Expected Council Action
In October, the Security Council will receive a briefing from the Special Representative and head of the UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH), Helen La Lime, on recent developments and the Secretary-General’s latest report on BINUH, due by 10 October. A civil society representative may also brief. The meeting may be followed by closed consultations. The Council will also negotiate the renewal of BINUH’s mandate, which expires on 15 October.
Key Recent Developments
Following the last periodic meeting on Haiti on 17 June, Council members on 1 July adopted a press statement stressing the urgent need to hold inclusive, free and fair legislative as well as presidential elections in 2021. They reiterated their concern regarding reported human rights violations and abuses and called on the government to hold those responsible to account. The statement further stressed the need for increased support and attention to Haiti’s humanitarian situation and development needs and condemned the increasing gang violence. At the time of the June meeting, President Jovenel Moïse was seeking to hold a controversial referendum on a new draft constitution. He had ruled the country by decree since parliament ceased to function in January 2020, when the terms of all delegates of the lower chamber and of most senators expired because of a delay in legislative elections.
With these issues still unresolved, Haiti soon encountered additional challenges. In the pre-dawn hours of 7 July, Moïse was assassinated in his home, and his wife sustained severe injuries. The UN system swiftly condemned the murder: on the same day, the Council issued a press statement condemning the attack and held a private meeting on 8 July to receive a briefing on the assassination from La Lime.
Following several days of uncertainty over who would lead the country, Ariel Henry, appointed by Moïse as prime minister but not sworn in at the time of the attack, officially took office and pledged to hold elections as soon as possible. Later, however, he postponed both the ballot and the constitutional referendum initially scheduled for September. The referendum and the first round of parliamentary as well as presidential elections are now expected to be held on 7 November, while a second round for the presidential office and parliament is scheduled to take place on 23 January 2022.
With Henry beginning to form a unity government based on a power-sharing deal with political opposition figures, Port-au-Prince prosecutor Bed-Ford Claude, who was in charge of investigating Moïse’s assassination, then sought an investigation into whether Henry had been involved in the killing. Henry had reportedly had phone contact with a prime suspect in the case shortly after the assassination, triggering the interest of the prosecutor. Henry subsequently dismissed Claude and, several days later, Justice Minister Rockefeller Vincent. In a 16 September statement, the Office of the Prime Minister said that Henry had received several calls after the assassination from numerous individuals who were concerned for his personal safety.
Notwithstanding the judicial turmoil, Henry, on 11 September, signed a political agreement on “peaceful and efficient governance”, paving the way for the formation of the unity government. In a 15 September statement, the “Core Group”—composed of Haiti-based representatives of Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, the US, the UN, the Organization of American States (OAS), and the EU—encouraged efforts to reach a political agreement that would lead to an inclusive government while encouraging continued constructive dialogue among all stakeholders. It also called for a comprehensive investigation into Moïse’s assassination. The ongoing judicial process is mired in difficulties, however: more than 40 suspects have been arrested, including 18 Colombian ex-soldiers who have reportedly claimed that they were tortured while in custody. Several judicial staff involved in the investigation have reportedly received death threats that have forced some into hiding.
Several incidents in recent weeks also aggravated Haiti’s humanitarian situation. On 14 August, Haiti was struck by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake, followed by Tropical Storm Grace on 16 and 17 August. On 23 September, OCHA reported at least 2,248 deaths, with over 12,000 persons injured as a result of the quake. Over 650,000 were in need of emergency humanitarian assistance as the earthquake and storm exacerbated pre-existing vulnerabilities, such as rising food insecurity, deteriorating infrastructure, disrupted local markets due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and increased gang violence. On 23 August, the Council convened to discuss the humanitarian situation in Haiti under “any other business” and to gain an overview of the response efforts. In a press conference on 16 September, Deputy Special Representative for BINUH Bruno Lemarquis reported that a flash appeal is seeking some $187.3 million to support the most vulnerable. He also reported that the tense security situation, with gangs controlling access routes to the most affected areas in the country’s south, was hampering humanitarian access.
While Haiti is grappling with a domestic humanitarian crisis, its focus has also turned to the plight of some 12,000 Haitians who travelled via South and Central American countries to Del Rio, Texas, a town on the Mexican border. The Biden administration announced that it would repatriate the Haitians crossing the border but could release some on a case-by-case basis. It is applying Title 42 of the US Code of Federal Regulations, which prohibits “the introduction” of individuals into the US when the Director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) finds a serious danger of communicable disease. Title 42 effectively provides for expulsion and, as invoked by the Trump administration beginning of March 2020, made no exception for asylum-seekers or unaccompanied minors. The first repatriation flights left the US for Port-au-Prince on 19 September. The State Department issued a press release on a 20 September phone call between Henry and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. In the call, both reportedly shared “a mutual concern for the safety of Haitian citizens and discussed the dangers of irregular migration, which puts individuals at great risk and often requires migrants and their families to incur crippling debt”.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 30 June, a joint report by BINUH and OHCHR highlighted human rights concerns related to conditions of detention in Haiti and the treatment of persons deprived of liberty. According to the report, which is based on visits to 12 places of detention between January and March, prisoners in Haiti often spend years in inhumane conditions subjected to ill-treatment and torture. The report noted that the excessive use of pre-trial detention, coupled with the judicial system’s limited capacity to try criminal cases promptly, has contributed to the overcrowding of detention facilities. Currently, 82 percent of people deprived of their liberty in Haiti have not been convicted, the report said.
Key Issues and Options
Recent crises have amplified the challenges facing Haiti. A key priority will remain the holding of elections. The political agreement was a promising step towards providing a stable political framework for organising the elections, merely one month before the first round of voting. One option for the Council would be to invite a civil society briefer to provide insight on the implementation of the political agreement and on progress towards holding the elections.
The humanitarian situation in the country has worsened in recent weeks and will be compounded by thousands of Haitians arriving on repatriation flights from the US. A press statement could rally international financial support for Haiti in general and for the humanitarian flash appeal to meet the most pressing challenges.
With the mandate renewal imminent, Council members may explore how BINUH can best support the electoral process and formation of a new government. While resolution 2547 of 15 October 2020 extended BINUH’s mandate without changes for 12 months, the Council may consider expanding BINUH’s political advisory and good offices role to strengthen the mandate in support of a newly formed government.
BINUH’s mandate has been contentious since the mission’s inception in October 2019. Discussions about BINUH and its role in mediating the political crisis have been divisive. China has frequently argued that there can be no external solution to the problems in the country. Other Council members consider BINUH well-positioned to assist Haiti. This debate appears to have influenced negotiations on recent Council products. In 2019, China argued for a six-month mandate renewal instead of the current 12 months and for a strategic assessment to be conducted in that timeframe, with the aim of elaborating recommendations for an exit strategy that would lead to the eventual drawdown of BINUH and the transfer of its tasks to the Haitian government. In light of the anticipated change in government, the debate around BINUH’s set-up and possible breadth of provision of support may recur during the upcoming negotiation on the mission’s mandate renewal.
The US has been the penholder on Haiti. Since Mexico became a Council member this year, it has emerged as an active actor cooperating with the US on several Council products. Mexico and the US will be the co-penholders for the draft resolution.
UN DOCUMENTS ON HAITI
|Security Council Resolutions|
|15 October 2020S/RES/2547||This resolution renewed BINUH for one year.|
|11 June 2021S/2021/559||This was the Secretary-General’s latest report on Haiti.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|7 July 2021SC/14574||This was the statement was released by the President of the Security Council, condemning the assassination of the President of Haiti, Jovenel Moïse.|
|1 July 2021SC/14571||This was the press statement reiterating deep concern of Council members regarding deteriorating political, security and humanitarian conditions in Haiti and stressing the primary responsibility of the Government of Haiti to address the situation.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|15 October 2020S/PV.8768||At this meeting the Council adopted resolution 2547 (2020), renewing BINUH for one year. Two members, China and Russia, abstained.|