Sat | Apr 20, 2019

IACHR concerned at worsening violence in Haiti

Published:Monday | March 4, 2019 | 12:01 PM
An aerial view of damaged buildings and shacks in Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince.

WASHINGTON, CMC – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is expressing profound concern about the worsening violence and scarcity in Haiti.

The human right organisation is urging the government to begin talks with all stakeholders in a bid to bring about a peaceful solution to the “political and economic crisis” in the French-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country.

In a statement, the IACHR said that in response to the “serious events” unfolding in Haiti, it has decided to deploy a Rapid and Integrated Response Coordination Unit (RIRCU), to monitor the human rights situation there.

“The Commission has been monitoring events and the use of force since February 7 in Haiti. Protests against corruption and the economic situation have coexisted with street and road blockades; violence against demonstrators; occasional shots; arrests; problems for the supply of goods and services essential to provide food, drinking water and healthcare to the population,” the IACHR statement said.

It said that there have also been petrol, gas and power shortages; a partial or total halt in economic activity; school shutdowns; closed customs in ports and airports; and a serious impact on public services.

“Such events have left at least 26 people dead and more than 77 injured, according to UNICEF information,” IACHR said.

President Jovenel Moise is under pressure from opposition parties to step down over his handling of domestic affairs, as well as the use of funds under PetroCaribe, an oil alliance among most CARICOM states and Venezuela.

Moise has already indicated that he does not intend to step down in favour of armed gangs and drug traffickers, acknowledging that the “the crisis we are going through is very serious”.

Last week, CARICOM leaders at their inter-sessional summit in St Kitts-Nevis “expressed deep concern about the situation prevailing in Haiti during the past three weeks characterised by violent protests jeopardising the political, economic and social stability of the country.

They urged for "all stakeholders to prioritise dialogue as a means to address peacefully and meaningfully all relevant issues and to create the conditions for lasting political stability essential to the sustainable economic and social development of Haiti".

The CARICOM group “also encourage and support the Haitian Government in its efforts and initiatives and call on all Opposition Leaders and other stakeholders to put the national interests and the well being of the Haitian People at the forefront”.

The IACHR said it had also taken note of the emergency measures outlined by the government, including a 30 per cent cut in the prime minister’s budget and the elimination of privileges for high officials of the State, as well as the recovery of at least 50 per cent of the financial losses caused by smuggling of goods through customs and across the border and the recovery of funds lost over the PetroCaribe affair.

“In the country’s current context, there is an essential role for mechanisms for dialogue that ensure peace and reconciliation and enable the truth, justice and reparations victims, especially families who have lost their loved ones, are entitled to,” said IACHR’s President Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño.

The IACHR Rapporteur for Haiti, Flávia Piovesan, said: “there is great concern about the rapid deterioration of the country’s socioeconomic and political situation, which has led to violence and to shortages of power, fuel, oxygen and medication to provide basic services involving water, food and healthcare.

“That compromises the State’s ability to protect people’s lives, personal integrity and safety and directly impacts living conditions, so the State must take action to facilitate access to basic services and to effectively protect those rights.”

The IACHR said it was also expressing its solidarity with the families of the people who have died and called on the Haitian State to investigate those deaths with due diligence and full respect for due process, in order to ensure accountability and justice.

“Further, the Inter-American Commission urges all parties to reject violence and put an end to it. The IACHR urges the authorities to seek a way out of the crisis through a process of peaceful, inclusive dialogue and strict respect for human rights.”