Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Human Rights Council discusses human rights situation in Haiti

June 16, 2010

Council Also Holds General Debate on Technical Assistance and Capacity Building

The Human Rights Council this afternoon discussed the situation of human rights in Haiti, hearing from the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti and the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery on behalf of Special Procedure Mandate Holders. The Council also held an interactive dialogue on Haiti, followed by a general debate on its agenda item on technical assistance and capacity building.

Kyung-Wha Kang, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the protection and promotion of human rights was above all a State’s responsibility, but it was also increasingly a cooperative global effort in the face of today’s daunting challenges such as poverty, impunity, democratic deficits, exclusion, violence and discrimination. Weak State institutions were one of the challenges Haiti faced well before the earthquake struck; the State was further weakened by the heavy losses, both in terms of personnel and infrastructure, as a result of the earthquake. The reconstruction efforts in Haiti must be based on the respect and promotion of all human rights.

The Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti, Michael Forst, said Haiti was living through a crisis without precedent, in a country already hit by extreme poverty and a State that was still fragile, both of which had amplified the disaster caused by the earthquake. Mr. Forst said the scale of needs, the confusion that reigned in camps between displaced persons and persons living in extreme poverty, and the delays in the identification of terrains and the difficulties related to property rights, had only led to further delays in the installation of displaced persons in shelters or permanent structures.

The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences, Gulanara Shahinian, speaking on behalf of the Special Procedure mandate holders, said that beyond grappling with the direct effect of this disaster, many Haitians continued to face human rights violations and abuses that were rooted in the long-standing lack of capacity, commitment and awareness. More than half a million people had been displaced to other parts of the country and they, and the families hosting them, were often forgotten and needed more support. Ms. Shahinian expressed concern about violence against women, in particular rape and domestic violence, which were on the rise in camps for internally displaced persons and elsewhere.

Speaking as a concerned country, Haiti said that the priority of the Government in the coming months was to re-establish the justice system and public security throughout the territory. This included guaranteeing access to justice and security for the affected communities, creating favourable conditions to ensure the administration of justice and public safety and thus the framework for reconstruction, and the consolidation of the rule of law by increasing the numbers of the national police and having better qualified national police.

In the interactive dialogue, speakers stressed the importance of protecting particularly vulnerable groups, including women, children, the elderly and the disabled. Many delegations also noted the need to increase the participation of women in reconstruction efforts in the country as they were traditionally important drivers of the economy in Haiti, but thus far had been excluded from discussions surrounding rebuilding. Speakers pointed out that the earthquake highlighted the structural weaknesses of national institutions in Haiti that were there before the natural disaster, and the Haitian Government, along with the international community, should take this as an opportunity to address those issues including reform of the judiciary, combating corruption, strengthening the rule of law and good governance and re-establishing a professional and well-trained national police force.

Speaking in the interactive dialogue were France, Brazil, the United States, Costa Rica, the European Union, Peru, Canada, Mexico, Senegal, Cuba, Argentina, Japan, Australia, Algeria, the United Kingdom, Uruguay, Norway, Switzerland, Venezuela, Sweden, the Russian Federation, Chile and China.

The following national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Comité International de Coordination des Institutions Nationales des Droits de l’Homme, Human Rights Watch, Instituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco, Save the Children, the European Disability Forum, the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues and Interfaith International.

During the general debate on technical assistance and capacity building, speakers expressed concern about the violence that had erupted in Kyrgyzstan and echoed the calls of the High Commissioner for all involved to show restraint. Speakers welcomed the decision by the Government of Nepal to extend the mandate of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ office in Nepal, while many speakers expressed alarm about the volatile political situation in Burundi. There was concern that the elections currently taking place in Burundi would be conducted in an atmosphere of politically motivated killings and amid tensions between different political actors. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was urged to continue to play a pivotal role in helping countries build and strengthen their capacity for good governance and rule of law.

Speaking in the general debate on technical assistance and capacity building were Spain on behalf of the European Union, the United States, Algeria and Denmark. Human Rights Watch, the Asian Forum for Human Rights Development, United Nations Watch, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, International Educational Development and the World Union of Progressive Judaism were the non-governmental organizations that took the floor during the general debate.

On Thursday, 15 June, the Council will meet at 3 p.m. to begin taking action on draft resolutions and decisions.

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