The United Nations independent expert on human rights in Haiti, Michel Forst, today welcomed declarations by the new Haitian authorities of measures in the field of the rule of law, adding that he hoped that the declarations will soon be implemented and followed by positive impacts.
“I see in these declarations the beginning of the long-awaited completion of the necessary separation of the executive and the judiciary powers which should eventually help give Haitians confidence in the effectiveness of their justice system, which has been so criticized,” said Mr. Forst, referring to the upcoming appointment of judges by the President to the six vacant seats on the country’s highest court.
Independent experts are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council and are usually called on to examine, monitor, advise and publicly report on human rights situations in specific countries or territories, or on major phenomena of human rights violations worldwide.
On his ninth mission to Haiti, Mr. Forst also expressed hope that the future government quickly sends clear signals about the vetting of the Haitian National Police (HNP), and in particular that the Supreme Council of the National Police dismiss officers, sometimes of high rank, that have not passed the certification process.
Previously, Mr. Forst has expressed his concern about the possible reinstatement of former police officers with a questionable past into the HNP, and his hope is that the fears of inaction on this matter are rapidly and completely dissipated by the new authorities.
Mr. Forst indicated, nevertheless, that he is deeply disturbed by the situation in Haitian prisons, and surprised that for obscure, seemingly purely bureaucratic reasons, and in the midst of the cholera epidemic, latrines in several prisons are no longer emptied, and that the supply of food is almost no longer assured.
“This is profoundly shocking, not to mention the risk of an explosion of violence that the inaction of the state entails when inmates no longer receive food,” he said.
On the humanitarian situation, the expert urged that the police receive clear instructions not to support the forced eviction of people living in formal and informal camps, outside of the procedures established by Haitian law, regardless of whether camps are on public or private land.
He reiterated his call that the implementation of durable solutions – that have already been identified by national and international actors – be announced as soon as possible by the new authorities, taking into account the public good, the rights of affected persons and the legitimate concerns of private owners.
On the two emblematic cases in the fight against impunity, that of Jean-Claude Duvalier and the massacre of the prison in Les Cayes, Mr. Forst said that he “received with great satisfaction assurances at the highest level that justice would take its course and that the separation of powers would prohibit any interference by the executive in the judicial proceedings.”
Haiti will present its report to the Human Rights Council on 13 October in Geneva, as part of the Universal Periodic Review, the Council’s review of the human rights records of all UN Member States which it carries out once every four years.
In a related development, the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) today welcomed the selection by the Senate of candidates for the six vacant positions on the Supreme Court, while stressing the importance of establishing an independent judiciary to strengthen the rule of law in the country.
“MINUSTAH reiterates its determination to support the Haitian authorities in strengthening the rule of law and will provide the Government, upon request, all the technical expertise available to it,” the mission stated in a news release.