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Haiti : Overpopulation of Prisons and Discrimination against Women and Children

Concerns expressed by The IACHR, the CEDH and the SOFA

P-au-P., 27 Apr. 07 [AlterPresse] --- The conditions of detention in the national Penitentiary, the largest civil prison of Port-au-Prince, are causing increasing concerns by human rights organizations, of which the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS).

« The national Penitentiary, built for a maximum of 800 persons, is actually lodging more than 2500 prisoners, of whom 2418 are still waiting to be judged », remarks the IACHR at the end of its recent visit to the Haitian capital.

This one week visit endeavours to obtain information on human rights in Haiti and, more in particular, to observe the latest developments in the Haitian judicial administration.
According to the IACHR, the precarious conditions of detention in the civil prison of Port-au-Prince constitute a flagrant violation of the Haitian criminal code and international conventions concerning personal rights.

In spite of the fact that this positioning should be considered as « a simple diplomatic formality » by the director of the Ecumenist Centre for Human Rights (CEDH), Jean-Claude Bajeux, this last one estimates that the observations of the Inter-American Commission “reflects the expressed concerns” at the moment of reunions with the Haitian human rights sectors.

The situation in Haitian prisons is “shameful”, according to an incensed Jean-Claude Bajeux, in a communication to AlterPresse. He suggests to mobilise resources for a better functioning of the judicial system and the installation of “at least 40 offices” around the country, in order to deal with hundreds of cases of detention that await to be judged.

The IACHR pushes the Haitian state to take urgent and concerted measures in order to solve this situation by revising especially those police records of the prison population, in a way to make an evaluation of the cases.

The IACHR declares itself also worried about the hard conditions of detention of children and asks the concerned governments to take urgent and appropriate measures to redress the situation.

“Boys and girls, hardly 10 years old, are detained in prisons in stead of being placed in a rehabilitation centre here fore provided, the reception centre, which is currently not functional”, denounces the organisation.

In addition, the information received by the commission reveals a strong discrimination in Haitian society, notably against women and children, emphasises the IACHR.

“This discrimination is present at all levels of public and private life and affects women and children by depriving them of access to basic services, such as education, health care, as well as to equal participation in political activities”, specifies the commission.

Carole Jacob of the feminist organisation Haitian Women Solidarity (SOFA) agrees with the observations of IACHR, which she qualifies as “important”. In spite of making any progress, the situation of women’s rights in Haiti deteriorates “worrisome”, she stresses during a telephone conversation with AlterPresse.

The director of SOFA hopes that the standpoint of the IACHR “will have positive influences on Haiti and its government” and “will put on the table the government’s obligation to apply the international conventions ratified by Haiti.

The delegation of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, led by the reporter for Haiti, Clare K. Roberts, has staid in the country from the 16th until the 20th of April 2007.
In addition, the members of this delegation say they are aware of the significant efforts in terms of security and reinforcement of the rule of law in Haiti.

The IACHR also remarks the urgent necessity to provide basic services to the population, an essential condition for everyone to be able to enjoy their civil, political, social and economic rights. [do me gp apr 27/04/2007 16:30]