Battle for Haiti

I saw this incredible documentary last month. Filmed for the anniversary of the earthquake, it's definitely worth watching and puts the ongoing turmoil in Haiti into stark relief.


On the night of the earthquake that devastated Haiti last January, something happened in Port au Prince, the capital city, which would threaten the effectiveness of international aid efforts and undermine the country's political stability: 4,500 of the country's most violent criminals escaped from Haiti's overcrowded National Penitentiary.

FRONTLINE reveals that the battle for the rule of law in Haiti is further undermined by the lack of a working justice system: Ninety percent of the men who escaped from the National Penitentiary had never had their day in court and had spent four or five years awaiting trial in barbaric conditions, where cells are so crowded that prisoners have to sleep on their feet. According to one prisoner, when another dies, he's simply propped up in a corner so that someone can use his space on the floor. Wealthy gangsters often bribe their way out of the prison with large payments to corrupt judges.

In light of these realities, Police Chief Andresol takes a candidly dim view of the Haiti's political future: "Honest people don't go into politics in Haiti. That's our great tragedy. To be in politics you have to belong to a group of men who think only of themselves, who can resort to killing and eliminating. We need a revolution. Nothing will change if we carry on talking about democracy."

You can also read an enlightening interview with the filmmaker. Here's a soundbite:

Because as soon as you arrive in Haiti, anyone can see it's a very difficult place to help because of a complete lack of a functioning state. So I started to connect the idea of the absence of a functioning state and the absence of law and order and the absence of rule of law, which is much wider than law and order.

Rule of law involves civil registry and land registry, all these things. These kind of law and order issues are not about policing, they're just about identity. And all of the institutions which allow us to lead a civilized life are absent in Haiti. Law and order, of course, is the first thing to go when there is no rule of law.


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