Historic Convictions of Eight Police Officers Show Haiti Judicial System Capable of Integrity

The Haiti National Police (HNP), an historically under-funded, under-recruited, and politically-influenced by ex-members of the Haitian Army, have been accused of killing-at-will suspects believed to have been involved in criminal activity. They have also been implicated in gang-related crimes either on- or off-duty.


Haiti national Police

Haiti's judicial system has failed to adequately address either alleged police abuse, or on-going gang activity in Port-au-Prince. Haiti's police force does investigate criminal incidents, but stops short of securing convictions. The problem of witness fear in testifying is one of the obstacles. Another barrier is that oftentimes police officers resume their duties before completion of the investigations.

But the Haiti judicial system finally meted out justice, convicting eight police officers of a 2010 mass killing at Les Cayes Prison. Judge Ezekiel Vaval, subject to continuous death threats, sentenced the offenders to prison terms of two to thirteen years. He saved the heaviest sentences for Les Cayes's prison warden, Sylvestre Larack, and Olritch Beaubrun, Port-au-Prince's police chief in charge of the Riot Division.

Although the trial lacked the decorum of an American trial, due to liquor bought on the courthouse premises and consumed in the courtroom, and rambunctious behavior on the part of trial watchers, the police convictions symbolize a strengthening of the Haitian judicial system. American William O'Neill, a lawyer who advocates for human rights in Haiti, commented that "to get some senior law enforcement officials held accountable with fairly serious sentences--it's really historic."

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