Haiti is a constitutional republic with a multiparty political system. In October 2015 legislative, municipal and first-round presidential elections were held, and while there were allegations of fraud, the results conformed to international observer-estimated outcomes and were generally regarded as credible. Second-round presidential elections were postponed indefinitely in early 2016, and former president Michel Martelly left office on February 7 at the expiration of his term with no elected successor. On February 14, parliament elected Senate President Jocelerme Privert as provisional president with a 120-day mandate. On June 6, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced that it would annul the presidential results from the October 2015 election after an independent verification commission declared that it had been marred by fraud. A repeat of the first round of the presidential election took place on November 20, with a second round scheduled for January 29, 2017 if no candidate earns more than 50 percent of the votes. If a president is elected in the first round, the January 29 election will include second round races for a third of the Senate as well as local elections.
Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.
The most serious impediments to human rights involved weak democratic governance in the country worsened by the lack of an elected and functioning government; insufficient respect for the rule of law, exacerbated by a deficient judicial system; and chronic widespread corruption.
Other human rights problems included significant but isolated allegations of arbitrary and unlawful killings by government officials; allegations of use of force against suspects and protesters; severe overcrowding and poor sanitation in prisons; chronic prolonged pretrial detention; an inefficient, unreliable, and inconsistent judiciary; governmental confiscation of private property without due process. There was also rape, violence, and societal discrimination against women; child abuse; allegations of social marginalization of vulnerable populations; and trafficking in persons. Violence, including gender-based violence, and crime within the remaining internally displaced persons (IDP) camps remained a problem.
Although the government took steps to prosecute or punish government and law enforcement officials accused of committing abuses, credible reports persisted of officials engaging in corrupt practices, and civil society groups alleged there was widespread impunity.
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were isolated allegations of police and other government officials’ involvement in arbitrary or unlawful killings. Some of these resulted in arrests, but there were no convictions.
On October 25, a girl was shot and killed during a fight that broke out at a post-Hurricane Matthew food distribution site in Dame-Marie. Similarly, on November 1, a boy was killed when a mob attempted to climb aboard a boat carrying supplies in Les Cayes. The Haitian National Police (HNP) Inspector General initiated an investigation into the death and administratively suspended the officer in question.
Human rights groups continued to criticize the Departmental Brigade of Operations and Interventions, a special unit of the HNP tasked with fighting crime in difficult environments.
The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the HNP investigated and recommended for dismissal 11 police officers implicated in homicides through October.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The law provides for freedom of speech and press, and the government generally respected these rights. The independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction.
Press and Media Freedoms: There were isolated incidents of actions against journalists by national and local government officials. As a result, some independent media believed they were unable to criticize the government freely. Certain topics such as narcotics trafficking and organized crime remained largely unreported because of perceived danger.
Violence and Harassment: Some journalists were subjected to threats, harassment, and physical assault, allegedly due to their reporting throughout the year. In some instances government authorities participated in these acts. In January then president Martelly released a lewd song harassing journalist and human rights advocate Liliane Pierre-Paul, an outspoken critic of the Martelly administration. There was no progress in the investigation into the 2000 killing of journalist Jean Dominique or of a witness to the killing who was shot to death in March 2015.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: There were no reported cases of government-sponsored censorship. Human rights advocates claimed that certain government officials used public security ordinances to limit radio commentary criticizing the executive branch.
The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authorization. Socioeconomic and infrastructure hurdles contributed to the dominance of radio and, to a lesser extent, television, over the internet. According to the International Telecommunication Union, approximately 12 percent of citizens had access to the internet in 2015.
ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.
Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process
The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.
Elections and Political Participation
Recent Elections: In 2015 legislative, municipal, and first-round presidential elections were held, and while there were allegations of fraud, the results conformed to international observer estimated outcomes and were generally regarded as credible. Second-round presidential elections were postponed indefinitely in early 2016, and President Michel Martelly left office on February 7 at the end of his term with no elected successor. An accord signed on February 5 between President Martelly and the presidents of the two chambers of parliament formally agreed on a roadmap for electing a provisional president and completing 2015 elections. On February 14, parliament elected Senate President Jocelerme Privert as provisional president with a 120-day mandate. Privert established an electoral verification commission to review the October 2015 election. The commission issued its report on May 30 and recommended restarting the presidential elections due to its own conclusions that there had been irregularities, fraud, and a large number of “untraceable votes.” In June the CEP accepted the recommendations and scheduled the presidential first round and select legislative races for October 9. The CEP scheduled the second round of the presidential election, select legislative races, and local elections for January 8, 2017. While Privert’s 120-day mandate expired on June 14, parliament had not voted on extending his mandate as of December, but Privert nonetheless continued to function as the provisional president. On October 4, Hurricane Matthew struck southwestern Haiti causing widespread and devastating destruction, with an estimated 2.1 million people affected. Due to this natural disaster, the CEP postponed the presidential first round to November 20 and moved the second round to January 29, 2017.
November 20 elections occurred with minimal violence and disruption and with calm and orderly voting. The preliminary report by the Organization of American States Observation Mission noted significant improvements to electoral operations due to measures implemented by the electoral authorities, greater “ownership of the process” by the country, and greater civil society engagement through national observers. While voter turnout was estimated to be 21 percent, the turnout in hurricane-affected areas was higher than many expected. The CEP issued preliminary presidential results on November 28, which showed Jovenel Moise with more than 50 percent of the vote. If final results, which are scheduled to be published on January 3, 2017, determine one candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote, there will be no presidential second round.
Political Parties and Political Participation: The 2014 Law on Formation, Functioning, and Financing of Political Parties was not implemented. Opposition parties claimed that then president Michel Martelly improperly used government resources to support candidates from parties close to him during the August and October elections in 2015. The results of these elections were discarded but not because of government support for particular candidates.
Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit participation of women and minorities in the political process. As of December there were no female members in parliament; however, if the preliminary results from the November 20 elections hold, there will be three female deputies (out of 119, or 2.5 percent) and one female senator (out of 30, or 3 percent). In the most recent election cycle (2015-2016), 8 percent of candidates for deputy and 10 percent of candidates for senator were women. In the period preceding the elections, female candidates expressed concerns regarding their security.
In local races the CEP enforced the constitution, which calls for “at least 30 percent women’s participation in national life and in public service.” As a condition to running for local races, the CEP required that each mayoral cartel (with three candidates) include one woman. All 139 mayoral cartels installed as a result of 2015 elections met this criterion. Election laws since 2008 provide significant financial incentives for political parties to field women candidates, but parties consistently failed to meet the incentive criteria. The 2015 electoral decree includes such provisions, but only 10 percent of the government’s funding available for support to candidates and political parties was used for various incentives, including rewarding parties fielding higher numbers of female candidates.
Civil society actors, including unsuccessful women candidates, cited three key factors for the lack of women in politics: the lack of financing due to political parties continuing to invest more in male candidates, fear of violence and general electoral insecurity that complicates the campaigning process, and a lack of family support from parents or spouses who do not believe that a woman should be involved in politics.
As of September, three of 16 ministers and two of seven secretaries of state were women, as well as three of the nine CEP counselors, which was a slight decrease from 2015. One of the nine members of the CSPJ and one of the nine members of the country’s high court were women.