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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