Corruption means many prisoners wait years for trials

Inmates hang out of bar windows for air in Prison Civile, Port Au Prince, Haiti. Pc:Mark Condren 7.1.2013 />

Inmates hang out of bar windows for air in Prison Civile, Port Au Prince, Haiti. Photo: Mark Condren

Irish Jason O’Brien in Port-au-Prince – 15 February 2014

HAITI ranks 12th on a league table of the most corrupt countries in the world, according to Transparency International.

Pre-trial detention rates – with prisoners often waiting years for court appearances – are eye-watering.

And whether you get arrested, released, to trial or convicted often comes down to money.

“There are lots of reasons why cases aren’t processed,” Brian Concannon, director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, says.

“One of them is just lack of resources, another is the antiquated procedures, but the biggest obstacle is that the high rate of pre-trial detention is a way of creating a market for bribes.”

Put simply, many – from the arresting officer to justice officials – are on the take.

“The corruption works both ways,” concannon says.

“It keeps people in prison who shouldn’t be, but also lets people who should be in prison out. It means police would legitimately think twice before arresting a ‘real’ criminal.

“They have the resources to be back out quickly – with a vendetta.”

Violent crime levels have oscillated wildly since the earthquake, with homicides rates in the capital hitting 72 per 100,000 last year, according to the Igarape Institute.

The global average is 7 per 100,000, and although rates have plummeted in Port-au-Prince recently, maintaining law and order is a major challenge for an under-resourced government.

Currently the police force is 10,200 strong for 10m people. In Ireland, it is 13,200 for 4.6m.

“As a starting point to lessening corruption you need to raise salaries (for police and judiciary) to a living wage, but you also need to have judges and police put in jail and made an example of,” Concannon says.

The recent arrest of Andre Michel, an anti-corruption lawyer taking a case against President Michel Martelly’s family, was not what he had in mind.

Irish Independent


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