Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Extreme Prison Overcrowding and Lengthy Pre-trial Detention Continue in Haiti Despite International Court Order


Mario Joseph, Av., Managing Attorney, Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), (in Haiti – speaks French and Haitian Creole)
Nicole Phillips, Esq., Staff Attorney, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), (in Haiti – speaks English and French)

Extreme Prison Overcrowding and Lengthy Pre-trial Detention Continue in Haiti Despite International Court Order    

(Port-au-Prince, July 3, 2013) – On June 26, 2013, human rights lawyers from the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) held a press conference to urge the Haitian government to address the widespread violation of prisoners’ human rights.  Recent statistics of continued prison overcrowding and lengthy pre-trial detention in Haiti demonstrate that the government has not developed and implemented comprehensive prison reform as ordered by the Inter-American Court on Human Rights.

Haitian prisons consistently rank among the worst in the world.[i] According to the BAI’s findings, inmates in the prison in Mirebalais eat, sleep and live in approximately 0.4mof space (the equivalent of one-quarter of a twin bed).  International standards recommend every prisoner have 5.4mof living space, and in some extreme circumstances the standard may be lowered to 2.0m2 – about four times the space available to the inmates in Mirebalais.

Without adequate space, prisoners take turns sleeping at night, and many are left standing. The overcrowded conditions present the perfect environment for the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, drug-resistant tuberculosis, and cholera. Coupled with the sweltering heat that often exceeds 100 degrees Fahrenheit, these conditions are inhumane, miserable and torturous.[ii]

Pre-trial detention is also a serious problem in Haiti.  Under Haitian law, defendants are entitled to a trial within four months of being arrested, yet, according to an audit by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), detainees spend an average of 408 days in pre-trial detention – often exceeding the maximum allowable sentence of their offense.[iii]

In May 2008, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered the Haitian government in Yvon Neptune v. Haiti to develop and implement comprehensive reforms concerning prison conditions and prolonged pre-trial detention to conform with minimum international standards by 2010.[iv]  In 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Council reiterated the Court’s decision by urging the Haitian Government to take the necessary steps to respect the Haitian Constitution’s articles concerning prolonged pre-trial detention and prioritize the improvement of prison facilities.[v]

The most recent prison and pre-trial detention statistics from the BAI, which was lead counsel in Yvon Neptune v. Haiti, indicate that the Haitian government has not yet developed and implemented a plan in compliance with the Court’s order and the situation is not improving.

The BAI’s staff attorneys, who represent detainees in Mirebalais, Hinche and Saint-Marc, gathered the following statistics:

  • In Mirebalais, Hinche, and Saint-Marc, 43.45 percent of detainees have not been charged with a crime;
  • In Mirebalais, 52.3 percent of the 470 detainees have not seen a judge;
  • In Hinche, 46.4 percent of the 209 inmates have not seen a judge; and
  • In Saint-Marc, 34.3 percent of the 411 detainees have not been convicted.

Lastly, Haitian prisons continue to house men and women, adult and juveniles, accused and convicted in the same cell in violation of Article 422 of Haiti’s Criminal Code and Article 10 (1-2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, creating unnecessary insecurity among inmates.

The BAI, in solidarity with all those who suffer, request everyone to join in calling the Haitian government to:

  • Take all necessary measures to reduce the duration of pre-trial detention and address the problem of prison overcrowding to ensure compliance with the Minimum Standard of Treatment of Prisoners;
  • Create and enact a national plan to bring Haiti’s inhumane prisons up to international human rights standards in compliance with the Inter-American Court on Human Rights’ decision in Yvon Neptune v. Haiti. 
  • Implement separate, hygienic, and habitable spaces for the detention of men and women, adult and juveniles, and accused and convicted as required under Article 442 of the Haitian Criminal Code, and Article 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
  • Make the necessary repairs to the nearby Belladère prison. Prisoners can then be transferred to this facility to reduce overcrowding in the Mirebalais prison.

The BAI’s press release in Kreyol is available here.

[i] Associated Press, “US Plans to Build 2 Prison in Haiti’s Countryside to Help Crowding in Poor Nations’ Jails” Washington Examiner, February 15, 2013 See

[iii] USAID, USAID Audit of USAID/Haiti’s Justice Program, Audit Report No. 1-521-07-008-P, April 24, 2007, See’s%20Justice%20Program%20–%20USAID%20(2007).pdf.

[iv]Yvon Neptune v. Haiti, Merits, Reparations, and Costs, Judgment, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (ser. C) No. 180 (May 6, 2008).

[v] Human Rights Council, “Draft Report of the Working Group on the Universal Period Review: Haiti” 18 October 2011, para 88.63-88.73, See


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