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8283: Haitian Rights Coalition Urges Haiti President to Fulfill Promise s oChildren's Rights (fwd)

From: Merrie Archer <MArcher@nchr.org>

Contact:          Jocelyn McCalla or Merrie Archer
Phone:             (212) 337-0005
Haitian Rights Coalition Urges Haiti President to
Fulfill Promises on Children's Rights
At a meeting held in late April, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide announced
that his government would seek to enact a new law against child abuse and
offer scholarships to children who excel in school. He also called for
respect for street children and those who are in domestic servitude.
While welcoming the government's focus on children's rights, the National
Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR) says that the plans appear to fall far
short of a serious effort to promote child rights. "Your government can
either join its predecessors or make a real break with the past by ensuring
that every child born in Haiti is legally registered at birth, and records
are maintained properly," writes NCHR's Executive Director Jocelyn McCalla
in a letter to the Haitian President. NCHR contends that millions of
Haitians are stateless by virtue of being denied citizenship because of
willful government negligence and incompetence.
"Secondly, the government of Haiti should wage a vigorous campaign to
eliminate domestic child labor, in step with the global movement to achieve
this noble goal by the year 2015," added Mr. McCalla. The number of children
in domestic servitude, commonly referred to in Haiti as "restavčk" is
estimated at about 300,000. These children are generally charged with
cooking, cleaning, childcare, fetching water and groceries while being
denied the simple pleasures of recreation and education. They are often
whipped severely and suffer additional abuses at the hands of their
overseers. If they stand for their rights or become no longer useful, they
are then kicked out into the streets where they become homeless. They
generally have little recourse to State protection. The "restavčk" system,
condoned by Haitian law and customs, remains one of the most enduring
symbols of slavery's legacy even as Haiti prides itself of having been the
first to free itself from its yoke.
Noting finally that the government of Haiti plans to participate in the UN
General Assembly's special session on children's rights to be held this
September in New York, NCHR suggests that at the very least it should
present "a comprehensive plan of action that has been the subject of
wide-ranging public debate and that signals a serious break with a past of
empty promises."
The National Coalition for Haitian Rights is a nonprofit nongovernmental
organization that seeks to promote and protect the rights of Haitian
refugees and Haitian-Americans under US and international law, and to
advance respect for human rights, the rule of law and support for civil and
democratic society in Haiti.