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September 18, 2018

Haiti’s Judicial Inspection Unit Assesses Jacmel First Instance Court

In November 2015, the Inspection Unit of Haiti’s High Judicial Council conducted its first court inspection in the First Instance Court of Jacmel. Preliminary results revealed several irregularities that lead to delays in processing cases and prolonged pre-trial detention.

A representative from Haiti’s High Judicial Council speaks with judges and clerks during the inspection of the First Instance Court of Jacmel.

Established in August 2015, the inspection unit is mandated with assessing the country’s courts to identify administrative and procedural issues and make recommendations for improvement. Embarking on this task, a three-member team of inspectors looked into civil, criminal and administrative cases in the First Instance Court in Jacmel. The team utilized a toolkit that the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) and the High Judicial Council developed. In October 2015, ABA ROLI trained the inspectors on how to use the toolkit, which guides the review of 34 points of control, including the conditions in which evidence is stored and how quickly cases are processed. Armand Riberolles—a former member of the French court inspection unit and an ABA ROLI expert—led the training and provided the team of Haitian inspectors with technical support during its court assessment.

While the inspection unit is analyzing the data further, its preliminary findings revealed several issues, including failure to collect court fees, security issues with evidence storage and lack of systematic classification and labeling of evidence. The inspection also showed that judges postpone cases extensively and for no apparent reason, that investigative judges lack complete lists of their pre-trial detainees and that investigative magistrates often have incomplete files, including those that lack arrest warrants.

Based on its ongoing analysis of the data it gathered in November, the inspection unit will prepare a report that incorporates its recommendations for addressing the issues. The report will be shared with the chief judge of the First Instance Court in Jacmel for comments and later submitted to the High Judicial Council for approval. Once approved, the report will be shared with the Court of First Instance, which will have three months to implement all of the report’s recommendations. The inspectors will then conduct a follow-up visit to assess the court’s implementation of the recommendations. Failure to comply with the suggestions can lead to disciplinary sanctions against judges. Complaints that the inspection unit gathered and analyzed recently have led the High Judicial Council to take disciplinary action against 13 judges.

“This demonstrates that Haiti is serious about combatting judicial misconduct,” said Philippe Lamarche, ABA ROLI’s country director in Haiti.

Director of the inspection unit, Lionel Constant Bourgoin, said that ABA ROLI’s support enabled them to conduct the inspection successfully. “Mr. Riberolles is a coach for us. He provides us with his expertise in a field in which we have no experience,” he said. “His presence at our side during inspections also boosts our confidence.”

The report of the inspection unit will offer a critical benchmark for improvements in the courts and increase the public’s expectations of judicial accountability. “The inspection unit’s recommendations will serve to increase court performance and decrease prolonged pre-trial detention and corruption,” said Lamarche. “The inspections demonstrate to the public that courts are held to a high standard of ethics.”

With funding from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, ABA ROLI will continue to support the inspection unit.

To learn more about our work in Haiti, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at [email protected].