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UN Haiti chief urges residents to turn over escaped prisoners

[JURIST] The acting head of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti [official website] said Tuesday that while conditions are currently stable, the Haitian people must turn in the thousands of prisoners that escaped [JURIST report] when the January 12 earthquake [JURIST news archive] destroyed prisons and jails. Edmond Mulet called upon the residents of Haiti to turn over to authorities the more than 5,000 prisoners [Reuters report] that the UN peacekeeping force has helped to detain since entering Haiti in 2004. It is estimated that only three dozen escaped prisoners have been detained [AP report] since January 12. The aftermath of the earthquake has also placed a strain on detainees arrested since the disaster, as limited space and limited access to judges has caused the criminal justice system and those in it additional hardship [Washington Post report].

In late January, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said that strengthening human rights [JURIST report] is an integral part of the rebuilding process in Haiti. Earlier in January, US President Barack Obama signed a bill [JURIST report] that will allow US citizens to claim donations to Haitian relief efforts as a deduction on their 2009 tax returns. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced that Haitian nationals present in the US before the earthquake will be given temporary protected status and will not be deported for the next 18 months, but Haitian refugees who arrive in the US illegally will be sent back to their home country [JURIST reports]. The 7.0 magnitude earthquake caused massive damage to property and infrastructure in Haiti, and the death toll has now been estimated at 230,000.

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