Haiti must address prison overcrowding and prolonged pre-trial detention – UN report

At the Womens Prison in Pétionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, twenty to thirty detainees are crowded into each prison cell and women and girls, some as young as 14, often sleep on the floor in shifts. (File, 2012) UN Photo/Victoria Hazou

4 March 2016 – Haiti has made important steps towards the promotion and protection of human rights but some challenges exist regarding the judicial system, the excessive use of force by state agents and the situation of people returned or deported to Haiti by the Dominican authorities, according to a United Nations report on the human rights situation in that country.

The report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), covering the period from July 2014 to June 2015, highlights advances made in relation to the protection of children against trafficking, prostitution and pornography. At the same time, it underlines several human rights weaknesses, making particular reference to the increase of the country's prison population as well as the inhuman and degrading treatment suffered by prisons' inmates, a situation described as “alarming.”

On the relations between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the report emphasizes that the situation remains critical for thousands of people of Haitian origin, or regarded as Haitians, who have been returned or deported to Haiti by the Dominican authorities.

Regarding the extreme slowness of judicial proceedings on serious violations of the past, such as the trial against Jean Claude Duvalier and co-defendants, the report highlights how this represents an obstacle in the fight against impunity.

The report makes several recommendations, including use of the expertise of the UN human rights system, including the OHCHR, the human rights arm of UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), the Human Rights Council (HRC), treaty bodies and special procedures.

To fight against prison overcrowding and prolonged pre-trial detention, the report recommends that the Haitian Government use the expertise of the HRC, in particular the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.

The report also recommends that Haiti consider becoming party to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment as well as its Optional Protocol establishing a system of regular visits by independent bodies to places where people are deprived of their liberty.

The report is submitted to the Haitian Government for follow-up with a view to encouraging actions.


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