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#2918: Amnesty International's Latest Report on Haiti (fwd)

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

News Service
AI INDEX: AMR 36/03/00

Haiti: Justice and liberties at risk

The climate of respect for human rights under construction in
Haiti after the end of the military regime has been dealt a
series of blows, Amnesty International said today, launching a
new report on the country.

"Efforts to overcome the legacies of the past and to promote
greater respect for human rights must continue, and past gains
must be safeguarded," the organization said.

"Much remains to be done in the way of building a fair,
independent and impartial judiciary trusted by the public and
ensuring the independence and accountability of the police
force -- both of which are essential traits of a system in which
human rights are truly respected."

Amnesty International is calling on the Haitian authorities to
take all appropriate steps to undertake a reform of the judicial
system which is largely dysfunctional, under-resourced, and
vulnerable to external pressures, and to ensure the
professionalism and accountability of the police.

The report, incorporating the findings of a recent research
mission, outlines human rights concerns in the context of the
up-coming elections. It also includes reports of human rights
violations by the police and the impact of the lack of an
independent, impartial and accessible justice. In addition, the
report addresses issues related to the prison system and the
situation of human rights defenders.

Amnesty International appreciates that the scale of human
rights violations is significantly smaller than under the military
regime, and that some efforts are being made to investigate
past and present violations and to improve the justice system.
However, unless action is taken urgently, progress on human
rights issues in Haiti is seriously at risk.


To obtain a copy of the report, Haiti, Unfinished business:
Justice and liberties at risk, or to arrange an interview,  please
call Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on:
+ 44 171 413 5562.


EMBARGOED FOR: 21 March 2000

Amnesty International

Unfinished Business: justice and liberties at risk

17 February 2000

AI INDEX: AMR 36/01/00

After nearly two years of political paralysis, by end 1998 the
Haitian Parliament approved the nomination of Jacques
Edouard Alexis to the vacant post of Prime Minister. However,
President René Préval's failure to extend the mandates of
parliamentarians and local officials when they expired in
January 1999 placed the government outside constitutional
order, with President Préval basically ruling by decree.  In
response to public concern at this move, he announced plans
for prompt elections; contests for legislative and local posts
are slated for March 2000, with the presidential race at end

In the absence of Parliament, a key element in Haiti's system
of checks and balances, state institutions were perceived as
ever more vulnerable to outside interests, and both the Haitian
National Police (HNP) and the judiciary came under increasing
pressure from sectors apparently interested in undermining
their independence and impartiality.  Amnesty International
was also concerned about acts of aggression and intimidation
carried out by unknown individuals against human rights

The HNP, while continuing efforts to investigate those
responsible for human rights violations, were implicated in
some serious violations including the extrajudicial execution of
eleven people in the Carrefour-Feuilles neighborhood of Port-
au-Prince in May 1999. Seven police officers, including the
Port-au-Prince police commissioner, were arrested, and
police and judicial investigations were opened; however, as of
this writing no results had been made public. Other worrying
incidents included several possible "disappearances" and
reports of beatings of criminal suspects following arrest.

There were isolated reports of ill-treatment of detainees by
HNP prison guards under the Direction de l'Administration
Pénitentiaire (DAP), Direction of Penitentiary Administration.
Prisons faced serious over-crowding linked to lack of judicial
action on detainees' dossiers. The justice system continued to
be largely dysfunctional, with four-fifths of the roughly 3,700
detainees in Haiti in pre-trial detention; nearly one-third of the
prison population has been without trial for over one year.
Though the Minister of Justice announced some punctual
measures to relieve the situation, the need for in-depth judicial
reform became ever more acute.

Other issues of concern included inaction by justice officials on
possible human rights violations by police officers, and the
failure of public prosecutors to execute judicial release orders
for detainees held on state security or similar charges.

Amnesty International is concerned that the climate of respect
for human rights established since Haiti's 1994 emergence
from a military regime has been dealt a series of blows.

Amnesty International calls on Haitian authorities to take all
necessary steps to reinforce the professionalism and political
impartiality of the police force, particularly in the charged
electoral context, and to strengthen the independence,
impartiality and effectiveness of the justice system. Amnesty
International also calls on all political parties to ensure that they
and their partisans respect the rights to expression, assembly
and association, allowing the electoral process to proceed in a
transparent and peaceful manner and thereby minimizing the
possibility of violence that could lead to human rights
violations.  Amnesty International asks authorities to send a
clear and strong message that human rights violations will not
be tolerated, and to make every effort to ensure that those
responsible are brought to trial.


This report summarizes a 38-page document (14633 words),
HAITI: Unfinished Business: justice and liberties at risk (AI
Index: AMR 36/01/00) issued by Amnesty International in
March 2000. Anyone wishing further details or to take action on
this issue should consult the full document.

An extensive range of our materials on this and other subjects
is available at:
and Amnesty International news releases can be received by
email:  http://www.amnesty.org/news/emailnws.htm