IACHR Releases Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti

January 5, 2023

Situation of Human Rights in Haiti

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) released the report Situation of Human Rights in Haiti. This report—the first on Haiti that the Commission has released since 2008, as well as the first to be also published in Haiti's Kreyòl language—seeks to assess the factors that weaken human rights in the country, especially given growing citizen insecurity and democratic instability. The IACHR hopes the report will support the complex stabilization of democratic and human rights institutions in the country and citizen security within its borders, all of which are essential for the full exercise of human rights.

This report is based on data collected and processed through the Commission's various monitoring mechanisms. It also takes into consideration information received before, during, and after the IACHR's in loco visit to Haiti over the period December 17–20, 2019, and in public hearings held between 2019 and 2022 concerning the situation of human rights in the country, as well as information issued by civil society organizations, international organizations, and the Haitian State, among other sources.

In its report, the Commission articulates its diagnosis of events between 2018 and June 2022. It addresses structural issues and notes the most significant hurdles for the effective enjoyment of human rights, as well as rights violations and emerging risks evident in a context of dire socioeconomic conditions that make Haiti the poorest country in the Americas.

The report describes and analyzes the following issues: i) the historical context of the situation of human rights in Haiti; ii) the gradual weakening of Haiti's democratic institutions between 2018 and 2022 and the main challenges for democratic governance in the country, from deepening political tensions and an institutional vacuum to the serious impact of extreme political violence (as evidenced by the murder of President Jovenel Moïse); and iii) the main drivers and effects of citizen insecurity, including growing numbers of homicides and kidnappings and the serious impact on human rights of the violence of armed groups with significant territorial control in Haiti.

Concerning democratic institutions, the report warns that challenges for institutional governance are a consequence of structural factors including political instability and hurdles for institutional consolidation in recent decades. Since 2018, the IACHR has identified two interconnected cycles apparent in the current institutional and political dynamics in Haiti.

The first cycle (from 2018 to mid-2021) was marked by increasing social protests caused by economic, social, and political discontent, as well as by efforts to consolidate electoral institutions amid opposition. The expiration of the mandates of 119 members of the lower house of Congress and two thirds of the country's senators left the legislature without the quorum it needed to function. The second cycle followed the murder of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse on July 7, 2021, which led to an escalation of the country's political, institutional, and economic crisis.

Concerning citizen security, the IACHR notes that it poses a historical and complex challenge. Factors including persisting social, economic, and political problems, weakening State institutions, and growing institutional challenges to adequately contain crime all lead to high levels of violence in the country. The main challenges observed include the following: i) problems to strengthen and consolidate law enforcement institutions; ii) lack of systematic data collection processes; iii) existence of organized armed groups and disputes among them; iv) indiscriminate access to firearms; and v) impunity for crime perpetrators, especially in cases in which members of the Haitian law enforcement forces are allegedly involved.

Concerning human mobility, the report notes the growing need for protection of mobile Haitians, due to the serious and widespread human rights violations in their country of origin. The report stresses that, based on the principles of international solidarity and cooperation, Haiti and other States in the region must take measures to adopt a comprehensive, immediate, effective, and lasting response that protects the rights of mobile individuals. Concerning internal displacement, the IACHR notes that the specific vulnerability of people who are internally displaced in Haiti is complex and has multiple causes. These include the effects of natural disasters and extreme violence perpetrated by armed groups, often in serious, recurring bouts that prompt successive waves of displacement.

The report also notes the main challenges for the enjoyment and protection of economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights in Haiti and the challenges to protect freedom of expression, specifically regarding the protection of journalists and other communications professionals in the country.

To support the State in the process of restoring conditions that are essential for the full enforcement of human rights and based on the results and the application of inter-American standards, the IACHR makes several recommendations. It calls on the State and on all social and political stakeholders to pursue and deepen efforts to restore the constitutional framework, in a way that ensures the viability of democratic institutions, citizen security, peaceful conflict resolution, and social dialogue, as well as to take the measures that are required to ensure economic and human development.

This report also extends a broader call to the international community—particularly States in the Americas and regional and global agencies—to take measures that might enforce the principles of solidarity and cooperation and action to enable development in Haiti and to provide assistance to it. This seeks to develop, support, and strengthen the institutional capacity, civil society networks, and public policies necessary to improve the Haitian State's protection standards. The Commission stresses its willingness to provide technical assistance and to engage in further talks based on its own role and mandate.

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 and to defend 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.

No. 001/23

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