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Haiti’s troubled political history has impeded the country’s progress in justice sector development. While the reinstatement of a constitutional regime in 2006 boded well for the country’s future, the January 2010 earthquake—the worst in the region in 200 years—ravaged Haiti. The resulting sizeable loss of life and damage to infrastructure severely impaired the justice sector’s already limited capacity to maintain the rule of law.
Restoring and improving Haiti’s rule of law will require a concerted effort between various stakeholders, including the Haitian government and the large international aid community currently active in the country. The April 16 results of the highly anticipated presidential elections paved the way for new Haitian leadership to advance this effort. Although Haiti’s incoming president, Michel Martelly, has stated his commitment to the rule of law, the country’s criminal law system faces a number of serious challenges. For instance, in the earthquake’s aftermath, there has been a spike in sexual and gender-based violence (e.g., rape and domestic violence) as well as in trafficking in persons, drugs and weapons. In addition, the rise in pre-trial detentions could lead to human rights violations. Underlying these issues is a general lack of a cohesive vision of criminal procedures among justice sector operators, which is an obstacle to effective prosecution and adjudication of criminal cases. To help address these challenges, ABA ROLI launched a criminal law reform program in March 2011. The program focuses on strengthening the Haitian justice sector’s capacity by training criminal justice operators in coordination with the Haitian government’s priorities.