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Haiti making progress on rule of law, but faces serious challenges UN expert

8 February 2012 – Haiti has made some progress in restoring the rule of law, the United Nations independent expert on the human rights situation in the Caribbean country said today, citing as examples the appointment of the president of the highest appellate court and the upcoming establishment of the supreme council of the judiciary.

“During my last visit I received important and promising commitments from President [Michel] Martelly, namely the implementation of the rule of law,” said Michel Forst, the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti. “Most of these promises were kept and major announcements are now a reality,” he said at the end of his nine-day visit to the country.

He also cited Haiti’s ratification of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which he said was important for the access to certain rights, including the right to education and health, as well as the right of every Haitian to be free from hunger.

Serious challenges, however, remain, Mr. Forst said in a press release. “President Martelly has made rule of law one of his top priorities for his mandate, but the implementation of the rule of law requires a sound political action.”

“The population needs to see that the rule of law prevails in Haiti,” he added, calling for the appointment of an inter-ministerial rule of law coordination mechanism within the Government.

On justice, Mr. Forst stressed the need to deal with the problem of prolonged pre-trial detentions, saying there are still too many suspects who have waited for too long to be brought before a judge and are often held in conditions that would be considered “cruel, inhuman degrading” under the UN Convention against Torture.

On conditions in camps, he called for the adoption of a national comprehensive urban planning strategy that would allow internally displaced persons (IDPs) to return to their communities of origin in acceptable conditions, and not to makeshift shelters.

He reiterated his disappointment with reports that former Haitian president Jean-Claude Duvalier may not face charges relating to the serious rights violations that took place during his 15-year rule.

“My first thoughts go to the victims and their families, and I support their decision to appeal the judge’s decision in order to proceed with the case,” Mr. Forst said.

Meanwhile, the Special Representative of Secretary-General and head of the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), Mariano Fernández Amunátegui, said that he had learned with sadness of a fire in one of the IDP camps in the capital, Port-au-Prince, today that killed a child. Two other children are missing.

He said MINUSTAH had sent a medical team, two ambulances and two water tankers to assist Haitian police and the UN police on their rescue mission and to put out the fire.

Mr. Fernández Amunátegui sent his heartfelt condolences to the family of the young victim and hoped that the two others reported missing will be found and returned to their families.

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