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.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: While the law prohibits rape of men or women, it does not recognize spousal rape as a crime. The penalty for rape is a minimum of 10 years of forced labor. In the case of gang rape, the maximum penalty is lifelong forced labor. Actual sentences were often less rigorous. The criminal code excuses a husband who kills his wife or her partner found engaging in an act of adultery in his home, but a wife who kills her husband under similar circumstances is subject to prosecution.
The law does not classify domestic violence against adults as a distinct crime. Women’s rights groups and human rights organizations reported domestic violence against women remained commonplace. Judges often released suspects arrested for domestic violence and rape.
Victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence faced major obstacles in seeking legal justice, as well as access to protective services, such as women’s shelters.
Attorneys who represented rape survivors said that authorities were reasonably responsive to cases involving the rape of minors, as the law is clear and judicial measures exist to deal with such cases. Due to the lack of clear legal or administrative structures to deal with such cases, however, authorities frequently dropped or did not pursue cases when the offender was also a minor or the survivor was an adult.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not specifically prohibit sexual harassment, although the labor code states that men and women have the same rights and obligations. Observers indicated that sexual harassment occurred frequently.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: .
Discrimination: The law does not provide for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. Women did not enjoy the same social and economic status as men, despite the constitutional amendments recognizing the principle of “at least 30 percent women’s participation in national life and notably in public service.”
By law men and women have equal protections for economic participation. In practice, however, women faced barriers to accessing economic inputs and securing collateral for credit, information on lending programs and resources.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived through an individual’s parents; only one parent of either sex is necessary to transmit citizenship. Citizenship can also be acquired through a formal request to the Ministry of the Interior. The government did not register all births immediately. Birth registry is free until the age of two years.
Education: Constitutional provisions require the government to provide free and compulsory education for all children up to age 15; however, the government did not effectively enforce these provisions.
Child Abuse: The law prohibits domestic violence against minors. The government continued to lack sufficient resources and an adequate legal framework to support or enforce existing mechanisms to promote children’s rights and welfare fully, but it made some progress in institutionalizing protections for children.
A study launched by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, published in 2015 in collaboration with national and international organizations, estimated there were 286,000 children working in indentured domestic servitude (referred to as “restaveks”). Host families often abused restaveks and subjected them to domestic servitude, a form of trafficking in persons.
For more information see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/ and the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at .
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age of marriage is 18 years. No data was available regarding early and forced marriage, but childhood and forced marriage was not a widespread custom.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age for consensual sex is 18 years. The law prohibits the corruption of youth under 21, including prostitution, with penalties ranging from six months to three years of imprisonment for offenders. The law prescribes prison sentences of seven to 15 years of imprisonment and a fine ranging from 200,000 HTG (Haitian Gourdes) to 1.5 million HTG ($3,750 to $28,140). The penalty for human trafficking with aggravating circumstances, which includes cases involving the exploitation of children, is up to life imprisonment.
Recruitment of children for sexual exploitation and pornography is illegal, but the United Nations reported that criminal gangs recruited children as young as 10 years of age.
Institutionalized Children: The IBESR has official responsibility for monitoring and accrediting the country’s orphanages and residential care centers. IBESR reported that children in orphanages were frequently victims of sexual or physical abuse, were malnourished, did not receive an education, and were often trafficked to work as domestic labor, sex workers, or farm workers. IBESR has tried to close the worst of these orphanages, but can only do so as quickly as they can find other placement for the children in the abusive orphanages. The government has not apportioned appropriate resources to develop transitional centers or other temporary housing and care facilities that would allow the rapid pace of deinstitutionalization needed.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
The Jewish community numbered fewer than 100 persons, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The constitution stipulates that persons with disabilities should have the means to provide for their autonomy, education, and independence. The law prohibits discrimination in employment practices against persons with disabilities, requires the government to integrate such persons into the state’s public services, and imposes a 2 percent quota for persons with disabilities in the workforces of private-sector companies. The government did not enforce these legal protection mechanisms. Government officials took steps to include protections for persons with disabilities to vote.
Individuals with disabilities faced significant social stigma because of their disability. Persons with mental or developmental disabilities were marginalized, neglected, and abused in society. The Office of the Secretary of State for the Integration of Handicapped Persons (BSEIPH), which falls under the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, is the lead government agency responsible for providing assistance to persons with disabilities and ensuring their civil, political, and social inclusion. Access to quality medical care posed a significant challenge for persons with disabilities. Hospitals and clinics in Port-au-Prince did not have sufficient space, human resources, or public funds to treat such individuals.
The BSEIPH had several departmental offices outside the capital and continued to refine a strategic development plan to guide the institution’s efforts. It provided persons with disabilities with legal advice and job counseling services. The BSEIPH regularly convened meetings with disabilities rights groups in all of its regional offices.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
No laws criminalize sexual orientation or consensual same-sex conduct between adults, nor were there any reports of police officers actively perpetrating or condoning violence against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community.
While no laws criminalize the changing of one’s gender or sex, local attitudes remained hostile to outward LGBTI identification and expression, particularly in Port-au-Prince. Some societal leaders and organizations actively opposed the social integration of LGBTI persons and discussion of their rights.
No antidiscrimination laws protect LGBTI persons and minority groups. Some civil society advocates claimed that in the greater Port-au-Prince area, HNP authorities were inconsistent in their willingness to document or investigate LGBTI persons’ claims of abuse.
LGBTI advocacy groups in the capital reported a greater sense of insecurity and less trust of government authorities than did groups in rural areas.
HNP academy instructors teach police officers to respect the rights of all civilians without exception. The curriculum specifically trained new officers on crimes commonly committed against the LGBTI community.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
In the country’s most recent demographic and health survey (2012), 61 percent of women and 55 percent of men reported discriminatory attitudes towards those with HIV.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
According to MINUSTAH reports, vigilante reprisals, including by lynching or burning persons alive, remained a problem, especially in rural areas outside the capital. Limited or nonexistent presence of law enforcement and judicial authorities meant that, in practice, such reprisals had few or no legal repercussions.