The government decreased law enforcement efforts. The 2014 Anti-Trafficking (TIP) Law (No.CL/20140010) criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of seven to 15 years’ imprisonment and a fine ranging from 200,000 to 1.5 million Haitian gourdes (HTG) ($2,790 to $20,950), which were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The law provided for increased penalties of up to life imprisonment when the victim was a child.
The government initiated investigations of three trafficking cases during the reporting period, compared with nine trafficking cases each in 2019 and 2018, and two cases in 2017. In 2019, the police Brigade for the Protection of Minors (BPM) reported investigating cases involving 33 defendants for forced child labor. The Haitian National Police border patrol unit (POLIFRONT) and the National Committee for the Fight Against Human Trafficking (CNLTP) authorities reported a total of six arrests during the reporting period, compared to 51 individuals arrested in 35 trafficking cases in 2019. The government reported initiating two prosecutions during the reporting period, compared to one in 2019, seven prosecutions in 2018, and two prosecutions in 2017. The government reported convictions of two traffickers during the reporting period, compared to none in 2019, one in 2018, and three in 2017. In April 2020, a court convicted and sentenced a Haitian male trafficker to seven years’ imprisonment and 15,000 HTG ($209) fine for exploiting a child in sex trafficking in the Dominican Republic. There were 21 total human trafficking cases pending in Haitian courts at the end of the reporting period, three of which were initiated in the current reporting period. In February 2021, authorities began an investigation into a potential trafficking case involving a total of 23 Dominican and Venezuelan women. In August 2020, authorities on the Haitian-Dominican border arrested a man for traveling with five children unrelated to him; authorities suspected him of human trafficking. In December 2020, authorities arrested a man at an airport on charges of human trafficking of four children; authorities had not assigned the case to an investigative judge by the end of the reporting period. In July 2020, an investigative judge ordered two orphanage operators from a foreign-operated faith-based NGO charged with trafficking, neglect, and criminal association after an investigation found that the children were being used to solicit funding while care standards were poor. The orphanage was not registered with or accredited by the government, and the children who were at the facility were not reported to the government.
In 2020, BPM carried out 585 investigations for child neglect, abuse, kidnapping, forcible confinement, sexual assault, assault, and child trafficking, among other categories. The brigade did not specify how many of these investigations focused on child trafficking allegations. The investigations included unannounced site visits and closures of nightclubs, residences, and orphanages in cooperation with the Haitian Social Welfare Agency (IBESR). BPM reported 424 cases of law violations related to children in forced labor, trafficking, and illicit activities, but did not disaggregate the trafficking cases. IBESR, in collaboration with the CNLTP, an NGO, and a foreign donor, closed two privately-owned orphanages in Croix des Bouquets during the reporting period due to suspicions of child trafficking and sexual abuse.
Impunity and complicity in high-profile trafficking cases continued to be significant concerns. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses; however, corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes inhibited law enforcement action during the year. Observers reported allegations that judicial officials in border jurisdictions, such as justices of the peace, sometimes took bribes to free detained suspected human traffickers, which contributed to an environment in which traffickers largely operated with impunity. Authorities took no action during the reporting period against the former president of the Haitian Football Federation, banned for life by the International Federation of Football Association (FIFA) and fined 1 million Swiss francs ($1.14 million) and procedural costs for the rape and sexual abuse – at times including sex trafficking – of up to 34 females, including at least 14 girls, between 2014 and 2020 in a decision by the FIFA Ethics Committee that was referred for review to the FIFA Appeal Committee at the end of the reporting period. As of the end of the reporting period, authorities also had not acted against ten other perpetrators and accomplices in the case, including the head of the Haitian National Referees Committee who FIFA provisionally suspended for 90 days as part of its ongoing investigation. Furthermore, immunity for high-level officials and difficulty in initiating prosecutions against lower ranking public officials made it difficult to prosecute complicit officials. At the end of the reporting period, an investigative judge had not determined what charges to bring, if any, regarding two August 2020 raids of the La Mansion brothel in which authorities identified 12 female Venezuelan sex trafficking victims. The media reported high-level government officials had patronized the brothel before the raid and some of those involved had political influence. Authorities arrested a driver of the main suspected trafficker but subsequently released him; the judge issued a travel ban against the facility’s owner. The government did not take steps to prosecute anyone in the 2017 Kaliko Beach Club case in which authorities identified 31 trafficking victims, including children. The CNLTP reported some judges did not explain why they did not process some cases, including a case where a justice of the peace investigated an orphanage suspected of sexual abuse and child trafficking but never questioned the suspects.
Authorities and NGOs reported the pandemic had relatively little impact on counter-trafficking efforts, although some courts closed temporarily, and social-distancing restrictions hampered orphanage inspections. From March 2020 to July 2020, government agencies used a rotation system where only some staff physically went to work, thereby limiting the government’s capacity to investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes. The pandemic also exacerbated a backlog in cases that already existed due to general court inefficiency. The justice system experienced multiple strikes by lawyers, judges, clerks, and prosecutors.
During the reporting period, the CNLTP established cross-sectoral anti-trafficking task forces. The task forces identify offenders, facilitate access to trafficking investigations, and follow up on prosecutions. Members of the task forces included judiciary authorities (prosecutors, deputy prosecutors, judges), CNTLP, and BPM. With the assistance of a foreign donor, during the reporting period, the government updated its outdated and complex penal and criminal procedural codes and will implement the new codes over a two-year transition period. Debate continued about some of the new codes’ provisions, while the outdated and overly complex existing codes continued to delay prosecution of trafficking cases. The Superior Council of the Judiciary (CSPJ), charged with independently overseeing the judiciary, did not adequately promote prosecution of trafficking cases. Government officials rarely used the anti-trafficking law to prosecute and convict the perpetrators of exploitation of child domestic workers. The lack of a minimum age for domestic work and exceptions in the laws governing child labor hindered investigations and prosecutions of child domestic servitude.
The government provided in-kind support for a series of training sessions for human trafficking officials in cooperation with international partners. In June 2020, the CNLTP president co-hosted a training with an international donor for nine members of the CNLTP’s task forces regarding the law on trafficking in persons. In September 2020, the Haitian Magistrates’ School trained eight CNTLP members on the anti-trafficking law and the new penal code. In September 2020, an NGO and a foreign donor provided training regarding the 2014 law for 22 members of HNP, IBESR, and the Office for the Protection of Citizens, which led to the formation of anti-trafficking regional sub-committees. In collaboration with INTERPOL and a foreign donor, in December 2020 the CNLTP facilitated training for 23 police officers on the role of INTERPOL and the Haitian police detective service in the prevention of human trafficking. The government worked with the Dominican Republic to identify three Haitian nationals arrested in September 2020 in the Dominican Republic on charges of trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling. The Haitian National Police signed a memorandum of understanding with a foreign NGO and a foreign technology company to equip officers to use advanced forensic technology to fight human trafficking. The foreign-funded program will equip authorities with best-practice digital platforms and digital forensics training to allow better collection and analysis of information and evidence related to human trafficking. The program will also train investigative judges and members of the national anti-trafficking committee.