The High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay is visiting Haiti from 2 to 5 November. Her first official meeting in the country was with President René Préval, where she addressed the situation of a number of economic and social rights. The High Commissioner also discussed public security and the need to strengthen the police and justice systems in the fight against crime and impunity, among other issues.
The High Commissioner expressed concern about the vulnerability of the population to natural disasters and discussed the issue of development of public policies to protect human rights to adequate food, health, housing and water. Access to primary education, for which very limited financial and human resources are available, minimal national quality and safety standards in schools, and equality and non-discrimination in primary and secondary education were also discussed.
The High Commissioner also praised the President for his work on bringing stability to the country and agreed with him that further developments in civil and political rights need to be based on progress in economic and social rights.
The High Commissioner visited Cité Soleil, a poverty-stricken neighbourhood in Port-au-Prince, where the delegation witnessed what life is like for Haiti's majority. In Cité Soleil, she visited Kay Jistis ("House of Justice"), a community-focused project supported by USAID in conjunction with other partners such as the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), where she met with beneficiaries of the project.
Kay Jistis aims at improving access to justice and reinforcing local governance. It also offers legal assistance to victims of detention related violations and addresses the issue of prolonged pre-trial detention, which continues to contribute enormously to the crisis of overcrowding in the prisons.
The mission also included meetings with senior ministers, as well as police and judicial authorities, the Ombudsman, and civil society. In a meeting with human rights NGOs, she praised their courageous work. All interlocutors pointed at the difficult conditions in prisons, where over 8,000 detainees live in unacceptable conditions and face long pre-trial detention.
OHCHR supports the human rights component of MINUSTAH, the UN peacekeeping operation in Haiti. The High Commissioner met with Hédi Annabi, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General of the United Nations and Head of MINUSTAH, and with the Mission's Rule of Law Working Group which briefed her on a joint 18-month initiative of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and OHCHR, to measure the progress of the justice system in the institutional building process.