Above: Michel Forst (UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferre)
By Alexander Britell
Michel Forst, the United Nations’ Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti, has resigned from his position.
A spokesperson for the MINUSTAH peacekeeping mission in Haiti confirmed the announcement to Caribbean Journal.
Forst resigned for “personal reasons,” he said at the conclusion of a speech to the most recent session of the UN’s Human Rights Council this week. He had served as the world body’s independent human rights expert in Haiti since 2008 on what would have been a six-year term.
The France native’s final address to the HRC this week included concerns over a number of areas in Haiti.
“I can not, and I do not want to hide my anxiety and disappointment at the developments in the fields of the Rule of Law and human rights,” he said.
He deplored what he called the nominations of magistrates for political or partisan ends, arbitrary arrests, threats against journalists and prolonged pretrial detention. He also pointed to the conditions in Haiti’s prisons, where more than 80 percent of prisoners are being held under “prolonged detention.”
The “impunity enjoyed by human rights violators undertaking violent acts,” he said, meant that “fear had returned and clear actions needed to be taken to show Haiti’s resolve to deal with this problem.”
Forst said there had been some encouraging signs, however, including the appointment of a Minister Delegate for human rights and the fight against extreme poverty.
The rights expert had raised questions over the issue of cholera, which most experts allege was brought to the country by UN peacekeepers from Nepal, in his report to the Human Rights Council last month.
Forst said he was “aware of the need that victims or their families have expressed to know the truth and perhaps even to be given compensation,” recalling that “silence is the worst response.” (See that full report here)
At the end of this week’s session, Poland’s Remigiusz Achilles Henczel, president of the Human Rights Council, thanked Forst for his work, hoping that his successor “would build on that strong foundation.”