Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

Vigilance for Human Rights

Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

Vigilance for Human Rights

Article excerpt

THE INTER-American Commission on Human Rights said it was "very concerned by the situation of human rights in Haiti," following a five-day onsite visit to that island nation in August.

The Commission underscored particular concerns related to the rights to personal liberty and security, judicial guarantees, and judicial protection. In a news release at the end of the visit, it noted that arrests are not always made in accordance with the law, persons are often detained for longer periods thaw allowed, and detainees often have difficulty in obtaining recourse to a hearing. The Commission was informed that as many as 70 to 80 percent of those detained in Haiti have not been brought before a judge.

It also expressed concern about "the significant limitations existing on the independence of the Haitian judiciary," adding that some judges and magistrates have been pressured by authorities or by gangs or armed groups seeking to influence cases. Some members of the judiciary, as well as human rights defenders and attorneys, admitted fearing for their lives.

The Inter-American Commission cautioned that too many state officials denied the existence of problems or blamed them on Haiti's ongoing economic hardships and political crisis. "The Commission considers that the first step to amelioration of the human rights position in Haiti is for the state and state agencies to recognize that certain of their practices may constitute infringements of the fundamental rights of its citizens. …

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