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Signs of Hope for Human Rights in Haiti?

April 2004

The roots of impunity in Haiti stretch deep into the nation’s past. If anything, the experience of the last ten years has shown just how difficult it is going to be to establish democratic principles and the rule of law there. That experience has clearly established that loosening the grip of impunity is going to take much more than the removal of one leader and the promotion of another.

That said, we read today’s news from Haiti with some sense of hope. Louis Jodel Chamblain, a convicted torturer and murderer and leader of the recent armed rebellion against Jean Bertrand Aristide has turned himself in to Haitian authorities. Of course it remains to be seen how long Chamblain will stay in jail for his crimes, but his surrender is a positive sign. Haiti’s leading human rights organization has already put out a statement on this important development.

We also see the continuing work of Haiti’s human rights organizations as a positive sign in this period. You may be aware that some U.S.-based Haiti activists have recently dedicated themselves to a campaign of denunciation against the National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR) and other Haitian organizations that opposed ex-President Aristide. For those activists, progressive Haitian opponents of Aristide only helped deliver the country into the hands of the extreme right and their U.S. allies.

Since our friends in the solidarity community are attempting to undermine NCHR and others who opposed Aristide regime by cutting off their already meager funding from U.S. sources, we will have to answer some of these arguments in due time. For now, however, we will continue to let some of the Haitian organizations in question speak for themselves.

In “Seeds of Hope,” Pierre Esperance of NCHR and the Haitian Human Rights Platform provides his assessment of the human rights situation in Haiti 45 days after the departure of Aristide and suggests what his and other organizations are doing to try to move forward out of this situation. Please take a moment to read it and let us know what you think about it.

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