United Nations A/53/950
General Assembly
Distr.: General
10 May 1999
Original: English
Fifty-third session
Agenda item 43
Report of the Secretary-General

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I. Introduction

1. The present report is the first of two reports on the implementation of General Assembly resolution 53/95 of 8 December 1998, by which the Assembly renewed the mandate of the United Nations component of the International Civilian Mission to Haiti (MICIVIH), undertaken jointly with the Organization of American States (OAS), until 31 December 1999.

2. Prepared in consultation with the General Secretariat of OAS the report reviews the situation of democracy and human rights in Haiti. It also describes the activities of MICIVIH in carrying out the tasks of providing institutional assistance, with particular reference to the judiciary, supporting the promotion and protection of human rights, and verifying observance of individual rights and fundamental freedoms.

3. MICIVIH and the United Nations Civilian Police Mission in Haiti (MIPONUH) have separate mandates which complement each other. They liaise and cooperate in the field with regard to the training and conduct of the Haitian National Police (HNP). As in the past, MIPONUH provides MICIVIH with logistical and administrative support. MICIVIH also liaises and collaborates with United Nations agencies such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on joint projects and has participated in the coordination and planning of activities of the United Nations system in Haiti. The Mission regularly transmits its reports to the Special Expert on Haiti of the Commission on Human Rights and met with him during his visit to Haiti in February. It also met with a visiting representative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to discuss the organization of a seminar for nongovernmental organizations and state agents. The Mission also provided reports to the OAS Inter-American Commission on HumanRights.

II. General context

4. Since the report of 18 November 1998 (A/53/564), the political situation has changed in various ways, some disturbing, others encouraging. Developments have deepened the existing political and institutional crisis, while, at the same time, offering the faint possibility of achieving a resolution to it.

5. In mid-December 1998, the relative optimism that followed the belated unblocking in Parliament of the stalled ratification process of Prime Minister-designate Alexis was quickly dispelled by the inability of the Prime Minister and the majority party in Parliament, the Organisation du peuple en lutte (OPL), to agree on the composition of the Government. The uncompleted process then foundered altogether on 11 January, when President Preval, invoking the time-limit provisions of the 1995 Electoral Law, declared that the mandate of most members of Parliament (excluding one-third of the Senate members) and of locally elected officials had expired.

6. The result of the President's declaration was the creation of an institutional void, which, in the absence of a legislature, precluded any incoming Government from obtaining the constitutionally required parliamentary seal of approval and, consequently, legitimacy. It also seriously disrupted the system of checks and balances on which the Haitian democratic process is based by removing parliamentary oversight of the executive branch of power.

7. The President has been challenged on this issue before the Haitian courts by the outgoing Parliament, so far unsuccessfully. Broad sectors of Haitian society and the political opposition condemned the decision as a constitutional coup d'etat. Nonetheless, it received the support of a number of popular organizations.

8. Furthermore, the inconsistency of the President's treatment of elected local officials served to foster additional controversy. While officials elected in 1995 (mayoral cartels and administrative councils of the communal sections) were reappointed as interim agents of the executive or simply dismissed and replaced (as in the case of the Mayor of Port-au-Prince), officials elected in 1997 as members of the territorial assemblies continued to enjoy their prerogatives. Certain sectors of the opposition have denounced as preferential the treatment given to those in the territorial assemblies, who are seen as political allies of the President and the former President and whose key grass-roots positions would allow them to exert political influence during the forthcoming elections.

9. The institutional void has been a watershed event in an already complex and protracted political crisis. The undermining of key representative institutions and the further weakening of the authority of the State raise concerns about the progress of Haiti's transition to democracy. They have also further polarized a deeply fractured society and exacerbated tensions. This difficult political situation was compounded by strikes and street demonstrations, some of them violent. The demonstrations were staged by public school students protesting the inability of their teachers and the Ministry of Education to settle their differences and by grassroots organizations expressing their support for the President and protesting against those parliamentarians determined to continue functioning or against the reappointment of certain locally elected officials. As a consequence, insecurity increased, and there were spates of armed crime, violent attacks and several assassinations of political and other figures, some of which were apparently political in nature. Among those killed were a well-known doctor, an OPL senator and the driver of the sister of President Preval (who was seriously injured in the attack). A well-known human rights activist was also wounded in an armed attack. Threats and acts of intimidation were reported against parliamentarians, political leaders and human rights activists. Three OPL parliamentarians sought refuge at the residence of the Chilean Ambassador after threats and an attack against the home of one of them. They have since left the country.

10. The heightened insecurity led to further demonstrations and protests, including some by socio-professional groups, and to widespread calls for the authorities to adopt measures to contain the insecurity. Fanmi Lavalas has sought to capitalize on these fears by carrying out a campaign calling for the dismissal of the Secretary of State responsible for security and of the Director General of the Haitian National Police (HNP). When a resident of a Port-au-Prince neighbourhood was killed on 20 April, local groups there staged violent protests and called for the dismissal of the two officials.

11. The deepening crisis galvanized the energies of one sector of the opposition which, with the initial participation of OPL, undertook to meet with President Preval and to negotiate a resolution to the stalemate. Unhappy stalemate. Unhappy with the concessions which its politically weaker partners were willing to make to the President, OPL decided to withdraw from thespace de concertation) on the eve of reaching an agreement with the President. The subsequent assassination of one of its sitting senators, Jean-Yvon Toussaint, made its decision irrevocable.

12. Although the agreement that was eventually reached with the President on 6 March 1999 was the result of a Haitian process, the international community, including the Representative of the Secretary General, the Executive Director of MICIVIH and the Friends of Haiti, encouraged the parties involved to continue their negotiations, which on several occasions appeared to be on the verge of breakdown. The agreement commits the President to undertake a certain number of broad measures to help resolve the crisis. While it glosses over the outstanding issues of the parliamentary void and the territorial assemblies, it contains broad principles for the establishment of a new Government and provisional electoral council.

13. The agreement of 6 March has been partly implemented despite the scepticism and criticism with which it was greeted in many quarters. A new provisional electoral council was installed. Although the selection procedures used were rejected by certain opposition sectors as being exclusive and unconstitutional, the credibility and the integrity of the members have not been challenged. The recent decision of the provisional electoral council to consult widely with political sectors, professional associations and civil society on a new electoral decree has been well received. Among the most difficult and politically controversial issues awaiting the council will be determining the fate of the disputed results of the April 1997 partial legislative elections. Restoring the confidence of the electorate and the political parties in a deeply discredited electoral process is also a vital challenge of which the council is fully aware. Meanwhile it found itself in the unenviable position of not having any supporting institutional or administrative structures on which to rely, the entire staff of the institution having been dismissed in July 1998.

14. The transitional Government, established, as the President acknowledged, during the inauguration ceremony in abnormal (even, some would say, unconstitutional) circumstances, is addressing the preparation of conditions for the organization of the delayed legislative and local governmental elections as a priority. Improvements in the political and security climate will be key elements in their success.

15. The erosion of the moral, social, political and economic fabric of the country, brought about by the protracted political and institutional crisis to which previous reports have alluded, and the consequent widespread disillusionment and questioning of the democratic process make the resolution of the political stalemate all the more imperative. However, the agreement reached between President Preval and the Espace de concertation is fragile. The major protagonists of the crisis, OPL and Fanmi Lavalas, are not party to it. The Espace is not representative of the political opposition, which now views it suspiciously. The intentions of the President remain highly suspect to an embittered and excluded opposition. Above all, the fundamental problems which have troubled the democratic transition and which are at the root of the crisis remain unaddressed. There remains a need to reconcile the widely divergent views held over the exercise of political power and the strategies for social and economic development, in order for there to be favourable prospects for political stability and sustainable institutional and economic development.

16. In the November report (A/53/564), reference was made to the negative impact of the fragmentation and internal tensions of the erstwhile ruling Lavalas coalition on well established grass-roots organizations and human rights and victims' defence associations. In view of recent reports of threats and intimidation against human rights groups and an attack against the director of one of them, I call upon the Haitian authorities to take the necessary steps to ensure that important human rights responsibilities be carried out without hindrance.

17. There is broad consensus in Haiti as to the vital importance of elections as a means of repairing the institutional void and of relaunching the democratic transition. There is also acute awareness that, to attain these goals, the forthcoming elections must represent a break with the recent past and be widely accepted as being free, fair and transparent. This is the challenge to which the new provisional electoral council, the transitional Government, and the political actors must rise.

18. International assistance, technical and otherwise, will be crucial to the organization of the elections. However, it has been made clear to the Haitian authorities and the provisional electoral council that such assistance will depend on the measures taken to ensure an impartial and transparent process that encourages wide political and voter participation.

III. Institution-building, human-rights monitoring and promotion

19. The difficulties inherent in this complex and fluctuating general context have had an impact on the operations of MICIVIH. The social and political turmoil springing from the deepening crisis and the curtailment of the oversight responsibilities of Parliament vis-e-vis the conduct of the police have led the Mission to place increased emphasis on its monitoring activities. The volatile and increasingly partisan atmosphere described above has increased the sensitivity of MICIVIH's reporting. The paralysis of decisionmaking during the latter stages of the crisis which coincided with the period under review has severely hampered institutionbuilding, particularly with regard to the implementation of the longdelayed judicial reform process.

20. The evaluation of the human rights situation and the measures needed or being taken to address it, described below, is based on the Mission's work in all three areas of its mandate during the period under review.

A. Haitian National Police

21. The political crisis, a concerted campaign of denigration against the Haitian National Police leadership, numerous demonstrations, some of them violent, and spates of armed crimes sorely tested the mettle of the police during this period, particularly the Compagnie d'intervention de maintien de l'ordre and the Unites departementales pour le maintien de l'ordre, units responsible for maintaining order. The police have met these challenges in a professional manner, a measure of the operational progress which the force has made since its creation. It is also an indication of improved command and control procedures, and the result of the efforts of the police directorate to keep the force above the political fray. The effective policing of Carnival was also indicative of the maturity which has been gained. Greater restraint in the use of firearms was reflected in a drop in the number of cases of killings attributed to the police which were reported to MICIVIH over the past three years: 59 in 1996, 53 in 1997 and 31 in 1998. Since the beginning of 1999, three killings allegedly by police have been reported, one of them a detainee who died after being beaten in Camp Perrin police station in April. The police agent implicated was subsequently placed in disciplinary custody. The two other killings were allegedly committed by off-duty policemen, both of whom were arrested, though one has since been released. Police have denied allegations that they were involved in three other recent killings.

22. Police authorities have yet to take broad, effective action to reduce beatings and other forms of ill-treatment. Statistics regarding such allegations fluctuated, though figures for 1998 (423) showed a marked increase, compared to 1997 (284). After dropping towards the end of 1998, allegations began to rise again in the firbeatings and other forms of ill-treatment. Statistics regarding such allegations fluctuated, though figures for 1998 (423) showed a marked increase, compared to 1997 (284). After dropping towards the end of 1998, allegations began to rise again in the first three months of 1999: 103 allegatikalot marasa method (slaps on the ears) has become increasingly common. In one case, a detainee was reportedly threatened at gunpoint in order to elicit information. In two other cases, detainees in the same police station said they were burnt with cigarettes or a candle. MICIVIH regularly brought individual cases and patterns of ill-treatment to the attention of local and regional Haitian National Police authorities and to the General Inspectorate, but only rarely were sanctions imposed, even in cases where complaints regularly implicated the same police agent. Supervisory officers must pay greater attention to these offences and take disciplinary action, when necessary, in order to ensure that ill-treatment of detainees does not become institutional practice.

23. Information in police registers, interviews with detainees in police custody and with police officers themselves suggested that greater attention needs to be given to training in arrest and detention procedures. Irregularities reported included arrests on the basis of a sole denunciation without prior investigation, arrests carried out without warrant but not in cases of flagrant delit, and arrests for minor infractions and for acts which are not punishable under the law. Efforts to respect the 48-hour period within which detainees must be taken before a judge were sustained, though there were numerous exceptions, such as the detention of a former examining magistrate in the Petionville police station since October 1998 without access to a judge.

24. Inquiries by the General Inspectorate and by the General Directorate of the Haitian National Police led to the dismissal of 288 police officers by the end of 1998. Eighteen prison guards and officials were dismissed for allegedly beating detainees in Carrefour prison. Twenty-five police officers who were implicated in human rights violations investigated by MICIVIH in cases which occurred in 1996, 1997 and 1998 were also dismissed. Eight of the 25 agents were implicated in unlawful killings, four in non-fatal shootings and eight in cases of torture or ill-treatment. At the same time, General Inspectorate officials have stressed that one of their most urgent priorities is to combat the involvement of police in drug trafficking and other criminal activities. Forty-one police officers were being held mainly on such criminal charges in prisons in Port-au-Prince as of the beginning of April.

25. By and large, the judiciary was slow to prosecute complaints of human rights violations allegedly committed by police officers. There were, however, a few notable exceptions. Courts in the department of the South are investigating several complaints of police abuses which are being monitored by MICIVIH observers. Another case--the torture and subsequent death of a detainee in Fort Liberte in July 1998--made noteworthy progress through the courts, the police officers concerned having been imprisoned and also dismissed from the force. Some judicial authorities erroneously argued that they could not begin their investigation until the police inquiry was completed or unless a complaint had been submitted. Twelve of 16 dossiers, including several related to human rights abuses, transferred by the General Inspectorate to the courts in Port-au-Prince in 1998, were still awaiting attention in the Parquet as of March. Police authorities criticized judicial inaction in prosecuting such cases, and judicial authorities complained that the dossiers from the General Inspectorate were incomplete or comprised only of photocopies. It is clear, therefore, that greater coordination is required between the two.

26. MICIVIH drew attention to the problems of police officers who have been subjected to disciplinary detention (isolement) for long periods without access to a judicial authority, in some cases several months. Police officials told MICIVIH and MIPONUH in March that a new policy was being implemented of taking officers of the Haitian National Police before a judge within 48 hours if the person concerned was implicated in a criminal offence. In March, a court in Les Cayes released a police officer who legally challenged the fact that he had been held in disciplinary custody for nearly two months.

27. The Haitian National Police has intensified its efforts to improve relations with the population at large, particularly faced with public criticism concerning its perceived inability to stem crime and violence. Additional foot patrols were announced as well as meetings with local authorities and others. National police authorities took part in a seminar on community policing organized by the Ombudsman's Office and Fon Dwa Moun in March, where emphasis was placed on the responsibilities of the police to the local communities in which they serve and the need for greater collaboration of the local population in fighting crime. MICIVIH brought together police and other local groups in St. Michel de l'Attalaye (Artibonite) and facilitated efforts to bring together different sectors in Limbe (North) following attacks on the police stations in both towns, in November 1998 and January 1999, respectively. Neither of the two police stations had resumed operations as of the end of March. In Pignon (North), where a new police station was opened, the Mission organized a conflict resolution seminar for the new police and local leaders as a way of preventing the type of incidents which had led to the breakdown in police/community relations in other places.

28. Brigades de vigilance and other informal police aides have been operating in some places, mainly in Port-au-Prince and rural areas. MICIVIH believes that police ought to monitor the activities of these individuals and groups to ensure that they do not act outside the law. At least one brigade, in Port-au-Prince, was allegedly involved in a lynching during this period, and some aides working with communal section councils have been implicated in beatings and extortion.

29. In partnership with the Direction des ecoles et de la formation continue (DEFC) of the Haitian National Police, MICIVIH, in coordination with MIPONUH, continued to modify and develop its 10-day training course on human rights and conflict resolution. Begun in 1998, the course had been given to groups of police in all nine departments by the end of March 1999, with followup sessions planned for the coming months. The aim was to create a basic module to be incorporated eventually into training for all new recruits at the Police Academy. The course is now run jointly by the Haitian National Police and MICIVIH trainers (both Haitian and international) with a view to having the local instructors take over in the future. In February and March, the Mission gave a series of short training sessions to six groups of 30 police cadets on the subject of violence against women and minors, in order to raise awareness of these issues and to provide a legal framework for the protection of women and minors. The course was extended to cover a full day of study at the request of the participants. A proposal to provide the course to police already in the field is under consideration. The third training programme in which MICIVIH has been directly involved is a pilot project for the hierarchy in the Haitian National Police which is being developed together with the departmental director for the West, representatives of the DEFC and Haitian human rights non-governmental organizations.

B. Prisons and detention centres

30. As of March, MICIVIH had recorded a total prison population of some 3,665 detainees, including 167 women and 103 minors. The opening of a new building inside the National Penitentiary in March eased overcrowding and improved security, effectively separating those facing serious charges from those imprisoned for minor offences. Conditions in other prisons varied, with some still suffering from overcrowding and poor infrastructure. The authorities began implementing a supervisory system to oversee food stocks and budgets in some prisons. However, problems persisted in several prisons, particularly in the National Penitentiary, where food stocks were reportedly sold off, and where numerous detainees reportedly showed signs of malnutrition, some of them serious. Medical care remained precarious. Nursing staff need more training, medicines continue to be in short supply and delays were reported in the transfer of sick prisoners to hospital, either due to lack of transport or lack of guards. MICIVIH and the International Committee of the Red Cross continued assisting the prison authorities to bring about improvements in medical care. With MICIVIH encouragement, arrangements were being made for local hospitals to treat detainees in some 3,665 detainees, including 167 women and 103 minors. The opening of a new building inside the National Penitentiary in March eased overcrowding and improved security, effectively separating those facing serious charges from those imprisoned for minor offences. Conditions in other prisons varied, with some still suffering from overcrowding and poor infrastructure.

31. MICIVIH strengthened its working ties with the Service des etudes et affaires generales (SEAG), the unit which supervises the 10 legal assistants of the Direction de l'administration penitentiaire (DAP) who have been working in Port-au-Prince's five prisons, their task being to identify cases of illegal detention, prolonged pretrial detention, miscalculation of prison sentences and other serious irregularities in prisoner dossiers, with a view to seeking solutions. In addition to accompanying DAP legal assistants on visits to several provinces, MICIVIH regularly participated in SEAG meetings to discuss proposals for improving the legal assistants' work. One of the tasks was the organizing of a roll-call of the approximately 1,700 prisoners at the National Penitentiary following concerns about the upkeep of the prison registry. The roll-call, organized in conjunction with UNDP, MICIVIH and others, was held in April to establish an accurate list of detainees and their legal situation.

32. Improvements in respecting the physical integrity of detainees were maintained--only 11 allegations of ill-treatment have been received by MICIVIH since the end of November, compared to 60 in the first three months of 1998. A prison official told MICIVIH that batons and handcuffs had been removed from guards in the National Penitentiary, because they were being used abusively. A code of conduct for prison guards and a set of internal regulations which have been pending since 1997 have still not been approved or implemented, though some steps were taken to hold prison guards accountable for abuses. Towards the end of 1998, 17 prison guards and the then-director of the National Penitentiary were dismissed for their alleged involvement in the beating of detainees following an April escape attempt from Carrefour prison. The Director alleged publicly that he had been dismissed for refusing to help assassinate certain prisoners. Several other guards and another prison director were dismissed or transferred in early 1999 for disciplinary or other offences, but none in relation to human rights violations.

33. For the first time, in March, three newly trained DAP inspectors-general were assigned to the HNP General Inspectorate with specific responsibility for investigating complaints of human rights violations attributed to DAP guards. Another important innovation was the promotion of staff to posts of prison supervisors (29) and inspectors (six) through competitive examinations. In December, however, the training programmes for new DAP guards and for existing prison record clerks were suspended, due to the closure of the DAP training centre pending a search for new premises. As of the beginning of April, training had still not been resumed. At the request of DAP in Gonaives, observers gave three training seminars to DAP agents on human rights and international standards for the treatment of detainees, one of which included presentations by DAP and MIPONUH on nonviolent methods of subduing detainees and conflict resolution.

C. Justice system

34. Previous reports on MICIVIH activities have detailed many of the deficiencies of the judicial system which have led, inter alia, to the erosion of the rights to individual liberty and to a fair trial within a reasonable time. The period under review revealed no signs of overall progress. The paralysis of the judicial reform programme led to intense criticism from many quarters and growing frustration among the international community because of the delays to projects intended to support the process. Nevertheless, the Mission continued to raise awareness of the plan of action put together by the Unite de suivi de la reforme du droit et de la justice, through media interviews, at training sessions for justices of the peace and by distributing copies of the plan, at the request of the Justice Ministry.

35. Though MICIVIH's institutionbuilding activities related to the judiciary were hampered by the institutional crisis and the consequent lack of political will to put in place reforms, it continued nevertheless to monitor cases and courts throughout the ...

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