Horror in Haiti: human rights group reports “shameful” conditions

November 14, 2012
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image International group says the situation is worsening for the roughly 370,000 earthquake victims still living in displaced persons camps.

PARIS, France, Wednesday November 14, 2012 – The Paris-based international human rights group FIDH has published a shocking report into what it termed the “persistent human insecurity” situation in Haiti, despite the exceptional humanitarian efforts made since the 2010 earthquake.

The report, published on Monday and compiled with the Haitian-based groups, the National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH) and the Ecumenical Center for Human Rights (CEDH), noted that almost three years after the earthquake that killed an estimated 300,000 people and left more than a million others homeless, more than 80 percent of the population still lives below the poverty line.

It said that the situation had been aggravated by the recent passage of Hurricane Sandy resulting in the deaths of more than 60 people and destruction to agriculture.

“For the roughly 370,000 victims of the earthquake still living in displaced person camps, the situation deteriorates by the day,” the human rights group says, noting that living conditions in the camps are shameful and getting worse.

They say forced expulsions are common for camps situated on private land and the people are being abandoned by the non-government organisations (NGOs) and are therefore extremely vulnerable.

“In the deteriorating and degrading environment of these camps, violence is on the increase, with women and children particularly vulnerable to sex crimes. “

The report said that the “remedies so far proffered to earthquake victims are inadequate and precarious, and have displaced rather than resolved the problems.

“This is all the more shocking because the international community had committed to providing massive aid for rebuilding the country in the aftermath of the deadly earthquake that shook the entire nation.”

FIDH said that the situation in the camps is mirrored throughout the country, noting “here too it must be said that human (in)security persists and worsens, particularly food insecurity… and this situation was brought about not by chance, but by the national economic policy choices largely determined by international decision-makers”.

FIDH president Souhayr Belhassen said in the “short term, public policy cannot guarantee the people’s access to fundamental rights, particularly their rights to housing, food, healthcare and education”.

The 164-member FIDH, which is an international NGO defending all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, said this lack of access to fundamental rights is compounded by persistent legal insecurity, which is particularly flagrant in prisons and the dysfunctional police and legal system.

It said that nearly 70 percent of prison inmates are being held under prolonged pre-trial detention, some of them for several years now, with no access to legal assistance.

“Prison living conditions are inhuman and degrading. With squalid and overcrowded prisons, 275 inmates have died of cholera since the outbreak of October 2010. “

The report notes that since the start of 2012, insecurity has been on the increase, with multiple kidnappings and a rise in firearm murders, particularly in the metropolitan area.

It said that despite the launch of an effort to clean up the Haitian National Police (PNH), some of its officers are still involved in criminal activities or human rights violations.

The report blames the ongoing impunity, inadequate access to justice and persistent corruption “on the serious deficiencies of the legal system”.

The human rights group says although the Supreme Council of the Judiciary (CSPJ) was set up in July 2012, they have raised concerns “over its impartiality and independence, on account of persistent interference by the executive in the judicial system.

“In addition, the judge’s order prescribing the charges against former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier for genocide and crimes against humanity raises serious doubts about the willingness of the Haitian justice system to condemn the abuses committed during the dictatorship. “

The report also highlights the questions being asked on the role of MINUSTAH, the UN Mission responsible for maintaining peace and security in Haiti.

“The results of its operations have been very mixed and have provoked much criticism within the country,” the report said, with the human rights groups nonetheless welcoming the renewal of its mandate for one year and the reduction in military personnel as well as the request that countries supplying personnel should investigate and punish any questionable actions by their nationals.

The report outlined a series of recommendations that both the Haitian government and the United Nations Security Council should pursue in order to “send a message to the key national and international decision-makers who, to various degrees, have the power to reform, transform and drive the policies needed to meet the challenges of rebuilding Haiti and establishing the rule of law”.

It wants the Haitian authorities to guarantee decent conditions for re-housing and long-term support for displaced people who still live in camps as well as implement the precautionary measures requested by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights since 2010 against forced expulsions.

The report also calls for the implementation of the precautionary measures requested by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to help displaced women and girls and to take the necessary measures to reduce prison overcrowding and ensure decent conditions of incarceration.

It is also urging the international community to support and reinforce the country’s democratic institutions and help combat corrupt practices as well as ensure greater coordination between public and private agents involved in reconstruction and development projects, favouring sustainable solutions that link in the populations involved and implement these projects in consultation and partnership with Haitian civil society. (CMC)  Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)

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