[JURIST] The implementation of the rule of law in Haiti is making significant progress [press release], UN Independent Expert Michel Forst said Wednesday. Forst focused on improvements such as the establishment of judicial offices, the adoption of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights [text, PDF] and the recent conviction of eight police officers [JURIST report] in a post-earthquake shooting. He said he was disappointed in the recent decision by Haiti’s Investigative Magistrate Carves Jean that former president Jean-Claude Duvalier [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] will not stand trial [JURIST report] for crimes against humanity, including torture, false imprisonment, rape and murder during his reign between 1971 and 1986. Forst stressed that the government in Haiti must continue to prioritize the Rule of Law:
President Martelly has made Rule of Law one of his top priorities for his mandate, but the implementation of the rule of law requires a sound political action to implement the technical decisions for which diagnoses were made long ago. To rule also means to send political signals. The population needs to see that the Rule of Law prevails in Haiti.
Forst also indicated that Haiti must work to reduce the amount of time individuals spend in prison while awaiting trial. He urged Haiti to consider this and other human rights issues in preparation for its participation in the upcoming UN Council for Human Rights in Geneva.
Haiti has been urged numerous times by different organizations to improve its human rights records. Last month the Investigative Magistrate dismissed the charges against Duvalier, reasoning that there are not sufficient legal grounds and that the statute of limitations has expired. In September, AI urged [JURIST report] the Haitian government to prosecute Duvalier after its release of a report [text, PDF] documenting crimes committed during the former president’s reign. The findings were the result of an eight-month investigation [JURIST report]. In July, the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] Kyung-Wha Kang [official website] pressed Haiti [JURIST report] to establish a system of human rights and equality, especially by speeding up the case against Duvalier. He was accused of crimes against humanity and corruption [JURIST reports] in January of last year.