The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of Haiti (as amended through 2012) stipulates that the state has the "absolute obligation" to guarantee the rights to life, to health, and to respect of the human person for all citizens without distinction, in conformity with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.Art. 19, 1987 Constitution of the Republic of Haiti (as amended).It is further provided that:
The use of any unnecessary force or restraint in arresting a person or in maintaining him in detention, or the application of any psychological pressure or physical brutality, especially during interrogation, is forbidden.Art. 25, 1987 Constitution of the Republic of Haiti (as amended).
According to Article 31: "Freedom of unarmed assembly and association for political, economic, social, cultural or any other peaceful purposes is guaranteed."
The Constitution declares that the security forces comprise two distinct bodies: the Armed Forces and the Police Force.Art. 263, 1987 Constitution of the Republic of Haiti (as amended).The Police Force is tasked with public order and the protection of the life and property of citizens. The Constitution further provides that:
Its organisation and operation are regulated by the law.Art. 269(1), 1987 Constitution of the Republic of Haiti (as amended).
|1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||State Party|
|ICCPR Optional Protocol 1||Not party|
|1984 Convention against Torture (CAT)||Signatory|
|Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints||N/A|
|CAT Optional Protocol 1||N/A|
|1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court||Signatory|
|1948 Charter of the Organization of American States||State Party|
|1969 Inter-American Convention on Human Rights||State Party|
|Competence of Inter-American Court on Human Rights||Yes|
Police Use of Force
The Haitian National Police ("Police Nationale d’Haïti"; PNH), is Haiti's national law enforcement agency. It was established in 1995 to bring public security under civilian control. The 1994 Law that created the PNH is the primary legislation regulating the Haitian National Police, but it does not regulate explicitly the use of force.Loi relative à la Police nationale, Loi du 29 novembre 1994 Portant création, organisation et fonctionnement de la Police nationale.
Instead, police use of force is regulated by an internal regulation: General Order No. 003 of the National Police. According to this instrument, a police officer should use force only within the limits of what is strictly necessary to neutralise the resistance to the legal intervention of a police officer. Excessive or unnecessary force is strictly prohibited.
A police officer is authorised to use firearms only when it is reasonably necessary to:
- Protect themselves or others from an immediate threat or likely to cause serious injury or death
- Prevent the commission of a crime that would put bystanders in danger of death or serious bodily injury; or
- Arrest an individual already known to have committed a crime involving the infliction of death or bodily injury on others and in the knowledge that the offender's escape could lead to serious injury or death to others.
There is an internal police oversight body in Haiti, the Inspection Générale de la Police Nationale d’Haiti (General Inspectorate of Haitian National Police). Speaking in 2017, the Director General of the National Police said:
We ought to have a very strong police oversight capacity, to address not only issues of human rights violations and the excessive use of force by police officers, but also questions of corruption among the staff.
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In its Concluding Observations on Haiti in 2014, the Human Rights Committee, which oversees the implementation of the 1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), expressed its continued concern
by the fact that cases of firearm deaths caused by agents of the security forces continue to be reported and that this number has increased in 2014. Despite the information provided by the State party to the effect that the perpetrators are punished, the Committee finds it regrettable that they are mainly subject to disciplinary sanctions and that statistics on homicides, and on investigations and prosecutions for homicide, are not routinely maintained or made publicly available.Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations on Haiti, UN doc. CCPR/C/HTI/CO/1, 21 November 2014, §10.
The Committee called on Haiti, "as a matter of urgency", to
look into these cases of firearm deaths caused by the forces of law and order and ensure that they are investigated in a prompt and effective manner, prosecute those thought to be responsible and, if they are found guilty, sentence them to penalties in proportion to the seriousness of the acts and grant appropriate compensation to the victims and their families.Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations on Haiti, UN doc. CCPR/C/HTI/CO/1, 21 November 2014, §10.
It further urged Haiti to
guarantee that the General Inspectorate of the National Police is able to carry out these investigations independently and to routinely maintain statistics on homicides committed by the forces of law and order and on the unlawful use of firearms, covering investigations carried out, prosecutions brought, penalties prescribed and reparation awarded.Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations on Haiti, UN doc. CCPR/C/HTI/CO/1, 21 November 2014, §10.
Finally, the Committee encouraged Haiti to
continue its efforts to provide the forces of law and order with human rights training in accordance with its obligations under the Covenant and in line with the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, in order to reduce the incidence of homicide and serious injury caused by firearms.Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations on Haiti, UN doc. CCPR/C/HTI/CO/1, 21 November 2014, §10.
Lysias Fleury v. Haiti (2011)
In June 2002, Mr. Lysias Fleury, a human rights defender, was accused of stealing a water pump by authorities. Mr. Fleury denied the accusation and invited the agents to search his home. Instead, the policemen arrested Mr. Fleury without a warrant. He was subsequently tortured and otherwise ill-treated by the police while in custody. The Inter-American Court found that the State had violated Article 5 of the American Convention on Human Rights, which protects bodily integrity.
Regarding the use of force by the security forces, this Court has indicated that this must respect criteria of legitimate reasons, need, appropriateness and proportionality. ... Furthermore, the Court has indicated that any use of force that is not strictly necessary owing to the behavior of the person detained constitutes an attack on human dignity, in violation of Article 5 of the American Convention. ...
In this case, Mr. Fleury was subjected to the following acts...: (a) he was threatened at the time of his arrest; (b) he was taken by the throat by one of the policemen to force him to get into the truck in which he would be taken away detained, even though he was not resisting in any way; (c) at the time of his arrest he was hit in the face with a gun and hit on the head, ill-treatment that continued during the ride to the police station, and (d) during his detention he was obliged to clean the excrement in the cell in which he was detained with his bare hands as a form of humiliation, and received, approximately 64 blows to his head and the rest of his body, by kicks and using objects, and 15 severe simultaneous blows on both sides of the head (“kalot marassa”). As a result of this ill-treatment, Mr. Fleury suffered bruising mainly on his back and leg and other bruises on his whole body. In addition, his left arm and leg were fractured and he suffered a perforated eardrum as a result of the beatings.
After Jean-Claude Duvalier’s return to Haiti in 2011, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights "reminded the Haitian State of its duty to investigate, prosecute, punish and redress the human rights violations". It further declared that:
The legitimate use of force by State law enforcement officials must be limited by the principles of exceptionality, necessity, proportionality and humanity. Furthermore, domestic law must establish clear guidelines regulating the use of force, and the State must train its law enforcement officials on the protection of human rights and the limits to which the use of weapons must be subject. Finally, procedures must be in place to determine whether the lethal force used by agents of the State was legal.
There were isolated allegations of police and other government officials’ involvement in arbitrary or unlawful killings. Some of these resulted in arrests, but there were no reports of criminal convictions.
The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Haitian National Police ... investigated 10 police officers for homicide while on duty through August. The OIG found that six of the officers were not justified in their use of force and recommended them for immediate dismissal and criminal investigation.
The United Nations has encouraged the revision of the national regulatory regime in Haiti regarding police use of force, an issue which has been under discussions by the authorities since 2014.