Reforming Haiti's Security Sector
18 Sep 2008
Operations led by the UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSTAH) largely disbanded armed gangs in the slums of Haiti’s cities, but progress has been undermined by persisting crime, political instability and natural disasters.
Reforming Haiti’s Security Sector
,* the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the difficulties in strengthening the justice sector and establishing an operational and sufficiently staffed police force – two crucial elements for the country’s future stability and development.
“Making decisive and swift headway with security sector reform (SSR) is a vital part of any durable solution to Haiti’s political and economic, as well as security problems”, says Bernice Robertson, Crisis Group’s Haiti Senior Analyst. “The process to create a 14,000-strong Haitian National Police (HNP) by 2011 must be speeded up”.
The fall of Prime Minister Jacques-Édouard Alexis during last April’s protests, the drawn-out negotiations between President René Préval and parliament over his successor and new Prime Minister Michèle Pierre-Louis’s political difficulties have put Haiti’s fragile governance once again under severe strain. Drug traffickers, organised criminals and corrupt politicians have mobilised the population for their own benefit and a procession of hurricanes in August and September has caused enormous damage to Haiti’s physical infrastructure.
HNP vetting needs to be concluded, the number of police cadets has to be increased and officers should receive further training in specific skills, including anti-kidnapping, riot control, counter-drug, border control, forensics and intelligence gathering and analysis. Special crime chambers ought to be created to try serious offenders, and the inhumane prison conditions have to be improved quickly. MINUSTAH should maintain its present military component but increase the number of international police, and deploy UN civil affairs and police personnel with special experience in border control to assist HNP units along the frontier with the Dominican Republic.
“Haiti urgently needs a professional HNP as a prerequisite and bulwark if the new government is to move the country, with MINUSTAH and donor help, toward stability”, says Markus Schultze-Kraft, Crisis Group’s Latin America Program Director. “But it also needs a justice system capable of upholding the rule of law and programs that provide swift, visible relief to families enduring extremely harsh living conditions and natural disasters”.