Originally: Name change: NCHR-Haiti is changing its name, but remains faithful to its tasks

The National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR-HAITI) would like to inform national and international public that its name shall henceforth be known as “the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights,” with “RNDDH” as its initials.   

In 1992, as a response to the human rights violations committed under the military dictatorship that served as a primary cause of the massive Haitian exodus to the United States, the National Coalition for Haitian Refugees (NCHR) – established in 1982 in New York – opened an affiliate organization in Haiti to attack the problem at its root source.  The diverse range of activities led to the organization’s renaming in 1995 to the National Coalition of Haitian Rights.  Since1996, the NCHR office in Haiti has independently developed and carried out its own programs and activities.

 Since its establishment in Haiti, NCHR-Haiti has been credited with great upward strides. Its first move was to create a program that coincided with its foundational philosophy that “Human rights are respected where they are known, and they are known where they are taught.” Since 1995, NCHR has pursued this vision by starting up a Human Rights Training Program for national activists and leaders of grassroots organizations as well as those working in the Dominican Republic batays[1]. Since 1997, NCHR-Haiti has conducted on average of four basic level training sessions, three second level training sessions each year and two advanced level (two per year) on a yearly basis, with an average of thirty-five participants per session. To date, over fourteen hundred Haitians and Dominicans have participated in NCHR-Haiti’s basic level training. Nearly a thousnad of these participants have continued on to complete the second level, and approximately three hundred of those have successfully completed NCHR-Haiti’s advanced level.  Only those participants who have successfully completed the training program curriculum’s three levels and have demonstrated a genuine commitment in the field are awarded the title of “NCHR Human Rights Monitor”. This program has allowed NCHR-Haiti to strengthen itself in the field and to have an effective presence in all the country’s geographic departments, enabling the organization to be better informed of and prepared to denounce human rights violations.

 In 2003, NCHR-Haiti developed a program called “Education Plus” which aims to educate school children within the country’s ten geographic departments on human rights issues. More than 48 schools and 3,923 students have participated in this program in the following departments: the Artibonite, the Grande Anse, the North-East, the North, the South, the South-East, the Central Plateau, and the West.

 As part of its Human Rights Monitoring Program, NCHR-Haiti conducts regular visits to Haitian prisons, police stations, and State Prosecutors’ offices, courthouses, Investigation Judges’ offices, in addition to supervising criminal trials. Each year NCHR-Haiti carries out an average of thirty-six field visits, prepares and publishes a minimum of six investigative reports and an average of  ten press releases.  At its office in Port-au-Prince, NCHR-Haiti receives individuals coming to file complaints of human rights violations at its main office in Port-au-Prince, receiving an average of fifty individuals per day during times of crisis and fifteen individuals during calmer periods. At least 55 percent of the individuals received were accompanied by the organization.

 Due to questions of available resources and the elevated cost of legal fees in Haiti, NCHR-Haiti has not developed a legal assistance program for victims of human rights violations. However, NCHR-Haiti does provide its own legal defense when its members come under attack, and has taken on victims’ lawyer and court expenses in at least two well-known cases: the triple assassination of Viola Robert’s three  sons in Waney, Carrefour, and the Scierie Massacre, St. Marc. The first of these cases is currently being tried in the Port-au-Prince Court of Appeals, and the second is at the level of the Investigation Judge’s Offices in St. Marc.  In supplying direct support to victims, NCHR-Haiti does not file civil actions and retains all professional distance in order to observe the advancement of these cases.

NCHR-Haiti strongly believes in the universality of human rights and the principle of a people’s right to self-determination. NCHR-Haiti’s leaders, in a non-nationalist spirit, discourage the substitution of Haitian judges with international judges to address the weaknesses of the Haitian judicial system. Far from contributing to the system’s reinforcement, this inadequate view of justice will serve to further weaken it and deliver a hard blow to the rule of law’s emergence in Haiti for which the Haitian people are calling.

 New strategies need to be adopted in order to involve a greater majority of the population in the struggle for the promotion, protection and defense of human rights.

 Accordingly, in 2002 discussions were held between the leaders of NCHR’s two branches as NCHR-Haiti’s plans to establish a system of human rights networks throughout the country began to evolve. The possibility of a name change was discussed at this time.  The idea of changing names evolved and eventual differing opinions resulted in decision by all parties involved to opt for a parting of ways.  The decision was agreed upon on March 4 , 2005 at a meeting held in New York as well as the decision that these developments would not be made public until all the necessary formalities were carried out. 

Several human rights networks have already been established in a number of the country’s departments. Six  networks composed of NCHR-Haiti’s training program beneficiaries have been created and are affiliated with the organization, operating in the following departments:  the Artibonite, the North, the North-East, the North-West, the South-East, and the Central Plateau. Four  new networks are in the process of being created and are expected to become functional in the near future. Given these developments, a name including the phrase “National Network” seems to better reflect the organization’s objectives. For this reason, NCHR-Haiti has decided to change its name to the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights.

The National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (RNDDH), formally known as NCHR-Haiti, retains all of the same staff, programs, assets and activities as NCHR-Haiti.  

RNDDH would like to reiterate to everyone its determination to assist the Haitian people in their quest for justice, democracy and the establishment of a rule of law in Haiti where fundamental human rights are respected.  RNDDH wishes NCHR all the best in its future endeavors. 

 Port-au-Prince, 9 May 2005


[1] Border areas designated for Haitian field workers and their families living in the Dominican Republic