Press Release

Concerned about Worsening Violence and Scarcity in Haiti, IACHR Unveils Plans for a Rapid and Integrated Response Coordination Unit to Monitor the Situation

February 27, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expressed its profound concern about the worsening violence and scarcity in Haiti. The IACHR calls on the State to respect demonstrations and urges it to launch talks with all the actors involved, to seek a peaceful solution to the serious political and economic crisis that is currently affecting the country. In response to such serious events, the IACHR decided to deploy a Rapid and Integrated Response Coordination Unit (RIRCU), to monitor the human rights situation in Haiti and to respond to that situation.

The Commission has been monitoring events and the use of force since February 7 in Haiti. Protests against corruption and the economic situation have coexisted with street and road blockades; violence against demonstrators; occasional shots; arrests; problems for the supply of goods and services essential to provide food, drinking water and healthcare to the population; petrol, gas and power shortages; a partial or total halt in economic activity; school shutdowns; closed customs in ports and airports; and a serious impact on public services. Such events have left at least 26 people dead and more than 77 injured, according to UNICEF information.

The IACHR observes that, in response to the country’s serious situation, President Jovenel Moïse adopted nine emergency measures on February 16: a 30% cut in the prime minister’s budget and the elimination of privileges for high officials of the State; an audit of autonomous State-owned firms by the High Court of Auditors; recovery of at least 50% of the financial losses caused by smuggling of goods through customs and across the border; the end of monopolies; wage improvements for factory workers; the recovery of funds lost over the PetroCaribe affair, through the appointment of new heads for the Central Financial Information Unit and the Unit to Fight Corruption, rapid action by the Government Commission on the investigation and report concerning the Hight Court of Auditors, and the appointment of more judges by the Superior Council of The Judiciary, to deal with the PetroCaribe investigation; the creation and operation of a Supervisory Board; the launch of industrial development funds to boost the economy and increase access to loans; and price cuts for basic products.

In the context of violence and protests in Haiti, the IACHR calls on the State to respect social protest, which is one way to exercise the right of assembly and the right to freedom of expression. As such, it serves a key social interest to ensure proper functioning of the democratic system and should not be seen as a threat to public order. The IACHR further calls on the Haitian State to ensure that all demonstrators’ rights to life, personal integrity and personal liberty are protected in social protests held in the exercise of the rights of assembly and peaceful demonstration.

“In the country’s current context, there is an essential role for mechanisms for dialogue that ensure peace and reconciliation and enable the truth, justice and reparations victims—especially families who have lost their loved ones—are entitled to,” said the IACHR’s President, Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño.

“There is great concern about the rapid deterioration of the country’s socioeconomic and political situation, which has led to violence and to shortages of power, fuel, oxygen and medication to provide basic services involving water, food and healthcare,” said Commissioner Flávia Piovesan, IACHR Rapporteur for Haiti. “That compromises the State’s ability to protect people’s lives, personal integrity and safety and directly impacts living conditions, so the State must take action to facilitate access to basic services and to effectively protect those rights,” Commissioner Piovesan stressed.

The IACHR expresses its solidarity with the families of the people who have died and calls on the Haitian State to investigate those deaths with due diligence and full respect for due process, in order to ensure accountability and to do justice. Further, the Inter-American Commission urges all parties to reject violence and put an end to it. The IACHR urges the authorities to seek a way out of the crisis through a process of peaceful, inclusive dialogue and strict respect for human rights.

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. 046/19