Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1992

Haiti has been ruled by two extraconstitutional governments since army enlisted
men overthrew democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in September
1991. From October 1991 until June 1992, a provisional government, with Joseph
Nerette as President and Jean-Jacaues Honorat as Prime Minister, governed
with the support of the armed forces ana a parliamentary plurality. In June 1992,
both Nerette and Honorat resigned, and Parliament approved—with a questionable
Senate majority—Marc Bazin to head a new "consensus Government as Prime Minister.
No replacement was named for Nerette as president. Support for this arrangement
by Armed Forces Commander General Cedras as well as lower ranking officers
and soldiers was essential to installing the Bazin Government. Bazin's mandate was
to negotiate a solution to the constitutional crisis with President Aristide, now in
exile in the United States, and to end the economic embargo and diplomatic isolation
of Haiti imposed pursuant to resolutions approved by the Organization of American
States (OAS) after Aristide's ouster. There have been several OAS-sponsored
efforts to promote negotiations between representatives of Aristide and the de facto
authorities in Haiti (the most recent occurring in Washington in September) which
resulted in the OAS sending a team of 18 civilian observers to Haiti with the monitoring
of human ri^ts as part of its mandate.
The Haitian armed forces are responsible for state security and have considerable
legal and institutional autonomy. According to the UJS. Arms Control and Disarmament
Agency, total military expenditures for 1989 were $45 million. There are
no plans to reduce these expenditures in the near future. In both urban and rural
areas, armed forces units serve as police, although the Constitution cedls for a separation
of the two forces. The armed forces committed numerous and serious human
ri^ts violations in the aftermath of Aristide's ouster. Thereafter official, politically
motivated violence and represssion against active regime opponents declined, but indiscriminate
violence remained substantial, especially in rural areas, where 70 to
80 percent of Haitians live.
Haiti is the poorest and most densely populated country in the Western Hemisphere.
The economy is characterized by a neavy dependence on imports, a mostly
rural population living on rapidly erodmg land, wide disparities of income, and a
small manufacturingbase. The economy declined in recent years, largely because
of political instability emd erratic management. That decline continued in 1992 and
was aggravated by the trade embaigo as well as the suspension of all but international
humanitarian assistance following the September 1991 coup d'etat.
Haitians suffered firequent human rights abuses throughout 1992 Including
extrajudicial kUlings by security forces, disappearances, beatings and other mistreatment
of detainees and prisoners, arbitrary arrest and detention, and executive
interference with the judiatd process. While the worst of these abuses occurred
under the Nerette-Honorat Government, they continued under the Bazin Government.
Neither postcoup Government forcefully denounced or seriously attempted to
restrain abuses by elements of the armed forces, or to prevent the military from stifling
any organized pro-Aristide sentiment following the 1991 coup. Both the Bazin
Government and its parliamentary opposition announced initiatives on human
rights, but delayed passing legislation to reform and reinforce law enforcement and
the judiciary. At year's end, widespread abuses continued, and there was no evidence
either that the military was willing to stop such practices or that the civilian
Government was able to bring the military under control.
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, including Freedom from
a. Political and other Extrajudicial Killing.—The year 1992 did not see the same
degree of wide-scale political violence that followed the September 1991 coup d'etat
ana claimed between 300 and 400 victims. It is difficult to assess the actual number
of political and extrajudicial killings because judicial authorities rarely conduct
criminal investigations into any unexplained deaths, including violent ones such as
murder, whether political or not. Levels of violence remained nigh and were exacerbated
by the manifest unwillingness of the two postcoup governments to pursue
criminal justice, particularly in cases of politically motivated murder. Dozens of
murders, presumed to be political, were carried out by individuals in authority acting
without apparent fear of punishment. Brutality, including claims of frequent in422
juries, by elements of the armed forces was particularly severe in Pbrt au Prince
slums, such as the Cite Soleil and Carrefour districts, and in Haiti's remote provinces.
Some of the documented political killings during the year included the January
torture and murder of Aristide supporter Jean-Claude Museau by police in the
southern town of Les Cayes; the May 26 killing of businessman Georaes Izmery,
brother of Aristide activist Antoine Izmery; and the August 18 deaths of three
Aristide activists, shot by police as they put up political posters. The last incident
occurred during the visit of an OAS fact-finding and mediation mission to Haiti led
by Secretary General Baena Soares.
The bodyguard of Aristide's F*rime Minister-designate Rene Theodore was shot to
death on January 25 during an attack on a political meeting at Theodore's party
headquarters. Reliable evidence points to the complicity of lormer national intelligence
chief Leopold Cleijeune in the commando-style raid by over a dozen men,
some in police uniforms, armed with assault rifles and submachine guns and canying
radios. Tlieodore and other national political iigures present were beaten.
No serious investigation of these killings has been undertaken by judicial or milltaiy
authorities, nor is any anticipated. The July 19-20 trial for the 1991 murder
of Deputy Astrel Chfirles by a section chief (the sheriff or constable of a locality)
resulted in a life sentence for the defendant. It was the only homicide case with political
implications prosecuted by judicial authorities, with army cooperation, during
the year.
In the case of the killing of former Duvalierist cabinet minister Roger Lafontant,
the Haitian army oflicer who was the penitentiaiy commander at the time of
Lafontant's murder claimed in a 1992 discussion witn U.S. Government oflicials to
have received a personal telephone call from President Aristide on the evening of
September 29, 1^1 ordering him to kill Lafontant. The enlisted man who admitted
kimng Lafontant that nidit told U.S. officials in 1992 that he was aware of the reported
order from Presicknt Aristide. The enlisted man has since declined to talk
with U.S. oflicials. A spokesman for IVesident Aristide has denied these charges.
      b. Disappearance.
^There were no reports of disappearances while President
Aristide was in oflice. There were dozens of reported disappearances in the months
following the September 1991 coup, but Haitian human rights advocates point out
that because many Aristide activists had gone into hiding, it was very diflicult to
verify these reports. For example, a Haitian press association announced the disappearance
of a Radio Soleil correspondent in June but learned subsequently the
journalist was in hiding. Aristide supporter Milot Batista was reportedly abducted
on June 1 in Port au fiince. City hospitals and other authorities had no record of
the missing person reports that family members claim they made. Credible sources
allege, however, that Batista is actually in hiding.
Other reports detail disappearances that did not seem to be cases of individuals
in hiding. On June 25 armed men abducted the driver of Senator Tumeb Delpe, who
is believed dead. Alix Moudesir, founder of a small political oi^anization of reformist
former soldiers, was kidnaped Aueust 27. Local television stations broadcast taped
appeals from famify members for nis release, but thus far his whereabouts remain
unknown. Although the body of Radio Galaxie correspondent Felix Lamy has not
been found, there is little hope the journalist, kidnaped by armed men December
10, 1991, is still aUve. In December three members of the Conacom political party
disappeared; two were subsequently found murdered and the third remains missing.
c. Torture and Other Cruet, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.—
Brutal beatings with fists and clubs, torture, and other cruel treatment of detainees
are common. Ill-treatment remains widespread, particularly the threat of ill-treatment
used by police and soldiers to extort money from detainees and their families.
Prison conditions are abysmal. Detainees regularly have no access to legal counsel
and continue to suffer from a lack of the most basic hygienic facilities as well as
inadequate food and health care. Children are regularly detained together with
adults in violation of the rule that children should be detained separately. Although
the 1987 Constitution calls for prisons to be administered by the Ministry of Justice,
the army continues to control them.
      d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Arbitraiy arrest and detention remain
among the most persistent human rights abuses in Haiti. According to the Constitution,
a person may be arrested only if apprehended during the commission of a
crime or if a judicial warrant has been issued for the arrest. In practice, however,
arbitrary arrest and detention as well as interrogation without legal counsel present
are common and are frequently used by soldiers and provincial oflicials to intimidate
and extort money from tne populace. Although cases of arbitrary arrest and
detention occurred during the Aristide presidency (in one instance despite a court
order for the individual's release), they increased dramatically in the postcoup climate
of crackdown and reprisal.
Tlie 1987 Constitution calls for the separation of the police from the military, with
the police placed under Justice Ministry authority. In November the de facto regime
announced its intention to separate the police from the army and named an
interministerial commission to study means to do so. However, enabling legislation
aimed at separating the police from the army, and installing a rural police force to
replace the infamous section chiefs, had not been enacted at year's end, both because
of opposition on the part of elements of the military and because the Parliament
is divided and paralyzed by the countiys political crisis.
Section chiefs commonly obtain their positions by bribing the military commanders
who appoint them, recouping their "investment" in turn by accepting money
from numerous "deputies" who extort money from the peasant population. Politically
active clergy were frequently victims of arbitrary arrest and harassment by the mihtary,
as part of a more general intimidation campaign against Aristide sympathizers,
particularly in the countryside.
Airests and harassment of journalists are frequent and form part of an overall
postcoup crackdown against the media. The best known case is that of radio regorter
Paul Jean Mario, arrested in November 1991 on charges of complicity in the
uming of a police barracks. Mario was finally released in April 1992 after charges
were droppei In February two reporters, one from the British Broadcasting Corporation
and another from the Chicago Tribune, were detained for 8 hours and
threatened witii death by a provincial section chief. The two were investigating reports
that the villagers' houses had been burned by the section chief in retaliation
for failing to pay him protection money. Although they made clear their status as
foreim journalists, the section chief detained the two and threatened to kill them.
e. Denial o/" Fair Public Trial.—This right is widely and severely abridged. The
Constitution provides for an independent judiciary and the right to a fair public
trial and expressly denies police and judicial authorities the ri^t to interrogate persons
charged with a crime unless the suspect has legal counsel present or waives
this ri^t. Nevertheless, interrogation witnout legal counsel present is the norm,
and the use of beatings and torture to extract coniessions is widespread. Moreover,
contempt for the judiciaiy datingback to the Duvalier regime rendered it a vestigial
branch of government, understaffed, poorly trained, and inadequately compensated.
Six years after the I>uvaliers' fall, the judicial brandi's lamentable state has not
changed. All governments since 1986 have continued the practice of appointing and
removing judges at will and of exerting political influence at every stage of the judicial
The Constitution also mandates an elaborate system of local administration,
among whose duties is the nomination of badly needed new judges. Legislation implementing
and ftinding local administration languished in Parliament most of the
year, hostage to partisan wrangling over Haiti's ongoing political deadlock. Under
the Aristide presidency, eflbrts were made to put local aoministration in place. Following
the September 1991 coup, these nascent structures were widely dismantled,
and local police and army oflicials stepped into the power vacuum in Haiti's rural
The Code of Criminal Procedure does not clearly assign responsibility to investigate
crimes, and there are no penalties for delay or inaction. Authority to prosecute
is divided among police, prosecutors, and investigating magistrates. Overlapping
authority invites the abdication of responsibility and encourages tacit complicity
m widespread corruption.
The Code also stipulates two criminal court sessions per year to tiy all major
crimes requiring a jury trial. These sessions usually last only 2 weeks, and in some
years only one session is held. Failure to reform the Code nas resulted in a huge
backlog, with detainees sometimes waiting years in pretrial detention for a court
date. On October 6, there were 400 inmates, including 60 soldiers at Port au
Prince's National Penitentiary. Of the 400, 28 were serving sentences. All others,
including the soldiers were awaiting trial or court-martial proceedings. If the accused
is ultimately tried and found innocent, he has no recourse against the Government
for time already served.
      f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
and after the September 1991 coup and throughout 1992, there were many credible
reports of soldiers and other armed persons entering private homes for illegal purgoses.
Soldiers and their plainclothes "deputies" violently raided poor tjuarters of
ort au Prince at least a dozen times during 1992 to silence support for President
Aristide, to search for illegal weapons, and, according to credible sources, to loot private
homes with impunity.
Solice {
Police roadblocks are frequently set up, especially during periods of real or perceived
political tension. The discovery of pro-Aristide posters or literature during a
police search of a house or vehicle frequently results in illegal arrest. There are
credible reports that nolice and military have also interfered with private correspondence
during such searches.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including
      a. Freedom of Speech and Press
Freedom of speech and the press is provided
for by the Constitution but was often abridged by violence and intimidation, particularly
in the immediate aftermath of the 1991 coup. With an illiteracy rate of approximately
80 percent, broadcast media, especially radio, have unusual importance,
and independent broadcast media have been particular targets. Two radio journalists
were killed following the coup, one disappeared (see Section l.b.), and many
were arrested and oUierwise intimidated. A number of journalists have left the
There are currently 14 radio stations operating in Port au Prince. Four radio stations
operating before the coup have closed permanently. News broadcasts exercise
sporadic self-censorship, conditioned by events and political tensions. The Bazin
Grovemment made overtures to the independent media aimed at reopening radio
stations violently shut down during the coup. Most reopened, but some remained
closed. Print media enjoyed greater freedom, possibly as a result of their relatively
small readership. Two independent newspapers operate in Port au Prince, and pro-
Aristide weeklies published in the United States were freely sold in the streets.
      b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution provides for
freedom of assembly and association, but these rights have been severely restricted
since the coup d'etat. There were credible reports from all parts of Haiti that the
de facto Government engaged in a systematic effort to inhibit any type of association.
Soldiers fired into me air to disperse gatherings. Some community organizers,
even of nonpolitical organizations, were arrested and sometimes beaten, harassed,
or intimidated into fleeing their own communities. Most civic education, community
health, and literacy organizations were prevented from operating normally. Reports
of the foreeful dispersal of peaceful assemblies declined later in 1992, apparently
more from civilian reluctance to try to congregate than from any lessening of the
army's determination to prevent civil unrest.
      c. Freedom of Religion
Religion is an integral part of Haitian life and culture
and is practiced widely. Roman Catholicism and voodoo (a mixture of African animism
and Christianity) are the two major religions. Members of various Protestant
denominations and foreign missionary groups openly proselytize in Haiti. There are
no government restrictions on missionary activities, amliations with overseas coreligionists,
or religious instruction or publishing.
Grassroots liberation theology organizations in the countryside remain a strong
base of support for President Aristide. These groups and their leaders have been
particular targets of the army. Activist foreign and Haitian clergy have been victims
of short-term arrests clearly intended to harass and intimidate. These arrests often
followed the <^covery of pro-Aristide materials during illegal military searches of
homes, vehicles, and even church rectories.
      d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The provisional Government wluch took power immecuately after the
coup restricted travel within and outside the country, especially for Aristide's ministers
and advisors.
There were few cases of government restriction on travel after the immediate
postcoup period. Port au Prince Mayor Evans Paul, who was arrested while trying
to leave the country and beaten by police in 1991, was detained at the airport in
early 1992. Paul subsequently left the country several times without serious incident,
albeit with some petty harassment. In August a pro-Aristide journalist was
arrested at the border crossing between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. She was
detained for several hours and ultimately released on orders from military authorities
in Port au Prince.
Although the clandestine departure of migrants is technically a violation of Haitian
immigration law, the authorities have made only token efforts to interfere with
the migration, occasionally in the form of solicting small bribes to permit departure.
Since February, the U.S. Embassy in Port au Prince has conducted Creole-language
interviews with over 3,000 repatriates, without finding a single credible claim of
mistreatment or retribution against any Haitian for naving attempted to leaveHaiti. Repatriated Haitian boat people do face, of course, the same harsh conditions
and lawlessness facing Haitians in general. Recently authorities have begun to detain
and prosecute suspected organizers of the vcwages. Particularly in the immediate
aftermath of the coup, tens of thousands of Haitian fled from urban slums to
the relatively greater security of the countryside. Others have moved from one area
to another to mstance themselves from abusive local authorities.
Section 3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The ric^t of citizens to change their government was forcibly abridged in September
1991 when rebelUous soldiers forced the duly elected President to flee the country
a&^T a militaiy coup. Most senior members of Aristide's administration either
went into hiding, fled the country, or took refuge in foreign embassies.
The Parliament was elected along with President Aristide at the end of 1990. Its
elected members remain in place emd have played a continuing signiflcant role in
poUtical events since the coup d'etat. In the months following the coup, a majority
of the legislature consistently supported ongoing OAS eflbrts to mediate a solution
to the political crisis. The present "consensus" Government has the support of this
parUamentaiv majority. Despite reports that some of this support has been purchased
with bribes, most legislators backing the current Government appear to be
providing support in the hope that it will fuUill its mandate to negotiate an end to
both the political crisis and the OAS embargo.
Section 4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation
cfAlleged Violations ofHuman Rights
About a dozen local human ri^ts groups operated in Haiti in 1992. Five attorneys
in Port au Prince offered pro bono legal defense assistance. All of the local
human ri^ts groups call upon these Ave for legal assistance. Organization oflicials
report occasional threats but can operate relatively freely. Ironically, Jean-Jacques
Honorat's human rights organization, Chadel, continued to issue monthly bulletins
denouncing human rights abuses throughout Honorat's tenure as Prime Minister of
the first postooup Government.
Representatives of Amnesty International and other U.S. and foreign human
rights organizations visited Haiti regularly. These groups generally operated freely,
but were often prevented from conducting prison inspections and from interviewing
Section 5. Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Language, or Social status
Some 95 percent of Haitians are descendants of African slaves who won their war
of independence from France in 1804. Most others are mulatto or of Europeem, Middle
Eastern, North American, or Latin American origin. Haitian law makes no distinctions
based on race. However, there are longstanding social and political animosities
among these various groups, many of whim date back before Haiti's revolutionary
period. There are two official languages in Haiti: Creole, which is spoken by virtually
all Haitians, and French, which is spoken by about 20 percent of the population.
Those unable to read, write, and speak French are limited in their political
and economic activities. Many argue that the country's French-speaking eUte have
used language requirements as a barrier to the advancement of^the country's disadvantaged.
Officially, there is no discrimination against women. Women have occupied prominent
positions in both the public and private sectors in recent years. In some social
strata, however, women's roles have been limited by tradition. Peasant women remain
largely in the traditional occupations of farming, marketing, and domestic
tasks. Violence against women is known to occur with some frequency, but there are
no statistics to document its extent. Because of societal traditions, domestic violence
is generally not reported to police authorities.
Section 6. Worker Rights
      a. The Right of Association
The Constitution and the Labor Code guarantee the
right of association. Woikers, including those in the public sector, are specifically
g'anted the ri^t to form and join unions without prior government authorization.
owever, a umon, which must have a minimum of 10 members, is required to register
with the Ministiv of Social Affairs within 60 days of its establishment. Union
membership, maiginal before last year's coup and even more so now, is estimated
at 1 percent of the total labor force. There are five principal labor federations in
Haiti: the Autonomous Central of Haitian Workers; the National Confederation of
Haitian Teachers; the Federation of Unionized Workers; the Confederation of Haitian
Woriiers; and the Independent General Oiganization of Haitian Workers. Each
of these organizations maintains some affiliation with various international labor organizations.
There is widespread repression and violence against trade union activities by the
military authorities. Many union leaders have gone into hiding and closed their offices.
Unions, as weU as all other citizen groups or assemblies, may only meet with
the express written permission of the military. Established unions of telephone,
electrical, and journalism workers have either had leadership changes forced upon
them by the military or have been completely replaced. There are also allegations
of intimidation of agricultural union leaders by arrests, beatings, and banning of
Tripartite negotiations (labor, management, and government) begun in 1986 to revise
uie Labor Code were concluded in May. The revised code recognizes the ri^^t
to strike but restricts the duration of certain types of strikes, as did the previous
code. It code also stipulates that the Ministry of Social Affairs must recognize workers'
ri^t to strike in each case before the strike is legal. The revised code has yet
to be approved by the Parliament. There were no major public or private sector
strikes in 1992. This is not attributable to labor/management harmony but rather
to the atmosphere of severe repression that followed the coup d'etat and to the economic
impact of the OAS embargo.
b. 7%e Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively.—Trade union organizing activities
are protected by the Labor Code, and those who interfere with this right
may be fined. Employers, however, still routinely attempt to prevent workers from
organizing labor unions, and government enforcement remains mostly ineffective.
Fifteen trade unionists were edlegedly fired in May by a U.S. manufacturing firm
which told them it was not a proper time for a union. While union activities have
been curtailed by the de facto authorities, job loss as a result of economic conditions
has had a far more damaging impact on union activities. Although there are no statistics
available on the numMr oi jobs lost following the coup, fair estimates put the
figure at 75 percent or about 30,000 jobs.
Collective bargaining, which has never been widespread in Haiti, was nonexistent
in 1992.
While Haiti has no export processing zones as such, prior to the OAS trade embargo
it did have a sizable export-oriented assembly sector. The Haitian Labor Code
does not distinquish between industry producing for the local market and that producing
for export. Many assembly sector jobs were unionized, probably to a greater
extent than tne industrial sector in general, as the assembly sector itself was better
organized. Because assembly sector companies were the focus of developmental efforts,
they received greater outside scrutiny and were consequently somewhat more
ffenerous with benents such as on-site medical care, vitamin supplements, interestree
loans, and subsidized meals than domestically oriented producers. As the assembly
sector has shrunk to approximately one-quarter of its precoup size in terms
of employment, unions that were particularly strong in the assembly sector have declined^
      c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The Labor Code prohibits forced
or compulsory labor, but enforcement of"^ these provisions is practically nonexistent.
The common practice of forced domestic labor by children in Haiti, called restavek
in Haitian Creole, continued unabated during 1992. There are an estimated 109,000
restavek children in Haiti. Their situation was cited in a recent U.N. study as an
example of slavery practiced in the 20th century. Young children from rural families
are "adopted" and educated" by more aflluent city dwellers to serve as unpaid domestic
labor. The children are compelled to woik long hours, receive poor nourishment,
Uttle or no education, and are frequently beaten and sexually abused. Most
of Port au Prince's large population of street children are runaway restaveks, and
child prostitution rings are alleged to purchase restavek children from their "adoptive
families." Local human rights groups do not regard the plight of restavek children
as a priority, and do not report on abuses of children or actively seek to improve
their situation. The Justice and Social Affairs Ministries of the two postcoup
Governments were equsdly silent on the issue.
      d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
The minimum employment age for
minors in all sectors is 15 years. Fierce adult competition for jobs ensures that child
labor is not a factor in the industrial sector. Children under 15 commonly work at
odd jobs in both rural and urban settings in Haiti to supplement family income. Enforcement
of child labor laws is the responsibility of the Ministry of Social Affairs
but has been criticized by the International Labor Organization aa inadequate.
      e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The minimum wage is set by law. A few weeks
before the September 1991 coup. Parliament passed a new minimum wage for workers
in the industrial sector. Although technically it became law before the coup, the
legislation was never published in the Official Gazette; nevertheless, compames in
the assembly sector have already adopted it. Even if it were widely applied in the
private sector, the revised minimum wage would not provide a worker and family
Mrith a decent living. The minimum wage law applies also to agricultural workers
but is not enforced. Thus the majority oiHaitians, who work in the agricultural sector,
must survive on considerably less than the minimum wage.
The Labor Code governs individual employment contracts. The Code sets the normal
workday at 8 nours and the workweek at 48 hours, with 24 hours of rest on
Sunday. It also establishes minimum health and safety standards, particularly for
hazardous occupations. The Government has not systematically enforced labor laws
regarding wages and minimum health and safety reflations. These laws and regulations
are somewhat better observed in the industrial sector, which is concentrated
in the Port au Prince area and is more accessible to outside scrutiny.