Editorial: Zero Tolerance

From the Haitian Times

Week of July 24-July 31, 2001

When Rudolph W. Giuliani was elected mayor of New York City in 1993, he promised to be tough on crime and criminals. Whether you like the mayor or not, he has been successful of ridding this once unmanageable city with crime. Of course, some of his success can be attributed to his predecessor, David N. Dinkins.

Haiti now finds itself in a similar situation, with crime keeping residents in fear while keeping visitors away. We support President Aristide's proclamation recently that he will take a "zero tolerance" stance to the criminals in Haiti. But taking such a hard line approach is tricky in that zealots might think it's a license to carry out revenge, and good intentions can be led astray. Another problem is that the country has a shaky justice system and can't assure that those who are accused of a crime are given due process.

We urge Aristide to think carefully about his "zero tolerance" stance and make sure that he doesn't open a Pandora's Box in trying to solve a problem. People in the human rights community are rightly concerned about this approach. But the problem of crime is real in Haiti and needs to be dealt with. As we can see from New York's recent experience, curbing crime is intrinsically tied to economic prosperity.

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