Levels of politically motivated violence remained low, but high rates of unemployment, widespread poverty and drug trafficking resulted in social unrest and violence.
Throughout the year, the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) conducted robust military operations to dismantle armed gangs operating in major urban centres. More than 800 alleged gang members were arrested. The UN Security Council extended MINUSTAH’s mandate until October 2008. Violence reduction programmes started in areas where armed violence was prevalent, but sustained security improvements were hampered by the state’s failure to protect and fulfil people’s most basic economic and social rights. Disarmament continued at a very slow pace.
Municipal and local mayoral elections held in April completed a three-round process to elect representatives at all levels of government. However, the December elections for the renewal of one-third of the Senate were postponed.
Parliament ratified a treaty to enter Caricom, the Caribbean’s single market.
Violence against women and girls
Women and girls continued to face widespread discrimination and violence in all aspects of public and private life, a situation aggravated by the lack of access to justice. Gender-based violence was under-reported, partly due to fear of retaliation and of being ostracized. The scarcity of shelter and other support services also deterred reporting.
Young girls were particularly at risk of sexual violence and harassment. Figures released by NGOs showed that the number of reported rapes increased in comparison to previous years and more than half of the victims were under 17.
The justice system failed to provide effective remedies for the survivors of rape and domestic violence. In rural areas, there were reports of judicial authorities pressing rape survivors to accept a financial settlement from the perpetrator instead of treating the case as a criminal offence.
In November, 108 Sri Lankan UN peacekeepers were repatriated to Sri Lanka following allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation of Haitian women and girls.
Efforts were made to strengthen the justice system with the adoption of new legislation on the status of magistrates and the Superior Council overseeing their functions, both reinforcing the independence of the judiciary. However, structural and institutional weaknesses, aggravated by corruption and a lack of resources, continued to fuel human rights violations within the justice system.
Prolonged pre-trial detention persistently breached international human rights standards and little effort was made to correct the situation. Only 16 per cent of those detained had been sentenced; only 5 per cent in the case of boys and girls under 18. Others remained imprisoned after completing their sentences.
The President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and Rapporteur on Persons Deprived of Liberty of the OAS noted that some people had been arrested by MINUSTAH personnel without a warrant or been subjected to mass arrests, “without following basic due procedures and without respecting international human rights standards”.
The government made little progress in investigating cases of past human rights violations.
Freedom of expression – journalists
Journalists were threatened and attacked by individuals suspected of acting on behalf of perpetrators of past human rights abuses or criminals. The killings of at least nine journalists since 2000 remained unsolved.
However, in August, the Independent Commission for Supporting Investigations into the Murders of Journalists (Commission indépendante d’appui aux enquêtes relatives aux assassinats des journalistes, CIAPEAJ) was created. This was a joint initiative by the Haitian President and SOS Journalistes, an NGO working to protect journalists’ rights.
- In March, Radio Nouvelle Génération journalist Robenson Casseus received anonymous telephone death threats after he refused to change his broadcasts to support an opposition political party. He was attacked and beaten, and his house was burned down in an arson attack.
- In December, two men were found guilty by a criminal tribunal of the murder in 2001 of journalist Brignol Lindor. However, the identities of those responsible for instigating the killing remained unknown at the end of the year.
Human rights defenders
- Human rights defenders and activists continued to receive threats from state agents and private individuals. Some cases of kidnapping with clear political connotations were reported.
- In October, Dérilus Mérilus and Sanièce Petitphat, both members of the Human Rights Committee in Savanette received death threats from relatives of the alleged perpetrator of a rape after they assisted the victim in making a complaint.
- In August, Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, the head of the 30 September Foundation, was abducted. His whereabouts remained unknown at the end of the year. He had worked to end impunity for past abuses and to obtain reparation for victims of human rights violations under the military government (1991-1994).
Children’s access to education was limited by the impact of poverty, violence and high education fees. UNICEF estimated that nearly 500,000 children were out of school in Haiti.
Corporal punishment in schools was prohibited but its use continued to be reported.
According to data from women’s and health organizations, nearly half of all cases of rape and sexual violence reported affected Haitian girls under 17 years of age.
Up to 175,000 children were involved in domestic labour and were for the most part out of school and many were reportedly subjected to abuse and corporal punishment.
The detention of children as young as 10 in prison facilities breached national laws and international standards.
There were several reports of children in orphanages being sexually abused and trafficked.
Amnesty International visits/report
- Amnesty International delegates visited Haiti in March and in September/October.
- Haiti: Freedom of expression cannot prevail if there is no justice for murdered journalists (AMR 36/004/2007)