The number of people displaced by the January 2010 earthquake who were living in makeshift camps declined from 1.3 million to 500,000 by the end of 2011. Violence against women and girls in the camps was rife. Poor sanitary conditions and limited access to water contributed to the spread and renewed outbreaks of cholera. Haiti’s justice system faced the challenge of ending impunity for grave human rights abuses and crimes against humanity committed under the government of Jean-Claude Duvalier (1971-1986).
Jean-Claude Duvalier returned to Haiti in January after nearly 25 years in exile in France. The judicial authorities immediately relaunched a criminal investigation into embezzlement and theft of public funds, and an investigation into crimes against humanity started after victims filed complaints. In March, former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was ousted in 2004, returned to Haiti after seven years in exile in South Africa.
Michel Martelly was elected President in March in a run-off election against Mirlande Manigat. The first round of elections in November 2010 had resulted in a stand-off between most of the presidential candidates and the electoral board which was accused of manipulating the ballot in favour of the official candidate, Jude Célestin. Criticisms were also voiced by international and national election observers.
Michel Martelly was sworn in on 14 May, but failed to form a government until October when the National Assembly accepted the nomination of Garry Conille as Prime Minister.
The mandate of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) was renewed until October 2012, with a reduction of military and police personnel.
The serious cholera epidemic that began in October 2010 continued. There were renewed outbreaks in late 2011. More than 523,904 cases and 7,018 deaths had been reported by the end of 2011. The introduction of the South Asian cholera strain was widely attributed to Nepalese UN peacekeepers based in the upper Artibonite River region, the origin of the epidemic. In May, an independent panel of international experts mandated by the UN Secretary-General to determine the source of the outbreak concluded that the large-scale epidemic was caused by a combination of factors: the contamination of the Artibonite River with faeces, and deficiencies in the water, sanitation and health care systems. In November, the US-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and its partner in Haiti, the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, filed a petition with the Chief of the Claims Unit of MINUSTAH – in accordance with the procedures set out in the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) – against the UN seeking reparation for more than 5,000 victims for the negligent introduction of cholera.
Food insecurity affected nearly half the population; 800,000 people lacked regular access to staple foods.
In October, Haiti’s human rights record was assessed under the UN Universal Periodic Review for the first time.Top of page
The number of internally displaced people decreased throughout 2011 from 1.3 million in January to just over 500,000 in December. However, more than 900 makeshift camps were still registered in areas affected by the earthquake. Reconstruction of temporary and semi-permanent shelter gathered pace but remained insufficient to meet demand. Access to water and sanitation continued to deteriorate in camps, leading to high rates of cholera. Displaced people living in camps in the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince had higher rates of food insecurity than the rest of the population.Top of page
Local authorities and landowners forcibly evicted thousands of displaced families from public and private land without due process.
Sexual violence in the camps for internally displaced people and in marginalized communities was widespread; many of those affected were young girls. The vast majority of those responsible for these crimes were not brought to justice. Access to health care and other services for survivors of gender-based and sexual violence remained limited in the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince and was virtually non-existent in rural areas.
Survivors of sexual violence faced multiple obstacles in getting access to justice. The police and the judicial authorities lacked the resources to investigate and prosecute perpetrators. Although an increasing number of survivors of sexual and gender-based violence did speak out, the majority remained silent because of the social stigma attached to these crimes and for fear of reprisals from their attackers.
The Minister for Women’s Affairs and Women’s Rights worked on a draft bill on preventing, punishing and ending violence against women. This proposed, among other things, the creation of special courts throughout the country to deal with cases of violence against women, and stronger sanctions for all forms of gender-based violence. As part of a three-year strategic plan to combat violence against women, the government created a gender and women’s affairs co-ordination unit within the Haitian National Police.Top of page
Former President Jean-Claude Duvalier was under investigation for crimes against humanity and economic crimes. The investigation into crimes against humanity committed under his government progressed slowly. The investigating judge submitted his findings to the Office of the Prosecutor of Port-au-Prince in July. However, by the end of the year, a decision from the Prosecutor’s Office on next steps remained pending. Supporters of Jean-Claude Duvalier repeatedly subjected victims of human rights abuses and judicial officials to verbal abuse. Witness support and protection measures were non-existent and remained a major obstacle for victims and their families seeking justice.Top of page
Haiti’s dysfunctional justice system continued to be a source of human rights violations with thousands of people facing prolonged pre-trial detention. According to Haiti’s National Human Rights Defence Network, less than 30 per cent of prisoners had been tried and convicted.
Minors were also imprisoned while awaiting trial, some for years. By the end of the year, only 23 per cent of boys and none of the 18 girls in detention had been brought to trial.
Poor infrastructure and lack of human and financial resources within the justice system resulted in a large backlog of cases and severely overcrowded prisons. More than 275 inmates died in the cholera epidemic.
Thirteen police officers and 21 men, including prison guards, were brought to trial for their involvement in the killing of at least 12 inmates in the civil prison in the city of Les Cayes in January 2010 during a prison uprising. A decision was pending at the end of the year.Top of page