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From April 9-11, a five-person ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) delegation visited Haiti, led by the Honorable M. Margaret McKeown, who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and serves as the chair of ABA ROLI’s Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) Council. The delegation, which included LAC council members Patrick Del Duca and Richard Peña and D.C.-based staffers, including LAC Director Mike McCullough, undertook the trip to observe ABA ROLI’s ongoing efforts to support the recovery of the country’s legal system.
In March 2011, ABA ROLI launched its Haiti program to strengthen the justice sector’s capacity to handle criminal cases following the January 2010, 7.0-magnitude earthquake that killed at least 46,000 people and left an estimated 895,000 homeless. This work includes a specific focus on efforts to combat specialized crimes, such as gender-based violence, that particularly threaten Haiti’s stability as it continues to recover.
The U.S. delegation and ABA ROLI’s Port-au-Prince-based staff met with Haiti’s Minister of Justice and Public Security Jean Renel Sanon, and separately with the U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Pamela A. White. The group also held meetings with leaders from the Superior Council of the Judiciary, the Port-au-Prince Bar Association, the Magistrate School, the Police School and the Anti-Corruption Commission. Discussions during the exchanges covered ABA ROLI’s work in Haiti, monitoring and evaluation strategies for tracking the impact of that work, and the continued needs of the country’s justice sector.
ABA ROLI’s programs in Haiti, which are funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, address a range of rule of law needs. Our program trains judges, prosecutors and police on such issues as sexual and gender-based violence, human and arms trafficking, kidnapping and corruption. A judicial transparency initiative fosters rigorous oversight of judges and court administrative staff around ethics and supports the creation of a judicial inspection unit within the judiciary’s Superior Council. ABA ROLI trains civil society organizations, journalists and legal professionals, while also promoting understanding around anticipated criminal justice changes. Finally, we help to enhance the justice ministry’s judicial oversight capacity and its coordination with police.
ABA ROLI’s efforts to strengthen inter-institutional cooperation have been particularly effective. “During my first visit to Haiti in 1997, police and justice sector operators refused to be trained together. The individual with the gun was the person in authority, and police officers would not accept being led by prosecutors and judges,” said Philippe Lamarche, ABA ROLI’s country director in Haiti. “By engaging the police and the magistrate schools in cross-trainings, our program has encouraged cultural change.” Police and prosecutors are now “working hand in hand,” he added.
While on the ground, the delegation gained an appreciation of the justice sector’s progress and its most critical needs. “Four years ago, I was shocked by the extent of the earthquake’s destruction, but fortunately most of that damage seems repaired,” said McCullough, who had visited in April 2010 with another ABA ROLI delegation. “On the other hand, these improvements somehow made the level of poverty and the need for continued development assistance even more apparent, and they serve as a reminder of the importance of the work that we are doing here.”
To learn more about our work in Haiti, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at email@example.com.