INTRODUCTION

1. Under Article 2 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Haitian Constitution (Constitution), Haitian citizens have the right to effective judicial remedies, including competent legal systems that address rights violations. Widespread poverty, corrupt elites, and lack of political will for government accountability perpetuate a broken system in Haiti, despite repeated attempts to reform the country’s judicial system.

2. Lack of access to education prevents much of Haitian society from understanding the justice system. French is the official language of Haiti, and is the language in which legal proceedings are conducted and legal materials are printed, but the majority of Haitians speak only Haitian Creole.

3. Widespread poverty creates barriers to judicial access, as litigation costs are unaffordable for most Haitians. Haiti is among the poorest countries in the world. It has an unemployment rate of 60 percent and approximately 77 percent of Haitians live below $2 per day. The Haitian Government (Government) does not sponsor legal assistance, and only a handful of organizations offer legal-aid to those who cannot afford it. Consequently, most Haitians do not have access to the formal justice system or legal remedies.

4. The justice system reinforces exclusionary practices that prevent the poor and non-elite from asserting their rights. Class discrimination permeates legal training and conditions lawyers and judges to favor the powerful while discounting both the testimony and legal needs of the poor. Widespread corruption, racketeering, intense backlogs, under-resourcing, and gender discrimination intensify existing barriers to justice.

5. This report addresses five key aspects of the justice system that the Government must address to further Haitians’ right to effective legal remedies and access to justice. These five aspects include:

a. Discrimination against women and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered (LGBT) persons at each level of the justice system discourages victims of gender-based violence from seeking justice.

b. Executive and legislative interference and control over the judicial system interferes with Haiti’s democratic principles of separate and balanced powers and perpetuates impunity.

c. The Government’s lack of political will to prosecute the collaborators of former dictator JeanClaude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, which is emblematic of the larger problem of failing to hold government agents accountable for corruption and human rights abuses.

d. The Government has failed to protect lawyers, leaders of human rights organizations, members of the press, and others who publicly challenge the Government’s impunity from harassment and attack. On the contrary, the Government is often complicit in persecution and the abuse of judicial procedures for political ends.

e. Pre-trial detainees are systematically denied access to judicial remedies. Prisons fail to provide rehabilitation and social reformation. Due to severe overcrowding and inhumane conditions, current prison conditions amount to cruel and unusual treatment.

Read the full report here.

 

This report first appeared on ijdh.org.