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Press briefing notes on Haiti

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Marta Hurtado

Location: Geneva

Date: 19 January 2021

We are concerned that persistent insecurity, poverty and structural inequalities in Haiti coupled with increasing political tensions may lead to a pattern of public discontent followed by violent police repression and other human rights violations.

In recent months, kidnappings for ransom, attacks by criminal gangs against perceived rival neighbourhoods and widespread insecurity have increased in a context of almost total impunity. In parallel, political tensions are resurfacing due to disputes over the timing and scope of elections and a referendum on constitutional reform proposed by the Government.

Calls for mass protests have been growing. This in turn raises concerns of renewed human rights violations by security forces during the policing of protests as seen during the months-long protests in 2018 and 2019, as well as during demonstrations in October and November of last year.

The human rights violations by Haitian law enforcement officials and the human rights abuses by gang members during the social unrest of 2018-2019, are documented in a report by the Human Rights Service of the UN Integrated Office in Haiti and the UN Human Rights Office, which was released a few hours ago. The report shows a pattern of human rights violations and abuses followed by near lack of accountability. In addition, it documents violations to the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. The report also documents the impacts of the demonstrations and barricades erected, especially in 2019, on the daily lives of the Haitian people. More specifically, it addresses the restrictions on their liberty of movement, their access to health care, including sexual and reproductive health, their access to education, and their right to food. It also highlights the impact of barricades in the prison population.

The authorities should immediately take action to avoid repetition of these human rights violations and abuses by ensuring that law enforcement officers abide by international norms and standards regarding the use of force when dealing with protests. The authorities should also ensure that gangs do not interfere with people's right to demonstrate peacefully. The Government should also guarantee accountability for past violations and abuses, ensuring justice, truth, and reparations.

Haiti should also take steps to address the population's grievances and the root causes that fuelled the protests, including widespread impunity, allegations of corruption, persistent poverty, structural inequalities, limited access to social services, and other difficulties in the enjoyment of economic and social rights by the Haitian people.

The recent presidential decrees creating a national intelligence agency and on strengthening public security are worrying, because preliminary analyses indicate that they do not appear to be in line with international human rights norms and standards. They also risk leading to a further crackdown on the rights of freedom of peaceful assembly, association and freedom of expression. Acts of violence committed by protesters in previous demonstrations should not serve as a pretext to curtail fundamental freedom and shrink civic space.

We welcome the Haitian National Police's commitment to reform practices documented in the report, including ensuring that officers participating in the policing of protests receive adequate training and instructions. UN Human Rights Office stands ready to continue supporting State authorities in their fulfilment of human rights international obligations. It expresses its willingness to continue working towards the establishment of a country office.

To read the full report, please click here.


For more information and media requests, please contact:

Rupert Colville + 41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org or

Ravina Shamdasani - + 41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org or

Liz Throssell + 41 22 917 9296 / ethrossell@ohchr.org or

Marta Hurtado - + 41 22 917 9466 / mhurtado@ohchr.org

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