Haiti: Crime, including protection available against crime and the effectiveness of that protection, particularly in Port-au-Prince, Cap-Haïtien, Jérémie, Les Cayes and Gonaïves (2016-June 2019) [HTI106306.FE]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

1. Overview

For information on the security situation, including crime and the measures taken by the government and other stakeholders to fight it from 2014 to June 2018, please consult Response to Information Request HTI106116, published in June 2018.

According to Freedom House, crime and violence are “widespread” in Haiti (Freedom House 4 Jan. 2018). A representative from the National Human Rights Defense Network (Réseau national de défense des droits humains , RNDDH) [1] indicated, in correspondence sent to the Research Directorate, that [translation] “[t]he context of crime has changed. There are heavily armed groups throughout the country, particularly in Port-au-Prince, and that promotes widespread insecurity” (RNDDH 17 May 2019). An RNDDH report on the human rights situation in Haiti, published in May 2019, adds that [translation] “[t]he armed violence that is rampant today endangers the lives of everyone living in Haiti” (RNDDH 3 May 2019, 6).

Some sources report that the level of crime has increased in Haiti in recent years (Assistant Professor 20 May 2019; Défenseurs plus 15 May 2019). In correspondence sent to the Research Directorate, an assistant professor of social work at the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW), who did work in Haiti in connection with violence and security, states that “crimes against persons are more common than in the past” (Assistant Professor 20 May 2019). However, in correspondence sent to the Research Directorate, an associate professor from the Department of International Development and Globalization at the University of Ottawa, who is studying security and security agency reforms in fragile states, particularly in Haiti, pointed out that, according to recent United Nations (UN) reports, [translation] “violent crime rates (including homicide rates) have remained broadly stable since the withdrawal of the [United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH] in October 2017” (Associate Professor 21 May 2019).

According to the RNDDH report, [translation] “[v]iolent deaths by shooting or stabbing are recorded every day. From January to March 2019 alone, one hundred and one(101) people lost their lives, including thirteen(13) police officers, an average of thirty-three(33) people per month, including four(4) police officers” (RNDDH 3 May 2019, para. 2, emphasis in original). Freedom House reports that, according to the Haitian National Police (Police nationale d’Haïti , PNH), there were nearly 900 homicides in 2017, but the source indicates that “crime statistics are difficult to authenticate and crimes are underreported by the government” (Freedom House 4 Jan. 2018).

In an interview with the Research Directorate, a representative from Défenseurs plus , a non-profit organization working to defend human rights in Haiti (Défenseurs plus n.d.), stated that the number of cases of crime, summary executions and kidnappings has increased significantly (Défenseurs plus 15 May 2019). The RNDDH report states the following:

[translation]

[a]rmed criminals control their areas and hold small retailers and businesses to ransom, setting the amount to be paid regularly by these merchants and entrepreneurs in order to continue to carry out their commercial activities in the areas concerned. (RNDDH 3 May 2019, para. 6)

For information on major criminal groups, including their areas of operation, structure and activities, as well as the state’s response, please refer to Response to Information Request HTI106293, published in June 2019.

2. Crime in the Regions

According to the Assistant Professor,

…organized crime in smaller cities and towns, particularly port cities such as St. Marc and Gonaives has increased in frequency and has become more severe in character. (Assistant Professor 20 May 2019)

The Assistant Professor added that “[s]everal urban gangs have now expanded their reach to the countryside and control suburban and rural areas in and around Route Nationale 1 ” [which stretches from Port-au-Prince to Cap-Haitien, passing through Saint-Marc and Gonaïves] (Assistant Professor 20 May 2019). According to the same source, the area around Route Nationale 1 “has become quite dangerous over the past 4-5 years but particularly over the past three years” (Assistant Professor 20 May 2019). The RNDDH report also indicates the following:

[translation]

[r]aids are carried out on containers of goods leaving for provincial cities. Vehicles are searched every day on major roads. Drivers and passengers are then required to give up their belongings. These attacks on vehicles are becoming more and more frequent. (RNDDH 3 May 2019, para. 5)

The Défenseurs plus representative also reported cases of goods being diverted to regions and neighbourhoods where gangs operate (Défenseurs plus 15 May 2019).

Information about crime in Les Cayes or Jérémie could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

3. Protection Against Crime

According to Freedom House, there is “little protection from the illegitimate use of force” in Haiti (Freedom House 4 Jan. 2018). In the same vein, the RNDDH representative stated that [translation] “[t]he Haitian population is left to its own devices and is powerless against the rise of insecurity in the country” (RNDDH 17 May 2019). In a March 2019 report to the Security Council on the United Nations Mission in Support of Justice in Haiti (UNMJUSTH), the UN Secretary General stated the following: [UN English version] “Public confidence in security and justice institutions, including in addressing sexual and gender-based violence and gang violence, remains low” (United Nations 1 Mar. 2019, para. 60). For information on violence against women in Haiti, including sexual violence, as well as state protection, please consult Response to Information Request HTI106291, published in June 2019.

According to the RNDDH report, [translation] “no concrete measures have been taken by the authorities concerned to ensure the safety of citizens” (RNDDH 3 May 2019, para. 51). However, according to the UN Secretary General’s report, [UN English version] “Addressing gang violence and building stronger links with communities affected by violent crime is a growing priority for the Government of Haiti” (UN 1 Mar. 2019, para. 14). Without providing additional details, the same source adds that [UN English version] “community violence reduction projects are ongoing in Cap-Haïtien (North Department), Mahotière (North-West Department), Hinche (Centre Department) and Port-au-Prince (La Saline, Bel-Air, Carrefour-Feuilles and Martissant)” (UN 1 Mar. 2019, para. 15).

3.1 Effectiveness of Police Protection

Sources report that the responsibility of protecting citizens [translation] [“officially and legally”] (Défenseurs plus 15 May 2019)] falls to the PNH (RNDDH 17 May 2019; Défenseurs plus 15 May 2019). In his report, the UN Secretary General indicates the following: [UN English version] “The Haitian national police have been increasingly self-sufficient in providing security across the country” (UN 1 Mar. 2019, para. 18). The Associate Professor agrees with the UN with respect to the fact that [translation] “the [PNH] has strengthened considerably since the 2010 earthquake” (Associate Professor 21 May 2019). However, the RNDDH states that [translation] “the police system is overwhelmed by the insecurity” in the country (RNDDH 3 May 2019, para. 51). In the same vein, the Assistant Professor writes that the PNH “continues to struggle to protect the population from both organized and informal criminals,” and added that, since MINUSTAH’s departure, the PNH has been unable to fully assume its responsibilities (Assistant Professor 20 May 2019). According to the RNDDH, police officers themselves are targeted by criminals, noting that 15 police officers were killed between January and April 2019 (RNDDH 3 May 2019, paras. 2-4).

According to sources, the PNH has about 15,000 people on staff, meaning approximately 1.3 police officers for every 1,000 people (UN 1 Mar. 2019, para. 20; Associate Professor 21 May 2019). According to the UN report, the number of police personnel deployed to departments [outside of Port-au-Prince] constitutes 35 percent of the overall police force (UN 1 Mar. 2019, para. 20). However, according to the Défenseurs plus representative, although there has been an increase in the number of staff, it has not kept pace with demographic growth, particularly in Port-au-Prince (Défenseurs plus 15 May 2019). According to the assistant professor, the PNH “have never achieved full policing capacity since their inception [in 1995]” (assistant professor 20 May 2019).

According to the Défenseurs plus representative, the PNH has a greater presence and has been able to react effectively in certain [translation] “moments of crisis,” but is only present in “certain places” (Défenseurs plus 15 May 2019). The UN Secretary General states that the [UN English version] “positive performance” demonstrated by the PNH during protests “is an indication of the force’s increased capacity and ability to maintain order across the country” (UN 1 Mar. 2019, para. 18). Sources highlight the PNH’s lack of resources and equipment (Défenseurs plus 15 May 2019; RNDDH 17 May 2019; Assistant Professor 20 May 2019). According to the RNDDH report, [translation] “[g]ang leaders openly display their weapons and ammunition capabilities, claiming to far exceed those of the police” (RNDDH 3 May 2019, para. 4). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

According to the Assistant Professor, police officers do not take initiative in crime prevention and “rarely” conduct criminal investigations (Assistant Professor 20 May 2019). The same source adds that the police “do not feel they have the expertise to investigate crimes or interact with victims or criminals” (Assistant Professor 20 May 2019). In the same vein, the RNDDH representative stated that [translation] “[f]ew police operations are carried out. They are inconclusive. The individuals arrested are generally not involved in the crimes (RNDDH 17 May 2019). The RNDDH report adds that [translation] “the rare efforts [made by the PNH] to arrest armed criminals mean that, in the majority of cases, the criminals are unconcerned about the courts” (RNDDH 3 May 2019, para. 51).

3.2 Other Stakeholders who Provide Protection

Sources report that there are private security companies in Haiti that offer protection to citizens (Défenseurs plus 15 May 2019; Assistant Professor 20 May 2019). The Assistant Professor stated that “[p]rivate security firms … are used by the elite and many businesses and NGOs for day to day security” (Assistant Professor 20 May 2019). According to Défenseurs plus , only those who can afford it can hire these companies (Défenseurs plus 15 May 2019). According to the Assistant Professor, some private security companies have ties to armed criminal groups (Assistant Professor 20 May 2019). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

The Associate Professor stated that [translation] “[i]n some urban communities, citizens have organized ‘neighbourhood watches’ to fill the gaps in police presence” (Associate Professor 21 May 2019). According to the Assistant Professor, armed criminal groups are the “primary” security provider for citizens in heavily populated areas and low-income rural areas (assistant professor 20 May 2019).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

Note

[1] The National Human Rights Defense Network (Réseau national de défense des droits humains , RNDDH) is a Haitian NGO that works to educate people about human right and monitors “key state institutions in respect to their obligations to protect rights” (RNDDH n.d.).

References

Assistant professor, University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW). 20 May 2019. Correspondence sent to the Research Directorate.

Associate professor, University of Ottawa. 21 May 2019. Correspondence sent to the Research Directorate.

Défenseurs plus . 15 May 2019. Telephone interview with a representative.

Défenseurs plus . N.d. Facebook. “À propos .” [Accessed 22 May 2019]

Freedom House. 4 January 2018. “Haiti.” Freedom in the World 2018 . [Accessed 30 May 2019]

Réseau national de défense des droits humains (RNDDH). 17 May 2019. Correspondence sent to the Research Directorate by a representative.

Réseau national de défense des droits humains (RNDDH). 3 May 2019. Situation chaotique des droits humains en Haïti et banditisme d’État : Le RNDDH dénonce l'inertie des autorités et la protection des gangs armés . [Accessed 21 May 2019]

Réseau national de défense des droits humains (RNDDH). N.d. “Vision & Mission .” [Accessed 22 May 2019]

United Nations (UN). 1 March 2019. Security Council. Mission des Nations Unies pour l'appui à la justice en Haïti: Rapport du secrétaire général . (S/2019/198) [Accessed 30 May 2019]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Haiti – Police nationale d’Haïti ; Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti; associate professor of global studies who has researched police and security in Haiti; associate professor of global studies who conducts research on crime, particularly in Haiti; associate professor of sociology who studies social inequalities, poverty and violence in Haiti; associate professor of anthropology who studied violence and security in Haiti.

Internet sites, including:AlterPresse ; Amnesty International; Centre pour la gouvernance du secteur de la sécurité ; ecoi.net; Factiva; Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l’homme ; France – Cour nationale du droit d’asile, Office français de protection des réfugiés et apatrides ; GlobalSecurity.org; Haiti – ministère de la Justice et de la Sécurité publique, Office de la protection du citoyen, Police nationale d’Haïti; HaïtiLibre; Haïti Progrès; Haïti-Référence ; International Crisis Group; Justice et Paix Haïti; Le Nouvelliste; Tout Haïti ; United Nations – Mission for Justice Support in Haiti, Refworld; United States – Department of State.