International Criminology World

World : North America : Haiti

The Spaniards used the island of Hispaniola (of which Haiti is the western part and the Dominican Republic the eastern) as a launching point from which to explore the rest of the Western Hemisphere. French buccaneers later used the western third of the island as a point from which to harass English and Spanish ships. In 1697, Spain ceded the western third of Hispaniola to France. As piracy was gradually suppressed, some French adventurers became planters, making Saint Domingue, as the French portion of the island was known, the "pearl of the Antilles"--one of the richest colonies in the 18th century French empire. During this period, African slaves were brought to work on sugarcane and coffee plantations. In 1791, the slave population revolted--led by Haitian heroes Toussaint L'Ouverture, Jean Jacques Dessalines, and Henri Christophe--and gained control of the northern part of the French colony, waging a war of attrition against the French. By January 1804, local forces defeated an army sent by Napoleon Bonaparte, established independence from France, and renamed the area Haiti. The impending defeat of the French in Haiti is widely credited with contributing to Napoleon's decision to sell the Louisiana territory to the United States in 1803. Haiti is the world's oldest black republic and the second-oldest republic in the Western Hemisphere, after the United States. Although Haiti actively assisted the independence movements of many Latin American countries, the independent nation of former slaves was excluded from the hemisphere's first regional meeting of independent nations, in Panama in 1826, and did not receive U.S. diplomatic recognition until 1862. Two separate regimes--north and south--emerged after independence but were unified in 1820. Two years later, Haiti occupied Santo Domingo, the eastern, Spanish-speaking part of Hispaniola. In 1844, however, Santo Domingo broke away from Haiti and became the Dominican Republic. With 22 changes of government from 1843 to 1915, Haiti experienced numerous periods of intense political and economic disorder, prompting the United States military intervention of 1915. Following a 19-year occupation, U.S. military forces were withdrawn in 1934, and Haiti regained sovereign rule.

From February 7, 1986--when the 29-year dictatorship of the Duvalier family ended--until 1991, Haiti was ruled by a series of provisional governments. When elections were finally organized in 1957, this time under terms of universal suffrage (both men and women now had the vote), Francois Duvalier scored a decisive victory at the polls. His followers took two-thirds of the legislature's lower house and all of the seats in the Senate. Like many Haitian leaders, Francois Duvalier produced a constitution to solidify his power. In 1961 he proceeded to violate the provisions of that constitution, which had gone into effect in 1957. He replaced the bicameral legislature with a unicameral body and decreed presidential and legislative elections. Despite a 1957 prohibition against presidential reelection, Duvalier ran for office and won with an official tally of 1,320,748 votes to zero. Not content with this sham display of democracy, he went on in 1964 to declare himself president for life. For Duvalier, the move was a matter of political tradition; seven heads of state before him had claimed the same title. An ill-conceived coup attempt in July 1958 spurred Duvalier to act on his conviction that Haiti's independent military threatened the security of his presidency. In December the president sacked the armed forces chief of staff and replaced him with a more reliable officer. This action helped him to expand a Presidential Palace army unit into the Presidential Guard. The Guard became the elite corps of the Haitian army, and its sole purpose was to maintain Duvalier's power. After having established his own power base within the military, Duvalier dismissed the entire general staff and replaced aging Marinetrained officers with younger men who owed their positions, and presumably their loyalty, to Duvalier. Duvalier also blunted the power of the army through a rural militia formally named the Volunteers for National Security (Volontaires de la Sécurité Nationale--VSN), but more commonly referred to as the tonton makouts (derived from the Creole term for a mythological bogeyman). In 1961, only two years after Duvalier had established the group, the tonton makouts had more than twice the power of the army. Over time, the group gained even more power. While the Presidential Guard secured Duvalier against his enemies in the capital, the tonton makouts expanded his authority into rural areas. The tonton makouts never became a true militia, but they were more than a mere secret police force. The group's pervasive influence throughout the countryside bolstered recruitment, mobilization, and patronage for the regime. After Duvalier had displaced the established military with his own security force, he employed corruption and intimidation to create his own elite. Corruption--in the form of government rake-offs of industries, bribery, extortion of domestic businesses, and stolen government funds--enriched the dictator's closest supporters. Most of these supporters held sufficient power to enable them to intimidate the members of the old elite who were gradually co-opted or eliminated (the luckier ones were allowed to emigrate). Duvalier was an astute observer of Haitian life and a student of his country's history. Although he had been reared in Port-au- Prince, his medical experiences in the provinces had acquainted him with the everyday concerns of the people, their predisposition toward paternalistic authority (his patients referred to him as "Papa Doc," a sobriquet that he relished and often applied to himself), the ease with which their allegiance could be bought, and the central role of voodoo in their lives. Duvalier exploited all of these points, especially voodoo. He studied voodoo practices and beliefs and was rumored to be a houngan. He related effectively to houngan and bokò (voodoo sorcerers) throughout the country and incorporated many of them into his intelligence network and the ranks of the tonton makouts. His public recognition of voodoo and its practitioners and his private adherence to voodoo ritual, combined with his reputed practice of magic and sorcery, enhanced his popular persona among the common people (who hesitated to trifle with a leader who had such dark forces at his command) and served as a peculiar form of legitimization of his rapacious and ignoble rule. Duvalier weathered a series of foreign-policy crises early in his tenure that ultimately enhanced his power and contributed to his megalomaniacal conviction that he was, in his words, the "personification of the Haitian fatherland."

Duvalier's repressive and authoritarian rule seriously disturbed United States president John F. Kennedy. The Kennedy administration registered particular concern over allegations that Duvalier had blatantly misappropriated aid money and that he intended to employ a Marine Corps mission to Haiti not to train the regular army but to strengthen the tonton makouts. Washington acted on these charges and suspended aid in mid-1962. Duvalier refused to accept United States demands for strict accounting procedures as a precondition of aid renewal. Duvalier, claiming to be motivated by nationalism, renounced all aid from Washington. At that time, aid from the United States constituted a substantial portion of the Haitian national budget. The move had little direct impact on the Haitian people because most of the aid had been siphoned off by Duvalierist cronies anyway. Renouncing the aid, however, allowed the incipient dictator to portray himself as a principled and lonely opponent of domination by a great power. Duvalier continued to receive multilateral contributions. After Kennedy's death in November 1963, pressure on Duvalier eased, and the United States adopted a policy of grudging acceptance of the Haitian regime because of the country's strategic location near communist Cuba. A more tense and confrontational situation developed in April 1963 between Duvalier and Dominican Republic president Juan Bosch Gaviño. Duvalier and Bosch were confirmed adversaries; the Dominican president provided asylum and direct support to Haitian exiles who plotted against the Duvalier regime. Duvalier ordered the Presidential Guard to occupy the Dominican chancery in Pétionville in an effort to apprehend an army officer believed to have been involved in an unsuccessful attempt to kidnap the dictator's son, Jean-Claude Duvalier, and daughter, Simone Duvalier. The Dominican Republic reacted with outrage and indignation. Bosch publicly threatened to invade Haiti, and he ordered army units to the frontier. Although observers throughout the world anticipated military action that would lead to Duvalier's downfall, they saw events turn in the Haitian tyrant's favor. Dominican military commanders, who found Bosch's political leanings too far to the left, expressed little support for an invasion of Haiti. Bosch, because he could not count on his military, decided to let go of his dream to overthrow the neighboring dictatorship. Instead, he allowed the matter to be settled by emissaries of the Organization of American States (OAS). Resistant to both domestic and foreign challenges, Duvalier entrenched his rule through terror (an estimated 30,000 Haitians were killed for political reasons during his tenure), emigration (which removed the more activist elements of the population along with thousands of purely economic migrants), and limited patronage. At the time of his death in 1971, François Duvalier designated his son, Jean-Claude Duvalier, as Haiti's new leader. To the Haitian elite, who still dominated the economy, the continuation of Duvalierism without "Papa Doc" offered financial gain and a possibility for recapturing some of the political influence lost under the dictatorship.

The first few years after Jean-Claude Duvalier's installation as Haiti's ninth president-for-life were a largely uneventful extension of his father's rule. Jean-Claude was a feckless, dissolute nineteen-year-old, who had been raised in an extremely isolated environment and who had never expressed any interest in politics or Haitian affairs. He initially resented the dynastic arrangement that had made him Haiti's leader, and he was content to leave substantive and administrative matters in the hands of his mother, Simone Ovid Duvalier, while he attended ceremonial functions and lived as a playboy. By neglecting his role in government, Jean-Claude squandered a considerable amount of domestic and foreign goodwill and facilitated the dominance of Haitian affairs by a clique of hard- line Duvalierist cronies who later became known as the dinosaurs. The public displayed more affection toward Jean-Claude than they had displayed for his more formidable father. Foreign officials and observers also seemed more tolerant toward "Baby Doc," in areas such as human-rights monitoring, and foreign countries were more generous to him with economic assistance. The United States restored its aid program for Haiti in 1971. Jean-Claude limited his interest in government to various fraudulent schemes and to outright misappropriations of funds. Much of the Duvaliers' wealth, which amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars over the years, came from the Régie du Tabac (Tobacco Administration). Duvalier used this "nonfiscal account," established decades earlier under Estimé, as a tobacco monopoly, but he later expanded it to include the proceeds from other government enterprises and used it as a slush fund for which no balance sheets were ever kept.

Jean-Claude's kleptocracy, along with his failure to back with actions his rhetoric endorsing economic and public-health reform, left the regime vulnerable to unanticipated crises that were exacerbated by endemic poverty, including the African Swine Fever (ASF) epidemic and the widely publicized outbreak of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in the 1980s. A highly contagious and fatal disease, ASF plagued pigs in the Dominican Republic in mid-1978. The United States feared that the disease would spread to North America and pressured Jean-Claude to slaughter the entire population of Haitian pigs and to replace them with animals supplied by the United States and international agencies. The Haitian government complied with this demand, but it failed to take note of the rancor that this policy produced among the peasantry. Black Haitian pigs were not only a form of "savings account" for peasants because they could be sold for cash when necessary, but they were also a breed of livestock well-suited to the rural environment because they required neither special care nor special feed. The replacement pigs required both. Peasants deeply resented this intrusion into their lives. Initial reporting on the AIDS outbreak in Haiti implied that the country might have been a source for the human immune deficiency virus. This rumor, which turned out to be false, hurt the nation's tourism industry, which had grown during Jean-Claude Duvalier's tenure. Already minimal, public services deteriorated as Jean- Claude and his ruling clique continued to misappropriate funds from the national treasury. Jean-Claude miscalculated the ramifications of his May 1980 wedding to Michèle Bennett, a mulatto divorcée with a disreputable background. (François Duvalier had jailed her father, Ernest Bennett, for bad debts and other shady financial dealings.) Although Jean-Claude himself was light-skinned, his father's legacy of support for the black middle class and antipathy toward the established mulatto elite had enhanced the appeal of Duvalierism among the black majority of the population. By marrying a mulatto, Jean-Claude appeared to be abandoning the informal bond that his father had labored to establish. The marriage also estranged the old-line Duvalierists in the government from the younger technocrats whom Jean-Claude had appointed. The Duvalierists' spiritual leader, Jean-Claude's mother, Simone, was eventually expelled from Haiti, reportedly at the request of Michèle, Jean-Claude's wife. The extravagance of the couple's wedding, which cost an estimated US$3 million, further alienated the people. Popular discontent intensified in response to increased corruption among the Duvaliers and the Bennetts, as well as the repulsive nature of the Bennetts' dealings, which included selling Haitian cadavers to foreign medical schools and trafficking in narcotics. Increased political repression added to the volatility of the situation. By the mid-1980s, most Haitians felt hopeless, as economic conditions worsened and hunger and malnutrition spread. Widespread discontent began in March 1983, when Pope John Paul II visited Haiti. The pontiff declared that "Something must change here." He went on to call for a more equitable distribution of income, a more egalitarian social structure, more concern among the elite for the well-being of the masses, and increased popular participation in public life. This message revitalized both laymen and clergy, and it contributed to increased popular mobilization and to expanded political and social activism. A revolt began in the provinces two years later. The city of Gonaïves was the first to have street demonstrations and raids on food-distribution warehouses. From October 1985 to January 1986, the protests spread to six other cities, including Cap Haïtien. By the end of that month, Haitians in the south had revolted. The most significant rioting there broke out in Les Cayes. Jean-Claude responded with a 10 percent cut in staple food prices, the closing of independent radio stations, a cabinet reshuffle, and a crackdown by police and army units, but these moves failed to dampen the momentum of the popular uprising against the dynastic dictatorship. Jean-Claude's wife and advisers, intent on maintaining their profitable grip on power, urged him to put down the rebellion and to remain in office. A plot to remove him had been well under way, however, long before the demonstrations began. The conspirators' efforts were not connected to the popular revolt, but violence in the streets prompted Jean-Claude's opponents to act. The leaders of the plot were Lieutenant General Henri Namphy and Colonel Williams Regala. Both had privately expressed misgivings about the excesses of the regime. They and other officers saw the armed forces as the single remaining cohesive institution in the country. They viewed the army as the only vehicle for an orderly transition from Duvalierism to another form of government.

In January 1986, the unrest in Haiti alarmed United States president Ronald Reagan. The Reagan administration began to pressure Duvalier to renounce his rule and to leave Haiti. Representatives appointed by Jamaican prime minister Edward Seaga served as intermediaries who carried out the negotiations. The United States rejected a request to provide asylum for Duvalier, but offered to assist with the dictator's departure. Duvalier had initially accepted on January 30, 1986. The White House actually announced his departure prematurely. At the last minute, however, Jean-Claude decided to remain in Haiti. His decision provoked increased violence in the streets. The United States Department of State announced a cutback in aid to Haiti on January 31. This action had both symbolic and real effect: it distanced Washington from the Duvalier regime, and it denied the regime a significant source of income. By this time, the rioting had spread to Port-au-Prince. At this point, the military conspirators took direct action. Namphy, Regala, and others confronted the Duvaliers and demanded their departure. Left with no bases of support, Jean-Claude consented. After hastily naming a National Council of Government (Conseil National de Gouvernement--CNG) made up of Namphy, Regala, and three civilians, Jean-Claude and Michèle Duvalier departed from Haiti on February 7, 1986. They left behind them a country economically ravaged by their avarice, a country bereft of functional political institutions and devoid of any tradition of peaceful self-rule. Although the end of the Duvalier era provoked much popular rejoicing, the transitional period initiated under the CNG did not lead to any significant improvement in the lives of most Haitians. Although most citizens expressed a desire for democracy, they had no firm grasp of what the word meant or of how it might be achieved.

In 1987, a constitution was ratified that provides for an elected, bicameral parliament; an elected president that serves as head of state; and a prime minister, cabinet, ministers, and supreme court appointed by the president with parliament's consent. The Haitian Constitution also provides for political decentralization through the election of mayors and administrative bodies responsible for local government.

In December 1990, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a charismatic Roman Catholic priest, won 67% of the vote in a presidential election that international observers deemed largely free and fair. Aristide took office on February 7, 1991, but was overthrown that September in a violent coup led by dissatisfied elements of the army and supported by many of the country's economic elite. Following the coup, Aristide began what became a 3-year period of exile. As many as several thousand Haitians may have been killed during the period of de facto military rule. The coup triggered a largescale exodus of Haitians by boat. The U.S. Coast Guard rescued a total of 41,342 Haitians at sea during 1991 and 1992, more than the number of rescued boat people from the previous 10 years combined.

From October 1991 to September 1994 an unconstitutional military de facto regime governed Haiti. Various OAS and UN initiatives to end the political crisis through the peaceful restoration of the constitutionally elected government, including the Governors Island Agreement of July 1993, failed. When the military refused to uphold its end of the agreements, the de facto authorities refused to allow a return to constitutional government, even though the economy was collapsing and the country's infrastructure deteriorated from neglect.

On July 31, 1994, as repression mounted in Haiti and a UN-OAS civilian human rights monitoring mission (MICIVIH) was expelled from the country, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 940. UNSC Resolution 940 authorized member states to use all necessary means to facilitate the departure of Haiti's military leadership and to restore Haiti's constitutionally elected government to power. In the weeks that followed, the United States took the lead in forming a multinational force (MFN) to carry out the UN's mandate by means of a military intervention. In mid-September, with U.S. troops prepared to enter Haiti by force, President Clinton dispatched a negotiating team led by former President Jimmy Carter to persuade the de facto authorities to step aside and allow for the return of constitutional rule. With intervening troops already airborne, Gen. Raoul Cedras and other top leaders agreed to accept the intervention of the MNF. On September 19, 1994, the first contingents of what became a 21,000 international force touched down in Haiti to oversee the end of military rule and the restoration of the constitutional government. By early October, the three de facto leaders--Cedras, Gen. Philippe Biamby, and Police Chief Lt. Col. Michel Francois -and their families had departed Haiti. President Aristide and other elected officials in exile returned on October 15. Under the watchful eyes of international peacekeepers, restored Haitian authorities organized nationwide local and parliamentary elections in June 1995. A pro-Aristide, multi-party coalition called the Lavalas Political Organization (OPL) swept into power at all levels. With his term ending in February 1996 and barred by the constitution from succeeding himself, President Aristide agreed to step aside and support a presidential election in December 1995. Rene Preval, a prominent Aristide political ally, who had been Aristide's Prime Minister in 1991, took 88% of the vote, and was sworn in to a 5-year term on February 7, 1996, during what was Haiti's first-ever transition between two democratically elected presidents.

In late 1996, former President Aristide broke from the OPL and created a new political party, the Lavalas Family (FL). The OPL, holding the majority of the Parliament, renamed itself the Struggling People's Organization, maintaining the OPL acronym. Elections in April 1997 for the renewal of one-third of the Senate and creation of commune-level assemblies and town delegations provided the first opportunity for the former political allies to compete for elected office. Although preliminary results indicated victories for FL candidates in most races, the elections, which drew only about 5% of registered voters, were plagued with allegations of fraud and not certified by most international observers as free and fair. Partisan rancor from the election dispute led to deep divisions within Parliament and between the legislative and executive branches, resulting in almost total governmental gridlock. In June 1997, Prime Minister Rosny Smarth resigned. Two successors proposed by President Preval thereafter were rejected by the legislature. Eventually, in December 1998, Jacques Alexis was confirmed as Prime Minister. During this gridlock period, the government was unable to organize the local and parliamentary elections due in late 1998. In early January 1999, President Preval dismissed legislators whose terms had expired--the entire Chamber of Deputies and all but nine members of the Senate--and converted local elected officials into state employees. The President and Prime Minister then ruled by decree, establishing a cabinet composed almost entirely of FL partisans. Under pressure from a new political coalition called the Democratic Consultation Group (ESPACE), the government allocated three seats of the nine-member Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) to opposition groups and mandated the CEP to organize the overdue elections for the end of 1999. Following several delays, the first round of elections for local councils--ASEC and CASEK, municipal governments, town delegates, the Chamber of Deputies, and two-thirds of the Senate took place on May 21, 2000. The election drew the participation of a multitude of candidates from a wide array of political parties and a voter turnout of more than 60%.

Controversy mired the good start, however, when the CEP used a flawed methodology to determine the winners of the Senate races, thus avoiding run-off elections for eight seats and giving the FL a virtual sweep in the first round. The flawed vote count, combined with the lack of CEP follow-up of investigations of alleged irregularities and fraud, undercut the credibility of that body, whose President fled Haiti, and two members eventually resigned rather than accede to government pressure to release the erroneous results. This electoral manipulation and the subsequent intransigence of Haitian authorities toward international efforts led by the OAS to assist them take corrective measures, led to sharp criticism of the Government of Haiti from the international community. On August 28, 2000, Haiti's new Parliament, including the contested Senators accorded victory under the flawed vote count, was convened. Concurrently, most opposition parties regrouped in a tactical alliance that eventually became the Democratic Convergence. It was the position of the Convergence that the May elections were so fraudulent that they should be annulled and held again under a new CEP, but only after then-President Preval stood down and had been replaced by a provisional government. In the meantime, the opposition announced it would boycott the November presidential and senatorial elections. Through a number of diplomatic missions by the OAS, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and the United States, the international community had sought to delay Parliament's seating until the electoral problems could be rectified. When these efforts were rebuffed and Parliament was seated, Haiti's main bilateral donors announced the end of "business as usual." They moved to re-channel Haitian assistance away from the government and announced they would not support or send observers to the November elections. From September through late October 2000, the international community attempted unsuccessfully to bridge the differences between the Fanmi Lavalas government and the Democratic Convergence. In the absence of a solution and in keeping with the timetable established by the Haitian Constitution, elections for President and nine Senators took place on November 26, 2000. All major opposition parties boycotted these elections in which voter participation was very low. Jean-Bertrand Aristide emerged as the easy victor of these controversial elections, and the candidates of his FL party swept all contested Senate seats.

The political stalemate that began with the May 2000 legislative elections has continued through the date of this report. On February 6, 2001, the Democratic Convergence named respected lawyer and human rights activist Gerard Gourgue as provisional president of their "alternative government." Gourgue called the act "symbolic," designed to protest flawed elections, yet he also issued a provocative call to re-establish the Haitian Army which then-President Aristide had disbanded upon his return from exile. On February 7, 2001, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was inaugurated as President. Notwithstanding the previous year's electoral controversy, the inauguration marked the first time in the country's history that a full-term president peacefully transferred power to an incoming president. A period of frequent negotiations on the political stalemate, mediated by the OAS, CARICOM, and local civil society groups, occurred between April and July 2001. FL and the Democratic Convergence discussed the possible makeup of a new electoral council, a timetable for new elections, security for political parties, and other confidence-building measures. Although much progress was made, including substantial concessions from both sides, the negotiations were suspended in mid-July without a final agreement. On July 28, 2001, unknown gunmen attacked police facilities in Port-au-Prince and the provinces. A subsequent crackdown on opposition party members and former soldiers by the authorities further increased tensions between Lavalas and Convergence. On December 17, 2001, an unknown number of unidentified gunmen attacked the National Palace in Port-au-Prince. According to the government, several police officers and civilians were killed, and eight people were injured. Following the assault, progovernment groups attacked the offices and homes of several opposition leaders. One opposition member was killed. Negotiations between FL and Democratic Convergence, already on hold following the July violence, were suspended indefinitely. In January 2002, the OAS passed a resolution on Haiti to address the political stalemate, growing violence, and deterioration in respect for human rights. The OAS and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights visited Haiti in February. The OAS visit culminated in an agreement with the government in which the OAS would investigate the December 17 attacks and establish a mission in Haiti in order to create conditions for a renewal of negotiations between the government and the Democratic Convergence.

Since the transition of the 21,000-strong MNF into a peacekeeping force on March 31, 1995, the presence of international military forces that helped restore constitutional government to power was gradually ended. Initially, the U.S.-led UN peacekeeping force numbered 6,000 troops, but that number was scaled back progressively over the next 4 years as a series of UN technical missions succeeded the peacekeeping force. By January 2000, all U.S. troops stationed in Haiti had departed. In March 2000, the UN peacekeeping mission transitioned into a peace-building mission, the International Civilian Support Mission in Haiti (MICAH). MICAH consisted of some 80 nonuniformed UN technical advisers providing advice and material assistance in policing, justice, and human rights to the Haitian Government. MICAH's mandate ended on February 7, 2001, coinciding with the end of the Preval administration.

Today, Haiti is a republic with an elected president and a bicameral legislature. The 1987 Constitution remains in force, but many of its provisions are not respected in practice. As discussed above, the political impasse and political violence stemming from controversial results of May 2000 legislative and local elections continued during the year. In May 2000, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) manipulated the results of the election to ensure that Fanmi Lavalas (FL) maintained control of the Senate. The opposition parties boycotted July 2000 runoff elections and the November 2000 presidential elections, in which Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected with extremely low voter turnout. President Aristide was sworn in on February 7, 2001. During the first half of the year, the international community, including the Organization of American States (OAS), and the country's civil society mediated discussions between the FL and the opposition Democratic Convergence; however, negotiations were not successful and talks were suspended in July following armed attacks on several police stations by unidentified gunmen. On December 17, an unknown number of unidentified gunmen attacked the National Palace in Port-au-Prince; 8 persons reportedly died and 15 persons were injured. Following the attack, progovernment groups attacked opposition members' offices and homes; one opposition member was killed. The 1987 Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, it is not independent in practice and remained largely weak and corrupt, as well as subject to interference by the executive and legislative branches.


As a result of the extinction of the indigenous population by the beginning of the seventeenth century, the population of preindependence Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti) was entirely the product of the French colonists' slaveholding policies and practices. The major planters and government officials who constituted the ruling class carefully controlled every segment of the population, especially the majority of African slaves and their descendants. Society was structured for the rapid production of wealth for the planters and their investors in France.

In the colonial period, the French imposed a three-tiered social structure. At the top of the social and political ladder was the white elite (grands blancs). At the bottom of the social structure were the black slaves (noirs), most of whom had been transported from Africa. Between the white elite and the slaves arose a third group, the freedmen (affranchis), most of whom were descended from unions of slaveowners and slaves. Some mulatto freedmen inherited land, became relatively wealthy, and owned slaves (perhaps as many as one-fourth of all slaves in Saint-Domingue belonged to affranchis). Nevertheless, racial codes kept the affranchis socially and politically inferior to the whites. Also between the white elite and the slaves were the poor whites (petits blancs), who considered themselves socially superior to the mulattoes, even if they sometimes found themselves economically inferior to them. Of a population of 519,000 in 1791, 87 percent were slaves, 8 percent were whites, and 5 percent were freedmen. Because of harsh living and working conditions, many slaves died, and new slaves were imported. Thus, at the time of the slave rebellion of 1791, most slaves had been born in Africa rather than in Saint-Domingue.

The Haitian Revolution changed the country's social structure. The colonial ruling class, and most of the white population, was eliminated, and the plantation system was largely destroyed. The earliest black and mulatto leaders attempted to restore a plantation system that relied on an essentially free labor force, through strict military control, but the system collapsed during the tenure of Alexandre Pétion (1806-18). The Haitian Revolution broke up plantations and distributed land among the former slaves. Through this process, the new Haitian upper class lost control over agricultural land and labor, which had been the economic basis of colonial control. To maintain their superior economic and social position, the new Haitian upper class turned away from agricultural pursuits in favor of more urban-based activities, particularly government.

The nineteenth-century Haitian ruling class consisted of two groups, the urban elite and the military leadership. The urban elite were primarily a closed group of educated, comparatively wealthy, and French-speaking mulattoes. Birth determined an individual's social position, and shared values and intermarriage reinforced class solidarity. The military, however, was a means of advancement for disadvantaged black Haitians. In a shifting, and often uneasy, alliance with the military, the urban elite ruled the country and kept the peasantry isolated from national affairs. The urban elite promoted French norms and models as a means of separating themselves from the peasantry. Thus, French language and manners, orthodox Roman Catholicism, and light skin were important criteria of high social position. The elite disdained manual labor, industry, and commerce in favor of the more genteel professions, such as law and medicine.

A small, but politically important, middle class emerged during the twentieth century. Although social mobility increased slightly, the traditional elite retained their economic preeminence, despite countervailing efforts by François Duvalier. For the most part, the peasantry continued to be excluded from national affairs, but by the 1980s, this isolation had decreased significantly. Still, economic hardship in rural areas caused many cultivators to migrate to the cities in search of a higher standard of living, thereby increasing the size of the urban lower class.

The country has an estimated population of 8 million and is extremely poor, with a per capita income of approximately $500. Estimates of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita are unreliable because they do not include fully significant remittances from the more than 1 million Haitians living abroad, or income from informal sector activities that constitute an estimated 70 percent of actual economic activity. The country has a market-based economy with state enterprises controlling utilities. Aside from the sale of two previously closed parastatals, the privatization of state-owned enterprises has ceased. A small elite controls much of the country's wealth. Approximately two-thirds of the population work in subsistence agriculture, earn less than the average income, and live in extreme poverty. A small part of the urban labor force (approximately 30,000 persons) works in the industrial and assembly sectors, with an equal number in government or service sector employment. Assembled goods, textiles, leather goods, handicrafts, and electronics are sources of limited export revenue and employment. Other important exports are mangoes and coffee. The country is heavily dependent on international assistance and remittances and imports 60 percent of its food. The economic situation worsened significantly during the year. Political instability, deficit financing, depreciation of the local currency (the gourde), and the world fuel price increase contributed to the country's severe economic problems. Episodes of sharp gourde depreciation in September and October, combined with the fuel price increase, resulted in high costs for import-dependent business enterprises, and prices for food and consumer goods remained high. The International Monetary Fund estimated inflation at 18 percent and a growth rate of just over 1 percent.

Since the demise of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986, international economists have urged Haiti to reform and modernize its economy. Under President Preval (1995-2000), the country's economic agenda included trade/tariff liberalization, measures to control government expenditure and increase tax revenues, civil service downsizing, financial sector reform, and the modernization of two out of nine state-owned enterprises through their sale to private investors, the provision of private sector management contracts, or joint public-private investment. Structural adjustment agreements with the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and other international financial institutions intended to create necessary conditions for private sector growth, proved only partly successful.

In 1999, Haiti's economy began to falter after about 4 years of positive, though modest growth. Real GDP growth fell in 2001 by 1.2%. The Privatization program stalled. Macroeconomic stability was adversely affected by political uncertainty, low investment, a significant increase in the budget deficit, and reduced international capital flows. The lack of an agreement with the IMF has prevented the resumption of crucial international assistance. This recent weakening of the economy has serious implication for future economic development as well as efforts to improve the general standard of living.

External aid is essential to the future economic development of Haiti, the least-developed country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest in the world. Comparative social and economic indicators show Haiti falling behind other low-income developing countries (particularly in the hemisphere) since the 1980s. Haiti's economic stagnation is the result of earlier inappropriate economic policies, political instability, a shortage of good arable land, environmental deterioration, continued use of traditional technologies, under-capitalization and lack of public investment in human resources, migration of large portions of the skilled population, a weak national savings rate, and the lack of a functioning judicial system.

Haiti continues to suffer the consequences of the 1991 coup and the irresponsible economic and financial policies of the de facto authorities which greatly accelerated Haiti's economic decline. Following the coup, the United States adopted mandatory sanctions, and the OAS instituted voluntary sanctions aimed at restoring constitutional government. International sanctions culminated in the May 1994 UN embargo of all goods entering Haiti except humanitarian supplies, such as food and medicine. The assembly sector, heavily dependent on U.S. markets for its products, employed nearly 80,000 workers in the mid-1980s. During the embargo, employment fell below 17,000. Private domestic and foreign investment has been slow to return to Haiti. Since the return of constitutional rule, assembly sector employment has gradually recovered with about 25,000 now employed, but further growth has been stalled by investor concerns over safety and political instability.

If the political situation stabilizes, high-crime levels reduce, and new investment increases, tourism could take its place next to export-oriented manufacturing (the assembly sector) as a potential source of foreign exchange. Remittances from abroad now constitute a significant source of financial support for many Haitian households.

Workers in Haiti are guaranteed the right of association. Unionization is protected by the labor code. A legal minimum wage of 36 gourds a day (about U.S. $1.80) applies to most workers in the formal sector.


Roman Catholicism is the official religion of Haiti, but voodoo may be considered the country's national religion. The majority of Haitians believe in and practice at least some aspects of voodoo. Most voodooists believe that their religion can coexist with Catholicism. Most Protestants, however, strongly oppose voodoo.

Misconceptions about voodoo have given Haiti a reputation for sorcery and zombies. Popular images of voodoo have ignored the religion's basis as a domestic cult of family spirits. Adherents of voodoo do not perceive themselves as members of a separate religion; they consider themselves Roman Catholics. In fact, the word for voodoo does not even exist in rural Haiti. The Creole word vodoun refers to a kind of dance and in some areas to a category of spirits. Roman Catholics who are active voodooists say that they "serve the spirits," but they do not consider that practice as something outside of Roman Catholicism. Haitians also distinguish between the service of family spirits and the practice of magic and sorcery.

The belief system of voodoo revolves around family spirits (often called loua or mistè) who are inherited through maternal and paternal lines. Loua protect their "children" from misfortune. In return, families must "feed" the loua through periodic rituals in which food, drink, and other gifts are offered to the spirits. There are two kinds of services for the loua. The first is held once a year; the second is conducted much less frequently, usually only once a generation. Many poor families, however, wait until they feel a need to restore their relationship with their spirits before they conduct a service. Services are usually held at a sanctuary on family land. In voodoo, there are many loua. Although there is considerable variation among families and regions, there are generally two groups of loua, the rada and the petro. The rada spirits are mostly seen as "sweet" loua, while the petro are seen as "bitter" because they are more demanding of their "children." Rada spirits appear to be of African origin while petro spirits appear to be of Haitian origin. Loua are usually anthropomorphic and have distinct identities. They can be good, evil, capricious, or demanding. Loua most commonly show their displeasure by making people sick, and so voodoo is used to diagnose and treat illnesses. Loua are not nature spirits, and they do not make crops grow or bring rain. The loua of one family have no claim over members of other families, and they cannot protect or harm them. Voodooists are therefore not interested in the loua of other families. Loua appear to family members in dreams and, more dramatically, through trances. Many Haitians believe that loua are capable of temporarily taking over the bodies of their "children." Men and women enter trances during which they assume the traits of particular loua. People in a trance feel giddy and usually remember nothing after they return to a normal state of consciousness. Voodooists say that the spirit temporarily replaces the human personality. Possession trances occur usually during rituals such as services for loua or a vodoun dance in honor of the loua. When loua appear to entranced people, they may bring warnings or explanations for the causes of illnesses or misfortune. Loua often engage the crowd around them through flirtation, jokes, or accusations. Ancestors (le mò) rank with the family loua as the most important spiritual entities in voodoo. Elaborate funeral and mourning rites reflect the important role of the dead. Ornate tombs throughout the countryside reveal how much attention Haiti gives to its dead. Voodooists believe the dead are capable of forcing their survivors to construct tombs and sell land. In these cases, the dead act like family loua, which "hold" family members to make them ill or bring other misfortune. The dead also appear in dreams to provide their survivors with advice or warnings. Voodooists also believe there are loua that can be paid to bring good fortune or protection from evil. And, they believe that souls can be paid to attack enemies by making them ill.

Folk belief includes zombies and witchcraft. Zombies are either spirits or people whose souls have been partially withdrawn from their bodies. Some Haitians resort to bokò, who are specialists in sorcery and magic. Haiti has several secret societies whose members practice sorcery. Voodoo specialists, male houngan and female manbo, mediate between humans and spirits through divination and trance. They diagnose illnesses and reveal the origins of other misfortune. They can also perform rituals to appease spirits or ancestors or to repel magic. Many voodoo specialists are accomplished herbalists who treat a variety of illnesses. Voodoo lacks a fixed theology and an organized hierarchy, unlike Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Each specialist develops his or her own reputation for helping people. François Duvalier recruited voodoo specialists to serve as tonton makouts to help him control all aspects of Haitian life. Duvalier indicated that he retained power through sorcery, but because voodoo is essentially a family-based cult, Duvalier failed to politicize the religion to any great extent.


Haiti has provided data neither for United Nations nor INTERPOL surveys of crime; however, an estimate of crime is given in the United States State Department's Consular Information Sheet according to which Haiti continues to experience civil and political unrest. Protests and demonstrations, which can turn violent at any time, day or night, occur periodically throughout the country. Private organizations and businesses may be targets of demonstrations or take-over attempts related to business disputes or extortion demands. Rural areas have become more dangerous.

Local and national elections held in May 2000 remain publicly disputed, and they are expected to dominate the political climate in 2002 as they did in 2001. In the year following the elections and presidential inauguration, activists established unofficial, temporary roadblocks throughout the country, at times cutting off major thoroughfares and the airport. Protesters succeeded in paralyzing Port-au-Prince and other major cities using flaming barricades and bonfires, with U.S. Government buildings serving as the focal points of some of these actions. Recent incidents have included politically motivated violence perpetrated against the offices and homes of political leaders, government offices including the Presidential Palace, and the press. The rhetoric of some activists and popular organizations has been anti-foreign, and the Haitian government has failed to contain or condemn certain violent and dangerous situations. Political events are often held in public areas, and many have turned violent.

On occasion, the U.S. mission in Haiti may have to suspend service to the public or close because of security concerns. In those situations, the Embassy will continue to be available by telephone to offer emergency services to American citizens.

There are no "safe areas" in Haiti. Crime, already a problem, is growing. The state of law and order is of increasing concern, with reports of armed robberies and break-ins, kidnappings, murders and car hijackings becoming more frequent. The police are poorly equipped and unable to respond quickly to calls for assistance. Criminals have kidnapped, shot, maimed and killed several U.S. citizens in recent years. Kidnappings for ransom, in particular, are an emerging problem and several U.S. citizens have been victims of recent kidnappings.

At the Port-au-Prince airport, criminals have often targeted arriving passengers for assaults and robberies. Criminals also watch bank customers and subsequently attack them, and some recent incidents have resulted in the victims' deaths.

High-crime zones include Carrefour, the port road (Boulevard La Saline), urban route Nationale #1, the airport road (Boulevard Haile Selassie) and its adjoining connectors to the New ("American") Road via Route National #1. This latter area, in particular, has been the scene of numerous robberies, carjackings, and murders. Due to high crime, Embassy employees are prohibited from entering Cite Soleil and La Saline and their surrounding environs, and are strongly urged to avoid Delmas 105 between Delmas 95 and Rue Jacob. Neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince once considered relatively safe, such as the Delmas road area and Petionville, have been the scenes of increasing incidents of violent crime.

Holiday periods, especially Christmas and Carnival, often see a significant increase in violent crime. Haiti's Carnival season is marked by street celebrations (Carnival starts the Saturday prior to Ash Wednesday, and continues for four days). In recent years, Carnival has been accompanied by civil disturbances, altercations and severe traffic disruptions, and people attending Carnival events or simply caught in the resulting celebrations have been injured and killed.

Roving bands called "Raras" operate during the period from New Year's Day through Carnival. Being caught in a Raras may be a peaceful and enjoyable experience, but the potential for injury and the destruction of property is high. Raras are organized as celebrations, but a mob mentality can develop as more people join in and alcohol consumption takes its effect. People who would not act out alone find it easier to violently express their frustration as part of the mob, leaving the people and cars that were engulfed in the Rara in danger. Raras generally operate on Sundays until Carnival. During Carnival, Raras continuously erupt without warning. Some Raras have identified themselves with political entities, lending further potential for violence.

Americans and other foreigners have reported the theft of yachts and sailboats along the Haitian coast in recent years. Some of the thefts were carried out by armed gangs, and one foreigner was killed.


Haiti's reputation for human-rights abuses was only a symptom of deeper societal problems. As a United States Marine Corps report noted in 1934, "although possessed of excellent laws, based on the Napoleonic Code of France, Haiti possessed no means of enforcing them . . . . Haiti's prisons were a disgrace to humanity . . . ." Some might argue that little has changed over the years, particularly in the administration of the country's criminal justice system and military penal code."


Although the armed forces were in the past the nation's ultimate law-enforcement agency, they had almost no juridical capability. Armed forces regulations provide for a judicial service, however, and the 1987 Constitution indicates the existence of a Military Court, the jurisdiction of which is limited to times of war or military discipline.

The 1987 Constitution presents a significant theoretical departure from Haiti's past. It proposed a separate police corps and a new police academy under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice. Political developments in Haiti since 1987, however, have precluded implementation of these changes. Nevertheless, the mission of the police corps was almost indistinguishable from the mission spelled out for the FAd'H. The characterization of the police as a corps armée (armed corps) reinforced this similarity in missions.

The only identifiable police force in Haiti operated in Portau -Prince as part of the armed forces. This 1,000-member force had few operational or technical capabilities, even though it was responsible for narcotics and immigration control and criminal investigations. In the late 1980s, the Narcotics Bureau, commanded by an army major, had acquired some visibility and resources of its own, with a reported staff of about twenty-five people.

There was no true rural police. Small garrisons, operating under military department command, with some cooperation from the lowest central government administrative head, section chief (chef de section), were responsible for rural security. In effect, the heads of these 562 rural communal sections (sections rurales communales) functioned as police chiefs, as adjuncts of the nation's military infrastructure. This fusion of civil and military administration continued to be possible because of the broad range of responsibilities assigned to the Ministry of Interior and National Defense.

After 1986 the armed forces failed to reestablish a nationwide police force and to subdue the VSN and other vigilante groups. Some observers have argued that links between the senior army command and remnants of the VSN have paralyzed reforms in Haiti's judicial system. An illustration of their point was the reported incorporation of some VSN personnel into FAd'H units and some members of the VSN, as plainclothes paramilitary agents, in the Dessalines Battalion. Other VSN members found their way into cadres of the Port-au-Prince police force, particularly in the Criminal Investigation Unit (Recheraches Criminelles--renamed in 1988 the Anti-Gang Investigations Bureau), which was traditionally based at the Dessalines barracks. The demise of the Dessalines Battalion and the Leopards, the latter of which had served as Haiti's special weapons and tactics unit, raised questions in the spring of 1989 about the future of a national police force.

The Avril government reported some success in cracking down on abuses within the security services, but violence continued to be a serious problem. Insecurity rose dramatically after 1986 with the formation of ad hoc paramilitary groups that had direct links to the VSN and indirect links to the military. Many of these paramilitary groups engaged in banditry with no political motivation. The security situation in rural regions and at the section chief level remained unclear in 1989.

The human-rights record of post-Duvalier governments was generally negative. A major problem was the inability, or the unwillingness, of the FAd'H to contain domestic political violence. Government and military personnel apparently sanctioned and participated in attacks on politicians and other activists, particularly during the second Namphy government. The Avril government boasted an improved record in this area, but as of mid-1989, it had proved incapable of restoring order.

Haitian military and police often brutally interrogated detainees. Rural section chiefs, who wielded considerable power within their limited jurisdictions, arbitrarily harassed and physically abused citizens, according to some reports. In an effort to address this problem, Avril dismissed a number of section chiefs, and issued a decree in December 1988 that ended appointments of section chiefs and proposed putting the posts up for election.

Harsh conditions prevailed in the prison system. Hygiene, food, and health care were inadequate, and prison staff regularly mistreated inmates. The Avril government closed two facilities closely associated with the repression of the Duvalier regimes-- Fort Dimanche and the detention center of the Criminal Investigation Unit, both in Port-au-Prince--because of the abuses that had commonly taken place there.

Political turmoil between 1986 and 1989 resulted in popular justice and mob violence. The international media reported on some of this violence and featured scenes of burning or dismembered bodies. Continued human-rights violations are likely to attract international criticism during the 1990s. Lasting improvements in internal security, however, appeared unlikely without the establishment of functional civilian institutions and some resolution of the status of the former members of the tonton makouts.

The Government established the Haitian National Police (HNP) in 1995 as the sole security force in the country after disbanding the military (the FAd'H). Despite substantive international assistance and some initial progress, the HNP remains a fledgling institution with inadequate resources. Since President Aristide assumed power in February, 2001, he has filled many key positions with loyalists who often lack experience, training, and credibility. The HNP has between 2,500 and 3,500 officers. Although new cadets are being trained, they are chosen based on political and personal favoritism. Allegations of corruption, incompetence, and narcotics trafficking affect all levels of the HNP. Nevertheless, a cadre of officers trained by U.S., French, and Canadian authorities remains and are committed to protect and serve the country. The HNP has a variety of specialized units, including a crisis response unit (SWAT); a crowd control unit (CIMO) serving Port-au-Prince and the Western department; crowd control units (UDMO's) serving each of the remaining eight departments; a presidential and security unit; a small Coast Guard unit; and a Special Investigative Unit (SIU), formed to investigate high-profile political killings. The SIU is no longer ill equipped and inexperienced; however, it lacks a mandate from the country's political leaders and is largely defunct. Some members of local government councils (CASEC's) exercised arrest authority without legal sanction.

Some members of the HNP have committed human rights abuses. The Government has continued to commit serious abuses during the year 2001, and its generally poor human rights record worsened. There have been credible reports of extrajudicial killings by members of the HNP. Human rights groups also charged the HNP with numerous extrajudicial killings following a June announcement by President Aristide that suspected criminals would be met with "zero tolerance." Unresolved attacks on July 28, 2001, against police stations in Port-au-Prince and the Central Plateau province led to a government crackdown against members of the former military and the political opposition. Police and local officials illegally arrested at least 50 persons; police beat some of those arrested. One opposition party's office was raided, and police arrested its members. Spouses of wanted persons also are arrested. Most of those arrested arbitrarily in August and September were released by year's end. The Government made no progress in solving prominent killings that took place after the FL regained power in 1994. The 2000 killing of journalist Jean Dominique remained unsolved, although a judicial investigation continues. FL Senator and president of the Senate Commission on Public Security Dany Toussaint is a suspect in the Dominique murder. Police officers used excessive--and sometimes deadly--force in making arrests or controlling demonstrations and rarely are punished for such acts.

Vigilante killings are common. Historically, extrajudicial killings often take the form of vigilante actions. In previous years, such incidents occurred without official complicity, especially in rural areas where there is little or no police presence. The populace routinely resorts to vigilante actions in the absence of reliable means of legal redress. On February 8, 2001, in the northern town of Pilate, police were holding eight suspected criminals at the local police station when an enraged crowd stormed the police station and stoned the prisoners to death. The crowd later burned four bodies. Local police tried to save the suspects but were overrun by the crowd. In April, 2001, a gang killed 10 motorists traveling on a Port-au-Prince road. In response, mobs from the adjacent slum of Cite Soleil began searching for gang members. At least 18 persons were killed by the ensuing mob violence. In mid-April a mob attacked two radio transmitters and killed a guard. Accusations of sorcery, particularly in rural areas, have resulted in mob violence and killings.

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 are punished for such acts. Eyewitnesses accused specialized CIMO police units of beating and otherwise terrorizing men, women, and children in numerous incidents, including during the National Penitentiary prison riot on November 15, 2001, and during November and December protests in the towns of Petit-Goave and Gonaives. Torture and other forms of abuse are pervasive. Police frequently beat suspects.

Police mistreatment of suspects at the time of arrest and during detention remains common in all parts of the country. Beating with fists, sticks, and belts is the most common form of abuse. However, in previous years, international organizations have 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). Persons who reported such abuse often had visible injuries consistent with the alleged maltreatment. There have been also isolated allegations of torture by electric shock. Mistreatment also takes the form of withholding medical treatment from injured jail inmates.

The Government's record of disciplining police officers implicated in these offenses is inconsistent. Police almost never are prosecuted for the abuse of detainees. More often the HNP simply fires officers guilty of flagrant abuses. More than 800 officers have been removed since 1996; however, many were rehired during the year 2001. In February President Aristide appointed a new Inspector General of the HNP; however, he has no law enforcement experience. There are some HNP officers in prison for other offenses, although no exact figures were available at year's end.

The Constitution prohibits interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence; however, police and other security force elements conducted searches without warrants. Locally elected officials and local HNP increasingly arrested spouses of suspects. Following the July 28 attacks, police and local officials arrested several spouses of former military and opposition leaders. In general they were released within 1 month.


The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, the security forces have 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 have ignored these provisions. There have been 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 have occurred in underpoliced rural areas. Police often carry out an arrest warrant issued by a judge with little or no evidence. Locally elected officials and local HNP increasingly have arrested spouses of suspects. Occasionally parents ask a judge to imprison a delinquent child.

Certain police jurisdictions routinely disregarded the requirement that a detainee be brought before a judge within 48 hours of his arrest. Although the 48-hour rule is violated in all parts of the country, it most often and most flagrantly is 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 have detained some persons on unspecified charges or "pending investigation." Local human rights organizations often have criticized the Government for arresting persons on charges of "plotting against the security of the state," a charge that they claim is misused for political or personal vendettas.

On July 22, 2001, plainclothes officers, subsequently identified as National Palace security police, arrested Dr. Yves Joseph Blondel Auguste, a prominent doctor and hospital director. The police took him to the Palace for questioning and then transferred him to a local detention facility. A number of national human rights organizations criticized the arrest, calling it illegal, arbitrary, and reminiscent of the actions of former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier's secret police. In early July, Auguste had accused Health Minister Henri-Claude Voltaire of corruption. A judge released Auguste on July 26; he was never charged.

Following the July 28, 2001, attacks on facilities, the Brigade de Recherche et d'Intervention (BRI) (Research and Intervention Brigade), a special squad of the HNP, arrested seven members of the former military throughout the Port-au-Prince area. At year's end, these detainees had not been charged with any crime, nor had they appeared before judges. In addition, on August 22, police arrested four members of the KID opposition party for allegedly carrying illegal weapons. On September 21, a judge ordered them released. Police and local elected officials illegally arrested a number of persons in the Central Plateau towns of Hinche and Belladere following the July 28 attacks. They were released at different periods during the 2 months following the attacks. Human rights organizations reported a sharp increase of arbitrary arrests among the general population after the attacks. In addition, on August 22, police arrested four members of the KID opposition party for allegedly carrying illegal weapons.

Police arrested and detained several journalists during the year 2001.

On May 26, 2001, the authorities arrested Prosper Avril at a book signing. The former general and President of the military government from 1988-1990 had been in self-imposed internal exile since 1995, when he was ordered arrested by then-President Rene Preval. His May 26 arrest was based on the same 1995 warrant. On June 12, 2001, a panel of judges declared that the arrest warrant was invalid and ordered him released. The Government vowed to appeal the decision before the Court of Cassation, the country's highest court, but had not done so by year's end. Instead, Avril remained in prison under new criminal charges based upon incidents of torture in 1990. The opposition and local human rights organizations criticized Avril's continued detention.

In the past, when the authorities received Haitian citizens deported from other countries for having committed crimes, they were generally processed in 1 week and then released. Since March 2000, criminal deportees who already have served sentences outside the country are kept in "preventive detention," with no fixed timetable for their eventual release. According to police officials, the deportees are held in order to prevent an increase in insecurity and to convince them that they would not want to risk committing crime because of prison conditions. The average period of preventive detention for these persons has decreased to approximately 1 month, compared to several months in 2000.

In 1999 the international community expressed concern about the authorities' tendency to detain persons in violation of valid court orders for their release; the practice continued during the year 2001. The joint OAS-U.N. International Civilian Mission in Haiti (MICIVIH) expressed "extreme concern" about 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 2000, approximately half of those prisoners identified in 1999 had been released. By year's end, 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 has resulted in prolonged pretrial detentions, with an estimated 79 percent of the country's prisoners awaiting trial. The problem is most extreme in Port-au-Prince, where 89 percent of those imprisoned in the National Penitentiary are in pretrial detention. The percentage of female and minor detainees in pretrial detention decreased from 98 percent to 88 percent.

The Justice Ministry has made occasional efforts to address the problem of prolonged pretrial detention. In February President Aristide and Justice Minister Gary Lissade visited Fort National and granted clemency to 20 women. On April 24, the Prime Minister and Lissade made a well-publicized visit to the National Penitentiary. Fifty detainees were released when examination of their files showed that even if convicted, their sentences would have been less than time already served. Government officials state that this was the beginning of a renewed emphasis on decreasing the number of pretrial detainees. In May six new judicial officials began working at the National Penitentiary. Although still preliminary, there appear to have been decreases in the prison population, especially in the National Penitentiary, and decreases in the percentage of pretrial detainees system-wide.

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.

The Constitution prohibits the involuntary exile of citizens, and there have been no reports of its use. The July 28 attacks and subsequent crackdown in the Central Plateau forced a number of former military and opposition members to flee their homes. Some had not returned to their homes by year's end, fearing that they would be killed. In addition, several persons arrested and then released during the July 28 events are in voluntary self-exile. More than 20 journalists went into voluntary exile after receiving death threats following the December 17 attack. Self-imposed internal exile is a common practice.


Haiti's legal system reflected its colonial origins. It had a French structure superimposed on a traditional African-Caribbean society. Although Haiti was founded by former slaves, it lacked the parallel or indigenous legal system often found in modern Africa. The legal framework followed the structures and the procedures of French and Roman legal systems. It included local courts, justice of the peace courts, courts of first instance, courts of appeal, and the Court of Cassation (Supreme Court). But the system had little relevance for most of the population. The more senior members of the court system catered to a small urbanized business clientele. The lower echelons of the judicial system employed poorly trained individuals who are likely to be influenced by political and financial pressures at the local level.

Because Haiti was a rural nation, land law and local civil and criminal procedures are of much greater relevance to the majority of the population than are decisions posted by the senior courts in Port-au-Prince and a few larger towns. French was the official language of the legal system, however, even though most people living in rural areas spoke only Creole.

Judges in Haiti were often subject to intimidation, and the entire legal system suffered from a lack of administrative and financial capabilities. Many local courthouses were destroyed during or after the 1986 collapse of the Duvalier regime. Few facilities have been rebuilt.

The Duvalier regimes had selected most of the country's judges. Post-Duvalier governments faced the daunting task of selecting credible judges to preside over courts at all levels. This process had barely begun as of 1989.

Except for brief periods in Haiti's history, military officials controlled the country's legal system. As a consequence, an equitable and functioning judicial system was still largely an abstraction for most Haitians. The army or paramilitary groups, with political or personal motivations, arbitrarily fulfilled law-enforcement functions.

Problems in the country's legal system originated in Haiti's skewed experience with its constitutions. One of the first goals of Haiti's early leaders was to establish law and order while organizing a new government. The solution adopted by figures such as François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Henri (Henry) Christophe, and many of their successors emphasized executive authority along with limited civil or technical administration. A judicial system and municipal powers became extensions of central authority. This arrangement ensured military presence at all levels and branches of government. Incompetence, graft, and violence complicated this structure. One observer, writing at the turn of the century, noted that "Haiti is governed by generals in all sizes."

In 1936, two years after the departure of the United States Marines, Haitian president Sténio Vincent drew up a new constitution that provided a legislature and a judiciary wholly dependent upon the whims of the executive branch. The new constitution stated that "the government makes the constitution, the laws, the regulations and agreements."

Haitian law required that detainees appear before a judge within forty-eight hours, except when they are arrested in the act of committing a crime or when they are detained pursuant to a judicial warrant. In practice, however, prisoners frequently spent long periods in jail while they awaited trial. The absence of a bail system also led to lengthy pretrial detentions. The law further required officials formally to file charges against the accused at least two weeks before trial. The accused had the right to meet with an attorney before trial, but had to pay for it. The state provided no free counsel to the indigent.

Arraignments and trials took place in public, and defendants had the right to be present at their trials. Overall, the criminal justice system suffered from backlogs, the intimidation and influencing of jurists, and the population's widespread reluctance to serve as jurors.

Today, the Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, it is not independent in practice and is subject to significant influence by the executive and legislative branches. Years of extensive corruption and governmental neglect have left the judicial system poorly organized and nearly moribund.

Judges assigned to politically sensitive cases have complained about interference by the executive branch. One judge received threats while investigating the 2000 killing of journalist Jean Dominique.

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 Court of Cassation, the country's highest court, addresses questions of procedure and constitutionality. On June 6, 2001, President Aristide appointed new judges to the Court of Cassation, which had been understaffed since the court president died in September 2000.

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 is abridged widely in practice. The Constitution also expressly denies police and judicial authorities the right to interrogate a person 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 representation. Despite the efforts of local human rights groups and the international community to provide legal aid, many interrogations occur without counsel persons. However, some defendants have access to counsel during actual trials. The Constitution provides defendants with a presumption of innocence and the rights to be present at trial, to confront witnesses against them, and to present witnesses and evidence in their own behalf; however, in practice corrupt and uneducated judges frequently deny defendants these rights.

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. If an accused person ultimately is tried and found innocent, there is no redress for excessive time served in detention.

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 sometimes is lacking as well; some judges are illiterate. While previously judges conducted most legal proceedings exclusively in French, they increasingly use Creole in judicial proceedings. However, language remains a significant barrier to full access of the judicial system.

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 over 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. On June 11, in a first step towards public accountability of the judicial system, the Ministry of Justice opened an officer where persons could file complaints against judges.

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 to try all major crimes requiring a jury trial; each session generally lasts for 2 weeks. During the year 2001, the Port-au-Prince jurisdiction--by far the largest in terms of caseload--again failed to adhere to this stipulation due to difficulties in assembling juries. Criminal assizes in Port-au-Prince have met once a year since 1998, with the last meeting held in June.

In late March, 2001, Maissade mayor Willot Joseph and Hinche mayor Joseph Dongot, accompanied by members of their paramilitary groups, severely beat two local judges who had opened investigations into the actions of the mayors in the detention and beating of opposition members in July 2000. After the beating, the mayors closed the judicial offices in Hinche and Maissade and threatened the employees. On April 17, Justice Minister Gary Lissade ordered the mayors arrested. On April 19, the authorities arrested Dongot; however, Willot went into hiding. The Minister of Justice came under heavy pressure by the Union of Northern Mayors and by the Minister of the Interior to free Dongot, and on April 26, he was released provisionally. There was no further investigation by the Justice Ministry. In December President Aristide replaced the mayors of Hinche and Petit-Goave.

In December 2000, 39 lawyers graduated from the Magistrate's School. In June a class of approximately 80 students began the year-long course of study. The school conducted seminars on human rights and judicial reform during the year 2001.

There have been no reports of political prisoners, although there have been several political detainees.


Prison conditions are very poor, although there have been some improvements. Prisoners with valid release orders continue to be held in defiance of these orders. Former military president Prosper Avril remains in prison despite a June 12, 2001, release order. Criminal deportees who already served full sentences in other countries continue to be held for varying amounts of preventive detention. In June, 2001, President Aristide, reacting to a sharp increase in crime and insecurity, announced a policy of "zero tolerance," urging police and citizens to bypass the judicial system if they caught alleged perpetrators in the commission of a crime. Mobs were subsequently responsible for at least nine killings.

The Penitentiary Administration Management (DAP), with the support of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and international donor countries, improved prison conditions somewhat during the year 2001. However, prisoners and detainees continue to suffer from a lack of basic hygiene, poor quality health care, and in some facilities, 24-hour confinement. Since 6 judges began working on cases at the National Penitentiary during the summer, the prison's population decreased from 2,070 to 1,899; the overall prison population decreased from 3,809 to 3,610 persons.

Overcrowding often prevents the strict separation of 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 report, and prison officials admit, that there are instances of abuse by prison personnel against prisoners; however, no statistics were available at year's end. However, prisoners rarely know their rights and they do not believe that officials will respond to complaints; therefore, they do not file official complaints.

On November 15, 2001, prisoners in the country's largest prison, the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince, rioted. According to onsite interviews by human rights organizations, the revolt began following the death of a prisoner, Max Ambroise. After he apparently complained of hunger, prison guards beat Ambroise to death. Members of the CIMO specialized police unit were brought in to put down the riot. Well-publicized photos showed CIMO agents standing next to rows of naked prisoners lying face down in the main courtyard. Prisoners accused CIMO agents of beating them with sticks, fists, and boots. Local human rights groups requested an independent commission to investigate the riot and CIMO behavior; at year's end, no such commission had been established.

In January the prison system began to correct previous food shortage problems, which had caused the deaths of a number of prisoners. A new Director of Purchasing was hired from the private sector. Penitentiary authorities increased internal controls such as accounting systems; instituted better control over central and outlying food stocks; improved food transportation; and doubled the pay of cooks, which decreased theft. As a result, deaths in prisons decreased from 11 in January to 3 in February. Since then, an average of 5 prisoners have died each month due to various causes, including malnutrition. An estimated 18 percent of deaths still are related to malnutrition, which may be due to the outside environment. In some provinces, more than half of incoming prisoners suffer from advanced malnutrition. Prisons continue to experience water shortages.

The ICRC manages a number of humanitarian programs to improve living conditions within the prison system. On a quarterly basis, the ICRC distributes basic hygiene supplies to the prisons. It also provides funding on an as needed basis to clear prison septic tanks and renovate bathroom facilities. The ICRC also continues to donate reading material, sewing machines, wood, and other items to help prisoners pass the time. Based on recent turmoil, the ICRC has decided to postpone plans to reduce its operations and to delay the departure of some expatriate employees.

The prison system operates at the same budget level as in 1995. Administrators have requested a tripling of its budget, but the political crisis is expected to cause a continuation of budgetary freezes. In August 129 new prison guards were hired and trained. They received training and lectures on proper care and treatment of prisoners.

Most of the prison 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. The Chief Physician resigned in June and was not replaced by year's end. Only the National Penitentiary has a nurse on duty 24 hours a day. Other common sicknesses besides malnutrition are skin problems, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS. Doctors are available in the capital, but they are less frequently available in the provinces. The nurses do not conduct daily checkups on the physical condition of the prisoners. Dispensary supplies are limited. If needed medication is not available through the dispensary, family members must provide it; in cases in which 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 men. However, in January 2000, U.N. Special Rapporteur for Violence against Women Radhika Coomaraswamy reported, based on her 1999 visit, that most female prisoners share living quarters with male prisoners. This subjects women to violence and sexual abuse.

Due to overcrowding, juveniles often are held with adults.

The authorities freely permitted the ICRC, the Haitian Red Cross, 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 the ICRC.


The law provides penalties for rape and domestic violence; however, the Government does not enforce these provisions adequately. According to women's rights groups, rape and other abuse of women is common, both within and outside marriage. A 1998 study by the Haitian Center for Research and Action for the Promotion of Women documented widespread rape and violence against women. The report also found that many women do not report these forms of abuse due to fear, shame, or lack of confidence in judicial remedies. A 1999 survey by UNICEF of violence against women found that 37 percent of women reported they had been victims of sexual violence or reported knowing a woman who had been; another 33 percent reported being victims of other types of physical abuse. The law excuses a husband if he murders his wife or her partner upon catching them in the act of adultery in his home. A wife who kills her husband under similar circumstances is not excused. The Criminal Code dates back to 1832 and many parts of it have not been updated. There are no government-sponsored programs for victims of violence.


Child abuse is a problem. Radio commercials urge parents not to abuse their children physically or mentally. In early September, 2001, Parliament passed a law banning corporal punishment against children. The law ordered all schools to post clearly their policies on disciplinary measures. It also called for the establishment of a commission to determine what disciplinary measures would be appropriate for schools to take.

Rural families have continued to send young children to more affluent city dwellers to serve as unpaid domestic labor in a practice called "restavek" (which means "lives with" in Creole); families of these children frequently received financial compensation. Most local human rights groups do not report on the plight of restavek children as an abuse nor seek to improve their situation. The Ministry of Social Affairs believes that it can do little to stop this practice, regarding it as economically motivated; the Ministry assigned five monitors to oversee the welfare of restavek children. Society holds such children in little regard, and the poor state of the economy worsened their situation.

Port-au-Prince's large population of street children includes many restaveks who have been sent out of employers' homes or who are runaways. There is some anecdotal information indicating that children are involved in prostitution or being trafficked. The Ministry of Social Affairs provides some assistance to street children. In 1998-1999 (last available data), they assisted 887 children. The Haitian Coalition for the Defense of the Rights of the Child (COHADDE) promotes children's rights by conducting awareness raising activities.


The law does not prohibit trafficking in persons, and internal trafficking of children is a problem. Haiti also is country of origin for trafficked men, women, and children. Haitians trafficked overseas are sent largely to the Dominican Republic, the U.S., Europe (mainly France), and Canada. However, most trafficking occurs within the country's borders and involves restavek children. Most children are primarily trafficked for labor, but some are trafficked for purposes of prostitution. The practice of parents sending their children, mainly girls, to work as domestic servants in exchange for that child's room and board has existed in the country for centuries. While many restaveks are well taken care of and receive adequate care including an education, a significant number are subjected to violence, threats, and other forms of physical and mental abuse.

The Government has acknowledged the internal trafficking problem and has taken steps to address it despite severe resource constraints. There is no evidence that the authorities are complicit in trafficking. There is no law specifically prohibiting trafficking in persons, and the Government does not adequately enforce existing labor laws regarding child labor. The Government devotes the bulk of its entire social welfare budget to combating the trafficking of children. For example, the Government ran a media campaign to prevent the mistreatment of children and maintained a hotline for victims. These efforts resulted in the removal of 760 children from abusive households. Government officials then placed rescued victims in shelters and in the care of local NGO's. The ILO, at the Government's request, is developing a framework to address the gap between practice, national legislation, and international standards with regard to combating trafficking in children.


Haiti is a major transshipment point for drugs, primarily cocaine, moving through the Caribbean from South America to the United States. Haiti's counternarcotics objectives for 1998 were to present to Parliament for passage a set of anti-drug trafficking laws, including money laundering and asset forfeiture, which were drafted in 1997; to begin implementing the "National Master Plan for Combating Drugs in Haiti" drafted in 1997; and to target at least one major international narcotics organization for significant interdiction efforts.

Haiti did not meet these three objectives, principally because of the prolonged political impasse between the executive and legislative branches and insufficiencies in its institutional structures. The political stalemate prevented the parliamentary ratification of a Prime Minister with executive authority throughout 1998. This meant that, in accordance with the constitution, no new legislation, including the anti-drug laws and the "National Master Plan for Combating Drugs in Haiti," could be presented to the Parliament for enactment. Although elements of the Master Plan were in fact implemented, efforts by the Government of Haiti (GOH) to investigate, arrest, prosecute, or convict members of international drug trafficking organizations were lacking. This lack of success, however, must be understood in the broader context of Haiti's pervasive poverty, its dysfunctional judicial system, the still limited capabilities of the four-year-old Haitian National Police (HNP), and the inexperience and inadequacy of the two-year-old police Counter-Narcotics Unit (CNU, or in French, BLTS).

Although the specific goals set during the year 1998 were not achieved, Haiti's performance and cooperation with the U.S. improved significantly in a number of key areas. Haiti signed a Joint Intelligence Coordination Center (JICC) agreement with the U.S. The entire staffs of the HNP's Counter-Narcotics Unit and the JICC were polygraphed. Under a DEA-mentored task force concept, the flow of cocaine from Panama through Port-au-Prince airport has been reduced. Port-au-Prince's seaport is now the target of periodic inspections, including by U.S. Customs Service sniffer dogs in November, 1998. The HNP has indicated it will cooperate on the expulsion to the U.S. of third country nationals who are the subjects of U.S. indictments. The Haitian Coast Guard fully cooperated with the USCG "ship rider" program, and is increasingly demonstrating independent initiative at sea. The HNP counternarcotics unit increased the quantity of the drugs it seized without direct U.S. assistance. The GOH also initiated the first joint Haitian-Dominican drug monitoring effort at the Malpasse-Jimani border crossing.

The GOH's failure to install a new Prime Minister and the inability of Parliament to function further stressed Haiti's already weak democratic institutions and infrastructure during 1998. Key counternarcotics legislation remained unenacted throughout the year, depriving the Haitian authorities responsible for the control of drug trafficking (the HNP, Customs, the port authorities, and the judiciary) of needed criminal laws and enforcement tools. Those authorities have continued to suffer from inexperience, lack of resources, and an antiquated legal system. Haiti's poverty--the worst in the hemisphere--makes it highly vulnerable to official narco-corruption. Consequently, Haiti has become an important transit point for multi-hundred kilogram cocaine shipments en route from South America to the United States. There were some indications that drug money laundering, which Haiti has not yet criminalized, took place during 1998.


Internet research assisted by Kathryn Mirr

Criminology Links
Criminal Codes
Incidence of Crime
Drug Trafficking
Legal System
Juvenile Delinquency
Crime Prevention

Other Links
Online literature
Travel tips
International criminal justice agencies
Legal system
News and media
Correspondent email addresses
Distance learning courses
Comparative criminology-related sites

A Comparative Criminology Tour of the World
Dr. Robert Winslow
San Diego State University