Haiti at crossroads faces backsliding risk, U.N. says

A United Nations human rights official Monday said that while Haiti shows encouraging signs of progress, it is still facing challenges such as justice reform and poverty, and called on the international community to support the country’s long-term development.

“Haiti is at a crossroads. If the right steps are taken on a number of key issues, there is potential for progress – but at the same time, there are risks of backsliding,” said Ivan Šimonovic, who just finished a four-day visit to the Caribbean nation on Saturday. He is the assistant secretary-general for human rights.

During his visit, Šimonovic met with senior Haitian officials and local representatives to discuss the human rights challenges ahead of the U.N. Security Council’s revision of the mandate of the U.N. stabilization mission there.

Šimonovic visited the national penitentiary, where some 3,400 inmates live in precarious conditions. He noted that only 278 inmates have been convicted, while the rest are in prolonged pre-trial detention and stressed that this calls for stronger rule-of-law institutions.

“Police reform is not enough,” he said. “A more independent, reliable and efficient justice system is necessary to resolve not only this situation but to ensure that the rights of the population are better protected, including land rights. The ongoing penal code reform must be concluded without delay and should enable prosecution of past grave human rights violations in line with Haiti’s international legal obligations.”

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