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Armed Forces

Haiti has no obvious external threats. Tensions have long existed between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, but the current border has been fixed since 1936. In 2013 a bi-national commission was created to improve often hostile relations between the neighbors. The presence and involvement of the U.S. military in Haiti would likely forestall any attack on the island. In 2003 Haiti's civilian security budget totaled an estimated US$26 million.

Haiti took steps toward rebuilding its military, which was abolished in 1995. In December 2011 President Martelly created a special commission to consult with domestic and international communities to develop a blueprint for an armed force, including possible restoration of the country’s military. In May 2012 the commission issued a preliminary report detailing the extensive human and financial resources needed to reestablish an armed force. This commission did not develop or issue any further findings, and its mandate concluded with the creation of a Ministry of Defense.

In March 2012 the government created a special commission to investigate the activities of members of former military group, Forces Armees d’Haiti (FADH), and other army restoration proponents who started occupying derelict government installations throughout the country in February. The commission concluded that such activities were illegal, stressed the Hatian National Policy [HNP] primacy in public security matters, and issued an ultimatum calling for the groups to disband by mid-March. The promilitary faction ignored the deadline, demanded creation of a military high command by early April, and disrupted a session of Parliament in mid-April. On May 18, the HNP and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) jointly launched Operation Sunrise, during which authorities arrested several hundred agitators, and the movement effectively ended. The newly created Ministry of Defense took on responsibility for addressing concerns of retired members of the FADH.

At a ceremony 16 September 2013, Defense Minister Jean-Rodolphe Joazile greeted the first 41 recruits of the new armed forces after they returned from eight months of training in Ecuador. They were the first members of a national military force that the government of President Michel Martelly was intent on restoring. The recruits would work alongside Ecuadoran military engineers in central Haiti to repair roads and work on other public service projects. The 41 recruits were made up of 30 soldiers, 10 engineers and one officer. They report to the Defense Ministry but do not carry weapons.

After years of military interference in politics, including dozens of military coups, Haiti disbanded its military in 1995. Haiti's National Assembly created a new civilian police with the help of the United States and the United Nations. Yet, as of 2004, there had been no official constitutional amendment to abolish the military. The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) has been authorized to complete the disarmament and demobilization of any remaining militias.

To secure its grip on the population, the Haitian armed forces had relied on many of the "classic" or "traditional" techniques of repression that the Duvaliers employed to silence opposition during their 30 year rule. As the joint UN/OAS International Civilian Mission to Haiti reported in June 1993, "violations of the right to life and integrity and security of person are intended primarily to restrict or prohibit the exercise of the freedoms of opinion and expression, assembly and peaceful association."

Throughout the country, the Haitian military and the section chiefs under their control punished citizens who were active in the development of civil society in Haiti before the coup and those who have engaged in such activity since the coup. This repression takes many forms. At one end of the spectrum is the systematic harassment and extortion -- under color of law -- of anyone known to have supported President Aristide's election or who participated in the broadbased grass roots coalition that brought him to power. This can include beatings; imposition of illegal taxes; arrests without legal cause; illegal detentions, often accompanied by torture; and, in extreme cases, extrajudicial executions.

As the UN Special Rapporteur concluded: "In Haiti, there is virtually no rule of law. Life, integrity of the person and individual freedom are at the mercy of the security units making up the armed forces, the police, the `Tontons Macoutes' and the section chiefs. The Constitution is not in force, while criminal and civil laws are outdated and their provisions are not enforced. Citizens are defenseless in the face of arbitrary action by State agents." [UN Commission on Human Rights, Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti Submitted by Mr. Marco Tulio Bruni Celli, Special Rapporteur, in Accordance with Commission Resolution 1992/77 (New York: UN, E/CN.4/1993/47, 4 February 1993), p. 38.]

Without its own military, Haiti relies heavily on United Nations peacekeeping forces. Since it commenced operations in June 2004, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) has had an authorized force of 6,700 military personnel and 1,600 police officers. The multinational force has been responsible for quelling riots and preparing for democratic elections. Before MINUSTAH forces arrived, a multilateral force made up of troops from Canada, Chile, France, and the United States helped stabilize the country under the interim leadership of President Boniface Alexandre.

Originally set to withdraw from Haiti on June 1, 2005, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) has remained in Haiti in order to secure the country for the elections planned for October and November 2005 but repeatedly postponed. For the period from July 2005 to June 2006, MINUSTAH has an approved budget of nearly US$500 million. On June 6, 2005, the UN military force launched a coordinated series of operations against armed criminals in Port-au-Prince. Also, from February to May 2005, the United States Southern Command carried out a humanitarian mission in Haiti. Entitled "New Horizons 2005," the task force built three schools, drilled three wells, provided preventative health services to thousands, and set up temporary housing for orphaned children. Troops involved came from the U.S. Army, Air Force, Marines, and Navy.

Since 2004 MINUSTAH, made up of approximately 10,000 military and police officers and civilians, had operated with a mandate to assist and advise the government on security-related matters. In October 2012 the UN Security Council agreed to a one-year renewal of MINUSTAH’s mandate but also decided to reduce MINUSTAH’s troop levels and policing presence to 6,270 and 2,601, respectively, by June 2013. Partly because of language barriers, MINUSTAH-HNP coordination remained poor. MINUSTAH retained responsibility for patrolling IDP camps, but without arrest authority and with limited HNP support, it had difficulty controlling crime and violence that occasionally erupted.

Recognizing the steps that Haiti had taken towards stabilization, and noting with concern the delays in preparations for elections scheduled for later this year, the Security Council today extended the mandate of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) until 15 October 2014, encouraging it to enhance further the Government’s ability to extend State authority throughout the country and promote good governance and the rule of law at all levels. Unanimously adopting resolution 2119 (2013) under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, the Council endorsed the recommendations contained in the Secretary-General’s report (document S/2013/493), reducing the Mission’s overall force levels from 6,270 to 5,021 troops, and maintaining a police component of 2,601 personnel.

However, during this debate Mark Lyall Grant ( United Kingdom), while expressing his strong support for MINUSTAH, raised two points of concern. Describing MINUSTAH as an example of a mismatch between needs on the ground and the tools used by the Security Council to address them, he pointed out that 5,000 military peacekeepers remained in a country where there had been no recent military conflict. “This makes little sense,” he said, emphasizing that some tasks would be better managed by other United Nations entities.

There were multiple allegations that MINUSTAH soldiers were involved in incidents of sexual abuse and exploitation. In January MINUSTAH soldiers based in the North Department city of Limonade allegedly beat students of the Capois Limonade School. Also in January two MINUSTAH members from the Pakistani contingent in Gonaives raped a 14-year-old boy. In March authorities court-martialed the perpetrators, sentenced them to one year in prison, and repatriated them to Pakistan. In September Uruguayan prosecutors concluded there was insufficient evidence to criminally prosecute Uruguayan marines implicated in the videotaped July 2011 sexual assault of 18-year-old Johnny Jean. They opted instead to charge the marines with lesser offenses of “private violence” and “coercion,” which carry lighter sentences ranging from three months’ to three years’ imprisonment. As a mandated UN peacekeeping mission, MINUSTAH has an official “zero tolerance” policy regarding sexual exploitation. By December 2012 the New York-based UN Conduct and Discipline Unit had received 10 allegations of MINUSTAH sexual exploitation and abuse. The commission concluded three were unsubstantiated, and seven remained pending at the end of 2012.

The United Nations is defending itself against claims its peacekeepers are responsible for a cholera outbreak in Haiti that killed some 8,000 people and sickened more than 650,000 in 2010 during the aftermath of a devastating earthquake. The Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy announced October 09, 2013 it was filing a complaint alleging the disease was introduced to the country by peacekeepers from Nepal and asking for compensation to the victims of the disease. The United Nations has said it does not concede that it is responsible for the outbreak. It also claims it has diplomatic immunity against any legal claims of negligence. The United Nations has said in the past that it does not accept claims for compensation for the outbreak, although the top human rights official at the UN, Navi Pillay, suggested that she victims were entitled to compensation. She did not specify who should provide it.

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