Press Release

A Year After La Saline Massacre, the IACHR Remains Concerned about the Ongoing Political and Institutional Crisis in Haiti

November 22, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) stresses its concern about the violence and the drawn-out political and institutional crisis that are ongoing in Haiti. In this context, the IACHR highlights the importance of promoting political dialogue, strengthening democratic institutions, and protecting Haitians’ access to basic services.

A year after the violent events known as La Saline massacre—where investigation remains pending—the IACHR observes that violence persists during protests, and that hurdles remain to prevent access to basic public services. The Commission addressed this situation in press release 258/2019, issued on October 11.

According to reports received by the IACHR, a worsening security situation and the persistent social protests that increased in the country since mid-September 2019 continue to affect social, economic, and political life in the country. According to publicly available reports, security conditions in Port-au-Prince and other cities around the country have been seriously impacted by acts of violence perpetrated by criminal gangs, as well as by road blockades and jailbreaks. The Commission further observes shortages in the supply of drinking water at critical facilities, along with difficult access to hospitals and emergency services.

The Commission warns that, based on the information gathered by human rights organizations, Haiti’s security forces are resorting to an excessive use of force. This includes an indiscriminate use of non-lethal weapons, the use of tear gas from moving police vehicles amid peaceful demonstrations, shots fired from close range against demonstrators using non-lethal weapons, and instances where demonstrators have been hit. The Commission further expresses its profound concern about the press release issued on November 1 by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which noted that at least 42 people had been killed and 86 had been injured in the context of protests in Haiti since mid-September.

The IACHR also noted that the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH)—the successor to the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), which was created in 2004—completed its mandate on October 16, 2019. In its place, the UN has deployed the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH), a special political mission that seeks to support the transition from peacekeeping to strengthening democratic institutions, political dialogue, and development goals.

In this context, the Commission stresses that States have an obligation to adopt any measures necessary to protect the lives, personal integrity, and safety of their residents, and to take any action needed to ensure a peaceful environment where social protests can be held. States must therefore prevent and investigate any abuse committed by their security forces during demonstrations.

The IACHR also notes that one year has gone by since La Saline massacre, which happened on November 13–17, 2018 in La Saline community, in Port-au-Prince . As the Commission was told during its 173rd Period of Sessions, at least 71 people were killed in those events, where an unknown number of individuals also suffered various rights violations including theft and plunder. The IACHR notes its concern about the failure to investigate those events. The Commission expresses its solidarity with victims’ families and highlights the Haitian State’s obligation to diligently and comprehensively exhaust all lines of investigation concerning La Saline massacre, including those that point to a potential involvement by officers of the State and its security forces.

The IACHR was informed of the measures taken in the months that followed La Saline massacre. The Haitian Government said that the Central Judicial Police Department (DCPJ) arrived at the scene to collect evidence soon after the authorities heard about what had happened in La Saline. Following an initial investigation, the public prosecutor’s office was said to have launched proceedings before the Court of First Instance in Port-au-Prince. Haiti further noted that, in April 2019, residents from La Saline community filed 74 formal complaints concerning the massacre. A total of 80 victims testified, and five people were arrested. On April 23, 2019, charges were pressed against 98 individuals, including two high officials of the State.

“The Commission calls on the various political and social groups to invest in restoring political dialogue and to value democratic institutions and due process as the solution to this difficult, crucial time that the Haitian State is going through,” said Commissioner Flávia Piovesan, the IACHR’s Rapporteur for Haiti. “The State has the obligation investigate and respond to serious human rights violations, and to protect the lives, integrity, and dignity of its people,” Commissioner Piovesan stressed.

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. 305/19