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Department of State Reports: Dominican Republic and Haiti PART II

Prison administrators and international human rights observers report a high number of deaths in prison (see Section 1.c.).

b. Disappearance

There were no credible reports of politically motivated disappearances.

On April 27, Claudy Myrthil, the Espace de Concertation candidate for the post of Delegue de Ville in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Martissant was abducted from his home by unknown persons and held captive for 10 days. It is not clear whether his abduction was politically motivated.

In June 1999, recent skeletal human remains were found at Titanyen (near Croix des Missions), an area that often had served as a dumping ground for bodies of victims of political killings during the Duvalier and military eras. The HNP's forensic unit removed the remains with the assistance of foreign experts. Preliminary findings link some of the remains with an April 1999 incident in which HNP officers allegedly arrested eight teenage associates of the gang leader, Hypolite Elysee, whom HNP agents killed in April. Despite the efforts of their families to find them at police stations, prisons, and the morgue the youths were not located. The HNP opened an investigation into the case in June; at year's end the investigation remained open.

c. Torture or other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The 1987 Constitution prohibits the use of unnecessary force or restraint, psychological pressure, or brutality by the security forces; however, members of the security forces continue to violate these provisions. Police officers used excessive--and sometimes deadly--force in making arrests or controlling demonstrations and rarely wereng cished for such acts. Police frequently beat suspects. Torture and other forms of abuse are pervasive.

On July 6, members of the HNP questioned, beat, and tortured a journalist and businesswoman at her home for 2 hours (see Section 2.a.).

According to an opposition political party leader, on July 12, a police commando unit led by Mayor-elect Willo Joseph and local HNP Commissioner M. Jose rounded up and beat seven Espace leaders in Maissade. They were taken to neighboring Hinche where police authorities imprisoned them. The authorities stated that they were arrested for "setting houses on fire." One of the detained persons was dragged through the streets of Maissade by a rope attached to his neck.

According to Marc-Antoine Destin, president of the Confederation of Haitian Workers (CTH), on February 22, HNP officers led by Joanna Lunday, a local judge, kicked and beat a group of about 20 CTH officials at their headquarters in Petionville. Four CTH officials were arrested (see Section 6.a.). They were not charged with any crime, and were later released. The officers and judge have not been disciplined.

Police mistreatment of suspects at both the time of arrest and during detention remains pervasive in all parts of the country. Beating with fists, sticks, and belts is by far the most common form of abuse. However, international organizations documented other forms of mistreatment, such as burning with cigarettes, choking, hooding, and kalot marassa (severe boxing of the ears, which can result in eardrum damage). Those who reported such abuse often had visible injuries consistent with the alleged maltreatment. There were also isolated allegations of torture by electric shock. Mistreatment also takes the form of withholding medical treatment from injured jail inmates. Police almost never are prosecuted for the abuse of detainees.

There were isolated credible allegations of excessive force on the part of the CIMO and UDMO crowd control forces.

The Government's record of disciplining police officers implicated in these offenses is mixed. More often the HNP simply fires officers caught in flagrant abuses. The Government prosecuted six HNP officers during the year, and four received a sentence of 3 years in the Carrefour-Feuilles trial (see Section 1.a.). There are some HNP officers in prison for other offenses, although no exact figures were available at year's end. More than 800 officers have been removed since 1996. The lack of an Inspector General's office within the HNP significantly contributes to a problem with discipline.

There were sporadic instances of brutality on the part of local officials exercising unauthorized law enforcement functions. Especially in rural areas, brutality is perpetrated by members and agents of CASEC's (administrative councils of communal sections), who tend to assume illegally a law enforcement role in the absence of a regular police presence.

A Committee to Judge Jean Claude Duvalier lobbied the French Government for his return to the country. Early in the year, they filed a complaint in a French court asking for his return, but the court dismissed their motion. The group was in the process of appealing this decision at year's end.

Prison conditions remained very poor. The Penitentiary Administration Management (DAP), with the support of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), struggled to improve conditions in the country's prisons. Prisoners and detainees, held in overcrowded and inadequate facilities, continued to suffer from a lack of basic hygiene, poor quality health care, and 24-hour confinement to cells in some facilities. Several prisons experienced water shortages. As of August, the country's 19 prisons held 4,219 prisoners, an increase of about 350 persons compared with 1999.

The prison system continued to experience food shortages. Prison administrators and international human rights observers report a high number of deaths in prison. No official statistics are available; however, prison administrators report that in the month of November alone, at least 10 deaths were reported--5 attributable to malnutrition, 2 or 3 to AIDS, and the remainder to other causes. International human rights observers report that the number of deaths attributable to malnutrition rose significantly at year's end. Many prisons were only able to supply one (as opposed to the required two) meals a day to inmates. Most severely affected were inmates whose diet was not supplemented by food brought by family members. Even in those prisons where two meals were supplied, the food routinely lacked the minimum nutrients established by international standards; many prisoners were malnourished.

The ICRC manages a number of humanitarian programs to improve living conditions within the prison system. It pays for prescriptions not available in the prison pharmacies. On a quarterly basis, the ICRC distributes basic hygiene supplies to the prisons, including soap, bleach, brooms, mops, paper towels, and disinfectants. The ICRC also provides funding on an as needed basis to clear the prison septic tanks and renovate prison bathrooms, showers, and water pumps. The ICRC also donates reading material, sewing machines, wood and other items to help prisoners pass the time.

The DAP is plagued by budgetary and management problems. The prison system still operates on the same budget as in 1995. Even when the administration manages to purchase enough food for all the prisoners, they experience difficulties in delivering the food to the 19 prisons. The prison administration does not have a delivery system, so it is up to the individual prison inspectors to go to the main warehouse and carry out as much food as they can fit in a taxi or local bus. The central warehouse also lacks a control mechanism to ensure that each prison is getting its fair share.

In the past, when the authorities received Haitian citizens deported from other countries for having committed crimes, they were processed in 1 week and then released. However, since March 24, criminal deportees who already have served sentences outside the country are kept in jail, with no timetable for their eventual release. Prosecutor August Brutus said that "preventive measures" are being taken to prevent the "bandits" from increasing the level of insecurity and crime in the country.

Health care services offered to inmates is improving slowly. However, most of the nurses do not receive adequate training. All receive a minimal 3-month training course before beginning work; however, of the system's 60 nurses, at most 5 have completed the 3-year course of instruction necessary to obtain full certification as registered nurses. In October 1999, a new Chief Physician was appointed. He instituted monthly meetings of all the prison healthcare professionals. Every prison has a dispensary, none have hospitals. Only the National Penitentiary has a nurse on duty 24 hours a day. The common sicknesses after malnutrition are skin problems, tuberculosis, and AIDS. In the capital, doctors are available; however this is not always the case in the provinces. The nurses do not conduct daily checkups on the physical condition of the prisoners; the prisoners must first ask and then receive permission to visit the nurse. The dispensaries have a limited supply of medication. If the needed medication is not available through the dispensary, family members must provide it, or in cases when there are no relatives, the ICRC provides funding for the medication on a routine basis in the capital and on a quarterly basis in the provinces.

Fort National prison in Port-au-Prince is the only prison facility expressly for women and juveniles. In other prison facilities, women are housed in cells separate from the men. However, overcrowding often prevents strict separation of juveniles from adults, convicts from those in pretrial detention, or violent from nonviolent prisoners. Many prisoners were held in police holding cells, particularly in the provinces. The National Penitentiary is the only prison originally constructed for use as a prison; all other prisons are former police holding cells.

International human rights observers and prison officials admit that there are instances of abuse by prison personnel against prisoners; however, no statistics were available at year's end. Prison officials report that prisoners did not file any official complaints against prison personnel during the year. However, they also admitted that they are aware that abuse occurs because they have heard oral reports from prisoners. However, the prisoners are afraid to file an official complaint because they fear that the abuse may worsen as a result.

The authorities freely permitted the ICRC, the Haitian Red Cross, MICAH, and other human rights groups to enter prisons and police stations, monitor conditions, and assist prisoners with medical care, food, and legal aid. The Director General of the HNP cooperated with MICAH and the ICRC.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, the security forces continued to use arbitrary arrest and detention. The Constitution stipulates that a person may be arrested only if apprehended during the commission of a crime, or if a written order by a legally competent official such as a justice of the peace or magistrate has been issued. These orders cannot be executed between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., and the authorities must bring the detainee before a judge within 48 hours of arrest. In practice, the authorities frequently ignored these provisions. There were instances of arrests by security forces and local authorities lacking the authority to do so. In particular, arrests by mayors and members of local CASEC's occurred in underpoliced rural areas. Occasionally parents ask a judge to imprison a delinquent child.

On July 12, police beat and arrested seven leaders of the Espace de Concertation party (see Section 1.c.).

The requirement that a detainee be brought before a judge within 48 hours of his arrest was disregarded routinely in certain police jurisdictions, according to NGO's. Although the 48-hour rule is violated in all parts of the country, it is most often and flagrantly ignored in Jeremie, Cap Haitien, Petionville, and the Delmas commissariat of Port-au-Prince. Moreover, arrests sometimes are made on charges (for example, sorcery or debt) that have no basis in law. The authorities also detained some persons on unspecified charges or "pending investigation."

In 1999 the international community was increasingly troubled by the authorities' tendency to detain persons in defiance of valid orders for their release issued by judges. MICIVIH expressed "extreme concern" at these cases, and described the authorities' actions as "completely arbitrary and illegal." Prisoners with histories of opposition to the Government or affiliation with the Duvalier or de facto regimes were affected disproportionately by this practice. By August about half of those prisoners identified in 1999 had been released. By October prisoners still held despite valid release orders included Leoncefils Ceance, Esteve Conserve, Calero Vivas Fabien, Jean-Robert Lherisson, Rilande Louis, Leonard Lucas, Georges Metayer, Alexandre Paul, Jean-Michel Richardson, and Jean Enel Samedi.

As in previous years, the dysfunctional judicial system resulted in pervasive prolonged pretrial detentions, with an estimated 80 percent of the country's prisoners awaiting trial and a third of them for more than one year (see Section 1.e.). The problem is most extreme in Port-au-Prince. A February 1999 compilation of statistics on these cases by MICIVIH showed that of 3,090 prisoners awaiting trial, 1,172 have been held for more than 1 year. Of these, 775 had been held between 1 and 2 years, 287 had been held between 2 and 3 years, and 110 had been held for more than 3 years. Sometimes the charges in these lengthy detentions are minor. Approximately 98 percent of the female and minors in prison are awaiting trial, indicating that the judicial system moves even more slowly for women and children (see Section 5).

In late 1999, Minister of Justice Leblanc announced that resolving the problem of prolonged pretrial detention was a high priority; he reorganized the Port-au-Prince prosecutor's office and attempted to implement a more rigorous schedule for hearings for correctional and criminal affairs. The Government had made little progress at year's end, as resolution of the problem required thorough judicial reform at all levels of the penal process: police, justices of the peace, prosecutors, investigating magistrates, trial judges, and prisons (see Section 1.e.).

In Cap-Haitien, the second largest city and largest city in the North, the judicial system has improved somewhat, although serious human rights violations occur on a routine basis. The Constitution prohibits police detention in excess of 48 hours; however, lengthy delays are routine. In some cases, detainees in police holding cells have been held for more than a month. Those accused of crimes and awaiting trial face lengthy delays in reaching trial. In many cases, pretrial detainees spend years awaiting trial. Human rights organizations note that the average wait before trial has increased from 3 to 4 years. Nevertheless, they report that beatings of prisoners have decreased in Cap-Haitien and active efforts are being made to decrease the lengths of pretrial confinement.

Police in some instances attacked journalists (see Section 2.a.).

The Constitution prohibits the involuntary exile of citizens, and there were no reports of its use.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, it is not independent in practice. Years of rampant corruption and governmental neglect have left the judicial system poorly organized and nearly moribund. The Constitution sets varying periods of tenure for judges above the level of justice of the peace. However, in practice the Ministry of Justice exercises appointment and administrative oversight of the judiciary, prosecutors, and court staff. The Ministry of Justice can remove justices of the peace and occasionally dismisses judges above this level as well.

At the lowest level of the justice system, the justices of the peace issue warrants, adjudicate minor infractions, mediate cases, take depositions, and refer cases to prosecutors or higher judicial officials. Investigating magistrates and public prosecutors cooperate in the development of more serious cases, which are tried by the judges of the first instance courts. Appeals court judges hear cases referred from the first instance courts, and the Supreme Court deals with questions of procedure and constitutionality.

The judicial apparatus follows a civil law system based on the Napoleonic Code; the Criminal Code dates from 1832, although it has been amended in some instances. The Constitution provides for the right to a fair public trial; however, this right was abridged widely in practice. The Constitution also expressly denies police and judicial authorities the right to interrogate persons charged with a crime unless the suspect has legal counsel or a representative of his of her choice present or waives this right; however, this right was abridged in practice. While trials are public, most accused persons cannot afford legal counsel for interrogation or trial, and the law does not require that the Government provide legal rewd centation. Despite the efforts of local human rights groups and the international community to provide legal aid, many interrogations without counsel occur. During actual trials, however, some defendants had access to counsel. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and the right to be present at trial, to confront witnesses against them, and to present witnesses and evidence in their own behalf, and the Government respects these rights in practice.

A shortage of adequately trained and qualified justices of the peace, judges and prosecutors, as well as underfunding, among other systemic problems, created a huge backlog of criminal cases, with many detainees waiting months or even years in pretrial detention for a court date. Bail is available; however, it is entirely at the discretion of the investigative judge (juge d'instruction). Bail hearings are not automatic. The attorney for the defendant can make an application based upon a specific need, and the judge then decides if a conditional release is warranted. This usually is done only in minor cases when there is an overwhelming humanitarian reason, such as a need for medical attention. In some regions, there are not enough judges to hear cases, and judges lack basic resources (such as office space, legal reference texts, and supplies) to perform their duties. Professional competence is sometimes lacking as well; some judges are illiterate. If an accused person ultimately is tried and found innocent, there is no redress against the Government for excessive time served in detention.

The Code of Criminal Procedure does not assign clear responsibility to investigate crimes and divides the authority for cases among police, justices of the peace, prosecutors, and investigative magistrates. Examining magistrates often receive files that are empty or are missing police reports. Autopsies are conducted only rarely, and autopsy reports are even more rare. The code provides for 2 criminal court sessions (assizes) per year in each of the 15 first-instance jurisdictions, each session generally lasting 2 weeks, to try all major crimes requiring a jury trial. During the year, the Port-au-Prince jurisdiction--by far the largest in terms of caseload--failed to adhere to this stipulation due to difficulties in assembling juries. The first criminal assizes since July 1998 occurred in Port-au-Prince in December 1999. The second was held almost 1 year later in September.

At least 3 classes of approximately 80 students have graduated from the Magistrates School. The school conducted seminars on human rights and judicial reform during the year.

There were no official reports of political prisoners.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The Constitution prohibits interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence; however, police and other security force elements conducted illegal warrantless searches. In the past there were reports that the police arrested family members of wanted persons when the suspects themselves could not be found.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the Government has in the past generally respected these rights; however, the Government's respect for the press deteriorated during the year. Print and electronic media from opposite ends of the political spectrum often criticize the Government. However, most media practice self-censorship, wary of offending sponsors or the politically influential. After the November 26 presidential elections, death threats proliferated against media figures who questioned the electoral process or outcomes. Although the threats were anonymous, the Government did nothing to counter them. Three radio station were forced to stop temporarily news programming for brief periods in late November and December as a direct result of threats against the stations for their coverage of the elections.

There are two French-language newspapers in the country, Le Nouvelliste and Le Matin, with a combined circulation of less than 20,000 readers. Print media in Creole is limited due to regional variations and the lack of a consistent orthography; however, many newspapers include a page of news in Creole. Both daily newspapers are frequently critical of government policies.

The written press is beyond the reach of many citizens, due to language differences, illiteracy, and cost. The literacy rate is only about 20 percent, and broadcast media, especially Creole-language radio, have a preeminent importance. Although most radio stations and other forms of telecommunications are nominally independent, they are subject to a 1997 law that names the State as the sole owner and proprietor of all telecommunications media. Members of the press believe that the Government refuses to sign the Chapultepec Convention (on freedom of expression) because the Convention prohibits government monopolies of the media, which would be in direct violation of the 1977 law. The State leases the right to broadcast to private enterprises but maintains the right to repossess the airwaves as it sees fit.

Over 200 private radio stations exist, including about 40 in the capital alone. Most stations carry a mix of music, news, and talk show programs, which many citizens regard as their only opportunity to speak out on a variety of political, social, and economic issues. Uncensored foreign satellite television is available; however, its impact is limited, as most persons cannot afford access to television. Broadcast media freely express a wide range of political viewpoints.

Credible reports indicate that the Government's inability or unwillingness to provide adequate security to media outlets and prominent members of the press has contributed to an increased sentiment of vulnerability among those members of the press who criticize the Government or Fanmi Lavalas.

According to employees of Radio Metropole, on February 11, Prime Minister Alexis publicly criticized the station for its coverage of rightwing leader Claude Raymond's death while in prison; however, none of the reported items were inaccurate.

On April 3, unknown persons killed radio commentator Jean Leopold Dominique and a security guard (see Section 1.a.).

On December 15 two youths killed sports broadcaster Geral Denoze; the motive remained unknown at year's end.

Numerous anonymous death threats have been directed at journalists by name, including the entire news staff of Radio Vision 2000, which is known for its opposition to the Government. On April 5, Radio Vision 2000 journalists sent a signed letter to Justice Minister Camille Leblanc, in which they described "daily threats against their lives." They asked the Minister to ensure security for the radio staff and building. Following Jean Leopold Dominique's funeral on April 8, a group of at least 100 persons massed outside the station, threatening to attack it. The CIMO dispersed the crowd. A few days after Dominique's murder, Daly Valet, a Radio Vision 2000 journalist, went into hiding after receiving frequent and credible death threats. He fled the country. In June heavily armed, hooded men painted slogans on the wall of the station and threatened newsroom employees. In face of threats, Radio Galaxie suspended its news service the day after the November 26 elections. That same day Radio Vision 2000 joined Radio Galaxie in suspending its service following the receipt of threats. Radio Caraibes shut down its news service on December 23, after receiving threats to the station and personnel.

On April 4, hooded, armed men attacked the Radio Unite station in Artibonite province. They stole transmitters and destroyed much of the recording studios and electrical installations.

According to employees of Radio Echo 2000 in Petit Goave, on April 5, a group of armed men entered the station and threatened to burn the station down and kill the employees if they did not cease broadcasting. The police did not respond. In March a group of bandits beat one of the journalists, Elyse Sincere.

On April 17, presidential staff employee and information officer Guy Delva organized a march "to protest attacks against freedom of the press," coercing independent media to take part or else be stigmatized as antigovernment agitators. He also pressured news directors by telephone to cease broadcasting on April 17, lest they be branded as opponents of the event. Radio news sections sent representatives to the march in small numbers to avoid open defiance, but all refused to shut down their programming on April 17.

In May unknown persons destroyed radio and television stations in Petit-Goave.

In June a private radio station, Horizon PM, issued an open nationwide alert, noting that its editor and several of its employees had received anonymous verbal threats.

In August unknown persons hurled a fragmentation grenade at the National Television Building in Port-au-Prince. No one was injured.

On August 22, agents from TeleTimoun, the television station wholly owned by the FL, entered and offered the news staff quadrupled salaries, connected cell phones, and freedom from fear of future harassment to those Telemax employees who accepted the offer. All but one person accepted. The Telemax news service, previously the country's most objective and technically advanced, subsequently was staffed with Lavalas supporters and objective reporting ceased.

Foreign journalists generally circulated without hindrance from the authorities; however, in July police questioned, beat, and tortured a dual national journalist in her home (see Section 1.c.). The journalist identified the officers from a police line-up. The police commissioner who orchestrated the event was fired on other charges not related to this incident. At year's end, the Government had not apprehended, charged, or disciplined the officers, even though the victim had identified them.