Human rights in Haiti

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According to its Constitution and written laws, Haiti meets most international human rights standards. In practice, many provisions are not respected. The government’s human rights record is poor. Political killings, kidnapping, torture, and unlawful incarceration are common unofficial practices, especially during periods of coups or attempted coups.

Although the Constitution mandates an independent judiciary and the right to a fair trial, prolonged pretrial detention remains a serious problem. Because the court system and its records are poorly organized, it is impossible to determine the exact percentage of prisoners being held without trial. A study by the International Centre for Prison Studies, in partnership with the University of Essex, estimated that in 2013 nearly 71 percent of 9,921 prisoners in Haiti had not had a trial yet. [1] According to the Centre, the majority of countries in the world have percentages ranging between 10 and 40 percent of such prisoners and Haiti's estimated 71 percent is one of the highest in the world. [2]

Law and order[edit]

The government in Haiti is known for running a slow, inefficient and corrupt system of justice. Allegations of torture and kidnapping are common whereas the number of Haitian citizens imprisoned without trial is huge.

Lawyers' immunity is under constant threat. Under the Duvalier regime, lawyers were intimidated from defending their clients through pressure and violence. Courts of justice were in effect "run by the judges, appointed by the "President for Life" (the Duvaliers), who lacked the independence to make judgments about abuses against human rights."[3] To this day, there is still no guarantee for lawyers' immunity in Haiti, as would seem to be suggested by the 2009 unconstitutional arrest without warrant of human-rights defender, Osner Fevry [4] and the arrest in 2013 of Andre Michel, a lawyer critical of the government [5]

Freedom of expression[edit]

Further information: Media of Haiti

The Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and the press, and the government generally has respected these rights. Many journalists, however, practice a measure of self-censorship in order to protect themselves from retribution. During the second Aristide administration (2000−4), some reports contend that members of the press were killed for supporting opposition movements.[citation needed] 

The government does not censor radio, television, or the Internet. Because demonstrations often turn violent, security forces frequently have ignored the constitutionally mandated right to assembly and organization. The Haitian government generally has respected religious freedom in the country.

Gender, disability, race and language[edit]

Haiti’s Constitution does not contain specific language prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, sex, language, age, or disability. Although some working standards exist to protect women, few resources exist to ensure enforcement. Abuses against women and children are common. Rape, although illegal, rarely results in prosecution of the perpetrator. Haitian law (article 269) excuses a husband for murdering his wife if the wife is found in an adulterous affair. Wives do not enjoy the same right.[6] 

The Haitian government contains a Ministry of Women’s Affairs, but it also lacks the resources to address issues such as violence against women and harassment in the workplace.


In addition to suffering from chronic malnourishment and a lack of educational opportunity, many Haitian children also suffer physical abuse. In 2004 the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs reported that its hotline received more than 700 calls from children reporting abuse.[citation needed] Few statistics regarding the wider problem of child abuse have been collected. Trafficking of children also is a significant problem.[citation needed] UNICEF estimates that 2,000 to 3,000 Haitian children per year are trafficked to the Dominican Republic.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "International Centre for Prison Studies". International Centre for Prison Studies. Retrieved July 9, 2014. 
  2. ^ "International Centre for Prison Studies". International Centre for Prison Studies. Retrieved July 9, 2014. 
  3. ^ Entry on "Haiti", p.652, Encyclopedia of Human Rights, by Edward H. Lawson, Mary Lou Bertucci, Laurie S. Wiseberg. 2nd Edition, revised. Published by Taylor & Francis, 1996. ISBN 1-56032-362-0, ISBN 978-1-56032-362-4
  4. ^ L'avocat Osner Févry, incarcéré sur ordre du chef du Parquet, Radio Metropole, May 23, 2009. Accessed on June 12, 2009.
  5. ^ Charles, Jacqueline (10/23/2013). "Arrest of Haiti government critic triggers protests". Retrieved 7/11/2014. 
  6. ^

External links[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Library of Congress Country Studies.