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9594: Amnesty International on Haiti
* News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty
12 November 2001
Haiti is at a critical juncture in human rights terms, Amnesty
International said today, having recently concluded a two-week
visit to the country. While noting some positive developments,
for example in prison management, the organization strongly urged
the Haitian authorities to assert their commitment to human
rights principles in the face of a series of challenges
unprecedented in recent years.
"The climate of respect for human rights which has been
under construction since the end of the military regime in 1994
is facing some of the most overt and difficult challenges ever,"
the organization said. "It is imperative that the Haitian
authorities demonstrate, in concrete actions, that they are truly
committed to maintaining independent institutions and the rule of
The organization's visit to Haiti coincided with a
difficult test for the country's police and justice systems.
Warrants issued for the arrest of three leaders of popular
organizations that claim close ties to the ruling party, Fanmi
Lavalas, have yet to be acted upon, as all three apparently
continue to circulate freely in Port-au-Prince. Two of the men
are wanted for questioning in the inquiry into the April 2000
murders of Haiti's most well-respected journalist, Jean
Dominique, and security guard Jean Claude Louissaint. The third
has been named in the investigation into the recent murder of
"The investigation into the Jean Dominique case is, in
itself, a crucial test of Haiti's commitment to human rights
principles," Amnesty International said, regretting that it has
been stalled for two months as a Senate committee deliberates
whether to lift the parliamentary immunity of a senator also
reportedly implicated in the case. "Such delays cast serious
doubts as to the authorities' willingness to act on their
often-stated dedication to transparency, justice and
accountability," the organization added.
A recent series of reported killings of civilians during
police operations in Cit Soleil, a densely populated area of
Port-au-Prince, has raised concerns about police conduct and
accountability. An investigation into one such killing, that of
16-year-old Mackenson Fleurimon on 11 October, has been blocked
by the refusal of the officer implicated to respond to summons.
The officer is under further investigation for having beaten and
threatened a radio journalist who had been gathering material for
a report on Mackenson's killing.
Recent statements by national human rights organizations
denouncing violations at the hands of the police appear to have
prompted death threats reported last week by several members of
Haiti's most prominent human rights organizations, the National
Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR) and the Platform of Haitian
Human Rights Organizations (POHDH).
In the light of this worrying development, Amnesty
International has written to Haitian President Jean Bertrand
Aristide urging the government to take immediate steps to protect
journalists and human rights defenders, to fully investigate all
threats and violence against them, and to bring those responsible
Following its visit the organization expressed
appreciation to President Aristide for the openness of the
Haitian officials who discussed human rights issues of mutual
concern with its delegates. The delegates noted positive steps
in the prison system, including efforts to reduce pre-trial
detention in the national penitentiary.
"For such positive steps not to be lost, the Haitian
government must firmly reassert the primacy of human rights
principles over any other interests, particularly with respect to
the functioning of the police, the behaviour of ruling party
partisans and the protection of journalists and human rights
defenders," Amnesty International said.
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