Expected Council Action
In August, the Council will consider the Secretary-General’s semi-annual report on the UN Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). A debate with a briefing by Sandra Honoré, the new Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of mission, is expected. At press time, no outcome was anticipated.
MINUSTAH’s mandate expires on 15 October.
Key Recent Developments
In his 8 March report, the Secretary-General defined the overall security situation in Haiti as relatively stable but marked by an increase in civil unrest and major crimes (S/2013/139). In recent months, economic and political issues have motivated demonstrations, some of which have turned violent. Some of the street protests reflected disillusionment with MINUSTAH, a sentiment also voiced in statements by political elites critical of the mission.
As of 30 June, there were still some 279,000 people displaced as a consequence of the 2010 earthquake living in 352 camps throughout the country, according to the International Organisation for Migration’s Displacement Tracking Matrix. The Matrix, covering the second quarter of 2013, showed the highest decrease in internally displaced persons in Haiti in the last year (some 33 sites were closed and over 41,000 people were relocated). The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has reported cases of extreme violence and very serious crimes against those who remain in camps, including violence associated with Haitian National Police (HNP) efforts to forcefully evict the displaced from the camps.
According to OCHA, by 21 July the number of cumulative cases of cholera stood at 667,122 and that the epidemic had killed 8,190 people. The Ministry of Public Health reported a 40 percent increase in new cases, from 3,357 in May to 4,713 in June. In his latest report, the Secretary-General explained that the increase in reported cases was due to the deterioration of cholera facilities, funding shortfalls to pay medical and sanitary staff and the closure of humanitarian facilities. The last wave of new cases also coincides with the advent of the rainy season in May. Heavy rains in June caused flooding in the Nord-Ouest and Centre regions, affecting 6,653 families.
In May, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti gave a 60-day ultimatum to the UN to compensate individuals affected by the cholera outbreak, threatening to bring the UN before a national court. After the UN invoked in early July the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the UN to say that the claims of the victims regarding the cholera outbreak were not receivable, the Institute stated its intention to file lawsuits against the UN on behalf of more than 5,000 victims, asking for reparations. This threat comes as an independent panel of UN experts who authored a report on the cholera outbreak in May 2011, and who are no longer affiliated with the UN, published a second report revisiting its previous conclusions. The second report stated that “personnel associated with the Mirebalais MINUSTAH facility were the most likely source of introduction of cholera into Haiti.”
The relations between the executive and parliament remain strained with persisting tensions over significant issues, such as the draft electoral law. On 1 July, the Transitional College of the Permanent Electoral Council submitted a draft electoral law to President Michel Martelly. Civil society and human rights organisations have called for the draft law to be swiftly submitted to parliament and for the partial senate, municipal and local elections to be held before the end of 2013. (The elections had initially been due in November 2011.) After the sudden death on 13 July of the investigating judge probing alleged embezzlement by the presidential family, parliament decided to create a commission to investigate the death, adding to the difficult political climate between parliament and the executive.
The 8 March Secretary-General’s report included an annex with a conditions-based consolidation plan for MINUSTAH. The plan, elaborated in consultation with the UN country team and the government of Haiti, foresees focusing MINUSTAH’s work on a core set of mandated tasks between 2013 and 2016. The plan includes a number of benchmarks to serve as indicators of progress in the stabilisation process: development of HNP capacity; promotion of the rule of law and human rights protection; electoral capacity-building; and progress on key governance issues.
The plan foresees that focusing on these core objectives will allow for further reductions of uniformed and civilian strength. Furthermore, it points out that—assuming the security situation remains the same, the HNP is deployed throughout the country, its capacity is built and electoral logistical arrangements take place—the mission’s uniformed strength could be reduced by 30 percent ahead of the presidential elections in 2015. (Resolution 2070 of 12 October 2012 authorised a reduction by June of 1,070 military personnel—from 7,340 to 6,270—and of 640 police personnel—from 3,241 to 2,601—as previously recommended by the Secretary-General.)
On 15 July Honoré took office as head of MINUSTAH after the government agreed on her appointment. (A letter from the Secretary-General with the intention to appoint her was shared with Council members on 6 December 2012 but the appointment only took place in May.)
After failing to appear three times at a court hearing, former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier appeared on 28 February in front of the Court of Appeal investigating allegations of corruption and human rights crimes committed during his rule, from 1971 to 1986. On 9 May, the Court finished hearing complainants, and it now has to determine what charges Duvalier will face.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 19 March during the 22nd session of the Human Rights Council, Michel Forst, the independent expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti, presented his report and an update based on his latest visit to the country from 2-9 March (A/HRC/22/65). Forst expressed concern about the nomination of magistrates for political reasons, threats against journalists thought to support the opposition, arbitrary arrests and detentions, the use of extended pre-trial detention and poor prison conditions. He said that as the security situation worsened, fear had returned and human rights violators were still enjoying impunity. Forst welcomed the appearance of Duvalier before the Court of Appeal as a victory for the rule of law. He recommended the High Commissioner for Human Rights open an office in Port-au-Prince to gradually replace the MINUSTAH human rights section in view of the mission’s future withdrawal. Forst also confirmed his resignation for personal reasons. The mandate of the independent expert on Haiti was extended for one year on 22 March (A/HRC/PRST/22/2) and on 14 June Gustavo Gallon (Colombia) was appointed as the new independent expert on Haiti.
A key issue for the Council will be the timing and priorities regarding the implementation of the MINUSTAH consolidation plan, in particular the drawdown of uniformed personnel and monitoring progress on the proposed benchmarks.
A related issue is the need to maintain progress in building the capacity (including human rights training) of the HNP and to reach the goal of increasing the number of officers to a minimum of 15,000 by 2016.
Ensuring that the long overdue partial senate, municipal and local elections, now scheduled to be held before the end of 2013, actually take place and are free and fair will be an important issue for the Council in the upcoming months.
Another issue is the tension between the executive and legislative branches of the government, which is having a negative impact on MINUSTAH’s implementation of its mandate in relation to the promotion of the rule of law and the advancement of governance and human rights.
Ensuring the government’s constructive engagement with Honoré in spite of the delay in agreeing to her appointment is a related issue.
With the renewal of MINUSTAH’s mandate coming up in October, the most likely option is for the Council to take no action at this stage.
A less likely option would be to adopt a presidential statement that could:
- welcome the conditions-based consolidation plan for MINUSTAH;
- emphasise the importance of holding elections and urge political leaders to avoid further delays;
- highlight the ongoing need to strengthen the capacity of the HNP;
- express concern about the impact of the cholera epidemic;
- emphasise the importance of ensuring accountability for serious human rights violations; and
- request more regular briefings from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations on the situation in Haiti (in addition to the customary semi-annual briefings coinciding with the Secretary-General’s reports).
It seems Council members have high expectations of Honoré’s leadership in this critical period both for Haiti and for MINUSTAH.
With regard to MINUSTAH’s consolidation plan, Council members have differed over the timing of the drawdown. While some countries that prioritise budgetary reasons are pushing for advancing MINUSTAH’s withdrawal, troop- and police-contributing countries (some of which are currently Council members) have concerns about the pace of the process and the need to re-evaluate it based on the security and political situations on the ground instead of a pre-set time frame.
Council members have voiced concern in private about possible lawsuits against the UN in courts in Haiti, the US and Europe to seek reparations for cholera victims. However, this issue is not likely to be raised in the upcoming debate. The US is the penholder on Haiti.
UN DOCUMENTS ON HAITI
|Security Council Resolution|
|12 October 2012 S/RES/2070||This resolution renewed the Mandate of MINUSTAH until 15 October 2013.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|28 January 2013 SC/10901||The Council called for the holding of elections by the end of 2013 and urged all political actors to increase their efforts to preserve stability in Haiti.|
|Security Council Letters|
|23 May 2013 S/2013/312||This was an exchange of letters regarding the appointment of Sandra Honoré as Special Representative and head of MINUSTAH.|
|6 December 2012 S/2013/311||This was an exchange of letters regarding the appointment of Sandra Honoré as Special Representative and head of MINUSTAH.|
|8 March 2013 S/2013/139||This was a report on MINUSTAH.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|20 March 2013 S/PV.6936||This was a semi-annual debate on Haiti.|
OTHER RELEVANT FACTS
Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of MINUSTAH
Sandra Honoré (Trinidad and Tobago)
Size and Composition of Mission
Current strength as of 31 May: 8,809 total uniformed personnel, including 6,179 troops and 2,630 police (including formed units), 435 international civilian personnel, 1,323 local civilian staff and 194 UN Volunteers.