UN expert flags 'daily violations' in Haiti prisons
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AFP) — Inmates in Haiti are subjected to "daily violations" of their fundamental rights, mostly stemming from egregious prison overcrowding resulting from the overuse of lengthy preventive detentions, a UN official said Thursday.
Gustavo Gallon, a UN expert focusing on human rights, said the impoverished Caribbean nation often flouts UN incarceration standards of 4.5 metres (14.8 feet) of prison area per inmate.
By those norms, Haiti's prisons are overcrowded by some 644 per cent, Gallon said at a press conference in Port-au-Prince on his eighth visit to the divided Caribbean island shared with the Dominican Republic.
"The capacity of Haiti's prisons allow for just 1,600 inmates," according to the UN official, who said that as of December 31, the incarcerated population was more than 10,500.
Prisons are so crowded in the capital that inmates have just one-third of a square meter of living space -- "not even enough room if you're standing up in a cell," said Florence Elie, head of the office tasked with protecting the rights of Haitians.
Haitian prisons are also plagued by sanitation shortcomings that were worsened by a recent public health workers' strike, creating abysmal conditions that are expected to lead to scores of unnecessary deaths in the coming months.
"All judges and judicial officials, as well as the entire population, should visit the prisons to see firsthand the disgraceful way people deprived of their liberty are treated" in Haiti, Gallon said.