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6970: A step in the right direction for democratic Haiti (fwd)

From: nozier <nozier@tradewind.net>

Published Tuesday, February 6, 2001, in the Miami Herald
A step in the right direction for democratic Haiti__By Brian Concannon
 Brian Concannon Jr, a lawyer, works for the Bureau des Avocats
Internationaux, a
 group of lawyers assisting the Haitian justice system with human-rights

 Haiti's progress in consolidating democracy over the last decade is

 PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI- Tomorrow, Haiti President René Preval is
scheduled to
 pass the mantle of power to his successor, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. If
he does, he
 will have been elected, served no more nor less than his constitutional
term and
 relinquished power voluntarily.
 Such a trajectory in a more-established democracy would be routine, not
 of note. In Haiti, it's an accomplishment, one that none of Preval's
 since independence in 1804 have managed. If present trends continue,
 may one day treat such an administration as routine.
 Haiti has struggled in its democratic transition since the departure of
 ``Baby Doc'' Duvalier in 1986, and it continues to struggle today. Yet,
 against the backdrop of the last 200 years, Haiti's progress in
 democracy over the last decade is nothing short of spectacular, and is
reason for
 profound optimism.
 Preval took over five years ago from Aristide, who was Haiti's first
 elected president (his term was interrupted by the brutal 1991-1994 de
 dictatorship). Although elections last year in May and December didn't
 criticism, for the first time ever all of the 1987 constitution's
elected posts are
 For the first time, the local assemblies, called ASECs, will operate.
 individual ASEC members have little power, the ASEC system nominates
 and chooses the Permanent Electoral Council. The installation of a
Council would
 preclude many of the criticisms that have plagued previous elections.
 Democracy is also fighting its way into the justice system. In 1990,
the Lawyer's
 Committee for Human Rights reported that there ``is no system of
justice in Haiti.
 Even to speak of a ``Haitian justice system'' dignifies the brutal use
of force by
 officers and soldiers, the chaos of Haitian courtrooms and prisons and
 corruption of judges and prosecutors.
 Last November, the United Nations support mission to Haiti affirmed
that two
 recent landmark trials ``prove that the Haitian justice system is
capable of
 effectively prosecuting'' human-rights cases, ``while respecting the
guarantees of
 the 1987 constitution and international treaties to which Haiti is a
 The two trials were of the 1999 Carrefour Feuilles massacre and 1994
 massacre. Although neither was flawless, they are by far the two best
 proceedings in Haiti's history. The former showed the system's
willingness and
 ability to punish even top officials for police brutality. The latter
showed that the
 judiciary could perform to international standards in a complex case,
while also
 responding to popular demands for justice for the dictatorship's
 The still unsolved murder of prominent journalist and pro-democracy
activist Jean
 Dominique last April serves as a reminder of work undone, but even here
 justice system is trying.
 Possibly the most-important development in Haiti's democratic
transition is the
 abolition of the army, which had historically pillaged the treasury and
 the population. It is impossible to over-emphasize the improvement of
 measure in the lives of ordinary Haitians.
 Not coincidentally, there were twice as many schools in 2000 as in
 although it will be years before the education system is adequate.
 Like many of its neighbors that are poor and unfortunately placed
 cocaine's supply and its demand, Haiti struggles with the drug trade's
 But even here there is progress. The Parliament reopened in August, and
 a drug interdiction treaty with the United States. Bills to fight
trafficking and
 money laundering are working their way through the legislature, and the
 bank has required reporting of suspicious bank transactions.
 Although we in the United States have reason for pride in our
 institutions, we need to remember that they were achieved through long,
 messy struggles.
 Our struggles should also be a source of humility, and of perspective
when we
 seek to judge and to assist our neighbors' progress toward the ideal of