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Homepage > Regions / Countries > Latin America & Caribbean > Haiti > Reforming Haiti's Security Sector

Reforming Haiti's Security Sector

Latin America/Caribbean Report N°28 18 Sep 2008

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Operations led by the UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSTAH) largely disbanded armed gangs in the slums of Haiti’s cities in early 2007, but security and stability are far from consolidated. The failure to provide an immediate, visible peace dividend once the gangs’ hold was broken was a lost opportunity the still fragile country could ill afford. Now new threats are appearing. Serious crime persists, especially kidnapping and drug trafficking, and in the absence of a sufficiently large and fully operational police force and functioning justice and penitentiary systems, it threatens to undermine political progress. This was evidenced by the fall of Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis’s government following April 2008 protests and riots against high living costs. Security sector reform (SSR) is essential to stabilisation but has been plagued by serious institutional weaknesses.

The new prime minister, Michèle Pierre-Louis, who was confirmed by parliament only in August and inaugurated in September, and President René Préval need to act immediately and decisively, with MINUSTAH and donor help, to conclude police and justice reform. These challenges are all the more urgent, as they come at a time when Haiti is struggling with severe hurricane devastation, and quick disbursement of international emergency and recovery assistance is of crucial importance for the new government.

The process to create a modestly sized 14,000-strong Haitian National Police (HNP) by 2011 – a pivotal element of SSR – must be speeded up. The vetting of the approximately 9,000 active duty HNP officers has been much too slow and insufficiently transparent to address concerns that individuals responsible for human rights violations and corruption remain in the force. Administrative difficulties have limited recruitment and training. The intake of qualified personnel, with special emphasis on more female cadets, has to be increased or the 2011 goal will be impossible to reach. A graduate-level police academy is needed in which commanders can acquire specific skills, including riot and border control, intelligence gathering and analysis, forensics and expertise in fighting drug trafficking. Building a professional HNP is the best way to preempt dangerous, politically motivated pressures to reconstitute the notorious army.

Strengthening the justice sector, including the dysfunctional penitentiary system, is another key part of SSR. Haiti still lacks the basic capacity to detain, prosecute and sentence offenders, especially those responsible for serious crimes. To strengthen the rule of law, it is crucial that the new government speed implementation of the justice legislation parliament passed in late 2007, conclude vetting of the members of the Superior Judicial Council and establish special chambers to bring cases of serious crime to trial. Haitian authorities, with donor help, must also swiftly improve correction facilities, which remain in awful shape, vulnerable to prison breaks and filled with suspects who have never seen a judge.

Likewise, border control and economic development along the border with the Dominican Republic (D.R.) is vital to security and the economy. The new government should define a strategy and reach out to recently re-elected Dominican President Leonel Fernández with the aim of concluding agreements on border development and security. These should cover migration, economic and environmental issues, as well as transborder organised crime and law enforcement. Without such a strategy and improved cooperation between the neighbours, Haiti’s Border Development Commission and MINUSTAH’s expanded role along the frontier will be empty shells. Finally, the government and donors need to put in place comprehensive violence reduction programs that recognise the linkages between severe poverty, social deprivation and crime, particularly in the rural communities, where 70 per cent of Haitians live, and the high density urban neighbourhoods.

RECOMMENDATIONS

To the Government of Haiti:

1.  Strengthen reform of the Haitian National Police (HNP) by:

(a)   expediting the vetting of all active duty officers;

(b)   bringing enrolment at the police academy to full capacity (1,300), recruiting in particular more female cadets with good academic records and making learning materials and equipment available to all cadets;

(c)   establishing an academy for advanced training of mid- and senior-level commanding officers;

(d)   expanding exchange programs for training abroad of HNP officers in counter-drugs, anti-kidnapping, riot control, forensics and intelligence gathering and analysis;

(e)   implementing a more efficient human resources, equipment maintenance and management system to deploy personnel based on skills and training, monitor performance and ensure more adequate control and use of equipment; and

(f)    establishing the more muscular elements of the force (border police, coast guard and riot control), publicising their capabilities and reaffirming the lack of need for an army.

2.  Strengthen justice sector reform (JSR) by:

(a)   establishing two special chambers, with vetted judges, prosecutors and defence counsels and assisted by international advisers, to try serious crimes, especially those involving drug trafficking, kidnapping and human rights abuses;

(b)   expanding the presence of the judicial police (DCPJ) in major cities, with priority for Cap Haïtien, Gonaïves and Les Cayes;

(c)   concluding the vetting of members of the Superior Judicial Council (CSPJ), appointing its president and directing it as a priority to establish standards and vet existing judges against those standards;

(d)   supporting the efforts of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) and the Haitian bar association to establish an exam to certify lawyers; and

(e)   cooperating with the bar association to establish a national network of lawyers to assure legal representation in all criminal cases and justice centres that provide free legal aid to the poor.

3.  Improve the inhumane conditions in prisons by:

(a)   reviving the Detention Commission (CCDPP) to review cases of prisoners detained for minor crimes, especially those not charged for an extended period of time, broadening its mandate to the entire country and requiring that any recommendations for release are reviewed by a justice ministry working group to ensure that dangerous criminals are not released;

(b)   establishing, with international humanitarian agencies such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), regular visits to all detention centres to monitor the health and conditions of prisoners; and assisting the Prisons Administration Directorate (DAP) to set up and maintain a health records system for inmates; and

(c)   moving more rapidly to implement, with donor support, the national prison reform plan’s commitments for new construction and guard training, including refurbishing the Delmas 75 former psychiatric hospital to house inmates, finalising plans for the new national prison at Morne Cabrit and improving detention conditions for female inmates and minors and providing them schooling and vocational training.

4.  Deal more assertively and effectively with land and sea border issues by:

(a)   reinvigorating the Border Development Commission and deepening cooperation on border issues with donors;

(b)   defining a strategy with representatives of border communities to expand agricultural development, strengthen institutions and local governance programs; and encourage local government and civil society representatives to create cooperation and twinning schemes with Dominican towns and cities; and

(c)   organising a summit with the Dominican Republic (D.R.) to reach agreements on law enforcement regarding organised crime and on migration, customs and border economic and environmental development.

5.  Increase efforts to prevent crime by:

(a)   supporting community-led security projects to improve cooperation in preventing crime at the local level;

(b)   increasing transparency of National Commission for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (CNDDR) projects, so donors and civil society can better evaluate their results;

(c)   taking into account the data produced by the crime and violence monitoring centre set up by the Haiti State University (UEH) and the International Centre for Crime Prevention and supporting its activities by helping to circulate its findings broadly among civil society; and

(d)   targeting high crime areas with community infrastructure projects using local labour; expanding highly visible municipal and national public services; and instituting special programs, such as conditional cash transfer (CCT) initiatives, to offset family school and food costs in those communities.

To the United Nations:

6.  MINUSTAH should improve implementation of its mandate on border control by:

(a)   deploying permanently UN civil affairs personnel and UN police (UNPOL) units with special experience in border control to assist the HNP border units;

(b)   urging Uruguay to deliver the promised sixteen coast patrol boats on time; and

(c)   concluding cooperation agreements with the Anti-drugs Office (BLTS) and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on operations along Haiti’s land and sea borders, including air interdiction.

7.  Finalise the UNDP trust fund to improve donor coordination and allocate funds efficiently and rapidly.

8.  Expand UNPOL, especially Formed Police Units (FPUs), beyond its 2,091 cap and maintain the military troop level.

9.  Work closely with the Haitian authorities and donors to provide immediate emergency and recovery relief to hurricane victims and other affected communities, establish a joint recovery and infrastructure reconstruction program and organise a donors conference to finance that program within the next few months.

To the Governments of the Americas:

10.  Support assignment to UNPOL of additional experienced and vetted police, if possible with Creole and French language skills, but also with specific skills for dealing with the crimes Haiti faces today.

11.  The U.S. should assign DEA helicopters much more frequently, if not permanently, to work closely with specialised BLTS, UNPOL and MINUSTAH units on interdiction of drug trafficking.

12.  Reinforce MINUSTAH’s critical role by continuing to contribute experienced police, military and civilian professionals.

13.  The U.S., Canada and others should suspend deportation for six months of illegal Haitian immigrants and Haitians who have committed crimes and have been sentenced abroad, and be prepared to renew this suspension if the post-conflict and post-hurricane conditions necessitate.

14.  Provide immediate emergency assistance in the wake of hurricane devastation and commit to helping the Haitian authorities in a major recovery and reconstruction program, without undercutting current efforts at supporting stabilisation and development measures.

To Bilateral and Multilateral Donors:

15.  Reschedule the delayed donors conference to be held as soon as possible and set priorities for supporting:

(a)   the government’s police, justice and prison reform plans; and

(b)   comprehensive violence reduction efforts directed at poverty reduction, job creation, education and infrastructure, particularly in high crime communities, and otherwise reducing rural to urban migration, including by aid to small farmers to expand food production.

16.  Implement urgently special programs that relieve high education and food costs for poor families, so as to contribute to preventing further social unrest and violence when the school year, which was scheduled to begin on 1 September but owing to the hurricanes has been pushed back, eventually starts, and to help the new government gain political credibility.

17.  Provide emergency funding for hurricane relief, help conduct rapid assessments of infrastructure destruction and damage to economic sectors, including the informal sector, and support recovery and reconstruction efforts.

Port-au-Prince/Brussels, 18 September 2008

 
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