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UN report on Haiti rape shows few prosecutions

Tuesday - 6/26/2012, 6:55pm  ET

By TRENTON DANIEL
Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - The prosecution of rape cases in Haiti remains bogged down, and justice is rarely served, the United Nations mission in the impoverished country said in a report released Tuesday.

The study by the U.N.'s human rights section in Haiti, carried out with the cooperation of police and judicial officials, examined a sample of 62 rape complaints filed over a three-month period in 2010 at five of the busiest police stations in the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince. The U.N. report noted the sample was small compared with about 500 rapes recorded in the capital for all of 2010 by local women's organizations.

None of the 62 rape complaints went to trial more than a year after they were filed with police, the U.N. report said.

The government prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince reviewed only 25 of the 62 cases, and ordered the judicial authorities to investigate 11 of them.

Four of the 11 cases were dismissed, while the rest remain under investigation. As of December 2011, only one the 62 cases in the sample period had been referred for trial, but the trial had not begun.

The U.N. report found other concerns.

Prosecution proved difficult in part because there was no accurate information on rape cases in Port-au-Prince. There is no national database that documents cases of sexual violence, which means that data from the government, aid groups and U.N. sources are not comprehensive.

The report's authors said many records were destroyed in a devastating 2010 earthquake, which toppled thousands of buildings, including government offices and police stations. Advocacy groups have expressed alarm over what they say has been an unusually high number of rapes in the spontaneous settlements that sprang up in the capital and other cities in the quake's aftermath.

The U.N. report's authors said police and judicial authorities lack even the most basic resources to do their jobs, such as computers, vehicles and furniture.

They also noted that police officers don't always tell rape victims that they should try to obtain a medical examination within 72 hours after an attack.

But the U.N. report recommends that government officials ensure that police and judicial authorities understand that a medical certificate is not required to file a rape case. In Haiti, it is often difficult for rape victims to obtain medical records because they cannot pay for transportation or may fear retaliation.

The report also recommends that the government set aside more money to agencies helping women such as the Ministry of Women's Rights. Only 1.4 percent of the national budget was allocated to the ministry in the proposed budget for 2011-2012.

A spokesman for the Haitian National Police couldn't be immediately reached, and the government's press office didn't immediately response to a request for comment.


(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)