight, three men wearing black clothes
and balaclavas raped and beat Mary (real name withheld) in her house
in Delmas 33, Port-au-Prince. She was three months pregnant. The men
were allegedly HNP officers who came looking for her husband, a former
National Palace employee under the presidency of Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Mary was taken to the Haitian State University Hospital in Port-au-Prince
where she received treatment and a medical certificate stating "possible
sexual violence and genital infection". She could not walk for
more than two weeks after the attack and had to leave Port-au-Prince.
Her husband was still in hiding when Amnesty International interviewed
Mary. She said she was too scared to report the incident to the police.
Case example: Rape by alleged gang members
Nineteen-year-old D.P. (full name withheld) was raped in her house on
the night of 13 September 2004. Around 11pm, five men who were hooded
and wearing black clothes, broke into her house in Cité Soleil,
Port-au-Prince, and raped her in front of her brothers who were held
on the ground at gunpoint. The attackers threatened her with death if
she reported the assault. In fear for their lives, the two brothers
left the house and have since been living on the streets of Port-au-Prince.
D.P. believes that her assailants are members of the local gang controlling
the Brooklyn area of Cité Soleil.
Following the attack, D.P. did not receive any medical attention or
psychological support as she could not afford to pay for the medical
visit. At the time of the interview with Amnesty International, she
was still suffering from pain in the pelvic region. She said other women
had been similarly attacked in her neighbourhood.
Violence against children
Children living on the streets are particularly vulnerable to violence.
In Haiti, they face profound discrimination and are commonly the targets
of indiscriminate violence and repression by the police. Amnesty International
has received several troubling reports of harassment, ill-treatment,
"disappearances" and executions of street children and other
A large proportion of current human rights violations against children,
especially torture and unlawful killings, are being committed by police
officers in the context of operations purported to be combating crime.
In this context, children are indiscriminately being portrayed as criminals
to justify police action, including serious human rights violations,
The extent and scope of such violations may be much greater than available
figures indicate. Experts in the field say that many cases are not reported
because of the lack of witnesses, because many victims or their relatives
live on the fringes of society, and because, with few family ties, the
victims tend to remain anonymous and forgotten.
Many victims and their relatives, as well as witnesses, do not report
the crimes because they are frightened or do not believe that they can
Other types of violations against children, such as arbitrary arrest
and ill-treatment in custody, are committed by the police. In these
cases, especially those involving torture, abuses occur during interrogation
about criminal operations or the whereabouts of criminals.
Conclusions and recommendations
The challenge to reverse the serious erosion of the fundamental human
rights of Haitians is enormous and will require sustained commitment
from the interim governments and the international community.
Haitian National Police (HNP) officers continue to arbitrarily detain,
ill treat and unlawfully kill citizens and use excessive force on a
regular basis. The police’s poor performance in tackling crime,
the high level of corruption reported within their ranks, and the routine
human rights violations committed by the security forces pose further
serious threats to the peace and stability of the country and foster
an ever higher level of mistrust towards the security forces among Haitians.
Amnesty International calls on the interim government to reverse this
deadly cycle of human rights violations by prioritizing the respect
and protection of human rights when reforming the HNP.
Amnesty International is deeply concerned about the disregard for the
lives and physical integrity of people in Haiti and reiterates its call
on the interim government and MINUSTAH to conduct independent and thorough
inquiries into all human rights violations.
Amnesty International believes that the interim government is failing
to commit itself publicly and firmly to protecting human rights and
ending the cycle of impunity. Perpetrators of serious human rights violations
continue to roam freely across the country.
Amnesty International is dismayed that the interim government has not
made a serious attempt to work with the MINUSTAH to establish a genuine
and lasting disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme
which is an essential step towards restoring rule of law throughout
Recommendations to the interim government
Amnesty International is aware that some of these recommendations are
only achievable in the medium or long term. However, with the support
of MINUSTAH and the international community, the transitional government
must seek to lay down the foundations for positive and effective change.
1. Condemn all human rights violations
Condemn and demonstrate total opposition to all forms of human rights
abuses. Make clear to all state and non-state agents that human rights
abuses will not be tolerated under any circumstances. Show commitment
to establishing respect for human rights in Haiti and to cooperating
with MINUSTAH and the international community in this endeavour.
2. Implement a comprehensive DDR programme
Take effective and immediate measures to develop, implement and monitor
a comprehensive and sustainable disarmament, demobilization and reintegration
(DDR) programme. At each stage, seek the assistance and integrate the
expertise of the international community and MINUSTAH personnel. Apply
the DDR programme in an evenhanded manner to all armed groups and civilians
in possession of arms. Establish an independent commission of representatives
from civil society, including the media, to inspect and monitor the
DDR process and regularly inform the public on its progress.
3. End arbitrary detention
Take effective measures to end the widespread practice of arbitrary
detention by immediately introducing the following practical safeguards:
o all detentions should be recorded and monitored;
o detainees should be brought before a judge promptly; the Haitian Constitution
establishes that detainees must be brought before a judge within 48
hours or released;
o detainees should be given access to lawyers and doctors of their choice
as soon as they are detained;
o all detainees should be able to challenge the lawfulness of their
o judges should take steps to ensure that detainees have not been tortured
or ill-treated, and should institute criminal investigations where torture
or ill-treatment are alleged to have taken place;
o institute a system of regular, independent, unannounced and unrestricted
visits of inspection to all places of detention, including prisons under
the auspices of the APENA (the National Penitentiary Administration),
and police stations; such visits could be carried out by independent
non-governmental organizations which should be authorized to have full
access to all places of detention;
o accurate information about the arrest of any person and about his
or her place of detention, including transfers and releases, should
be made available promptly to relatives, lawyers and the courts;
o prisoners should be released in a way that allows reliable verification
of their release and ensures their safety.
4. Ensure fair and prompt trial
Guarantee the fair and prompt trial of all prisoners, including political
prisoners, with full rights of defence, including the right of appeal
to a higher and independent judicial body. Release all political prisoners
detained indefinitely without charge or held in prolonged pre-trial
detention unless they are to be brought to trial promptly and fairly.
Ensure that trials comply with internationally recognized standards
for fair trial, including Article 14 of the ICCPR, to which Haiti is
a state party.
5. End torture and ill-treatment
Take immediate measures to end torture and ill-treatment, including
medical neglect of prisoners and life-threatening prison conditions.
Introduce adequate safeguards to prevent these abuses in future, including
full and immediate access for all prisoners to lawyers, families and
6. Prevent extrajudicial executions
Take immediate measures to prevent extrajudicial executions in accordance
with the UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation
of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions. Measures should include:
o publicly and energetically condemning extrajudicial executions;
o explicitly prohibiting such offences in law and ensuring that they
are punishable by appropriate penalties which take into account the
seriousness of the offences;
o ensuring that those in charge of the security forces maintain strict
chain-of-command control to ensure that officers under their command
do not commit extrajudicial executions;
o ensuring that law enforcement officials use force only when strictly
necessary and only to the minimum extent required under the circumstances;
lethal force should not be used except when strictly unavoidable in
order to protect life;
o preserve forensic evidence until an adequate autopsy has been conducted
by a suitably qualified doctor who is able to function impartially.
7. Prevent human rights violations against women
Special emphasis should be given to raise awareness among women of their
rights and to make Haitian society at large conscious of its duty to
respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women. Issues concerning
the human rights of women should be integrated in all education and
training policies at national level.
The interim government should take special steps to uphold the UN Declaration
on the Elimination of Violence against Women. These steps should include
a clear prohibition of gender-based violence, whether occurring in public
or private life. The interim government should prioritize development
assistance projects for the implementation of human rights particularly
as they affect women and girls.
8. Investigate abuses
All complaints and reports of human rights violations should be promptly,
impartially and effectively investigated by a body that is independent
of those allegedly responsible and has the necessary powers and resources
to carry out the investigation. The methods and findings of the investigation
should be made public. Complainants, witnesses and others at risk should
be protected from intimidation and reprisals.
Those responsible for human rights violations must be brought to justice.
This principle should apply to all alleged perpetrators regardless of
how much time has elapsed since the commission of the crime. Trials
must be fair and in accordance with international standards. The perpetrators
should not be allowed to benefit from any legal measures exempting them
from criminal prosecution or conviction.
10. Individual responsibility
The prohibition of human rights violations should be reflected in the
training of all state agents, including police officers, judicial officials
and prison guards. These officials should be instructed that they have
the right and duty to refuse to obey any order to participate in a human
11. Provide reparation
Victims of human rights abuses and/or their dependants should be entitled
to obtain fair and adequate redress from the state, including financial
12. Provide adequate training
Ensure that the training of all members of the police and prison guards
includes the prohibition of torture, extrajudicial executions and other
human rights violations. Such training should be based on international
standards relating to the treatment of detainees and the use of force
and firearms by law enforcement officials including: the UN Code of
Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials; UN Basic Principles on the Use
of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials; the UN Principles
on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary
and Summary Executions; and the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment
Recommendations to the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH)
MINUSTAH should continue to assist in the restructuring and training
of the HNP and other law enforcement agents and ensure that this includes
training in international human rights and humanitarian law. To ensure
the restoration of good governance, the rule of law and respect for
human rights in Haiti, it is essential to rebuild and train a professional,
accountable police force.
1. Protection of civilians
Urgently develop a strategy for the protection of civilians in joint
operations with the HNP. Ensure that MINUSTAH staff from the Human Rights
Section are integral to planning and executing such operations.
2. No international ‘silent witnesses’
All MINUSTAH personnel, including those engaged in military, civilian
and humanitarian operations, should report through clear and proper
channels any human rights violations they may witness or serious allegations
they receive. The UN should take appropriate steps, including preventive
measures, to address any violations reported whether perpetrators are
state or non-state agents.
3. Individual responsibility, investigation and justice
Individual responsibility for human rights violations, past and present,
must be made explicit. MINUSTAH should assist the interim government
in establishing adequate mechanisms that ensure that allegations of
human rights violations are systematically, thoroughly and independently
investigated. The mission should ensure that any perpetrators of human
rights violations are brought to justice.
4. Effective and independent human rights verification
Human rights monitors should carry out investigations, verify compliance
with human rights obligations and take corrective action in respect
of violations. They should have broad access to all sectors of society
and relevant institutions and the full protection of those who are in
contact with them must be assured.
5. Frequent and public reporting
To guarantee the effectiveness, security and credibility of MINUSTAH
and its personnel, there must be frequent comprehensive public reports
of their activities and findings which should be broadly disseminated
nationally as well as internationally.
6. International civilian police monitors
Civilian police officers should monitor, supervise and train national
police and security forces and verify their adherence to international
human rights and criminal justice standards. Police monitors should
cooperate fully with any human rights component or mechanisms and should
themselves be trained in and fully respect international human rights
and criminal justice standards at all times. There should be full public
reporting of their activities.
7. Long-term measures for human rights protection
MINUSTAH should assist in the establishment of permanent, independent
and effective national institutions for the long-term protection of
human rights and the reinstitution of the rule of law, including an
independent judiciary and fair criminal justice system. Other mechanisms,
such as ombudsmen or national commissions, may be encouraged to reinforce
respect for human rights. Such mechanisms must be impartial, independent
and competent with the necessary powers and resources to be effective.
They should conform to international guidelines and must never be a
substitute for a fair and independent judicial system.
8. Human rights education and advisory assistance programmes
Public education and training on human rights standards and complaints
procedures should be provided to all sectors, particularly the judiciary,
lawyers and law enforcement officials. Other technical assistance programmes
should be provided, including drafting legislation, in conformity with
international standards and support for national human rights NGOs.
Such programmes should not be a substitute for human rights verification
by a specialized monitoring component.
9. Respect the human rights of women
Measures should be taken to guarantee consideration and respect for
the particular needs of women in Haiti’s current situation. Peace-keeping
personnel should receive information on local cultural traditions and
should respect the inherent rights and dignity of women at all times.
Human rights teams should include experts in the area of violence against
women, including rape and sexual abuse.
Recommendations to the international community
1. Maintain an effective and adequately funded international
human rights presence in Haiti for as long as necessary
The UN should give consistent and vigorous attention to human rights
concerns in Haiti. The human rights section of MINUSTAH must play a
crucial role in monitoring and reporting human rights abuses in Haiti
and in promoting the respect and protection of human rights. Its presence
during the transition to democratic rule and beyond remains essential
and it must have adequate personnel and funding. The international community
must be prepared to publicly condemn human rights violations during
and after the transition process and to ensure that recommendations
for institutional reform are fully and promptly implemented. Human rights
protection measures should be kept under review, strengthened as necessary
and properly evaluated at the end of the mission.
2. Structural and political independence of human rights section
Ensure provisions for MINUSTAH’s human rights section are explicitly
and structurally independent from the political considerations of the
3. Contribute towards rebuilding and strengthening the judicial and
The armed rebellion in Haiti has all but destroyed the judicial system.
Courts have been burned or destroyed. The long-term protection of human
rights depends on an effective legal system reinforced by an independent,
impartial and accessible judiciary with adequate resources. The international
community should contribute towards the reconstruction of an effective
legal and judicial system in Haiti. These initiatives must, however,
be coupled with a determined government policy to bring to justice those
responsible for human rights abuses.
Recommendation to the UN Security Council
The Security Council should urge the interim government to immediately:
o take steps to implement all outstanding recommendations made by the
Independent Expert, Louis Joinet, including to respect the independence
of the judiciary and to restrict the use of force by law enforcement
officials in accordance with international standards;
o establish mechanisms that would ensure that all alleged human rights
violations in Haiti are independently and fully investigated and that
those responsible are brought before civilian courts in trials that
meet international standards for fairness;
o provide redress, including compensation, to the victims of human rights
violations and their families;
o guarantee everyone in Haiti the right to freedom of expression and
association without fear of harassment, arrest, torture or ill-treatment,
arbitrary imprisonment or extrajudicial execution.
(1) UN Development Programme (UNDP), Human Development Reports for Haiti,
2003. Available at: http://hdr.undp.org/statistics/data/cty/cty_f_HTI.html.
(2) Economic and Social Council, "Long-term programme of support
for Haiti", Report of the Secretary-General, 16 June 2004 (E/2004/80),
(3) UN Security Council, "Statement by the President of the Security
Council", 12 January 2005 (S/PRST/2005/1).
(4) AI Index: AMR 36/038/2004
(5) Report of the UN Secretary-General on MINUSTAH, S/2004/908, para.
(6) Report of the UN Security Council on its mission to Haiti, S/2005/302,
6 May 2005.
(7) Robert Muggah, Securing Haiti’s Transition: Reviewing Human
Insecurity and the Prospects for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration,
Small Arms Survey, 2005.
(8) The Haitian National Police was created in 1995 and since then has
been the only legal security force in Haiti. After the de facto military
government was ousted by a US intervention, Jean-Bertrand Aristide returned
from exile and in early 1995 he issued a presidential decree disbanding
and demobilizing the Haitian Armed Forces who had ousted him on 30 September
(9) Report of the UN Security Council mission to Haiti, 13 to 19 April
2005, S/2005/302, para. 27.(
10) Report of the Secretary-General on the UN Stabilization Mission
in Haiti, S/2005/313, 13 May 2005; accessible at: http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N05/341/51/PDF/N0534151.pdf?OpenElement.
(11) UN Security Council Resolution 1542 (2004). Chapter VII of the
UN Charter: Action With Respect To Threats To The Peace, Breaches Of
The Peace, And Acts Of Aggression.
(12) See, for example, reports of the Center for the Study of Human
Rights, University of Miami School of Law, "Haiti. Human Rights
Investigation: November 11-21, 2004" (available at www.law.miami.edu/cshr/CSHR_Report_02082005_v2.pdf);
and Harvard Law Student Advocates for Human Rights and Centro Justiça
Global, "Keeping the Peace In Haiti?" (available at: www.law.harvard.edu/programs/hrp/CAP/Text/Haiti_English_Final.pdf).
(13) See reports of the Secretary-General on MINUSTAH from November
2004 (S/2004/908) and from February 2005 (S/2005/124).
(14) Amnesty International interview with victim of police repression
in Bel-Air, October 2004.
(15) Report of the UN Security Council mission to Haiti, S/2005/302,
(16) These standards include the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement
Officials and the UN Basic Minimum Standards on the Use of Force and
(17) There are reportedly two trained forensic doctors in Haiti capable
of conducting an autopsy; one is the HNP’s spokeswoman.
(18) For several consecutive months in 2004, the disposal of bodies
at the morgue became problematic because the refrigeration chamber was
out of service; as a result, decomposing bodies were reportedly piled
up in parking lots.
(19) In its Preamble, the Haitian Constitution defines the right to
life as "inalienable and imprescriptible". Similarly, Article
19 of the Constitution reads: "The State has the absolute obligation
to guarantee the right to life, health, and respect of the human person
for all citizens without distinction, in conformity with the Universal
Declaration of the Rights of Man."
(20) Haitian Constitution, Article 269.
(21) Ministry of Justice. Direction Générale de la Police
Nationale d'Haïti, Code of Deontology. Available at: http://www.un.org/rights/micivih/livrets/codepol.htm
(22) Unofficial translation, Haitian Criminal Code, Article 147.
(23) Haitian Criminal Code, Articles 247 and 249.
(24) Amnesty International’s 14-point Program for the Prevention
of Extrajudicial Executions (AI Index POL 35/03/93), is based on these
principles and available at: http://web.amnesty.org/pages/aboutai-recs-executions-eng.
(25) Haïti Progrès, 3 to 9 November 2004, p.1.
(26) According to the Independent Expert, Louis Joinet, there are only
750 trained lawyers in Haiti. Source: Situation of human rights in Haiti.
Report prepared by the independent expert, Louis Joinet, E/CN.4/2005/123,
24 January 2005. Available at: http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G05/104/45/PDF/G0510445.pdf?OpenElement.
(27) "Attachés" were civilians hired as henchmen regrouped
under the orders of the section chief. They were recognizable by the
green hats they worn and the clubs they wielded.
(28) The administrative division of Haiti is comprised of nine departments
which are further divided into "Arrondissements" and several
communes. Under the Duvalier’s regime and during the de facto
government, each communal section had a "chief" who acted
as a law enforcement official and responded to the military regional
commanders. They were also known as rural police and had total power
over their "constituencies".
(29) Article 26 of the Haitian Constitution states: "[N]o one may
be kept under arrest more than forty-eight hours unless he has appeared
before a judge asked to rule on the legality of the arrest and the judge
has confirmed the arrest by a well-founded decision."
(30) See Médecins Sans Frontières, Caught in Haiti’s
cross-fire. Available at: http://www.doctorswithoutborders-usa.org/news/2005/04-01-2005.cfm
AI Index: AMR 36/005/2005 28 July
Solidarity Day Pictures & Articles
May 18, 2005
and Articles Witness Project
photo for larger image
Wilme - on "Wanted poster" of suspects wanted by the
"Dread" Wilme reported killed July 6, 2005
"Dread" Wilme speaks:
Radio Lakou New York, April 4, 2005 interview with Emmanuel "Dread"
Alert- Demand a Stop to Killings
in Cite Soleil:
Sample letters and Contact information provided, April 21, 2005
Crucifiction of Emmanuel
Peralte - The old Bandit King of Haiti
* In 1919 the US murdered him and put the body on public display
Urge the Caribbean Community to stand firm in not recognizing
the illegal Latortue regime:
Show at the
July 27, 2004 Haiti Forum Press Conference during the DNC
in Boston honoring those who stand firm for Haiti and democracy;
those who tell the truth about Haiti; Presenting the Haiti
Resolution, and; remembering Haiti's revolutionary legacy
in 2004 and all those who have lost life or liberty fighting
against the Feb. 29, 2004 Coup d'etat and its consequences