January 30, 2015

Haitian Legal Professionals Trained on Anti-Corruption Legislation and Techniques

January 2015

In November and December 2014, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) and Haiti’s anti-corruption unit (Unité de Lutte Contre la Corruption or ULCC) conducted three four-day long workshops for members of the judiciary. Held at the Magistrate School in Port-au-Prince, the trainings focused on legislative changes, investigation techniques and inter-institutional coordination methods the country has recently introduced to fight corruption. A total of 82 investigators, judges, investigative judges and prosecutors took part in these trainings.

Judge Pierre debating with his colleagues during ABA ROLI’s training workshop.

Experts from the ULCC, along with representatives of the Superior Court of Account as well as investigative magistrates and prosecutors, led interactive sessions to familiarize participants with the 18 corruption offenses that the March 2014 law on the prevention and repression of corruption criminalizes. ABA ROLI trainers led small-group exercises that allowed participants to apply what they learned to several case studies, identifying offenses, outlining procedures, weighing evidence and handing down verdicts and sentences. Each group later presented its conclusions to all participants and received feedback from the trainers.

Denis Cyprien Pierre, an investigative judge from Port-au-Prince, who six months prior to the training had been assigned a corruption case involving all nine members of a powerful state council, said the training will make his job easier. The case, he said, had been lingering on his desk because he was unfamiliar with corruption offenses and procedures. “This is exactly the training I need to successfully [handle] corruption cases,” he added.

Judge Pierre was not an exception. Legacy of Haiti’s outdated, 1835 criminal code, which listed only a few corruption offenses and did not criminalize such corrupt acts as bribery, several participants were initially either unable to provide examples of actions that would constitute corruption offenses or confusing the various offenses. They also demonstrated a lack of clarity of the respective roles and functions of the ULCC and the Superior Court of Accounts, the two institutions with which the judiciary should coordinate closely in corruption cases.

“Like most participants, prior to the training I was not aware of the 18 new offenses introduced in the new law and their respective elements. I could not differentiate between the various offenses such as extortion, bribery and illegal commission,” said Pierre. “I was also unfamiliar with several critical procedures, such as the necessity to first obtain a decision from the Superior Court of Accounts for cases dealing with embezzlement of public funds.” He said that the training helped him to better understand how the different stakeholders should work together on corruption cases.

The judge has since met with the prosecutor in charge of the corruption case involving the nine public officials. He said “Because of this training I now know, six months after receiving this file, the path and procedures to follow to successfully conduct my investigation in this case.”

The trainings are part of ABA ROLI’s work to strengthen Haiti’s criminal justice sector, which is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. Continuing its anti-corruption support, ABA ROLI will hold another training in the first quarter of 2015. In addition, ABA ROLI will bring an anti-corruption expert to mentor Haitian judges and prosecutors throughout 2015.

To learn more about our work in Haiti, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at rol@americanbar.org.