Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Human Rights and Rule of Law in Haiti: Key Recent Developments, November 2020 through May 2021

PDF Version in English.

Human Rights and Rule of Law in Haiti: November 2020 through May 2021


The seven month period following IJDH’s October 2020 Human Rights and Rule of Law in Haiti update[i] has been marked by increasing authoritarian actions by the government that have furthered concerns for the rule of law,[ii] including an unconstitutional exercise to change the constitution through referendum.[iii] A remarkable number of people in Haiti, including civil society groups,[iv] have courageously demonstrated against the continuation of the democratic crisis and have demanded respect for the rule of law.[v] Many of these widespread demonstrations have been suppressed by the police through violent means[vi] while catastrophic insecurity, primarily comprised of attacks against civilians by armed actors and kidnappings, continues.[vii] Threats to judicial independence[viii] and impunity for these and other human rights violations[ix] additionally contribute to a deteriorating economic situation that frustrates the enjoyment of peoples’ economic, social, and cultural rights.[x]

On January 5, 2021, the Administration used an executive decree to empower the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) – already viewed as unlawful by many – to schedule a constitutional referendum, expressly forbidden by Haiti’s constitution, along with legislative, presidential, local, and municipal elections.[xi] Haiti’s 1987 constitution sets out a mechanism for constitutional revision via legislature, stating clearly in Article 284.3 that “[g]eneral elections to amend the Constitution by referendum are strictly forbidden.”[xii] The CEP itself was established extraconstitutionally in September 2020, never fulfilling Article 135.1 and 194.2 after Haiti’s Supreme Court deemed it unconstitutional.[xiii] Though the Administration has postponed the referendum,[xiv] civil society continues to call for a complete cancellation on the basis of its unconstitutionality.[xv]

On February 7, 2021 the Moïse Administration executed several arrests,[xvi] later deemed wrongful by an appeals court,[xvii] over an alleged coup.[xviii] These arrests, occurring while the President and his Administration were contesting Article 134 of Haiti’s constitution and whether the President’s term is scheduled to end on February 7, 2022 or already ended February 7, 2021,[xix] were widely perceived as political.[xx] The actions of the Administration and President’s continued rule by decree in the absence of a Legislature[xxi] have been heavily contested,[xxii] and Haiti’s civil society has clearly expressed that free, fair, and credible elections cannot be organized under the current administration – given its undermining of the rule of law,[xxiii] the widespread insecurity disproportionately affecting voters in marginalized communities,[xxiv] specific security issues related to the election including the leader of the gang federation G9 an Fanmi allegedly threatening civil war if the referendum does not pass,[xxv] controversies surrounding voter identification cards and eligible voter lists,[xxvi] and the administration’s current lack of credibility in the eyes of many of Haiti’s citizens due to impunity, failures of accountability, and the alleged implication of the President in the misappropriation and misuse of PetroCaribe funds, which remains a significant backdrop and one of the drivers of the current situation.[xxvii] These concerns are newly compounded by a resurgence of COVID-19 in the country even as Haiti has yet to receive a single dose of the vaccine as of June 11, 2011.[xxviii] Civil society actors continue to call for a structured transition to restore democratic order.[xxix]

Human rights lawyers and advocates in Haiti from the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), the Réseau National de Défense des Droits Humains (RNDDH), the Fondasyon Je Klere (FJKL), the Fédération des Barreaux d’Haïti (FBH), the Centre d’analyse et de recherche en droits de l’homme (CARDH), and others from Haiti’s civil society, have respectively raised concerns over the past year that the socio-political situation constitutes a grave threat to human rights and the rule of law—with a significantly weakened judiciary and legislative branch, decrees that have reconfigured the country’s legal code and institutions, a promulgation of unconstitutional exercises that undermine the foundation of the country’s democratic order, and repeated failures of accountability that embolden impunity and corruption.[xxx]

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[i] Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), Human Rights and Rule of Law in Haiti: Key Recent Developments (Nov. 2020),; IJDH, Human Rights and Rule of Law in Haiti: Key Recent Developments (Feb. 2020),; see also IJDH, Haiti at a Crossroads: An Analysis of the Drivers Behind Haiti’s Political Crisis (May 2019),

[ii] See Jacqueline Charles, Slew of presidential decrees have some wondering if Haiti is on the road to dictatorship, Miami Herald (Dec. 21, 2020),; see also infra notes 31-54 and associated text..

[iii] See Jocelerme Privert, “La volonté manifeste du Président Moïse de changer l’actuelle constitution de 1987 et d’en adopter une nouvelle, en dehors de ses attributions, est une menace pour la démocratie,” selon l’ex-président provisoire, Jocelerme Privert., Le Réseau Haïtien de l’Information (RHInews) (May 30, 2021),; Edwidge Danticat, Haitians are at an impasse over the country’s future, The New Yorker (Feb. 19, 2021),; Yamiche Alcindor, Haiti endures an ‘assault on democracy’ as Moise clings to power, PBS Newshour (June 2, 2021),

[iv] In international forums and media, Haiti’s civil society is often characterized as or alongside “Haiti’s opposition” or “Haiti’s opposition movement.” Here, for the purposes of clarity in this update, IJDH has excluded official political parties and formal representatives of political parties from our use of the term “civil society.” Otherwise, IJDH relies on the UN Human Rights Council’s prior usage of civil society, and the groups cited as civil society hereafter are representative of that usage. See Human Rights Council, Practical recommendations for the creation and maintenance of a safe and enabling environment for civil society, based on good practices and lessons learned, UN Doc. A/HRC/32/20, (Apr. 11, 2016),; see also, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Civil Society Space and the United Nations Human Rights System: A Practical Guide for Civil Society, (defining civil society as ” individuals and groups who voluntarily engage in forms of public participation and action around shared interests, purposes or values that are compatible with the goals of the UN: the maintenance of peace and security, the realization of development, and the promotion and respect of human rights.”).

[v] See Amy Wilentz, After a Decade of Misrule, the People of Haiti Have Had Enough, The Nation (Mar. 1, 2021),; Arvind Dilawar, Haiti’s Massive Protests Are a Repudiation of Authoritarianism and US Intervention: an interview with Kim Ives, Jacobin (Mar. 5, 2021),

[vi] Id.; see also infra notes 68-75 and associated text.

[vii] See RNDDH, Massacres à Bel-Air et à Cité Soleil sous le regard indifferent des autorités étatiques, para. 3 (May 2021), [warning: includes graphic evidence of the killings and burning]; Andre Paultre & Sarah Marsh, Haiti’s New Epidemic, News Americas Now (Apr. 27, 2021),; see also infra notes 84-101 and associated text.

[viii] See Mario Joseph, Presentation at Thematic Hearing Before the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR), La problématique de l’impunité et la dépendance du pouvoir judiciaire Haitien (Dec. 10, 2020), A video of the hearing is available on the IACHR’s YouTube page at the following hyperlink: For more resources, see IJDH, IACHR Public Hearing on Impunity for Human Rights Violations and Lack of Judicial Independence in Haiti (Dec. 2020),; see also infra notes 55-67 and associated text.

[ix] UN Secretary General, Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti, UN Doc. S/2021/133, para. 33 (Feb. 11, 2021),; see also infra notes 102-120 and associated text.

[x] Id. at para. 45-46; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Dec. 16, 1966, 999 U.N.T.S. 171,; see also infra notes 130-147 and associated text.

[xi] Décret sur le Référendum Constitutionnel, Le Moniteur, Special No. 1 (Jan. 5, 2021) available at; see also Jacqueline Charles, Haiti has finally come up with a date for elections. But there are concerns, Miami Herald (Jan. 7, 2021),; Jean Daniel Sénat, Le CEP communique son calendrier pour le référendum constitutionnel et les élections, Le Nouvelliste (Jan. 7, 2021),; Haïti – Politique : Référendum / Élections calendrier révisé (officiel), HaitiLibre (May 31, 2021),

[xii] For informal English translation, see Haiti’s Constitution of 1987 with Amendments through 2012,, For the original version in French, see La Constitution de la République d’Haïti (1987), (establishing in Article 284.3 that «[t]oute Consultation Populaire tendant à modifier la Constitution par voie de Référendum est formellement interdite. »); see also La Constitution de 1987 Amendée (2012), (showing Article 284.3 unchanged by the controversial 2012 amendments and stating that «[t]oute Consultation Populaire tendant à modifier la Constitution par voie de Référendum est formellement interdite. »). See also Georges Michel, C’est encore la même constitution dictatoriale et le même projet anti-démocratique ! (May 27, 2021),

[xiii] See IJDH, Human Rights and Rule of Law in Haiti: Key Recent Developments (Nov. 2020), supra note 1 (citing Jacqueline Charles, Haiti’s supreme court declines to swear in election council. Moïse installed them anyway, Miami Herald (Sept. 22, 2020),; Bernard H. Gousse, «M. Moïse, tout Président que vous êtes, vous n’êtes qu’un citoyen», le rappel de Me Bernard Gousse, Le Nouvelliste (Sept. 28, 2020),

[xiv] See Jacqueline Charles, Haiti’s controversial constitutional referendum is postponed, again, Miami Herald (June 7, 2021),

[xv] See, e.g., Press Release, Fondasyon Je Klere (FJKL), Report sine die du référendum: La FJKL demande d’utiliser les fonds initialement prévus pour cet acte de folie au renforcement de la capacité sanitaire et sécuritaire du pays. (June 8, 2021),; Nou Pap Dòmi, Position Officielle De Noupapdòmi sur le Projet de Référendum Inconstitutionnel du Gouvernement de Jovenel Moïse (June 10, 2021),

[xvi] See Anthony Faiola, Coup allegations and rival claims to the presidency deepen Haiti’s crisis, Washington Post (Feb. 8, 2021),; Dave Lawler, Coup claim deepens Haiti’s political crisis, Axios (Feb. 8, 2021), February 7 also marked the 30-year anniversary of the day Jean-Claude Duvalier resigned as president and ended the Duvaliers’ 29 years in office. See Amy Wilentz, Haiti: Too Many Presidents, Too Little of Everything Else (Feb. 9, 2021),

[xvii] Caleb Lefèvre, Affaire Petit-Bois : la cour d’appel ordonne la libération immédiate de tous les détenus, Le Nouvelliste (Mar. 24, 2021), (describing the Port-au-Prince Court of Appeals March 23 decision to liberate people detained on February 7 based on Haiti’s constitutional provisions governing illegal and arbitrary arrests).

[xviii] Press Release, RNDDH, State of siege and systematic violation of the civil and political rights of the population: RNDDH demands compliance with the Haitian Constitution (Feb. 9, 2021), available at; [EN DIRECT] 7 février : Haïti sous tension, AyiboPost (Feb. 7, 2021), (creating a timeline of events and announcements of arrests on February 7); Samuel Celiné, La longue liste des actions illégales de l’unité qui a mené « l’opération Petit Bois », AyiboPost (Feb. 18, 2021), (describing how police for the presidential palace participated in the February 7 arrests despite no clear legal basis for their jurisdiction).

[xix] See Fédération des Barreaux d’Haïti (FBH), Resolution 2021-01 Haitian Bar Federation (english version): On the institutional crisis and the end of the presidential term (Jan. 30, 2021),

[xx] See Farah Stockman, Did a Coup Attempt Really Happen Two Weeks Ago in Haiti?, New York Times (Feb. 23, 2021),

[xxi] See supra note 2.

[xxii] See Monique Clesca, Haiti’s Critical Weeks Ahead, Americas Quarterly (May 20, 2021),; see also supra notes 14-20.

[xxiii] Id.; see also Jacqueline Charles, Haiti civic leaders and former US diplomat to House Foreign Affairs: ‘Haiti is a mess’, Miami Herald (Mar. 12, 2021),; The Miami Herald Editorial Board, Stop pushing for elections in Haiti, President Biden. They will only make things worse | Editorial, Miami Herald (May 29, 2021),; Poukisa Jovenel Moise vle chanje konstitisyon an, epi fè eleksyon?, AyiboPost (May 29, 2021), (describing how the lack of three functioning branches of government, controversies over the national identification card, and widespread insecurity make it impossible to organize free, fair, and credible elections under the current administration).

[xxiv] See supra note 7 and associated text.

[xxv] Blessé par balle, Jimmy Barbecue menace de déclencher la guerre civile si le referendum de Jovenel Moïse échoue, Rezo Nòdwès (May 17, 2021),; see also Jean Daniel Sénat, Le coronavirus peut hypothéquer le referendum, affirme le porte-parole du CEP, Le Nouvelliste (May 25, 2021),

[xxvi] See Privert, “La volonté manifeste du Président Moïse de changer l’actuelle constitution de 1987 et d’en adopter une nouvelle, en dehors de ses attributions, est une menace pour la démocratie,” selon l’ex-président provisoire, Jocelerme Privert., supra note 3; see also Thomas Lalime, Environ 7.3 millions de personnes en âge de voter en 2021, Le Nouvelliste (May 10, 2021),; Germina Pierre Louis, Le registre référendaire est fermé avec 4.5 millions de potentiels électeurs inscrits, Le Nouvelliste (Apr. 27, 2021), Le registre référendaire est fermé avec 4.5 millions de potentiels électeurs inscrits; Robenson Geffrard, 2.5 millions d’Haïtiens risquent de ne pas figurer sur les listes électorales, selon l’ONU, Le Nouvelliste (Feb. 18, 2021),

[xxvii] See supra note 23; see also, e.g., Corruption : La structure citoyenne Nou p ap dòmi souhaite un contrôle administratif et juridictionnel des recettes et dépenses de l’État en Haïti, AlterPresse (Dec. 9, 2020),; AFP, Thousands of Haitians protest, alleging new dictatorship, France24 (Feb. 15, 2021),; James Beltis &Vélina Charlier, Fighting for Survival, Building for Power, NACLA Report on the Americas (Mar. 18, 2021),; Mismanagement of pandemic by Haitian President Jovenel Moïse fuels latest protests demanding his resignation, Peoples Dispatch (May 19, 2020),

[xxviii] See infra notes 138-140 and associated text.

[xxix] See Clesca, Haiti’s Critical Weeks Ahead, supra note 22.

[xxx] See Joseph, La problématique de l’impunité et la dépendance du pouvoir judiciaire Haitien, supra note 8; see also Pierre Esperance & Rosy Auguste Ducena, In Haiti’s Political Crisis, US Should Support Democracy and Human Rights, Just Security (Mar. 11, 2021),; FKJL, Rapport : Les décrets portant création, organisation et fonctionnement de l’Agence Nationale d’Intelligence (ANI) et celui pour le Renforcement de la Sécurité Publique menacent-t-ils les droits et libertés fondamentaux? la FJKL fait le point., (Dec. 2020),’analyse%20du%20decret%20portant%20creation%20de%20l’ANI%206.pdf; FBH, Resolution 2021-01 Haitian Bar Federation (english version): On the institutional crisis and the end of the presidential term, supra note 19; Statement by Mr. Jacques Letang to the UN Security Council, Le Bureau des Droits Humains en Haïti, paras. 2-4 (June 19, 2020),; Centre d’Analyse et de Recherche en Droits de l’Homme (CARDH), Commission Episcopale Nationale Justice de Paix (CE-JILAP), Conseil Haitien des Acteurs Non-Etatiques (CONHANE), Centre de Recherche et de Formation Economique et Sociale pour le Developpement (CRESFED) , Ensemble Contre la Corruption (ECC), Kay Fanm, Nou Pap Dòmi, Plateforme des Organisations Haitiennes de Droits Humains (POHDH), Reseau National de Défense des Droits Humains (RNDDH), Sant Karl Leveque (SKL), Solidarite Fanm Ayisyen (SOFA), Programme pour une Alternative de Jusitice (PAJ), Lettre ouverte à Helen Meagher La Lime, Madame la représentant du Secrétaire Général des Nations Unies en Haïti (Feb. 4, 2021),; see also, e.g., Clesca, Haiti’s Critical Weeks Ahead, supra note 22; AyiboPost & Phillerque Hyppolite, Chita Pale | « Être jeune ne signifie pas être honnête », Etzer Emile, AyiboPost (Apr. 7, 2021),; AyiboPost & Phillerque Hyppolite, Chita pale | La vie n’a aucune valeur pour le régime PHTK. Leur unique but c’est de rester au pouvoir, AyiboPost (Apr. 13, 2021),

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