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UN Independent Expert on Haiti: “Impunity must end”

PORT-AU-PRINCE (24 February 2011) – The UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti, Michel Forst, urged the presidential candidates to spearhead the fight against impunity.

“As the country prepares to choose its next president, I hope that solemn commitments will be made and that signals will be sent for a greater respect for human rights, judicial reform, the fight against impunity and access to basic services for all,” said M. Forst.

The Independent Expert chose the fight against impunity as one of the main themes of his visit and his meetings with country authorities and representatives of the international community. “It is important that the fight against impunity be carried out through judicial means, and I wish, in memory of the victims, that we explore all of the possibilities in this area, especially for the most serious crimes of the sinister past that the country has known”, he said.

“However, the fight against impunity is not limited to judicial remedies only. There are also additional steps to be taken in terms of recuperation of memory, education and raising awareness. Other countries in Latin America and Africa have used innovative ways to exorcise crimes of the past. Haiti would do well to learn from these experiences.”

After visiting several prisons and talking with many judges, the Independent Expert noted that the reform of the justice system, including the independence of the judiciary, has been blocked for several years. “The elements are there; the long-awaited reform of justice was adopted by Parliament that passed three laws on judicial reform in 2007. The laws are there, but cannot enter into force since the key to the reform, the one that can run the engine, has not been put in place. As you know, the appointment of the President of the Supreme Court (Cour de Cassation) is the missing keystone of the edifice.”

With regards to the humanitarian situation, the Independent Expert has called for greater attention to be paid to human rights in the reconstruction of the country. “I want to stress that water, housing, and access to health care are not only humanitarian needs, these are also demandable rights and I call for engagements to be made to ensure that, beyond the humanitarian crisis, these rights will indeed be guaranteed by the Haitian State. I therefore also recall that it is urgent that Parliament ratifies the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to gradually enter into this new dynamic of access to all rights, including rights proclaimed by the pact.”

The seventh mission of Mr. Forst to the country will end on Sunday 27 February, and the next report of the Independent Expert will be presented and discussed in June 2011 in the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The United Nations Secretary General appointed Mr. Michel Forst as Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti in June 2008. Mr. Forst is General Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission of France and author of different publications on human rights, extreme poverty and the United Nations.

(*) Check the last reports of the Independent Expert on: http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?m=47

Learn more about the mandate and activities of the Independent Expert: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/countries/ht/mandate/index.htm

OHCHR Country Page – Haiti: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/LacRegion/Pages/HTIndex.aspx

For additional information and media requests, please contact Michael van Gelderen.
During the mission (20-27 February): +50937010286 or +41797520484.
From 28 February: + 41 22 928 9355.
Email: mvangelderen@ohchr.org or ie-haiti@ohchr.org