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Human Rights Committee considers report of Haiti

Human Rights Committee

10 October 2014

The Human Rights Committee today completed its consideration of the initial report of Haiti on its implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Presenting the report, Rose Anne Auguste, Minister for Human Rights and the Fight against Extreme Poverty of Haiti, said the new President was committed to democracy and institutional reform and listed developments towards the implementation of the Covenant, including the establishment of her own office and the ratification of several international treaties.  Efforts to relocate people living in displaced persons camps were moving in the right direction and today 93.7 per cent of families had been relocated, leaving 85,432 individuals still in the camps.  Prolonged pre-trial detention was a genuine concern and the Government was working to improve prison capacity and health conditions.  An Inspector General of the Police was appointed in 2010 to prosecute law enforcement officers alleged to have violated the right to life; reform to the Family Law assured the equality of children born outside of wedlock; and a bill for the prevention of violence against women was being drafted.  Other developments included the 2014 Law on Trafficking in Persons and a programme to support Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic.  

During the discussion, Committee Experts asked about the trial of the recently deceased former President Jean-Claude Duvalier and about prison overcrowding and reports that on average there were 0.6 square metres per prisoner, and measures to reduce the use of pre-trial detention and corruption in the justice system which was leading to forms of “popular justice” such as lynching.  Abusive evictions of internally displaced persons and conditions in the camps following the 2010 earthquake, excessive use of force against demonstrators, and threats against human rights defenders and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people were discussed.  Measures to combat forms of trafficking, including international adoptions, and different types of exploitation of children were also raised.  Questions were asked about violence against women, in particular sexual violence, and support for victims, and the misuse of fire-arms by law-enforcement officials. 
In concluding remarks, Nigel Rodley, Chairman of the Committee, said outstanding issues were prison overcrowding and the appalling situation of people being detained on remand for periods beyond their possible sentence, abusive evictions of internally displaced persons and excessive use of force against demonstrators.  Underlying the challenges was the ‘gangrene’ of the lack of judicial integrity which led to the ‘cancer’ of “popular justice”, which was the summit of arbitrariness.  Without a respected justice system everything fell apart, from civil and political rights to economic and social rights. 

In concluding remarks Ms. Auguste requested the support of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in implementing the Covenant and pledged to translate it into Creole as soon as possible.  Budgetary restraints, especially after the 2010 earthquake, were a huge challenge but it would not stop Haiti and once the National Human Rights Plan was implemented and the National Commission for Human Rights became a reality they would start to bear fruit. 

The delegation of Haiti included the Minister for Human Rights and the Fight against Extreme Poverty and representatives of the Council of the President, the Legal Department of the Office of the First Minister, the Division for Housing Construction and Public Buildings, the Foreign Ministry and the Permanent Mission of Haiti to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The next public meeting of the Committee will take place at 10 a.m. on Monday, 13 October when the Committee will consider its Draft General Comment on Article 9 of the Covenant.  At 3 p.m. that afternoon it will start its review of the second periodic report of Malta (CCPR/C/MLT/2).
The Committee is reviewing the initial report of Haiti (CCPR/C/HTI/1).
Presentation of the Report
ROSE ANNE AUGUSTE, Minister for Human Rights and the Fight against Extreme Poverty of Haiti, said Haiti had acceded to the Covenant in 1991 and its initial report should be been submitted in 1991, but they had had to wait until 2012.  Ms. Auguste welcomed the presence of representatives of non-governmental organizations and human rights defenders who worked in Haiti at the meeting, saying their work contributed to assist the Haitian authorities in improving the situation on the ground.  The alternative report provided by the Office of Citizen Protection was constructive, but the Haitian Government deplored the partial nature in which some facts or events were presented in the joint report submitted by a number of Haitian human rights organizations. 
From the beginning of his mandate, President Martelly had sent clear signals of his commitment to democracy and institutional reform.  Positive developments included the appointment of the Court of Cassation and 11 judges and a Government Commissioner to it, establishment of the Ministry of the Judiciary, appointment of a Minister of Human Rights and the establishment of a School of Magistrates.  Major progress had been achieved through the ratification of international human rights instruments; Haiti had acceded to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children and it had signed the Convention against Torture.  It sought to abolish the death penalty by ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Highlighting developments since the submission of the report in 2012, Ms. Auguste said an Inspector General of the Police had been appointed to prosecute and sentence police officers alleged to have violated the right to life; of the 1,022 files opened, 345 had been closed.  There had been reform to the Family Law such as a new law on paternity which established the equality of all children whether born to married couples or not.  A bill for the prevention of violence against women was being drafted by the Ministry for the Advancement of Women, and non-governmental organizations were being consulted on it.  There was an Action Plan to Combat Violence against Women from 2012 to 2016.  The constitutional 30 per cent quota for women in elected positions had led to the appointment of three women councillors on the Electoral Council. 
Prolonged pre-trial detention was a genuine concern and the Government was working with international partners to remedy the lack of prison capacity, make renovations to improve health conditions and tackle the presence of contagious diseases such as cholera.  Positive consequences for detainees of prison reforms included workshops in writing and plastic arts; two works by prisoners had been published as a result of the workshops, noted Ms. Auguste, adding that a new women’s wing at the Cayes Prison had been opened.  A study was being carried out that would make recommendations on ways to tackle trafficking and the 2014 Law on Trafficking in Persons sought to fill a legal gap that had meant perpetrators could not be prosecuted.  The system of citizen identification was being reformed with a deadline of 2015.  A draft programme for Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic was bringing encouraging results and would be replicated in the Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos Islands and Suriname.
Efforts to relocate people living in displaced persons camps were moving in the right direction.  Today 85,432 individuals lived in the camps which broke down  to 22,741 families living in 123 sites.  Thus 93.7 per cent of families had been relocated thanks to the construction of new accommodation with help from international partners.  Now the Public Buildings Construction Entity, established in 2011, was encouraging private investment to rebuild public facilities destroyed in the earthquake of 12 January 2010.  Ms. Auguste also described measures to prevent forced evictions by some owners of land upon which camps were established, such as the appointment of a Government Commissioner to each camp who could take measures to prevent evictions. 
Questions by the Experts
An Expert referred to the trial of Jean-Claude Duvalier and the measures taken by Haiti to provide justice and grant redress and compensation to the victims of the serious human rights violations committed under the Duvalier regime.   Referring to the recent death of Mr. Duvalier, he said that a higher justice had prevailed.  However, many victims remained, as did their families – what redress would they have?  The attitude of the Government of Haiti was anything but clear, commented the Expert, as it had struck a rather ambiguous stance regarding the principal defendant Jean-Claude Duvalier, for example granting him a diplomatic passport.  The Government’s approach was not that taken by a Government that wanted to succeed – it had had an ambiguous stance.  Furthermore, Mr. Duvalier had not stood trial alone - would the proceedings continue with respect to the other defendants? 
The Committee would appreciate information on the work of the National Commission on Truth and Justice regarding the crimes committed between 1991 and 1994, and on the redress for victims.   Was there a statute of limitations for prosecuting crimes against humanity? 
From the presentation it was clear that Haiti had a policy of collaborating with non-governmental organizations in the human rights sphere, said an Expert, yet the organizations feared the Government had an attitude of suspicion towards them.  Could the delegation please comment? 

On equality between men and women, an Expert asked what percentage of women was employed in senior decision-making decisions in both the public and private sectors.  What efforts had been made to eradicate gender-based discrimination and traditional stereotypes of women? 
How were equal rights in family relations, including consensual unions – sometimes known as Plaçage – safeguarded?  Until 1982 a married woman was considered a minor, said an Expert.  That year a law was passed and since then women had enjoyed full legal capacity, but 32 years later sexist stereotypes cultivated in the home were still being internalized by women.  The management of finance and goods, for example, was still dominated by men. 
What measures had been taken to eliminate discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons?   An Expert said there had been numerous homophobic and discriminatory events in recent years as seen in the march of 19 July 2013 in Port au Prince against homosexual persons.  Over 47 incidents of homophobic violence had been identified by organizations working on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, but no public action was taken beside a single note by Government media.  The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons’ organization Courage was attacked by three individuals who broke into the office and attacked the Secretary.  Those events made the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community afraid to complain about attacks. 
Extrajudicial executions by the police were raised by an Expert who said there was a problem with the use of firearms.  A large number of people were killed and wounded by firearms.  Although the police needed to use firearms, something had to be done. 
The maternal and infant mortality rates were far too high – even in a country such as Haiti, said an Expert, who recalled visiting in 2011 when he was the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Displaced Persons.  In particular how were women in rural, isolated areas being reached?  The National Health Service was weak and private medical care dominated which was a problem for the poorest of the poor. 
Prison overcrowding and poor prison conditions were a serious problem.  There was only 0.6 square metres of space per prisoner.  It was inhuman to hold persons in such conditions.  An Expert said there had been an increase in detainees this year, in fact, and as of June 2014 there were more than 10,000 detained; more than 5,000 people alone had been detained since the start of the year but only 4,000 had been released.   Was it always necessary to use preventive detention?
Could the delegation provide information on the follow-up of allegations of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment?  Would the draft anti-torture law make torture a criminal offence and would it be in line with the Covenant?  Corporal punishment was prohibited by law but in practice continued to be used in homes and schools.  Would it be banned in all settings?
How was domestic violence, especially spousal abuse including the rape of women and girls, being tackled?  How were women and girls being encouraged to file complaints?  Was Haiti considering making rape a criminal offence?   Would the draft law to prevent violence against women allow exceptions to the complete prohibition of abortion, for cases of rape and incest?  The Committee was concerned that the large number of clandestine abortions contributed to the high maternal mortality rate.
The state of emergency declared on 31 October 2012 reportedly suspended rights enshrined in the Covenant and constitutional guarantees.  Could the delegation please comment?
Response by the Delegation
The Government was in solidarity at the very highest level with organizations promoting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.  It would not backtrack on that, said the Head of the Delegation.  The Government policy was to support those organizations and to educate the population, working at both the grass-roots levels and with religious leaders and opinion-makers.    There was a problem with public mentality on the issue and there had been protests by religious groups.  The Government had issued a note in which it very firmly condemned homophobic behaviour.
Regarding the case of Jean-Claude Duvalier, an appeal lodged with the Court of Cassation was still pending, said a delegate, and its ruling would be on the form, as the merits of the case had already been established.  After that it would be decided how to continue with the trial.  It was true that there had been long delays with the case.  That was because Haiti had an oral culture; people tended to lodge complaints on the radio rather than in writing.  It was certain that the trial relating to the other perpetrators, peers of Jean-Claude Duvalier who had not yet been prosecuted, would continue. 
Haitian legislation put the emphasis on physical torture and it was difficult to come to grips with the notion of psychological torture, said a delegate.  There were legislative provisions which sanctioned such acts.  The legal reform would hopefully encompass forms of psychological torture as well. 
On pre-trial detention a delegate referred to the magistrates’ strike and also said there was no computerized system to keep track of detainees.  The Government needed to look at how to upgrade the information technology side, it was a managerial issue.  In the prisons the most important thing for the detainees was knowing the number of their individual file, as without that it was difficult to carry through their file and situation.  There was no alternative to pre-trial detention, said a delegate.  If a person committed an offence for the first time, and it was not a serious offence,  they could have a non-custodial sentence it was true, but Haitian legislation did not provide for non-custodial sentences.  The issue would be considered in the legislative reform process.
Regarding life-long forced labour, a delegate said life-sentences usually meant they were life-long.  However, there were cases where a detainee’s conduct could be examined, they may be determined to be no longer a danger to society and could be released. 
To tackle sexual violence, measures had been taken to inform raped women of how to make a complaint.  A decree on sexual violence had been issued that set out that any act of rape was the equivalent of a violent crime.  A law was currently being drafted which would cover all forms of violence against women.  A delegate said the Ministry for Women was established in 1994, and today was visible in all departments of Haiti.  The Ministry received the fullest support from the Government, noted a delegate, and rumours of its demise were unfounded. 
From 2007 until 2012 campaigns were carried out to combat gender stereotyping.  Slogans included ‘Respect my body: it’s my dignity’ and campaigns often focused on the Carnival season.  School handbooks were revised to include information aimed at students to combat stereotyping, and the Ministry of Education carried out similar work. 
A state of emergency and a state of siege were two different situations, clarified a delegate.  As the State had to guarantee the right to life, decisions had to be taken, for example when the 2011 earthquake happened, for the sake of security.  In that case the Executive had to adopt a state of emergency, but human rights were always guaranteed.    
The new Government had founded new dynamic fostering inter-sectoral activities, which was key to reducing the concerning maternal mortality rates.  The Government sought to provide social assistance and free obstetric healthcare, but more widely the most important factor was fighting extreme poverty. 
A delegate outlined ways to support people suffering from extreme poverty, ranging from soup kitchens and free health clinics to the provision of free education to 1.4 million children.  Illiteracy in adults was another focus, while for rural people seeds were distributed and micro-enterprises, also known as agricultural credit, was made available to rural women.  That all fed into the entirely new inter-sectoral approach which in turn improved civil and political rights in Haiti. 
Follow-Up Questions
Haiti ratified the Covenant in 1991, said an Expert, and then had an obligation to legislate to ensure the rights enshrined in it were included in its legislation.  They included the right to physical and moral integrity – the new legislation must include appropriate cover for torture, including psychological torture.  Meanwhile what happened if a complaint was made of psychological torture today?  Was there impunity for such crimes?  
The use of force by law-enforcement officials was raised by an Expert who cited a case of shootings by the police of three young people they had arrested.  He referred to information provided by a well-known non-governmental organization that a Minister issued an instruction on 21 October 2013 that police should not apply warrants to detain police officers without his authorization.  Such an instruction seemed incompatible with the commitment to ensure law-enforcement officials complied with the Covenant. 
Response by the Delegation
The circular of 21 October 2013 had now been withdrawn, confirmed a delegate.  He said that in the case of the killing of three youths a police officer had been charged and was in detention, and the case was sub judice.  There were no statistics available on torture cases, said a delegate, and it was proposed to legislate to remedy that.  Habeas Corpus could be invoked after the 48 hour time period in which the accused must be brought before a judge had passed, he confirmed. 
Questions by the Experts
The practice of forcing children to perform domestic work in Haiti, known as restaveks, continued in spite of international disagreement, said an Expert.  Eighty per cent of the restaveks were school-aged girls from low-income households sent to live with wealthier families in the anticipation that they would be cared for in compensation for performing light tasks.  The restaveks were often denied wages, deprived of education, physically mistreated and sexually abused.  After the earthquake, many children only found shelter in refugee camps, and the United Nations and civil society organizations had reasons to worry and warn that the prolonged stay of minors in camps could make them accept forced labour or become victims of trafficking.  Haiti’s new policies on child protection and trafficking were noted, but emphasis must be placed on emergency measures aimed to change existing customs related to child exploitation.  What had the Government done to improve the situation of children living in shelters? 
Child education was raised by an Expert who said prior to the earthquake school attendance among elementary school-aged children was at 50 per cent.  According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, the quake damaged or ruined almost 4,000 schools which determined prolonged education interruptions to 2.5 million children.  The Committee was pleased to hear about Haiti’s new plan for free universal education but asked how effective the plans were and what measures were being taken to avoid drop-out by the most vulnerable children, such as orphans, refugees and restaveks
On the exploitation of children, an Expert asked about international adoptions and family tracing measures.  After the earthquake  many families were torn apart and traffickers picked on the most vulnerable children, even those who were not orphans but separated and unaccompanied.  International non-governmental organizations repeatedly claimed that Haitian institutions failed to keep track of and take into custody homeless children.  Children also faced the danger of irregular adoption processes as families abroad sought infants orphaned by the earthquake, a practice which could generate one of the most dangerous forms of trafficking in persons. 
What was the extent of cross- border trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labour, what facilities were there for the care and rehabilitation of trafficking victims and how was the bill to combat trafficking in persons  being enforced, asked an Expert. 
Violence against women could rise fast in post-disaster situations and sexual violence had indeed amplified after the earthquake.  The United Nations, international organizations and Haitian National Police had improved their security presence in many camps and increased lighting, medical services and sanitation in many shelters.  However many victims still struggled to access post-rape medical services and to prevent undesired pregnancies.  The total lack of information on obstetric care led many girls and women to either hide or ignore their pregnancies, or give birth in improper situations.  It was sad and telling that there were three times more pregnancies in the camps than in urban areas, commented an Expert.  Furthermore, trading sex for nourishment without using contraception had led to a fast rise in sexually-transmitted diseases.   What legal provisions had been adopted in post-earthquake Haiti to protect women and girls from those dangers?  How did the Government ensure that those involved in the relief and reconstruction efforts prevented gender-based violence in their work?
The imprisonment of people for the non-payment of debts and Haiti’s bankruptcy law of 1826, which was modified in 1944, were raised by an Expert who said the Covenant stipulated that no one should be imprisoned merely on the grounds of inability to fulfil a contractual obligation.  Faced with such legal ambiguities how did Haiti’s judges respect the presumption of innocence when dealing with debtors? 
The cholera epidemic of 2010 was the source not only of a wide-spread viral infection but also of virulent anger and preconceptions against foreign peacekeepers who were claimed to have brought the disease to Haiti, recalled an Expert.  Mobs of Haitian refugees were reported to have returned their anger against local voodoo priests who were scapegoated and in many cases lynched.  In December 2010, 45 people were reported to have been lynched while Haiti continued to be ravaged by the cholera epidemic.  How many people had been arrested for having lynched or tried to lynch persons who practised voodoo, what were the penalties imposed and the reparation awarded to victims.  He also asked what general measures were taken to combat discrimination on the grounds of religion
Judicial corruption was raised by an Expert who described the lack of judicial integrity as a ‘gangrene’ that could spread.  He asked about allegations of bribes paid to judges and allegations of Government officials interfering in court cases and impunity for such acts.  He also asked about claims that magistrates and judges were not properly paid; if judges were not in a healthy financial situation then of course it would be easier to be corrupted.  Earlier this year the magistrates went on strike for a 21 month backlog of their wages.  Because people had no trust in the justice system ‘popular justice’ was mushrooming – lynching in particular. 
An Expert asked about the murders of two human rights defenders in February this year, for which the murderers had not been caught, and asked why the State had already ruled out the possibility that their deaths were linked to their human rights work, particularly given that their colleagues had received death threats. 
Haiti’s acknowledgement of the seriousness problem of discrimination and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and the threats against organizations working to promote their rights was welcomed.  What was the outcome of the investigations? 
Haiti and the Dominican Republic shared the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean, noted an Expert, and many Haitians had migrated to the Dominican Republic to work in the sugar-cane fields there but ended up stateless.  More information was requested about this.
Response by the Delegation
The Head of the Delegation took the floor and spoke in general terms about Haiti’s implementation of the Covenant.  She said that Haiti was a fragile State, trodden under foot by inequality.  It had been punished and had suffered.   Now Haiti had to emerge from the yoke of its legacy.  It was a weak State, that was true, but the Government was working to remedy that.  The Head of the Delegation cited the establishment of her office, the Ministry of Human Rights and Eradicating Extreme Poverty, and that of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Human Rights, as well as the National Human Rights Plan, as mechanisms to improve the situation. 
Haiti could not come to the Committee and lie about the implementation of the Covenant, it could only tell the truth, continued the Head of the Delegation.  It was here today to interact with the Committee but at the same time ask it to be watchful because the human rights situation in third-world countries was becoming a tradable asset and a business whereupon anyone could say anything about a country.  There should be no attacks on the sovereignty of a people, she emphasized.
Regarding international adoptions, a delegate emphasized that Haiti had ratified the Hague Convention and the use of international  adoption was always a last resort, and could only take place once all domestic resources, such as fostering, intra-family adoption and social welfare resources, had been exhausted.  The number of international adoptions had decreased from 600 in 2013 to 200 to date in 2014.  A delegate outlined the strict procedure for adoption, particularly in the context of preventing trafficking in persons.  On 19 September 2014 Haiti ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.  The law on trafficking was adopted earlier this year and set up a national committee and a fund to rehabilitate victims of trafficking.
The Ministry for Social Affairs was working to address the issue of child domestic workers with support from the United Nations Children’s Fund.   To support restavek children there was an early warning system and a hotline had been set up so that neighbours, for example, could call if they suspected cases of abuse.  There was a programme to support domestic workers, and the new Child Protection Code, currently before Parliament, would bring together all the laws regarding children, and would include a section on child labour.  Haiti had ratified the International Labour Organization Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour in 2007, he noted.  Furthermore, the new Child Protection Code would establish 15 years as the minimum age at which a child could work. 
Regarding the questions about migration and statelessness, a delegate said a census carried out in 2013 by the Dominican Republic found that some 428,000 Haitians lived in the country and 209,012 Dominicans lived in Haiti.  Providing context the delegate recalled how the situation had been exacerbated recently after a woman of Haitian origin asked for a national identity card so she could vote.  A Haitian court rejected her request and overturned her appeal.  She appealed to a Dominican court which ruled that her birth certificate had been issued irregularly in the first place so she couldn’t benefit from an identity card there.  Furthermore, the court ruled that Dominica should revise the status of birth certificates issued in the same conditions going as far back as 1929.  The woman in question ended up getting her identity card, but many Haitians living in the Dominican Republic were consequently having problems.  Since this summer a high-level dialogue had been taking place between the two States and an agreement had been made to ensure the Haitian authorities could give identity papers to Haitian migrants working in the Dominican Republic, to allow them to apply for regularization there. 
On forced evictions, a delegate explained measures being taken by the Government, such as making a list of camps most vulnerable to evictions – which was all of them.  There had been a rumour that all camps would be shut; Haiti was trying to close the camps, not least because of the health risk they posed, but nevertheless it had criteria for closing the camps. 
The bankruptcy law was to be amended, said a delegate, as it was widely recognized to be outdated. 
Perpetrators of lynching were punished with sanctions which were assumed would deter others, affirmed a delegate.
There were so many people in pre-trial detention because the time frames were not respected by the criminal justice system, said a delegate.  The magistrates went on strike because they were asking for a salary increase, but they continued to receive their salary – it was the increase requested that they had not received, he clarified. 
There was a very real problem with regard to human rights defenders in Haiti, and their requesting fees – often colossal sums – for simple services. 
On sexual violence a delegate said rape within marriage was not specifically criminalized but the 2005 decree criminalized rape generally.  There were medical services for girls and women who had been raped; a protocol would grant them a free medical certificate which was essential to bring about a legal suit and prosecution.  Initially only one hospital could issue such a medical certificate after rape cases but today all recognized health centres and hospitals could do so. 
There were eight refuges in Haiti for victims of violence against women, said a delegate, and the Ministry for Women was currently building a new one.  Non-governmental organizations such as Médecins Sans Frontières also provided assistance and support.
A delegate spoke about advocacy efforts to promote gender equality and eradicate harmful gender stereotypes.  Equality legislation was currently being drafted, she added.  
The new law on responsible paternity was an innovative piece of legislation and its focus was discrimination against children, it only had one category of children whether they were born in or out of wedlock.  It also made it possible for children to discover their paternity, explained a delegate. 
NIGEL RODLEY, Chairperson of the Committee, noted that the delegation could provide answers in writing to outstanding questions within 48 hours after the end of the meeting. 
Concluding Remarks
ROSE ANNE AUGUSTE, Minister for Human Rights and the Fight against Extreme Poverty of Haiti, thanked the Committee for the supportive and truthful dialogue but said given the twenty-year period more time would have been appreciated.  Ms. Auguste requested the support of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in implementing the Covenant and pledged to translate it into Creole as soon as possible.  She regretted time had not allowed more information to be given on progress in areas including the rights of children, the rights of disabled persons and gender equality.  The Covenant was not implemented as well as it should be, but budgetary restraints, especially after the 2010 earthquake, were a huge challenge.  However, that would not stop Haiti, and once the National Human Rights Plan was implemented and the National Commission for Human Rights became a reality they would start to bear fruit.  Haiti had undergone a long learning period towards democratic reality and would continue on that path. 
NIGEL RODLEY, Chairperson of the Committee, thanked the delegation for the valuable responses to the questions.  He highlighted the Committee’s sensitivity to the problems, natural and manmade, which Haiti had undergone in recent decades.  It was not for the Committee to decide how far external forces were responsible for Haiti’s despoilment but it was encouraged to hear the current administration was taking responsibility for the state of the country.  The delegation spoke of a fragile and a crushed society and of great poverty, and that affected various levels of society including civil society and non-governmental organizations.  Mr. Rodley said non-governmental organizations did not always get it right and it was not surprising that trust in leaders was lacking in a society like Haiti, noting that the Committee was careful which sources it used in that regard.
Key issues included prison overcrowding and the appalling situation of people being detained on remand for periods beyond which they could possibly be sentenced for the crimes they were accused of, and the use of prolonged preventative detention which was often a result of non-respect for the relevant legal time period and the lack of computerization.  The definition of torture had to be implemented, and include the recognition of mental torture.  Other challenges included the abusive evictions of internally displaced persons, excessive use of force against demonstrators, and threats and worse against human rights defenders.  Underlying it all was the ‘gangrene’, the lack of judicial integrity which led to the ‘cancer’ of “popular justice” which was the summit of arbitrariness, said Mr. Rodley.  Without a respected justice system everything fell apart, from civil and political rights to economic and social rights, he concluded. 

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