The United Nations independent expert on human rights in Haiti, Michel Forst, today urged candidates in the country’s upcoming presidential run-off election to spearhead the fight against impunity and champion greater respect of human rights.
“As the country prepares to choose its next president, I hope that solemn commitments are made in the field of human rights and that the signals are sent for a greater respect for human rights, judicial reform, the fight against impunity and access basic services for all,” Mr. Forst said in a press release during his current mission to Haiti.
Former first lady Mirlande Manigat and popular musician Michel Martelly are the two candidates in the run-off poll scheduled for 20 March.
Mr. Forst has chosen the fight against impunity as one of his main themes during meetings with Haitian officials and representatives of international organisations.
“It is important that the fight against impunity be carried out through judicial means, and I want to remind the victims that we will explore all possibilities in this area, especially for the most serious crimes of the past,” he said.
“However, the fight against impunity is not limited to judicial remedies only. There are also additional steps to be taken in education, awareness. Other countries in Latin America and Africa have used innovative ways to exorcise the past crimes. Haiti would do well to learn from these experiences,” said Mr. Forst.
After visiting several prisons and talking with many judges, the independent expert noted that reform of the justice system, including the independence of the judiciary, has not been implemented for several years despite the passing by parliament in 2007 of laws on judicial reform.
He also called for greater attention to human rights during the reconstruction of the country after last year’s catastrophic earthquake.
“I want to stress that water, housing, access to [health] care are not only humanitarian needs. They are rights guaranteed by the Haitian State. It is urgent that parliament ratifies the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,” said Mr. Forst, whose current mission to the Caribbean nation will end on Sunday.