Entity employees' visits to prisons in the Caribbean country identify overcrowding, abuse and poor hygiene
A document released on Wednesday (1) by the UN (United Nations) reveals "inhumane conditions" in prisons in Haiti. After a visit to several prisons in the country, a team of employees of the entity said that, in some cases, 60 people were crammed into cells measuring 20 square meters. There are cases of detainees who cannot even lie down on the floor to sleep.
The analysis was based on 12 visits to prisons in the Caribbean country earlier this year. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said that it is necessary to end this situation, which affects the physical and mental health of prisoners.
Some cells do not have a window, leaving detainees in a dark environment for up to 24 hours a day. The lack of latrines leads many prisoners to evacuate in buckets.
Women await trial in prison in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 2019 (Photo: MINUJUSTH/Leonora Baumann)
Another point of the report is the excessive use of pre-trial detention and the slowness of the judicial system to prosecute crimes. Currently, 82% of people deprived of their liberty are without a scheduled trial.
The UN Integrated Office in Haiti interviewed 229 men, women and children in detention. They described the lack of access to medicine and medical care, and many rely on family help in cases like this.
The report indicates that cruel, degrading and inhumane treatment is a constant in the discipline measures in all the prisons visited. Of the detainees interviewed, 27.9% reported ill-treatment by police officers or other detainees, “with the consent of the guards”, and 44.5% said they had witnessed ill-treatment.
With the increase in Covid-19 cases increasing across Haiti and the precarious conditions in prisons, it has become even more difficult to control the disease in these facilities. Overcrowding, according to the report, also leads to problems of lack of ventilation. In recent weeks, more than 500 Haitian prisoners in Port-au-Prince, the country's capital, have developed fever, diarrhea and other symptoms of the pandemic.
The lack of testing prevents a real diagnosis of Covid's prison situation. In May, 16 prisoners died health complications.
For High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, the Haitian government needs to take urgent measures to improve the situation in places of detention and demonstrate a political will to implement the recommendations.
The government has taken steps to reduce the use of pre-trial detention including the adoption of the Penal Code, which is expected to take effect in June 2022, and is expected to reduce the number of the prison population.
She called on Haiti to improve human rights conditions and create a national mechanism to prevent torture and ratify the Convention against Torture as well as the Optional Protocol.