Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Half-Hour for Haiti: Ask Louise Arbour to Apply Human Rights in Haiti Without Distinction

Dec 7, 2006

Update: Sunday’s elections in Haiti look like they went ok: turnout was low, but not unusually low for local elections. There was some scattered violence, and claims of fraud. We have reports from Port-au-Prince and rural Fond des Blancs, plus our own analysis and mainstream news reports on

Two organizations, the Group for the Defense of Political Prisoners (GDP) and the Political Prisoners Families Collective held a demonstration yesterday at the Ministry of Justice, on behalf of political prisoners (see photos on our Haiti Photo Gallery). The Minister, Rene Magloire, held a press conference the same day, discussing the need to address Haiti’s pre-trial detention problem. He did not, unfortunately, specifically mention the hundreds of pre-trial detainees arrested for political reasons.

Coming Attractions: This Sunday, December 10, is Human Rights Day, celebrating the 58th anniversary of the UN General Assembly’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration is short (30 articles) and worth a read because it articulates a vision of a world where everyone enjoys the same rights regardless of their national origin, race, gender, status or the status of their country. Haiti has always provided the International Community a challenge to live up to the Declaration’s principles of Universality, and too often the world’s powerful countries and institutions have failed to rise to that challenge.

This Week�s Action is from the Canada Haiti Action Network (CHAN). Louise Arbour, the Canadian Judge and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights visited Haiti on October 17 and 18, 2006. Ms. Arbour correctly recognized the need for the Haitian government to respect its human rights obligations, especially regarding the prisons and the economic and social rights of the majority of Haitians who are poor (see press release). But she failed to even mention the need for the international community, including the United Nations and powerful countries like Canada, the U.S. and France to respect their own human rights obligations with respect to Haiti.

As CHAN documented in a letter to Ms. Arbour sent this week, Canada, France and the U.S. actively participated in the overthrow of Haiti�s Constitutional government in February 2004. Although the Caribbean Community and the Africa Union, together almost 1/3 of UN Member States, called for an investigation, the UN refused and instead sent a peacekeeping force, MINUSTAH, to consolidate the overthrow. CHAN notes that several human rights investigations documented systematic, widespread complicity in human rights violations by MINUSTAH troops. CHAN provided Ms. Arbour with the major human rights reports written on Haiti since MINUSTAH�s deployment, and urged her to launch a full investigation of the role that the UN and Canada have played in Haiti.

Human Rights Day is an excellent opportunity to write Ms. Arbour and remind her that Universality means standing up for the rights of poor Haitians, against powerful institutions like the UN and government of Canada. A sample letter is below, feel free to personalize it or use CHAN�s longer version. Letters can be mailed, or faxed to Geneva at 41-22-917-9022 (dial �011� at the beginning from the US).


December 8, 2006
High Commissioner Louise Arbour
Office of the United Nations
High Commissioner for Human Rights
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Dear Ms. Arbour,
I am writing in support of the request of the Canada Haiti Action Network (CHAN) that you launch a full investigation into the role that Canada and the United Nations have played in Haiti since February 2004.

Sunday is Human Rights Day, a celebration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights� call to apply human rights without distinction of any kind, including the status of the country to which a person belongs. The world�s powerful countries and institutions have struggled to live up to these high aims with respect to Haiti for the last 58 years. The struggle was never more apparent than on February 29, 2004, when the UN Security Council, which had failed for weeks to respond to the Constitutional government�s request for help, sent soldiers to consolidate the government�s overthrow before the kidnapped President�s plane had even landed.

The Security Council authorized a Peacekeeping force, MINUSTAH, the first force in UN history deployed without a peace agreement. As the reports sent to you by CHAN document, MINUSTAH troops were involved in widespread and systematic violations of human rights during the two years they supported Haiti�s unconstitutional interim government.

The Human Rights Day section of the OHCHR website proclaims that �Poverty is a cause and a product of human rights violations.� Haiti�s poverty is a direct product of political instability and dictatorship that has too often been supported or created by powerful countries, seeking to advance short-term national interests. Poverty eradication is an achievable goal for Haiti, but only if the International Community is held accountable for its role in human rights violations in Haiti. An investigation into UN and Canadian actions in Haiti over the last three years is an excellent place to begin the accountability.

Thank you in advance for considering this request.

For more information about the Half-Hour for Haiti Program, the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, or human rights in Haiti, see To receive Half-Hour for Haiti Action Alerts once per week, send an email to

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