Proposal for evaluative and educational initiatives in the Haitian judicial system

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Law and Technology
Law and Technology

 

The judicial system in Haiti faces numerous challenges. As in other countries, these challenges are often manifested in the politicization of positions, disregard of basic rights, and impunity.  Corruption is perceived by many as pervasive in Haiti, and its negative consequences are particularly felt in the country’s judicial system. For example, some justice officials may take advantage of institutional weaknesses to utilize public resources for their own businesses. Such practices tend to aggravate citizens’ already poor economic conditions.

In addition to corruption, the now notorious practice of prolonged pre-trial detention is one of the biggest challenges Haiti faces today . According to latest statistics published on April 16, 2019 in the Haitian daily Le Nouvelliste, 85% of inmates in Haitian civilian prisons are in prolonged pre-trial detention. Furthermore, courts are often overcrowded, copies of proceedings and investigations are slow to be issued, and judgments are difficult to serve. The Haitian judiciary unfortunately lacks modern techniques and tools to address these challenges and to process cases speedily.

Persistence of such challenges and lack of their proper handling by authorities result in a loss of trust in public institutions. According to the latest figures published on April 26, 2018 in the online newspaper Loop Haiti, 76.37% of citizens do not have confidence in the country’s judicial system.

I was motivated to answer the call of this year’s Law, Justice and Development Week "How can new technologies contribute to the reform of the Haitian judicial system, and those of other countries in similar situations?" by the imperative need for justice to allow Haiti to function according to the principles of the rule of law, to guarantee fundamental rights, and to equip Haiti with modern techniques and tools to offer better access to justice. Accordingly, I propose that World Bank member states support two technological initiatives in Haiti:

  • An educative application for judicial officers

Through this educational application, the basics of the judicial procedure as well as useful technical details will be taught/reiterated to judicial officers with the help of concrete examples , emphasizing links between fundamental rights and the consequences on the lives of individuals when rights are respected, or not.

This tool will also be used to periodically evaluate the adoption of positive principles by judicial officers and compare their behavior with the ideals, where applicable. Finally, it will also allow them to receive notifications about new legislation.

  • A mobile platform (Android & Apple) for the general public in Haitian Creole with the following objectives:
  1. Inform the Haitian people about the fundamentals of individual rights and legal proceedings.
  2. Enable individuals to have access to basic justice services, such as making appointments, receiving notifications of judicial decisions, obtaining alerts about case errors and abuses, and posing quick questions and receiving answers. In addition to purely judicial questions, survey questions could also be included in the platform to collect general data on the economic situation of litigants.

Both applications will foster inter-organizational collaboration among government agencies, civil society representatives, and others.

I would particularly like to point out that:

  1. The proposed tools are in line with the general objectives of the Haitian Government , including the following legal provisions: 
  • The decree of 29 January 2016, recognizing the right of any citizen to address the Public Administration by electronic means;
  • The law of 26 October 2018 on legal assistance;
  • The Decree of 17 May 2005 on the Central State Administration, which establishes civic engagement as one of the basics of public relations management.
  • The principle of adaptation, which requires public agencies to adapt their actions to social realities and needs.
  1.  Although work remains to be done on legislation, there is no shortage of laws and regulations in Haiti. Haiti is a member of multiple international organizations such as the UN and OAS, and is a signatory of most international conventions and statutes on human rights and access to justice. What is lacking, however, is knowledge and implementation of principles across the country.

What we aim to achieve with these two initiatives is to help those responsible for justice to have better control over the judicial system, to strengthen their knowledge on the standards of justice, and to make them aware of the consequences of their actions on citizens’ lives. Furthermore, we aim to enable the public, particularly the most vulnerable, to have a better grasp on the fundamentals of the law and their basic rights.

If successful, we will be able to contribute to the reduction of illegally prolonged detentions. In addition, these applications will lead to job creation in the justice system and allow the justice system to be more responsive to citizens.

In conclusion, I invite all concerned parties to support the incorporation of these applications into the Haitian judicial system. Your support will not only contribute to the provision of better access to justice for the Haitian public and to the establishment of the rule of law, but also to the empowerment of vulnerable groups, reduction of poverty, and fortification of civic engagement. This will benefit democracy and promote prosperity in Haiti.

This blog post is one of several winning proposals from the LJD Week 2019 Law Student Contest for Development Solutions, a competition for young law students to present innovative legal solutions to development challenges. The top two winners, Rachel Mwendwa and Jameson Pierre-Louis, were invited to present their proposals to the LJD Week 2019 audience. As Jameson Pierre-Louis was unable to travel, recipient of the third prize, Victor Cabezas, presented during LJD Week 2019; see their presentations here.

Authors

Pierre-Louis Jameson

Finalist of LJD Week 2019 Law Student Contest for Development Solutions

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