Haiti, the world’s oldest black republic, which is only 28 years younger than the United States of America, has been described as dysfunctional, corrupt, inhumane, and illiterate in an official United Nations report.
The UN dossier, titled “Report of the independent expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti,” was written by special envoy Michel Forst—who was then forced to resign from his position for “personal reasons”—but was most likely dismissed for daring to tell the truth, namely that the western hemisphere’s oldest black republic was little more than a disaster zone.
Extracts from Forst’s report were as follows:
“ The independent expert undertook his latest mission to Haiti from 25 November to 1 December 2012. He stayed in Port-au-Prince and travelled to Cap-Haïtien.
“In 2012, the population was hit hard once again by Cyclone Sandy, whose impact exacerbated the country’s already highly precarious living conditions, making the link between insecurity and extreme poverty, the main cause of violence against the poorest of the poor, even more evident. The population of Haiti is now waiting for a new phase to begin in the life of the country, a phase of reconstruction, economic growth and the establishment of the rule of law.
“Eight million Haitians, out of an estimated population of 10 million, live without electricity. Five million cannot read or write and are in the dark both day and night. Eight Haitians out of every 10 are living on less than $2 a day. Two percent of Haitians control 69 percent of the country’s wealth. With a working population that is put at 4.2 million, fewer than 200,000 have regular formal work.
“The justice system is still broadly dysfunctional and its main weaknesses are amply documented in numerous reports by experts and civil society organizations.
“Corruption, excessively long procedures, prevarication, misuse of procedures provided for under the Penal Code and the Criminal Code and ignorance of alternatives to custodial penalties: the ills are well known, as are the remedies.
“ Civil society organizations and the Office of the Ombudsperson continue to condemn the practice whereby persons are illegally or arbitrarily arrested or detained at the request of Government Commissioners. In a State governed by the rule of law, it is unconscionable that law enforcement officials should feel that they have permission to flout the law and to behave in this manner while the judiciary stands idly. It is yet another sign of the disarray in the judicial system, given the prevailing climate of impunity.
“The Legal Service Training College is still having difficulty operating, notwithstanding the significant support provided by the international community.
“On each of his missions, the independent expert has been struck by the corrosive effect that corruption has had on the country’s judicial institutions. He continues to receive numerous reports which show that corruption remains rife at all levels.
“Numerous cases of public lynchings are reported on a regular basis. The increase in the number of such cases reflects a lack of confidence in the capacities of the police and justice system: these acts of violence and lynchings are not investigated and the perpetrators go unpunished. The independent expert is aware that prosecuting the perpetrators is often difficult, since they are anonymous crowds and the public are often reluctant to reveal their identities.
“Prison conditions, then, continue to amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment within the meaning of the Convention against Torture.
““Prisons in Haiti are still places where cruel, inhumane, and degrading conditions [exist]. The space allocated to convicted and remand prisoners is 60 cm2 on average, and only 34 cm2 in Anse Prison in Vaux. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) recommends that, in very grave crisis situations, the floor space available to each detainee should be at least 2 m.2
“Although reforms of the police service have been under way for years, grave concerns about the institution persist. Regrettably, the case of Serge Demosthene, who was tortured to death at Pétionville police station in an attempt to force him to confess to the murder of Guiteau Toussaint, is not an isolated incident. Weekly reports from the MINUSTAH Human Rights Section detail cases of illegal and arbitrary police arrests, extended pretrial detention at certain police headquarters or stations, refusal to issue certificates in cases of rape, police harassment and ill-treatment, and police brutality.
“According to several organizations that work at the border with the Dominican Republic, crossborder trafficking of children for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labour is still being carried out, particularly in the Malpasse region.
“The massive influx of international medical organizations, the extraordinary mobilization of Governments after the 2010 earthquake and the ensuing cholera epidemic made it painfully clear that the health system needs to be completely overhauled to make it accessible to all persons without discrimination; otherwise, the right to health care will remain a dead letter.
“Without resources, public hospitals cannot function. The absence of health structures in the areas furthest away from the capital means that a large section of the population has no prospect of receiving treatment, and this at a time when the infant mortality rate in Haiti remains one of the highest in the Caribbean region.
“At the time of writing, cholera had claimed some 8,000 victims and around 670,000 persons had been affected by the disease. Given the scale of the problem, the Secretary-General decided to launch a major international fund-raising initiative. In a generalized context of global economic crisis where requests for assistance are multiplying for many different reasons, the independent expert appeals to States to show generosity in order to combat the spread of the disease.
“The population of Haiti has been living under United Nations protection since February 1993, i.e. for more than 20 years. This international protection arrangement has gradually been extended to include many domains, because of the series of disasters that have beset the country.”