News / Americas

Report: Human Rights Worsen in Haiti After Earthquake

Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth shows the group's annual review during a media conference at the Residence Palace in Brussels, 24 Jan 2011.
Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth shows the group's annual review during a media conference at the Residence Palace in Brussels, 24 Jan 2011.

Human Rights Watch says Haiti's devastating earthquake last year has compromised the state's ability to safeguard human rights, with escaped prisoners at large, and girls and women in displaced persons' camps at risk for sexual violence.

In a report Monday, the rights group said Haitian police made 534 arrests for sexual violence between February and April in 2010.  It said conditions in the camps leave women and girls vulnerable to attacks. Hundreds of thousands of people still live in the makeshift camps one year after the earthquake.

The New York-based group also said many prisoners who escaped during the earthquake are still free, and the loss of judicial officials, facilities and court records suspended the operation of the Supreme Court for months.

Elsewhere, Cuba was singled out as the only Latin American country that represses nearly all forms of political dissent.  The report said Havana continues to enforce political conformity with criminal prosecutions, beatings, harassment, denial of employment and travel restrictions.  It said the government of President Raul Castro has increasingly relied on accusations of "dangerousness" to imprison people who have not committed a crime.

Human Rights Watch said Honduras has failed to hold human rights abusers accountable since a 2009 military coup ousted president Manuel Zelaya.  It also said law enforcement officials have responded to peaceful demonstrations with excessive force.

In Mexico, the rights group accused security forces as well as crime rings of human rights abuses.  It said journalists, human rights defenders and migrants were frequent targets of attacks by law enforcement as well as criminals.

Similar accusations were made against the Brazilian government and that of Guatemala, where Human Rights Watch said corrupt law enforcement organizations remain incapable of containing illegal armed groups that carry out attacks on civil society actors and justice officials.  For Brazil, the group said police officers there engaged in "abusive practices," detention conditions were often inhumane, and torture "remains a serious problem."

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