Independent Expert on the human rights situation on Haiti

On the occasion of the 17th session of the Human Rights Council, on 16 June 2011, at Palais des Nations, the Independent Expert on the human rights situation on Haiti, Mr. Michel Forst, presented his annual report concerning the period between March 2010 and March 2011.

Michel Forst opened his intervention remembering the recent presidential elections that led to the appointment of Michel Martelly, stressing that for the first time in the Haitian history a President, democratically elected, took office, replacing the previous democratically elected President, René Préval. This is, said Forst, a sign of a positive change in the country after decades of instability.
The Independent Expert focused on a number of priorities: strengthen the respect for human rights in humanitarian crises, ensuring the human rights integration in the recontruction process of the country, particularly of the economic and social rights.
The report focused on a series of recommendations that the Expert concentrated in four areas: humanitarian crisis, the rule of law, the principle that Haiti is a sovereign country, and reconstruction of the country.
Regarding to the humanitarian crisis, Forst affirmed that despite several progress, the crisis is not over, and many women and children live in the same precarious condition of January 2010. In addition, many areas of Haiti have not yet entered into the rehabilitation phase. In fact, in these areas still exist many problems, such as the neglect of people with disabilities, women victims of violence, trafficking of children, high number of street children, non-potable water, and the forced return of potential migrants.
Regarding the issue of rule of law, Forst highlighted the need for action by reforming the judicial system in order to ensure the separation of judiciary from the executive power. Similarly, Forst added, that the functioning of public institutions should be ensured, as well as the services for all citizens.
In the third recommendation, Forst remembered that Haiti is a sovereign country, thus in his opinion we should leave the Haitian institutions managing the security of the country, even if it is necessary to maintain a strong relationship and cooperation with them.
The last point addressed by Forst regards the issue of reconstruction. The reconstruction is intended not only as physical assistance to the country, but also as assistance in garanteeing citizens’rights, especially economic and social rights, such as the right to basic services, health care, drinking water, basic education.
Michel Forst concluded his speech by reiterating the importance of combating impunity. With reference to the power of Jean Claude Duvalier, Forst recalled that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has adopted an important statement on Haitian duties to investigate on the serious human rights violations committed under his regime. This process, said Forst, would be an important sign for the Haitian people and a chance to show that justice works.
After the presentation of the Independent Expert’s report, some states took the floor for the interactive dialogue. 
Haiti, as country under investigation, replied reiterating that serious problems still remain in the country as reflected in the report of the Independent Expert: displaced persons, violence against women, rape, domestic violence, child trafficking, forced removal, corruption, etc.. In order to ameliorate the situation, the Haitian authorities have expressed their willingness to implement the received recommendations and explained the priorities of the new President: the revival of education, the fight against corruption, environmental protection, rule of law and reviving agriculture.
Other states took the floor: United States, Brazil, Colombia, European Union, Uruguay, France, Spain, Honduras, Algeria, Germany, Chile, Cuba, and Canada.
In particular, United States called for a strengthening of measures to protect persons with disabilities, in order to create a more inclusive society, and guarantee a major protection for children, in particular with regard to domestic work. Brazil, while welcoming the collaboration between local police and UN forces that allowed more control over the serious problem of violence against women inside the formal and informal camps, confirmed with Canada and France, the need to improve the protection for the most vulnerable groups. Colombia and Cuba have focused on the need to improve two areas: health care and education. Uruguay reiterated its commitment to improving the condition of life in Haiti, and shared the thought of the Independent Expert on the need to adopt a human rights-based approach in the process of rebuilding the country. The European Union highlighted the need to continue the fight against impunity and the strengthening of the judicial system, and asked to the Independent Expert to clarify which priorities are necessary to ensure access for all Haitian people to justice. Spain highlighted the lack of institutions to ensure sufficient security for those working on the ground, such as NGOs and civil society in general. He also called for a strengthening of the judiciary, arguing that without an independent judiciary cannot protect human rights.
Many states, such as Brazil, France, Germany, and European Union asked for a mandate renewal of the Independent Expert. Moreover, they stressed the importance of a continue support by the international community for the full reconstruction of Haiti.
NGOs have concluded the debate arguing that serious problems still persist in Haiti: poor conditions of detention, corruption, kidnappings, displaced people, catastrophic health situation, and the spread of infectious diseases.
Finally, Michel Forst has concluded his presentation highlighting the crucial role that civil society plays and will play in the future to monitor the implementation of the recommendations he and others human rights mechanisms have addressed to the Haitian government.