Haiti: UN expert urges further progress to strengthen civil and political rights

29 November 2008

The independent United Nations expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti has urged the impoverished Caribbean nation to make further progress in ensuring civil and political rights for its citizens, especially with regard to improving its penal system.

Wrapping up a 10-day visit to Haiti, Michel Forst told a news conference in the capital, Port-au-Prince, yesterday that the country has made progress in the area of civil and political rights, including reform of the judiciary.

However, it still had a long way to go in creating a penal system that meets international rule of law standards. Important in this regard has been reform of the Haitian National Police, carried out with the help of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, known as MINUSTAH.

He also highlighted the need to address the country''s prisons, which suffer from overcrowding and where inmates are “crammed into cells and must sleep in shifts in conditions that are not acceptable.” The issue of overcrowding is directly linked to the issue of prolonged detention, added Mr. Forst, who visited prisons in the capital, as well as in Fort Liberty and Mirebalais.

In addition, the Independent Expert stressed the need to tackle the problems of corruption and economic exclusion – which leads to insecurity and instability, as well as for the Government to ratify the International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights.

During his visit, Mr. Forst met President René Préval and Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis, as well as other government officials, senior judges, members of Parliament and civil society representatives. In addition, he held talks with the leadership and staff of MINUSTAH.

Mr. Forst, who serves in an independent unpaid capacity, will present his report on the situation of human rights in Haiti to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

 

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