The government decreased law enforcement efforts. The 2014 Anti- Trafficking (Anti-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) ($2,000 to $15,030), 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 did not report law enforcement or judicial statistics for the reporting period apart from those involving children. The government reported the Brigade for the Protection of Minors (BPM) conducted 466 investigations in 2021 of crimes against children, but it did not disaggregate the data or specify how many of these investigations involved potential child trafficking crimes. This compares with 585 investigations in 2020 for crimes against children, which BPM reported led to opening 424 cases related to children in forced labor, trafficking, and illicit activities, without disaggregating the trafficking cases. The investigations included unannounced site visits and closures of nightclubs, residences, and orphanages in cooperation with the Haitian Social Welfare Agency (IBESR). The government did not report other investigation efforts, compared with investigations initiated for three cases during the previous reporting period, 42 cases in 2019, and nine in 2018. The government did not report arresting any suspected traffickers in 2021. An NGO reported the government arrested one individual after an NGO’s identification of a victim following the government’s training of NGOs on the new SOPs. The Haitian National Police (HNP) border patrol unit (POLIFRONT) and authorities with the CNLTP reported the arrest of six alleged traffickers during the previous reporting period and 51 individuals arrested in 35 trafficking cases in 2019.
The government did not initiate any new prosecutions, compared to initiating two prosecutions of an unknown number of defendants during the previous reporting period, one in 2019, and seven in 2018. Authorities continued prosecution of 13 cases involving an unknown number of defendants from prior reporting periods, down from 21 cases at the end of the previous reporting period; however, the government did not report on the status of the continuing cases or the outcome of the other eight prosecutions observers noted likely closed. BPM reported the government prosecuted 24 traffickers for crimes related to forced child labor but did not report the status of those cases or whether they involved other crimes. The government did not report convicting any traffickers, compared with two convictions during the previous reporting period, none in 2019, and one in 2018. Courts sentenced a man to 15 years in prison for child trafficking crimes committed in 2016.
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 crimes. Government and civil society experts reported the judicial system appeared incapable of delivering justice to victims in trafficking cases, although outside observers noted that trafficking was not unique among crimes in this respect. Experts consistently alleged that employees within the Ministry of Justice were complicit in human trafficking crimes and that cases did not proceed to conviction as a result. Outside observers also reported police and immigration officials were complicit in human trafficking at the Haiti-Dominican Republic border; IBESR reported traffickers often avoided screening by crossing at unofficial points, noting that official complicity and corruption greatly exacerbated the problem. Observers reported allegations that judicial officials in border jurisdictions, such as justices of the peace, sometimes took bribes to free detained suspected traffickers, which contributed to an environment in which traffickers largely operated with impunity.
Authorities took no action 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 ($1.09 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, which was referred for review to the FIFA Appeal Committee at the end of the reporting period. Authorities also had not acted against 10 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. In March 2022, a popular Haitian athlete filed a criminal complaint with the HNP that, beginning at age 11, a former Minister of Youth, Sports, and Civil Actions had repeatedly raped him from approximately 1986 to 1988, while the accused was a teacher at the individual’s school. There were reports that other victims filed civil suits against the accused claiming similar abuse. Over the past 40 years, there have been consistent reports against the same individual of rape, child rape, pedophilia, systemic child abuse, and child sex trafficking, including in connection with the 2014-2020 FIFA abuse. When prosecutors brought charges in response to the prior allegations, judges dismissed every case for lack of evidence. By the close of the reporting period, the HNP had not reported taking steps to investigate the latest complaint. 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. An NGO reported the judicial police officers at the crime scene failed to gather sufficient evidence, the investigative judge had not subsequently acted, and the alleged perpetrators were granted a provisional release in direct contradiction of the 2014 anti-trafficking law. 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. An NGO reported that the decision to immediately release nine of the 12 alleged traffickers without charging them with any offense revealed that the commissioners purposely ignored the law. 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.
Natural disasters, the pandemic, and a presidential assassination during the reporting period significantly impacted the capacity of the government to implement successful anti-trafficking activities. The pandemic exacerbated a backlog in court cases that already existed due to general inefficiency. The assassination of the president in July led to lack of government action on many fronts, including anti-trafficking efforts. An earthquake and a tropical storm in August, and another earthquake in January, led to the destruction of the southern peninsula’s critical infrastructure and rendered many areas physically unreachable by the government. Widespread gang violence impeded police efforts to investigate trafficking crimes. While the CNLTP had cross-sectoral anti-trafficking task forces established in all 10 geographical departments in 2020, it could not access areas controlled by gangs, including in Port- au-Prince, resulting in the closure of the task force in one geographical department and limited law enforcement action in many regions.
Due to the presidential assassination, the government halted efforts to update its outdated and complex penal and criminal procedural codes. According to outside experts, the abandonment of the penal code reforms was a positive development because authorities were considering weakening many provisions related to trafficking. However, 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 child domestic servitude.
The government, in collaboration with civil society actors (and frequently with donor funding), conducted training and awareness-building for law students, lawyers, judges, POLIFRONT agents, and members of the regional task forces. An NGO reported the CNLTP trained seven regional task forces out of the country’s 10 regional departments with facilitation from the NGO; the other three departments in the southwestern peninsula received written training materials due to access challenges caused by the earthquake and increased gang violence and control of the primary national road heading to the southern departments. The CNLTP and the National Council of Legal Assistance signed a memorandum of understanding to ensure trafficking victims had access to legal assistance.