Participants: Fédération Internationale des ligues des Droits de l’Homme (FIDH), Réseau National de Défense des Droits Humains (RNDDH), Centre Œcuménique des Droits Humains (CEDH), Comité des Avocats pour le Respect des Libertés Individuelles (CARLI), and the State of Haiti
Topics: Situation of displaced persons following the January, 2010 earthquake in Haiti
On October 26, members of international human rights organizations met before the IACHR to inform the committee of the ever-present human rights violations in Haiti that have escalated since the January 21st earthquake that killed 200,000 people and displaced over 1.5 million more. The hearing was a plea that the IACHR take steps to encourage the Haitian government to better protect the rights of its citizens who face an increased risk of violence, insecurity, starvation and recent outbreaks of cholera and sexual assault against women and children. The reconstruction plan came under particular scrutiny as lacking any measures to protect the rights of Haitian citizens or adequately manage reconstruction projects.
While reporting that the need for support in Haiti remains high, the representatives’ main mission was to request that the IACHR persuade the Haitian government to amend the reconstruction plan. Currently, the plan does not meet the human rights needs of displaced Haitians, because it provides inadequate measures for addressing the severe homelessness and public health crises in displaced persons’ camps. Jimena Demoughin Reyes, from FIDH (Federacion Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme) appealed for the protection of the rights to health, security, clean water and food—all of which are in scarce supply. In particular, the government has provided no protection for displaced persons, especially women and children who are often targets of sexual and other violence. Fito Lesperance, the representative from Reseau National de Defense des Droits Humans (National Network of Defense of Human Rights) reported that unemployment remains high because heads of household cannot leave to find work for fear that their shelter will be taken by other displaced people.
The reconstruction plan has not taken the needs of the displaced into account. Often, people are moved onto government property that often lacks water, fertile soil, or economic opportunities. Mr. Lesperance reported that within three weeks, these lands are deserted and the people have gone back to the cities.
In addition to poor management of the needs of the displaced, the reconstruction plan was criticized for lacking feasibility in Haiti. The plan does not take into account Haiti’s mountainous terrain or propensity for tropical storms, which can severely slow construction efforts unless adequate measures are taken. Mr. Lesperance claims that these measures are not included in the reconstruction plan, and requested that the commission encourage the Haitian government to include them.
The commission asked if the government has developed public policies to address the rights of displaced persons. It also asked what parties it should speak to if it were to conduct a visit to Haiti, given the competition between NGO’s for attention and the lack of a functioning government.
The petitioners emphasized that the government has failed to implement any public policies to protect the rights of displaced persons to safety, food, and especially shelter, and that the reconstruction plan is not adequate to address these needs. Finally, they agreed to discuss further details about whom the IACHR should speak to, should they visit Haiti in the near future.
The Haitian government was not present at the hearing to respond to the commission’s inquiries, despite receiving a thirty-day advance notice. According to an unnamed source at the IACHR, the Haitian government “expressed concern at the large number of sessions” being held by the IACHR on Haiti. The same source explained that there were more hearings than usual this session due to the receipt of more pertinent and appropriate requests for hearings from organizations within Haiti.
The hearing served as an effective informational overview of the variety of human rights challenges in the reconstruction of Haiti following the January 12 earthquake, with the conspicuous absence of a representative of the Haitian government depriving the commission of an opportunity to gain a complete view of the reconstruction plan.