The United Nations has verified a pattern of human rights abuses and violations in Haiti as a result of the wave of protests against the Government and fears that, once again with the “public discontent” as a backdrop, there will be an increase in the number of cases of violent police repression or limitation of basic freedoms, from the assembly to the movement.
Political instability and social crisis have served as a breeding ground for protests dating back to 2018 and in which, according to a new UN report, there have been abuses by both the security forces and armed groups , with hardly anyone being held accountable for what happened. The tensions, far from calming down, still persist.
The opposition has called new protests against the president of Haiti, Jovenel Moise, on the grounds that his mandate expires in February and, therefore, he is about to govern outside of what the Constitution stipulates. Moise promotes a new Magna Carta that will be submitted to a referendum, predictably in April, while the presidential and legislative elections will be held in September, in principle without the presence of the current president.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is “concerned” that “persistent insecurity, poverty and structural inequalities, coupled with increased political tensions,” could lead to further abuses. A spokeswoman for the office, Marta Hurtado, denounced in a statement that the context is “almost total impunity.”
“Political tensions are resurfacing due to the calendar and scope of the referendum on the constitutional reform proposed by the Government” and “calls for massive protests are increasing,” said Hurtado, who fears that the patterns of abuse already seen will be repeated again. in 2018 and 2019, as well as in October and November 2020.
In its report, the UN also gives an account of the effects that the barricades erected in recent years have on the daily lives of Haitians, since they limit their movement and access to basic services such as health or education.
The spokeswoman for the High Commissioner has urged the Haitian authorities to take measures “immediately” so that abuses do not recur, which includes ensuring that the security forces comply with international standards when responding to a demonstration, for example by making use of of force only when strictly necessary, and that the gangs “do not interfere with the right of the population to demonstrate peacefully.”
In addition, according to Hurtado, they must purge responsibilities for previous incidents and ultimately address “the causes that have encouraged the protests,” which include inequalities, corruption and poverty, among other pending challenges.
The spokeswoman, on the other hand, has regretted measures such as presidential decrees that establish a national intelligence agency or reinforce public security. “They are worrying” in the eyes of the UN Human Rights office, given that “preliminary analyzes indicate that they do not seem to be in line with international norms and standards on Human Rights.”
“They can lead to further repression of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, association and expression. Acts of violence committed by protesters in previous protests should not serve as a pretext to curtail fundamental freedoms and reduce civic space,” he said. Hurtado warned.