4 March, 2010: Momentum at UN continues to help Haiti rebuild institutions
[New York | Author: Department of Peacekeeping Operations]
The Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) presents two articles representing the UN attitude that the natural catastrophe that happened on 12 January will not stop the momentum of creating viable institutions to protect public order and human rights of Haitians, projects on which the UN has worked closely with national authorities and invested in over the last ten years.
Haitian National Police: Picking up the pieces and building a stronger service
At the Delmas 33 Police Station in Port-au-Prince on Sunday, 21 February, scores of UN police officers, the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) Police Commissioner, the Director General of the Haitian National Police (HNP), as well as the Haitian Minister of Justice and Secretary of State for Public Security, participated along with numerous representatives of the diplomatic community in a ceremony for the victims of the 12 January earthquake.
The Delmas 33 police station was one of the biggest and most modern police facilities before the quake and it was transformed into a pile of rubble.
Ten HNP police officers and one UN Police officer lost their lives at this location. In total 75 Haitian police were killed, 253 injured and 77 are still missing. The UN police lost 18 officers, three of them female police officers, and 16 UN police were injured.
The HNP orchestra played solemn music as the family members and colleagues of the fallen police officers gathered under the canopies of the great white tent. The photos of the fallen were displayed on two boards and guests had a chance to write down their sentiments in the condolence book that was placed nearby. The morning silence was interrupted from time to time by cries and sobbing of the mothers, spouses or kids of the fallen. Next to the ceremony were the new offices, established in the tents provided by Rotary International, where HNP officers continue to serve the people of this area.
“The HNP was seriously hit by the disaster, numerous officers died and many facilities, including the General Directorate and many police stations were completely destroyed. Although they were grieving their colleagues and relatives, HNP officers were first to assist their countrymen to cope with the disaster,” stated the Director General of the HNP Mario Andersen.
“The earthquake destroyed numerous homes, offices, police stations, schools, hospitals, our national patrimony,” said Paul Denis, the Minister of Justice and he praised the HNP for its quick reaction to the disaster. “In your police anthem there is a nice verse that mentions the torch, the torch that we should use to clear our vision and maybe give a model to the others. HNP is a model of discipline, of collective organization with clear guidance. After we finish crying for those who departed we should start thinking what we are going to do with our country. We need order, we need security, we need to make some decisions ... and proceed towards a brighter future,” he concluded.
Along with colleagues from the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and bilateral donors, the UN police and MINUSTAH justice and corrections officers are working closely with the HNP, magistrates, the Bar Association and Ministries to ensure that all rule of law institutions are able to operate and will be re-built stronger than ever.
Rule of Law in Haiti - Picking up and going further
On Friday, 19 February, in a packed conference room in the North Lawn Building at Headquarters, DPKO's Criminal Law and Judicial Advisory Service and the Rule of Law, Justice and Security, Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery in UNDP made a joint presentation and appeal to Member States and other concerned partners about the needs to rapidly provide assistance to Haitian judicial and corrections authorities.
Delivering as One UN, DPKO and UNDP described a three-phase plan aimed at assisting Haitian authorities with crisis response during phase 1 from January to April, recovery during phase 2 from April to December 2010, and normalisation from January to December 2011, following the earthquake that crumbled a large amount of the judicial and penal infrastructure in the capital and some populations centres, including Leogane and Jacmel around the country.
Despite the widespread devastation, Haitian authorities from the Ministry of Justice and Department for the Administration of Prisons (DAP), with assistance from DPKO Corrections and Judicial Affairs Officers, have made a preliminary assessment of immediate needs in order to make it possible for the courts and corrections facilities to function for the coming months. The meeting was arranged before the donor conference which is scheduled to take place at the end of March, in order to address immediate needs, and to share some detail about the longer-term plan of the Ministry of Justice and Public Security.
At present, 14 out of 17 prisons in Haiti are operational, but five, the National Penitentiary and the prisons of Coteaux, Carrefour, Jacmel, and Hinche, need immediate assistance to make them fully functional. Five hundred of the 4100 prisoners that escaped at the time of the earthquake are considered “serious criminals.” Of these, 100 have been arrested by the Haitian National Police and re-incarcerated. Basic training for 300 new Haitian corrections officers began on 15 February and the Government is completing plans to establish temporary detention facilities, while prisons are re-built.
In Port-au-Prince, the buildings housing the Ministry of Justice and Public Security and the Supreme Court (Cour de Cassation), the Court of First Instance and the main prosecutor’s office were destroyed, and some judicial sector personnel were killed or injured. Within weeks of the quake the Ministry of Justice and the Bar Association of Port-au-Prince had worked to get some basic legal service up and running in the capital. Outside of Port-au-Prince services were restored even sooner.
In a meeting with the Minister of Justice on Thursday, 18 February, a joint MINUSTAH/UNDP delegation reiterated its readiness to support efforts to resume the activities of the Ministry and the various jurisdictions. It was agreed that the Mission would work directly with the Minister's office in the implementation of a logistical support plan aimed at judicial institutions.
As has been done with the Haitian National Police, the UN will work to guarantee that judicial and penal authorities receive salaries, that training programmes for magistrates and correction personnel are re-started quickly and that immediate needs are met to ensure that rule of law is restored.
Member States at the meeting praised the UN’s unified approach and stated that they would also coordinate their assistance in order to ensure that assistance is timely, productive and efficient. A follow-up meeting will take place in March, before the pledging conference that will be hosted by the United States.