Deputy Human Rights chief urges greater emphasis on human rights in Haiti

Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kyung-wha Kang visits a prison in Fort Liberte on July 3, 2011.

The Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights says she now has a much better picture of the challenges faced by Haitians in their everyday lives. Kyung-wha Kang made her comments to reporters at the end of a 5-day visit to the country during which she held discussions on the situation of human rights in the country.

Kyung-wha Kang: The President has recently taken office. I was greatly heartened by the deep commitment of President Martelly to realising the fundamental rights of the Haitian people, including economic and social rights, such as education, health and adequate housing, as conveyed during our very fruitful meeting. The President's strong and sustained leadership on human rights is central to addressing systemic failings of the rule of law and providing solid progress on economic development and reconstruction efforts.

NAR: Ms. Kyung-wha commended the efforts of the Haitian government and of the international community to protect the population during the humanitarian crisis that followed the earthquake. She noted that those interventions saved many lives, especially among the most vulnerable, including women, children, the elderly and those with disabilities.

Kyung-wha Kang: But the aid effort did not, and indeed could not, address the major deficiencies in Haitians' access to all their basic rights. We cannot expect the humanitarian response to provide solutions to complex human rights issues that have prevailed in Haiti for such a long time. Nor could it address issues relating to access to justice and protection from violence. Those obstacles predated the earthquake, and still exist today, with the destruction of so many state buildings, and the death of so many officials, further maiming the capacity of the State to fulfil its responsibility to protect human rights. The realization of economic and social rights is key to long-term stability in Haiti.

NAR: The deputy human rights official stressed that only a comprehensive housing plan combined with major job creation can break the cycle of extreme poverty and the failure to realise economic and social rights in which Haiti has been trapped for so many years.

Kyung-wha Kang: Greater emphasis should be placed on human rights in the context of development and within the reconstruction process. This means using human rights standards to evaluate reconstruction plans and ensuring non-discrimination, transparency and the participation of beneficiaries when taking decisions about reconstruction. And it means addressing the rights of all Haitians, especially the most vulnerable, when designing reconstruction projects.

NAR: Ms. Kyung-wha warned of serious civil and political rights concerns, among them the trafficking of children across the border with the Dominican Republic. But she said she was encouraged by the determination of parliamentarians to put the protection of children high on Haiti's legislative agenda.

Kyung-wha Kang: I am concerned about the dire situation of many women in this country and in particular the high levels of violence they endure, including domestic violence and rape. I welcome the existence of a national plan of action to combat domestic violence, and encourage all State entities to collaborate closely and increase their efforts to tackle these endemic and abhorrent practices which cause so much suffering to so many women in Haiti.

NAR: The deputy high commissioner welcomed efforts of the judiciary to reduce the very high levels of prolonged preventive detention and encouraged further such initiatives.

This is Donn Bobb reporting.

Duration: 3’53″

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