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Update No. 96/1 on ICRC activities in Haiti

18-06-1996 Operational Update

The situation of the Haitian prison population has been the focus of ICRC activities in Haiti since the institution first set up a delegation in the country in 1994. The delegation has in the past two years carried out extensive rehabilitation work in Haitian prisons, rebuilding dispensaries, providing sources of clean water and building septic tanks and other facilities required to improve the conditions of detention of the prison population. It has also played an important part in urging the Haitian authorities to assume their responsibility to provide acceptable conditions of detention in Haitian prisons.

When the ICRC issued its 1996 Emergency Appeal for Haiti in December 1995, the Haitian government had recently established the APENA (national prison service), and United Nations agencies in Haiti were planning on implementing extensive assistance programmes to help the APENA better administer the country's prisons. The institution thus hoped that the need for it to provide assistance for Haitian prisons would diminish in 1996, as the Haitian authorities would assume responsibility for the prisons with the help of these agencies. The initial budget was thus based on a plan for a reduction in the ICRC presence in the country.

Since the end of last year, the ICRC has noted that progress towards improving conditions of detention and strengthening the Haitian prison service has been extremely slow. The transitional period leading up to the naming of a new President and government on 6 March 1996 represented a major obstacle to progress in this regard, as decisions were not forthcoming from the authorities. In addition, the assistance of other organizations has taken much longer to take shape than had been expected. Yet the need for assistance in Haitian prisons has remained urgent.

The delegation has therefore requested that the budget be amended to take into account the continuing need for ICRC assistance in Haitian prisons. As in the past, this assistance will consist in both material aid and in encouraging and advising the APENA as it assumes responsibility for the administration of the country's prisons.

For these reasons, the ICRC's Executive Board on 23 May adopted a decision increasing the ICRC's budget for its operation in Haiti by Sfr 419,203.

The ICRC's main objective in Haiti remains that of transferring to the APENA full responsibility for the administration of prisons and for assistance provided to prisoners.

 Security detainees  

The ICRC is following closely the work of the National Justice and Truth Commission as it studies the cases of some 1,200 people suspected of committing human rights violations under the military regime. As in the past, the ICRC will continue to visit any people detained in connection with their involvement in the previous government. The delegation is currently following the cases of nine people who remain in detention following the change of government of 1994.

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