Haiti is a constitutional republic with a multiparty political system. Voters elected Jovenel Moise as president for a five-year term in national elections held in November 2016. The most recent national legislative elections were on January 29. International election observers considered the elections free and fair.
Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.
The most significant human rights issues included isolated allegations of arbitrary and unlawful killings by government officials; allegations of beatings of detainees; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; a judiciary subject to corruption and outside influence; physical attacks on journalists; widespread corruption; and trafficking in persons.
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 reports of criminal convictions.
The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Haitian National Police (HNP) investigated 10 police officers for homicide while on duty through August. The OIG found that six of the officers were not justified in their use of force and recommended them for immediate dismissal and criminal investigation.
Human rights groups continued to criticize the Departmental Brigade of Operations and Interventions (BOID), a special unit of the HNP tasked with fighting crime in difficult environments.
As reported by the National Network of Human Rights Organizations in Haiti, in September members of BOID publicly shaved the head of a suspected criminal in Lilavois, a neighborhood in the town for Croix-des-Bouquets just outside the capital. The suspected criminal allegedly arranged for the assassination of BOID officer Watson Jean as revenge. In response BOID officers raided the Lilavois neighborhood, where they arrested 12 persons. The corpse of one of the arrested men was found near the site of his arrest. The dead bodies of two other arrested men were photographed and circulated widely on social media, although their corpses had not been found as of October. Additionally, BOID officers allegedly burned three homes, two shops, a vehicle, and a motorcycle.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons
The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. The government cooperated with international and humanitarian organizations, as well as other countries, in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other persons of concern.
INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS (IDPS)
Despite notable progress since the 2010 earthquake that forced more than 1.5 million persons into temporary shelters, the presence of IDP camps persisted. While more than 90 percent of IDPs were in Port-au-Prince, a significant number also remained displaced by Hurricane Matthew’s 2016 destruction of the country’s South Department. A total of 41,000 individuals (more than 10,000 households) were estimated still to reside in IDP camps across the country. This figure included both the victims of Hurricane Matthew and the 2011 earthquake plus a small population of deported migrant workers living in camps along the border with the Dominican Republic.
The rate of camp closures and relocation slowed substantially, a trend that continued over the course of the past year. As of August an estimated 38,000 persons (9,350 households) remained at post-earthquake displacement sites, where only 37 percent of IDPs had access to water. Statistics from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) showed that the overall post-2010 earthquake IDP population had decreased 97 percent from its estimated peak in 2010.
The MINUSTAH forces drawdown and UN police force (UNPOL) departure left the administration of security in the remaining IDP camps the responsibility of the HNP. MINUSTAH had provided security inside some IDP camps in recent years when MINUSTAH’s UNPOL Mobile Team conducted joint regular patrols with the HNP. Camp residents and NGO workers reported that most HNP patrols monitored only the perimeter of camps and typically did not patrol after dark. Even in camps with a law enforcement presence, residents and international observers reported minimal protection from violence, including SGBV and urban crime. The HNP faced the threat of strike due to unpaid wages, and understaffing sometimes prevented the effective policing of camps. International workers in the camps noted that police and MINUSTAH did not always enjoy positive relationships with IDPs.
As of August, approximately 2,650 persons (900 households) remained displaced by Hurricane Matthew nearly one year after the storm, down from an estimated immediate displacement of 175,500 persons.
The rate of official deportations of Haitian migrants by Dominican Republic authorities increased during the year, with approximately 40,000 forced to leave the country between August 2016 and August, according to the IOM. The deportation of thousands of Haitian migrants, many of whom frequently cross back and forth along the porous border in search of seasonal agricultural work, added to a small but derelict IDP camp at the southernmost border crossing of Anse a Pitres. Despite successful IOM efforts to relocate 579 migrant households from the camp, hundreds of impoverished locals relocated to the tent camp seeking similar assistance.
PROTECTION OF REFUGEES
Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of refugee status or asylum through Haitian missions or consulates abroad. Additionally, individuals could petition for asylum through the local office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. There were few reports, however, of requests for such status.
A lack of coordination between the various ministries that administer the dysfunctional civil registry system and weak consular capacity made obtaining documentation difficult for individuals living inside or outside the country. Despite improved passport delivery domestically, where the government successfully processed a large backlog of passport applications, obtaining identity documents remained particularly challenging for many Haitians living in the Dominican Republic seeking to participate in that government’s migrant regularization plan. As of July an estimated 150,000 Haitians living in the Dominican Republic lacked any documentation from the Haitian government. Although President Moise promised delivery of passports to the estimated 36,000 Haitians, the administration struggled to meet the goal, sending just 20,000 passports to the embassy in Santo Domingo during the first half of the year. Without documentation, this population was increasingly vulnerable to deportation, as the Dominican Republic government increased the rate of unofficial and official deportations of Haitians. Due to these systemic deficiencies, many Haitians living abroad were effectively stateless or at risk of statelessness in their country of residence.
Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
The 2014 Law on Prevention and Repression of Corruption, the country’s first anticorruption law, criminalizes a wide variety of corruption-related offenses by officials, including illicit enrichment, bribery, embezzlement, illegal procurement, insider trading, influence peddling, and nepotism. The law imposes sentences of three to 15 years of imprisonment and gives legal authority to the government’s Anticorruption Unit and its Central Financial Intelligence Unit, among others, to combat corruption.
Despite these efforts, there were numerous reports of government corruption and a perception of impunity for abusers. Law enforcement authorities and the government’s anticorruption agencies launched several corruption investigations, but there were no convictions during the year. The perception of corruption remained widespread in all branches and at all levels.
Corruption: The constitution mandates that the senate prosecute high-level officials and parliament members accused of official corruption instead of handling such cases within the judicial system.
In July, President Moise was criticized for firing Sonel Jean-Francois as director general of the Central Financial Intelligence Unit. The unit had launched a money laundering case against Moise during his 2016 electoral campaign, but the investigation never led to formal charges. The decision to fire Jean-Francois was criticized by human rights groups, who claimed Moise was trying to muzzle the investigation against him.
Financial Disclosure: The law requires all senior officials of the government to file financial disclosure forms within 90 days of taking office and within 90 days of leaving office. There is no requirement for periodic reporting. Disclosure reports are confidential and not available to the public. The sanction for failure to file financial disclosure reports is a withholding of 30 percent of the official’s salary, but the government did not apply this sanction in previous years. Government officials stated that the requirements were generally followed.
Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials generally cooperated in addressing the views of various human rights groups, although they disagreed at times on the scope of certain human rights problems and the most appropriate means of addressing human rights issues.
Government Human Rights Bodies: The constitution provides a seven-year mandate to the head of the OPC, which is the country’s independent human rights body, a post held by Florence Elie until November, when she was replaced by Renan Hedouville. The OPC investigated allegations of human rights abuse and worked collaboratively with international organizations. The OPC’s regional representatives implemented its assistance programs throughout the country. Elie stated that despite its budget and international donor support, the institution did not possess the necessary funding or physical or human capacity to implement its strategic development and advocacy plan in each of the 10 departments. Human rights advocates and international partners noted that the OPC remained one of the country’s most important national institutions responsible for independently monitoring potential human rights abuses, especially in detention centers.
In 2014 the government eliminated the position of minister delegate for human rights and the fight against extreme poverty. The minister delegate was tasked with coordinating the work of the Interministerial Human Rights Commission. Without a minister delegate to coordinate its work, the commission continued to function sporadically and only on a technical level.
The Chamber of Deputies has a Justice, Human Rights, and Defense Commission, while the senate has a Justice, Security, and Defense Commission that also covers human rights issues.