As noted in its most recent press release No 22/05 and confirmed during a working visit to Haiti from July 11 to 15, 2005, the Commission is extremely concerned with the daily violence concentrated in the capital city of Port-au-Prince which has claimed an estimated 700 lives since September 2004, including over 40 police officers. Hospital Saint Joseph, which receives many incoming patients from affected neighborhoods, registered 865 patients injured from bullet wounds since December 2004, 200 of which were registered during the month of June 2005. Approximately 75% of these victims are reported to have been women and children, some of whom are reported to have been used as human shields by armed gangs during confrontations with the Haitian National Police and international forces. Many of the incidents have occurred in neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, commonly referred to as 'zones de non-droit', where the Haitian National Police and U.N. peacekeepers are absent and where armed gangs exert exclusive control. Consequently, current conditions in these areas do not allow human rights defenders to monitor the situation or provide assistance to victims, nor do conditions permit access to proper medical assistance, further exacerbating the harmful conditions under which thousands of Haitians live and causing the displacement of large numbers of inhabitants in affected areas. Moreover, these zones have functioned as operation centers for kidnappings perpetrated in other parts of the city. While the Haitian National Police and United Nations forces have undertaken isolated operations in Cité Soleil and other locations, these efforts have not been sufficient to regain control over these areas, to quell the violence and to effectively protect the lives of civilians.
The Commission continues to be particularly concerned with the wave of kidnappings, where multiple incidents are occurring on a daily basis. While in some cases, the victims are released in exchange for the payment of cash, there are increasing reports from victims of physical abuse, torture and rape during their sequestration. To-date, the State has failed to capture, prosecute and punish the perpetrators of these crimes, which has contributed to a climate of widespread fear and intimidation in Port-au-Prince as well as the longstanding crisis of impunity that has plagued the country.
The Commission particularly condemns the recent attack on the prominent journalist Jacques Roche who was kidnapped on July 10, 2005 and subsequently tortured and murdered by his assailants. Available information suggests that these reprehensible acts were perpetrated based upon Mr. Roche's activities as a well-known newspaper and television commentator. The Commission condemns such attacks and acts of intimidation perpetrated against journalists and human rights defenders and calls on the state to effectively ensure the right to life, the right to humane treatment and the right to freedom of expression enshrined in the American Convention.
In these grave circumstances, the Commission reiterates its call for immediate and decisive measures, consistent with international human rights standards, to contain the violence in order to effectively protect the life and physical integrity of Haitians and other residents of Haiti and to ensure that the upcoming legislative and presidential elections in the country are carried out within an environment free of fear and intimidation.