Foreign Assistance:

Lack of Haitian Commitment Limited Success of U.S. Aid to Justice System

T-NSIAD-00-257: Published: Sep 19, 2000. Publicly Released: Sep 19, 2000.

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Benjamin F. Nelson
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Office of Public Affairs
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the preliminary results of its review of U.S. assistance provided to Haiti's justice system, focusing on the: (1) results of the U.S. assistance provided to the Haitian police and judicial sector and the major problems that continue to affect these justice institutions; and (2) primary factors that have affected the success of the assistance.

GAO noted that: (1) over the last 6 fiscal years, the United States provided about $97 million in assistance to help Haiti establish its first civilian-controlled police force and improve aspects of this judicial sector, which includes various judicial institutions, procedures, and legal codes; (2) about $70 million in U.S. assistance helped Haiti recruit, train, organize, and equip a basic police force, including specialized units, such as an antinarcotics unit, a special investigative unit, and the Haitian Coast Guard; (3) during the same period, the United States provided about $27 million in assistance that led to improvements in training magistrates and prosecutors, management practices of judicial institutions, and in the access of the Haitian people to justice services; (4) however, despite these achievements, the police force has not effectively carried out its basic law enforcement responsibilities, and recent events suggest that politicization has compromised the force, according to U.S. and other donor officials; (5) the judicial sector also has serious weaknesses, according to U.S. and other donor officials; (6) the sector has not undergone a major reform and, as a result, lacks independence from the executive branch and has outdated legal codes and cumbersome judicial proceedings; (7) the judicial institutions have personnel shortages, inadequate infrastructure and equipment, and an ineffective internal oversight organization unable to stem corruption; (8) overall, these institutions provide justice services to only a small segment of the population, because the institutions rely heavily in judicial proceedings on the use of French rather than Creole--the language of the majority of the population; and (9) the key factor affecting the lack of success of U.S. assistance has been the Haitian government's lack of commitment to addressing the major problems of its police and judicial institutions.

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