Human-rights violations have reached a tipping point in Haiti | Opinion

Human Rights Day — Dec. 10 — is an opportunity to honor the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), signed in 1948. This historic document laid out the most basic, universal, indivisible and inalienable rights of every human being. Seventy-five years later, the Declaration is as important as ever in ensuring nations respect the fundamental rights of people and ensuring justice for all.

The people of Haiti, a member of the United Nations, have waged tireless battles to gain the most basic of freedoms and rights. We remember particularly the resistance of the Haitian people against the Duvalier dictatorship in the 1970s and 80s. Blood was shed, priceless sacrifices were made. The Haitian Constitution of 1987, Haitians’ declaration to break with the dictatorship, enshrines democratic achievements that guarantee their rights and fundamental freedoms.

As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the UDHR, Haiti is facing a catastrophic human rights situation. It is in a serious political and security crisis. Armed gangs’ acts of violence by throughout the country have intensified. They kill, kidnap, rape, burn and pillage with impunity. This year, from January to November, more than 10 armed attacks and massacres were recorded, notably in Port-au-Prince, the capital, and in the Artibonite department. Gangs have terrorized farmers in the Artibonite Valley into abandoning their lands.

This chaos has led to massive violations of the rights to life, safety and security, prosperity and housing. Many people, including journalists, have been victims of kidnapping. Victims are often murdered after being raped.

The population’s forced displacement has also increased excessively. Thousands of internally displaced people find themselves in catastrophic conditions in camps without assistance from the government. Children are traumatized. In certain neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, schools and hospitals have had to close their doors because of the violence of armed bandits. In Haiti, we are witnessing the dehumanization of life in all its forms.

The repressive institutions of the government — which have the obligation to guarantee public order and protect citizens’ lives and property — are inept and ineffective. Justice is failing, while violence with impunity reigns supreme.

In this context, the Platform of Haitian Human Rights Organizations (POHDH), whose mission is to promote and defend human rights, is committed to supporting Haiti’s many communities. POHDH has carried out documentation work on violence and human-rights violations, informational and training activities to make citizens more aware of their rights. POHDH also has developed advocacy and mobilization activities with farmers with a view toward participating in building resistance against land grabbing and environmental destruction.

POHDH reiterates its commitment to supporting Haitians in their fight for freedom, justice and respect for human rights. It will continue to exercise its role as a guardian of democracy and human rights in the face of authoritarianism and violence. POHDH intends to strengthen its link with Haitians and members of the diaspora to promote human rights in Haiti. Such solidarity and mobilization are essential to raising international awareness of the human-rights crisis in Haiti.

Alermy Piervilus is the executive secretary of the Platform of Haitian Human Rights Organizations.