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Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Responds to Demand for Action to End Sexual Violence in Haiti

In October, MADRE was one of a group of advocates and attorneys for displaced women in Haiti to submit a legal petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The petition, based on multiple on-the-ground investigations, calls on the IACHR to require the Haitian government and UN agencies to take urgent action to address sexual violence against women and girls living in the displacement camps. A ruling on this matter by the IACHR is expected after December 10.

In the months since the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, massive displacement has been accompanied by an escalating pattern of rape and beatings of women living in the camps without security, privacy or lighting. Women's human rights defenders, advocating for the rights of rape survivors, have also faced threats against their lives by those seeking to deter them from doing their brave work. They have struggled to continue to provide essential medical and legal services to women in the camps.

Confronted with evidence of rampant sexual violence, a lack of security and a climate of impunity in the camps, the IACHR issued a response. The statement, released on November 18, reflects the observations and recommendations made in the petition. It reads in part:

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern over the situation in a number of camps for persons displaced by the earthquake that took place in Haiti in January 2010, especially with regard to forced evictions and sexual violence against women and girls.

According to information received by the Inter-American Commission, the extremely precarious conditions and lack of security in the camps for internally displaced persons (IDP camps) is generating a situation of extreme vulnerability for the women and girls who live in them. The number of sexual violations committed in the camps is apparently on the rise, and rapes of girls as young as five years old have been reported. Organizations working on the ground have observed that most of the rapes are committed at night by two or more attackers, who are usually armed. According to the data provided to the IACHR, the victims of these attacks do not have adequate medical services available, nor do they have accessible, effective judicial recourse, which creates a situation of impunity which allows the violence against women and girls to be perpetuated.


In this regard, the IACHR recommended to the State of Haiti that it ensure the presence of security forces around and inside the IDP camps, in particular female security forces and especially near the bathrooms; improve lighting inside the camps; implement measures to facilitate the filing of legal actions and to improve the efficiency of judicial investigations, including in particular training police officials in their duties related to cases of violence against women; and provide free assistance by specialized doctors who have experience in treating victims of sexual violence.

In the coming weeks, the IACHR will issue a ruling in reply to the petition. MADRE will continue to provide updates as to its status.

Additional Resources: 

Human Rights Groups File Legal Petition on Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls in Camps for Displaced in Haiti (October 20, 2010)
Redacted Version of the Petition – English (October 20, 2010)
Redacted Version of the Petition – French (October 20, 2010)

December 3, 2010  / Latin America and Carribean / Haiti