IACHR reminds Haiti of its Duty to Investigate and Punish Human Rights Violations and Urges to Guarantee the Independence of the Judiciary
February 20, 2013
Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is reminding the Haitian state of its international obligation to investigate, prosecute, and punish the serious human rights violations committed in that country, and to ensure that justice operators may work with independence and impartiality.
According to published information, since Jean-Claude Duvalier returned to Haiti in January 2011 several groups of victims have filed complaints of human rights violations committed under the Duvalier regime. On January 27, 2012 the investigating judge decided not to try Duvalier for human rights violations, a decision that the victims appealed. As part of this process, the Port-au-Prince Court of Appeals summoned Duvalier to testify at a hearing convened for February 7, 2013. He failed to appear, however, and the hearing was postponed to February 21, 2013.
The IACHR reiterates that Haiti, as a state party to the American Convention on Human Rights, has an international obligation to investigate and if necessary punish those responsible for the gross human rights violations committed during the regime of Jean-Claude Duvalier.
Moreover, the Commission urges the State of Haiti to adopt all measures necessary to ensure that justice operators may work with independence and impartiality. The Commission notes that independence and impartiality constitute essential guarantees that allow judicial authorities to freely carry out their role of protecting the right of access to justice. In this regard, in the Second Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas, the IACHR recommended that the States: “Strengthen the mechanisms for the administration of justice and guarantee the independence and impartiality of the officers of the court, which are necessary conditions for performance of their functions of investigating, prosecuting, and punishing those who violate human rights”.
The gross and systematic human rights violations committed under Jean-Claude Duvalier regime were documented by the Inter-American Commission in its 1979 Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti, prepared based on-site observation visit conducted from August 16 to 25, 1978. In that report, the IACHR recommended that the Haitian State "investigate and punish those responsible for the numerous violations of the right to life and physical security."
In May 2011 the Inter-American Commission issued a statement on the duty of the Haitian state to investigate the gross violations of human rights committed during the regime of Jean-Claude Duvalier, underscoring the standards of the inter-American human rights system in the subject area. The IACHR also has followed up on the issue through a public hearing held on March 28, 2011 and through press releases.
A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.