Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Group says children suffer in Haiti jails

The Jamaica Observer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – A human rights group here says that more than 50 children are currently subjected to harsh treatment in jails in the earthquake-ravaged, French-speaking Caribbean country.

“These minors are receiving no special treatment whatsoever and routinely face prolonged preventive detention, overcrowding, poor conditions and no rehabilitation strategy,” said the Haitian National Human Rights Defence Network in a statement, disclosing that at least 58 children have suffered this fate.

The network said that since the January 12 devastating earthquake 43 boys and 15 girls have been transferred to two prisons built for adults.

“There are 15 girls jammed into one little cell in which there are supposed to be a maximum of four people,” it said.

This comes in the wake of a report by a United Nations human rights expert, which describes conditions at two of Haiti’s main prisons as “cruel, inhuman and degrading”.

Michel Forst – who visited the National Penitentiary in capital, Port-au-Prince, and the prison in southern city of Cayes, from April 21 to May 1 – also told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland that the prisons in Haiti are severely overcrowded.

He said this became even more unbearable in the wake of the January 12 earthquake that ravaged capital, Port-au-Prince, leaving several prisons destroyed.

“Both places are overcrowded with detainees living in cruel, inhumane, and degrading conditions, in the meaning of the (UN) convention against torture,” said Frost, adding that conditions at the two prisons are “even more severe than before the earthquake”.

He called for a “serious and impartial” probe into the alleged shooting death of about 10 prisoners at Cayes, who sought to escape in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Late last month, the UN said it and Haiti will look into the deadly prison riot in Les Cayes amid allegations that unarmed inmates were shot by local police officers.

The UN said the independent commission will be “a joint UN-Haiti” effort.

“The commission is being set up under an agreement reached between Haitian President René Préval and Edmund Mulet, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and the head of the UN peacekeeping mission, which is known as MINUSTAH,” the UN statement said.

According to reports, more than a dozen people were killed and dozens of others wounded during the attempted prison escape in Les Cayes on January 19, raising questions about the role played by the Haitian National Police (HNP).

“As far as we’re concerned, there was a major human rights violation in that prison,” UN spokesman David Wimhurst said.

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