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#2603: From CIP (fwd)

From: Max Blanchet <MaxBlanchet@worldnet.att.net>

See CIP for complete report

1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

Released by the Bureau of Democracy,
Human Rights, and Labor
U.S. Department of State
February 25, 2000


Haiti was in a constitutionally irregular situation throughout the year. 
Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis, appointed in December 1998,
completed only the first stage of the required two-part ratification
process. The terms of office of the entire 85-seat House of Deputies and 
all but 9 of the 27 members of the Senate expired on January 11. Before 
Alexis could submit his Cabinet and plan of government to Parliament for 
approval as required by the 1987 Constitution, President Rene Preval
announced that he would not recognize Parliament's decision to extend
its incumbents' mandates until new elections could be held. This
effectively dissolved the Parliament on January 11, leaving the country 
without a functioning legislative branch of government or any duly
elected officials apart from President Preval and eight remaining
senators. In March, after negotiations with a five-party opposition
coalition, Prime Minister Alexis formed a cabinet. However, due to the 
absence of a parliament, the new ministers took office without being
confirmed. At year's end, there were plans to hold a first round of
parliamentary elections in March 2000, a second round in April, and
presidential elections in December. The judiciary is theoretically
independent; however, in practice it remained largely weak and corrupt. 

In September 1994, a U.N.-sanctioned multinational force restored the
country's democratically elected president. The Armed Forces of Haiti
(FAd'H) were subsequently disbanded. At that time, the Government
established the Haitian National Police (HNP), which continues to gain 
experience and to benefit from international training and advisors,
although it has severe attrition problems. Moreover, it remains an
immature force that is still grappling with problems of corruption and 
human rights abusers within its ranks. Allegations of corruption,
incompetence, and narcotics trafficking target members at all levels of 
the force. The HNP has a variety of specialized units, including a
crisis response unit, a crowd control unit (CIMO) serving Port-au-Prince 
and the Western department, crowd control units (UDMO's) serving each of 
the remaining eight departments, a presidential and palace security
unit, an 81-officer Coast Guard unit, and a Special Investigative Unit 
(SIU). The SIU was formed to investigate high-profile political killings 
but is ill-equipped, inexperienced, and has made limited progress on its 
cases. Some members of local government councils (CASEC's) exercise
arrest authority without legal sanction. Members of the HNP and other
security forces committed some serious human rights abuses.

The mandate of the U.N. Police Mission in Haiti (MIPONUH), which advised 
and trained the HNP, is currently set to expire on March 15, 2000. The 
United Nations plans to replace that mission with a civilian follow-on 
technical assistance program.

Haiti is an extremely poor country, with a per capita annual income of 
around $400. This figure probably does not fully include significant
transfers from the over 1 million Haitians living abroad, as well as
income from informal sector activities that constitute an estimated 70 
percent of actual economic activity. The country has a market-based
economy with state enterprises controlling telecommunications and
utilities. The Government had proposed a broad plan for privatization of 
state-owned enterprises. However, aside from the sale of two previously 
closed enterprises, the process has come to a halt. A small elite
controls much of the country's wealth. Accurate employment statistics
are unavailable. About two-thirds of the population work in subsistence 
agriculture, earn less than the average income, and live in extreme
poverty. A small part of the urban labor force works in the industrial 
and assembly sectors, with an equal number in government or service
sector employment. Assembled goods, textiles, leather goods,
handicrafts, and electronics are a source of limited export revenue and 
employment. Other important exports are mangoes and coffee. The
Government relies heavily on international assistance.

The Government's human rights record was generally poor, and its overall 
effort to respect the human rights of its citizens was marred by serious 
abuses and shortcomings in oversight. The HNP's tendency to resort to
excessive force resulted in a sharp increase in extrajudicial killings. 
Police were linked to several disappearances. Police continued to beat, 
at times torture, and otherwise mistreat detainees. While some HNP
members were fired and some were incarcerated for human rights abuses, 
methodical investigations and prosecutions are rare, and impunity
remains a problem. Poor prison conditions, arbitrary arrest and
detention, and prolonged pretrial detention also remained problems.
However, instances of brutality in prisons decreased during the year.
The judiciary remained plagued by understaffing, inadequate resources, 
and corrupt and untrained judges. Judicial dockets remain clogged, and 
fair and expeditious trials are the exception rather than the rule. The 
judiciary is not independent in practice, and in at least 22 cases the 
executive branch detained persons in defiance of release orders issued 
by judges. Security forces carried out illegal warrantless searches.
Most media practice some self-censorship; however, the press frequently 
is critical of the Government. Due to the nation's political crisis,
citizens were unable to vote for representatives to Parliament. Violence 
against women, societal discrimination against women, and government
neglect and abuse of children remain problems. The widespread practice 
of rural families sending young children to the larger cities to work as 
unpaid domestics (restaveks) also is still a problem. Child labor
persists. Vigilante activity, including killings, remained a common
alternative to formal judicial processes.

The Government's effort to redress the legacy of human rights abuse from 
the 1991-94 period was slightly more successful than in previous years. 
The 4-year investigation into the Raboteau massacre was completed in
September, an indictment was issued, and by the end of the year, the
case was moving towards trial. In July the Ministry of Justice disbursed 
about $1,700 (27,000 gourdes) in reparation money to 914 victims of the 
1993 Cite de Soleil fire, which reportedly was set by the paramilitary 
Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH). Otherwise, no 
significant progress was made in addressing other human rights
violations or political killings dating from the Duvalier, de facto, or 
post-intervention periods.