Kevin Pina interviews Sebastien Roy, the son of "the father of Haiti's constitution" for Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio. Segment first aired on July 2, 2012.
Haiti's new "Constitutional Amendments" re-establishes Laws arbitrarily limiting the basic rights and liberties of citizens
Haiti's President Martelly recently published a french-language Decree putting in "force" a lenghty and troubling series of Amendments to the country's 1987 Constitution (all the while disregarding the legal and still in force 1987 Creole version)
Amongst these amendments is the abrogation of article 297 of the 1987 Constitution, which repealed all arbitrary Laws and Decrees adopted during the infamous and bloody Duvalier dictatorship. This article had taken the pains to single out 4 specific and notorioulsy arbitrary and discriminatory laws that had marked Haiti's social and political history.
1987 Constitution: ARTICLE 297:All laws, all decree laws, all decrees arbitrarily limiting the basic rights and liberties of citizens, in particular:
a. The decree law of September 5, 1935 on supertitious beliefs; (thereby banning Vaudou once again)
b. The law of August 2, 1977 establishing the Court of State Security (Tribunal de la Sureté de l'État).
c. The law of July 28, 1975 placing the lands of the Artibonite Valley in a special status; (thereby negating the fledging national efforts at agrarian reform)
d. The law of April 29, 1969 condemning all imported doctrines; (thereby attacking freedom of thought and expression, political association of freedom of association)
Are and shall remain repealed.
Through this specific amendment to the 1987 Constitution, The Martelly-Lamothe Government has thereby legally re-instituted all these Laws.
It may be of interest to examine the consequence of the re-establishment of just one of these Laws, the law of April 29, 1969 condemning all imported doctrines, and it's vigourous condemnation done at the time by the Inter-Commission of Human Rights of the Organization of American States (7 sept. 1988):
RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF INVESTIGATION, OPINION, EXPRESSION AND DISSEMINATION OF IDEAS, AND RIGHT TO RELIGIOUSFREEDOM AND FREEDOM OF WORSHIP
The American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man
Article III:Every person has the right freely to profess a religious faith and to manifest and practice it both in public and private.
Article IV:Every person has the right to freedom of investigation, of opinion, and of the expression and dissemination of ideas, by any medium whatsoever.
1 A. Freedom of investigation, opinion, expression and dissemination
1. Article 26 of the 1957 Constitution sets forth the right to freedom of expression in the following terms:
Everyone has the right to express his opinion on any matter and in any means within his power. The expression of thought, whatever form it takes, may not be subject to prior censorship except when a state of war has been declared.
Abuses of the right to freedom of speech shall be defined and punished by law, but this shall not infringe upon the right of the freedom of speech. The underlined phrase was deleted from the 1964/1971 text currently in force (Article 26).
Current Haitian legislation contains a number of legal provisions that place considerable restrictions on the freedom of speech. The most important of these is Duvalier's Law of April 28, 1969:
Article 1. Communist activities, no matter what their form, are hereby declared crimes against the security of the State: all verbal or written, public or private expressions of communist teaching; all propagation of communist or anarchist doctrine by lectures, speeches, conversations, reading, public or private meetings; by tracts, placards, periodicals, newspaper articles, brochures, books, pictures, all written correspondence or verbal contact with local or foreign associations, or with persons involved in spreading communist or anarchist ideas, and receiving, collecting or providing funds directly or indirectly for the propagation of such ideas;
Article 2. All those, in whatever capacity: bookseller; owner or manager of a printing establishment; owner, manager or lessor of public or private meeting halls; owner, lessor or lessee of residences, religious minister, missionary, preacher, professor, primary school teacher, etc., who may have suggested or facilitated execution of such crimes, or harbored or given assistance to the authors of those crimes shall be declared guilty of the very same crimes;
Article 3. Individuals prosecuted under Articles 1 and 2 of the present law shall be tried before a permanent military court martial proceeding;
Article 4.The authors of an accomplices in crimes listed above shall receive the death penalty, and their goods and chattels shall be confiscated and sold for the benefit of the State;
Article 5. All individuals seized in flagrante delicto engaged in anarchist or terrorist activities are declared outlaws;
Article 6. The present law repeals all laws or provisions of laws, all decrees or provisions of decrees, all decree-laws or provisions of decree-laws that are contrary to it, and it shall be diligently executed by the State Secretaries for the Interior, Defense and/or Justice, as appropriate.
Done in the Legislature, Port-au-Prince, this 28th day of April 1969, in the 166th year of Independence.
The above provisions punish the mere expression of certain ideas or the mere profession, even in private, of certain articles of political belief by the death penalty. No specific action against the duly constituted powers of the state nor the creation of a danger for those powers is needed to make it a crime. Secondly, there is no specific legal definition of the ideologies condemned by this law.
In short, the very broad principle of power granted under Article 2 can only serve as a brake or obstacle to free expression and dissemination of ideas in general. The same latitude is found in the decree of August 6, 1958 which punishes with imprisonment “authors and propagators of false information and rumors that could disturb the peace.”
The dissemination of ideas by the broadcast media or written press is regulated, in addition to the aforementioned provisions, by a decree-law of June 13, 1950 and by a decree of August 26, 1957
The former decree-law imposes fines and prison on the press for insulting or libeling the President of the Republic, but the truth of the allegation may not be used as a defense (Articles 7 and 13). The second decree takes up the theme of the earlier decree, and calls for additional sentences for authors of “designs, engravings, pictures, writings or any other mode of expression of though (which) is intended to undermine the authority of one or more members of the constituent bodies of the State” (Articles 2 and 3).
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