The targeting of poor people and political dissidents for arrest and prolonged detention is a major problem in Haiti. The Martelly administration has used these tactics to silence political opponents and limit freedom of speech in Haiti. Widespread corruption means a political prisoner may spend years in prison without a trial. Haiti’s justice system must be reformed so this is no longer possible.
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Guest post: The Targeted Arrest and Detention of Political Prisoners in Haiti
Morenike Fajana & Nicole Phillips, Fair Trials International
January 12, 2015
A combination of Haiti’s weak criminal justice system and dismal prison conditions creates a dire situation for Haitians accused of a crime. Haitian prisoners – the majority of which have yet to be charged with a crime – suffer prolonged pre-trial detention in over-crowded, unhygienic, and unsanitary conditions unless they have the influence or money to convince a judge to review their case. These inequities disproportionately impact poor Haitians, who lack both power and resources. Since President Michel Martelly took office in 2011, an increasing number of poor, politically engaged Haitians have been singled out for arbitrary arrest and forced to remain in pre-trial detention as a means to quell political opposition.
Haiti’s grave pre-trial detention situation stems from a convergence of factors, including a severely under-staffedcriminal justice system, widespread corruption and outdated criminal procedure law which fails to provide uniform measures for conducting criminal investigations. This lack of access to justice reinforces social, political, and economic exclusion that prevents poor Haitians from asserting their fundamental right to challenge their pre-trial detention..
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