Comparative law and justice/Haiti

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Haiti is located in the western third of the island of Hispaniola between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. The country is two thirds mountainous, while the rest of the country is marked by great valleys, extensive plateaus, and small plains. The land covers 10,641 sq. mi; approximately the size of Maryland. The capital of the country is Port-au-Prince, it is also the seat of government. Port-au-Prince is also the largest city with an estimated population of over a million. The country lies in the hurricane belt and is subject to severe storms from June to October, and occasional flooding and earthquake. In 2008, the country suffered from four tropical storms which severely damaged the transportation infrastructure and agricultural sector. Agriculture is an important component and account for 66% of the labor force. The country's exports and imports include apparel, oil, cocol, mangoes, coffee; and food, manufactured goods, machinery, transport equipment, fuels and raw materials respectively. The coun try suffers from extensive deforestation, soil erosion, inadequate supply of portable water. The country's natural resources include bauxite, copper, calcium, carbonate, gold, marble, and hydropower. The monetary unit is the Gourde. Haiti has an estimated population of over 9 million people. The birth rate of the population is 29.1/1000. The infant mortality rate is as follow: 59,69/1000 live births. Life expectance at birth for the total population is 60.78 years. Life expectancy for male is 59.13 and female 62.48. Ninety five percent of the population is black while five percent is mulattoes and white. illiteracy is a significant issue for the country with only 52.9% of the population being literate (able to read and write). the literacy rate for male is and female is 54.8% and 51.2% respectively. Catholicism is practised by 80% of the population. The official languages of the population are Creole and French.

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On December 5, 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered a new island that he claimed for Spain and named it Hispaniola. The new comers quickly occupied the island and exploited it for its gold. The natives who refused to work were killed or sold into slavery. In addition, the Europeans brought with them infectious diseases to which the natives were not immune. And thus, these diseases were the chief cause for the rapid \deaths and the decline of the native population called the Tainos. In 1917, the Spaniards began importing slave labor. Hispaniola soon became a haven for pirates. As Spanish colonist moved closer to the capital city, Santo Domingo, French pirates established settlements on the northern and western parts of the island. In 1964, French claimed control of the western part of the island, and in 1697 Spain officially relinquished the western third part of Hispaniola to France in the Treaty of Ryswick. The French colony became one of the healthiest in the Caribbean. It was called La Perle des Antilles and became France's richest colony because of the immense profit from sugar, coffee, and indigo industries. this was made possible due to the labor of African slaves. It is estimated that between 1764 and 1771, the average importation of slaves was between 10,000-15,000, by 1786 about 28,000, and, from 1787 onward, the colony received more than 40,000 slaves a year; and by 1789 the slave population totaled 500,000.

Economic Development, Health, and Education[edit | edit source]

The country is comprised of 27,750sq/km. Thirty eight percent of the population are between the ages of zero to fourteen, while fifty eight percent are between the ages of fifteen to sixty five and the rest is sixty five and older. The birth rate is twenty nine per one thousand population. The infant mortality is roughly sixty per one thousand live births. The life expectancy at birth is about sixty years of age. The total literacy rate is about fifty three percent.[1] The education system there although sophisticated is not available to the majority. There is no free system of education for the poor and thus the illiteracy rate is rather elevated. In addition, even the middle class who can afford an education for their children are left with the less sophisticated schools. there is no organized health system in the country. The majority of the population often defer to natural medicines for their health problems.

Regarding economic developments, there are no longer many. Some of the exports include apparel, oils, cocoa, mangoes, coffee. However, most of the natural resources of the country are left untapped and the people rely more on imports for their needs. A situation that has deepened the country's debt and crippled its ability to develop financially. Their imports include food, manufactured goods, machinery, transport equipment, fuels and raw materials.

Governance[edit | edit source]

The president is elected by popular vote every 5 years. The prime minister is appointed by the president and is ratified by the National Assembly. The prime minister in turns appoints the ministers and secretaries of state. The prime minister enforces laws and along with the president is responsible for national defense. The National Assembly of Haiti consists of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. The chamber of Deputies is comprised of 99 members, elected every 4 years, while the senate consists of 30 seats, 1/3 elected every 2 years.[2]

Judicial Review[edit | edit source]

The legal system of Haiti is based upon the French Napoleonic Code system, the Roman civil law system. The judiciary consists of four levels: the Court of Cassation, Courts of Appeals, Civil Courts, and Magistrate Courts. Judges of the Court of Cassation are appointed by the president for 10 year terms. Government prosecutors are appointed by the court and act in civil and criminal cases alike. Although the constitution mandates the separation of the police and military, the Haitian armed forces controlled law enforcement and public security until 1995.[3] In addition, though the constitution calls for an independent judiciary, all judges sine 1986 have been appointed and removed at the will of the government. Also, political pressures affect the judiciary at all levels. The justices of peace issue warrants and adjudicate minor infractions. While the Supreme Court deals with questions of procedure and constitutionality. Haiti accepts compulsory jurisdiction of the International court of Justice. In 1936, the president Stenio Vincent drew up a new constitution that provided a legislature and a judiciary totally dependent on the executive branch. The new constitution stated that the government makes the constitution, the laws, the regulations and agreements.[4] The law requires that detainees appear before a judge within forty eight hours, except when they were arrested in the act of committing a crime or when they were detained pursuant to a judicial warrant. However, in reality prisoners spend lengthy periods of time in jail while they await trial. In addition, the no bail system further lengthens the pretrial detention period. Officials are required to file charges at least two weeks prior to trial. Detainees have a right to counsel however it is not provided by the state. They themselves must pay for it. However, because of extreme poverty most accused are not able to afford an attorney and are therefore left at the mercy of the justice or injustice system. Haiti is ravaged by political corruption. The country has been ranked as one of the most corrupt nations. The international Red Cross reported that Haiti was 155 out of 159 countries in 2006.[8][11]

Criminological research and studies in Haiti lacks the data needed for more refined analysis. There are no sound data on numbers and types of offenses committed nor any information sufficient to study offenders. The bourgeoisie in Haiti is composed mostly of light-skinned people (whites and mulattoes). In this relatively affluent class, emphasis is given to lightness of skin as a prerequisite for being socially and economically accepted. The country people (peasants), who are still linked culturally to Africa, account for 80 percent of the population.[12][9] In Haiti, luxury goods are in short supply and salaries are low, so that a minority group may be seen as monopolizing the 'good life. a lack of opportunities, education for the major part of the population, the constant political unrest, create a palpable situation in the country. This could produce a socioeconomic frustration among the lower class that fuels crime and delinquency. Some of the factors that make country most vulnerable to crime and violence include the drug trade and trafficking of weapons.[6] Murder rates in the Caribbean are at 30 per 100,000 population annually, higher than for any other region of the world and have risen in recent years for many of the region’s countries. Assault rates, at least based on assaults reported to police, are also significantly above the world average. These reported rates are highly sensitive to the level of trust in the local police in general and the willingness to report domestic violence, in particular.[6] Victimization surveys are needed to even approximate true levels of assault, yet standardized victimization surveys have rarely been undertaken. Violence against women affects a significant percentage of women and girls in the Haiti. Police statistics offer only a very imperfect picture of violence against women, since the majority of these incidents are not reported to police. To get a more precise idea of prevalence rates, one must use victimization surveys that focus on violence against women. One such regional victimization survey revealed that 48 percent of adolescent girls’ sexual initiation was “forced” or “somewhat forced” in nine Caribbean countries.[11] It is a difficult task to attempt to assess crimes statistics in Haiti. Crime is certainly underreported. In addition, there are many instances where people justice is practiced.

Legal Personnel[edit | edit source]

Law Enforcement[edit | edit source]

There is no data available for crime. As for public opinion of the justice system, there is no trust in the government. It is widely believed that someone can be bribed and paid for leniency or acquittal. There is no justice since everyone is only looking out for their own interests.

Social Inequality[edit | edit source]

Haiti has a long history of human rights violation. Political killings, kidnapping, torture, and unlawful incarceration are common practices. Lengthy pretrial detention is also a problem. The number of Haitian citizens imprison without trial is staggering. Lawyers are intimidated from defending their clients through intimidation and violence. In addition, lawyer immunity is under constant threat. Although the constitution guarantees freedom of expression, many journalists practice some measure of caution to protect themselves from retribution. For instance, during the second Aristide administration there were reports that members of the press were killed for supporting opposition movements. Abuse against women and children are common. Rape although illegal scarcely result in prosecution of the offenders. Countless children suffer from malnourishment and lack of educational opportunities. Poverty has forced at least 225,000 children in Haiti's cities into slavery as unpaid household servants, and still this number is thought to be an underestimate. The Pan American Development Foundation's report states that some of those children, mostly young girls, suffer sexual, psychological and physical abuse while toiling in extreme hardship. The report recommends Haiti's government and international donors focus efforts on educating the poor and expanding social services such as shelters for girls, who make up an estimated two-thirds of the child servant population. Young servants are known as "restavek", which means "stays with”. According to the UN, 50 per cent of young women in the violent shantytowns of Haiti have been raped or sexually assaulted. The laws hardly protect those children from abuse of any kind. Of the handful of victims who seek justice, a third are under 13.[8] [10] The Haitian Parliament has so far failed to promulgate the 2005 Presidential decree on sexual violence into law and the government has yet to establish a legal framework to protect women and girls from all forms of violence. However, Haitian authorities have taken some positive steps towards addressing violence against women and girls: Haiti has signed regional and international human rights treaties for the protection of women; it has established a Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Women’s Rights; and in 2005 the 2006-2011 National Plan to Combat Violence Against Women was adopted. However, little has been achieved in implementing these commitments. A survey in 2006 shows that rape is often used as both a tool and outcome of violence.[9] Because of the lack of official response, most of those who rape and attack women and girls are not brought to justice and are able to continue committing these crimes with no fear of punishment. For many girls, surviving sexual violence means remaining silent. Haiti does not have specific legal provisions on domestic violence although some forms of domestic violence are addressed by existing legislation. Haitian law excuses a husband for murdering his wife if she’s found in an adulterous affair; however the wife doesn’t enjoy the same right.

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