Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Obstacles Encountered in the Haitian Justice System in Rape Cases

Translation of “Problème Enregistrer dans la justice Haïtienne dans les cas de viol”
By: Lianne Labossiere Worden
Date: March 7, 2014

0:00 – 0:15

0:15 – 0:26
Eve Brun, Lawyer with BAI [On screen text]
I’m happy that we can share this moment together this morning so we can describe a few obstacles we’ve encountered in the judicial system.

0:27 – 0:37
As you may know Frantz, there are a lot of people working with women who have been victims of sexual violence and the people helping have been complaining about the problems they have found.

0:38 – 1:25
That is to say the problems facing women who have been the victims of sexual violence are not only a legal or judicial problem but a multi-disciplinary one with social and political aspects. For those of us in the legal field in particular, it is in the legal area where we can do more to educate society and the victims about the issues we are encountering in the judicial system when we want to try to find justice for the victims.

1:26 – 2:07
The system and the judicial actors, like Judge Griffie, it seems do not truly understand sexual violence or rape. When a woman brings a complaint that she has been raped, we find sometimes that there is a minimization of the issue — that people don’t really understand what it means to be a victim of rape. That is to say, we often find that the victim is stigmatized even within the system where the victim seeks justice.

2:08 – 2:30
One issue involves the medical certificate, which is the key piece of evidence when someone claims to be a victim of rape. The victim is supposed to get a medical certificate to bring before a judge as proof that they were a victim of rape.

2:31 – 2:54
But the problem is that the medical certificate shows that this person went to this hospital and that this doctor examined them and this is what they observed on the person’s genitals, their body, etc.

2:55 – 3:15
But sometimes there are doctors, if you will allow me to say, that are not sufficiently trained and who do not know to take the time or fail to distinguish in the medical certificate the difference between someone who is a victim of rape and someone who is a victim of assault.

3:16 – 3:51
For example, as you know, assault is when someone gets hit and they get a black eye or other bodily injury. When a victim asks for a medical certificate, there are doctors who out of spite will only note that the victim cannot work for several days without explaining why. It’s as if they did not examine the victim.

3:52 – 4:18
At least the doctors should indicate that, based on their examination, there are no signs of tearing. There is nothing stating that the person had sexual contact or any bodily injury whatsoever. This is the first problem that we find: certain doctors fail to document the difference between a victim of sexual violence and patients with other injuries.

4:19 – 4:59
In addition, what hurts the victims and also the BAI lawyers representing them, is when a case is held up for a year with the investigating judge. The judge is supposed to have three months to review and make a decision. But, for example, after the three months have passed (sometimes even 5 or 6 months) the judge will tell you that your case is delayed for various reasons, i.e., other cases ahead of yours that he needs to finish.

5:00 – 5:23
Another blow to the victim occurs when the lawyers have to call the victim after 5 or 6 months later to tell them that the judge’s chamber has finally called them to testify. The victims are surprised to learn that the case is still on-going and often assume that it had been dismissed. This is another big problem within the legal system.

5:24 – 5:37
We know that the system has other problems, but this delay directly implicates the rights of the victim and to the rights of the accused who has been waiting in prison during the delay.

5:38 – 6:35
[The delay is the result of] the attitude of the magistrates with regard to the treatment of rape cases. Generally, we know that the magistrate courts are the closest in proximity to the community. We also know that rape as a crime is typically brought before the civil court and currently in Haiti there are only 16 civil courts. As a result, these 16 civil courts are further away from the population. A rape victim will go to the closest court and, since the magistrates are typically the closest in distance to the populations, most people bring their complaints of rape to the magistrate courts.

6:36 – 7:05
BAI is an institution that is doing a lot of work fighting on behalf of victims generally, not only victims of rape. BAI works specifically with people in a vulnerable situation, or who are victims of any form of aggression or an arbitrary act, and who do not have the means to bring a complaint to court him or herself.

7:06 – 7:28
BAI will provide them the assistance they need. As an institution, BAI is always fighting so that people in need can get better treatment in court, have their voices heard within the judicial system, and find justice.

7:29 – 7:55
This presentation is an additional service that we offer the victims who are watching this so that they can understand the obstacles we are facing in the courts when they do not hear anything about a case after three, four, five, or six months. You know that Haitians think that when they are not paying for something, they won’t get good service.

7:56 – 8:24
But what I want them to understand is if it takes a long time before they finally get a call telling them to come to court, that it is not the fault of BAI or the lawyers. It is the whole judicial system that has problems as I just describe. It is the system that operates very slowly, and as a result the cases take a long time before the victims can obtain satisfaction.

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