doc. 9 rev. 1
September 1988
Original: English











          1.          The constituent and human rights instruments devised by the inter-American system require that the political organization of the member States be based on the effective exercise of representative democracy.2


          2.          The Charter of the Organization of American States has explicitly defined democracy to be the only acceptable form of political organization of the Member States in order for the aims of the Organization to be realized:



          Article 3(d):


                   The solidarity of the American States and the high aims which are sought through it require the political organization of those States on the basis of the effective exercise of representative democracy.



          3.          The Preamble of the OAS Charter also posits regional solidarity based on the consolidation of democratic forms of government.  The Preamble states: 


                   Confident that the true significance of American solidarity and good neighborliness can only mean the consolidation on this continent, within the framework of democratic institutions, of a system of individual liberty and social justice based on respect for the essential rights of man; 


          4.          For its part, the Commission has maintained that within the alternative forms of government recognized under different constitutions, the framework of a democratic regime must be the fundamental structure to allow for the full exercise of human rights.


          5.          Article 23 of the American Convention on Human Rights sets forth the political rights guaranteed by this Convention:  the right to take part in public affairs, the right to vote and to be elected, and the right to have access to public service.


          6.          The Declaration of Santiago of 1959, adopted by the Fifth Meeting of Consultation of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, expressed the aspiration of the peoples of the Americas to live under democratic institutions "free from all intervention and all totalitarian influence".3   This historic document declared that the "existence of anti-democratic regimes constitutes a violation of the principles on which the Organization of American States is founded, and danger to united and peaceful relationships in the hemisphere".


          7.          In order to contribute "to the eradication of forms of dictatorship, despotism or tyranny" the Meeting of Consultation established certain "principles and attributes of the democratic system in the hemisphere" which would assist in a determination as to whether a certain government was democratic or not.  These principles and attributes are the following:



          1.       The principle of the rule of law should be assured by the separation of powers, and by the control of the legality of governmental acts by competent organs of the state.


          2.       The governments of the American republics should be the result of free elections.


          3.       Perpetuation in power, or the exercise of power without a fixed term and with the manifest intent of perpetuation, is incompatible with the effective exercise of democracy.


          4.       The governments of the American states should maintain a system of freedom for the individual and of social justice based on respect for fundamental human rights.


          5.       The human rights incorporated into the legislation of the American states should be protected by effective judicial procedures.


          6.       The systematic use of political proscription is contrary to American democratic order.


          7.       Freedom of the press, radio, and television, and, in general, freedom of information and expression, are essential conditions for the existence of a democratic regime.


          8.       The American states, in order to strengthen democratic institutions, should cooperate among themselves within the limits of their resources and the framework of their laws so as to strengthen and develop their economic structure, and achieve just and humane living conditions for their peoples. 


          8.          In application of these principles, the OAS General Assembly, in its consideration of the reports presented to it by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, has repeatedly, in its resolutions, reiterated:


          8.          In application of these principles, the OAS General Assembly, in its consideration of the reports presented to it by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, has repeatedly, in its resolutions, reiterated: 


                   To those governments that have not yet reinstated the democratic form of government that it is urgently necessary to implement the pertinent institutional machinery to restore such a system in the shortest possible space of time, through free and open elections, by secret ballot, since democracy is the best possible guarantee for the full exercise of human rights and is a firm support for solidarity between the states of the hemisphere.


          9.          In addition, the OAS General Assembly, at its Sixteenth Regular Session, held in Guatemala from November 11-15, 1986, adopted a resolution on Human Rights and Democracy,5  which states in its operative part: 






1. To reaffirm the inalienable right of all the peoples of the Americas freely to determine their political, economic and social system without outside interference, through a genuine democratic process and within a framework of social justice in which all sectors of the population will enjoy the guarantees necessary to participate freely and effectively through the exercise of universal suffrage.


2. To urge the governments of the Americas whose societies have problems that call for reconciliation and national unity to undertake or continue a genuine dialogue, pursuant to their respective legislations, with all political and social sectors until they reach a political solution that will put an end to conflicts and contribute decisively to improving the human rights situation and to strengthening the representative and pluralist democratic system. 


10.          In the experience of the political organs of the OAS, difficulties, at times, have arisen regarding the determination as to whether a certain matter is reserved to the internal jurisdiction of a State.  Some states have taken the position that certain international obligations need not be complied with, arguing that these matters fall within the exclusive domestic jurisdiction of the State.


11.          These difficulties motivate the Commission to consider the question of whether the principle of non-intervention, the cornerstone of the OAS Charter, is a bar to international examination of certain matters considered by some to be within the exclusive domestic jurisdiction of the State.  In the Commission's view, as a matter of law, this is not the case where action is taken pursuant to a treaty to which the concerned State is a party.


12.          Consequently, an issue dealing with human rights is no longer specifically reserved to the domestic jurisdiction of the State once the State has become a party to a human rights treaty which deals with that issue.  To invoke the argument that international examination of an action which was taken by a state with respect to its own citizens is barred by the principle of non-intervention is to reject the international obligations assumed by the state when it became a party to the human rights instrument.


13.          The issue of the use of force to support international law must be considered under the terms of Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter and this a separate question which the Commission will not examine at this time.


14.          Pursuant to Article 23 of the American Convention, the Commission now considers the problem of political rights as they have evolved in Haiti.  The previous chapter examined efforts by the Duvalier family to maintain itself in power indefinitely by periodic manipulation of the Haitian Constitution.  This chapter analyzes the emergence of demands for political rights during the waning years of Jean-Claude Duvalier's administration; the provisions of the 1987 Constitution as regards political rights; other decrees affecting the exercise of political rights; the creation and functioning of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP); the elections of November 29, 1987; the dissolution of the CEP and the new elections of January 17, 1988; the installation of the Government of President Leslie Manigat on February 7, 1988, the coup d'etat on June 20, 1988 headed by Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy, and the coup within the coup of September 17, 1988, which resulted in the installation of the current President, Lt. Gen. prosper Avril.


a.       The political situation in 1985

          15.          By 1985 President Jean-Claude Duvalier's Presidency-for-Life had become the single dominant political issue in Haiti.  As early as April 19, 1985 three "political leaders' issued a declaration demanding, inter alia, "that the Constitution of August 27, 1983 be amended and the Presidency-for-Life abolished".6


          16.          President Duvalier's reply was his April 22, 1985 speech in which he announced the fact that he had taken "the irrevocable decision to modernize the Haitian political system" by progressively putting in place the institutional structures which correspond to the norms of liberal democracy and "respect the particular characteristics of the Haitian people".7


                17.          The widespread disillusion with, and criticism of, the constitutional amendments which were approved by the Legislative Chamber on June 6, and the political parties law on June 9, led one political figure, Hubert De Ronceray, to launch his attack on the Presidency-for-Life.


          18.          De Ronceray stated that the political parties law could be summarized in three points:


1.       One can organize a political party but one does not have the right to organize an opposition party to the Government of Jean-Claude Duvalier.


2.       No political party can aspire to take power by democratic and constitutional means.  The only elective offices are those of deputies (Congressmen), mayors and rural administrators.


3.       A political party has no financial, ideological, doctrinal or political autonomy.  It depe3nds exclusively on the decisions of the Minister of Interior and national Defense which at any time can order the suspension of its activities.



          19.          The result, stated de Ronceray, was that "the raison d'être and the purpose of a political party were denied and refused.  One dressed with other words a one party dictatorship".8


          20.          De Ronceray, by letter dated June 5, 1985 to the Minister of Interior and National Defense requested authorization to organize "in the name of the Haitian youth" a peaceful march, without arms, towards the National Palace for he purpose of calling for the abolition of the Presidency-for-Life, and for the organization of presidential elections by direct suffrage.


          21.          At 4:00 p.m. on June 17, 1985 the Haitian Government issued a communiqué prohibiting the demonstration and deployed 5,000 troops throughout Port-au-Prince to ensure that the demonstration not take place.  The Haitian government's communiqué9 prohibiting the march stated in relevant part:


                   The Government is obliged to refuse the requested authorization and has decided to prohibit said march for the following reasons:


                   1.       violation of the constitutional order

                   2.       violation of public order ("l'ordre public")

                   3.       violation of police laws on public meetings

                   4.       call for foreign involvement in the political life

of the State



The demonstration, which was to be held in front of the National Palace, would have been the first such challenge to the "Presidency-for-Life".



b.       The Referendum of July 22, 1985


          22.          The political criticism leveled against President Duvalier's constitutional amendments and the law on political parties motivated Duvalier on June 27, 1985 to call a national referendum.  The Haitian people were asked to:



Please express your views through this Referendum on both the amendments to the existing Constitution of 1983 and on the new law regulating the functioning of political parties.  The most significant of these changes include:


          A.          A Presidency-for-Life including the right to designate a successor.


          B.          The creation of the post of Prime Minister.


          C.          An increase in legislative influence over the government.


          D.          An official encouraging of the development of political pluralism.


                             Do you agree with this new political system?


          23.          The "political leaders", which had increased to five by this time, on July 1, 1985 united to produce a historic joint communiqué demanding that the July 22 vote become a national referendum on one question:10





          24.          The opposition leaders threatened to boycott if the Government ignore their demands.


          25.          The Government claimed that 99.98% of the population had voted in favor of the political changes.  The Government had sought to disarm the "opposition", but, in fact, by announcing 2,375,011 YES votes and 448 NO  votes in a nation of approximately 2,600,000 eligible voters, in a climate of what has been described as one of "massive apathy and abstention" by foreign observers, the Government belied its own "triumph".11   According to one foreign observer12


                   Throughout the morning, packed buses were seen bringing people to vote at City Hall and taking them away.  Some journalists followed one bus and said it stopped at three other polling places and waited while the passengers voted.  (…)  Voters were not required to give their names or show

          Any kind of identification and no list was kept of who voted.



          26.          The very fact of seeking public legitimacy for a de facto rule which had existed in Haiti for over two decades, placed the issue of legitimacy in the public arena.  Mr. Jean-Marie Chanoine, Minister of State for the Presidency, Information and Public Relations, stated on television, following the turnout of the referendum, that the opposition had two choices:  either to leave the country or to support the Haitian Government.



c.          Increasing demands for President Duvalier to step down


          27.          In spite of the formal and informal impediments to effective political opposition in Haiti, such opposition continued to mobilize throughout 1985 having created the issue that alone was able to unify it:  the ouster of Duvalier.  Grégoire Eugene became the first candidate to present his party's view of a new society in a book published July 22, 1985.13   His views inter alia called for an elected presidency, for a seven year term, without possibility of re-election.


          28.          On August 23, 1985, 117 former ministers, Congressmen, military figures and supporters of President Duvalier formed a political party based on "Jean-Claudisme".  This party was named the National Progressive Party, and its "leaders" requested on September 5, 1985 its registration.


          29.          On September 2, 1985, a letter signed by 381 youths invited the 5 opposition leaders to travel to the provinces and meet with the population of Léogâne, Petit Goâve, Miragoâne, Aquin, Cavaillon, Cayes and Marigot in order to carry on a dialogue about the problems of Haiti.  Mr. Hubert de Ronceray, Rev. Sylvio Claude and Mr. Alexandre Lerouge responded that they would be favorably inclined to travel during the second week of September.


          30.          In fact, when Mr. Hubert de Ronceray, embarked on his "tour" he, his wife and three other members of his group, when they reached Petit Goave, were placed under what the police termed "protective custody" effectively preventing him from speaking to his supporters.  The following week he was again prevented from meeting his supporters as he attempted to travel to Jacmel.



d.       Mr. Grégoire Eugene's Defection

          31.          Following the arrest of Mr. Hubert de Ronceray as he attempted to travel to the provinces, Mr. François Guillaume the newly appointed Minister of Interior and National Defense, informed Grégoire Eugene, by letter dated September 17, 1985, that if he wished to carry out political activities he should carry out the formalities required by the political parties law.  Mr. Eugene responded, by letter dated September 25, 1985, that his attachment to "political pluralism, democratic convictions, his legalist vocation and his religious respect for the Constitution" prohibited him from complying with the formalities imposed by the political parties' law.14


          32.          Notwithstanding the above, on November 7, 1985, Mr. Grégoire Eugene sought to register his party with the Ministry of the Interior.  One of the reasons given for his change of mind was that, once having requested registration, Mr. Eugene could proceed to travel to the provinces and recruit members for his party.15 





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1.          Article 23 of the American Convention provides:  1)  Every citizen shall enjoy the following rights and opportunities:  a.  to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives;  b.  to vote and to be elected in genuine periodic elections, which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and by secret ballot that guarantees the free expression of the will of the voters; and  c.  to have access, under general conditions of equality, to the public service of his country.  2)  The law may regulate the exercise of the rights and opportunities referred to in the preceding paragraph only on the basis of age, nationality, residence, language, education, civil and mental capacity, or sentencing by a competent court in criminal proceedings.

          2.          See, for example, the Preamble of the OAS Charter, Article 3, (d) of the Charter, Article XX of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, and the Preamble of the American Convention on Human Rights.

          3.          See, OEA Quinta Reunión de Consulta de Ministros de Relaciones Exteriores, Actas y Documentos, Santiago de Chile, 12-18 August 1959. (1961)

4.          The most recent expression is in the Resolution adopted on November 15, 1986, AG/RES. 835 (XVI-0/86).

5.          AG/RES. 837 (XVI-0/86).

6.          This "Joint Declaration of the Leaders of the Opposition in Haiti was signed by Sylvio Claude, Hubert De Ronceray and Alexandre Le Rouge, and demanded:  "We demand from the Government of the Republic:  a)  that the Constitution of August 27, 1983 be amended and the presidency for life abolished;  b)  that a Constituent Assembly is formed, representing all political ideologies and charged with drawing for Haiti a new fundamental Charter;  c)  that the law on the organization of political parties is submitted for the consideration of the leaders of the opposition;  d)  that the electoral law is decreed and general elections declared all over the national territory.

7.          For the entire text, see:  Le Petit Samedi Soir, April 27-3, 1985.

8.          Inferno:  "Hubert De Ronceray lance un appel a l'unité de l'Opposition".  Vol. II, No. 15, 1-15 July 1985.

9.          Le Nouveau Monde, June 18, 1985.

10.          The five leaders are:  Hubert De Ronceray, Sylvio Claude, Grégoire Eugene, Constante Pongnon (who formed a party called PADRANA in June 1981) and Alexandre Lerouge (Former Congressman from Cap Haitien).

11.          Referenda are not unusual in Haiti.  In 1964 François Duvalier asked the people to confirm his adoption of the presidency-for-life, and the Government stated that the vote was 2,800,000 in favor, 3,232 against.  In 1971 a poll was called to approve Jean-Claude Duvalier's succession.  According to the Government the result was 2,391,916 votes in favor and none opposed.

12.          "Fraud is charged in Haitian voting", Joseph B. Treaster, New York Times, July 23, 1985.

13.          Grégoire Eugene:  Le Miracle est Possible (Un Plaidoyer pour Le Développement) (1985).

14.          Letters published in the "Haiti Observateur" newspaper, October 4-11, 1985.

15.          Le Petit Samedi Soir:  "Le Leader Grégoire Eugène après la demande d'enregistrement de son parti, fait des declarations pertinentes au Petit Samedi Soir".  16-22 November, 1985.