With the end of the UN’s peacekeeping presence in Haiti in sight, the UN’s human rights chief told the Security Council on Wednesday that the country now stands “at the crossroads between peacekeeping and development”, urging all concerned parties to continue building on progress made, or “risk losing it” altogether.
While encouraged by civil society’s engagement in promoting and protecting human rights, along with the victims of human rights violations, Michelle Bachelet acknowledged that “it has not been able to fully assume a monitoring and advocacy role.”
She noted that some civil society organizations continue to be targeted by acts of intimidation saying that it “must stop”, urging everyone with a stake in the Caribbean nation’s future, “to work together to strengthen the human rights protection system”.
Calling Haiti’s return to constitutional order, following presidential, legislative and local elections in 2017, “a significant achievement”, Ms. Bachelet added that standing “at the crossroads” between peacekeeping and development, “we must recognize the progress accomplished”, and “also continue building on it, or risk losing it”.
The High Commissioner encouraged the Council to provide Haitians with “the necessary support to strengthen institutions, fight against impunity and promote and protect human rights as a foundation to stability and development”.
She said that February’s protests – “the longest and most violent” in years, had “almost entirely paralysed the country”, despite significant improvements in the professionalism of the UN-supported National Police, incidents of serious human rights violations, including cases of summary executions, continue to be reported, with limited accountability.
“Perpetrators are consequently emboldened and silenced victims may develop grievances,” she added. The weakness of the judicial system also has a negative impact on the prisons system she noted, with over 75 per cent of inmates estimated to be in a pre-trial detention — on average for 1,100 days — well over the limit set by national law.”
She also informed the Chamber that after the current Mission for Justice Support, MINUJUSTH concludes, her office intends to pursue its work in the country, and eventually, with the support of the Council and Member States, “a stand-alone presence”.
“We want to remain engaged and to support Haiti’s commitment to achieving democratic and economic development so that the rights of all people in Haiti are upheld”, stressed the High Commissioner.