HAITI: Children's Rights in the UN Special Procedures' Reports

Summary: This report extracts mentions of children's rights issues in the reports of the UN Special Procedures. This does not include reports of child specific Special Procedures, such as the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, which are available as separate reports.

Please note that the language may have been edited in places for the purpose of clarity

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Report by the UN Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights (2013)

Country visit: 2 – 9 March 2013

Report not yet available


Report by the Independent Expert on human rights in Haiti (2011)

Visit undertaken from 20-27 February 2011

See press release (in French)


Report by the UN Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights, Michel Frost (2008)


Country visit: 18 – 28 November 2008

Report published: 26 March 2009

Mr. Forst identified the following concerns:

Juvenile Justice: While the situation relating to prolonged pretrial detention in Haiti has been the subject of much literature and many recommendations, the independent expert nevertheless notes with regret the delaysin the implementation of most of the recommendations. It should be pointed out that, according to the figures supplied by MINUSTAH, in November 2008 the rate of pretrial detention was still 80 per cent, being higher in the jurisdiction of the West Department (86 per cent) than in the other jurisdictions of the country (70 per cent on average). The average length of pretrial detention is about two years for felonies and between 12 and 18 months for misdemeanours. Over 4 per cent of detainees awaiting trial are juveniles. More than 3 per cent of remand prisoners are awaiting trial for petty offences, their confinement being unlawful or arbitrary, 80 per cent of remand prisoners’ cases are held up at the prosecution or investigation stage and only 7 per cent of cases are currently being tried. (para 42)

In the opinion of the independent expert, juvenile justice is a further cause for concern. During his mission, he witnessed several instances where juveniles, in some cases young children, were remanded in custody but not brought before a judge owing to the lack of a children’s magistrate in the jurisdiction concerned. He also witnessed instances where juveniles shared accommodation with convicted or remand adults or cases involving juveniles still confined in the two youth prisons in

Port-au-Prince even though care orders had been issued by the juvenile court and solutions should have been found in conjunction with the Institute for Social Welfare and Research. (para 49)

The juvenile court in Port-au-Prince is experiencing operational difficulties but the excuses put forward to account for this irregular situation do not appear convincing. The previous Minister of Justice and Public Safety, René Magloire, had appointed youth judges in each jurisdiction. Although not yet trained, these judges can be assigned juvenile matters and, if they are not competent to pursue them, the cases are transferred to the children’s magistrate in Port-au-Prince or Cap-Haïtien. (para 50)

The independent expert recommends that due attention be paid to the issue of youth imprisonment and that the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been ratified by Haiti, form the subject of a debate and policy shift given that incarceration is still the only solution contemplated to address the problems of children in conflict with the law, whereas it should only be used as a last resort. In this regard, he advocates the adoption, in the Juvenile Code, of provisions promoting youth crime prevention strategies, alternative non-custodial measures and the implementation of effective rehabilitation and reintegration programmes, while encouraging foster care in the case of some non-serious crimes. (para 51)

The independent expert welcomes the official commencement of work on building the juvenile court in Cap-Haïtien and recalls that, under the Law of 9 September 1961, specialized youth courts had been set up in five towns in Haiti but they have never been operational; only the juvenile court in Port-au-Prince provides specialized responses in juvenile justice matters. The establishment of the juvenile court in Cap-Haïtien will make it possible to try youth offenders in shorter periods within the Cap-Haïtien appeal court’s jurisdiction, avoid prolonged pretrial detention of minors within the jurisdiction and handle cases involving children in conflict with the law in conformity with the United Nations minimum rules. (para 52)

On the judicial system, [the independent expert] recommends the following:


(f) Due attention to the issue of youth imprisonment and to the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child;

(g) Adoption, in the Juvenile Code, of provisions promoting youth crime prevention strategies, alternative non-custodial measures and the implementation of effective rehabilitation and reintegration programmes, while encouraging foster care in the case of some non-serious crimes;

(…) (para 88)

Violence: Since the ratification by Haiti of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women, the country has seen considerable advances in women’s rights and in awareness of the actual issues involved, although instances of violence against women and girls have continued to be reported by the major intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. The independent expert has had the opportunity to meet the two succeeding Ministers on the Status of Women and Women’s Rights and learnt with great interest of the action taken by the National Forum on Violence against Women. He also attended, in January 2009, the very good presentation of the State party’s report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and welcomed the announcement on that occasion, by the President of the Senate, of Haiti’s forthcoming accession to the Optional Protocol to the Convention, a mechanism which makes it possible for organizations and individuals to lodge complaints concerning violations of rights in States parties that have ratified the Protocol and for the Committee to initiate investigations. (para 67)

While these are positive announcements, the independent expert wishes again to draw attention to this national scourge of violence suffered by women and girls, in particular rape in all its forms and especially violence in the domestic sphere, although the true extent of the problem is not fully known owing to a lack of comprehensive figures. According to the Minister on the Status of Women, rape, attempted rape and sexual harassment can form the subject of complaints under the provisions of the Criminal Code which deal with rape, indecent assault and aggravating circumstances relating to the status of the perpetrator, but sexual harassment could in fact be said to be tolerated by society and the State. (para 68)

In practice, notwithstanding the assault on their physical integrity, it is the adverse prejudice against women and pressure by the perpetrator of the violence or his family or even by the victim’s own family which deter them from bringing cases to court through fear of reprisals or scruples about speaking in public on a matter that is both intimate and humiliating. However, the independent expert wishes to point out that the number of incidents of sexual violence against women and girls recorded in recent years has apparently increased but it is not possible to establish with certainty whether this increase is due to trivialization of such violence or to consciousness-raising activities which have persuaded an increasing number of victims to report such acts. (para 69)

The independent expert has noted that stereotypes, i.e. society’s portrayal of women’s and men’s roles, are still deeply rooted in attitudes in Haiti, which is at variance with the predominant role played by women in the economy and within the family. He recommends that the Minister on the Status of Women continue and extend the large-scale campaign to eradicate sexist stereotypes in schools, the media and advertising. (para 72)

On combating violence against women, he advocates the following:

(a) Continuation and extension of the large-scale campaign to eradicate sexist stereotypes in schools, the media and advertising;

(b) Adoption of the law on all forms of violence against women including domestic violence, the law on filiation and responsible parenthood and the law on working conditions of paid domestic staff. (para 92)

Migration: The independent expert travelled to the north-east of the country and the border with the Dominican Republic, in particular to Ouanaminthe, where he witnessed the major problem of wealth inequality and migratory flows between Haiti and the Dominican Republic in connection with mass expulsions, labour exploitation and under-registration of births, which affect a large part of the population who inhabit or cross this border region. (para 74)

Kidnappings: The independent expert intends to continue exploring this matter during his next missions and to report to the Human Rights Council on, inter alia, the issues of kidnapping, adoption and forced labour of children under the restavek (“stay with”) system. (para 76)

Education: This holistic approach should also guide the choices of international and bilateral institutions in the identification of their technical assistance and cooperation programmes so that gradually access to education for all and to a health-care system, drinking water and sanitation services, adequate and decent housing, employment income and training are also guaranteed for everyone. (para 85)


Report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Radhika Coomaraswamy


Country visit: 14 – 17 June 1999

Report published: 27 January 2000

Mrs. Coomaraswamy identified the following concerns:

Detainment: The Minister for Social Affairs and Labour held that the root cause of the persisting violence against women was largely financial, since economically independent women would not let themselves be beaten without taking action. She estimated that 90 per cent of Haitian women were victims of violence; the situation was exacerbated by the still prevailing machismo culture. Therefore, her Ministry had initiated workshops in all provinces to help increase women’s independence. These workshops are intended to teach and enhance women’s vocational skills, such as handicraft and arts, in order to decentralize migration and ensure training for women and increase their capacities. Similarly, from 1991 to 1994, at the national penitentiary, the Ministry installed handicraft workshops for women detainees, selling the products on the outside. This revenue, which amounted to up to $50 per week, assisted women detainees in providing for their children from prison. (para 11)

At the time of the Special Rapporteur’s visit, Haiti had a total of 3,500 prisoners. There are, however, no women’s prisons in Haiti. Women are detained in mixed facilities, with men and children, not even necessarily in separate living quarters, with the exception of Fort National, a prison in Port-au-Prince. When the Special Rapporteur inquired into the lack of women’s prisons, the Minister of Justice explained that, in 1995, President Aristide had provisionally separated all women and children prisoners in Fort National, with a view to building a women’s prison. However, in 1999, those provisional measures were still in place. The Minister of Justice informed the Special Rapporteur that he had created a commission to study the situation of women in prison. As an immediate result of this investigation, 30 women detainees had been released. The study is intended to clearly identify the situation of all women imprisoned in Haiti, especially considering that 90 per cent of them are in preventive detention (pending sentencing) and only 10 per cent have actually been sent enced to deprivation of liberty. This statistic, according to the Minister of Justice, points to a deeper fault in the system, namely the traditional way of carrying out investigations by which the alleged perpetrators were sometimes sentenced before the investigation was terminated. The Minister stated his intention to introduce change, making “prison an exception, not a generality”. (para 41)

At the time of the Special Rapporteur’s visit to Fort National prison in Port-au-Prince, in June 1999, 116 prisoners were detained there, of whom 71 were women. The Special Rapporteur noted with concern that only 4 out of 71 women detainees had been sentenced; many had been held in pre-trial detention for up to two years. There were also 11 girls under 18 years of age, of whom two had been sentenced, living in the same cell as the women. In addition, one cell at Fort National was empty following an attempted break-out and riots, and a third cell held boys under 18 years of age. The Special Rapporteur would like to recall the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, rule 8 (d) of which states that young prisoners shall be kept separate from adults. While recognizing the efforts made by the new prison management at Fort National, the Special Rapporteur observed especially that the conditions of the living and washing quarters were seriously substandard and overcrowded, not surprisingly with all 82 female prisoners living in a single cell with no privacy, dividing walls or curtains. (para 43)

The Special Rapporteur notes that there are both female and male guards at Fort National, while recalling rule 53 (3) of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, which stipulates that women prisoners shall be attended and supervised only by women officers. The Special Rapporteur was informed of the case of a 15 -year old girl, who had entered prison in Cap Haitien as a virgin, becoming pregnant. MICIVIH took over her case, but upon delivery of her baby, she fled the hospital. In this connection, the Special Rapporteur welcomed the announcement by the Minister of Justice that he was planning to recruit 100 female guards to work exclusively with the female prison population. The Special Rapporteur calls on the Government of Haiti to allocate resources to make it possible for the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners to be fully implemented, with a view to ensuring the safety and security of and adequate living conditions for the prison population. (para 44)

UNDP informed the Special Rapporteur of a project aimed at rehabilitating the Haitian penitentiary system. The project, financed mainly by the Government of Canada and USAID, addressed issues such as separating men, women and children, overpopulation and the creation of a mechanism for tracking the prison population. At the time of the visit, there were 15 detention centres, all with functional records of their population. The Special Rapporteur noted that this was one of the most tangibly successful projects implemented by the United Nations in cooperation with MICIVIH. However, it focused mainly on the Central Prison for men, whereas the Special Rapporteur was concerned that UNDP, in cooperation with the Ministry for the Status of Women, was facing serious difficulties in obtaining funding for its project targeting female detainees. (para 45)

Violence: The Special Rapporteur’s de legation was able to observe one of the training courses on violence against women, conducted by MICIVIH for new police cadets. The course consisted of a useful combination of training concerning the international, regional and national legal instruments protecting against violence against women, and discussions on cultural and traditional aspects of violence against women in Haitian society. The training, provided by a local consultant in cooperation with international MICIVIH staff, evidently stimulated much reflection on a topic which the young, mostly male, police recruits recognized as a long-standing issue affecting Haitian women and girls. The Special Rapporteur commends this training, which also demonstrated the effectiveness of cooperating with a local facilitator familiar with the local traditions and language, as well as with the relevant international standards. (para 24)

Upon inquiring about services for victims provided by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour, the Special Rapporteur was informed that the Ministry operates a telephone hotline for mistreated children, most frequently girls. These girls are then taken to training centres operated by the Ministry. There are also medical centres for children, staffed by psychologists and social workers. The Special Rapporteur was concerned that such assistance for victims of domestic and other violence seemed to be mainly targeted at children. Although the CHREPROF studyshowed that 38 per cent of violence against women is targeted at girls between the ages of 10 and 18 years, the Special Rapporteur noted with serious concern that the Minister for Social Affairs informed her that there are no shelters funded by the Government for women victims of violence. There is one shelter in Port-au-Prince operated by a non-governmental organization, KAYFANM. While the Minister recognized the need for a shelter, she considered that it was needed mainly for under-age mothers aged between 15 and 17 years, who apparently suffer most from family violence in Haiti. Similarly, the Special Rapporteur learned that there are no rehabilitation programmes for women and girls in prostitution, and that plans for establishing a centre for training women in prostitution in alternative income-generating skills had not materialized for lack of funds. Financial difficulties have also led to the representation of the Ministry in the provinces being cut and the Office of Family Protection within the Ministry now only has 15 trained social workers. The Minister also indicated that, for lack of resources, the Ministry was in no position to implement any preventive programmes with respect to violence against women. (para 33)

In this connection, the Special Rapporteur was appraised of an initiative undertaken by Ms. Frédérika Alexis, the Prime Minister’s wife, namely, providing services for women victims of violence. On the basis of research carried out in Port-au-Prince in 1997 and 1998, Ms. Alexis was able to confirm that the incidence of violence against women is relatively high and that women victims of violence generally are afraid of reporting it to the police. In 1998, she set up an office where 12 employees, including two doctors, two lawyers, two social workers and a priest, have provided medical, legal and social assistance to 200 women victims, 50 of whose cases were reported to be serious, needing immediate intervention. In order to be able to attend to women who need immediate assistance, Ms. Alexis has developed a proposal to establish a rehabilitation and reintegration shelter for women victims, for which she was raising funds. It is envisaged that the “centre d’hébergement” should have buses at its disposal to transport women and children in need to the shelter for an undetermined period, where they could avail themselves of professional assistance, take part in rehabilitation and reintegration programmes and receive start-up financial aid on a reimbursable basis. The Special Rapporteur encourages donors to consider funding micro-projects at the grass-roots level such as this shelter project, since this might be the most direct way of ensuring that aid reaches the women who need it most. (para 35)

KAYFANM has a full-time office working with women victims of violence, receiving complaints of violations and providing medical, legal and psychological assistance. The organization has one lawyer and works together with other associations or private clinics on medical care. KAYFANM also provides up to three days of temporary shelter for women victims of violence but shelter space is insufficient to meet demand. SOFA is a women’s organization that runs a clinic for women victims. The Special Rapporteur’s delegation visited this clinic and interviewed women victims of violence. ENFOFANM publishes a monthly newspaper Ayiti Fanm, which has reported on all known cases of violence against women believed to be committed by the military following the coup d'état, including cases of political rape. FANMDJAM has established a school for 200 children of women victims of rape, since many of these women cannot afford school fees for their children. (para 65)

In November 1 997, Haitian women’s associations mobilized as a result of the lack of government action to bring to justice the perpetrators of political rape and to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Justice Commission, and held an International Tribunal against Violence against Women in Haiti. The Tribunal heard testimonies of victims of violence and made recommendations addressing domestic violence, sexual violence, political violence and violence against handicapped women. The international panel of judges noted serious shortcomings in the judicial system, police practices and ineffectiveness, and the lack of initiative and shortcomings of the social and public health services. The panel recommended that the Government cooperate with women’s organizations in drafting comprehensive legislation to eliminate violence against women. The panel also recommended, inter alia:


Developing education programmes in schools to eliminate gender-stereotyping and to institute human rights education and sexual education;

Legalizing abortion in cases of rape, incest and danger to women’s health;

(…) (para 64)

Day-care: The Ombudsman also indicated to the Special Rapporteur that, following monthly demonstrations by women’s organizations to bring their concerns to the attention of the Government, he had met with the Prime Minister in the week before the Special Rapporteur’s visit in June 1999. During this visit, the Prime Minister had expressed his willingness to receive demands from women’s organizations with a view to working together with the Ombudsman to find solutions for those demands. The Ombudsman therefore had decided to convene a committee with all the women’s groups to discuss strategies for prioritizing their concerns. The Special Rapporteur considers this an important initiative and hopes that progress has been achieved since her visit and that a dialogue between the women’s organizations and the Government is ongoing. The Special Rapporteur would also like to endorse strongly the recommendations relating to the human rights of women made in the Ombudsman’s first report to the President and Prime Minister, including


(b) The establishment within each ministry of a day-care centre for women employees with young children

(…) (para 30)

Sexual violence: Many of the Special Rapporteur’s interlocutors raised the issue of teenage pregnancies as a result of rape and sexual harassment in schools, as being a serious problem in Haiti. She was told that if a girl was raped/impregnated by her teacher or director, the pregnant girl would be expelled from school, in serious violation of her right to education. Another serious form of violence against women that came to the Special Rapporteur’s attention was the violence and sexual abuse committed against young female domestic workers. Rural families in particular, often send their teenage daughters to work as domestic help in households (“restavek”), thus contributing to the family income. These young girls are frequently at the mercy of their employers and, reportedly, the incidence of physical and sexual violence, resulting in pregnancy, are high. Between November 1994 and June 1999, the Ministry for the Status of Women registered 900 cases of adult women and 1,500 cases of girls between the ages of 6 and 15 years victims of sexual abuse and aggression. The Special Rapporteur is seriously worried about the disproportionately high numbers of young girls who are the victims of violence. The Ministry for the Status of Women informed the Special Rapporteur that it had been trying to assist these young women and girls in difficult situations by providing them with the bus fare to return home and by facilitating their return to a school near their home. (para 38)

Rape: On the night of 16 October 1991, Immacula was at home with her husband and six children, when a number of masked men with heavy weapons broke through the fence and invaded her home. The men put Immacula on the floor, handcuffed her husband, and then three of them raped her, hit her in the face and brutalized her, in front of her husband and children. The youngest child who is six years old now, still repeats the story of what happened that night. Because her husband supported Aristide, they were put into prison for six months, after which they had to live in hiding. Once, when Immacula and her family were temporarily staying with her sister-in-law, her persecutors followed her into the house, raped her again and also raped her sister-in-law. Her sister-in-law died as a result of injuries sustained from the brutal rape and Immacula has since had to take care of her sister-in-law’s children, as well as of her own. She has not received any assistance or compensation for the violence suffered. (para 48)

Saintanie’s husband was a militant fighter for democracy. On 23 September 1993, his name was mentioned in a radio broadcast, along with other militant pro-democracy activists. That night, six masked men in black clothes forced their way into their house, three of the men took her husband with them and three of them raped Saintanie. Her six children were beaten with the guns. After the incident, Saintanie and her children could no longer stay in their house but fled to another neighbourhood. They went to a refuge for Aristide supporters where they were given medical and psychological help, as well as some financial assistance for a new place to live. Saintanie still feels victimized every day and is disillusioned because, despite President Aristide’s return, nothing happened. Not even the recommendations of the Truth and Justice Commission have been implemented. Her husband never returned. Now Saintanie has filed a case before the courts and is awaiting an outcome. She is not hopeful. (para 49)

The women victims of political rape suffered incredible violence during the Cedras regime, yet five years later , their situation has not changed. They suffer from psychological trauma, and post-traumatic syndromes including latent depression; they suffer from serious medical conditions, including sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS infection, caused by multiple rape and brutality; their children remember and are traumatized; their husbands were killed or have left them; they do not have a permanent place to live; they do not have jobs; their merchandise was looted and stolen ; they do not have enough food or medical assistance; nor do they have money to pay their children’s school fees; but worst of all, the perpetrators of these crimes are still haunting them and are roaming around freely - justice has never been rendered and the women of Haiti are forced to live with the past every day of their lives. (para 57)

Education: MICIVIH had started discussions with the Ministry of Education to attempt to have human rights education included in the curriculum in primary and secondary schools, a project which regrettably was still pending two years after being initiated. (para 71)

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has been working with Governments and non-governmental organizations in proposing revisions to legislation relating to women’s and children’s rights. UNICEF also took part in a community-level campaign to empower communities to address violence against women in cooperation with local non-governmental organizations. UNICEF has also been approached by the police to assist and cooperate in addressing the plight of children in especially difficult circumstances. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) indicated that they were willing to contribute to the inter-agency media campaign, as well as to consider developing a programme on violence against women in relation to the forced repatriation and reintegration of women into society. (para 73)


Report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, Gulnara Shahinian


Country visit: 18 – 28 November 2008

Report published: 1 – 10 June 2009

Read the full report - A/HRC/12/21/Add.1


Report by the UN Representative of the Secretary General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons

Country visit: 12 – 17 October 2010

Report not available.



Requested visits

Visits requested

  • (Requested in 2008) - Special Rapporteur on the right to food

Visits accepted

  • SR on Internally displaced persons (accepted in 2013)


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