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Widespread Violence and Lack of Rule of Law in Haiti

Created April 13, 2011

DOS 2010 Report. Haiti, at 1-3.

Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life


“On January 19, in the aftermath of the earthquake, inmates in Les Cayes prison rioted. Officers from the departmental riot control police (UDMO) intervened, killing 12 inmates, while 22 others escaped and scores of others were injured...

“The chief inspector general [of the HNP] concluded that the action of the joint departmental SWAT team and corrections officers caused the deaths of 10 of the 12 inmates...[, and noted], ‘the force used was excessive and disproportionate,’... A joint HNP-UN report called the killings a grave violation of human rights and urged the justice system to prosecute those responsible...

“On January 21, police shot and killed Gentile Cherie for stealing rice. Foreign journalists saw police stop two men who had taken a bag of rice that had fallen from a truck; witnesses claimed that the officers shot the men in the back and left them on the sidewalk. The Office of the Inspector General had not received an official complaint nor opened an investigation into the matter...

“Residents in some areas resorted to vigilante justice. In November and December mobs attacked and killed Vodou (voodoo) practitioners accused of spreading cholera by placing contaminated powder into rivers and waterways. According to the HNP, 31 people were confirmed killed by the end of the year. Credible sources reported an additional 22 possible killings...

“Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) also reported vigilante incidents including shootings, beatings, and lynchings in rural areas, where effective judicial and law enforcement institutions largely were absent. Police statistics documented 83 vigilante incidents through the end of the year, but police made no arrests. Observers attributed the majority of vigilante justice incidents to accusations of theft, witchcraft, or kidnapping...

DOS, Travel Warningfor Haiti.

“The number of victims of violent crime, including murder and kidnapping, continues to increase in Port-au-Prince. Some kidnapping victims have been physically abused, sexually assaulted, shot, and even killed. No one is safe from kidnapping, regardless of occupation, nationality, race, gender, or age. In a number of cases in the past year, travelers arriving in Port-au-Prince on flights from the United States were attacked and robbed shortly after departing the airport. At least two U.S. citizens were shot and killed in such incidents. Haitian authorities have limited capacity to deter or investigate such violent acts or prosecute perpetrators.

“In addition, beginning last year, protests, demonstrations, and violent disruptions have occurred regularly in Port-au-Prince and in cities throughout the country. During these demonstrations protestors threw rocks, burned tires, damaged vehicles, and blocked traffic...

“The Haitian National Police (HNP), with assistance from UN Police (UN Pol), are responsible for keeping peace in Haiti and rendering assistance during times of civil unrest. However, given the size and frequency of violent protests, the ability of HNP and UN Pol to come to the aid of U.S. citizens in distress during disturbances is very limited.

UNHRC Report on Haiti at 10-11:

“The destroyed cornerstones of the rule of law

“1. Haiti’s National Police

  1. On 12 January 2010 and over the next few days the National Police suffered very heavy losses of life and equipment: ...[P]olice stations, sub-stations and administrative offices were affected by the earthquake...
  2. ... Joint patrols were organized with UNPOL, not without difficulty, to secure the boundaries of the camps and the high-risk zones ...but the independent expert fears that no-go areas which the police are reluctant to enter are being re-established.
  3. Allegations of the extrajudicial execution of looters by members of the National Police have circulated; some of them have been documented and complaints have been lodged about them.. [B]y the time of drafting the present report the independent expert had received several credible pieces of evidence and case files showing that this problem is far from under control.

UNHRC Report on Haiti at 15:

“Consolidation of the rule of law

“1. The police

  1. Ever since he took up his duties the independent expert has been following closely the introduction and implementation of the national plan for reform of the police...
  2. The reform of the National Police and the vetting ...had been one of the main features of the re-establishment of what is a cornerstone of the rule of law. The vetting of the records of all police officers had made considerable progress...
  3. This process was interrupted by the earthquake and the records which were to be used to certify Haiti’s police officers or remove undesirable elements were unfortunately lost when the buildings occupied by MINUSTAH and the General Directorate of the National Police collapsed. The independent expert is not sure what has happened to the back-ups of computerized documents which should have been made...
  4. The time has not yet come to resume the process, but when it does come these backups ought to make it possible to resume and complete the process, in accordance to the mandate given to MINUSTAH by the Security Council.
  5. “The justice system

  6. ... [A]s a result of the humanitarian crisis the country’s judicial institutions are in greater need than ever ...[of] separat[ion of] the executive and judicial branches of State power in order to send out a clear signal on the direction of the reform to be undertaken.

AI , What Hope for Haiti? at 3.

“The Haitian authorities and the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) lack the personnel and resources to meet security needs in the more than 1,300 camps where displaced people have sought shelter.

MINUSTAH Report at 6.

“22. Significant new threats have arisen as a result of the earthquake, including from former gang leaders who escaped from prisons, in some cases with uniforms and weapons stolen from the Haitian National Police. Some of them have gone back to their former neighbourhoods, leading to power struggles between old and new gang leaders...

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