There is no justice without a functioning judicial system and Haiti's is broken. Prisons are sorely over-crowded in part due to 80% of inmates being held for years with no trial. In addition, activists report a distrubing increase in illegal preventive detentions. Judges are few, overwhelmed, and often threatened. Haiti remains a fragile democracy and will remain so without justice and the rule of law. If the judicial system improves, then we will know that Haiti is, at last, changing for better. The full article by AP journalists Evens Sanon and Danica Coto is linked and follows below.
During their years in power, the Duvaliers led a kleptocracy - stealing from the people to maintain extravagant lifestyles. They did not do so alone. Being anti-communist, they were long supported by the United States while Swiss banks hid millions of dollars from the Duvaliers and those close to them. In 2002, Duvalier funds in Geneva, Vaud and Zurich were frozen. In 2009, the Federal Office of Justice announced the money would be returned to Haiti although this was overturned the following year. These funds, which belong to the Haitian people, have yet to be returned. Doing so is long overdue.
According to France 24, the Haitian High Court of Auditors released a report slamming the mis-use of $2 billion in aid from Venezuela from 2008-2016. For a country Haiti's size, this level of funding could have been used for much needed schools, clinics, and infrastructure - in other words, a better future. Instead it was utterly wasted due to corruption and bad management. The Haitian political elite is quite upset that U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently met the Haitian President in a hallway without the pomp and circumstance of a normal bilateral meeting. I understand that anger but until Haiti has a government that is accountable and invests in its own people instead of lining its pockets, it will not be taken seriously in a region where most of its neighbors are making progress.
While protests are nothing new in haiti, the scale of the ongoing demonstrations againt corruption and economic hardship are the largest in recent memory. Unfortunately, the instability is negatively affecting operations at hospitals. Even prior to the protests, many Haitian health care facilities lacked the medicines and equipment necessary to treat the sick. It doesn't have to be like this and protestors understand that there will not be a better future until corruption is brought under control. Below is recent article by CNN writer Sam Kiley about the impact on on health care facilities, staff, and patients.
Below is the latest semi-annual report from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) covering the period from August 31st - March 15th. The report provides an overview of key developments during this time, especially police capacity, rule of law, and human rights promotion - all of which need to be strengthened significantly before MINUSTAH can fully transition its responsibilities to the Haitian government.
Travesty in Haiti: A True Account of Christian Missions, Orphanages, Fraud, Food Aid and Drug Trafficking” is not a new book, having been published in 2008. However, it should be required reading for volunteers, missionaries and development workers interested in Haiti. Drawing from his experiences as an anthropologist and consultant in the northwest, he describes how NGOs in the region caused serious harm in the name of development. Schwartz is frustrated but not anti development – he is against dependency, corruption, and disempowering the people we say we want to help. You can read a preview and/or purchase his book on Amazon. A few thoughts below.
The International Crisis Group has released a report on the importance of police reforms for security in Haiti, meaning freedom from intimidation and abuse, conflict and violence, and crime and impunity. The release comes during a time in which Brazil and other partner nations are increasingly contemplating a gradual drawdown of MINUSTAH staffing. This provides the Haitian government and its partners a window of opportunity to continue reforms that will make the Haitian National Police more effective and accountable. The full report is attached and a summary is copied below.
Below is a recent report by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) on the state of the Haitian justice system. Prior to the earthquake, Haiti was making slow but much needed progress on improving access to justice. The Haitian government is not starting from scratch but now has the added challenge of rebuilding courts, prisons, and police stations while continuing reform efforts. Promoting a society that understands and values human rights and government that can monitor and enforce them is essential for Haiti's long term development.
Each year, the U.S. State Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor is mandated to release country specific human rights reports that address individual, civil, political, and worker rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As this report pertains strictly to 2009, it does not address human rights issues in post earthquake Haiti. Still, it is highly relevant as long term recovery and reconstruction will depend in part upon creating a culture that respects human rights and a government that can enforce them.