Haitian Coalition Disturbed by Recent Surge of Human Rights Violations:  Recommends National Plan

For Immediate Release  Contact: Merrie Archer, marcher@nchr.org, 212 337-0005

 New York, July 29, 2002 –

The National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR)  is gravely concerned about the progressive but clear deterioration of the  situation of human rights in Haiti as evidenced by the continuing violence toward human rights defenders, journalists, union and opposition members such as the continued threats to recently kidnapped journalist Israel Jacky Cantave that have made him silence his radio show. “We are greatly relieved that Mr. Cantave and his friend Frantz Ambroise were found alive although physically abused, but are deeply disturbed by the impunity that their aggressors continue to enjoy,” said Merrie Archer, Senior Policy Associate at NCHR.

We urge the Government of Haiti to swiftly initiate investigations on the attack on the residence and family of human rights defender Jean-Claude Bajeux and the kidnapping of and continued threats to journalist and political commentator Israel Jacky Cantave.  In addition, we strongly urge that outstanding investigations be given top priority and the investigating judges be given all possible support and cooperation, particularly investigations on the assassinations of Jean Dominique and Brignol Lindor, the attempted assassination of NCHR Director Pierre Espérance, the reprisal attacks against opposition members following the December 17, 2001 assault on the National Palace, and the attack on peasants and journalists in Guacimal last May 27th.

We are heartened by several steps taken by the Haitian government in recent months to address the country’s chronic human rights problems. These include corruption, the administration of justice, and disarmament, by arresting several leaders of so called popular organizations on outstanding charges, creating a weapons buyback program, calling for an end to corruption in the ranks of the government, and naming a new judge to the Jean Dominique case.

However, a great deal more progress needs to be made to ensure that the rights of all Haitians are respected and to effectively guarantee the rule of law in Haitian society.  The Haitian government must start by creating a long-term plan that seriously addresses the root causes of these issues and guard against steps that appear to be ad hoc or simple cosmetic changes to the problems at hand.  Ms. Archer added, “In order to ensure the steady progression of reform, the government should undertake to publish a plan outlining the its strategy and the steps it will take during this administration to move toward a rule of law.”