Haiti Democracy Project



Joint Statement
by International Human Rights Organizations
on Haiti

February 5, 2001

Haiti held elections on November 26, 2000, that ushered in a second Jean-Bertrand Aristide presidency. Unlike the 1990 vote, however, Mr. Aristide's election came amidst widespread doubts about his own and the Préval government's commitment to democracy, political disputes over earlier parliamentary elections, low voter turnout, virtually no competing candidacy, and an international community disinclined to support the new Haitian leaders. During the period preceding the presidential vote, a spate of pipe-bomb explosions, government attempts to suppress dissent or otherwise intimidate its opponents, the assassination of Jean L. Dominique, Haiti's most prominent journalist, and manipulation of the May 2000 vote for parliament dealt a severe blow to the observance of civil and political rights in Haiti.

With an eye toward the incoming Bush administration, President-elect Aristide indicated his agreement with a series of Clinton administration-sponsored measures that if implemented might trigger the release of U.S. and international aid. These measures include cooperation on drug and migrant interdiction, establishing a new provisional electoral commission, putting ten disputed senate seats to another vote, and police and judicial reforms.

President-elect Aristide agreed to reach out to the opposition in setting up his administration, but has done so on terms they find unacceptable. For their part, the leading opposition coalition has continued to call for completely new parliamentary and presidential elections, rejecting meaningful compromise. The Convergence appears resolved upon establishing some sort of shadow government by February 7.

The period ahead is likely to be a difficult one. The United States, Canada, France and the UN Security Council have called on the Haitian government to revise the results of the May elections. The European Union and Canada are reviewing their assistance programs to Haiti. The U.S. Congress has codified a requirement that aid may not be provided to the government of Haiti until there is a satisfactory resolution to the May elections. U. N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has recommended that the current U.N. civilian support mission in Haiti (MICAH) not be extended. It is clear that the international community is exhausted with the seemingly endless political crisis in Haiti.

President-elect Aristide's stated commitment to remedy Haiti's current problems will only be meaningful if it is borne out by genuine reform efforts. In the hopes of furthering this goal, we suggest prompt adoption of the following measures as necessary steps to implement an agenda for democratic and human rights reform in Haiti.

  1. All Haitian political leaders should denounce and renounce the use of violence for political gain now and in the future. Mr. Aristide, as president, bears particular responsibility to take clear steps to distance himself from those who use violence in his name. His government should conduct a thorough review and investigation into political violence in the year 2000, and arrest and prosecute those believed responsible. In particular, it should provide all necessary resources and support to the investigation and resolution of the murder of journalist Jean Dominique.
  2. Efforts to reach a compromise between Fanmi Lavalas and the opposition should continue. The problem does not lie in a lack of mechanisms. In addition to the work of the Organization of American States and the Lissade Commission, recent initiatives have been taken by the government of the Dominican Republic and Haitian civil society. Negotiations might lead to new second-round elections in the case of the May parliamentary elections, and to a new vote for the virtually uncontested eight senate races held at the time of the November presidential vote. Any new balloting must be held under the auspices of a independent electoral commission and monitored by credible international and national organizations. Once the government is formed, a permanent electoral council composed of respected, credible and competent individuals should be established and provided with all necessary support to establish its independence and restore confidence in Haiti's electoral process.
  3. The Haitian government and all authorities must allow full freedom of expression and association for all political sectors, civil society, human rights organizations, and the media, and take steps to prevent and punish efforts to silence critics or chill free speech.
  4. The Haitian government should build on the two major trials of human rights abusers held in the year 2000 to develop a judicial system protective of fundamental human rights and independent of political influence. The long-awaited trial of military and paramilitary forces for the 1994 Raboteau massacre and of police officers in the extra-judicial killings in Carrefour-Feuilles in 1999 were marked by thoroughness and attention to the rights of victims and defendants. A review of killings in police custody, followed by appropriate measures, including the arrest and prosecution of officers believed to have committed homicides, should be high on the new Haitian government's list of priorities, and will contribute to restoring confidence in the force.
  5. New appointments to the judiciary and the Haitian National Police should be carried out in a professional, transparent fashion, with positions are assigned on the basis of merit rather than political affiliation. Leaders of the Haitian National Police should inspire popular trust and confidence in their ability to protect the citizenry from criminality and confront growing problems of abuse, politicization and corruption in the police force.
  6. Official government accountability and oversight mechanisms, such as the Office pour la Protection du Citoyen, should be provided with the funding and support required to fulfill their mission in an effective, professional and independent manner.

Recommendations to the United States, Canada and the international community

  1. The international community should press the government of Haiti to act decisively on the recommendations we set out above. Should the government of Haiti fail to demonstrate a clear commitment to upholding and strengthening democracy and the rule of law, members of the international community who have played a key role in Haiti over recent years must consider implementing a range of policy options including: providing foreign assistance only through nongovernmental channels; excluding Haitian leaders from gatherings of the region's democratic leaders; invoking the Santiago Declaration; and denying visas to members of the Haitian government and parliament, when the OAS electoral monitoring mission has clear and convincing evidence that they obtained office via fraud.
  2. Holding the government of Haiti accountable for human rights violations is first and foremost an obligation of the people of Haiti. Should an international human rights presence be maintained in Haiti, it should first and foremost seek to assist local human rights groups to develop greater capacity to advocate for human rights. However, an international human rights mission must also be able to act rapidly and publicly on behalf of victims of human rights should a crisis situation arise which threatens the personal security and ability to function of Haitian human rights organizations.
  3. Donors can and should withhold assistance from governments that do not meet basic standards of democracy and human rights. We do not, however, favor the possibility raised by some U.S. policymakers, of imposing further economic sanctions on Haiti. Given the poverty of the majority of Haitians and devastating impact of the 1990-94 embargo, we are concerned that blanket economic sanctions would further damage the economy and aggravate the desperate conditions of the majority of Haitians.

James R. Morrell, Research Director Jocelyn McCalla, Executive Director
1755 Massachusetts Avenue, NW 275 Seventh Avenue, 17th Floor
Washington, DC 20036 New York, NY 10001
Jose Miguel Vivanco, Executive Director, Americas Division Warren Allmand, P.C., O.C., Q.C., President
1630 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 500 1001 de Maisonneuve Blvd. East
Washington, DC 20009 Suite 1100, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H2L 4P9
Gay McDougall, Executive Director George R. Vickers, Executive Director
1200 18th Street, NW, Suite 602 1630 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 200
Washington, DC 20036

Washington, DC 20009


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