Michel Forst, UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré
8 March 2013 – An independent United Nations human rights expert today wrapped up a visit to Haiti by calling for the strengthening of State institutions so they can play their key role in the running of the country and in the functioning of democracy.
Michel Forst, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti, said that “it is necessary to strengthen the institutions of the Republic in order to improve the process of policy making and the relationship between the State and citizens.”
Mr. Forst told reporters that strengthening these institutions will give them the means and resources to carry out the mandates entrusted to them.
This was the 12th visit to Haiti for the expert, who will present his report to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council on 20 March. During his mission, he met with a range of actors, including government officials, lawyers, mayors, the leadership of the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and representatives of civil society.
After visiting the prisons of Gonaïves, Jeremie, Saint Marc and Port de Paix, Mr. Forst noted that overcrowding in detention centres is still a major problem and it constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. He stressed that resolving this problem must include addressing the issue of prolonged pre-trial detention.
The expert also noted that the holding of a fair trial in the case of former President Jean-Claude Duvalier is important to show the population that justice works in Haiti, and that impunity will no longer be tolerated for the most serious crimes.
“The appearance of former President Jean-Claude Duvalier before the judges of the Court of Appeal in Port-au-Prince in this regard is a victory for the rule of law,” he stated.
Independent experts are appointed by the Human Rights Council to examine and report back, in an unpaid capacity, on specific human rights themes.