Haiti: The Haitian National Police (Police nationale d'Haïti, PNH), including its effectiveness, reform, and the reliability of reports issued by the police and justices of the peace; whether there is an authority that handles complaints about the police (2010-May 2013)
|Publisher||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Publication Date||13 June 2013|
|Citation / Document Symbol||HTI104397.FE|
|Related Document(s)||Haïti : information sur la Police nationale d'Haïti (PNH), y compris sur son efficacité, sur la réforme, ainsi que sur la fiabilité des rapports délivrés par la police et les juges de paix; information indiquant s'il existe une autorité responsable des plaintes concernant la police (2010-mai 2013)|
|Cite as||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Haiti: The Haitian National Police (Police nationale d'Haïti, PNH), including its effectiveness, reform, and the reliability of reports issued by the police and justices of the peace; whether there is an authority that handles complaints about the police (2010-May 2013), 13 June 2013, HTI104397.FE, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/51dd1d894.html [accessed 17 December 2017]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
1. General Information
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012, published by the United States (US) Department of State, describes the PNH as being "an autonomous civilian institution under the authority of a single director general and includes police, corrections, fire, emergency response, airport security, port security, and coast guard functions" (US 19 Apr. 2013, 8). According to Interpol, the mission of the PNH [translation] "is to maintain public order, protect the life and property of each citizen, and identify violations, offences and crimes in order to arrest the perpetrators" (Interpol n.d.). The PNH falls under the responsibility of the Haitian Ministry of Justice (ministère de la Justice d'Haïti) (US 19 Apr. 2013, 8-9).
Interpol indicated that the PNH was created in 1995 and has the following structure:
Headquarters (Direction générale): security policy and strategic development for the institution;
Inspectorate General (Inspection générale): enforcement monitoring;
Three central directorates (Directions centrales):
Central Directorate of Administrative Police (Direction centrale de la Police administrative), which ensures public security;
Central Directorate of the Judicial Police (Direction centrale de la Police judiciaire, DCPJ), which combats crime;
Central Directorate of Administrative and General Services (Direction centrale de l'Administration et des Services généraux), which handles administrative management.
Ten departmental directorates (Directions départementales).
The Central Directorate of Administrative Police is responsible for crime prevention and intervenes through specialized units:
Special intervention and law enforcement unit (Corps d'intervention et du maintien de l'ordre);
National police intervention unit (Groupe d'intervention de la police nationale);
General security unit of the national palace (Groupe d'intervention de la police nationale);
Presidential security unit (Unité de sécurité générale du palais national);
Coast guard (Garde-côtes);
Motorized intervention brigade (Corps des Brigades d'intervention motorisées);
Roads and traffic police unit (Direction de la circulation et de la police routière);
Fire brigade (Corps des sapeurs-pompiers);
Airport commission (Commissariat de l'aéroport);
Diplomatic security unit (Unité de sécurité diplomatique).
The DCPJ is charged with combating crime in close collaboration with the judicial authorities. It operates through:
The Office of Scientific and Technical Police (Bureau de la Police scientifique et technique);
The Office of Financial and Economic Affairs (Bureau des Affaires financières et économiques);
The Bureau of Forensic Intelligence (Bureau de Renseignements judiciaires, BRJ);
The Bureau of Criminal Affairs (Bureau des Affaires criminelles);
The Drug Trafficking Investigation Bureau (Bureau de lutte contre le trafic des stupéfiants);
The Auto Theft Brigade (Brigade de lutte contre le vol de véhicules);
The Bureau for the Protection of Minors (Le Bureau de protection des mineurs);
The Research and Intervention Brigade (La Brigade de recherches et d'intervention);
The Kidnapping Unit (Cellule contre l'enlèvement) (Interpol n.d.).
Information on whether all those components are operational could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
1.2 Number of Officers
Approximately 10,000 officers work under the PNH (Associate Professor of Political Science 31 May 2013; UN 8 Mar. 2013, para. 24; International Crisis Group 8 Sept. 2011, 6). According to its development plan, the PNH aims to have 15,000 officers by 2016 (ibid.; Associate Professor of Political Science 31 May 2013; UN 8 Mar. 2013, para. 24). However, according to International Crisis Group, analysts estimate that approximately 20,000 police officers are required to protect Haiti's population of 10 million and to ensure that the PNH is fully operational (8 Sept. 2011, 6). However, two professors noted that a significant quantitative increase does not necessarily guarantee a qualitative improvement of the PNH (Associate Professor of International Development 4 June 2013; Associate Professor of Political Science 31 May 2013).
Few police officers are women: only 8 percent of the force are women, despite recruitment efforts (US 19 Apr. 2013, 9; International Crisis Group 8 Sept. 2011, 11, 16). Sources note that the PNH has a shortage of middle managers and a greater concentration of officers in low-ranking positions (Associate Professor of Political Science 31 May 2013; International Crisis Group 8 Sept. 2011, 6). International Crisis Group indicated in August 2011 that 4,164 police officers held Agent 1-entry level-positions, while only 795 PNH officers were inspectors or higher ranking officers, [ICG English version] "which results in serious supervisory gaps" (ibid.). Similarly, the Associate Professor of Political Science noted that this shortage of managers creates problems with respect to the police's effectiveness and accountability (31 May 2013).
1.3 Geographic Distribution
Sources indicate that approximately 80 percent of PNH staff work in Port-au-Prince and the West department, where the capital is located (International Crisis Group 8 Sept. 2011, 5; Associate Professor of Political Science 31 May 2013; Associate Professor of International Development 4 June 2013).
The PNH therefore has a limited presence in the country's rural areas (ibid.), and little information on police services in those regions is available (Associate Professor of Political Science 31 May 2013). However, in correspondence sent to the Research Directorate, an inspector with the Montréal police force, who is also a lecturer at the Université de Montréal, participated in three peace-keeping missions in Haiti and helped train Haitian police officers from 2010 to 2012, noted that the PNH is capable of responding to complaints anywhere in the country, but it requires assistance from United Nations police officers for transportation in the regions due to a lack of vehicles or fuel (Inspector 27 May 2013). The Vice-president of the Security Governance Group, who has researched police reform in Haiti, stated that in some rural areas, police stations can be a half-day's walk away and that police officers do not necessarily have access to vehicles (21 May 2013). The Security Governance Group is a private research and consulting firm headquartered in Waterloo, Ontario, that specializes in international security (Security Governance Group n.d.). Rural areas, however, have a low level of insecurity (Associate Professor of Political Science 31 May 2013; Associate Professor of International Development 4 June 2013).
According to the Associate Professor of Political Science, "local networks" ensure security in rural areas (31 May 2013). Country Reports for 2012 reports cases of vigilante reprisals in rural areas where there is a limited presence of law enforcement (US 19 Apr. 2013, 33).
1.4 Impact of the 12 January 2010 Earthquake
Sources report that the PNH has generally recovered from the earthquake that hit Haiti in January 2010 (Associate Professor of International Development 4 June 2013; Associate Professor of Political Science 31 May 2013; Vice-president 21 May 2013). The Associate Professor of Political Science stated that most of the police stations that were destroyed in the earthquake have been rebuilt or relocated (Associate Professor of Political Science 31 May 2013). He also noted, however, that some police stations are still operating out of trailers set up after the earthquake, but that they are operational (ibid.). The Associate Professor of International Development stated that [translation] "most of the infrastructure has been rebuilt" (4 June 2013).
Nevertheless, the Inspector indicated that, despite the improvement, [translation] "there is still a lot of work to be done," and noted in particular that seven detention centres need to be built in the zone most affected by the earthquake, notably in Grand-Goâve and Petit-Goâve (Inspector 27 May 2013). According to him, there have also been reconstruction delays, and many buildings are [translation] "trailer types that do not last long and are of questionable quality" (ibid.). He also stated that [translation] "many documents and databases were destroyed, and the PNH has made no effort to recover them" (ibid.).
2. Effectiveness of the Police
In its 2012 annual report, Human Rights Watch states that [HRW English version] "[t]he [PNH'S] weak capacity contributes to overall insecurity in Haiti" (2013). However, according to the Inspector, [translation] "the PNH is making significant effort-there is a stronger police presence in the streets, and the number of officers has increased by approximately 1,000 every year" (27 May 2013). According to a report from the Secretary General of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, published in March 2013, the [UN English version] "national police has continued to improve [but] the force is not yet in a position to assume full responsibility for the provision of internal security throughout the country" (UN 8 Mar. 2013, para. 12).
Freedom House notes that the PNH lacks resources (Freedom House 2012). For example, officers have been unable to respond to complaints because they do not have any gasoline (ibid.; Associate Professor of Political Science 31 May 2013; Inspector 27 May 2013; Freedom House 2012).
According to the Vice-president of the Security Governance Group, the effectiveness of the PNH depends on a person's location, for example, in the countryside versus in Port-au-Prince, or according to the various districts of Port-au-Prince (Vice-president 21 May 2013). He noted in particular that the districts of Cité-Soleil, Martissant, Saint-Martin and some parts of Bel Air, where the police do not have enough resources to ensure the presence required to combat criminal gangs, have very high violence and crime rates, whereas "richer" neighbourhoods in the capital are well protected by a strong police presence (ibid.). The Associate Professor of Political Science also noted that the PNH does not know how to manage serious security issues like criminal gangs in shantytowns with high crime rates, and the PNH is therefore working to develop a strategy in cooperation with MINUSTAH (Associate Professor of Political Science 31 May 2013). According to the Professor, the PNH has a weak presence in those neighbourhoods, but it intervenes with "massive force" from time to time (ibid.). The Professor noted, however, that the PNH would like to introduce community police services through pilot projects (ibid.). Country Reports 2012 also indicates that the PNH has used force to control demonstrations (US 19 Apr. 2013, 16).
According to the Associate Professor of Political Science, the PNH is no longer generally considered to be a major source of human rights violations, but there are still some isolated cases (31 May 2013). Members of the PNH were reportedly directly involved in arbitrary executions of civilians (US 19 Apr. 2013, 3, 8; UN Dec. 2011, para. 2; OPC Jan. 2013, 82).
According to the Vice-president of the Security Governance Group, although the police infrastructure seems to have been restored to its former state before the earthquake, the momentum of reform efforts has slowed down (21 May 2013).
However, in August 2012, the Haitian government adopted a development plan for the PNH for the period of 2012-2016 (US 19 Apr. 2013, 9; UN 16 Jan. 2013) that provides for a hiring increase in order reach 15,000 officers in 2016, a budget increase, and the strengthening of material resources (ibid.). A report from the Secretary General of MINUSTAH indicated, however, that the funding is not sufficient to meet the objective set out in the five-year plan (ibid. 8 Mar. 2013, para. 22).
According to the Secretary General's report, the basic training of officers includes a new module on human rights (ibid., para. 26). The Inspector, who has himself set up police training programs, stated that he doubted the effectiveness of the training provided to Haitian police officers, which [translation] "is given in trailers without air conditioning, with 60 students at a time and in very poor conditions;" he added that "recruitment is based on standards that date back several years" (27 May 2013).
According to Country Reports for 2012, the PNH section responsible for conducting background checks on recruits was understaffed and under-resourced, and the process was stalled between 2011 and the middle of 2012 (US 19 Apr. 2013, 9). In November 2012, when the background check process had resumed, 79 officers were dismissed because they had not met the requirements (ibid.), a first since the beginning of the background checks (UN 8 Mar. 2013, para. 25).
The Associate Professor of Political Science stated that the authorities were determined to purge the PNH of undesirable elements, at least before the earthquake, even though it might send a rather symbolic message to police officers that corruption is no longer tolerated and that greater professionalism is required of them (31 May 2013). The Inspector stated that, with regard to [translation] "the removal of dirty police officers, the efforts being made are having some success, especially in serious cases such as murders and kidnappings committed by police officers; there has been a clear message since the appointment of Director General Godson Aurélus, the PNH Chief of Police" (27 May 2013).
4. Mechanisms for Filing Complaints Against the Police
The Inspectorate General is the body responsible for handling complaints made against the police (Associate Professor of International Development 4 June 2013; US 19 Apr. 2013, 9; associate professor of political science 31 May 2013). The Vice-president of the Security Governance Group stated that the Inspectorate General "is very good at responding" to complaints (21 May 2013). However, according to Country Reports for 2012, although the organization has more than 100 employees and several investigators, few cases are resolved quickly because of a shortage of investigators and expertise (US 19 Apr. 2013, 3, 9). According to the Inspector, [translation] "the process is ineffective" (Inspector 27 May 2013). The Inspector added that when he was in Haiti in 2012, the Inspectorate General had relocated to an office that was difficult for the public to access while it waited for its building to be rebuilt (ibid.). The new building of the Inspectorate General opened its doors in March 2013 in the Delmas commune in Port-au-Prince (Le Nouvelliste 14 Mar. 2013; HaitiNews2000 13 Mar. 2013). According to the Haitian Office of Citizen Protection (Office de la protection du citoyen, OPC), the involvement of the PNH's director general, particularly with regard to appointing employees to the Inspectorate General, undermines the organization's independence (Jan. 2013, 82). A report from the Secretary General of MINUSTAH stated the following:
[UN English version]
That the Inspector General remains under the authority of the Director General and has been replaced three times over the past 12 months raises questions about the independence and effectiveness of the oversight body. Furthermore, the Inspectorate General struggles with insufficient personnel, compounded by a shortage of equipment, specialized training and financial resources. The newly appointed Inspector General has, however, pledged to build an independent and strong institution. (UN 8 Mar. 2013, para. 26).
According to the OPC, [translation] "neither the Inspectorate General of the Haitian National Police ... nor the judiciary has proved itself capable of responding to allegations of human rights violations committed by members of the police force," particularly extrajudicial killings (Jan. 2013, 82). In addition, MINUSTAH investigated five homicides allegedly committed by members of the PNH between October 2010 and May 2011, and it was discovered that, in most cases, the PNH Inspectorate General and judicial authorities opened investigations, but they were not always [UN English version] "thorough" or completed within "acceptable" time frames; among the cases examined, no police officer had been "held criminally or administratively responsible for the deaths" (UN Dec. 2011, para. 2, 60, 63-64).
Individuals can also file complaints against government authorities with the OPC (Vice-president 21 May 2013; Freedom House 2013; OPC Jan. 2013, 17), which is responsible for conduction investigations and following up on recommendations made to public administration agencies (ibid.). According to Freedom House, the OPC expanded to rural areas in order to better serve the population, but it remains underfunded (2013). The Vice-president of the Security Governance Group noted that some people are reluctant to file complaints or they withdraw them, and police officers sometimes "intimidate" or "harass" complainants or possible complainants (21 May 2013). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
5. Reliability of Reports Issued by the Police and Justices of the Peace
In correspondence sent to the Research Directorate, a doctoral student at Georgetown University, who is doing research on the Haitian police, stated that it was "widely believed" that there are criminal complaints and fraudulent police reports in Haiti, and that people bribe police officers and justices of the peace to produce police reports for specious claims that are never investigated (Ph.D. candidate 31 May 2013).
The Vice-president of the Security Governance Group also stated that there are many cases of false documents (31 May 2013). He added that this seems to happen more often in more isolated places, particularly in the case of land disputes, when neither party has any documentation to back up their claims (ibid.). He explained that a wealthy person can pay the police to intimidate another person or bribe a government representative to provide falsified documents (ibid.).
However, the Inspector stated that
Police reports are few but generally reliable. Complaints must respect the standards of the judicial system, which is different from the Canadian system. The expertise of the principal players in the justice system is severely lacking. Training and resources are too limited to be effective, and no autopsies or ballistics equipment are available... Every effort is needed to make the system effective.... Justices of the peace are incompetent and are in charge at crime scenes. It should also be noted that there are many reports of sex crimes, but few are processed or investigated. I have noted many irregularities in reports from key players; for example, a murder was treated as a suicide even though the victim had been shot in the head and his hands had been tied (27 May 2013).
Information corroborating that provided by the Inspector could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
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.
Associate Professor of International Development, University of Ottawa. 4 June 2013. Correspondence sent to the Research Directorate.
Associate Professor of Political Science, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo. 31 May 2013. Telephone interview with the Research Directorate.
Doctoral student, Georgetown University. 31 May 2013. Correspondence sent to the Research Directorate.
Freedom House. 2013. "Haiti." Freedom in the World 2013. < [Accessed 11 June 2013]
_____. 2012. "Haiti." By Beatrice Lindstrom in Countries at the Crossroads. < [Accessed 21 May 2013]
HaitiNews2000. 13 March 2013. "Haïti-PNH : un nouveau bâtiment pour l'Inspection générale." < [Accessed 10 June 2013]
Human Rights Watch. 2013. "Haïti." Rapport mondial 2013 : évènements de 2012. < [Accessed 10 June 2013]
Inspector with the Montréal police force. 27 May 2013. Correspondence sent to the Research Directorate.
International Crisis Group. 8 September 2011. Garantir la sécurité en Haïti : réformer la police. Briefing Amérique latine/Caraïbes n° 26. < [Accessed 5 June 2013]
Interpol. N.d. "Haiti : Police nationale d'Haïti." < [Accessed 24 May 2013]
Le Nouvelliste [Port-au-Prince]. 14 March 2013. John Smith Sanon. "Le Canada offre un local flambant neuf à the Inspectorate Generalde la PNH." < [Accessed 10 June 2013]
Office de la protection du citoyen (OPC). January 2013. Rapport annuel combiné 2009-2012. < [Accessed 10 June 2013]
Security Governance Group. N.d. "About." < [Accessed 5 June 2013]
United Nations (UN). 8 March 2013. Security Council. Rapport du Secrétaire général sur la Mission des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en Haïti. (S/2013/139) < [Accessed 10 June 2013]
_____. 16 January 2013. Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). "Développement de la Police nationale d'Haïti : cap sur 2016." < [Accessed 10 June 2013]
_____. December 2011. United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Rapport sur les allégations d'homicides commis par la Police nationale d'Haïti et sur la réponse des autorités étatiques. < [Accessed 10 June 2013]
United States (US). 19 April 2013. Department of State. "Haiti." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012. < [Accessed 21 May 2013]
Vice-president, Security Governance Group. 21 May 2013. Telephone interview with the Research Directorate.
Additional Sources Consulted
Oral sources: The Director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti could not provide any information within the time constraints of this Response. Attempts made to contact representatives of the PNH and the United Nations police in Haïti were unsuccessful. A senior program officer with the United States Institute of Peace could not provide any information for this Response.
Internet sites, including: Alter Presse; Amnesty International; ecoi.net; Factiva; France - Cour nationale du droit d'asile; Haiti - Présidence de la République; Haïti Liberté; Haïti Libre; Haiti Press Network; Haïti Progrès; Métropole Haïti; Organization of American States (OAS); Radio Signal FM; United Nations - Integrated Regional Information Networks, Refworld, ReliefWeb.