Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
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.
FREEDOM OF 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, the police generally responded to these protests in a professional and effective manner.
FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION
The constitution provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right.
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 IDPs, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other persons of concern.
Foreign Travel: The Institute for Social Well-Being and Research (IBESR), under the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, maintained its policy of requiring minors departing the country without their parents to have parental documentation authorizing the travel. According to IBESR officials, this policy helped deter child trafficking and smuggling.
In May the chief prosecutor of Ouest Department placed overseas travel bans on nine former electoral officials and 11 cabinet ministers who had served under former president Michel Martelly, ostensibly to keep them in country to answer questions relating to corruption allegations. After a public outcry over whether the travel bans constituted political oppression and whether the prosecutor had the authority to issue the travel bans, the order was rescinded three days later.
INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS
The government engaged in efforts to promote the safe, voluntary return, or resettlement of post-2010 earthquake IDPs, with substantial operational and financial support from international partners. These actions contributed to the significant decline of the earthquake-related IDP population during the year. The presence of IDP camps in the country persisted, with a large concentration of the estimated 33 remaining camps located in the greater Port-au-Prince metropolitan area. September estimates placed the number of IDPs remaining in camps at 55,107 persons or 14,593 households with 45 percent in tent or makeshift shelter sites. Statistics from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) suggested that by September, the overall post-2010 earthquake IDP population had decreased 96 percent from its estimated peak in 2010 of 1.5 million.
In the first six months of the year, the government closed four camps. Return programs carried out by the government, with the aid of international partners, accounted for all closures during this period. From these closed sites, a total of 294 households (representing 1,127 individuals) were relocated. No camps were closed through evictions.
Through the UN police force (UNPOL), MINUSTAH maintained a security presence in IDP camps and provided security in some camps with high levels of reported violence. Nonetheless, even in camps with a law enforcement presence, residents and international observers reported minimal protection from violence, including SGBV and urban crime. MINUSTAH and UNPOL members did not have arrest authority and typically functioned as a deterrent force rather than one actively engaged in law enforcement. International arrangements governing MINUSTAH’s operations require a police officer to be present for any law-enforcement operation, which effectively prevented MINUSTAH officers from engaging in crime prevention in the IDP camps without a police presence. HNP understaffing sometimes prevented this partnership from functioning effectively. International workers in the camps noted that the police and MINUSTAH did not always enjoy positive relationships with IDPs. Camp residents and NGO workers reported that most police patrols, both UNPOL and HNP, monitored only the perimeter of camps and typically did not patrol after dark.
As of November the IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix project registered approximately 14,000 people displaced by Hurricane Matthew in 61 shelters, down from an estimated immediate displacement of 175,500 people. At the surveyed sites, malaria was the most prevalent health issue, followed by influenza-like illnesses, and cholera. In coordination with the government, the United Nations developed a strategy to support the return of IDPs from collective shelters and host communities to their communities of origin. While the plan sought to ensure that the return of populations is only on a voluntary basis, IOM recorded 14 forced closures.
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.
The dysfunctional civil registry system and weak consular capacity made obtaining documentation extremely difficult for individuals living inside or outside the country. This problem was particularly acute for many Haitians living in the Dominican Republic seeking to participate in the Dominican government’s migrant regularization plan. According to the Haitian Immigrant Identification and Documentation Program, as of March fewer than 50,000 of the nearly 300,000 Haitians living in the Dominican Republic had applied for documentation through the government of Haiti’s Haitian Immigrant Identification and Documentation Program, launched in 2014. Of these, only 5,000 had received passports, 38,000 had received national identity cards, and 43,000 had received birth certificates. Due to these systemic deficiencies, many Haitians living abroad were effectively stateless in their country of residence.