The Urgent Need to Consolidate Democracy and the Rule of Law in Haiti

Gaël Pétillon*

Versión en español aquí. 

According to the Haitian Constitution, the legislative, executive, and judicial powers constitute the essential foundation on which the State’s organization is based. Within the exercise of their respective powers, duties, and functions, they are entirely independent. However, since January 2020, the failure to hold legislative elections has resulted in a gradual deterioration of this branch of power, the mandate of all deputies and two thirds of the senate having ended. The assassination of President Jovenel Moïse on the night of July 6th to 7th, as well as the death of the President of the Court of Cassation have worsened the situation from an institutional standpoint. This situation has exacerbated the dysfunction of the three branches: the National Assembly and the Superior Council of the Judiciary (Conseil Supérieur du Pouvoir Judiciaire – CSPJ) are now null, while the executive struggles to lead the nation effectively. An institutional vacuum is being created on top of the political and health crisis. Moreover, the recent earthquake of August 14, 2021 generated additional urgent needs, further exacerbating the aforementioned shortcomings and suggesting an upcoming deterioration of the human rights situation in Haiti.

The Recurrence of Violent Acts

For more than two years, Haitians have been facing an increase in organized banditry, with armed groups being present in several neighbourhoods of the capital and other provincial towns. This banditry has resulted in numerous gross human rights violations, including massacres, kidnappings, rapes, and street assassinations. Some neighbourhoods, under the control of armed groups who regularly clash to gain more territory, are left to their own devices, the bandits having driven the police away from precincts.

The proliferation of these groups and the recurrence of violent clashes have led to the displacement of nearly ten thousand Haitians, particularly affecting populations in vulnerable situations such as women, children, people living in poverty, as well as those living with disabilities. Typically living in makeshift shelters, these internally displaced people are subject to all kinds of human rights violations. When fleeing their homes, women and girls are particularly vulnerable to gender-based violence, including but not limited to sexual violence.

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From hope to skepticism: The International Commission Against Impunity in El Salvador (CICIES)

Last week, as the number of COVID-19 cases in El Salvador climbed to at least 32, Salvadoran Congress approved a two-billion dollar loan for emergency government funding to combat the pandemic. Because Congress approved the funds during a state of emergency, the executive branch has more discretion in how the money is spent than it would under normal conditions. At the same time, government restrictions on freedom of the press have been ramped up, making it more difficult for journalists to obtain and share information. Salvadoran civil society is already monitoring these actions for potential corruption; however, the increased powers afforded to the executive branch – and increased restrictions on civil society – in the current crisis mean that now, more than ever, El Salvador must have effective anti-corruption mechanisms in place. The International Commission Against Impunity in El Salvador (CICIES), established last year, should be playing a visible and vigilant role right now; in this article, DPLF outlines some of the major concerns about CICIES, its formation, and its current status, all of which may impede its ability to play such a role.

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The Uncertain Future of Reparations in Post-Conflict El Salvador

Leonor Arteaga and Amanda Eisenhour*

  • Civil society has pushed the government of El Salvador to establish both symbolic and material reparations programs for war victims through executive decrees.
  • These programs, while crucial first steps, have been plagued since their inception with chronic underfunding, ineffective and splintered bureaucracy, and the exclusion of victims.
  • These programs could be at greater risk as the Bukele administration dissolves a key department implementing reparations, and the programs remain without legislative backing.

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On the anniversary of the murder of St. Oscar Romero, new possibilities for justice?

DPLF Team, with thanks to Ali Boyd for her assistance*

On March 24, 1980, Oscar Romero became the most emblematic casualty of the brutal civil war in El Salvador, which would go on to last twelve years. As the culmination of a deliberate state plot, he was shot and killed while celebrating mass. More than 75,000 civilian victims would come to share the fate of the Archbishop of San Salvador during the course of the war. Though the conflict was then in its infancy, Romero unequivocally denounced the violence, prophetically speaking directly to the death squads and to government officials during his weekly homily less than 24 hours before he was killed. The murder of the beloved Archbishop has galvanized the Salvadoran people for the last four decades. And with the canonization of Oscar Romero in October of 2018, the fight for justice at home – in the domestic court system – has once again captured the headlines. Seguir leyendo