Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
The law provides for freedom of expression, including for the 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 Freedom: 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. In some instances government authorities participated in these acts.
In August, Gabriel Fortune, the mayor of Les Cayes, repeatedly made statements on the radio that journalist Jean Nazaire Jeanty should be killed or “disappeared” by the government because of his reporting. Jeanty had criticized the appearance and smell of a nearby beach preparing to host a music festival. Jeanty filed a complaint against Fortune, but his case was dismissed when Jeanty did not come to a preliminary court hearing. Jeanty said he had not been informed that the hearing was taking place.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: There were no reported cases of government-sponsored censorship, but 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 2016.
ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.
The constitution provides for freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected this right.
FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY
The constitution provides for freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected this right. There were several instances when police used force to impose order during demonstrations. Citizens must apply for a permit to hold legal demonstrations. Although impromptu political demonstrations in some instances provoked aggressive law enforcement responses, police generally responded to these protests in a professional and effective manner.
In June at the State University of Haiti, several students held a public demonstration in solidarity with a fellow student who was run over by a faculty member’s vehicle. When police officers forcefully responded, one student was struck in the temple by a rubber bullet and three were arrested and imprisoned for three days before being released.
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
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.