Last Updated: Friday, 19 December 2014, 13:25 GMT

Haiti: Frequency of kidnappings for ransom; groups targeted by kidnappers; measures taken by the authorities to fight kidnappings (2010-2012)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Publication Date 22 May 2012
Citation / Document Symbol HTI104082.FE
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Haiti: Frequency of kidnappings for ransom; groups targeted by kidnappers; measures taken by the authorities to fight kidnappings (2010-2012), 22 May 2012, HTI104082.FE, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fead3c92.html [accessed 20 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis 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. Kidnappings for ransom

In correspondence with the Research Directorate on 27 April 2012, the director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), a human rights organization in Boston that provides legal aid in Haiti (n.d.), explained that almost all kidnappings in Haiti are committed for ransom money. Also, two other sources indicated that most kidnapping cases are resolved by paying a ransom (U.S. 11 Mar. 2012; Canada 1 Mar. 2012). Moreover, several sources indicated that kidnapping victims may be subjected to other forms of violence, including physical (France 16 Feb. 2012; U.S. 11 Mar. 2012) and sexual assault (ibid.), death (ibid.; Canada 1 Mar. 2012) or disappearance (ibid.).

2. Number of kidnappings

According to correspondence from the IJDH director, kidnappings have become less frequent since the 2004-2006 period, but they are still "fairly frequent" (27 Apr. 2012). In its Haiti Crime and Safety Report. published in March 2012, the United States Bureau of Diplomatic Security also stated that the number of kidnappings has decreased since 2005 and 2006, but it noted that they are less predictable and more widespread than before (U.S. 11 Mar. 2012). The IJDH director noted that kidnappings are rarely reported, explaining that the kidnappers warn families against reporting the abduction to the police (IJDH 27 Apr. 2012). The United States Bureau of Diplomatic Security also stated that the crimes are under-reported (U.S. 11 Mar. 2012). Several sources noted that more cases were reported in 2010 than in 2009 (ibid.; The Miami Herald 1 Sept. 2010; Haïti Libre 2 Sept. 2010). According to the report from the United States Bureau of Diplomatic Security, 121 kidnappings were reported in 2010, 73 in 2009 and 266 in 2008 (U.S. 11 Mar. 2012). The same report noted that the number of kidnappings rose in the second half of 2010, after escapees from prisons destroyed in the January 2010 earthquake had time to regroup (ibid.). However, and article published by the Canadian newspaper La Presse suggested that the number of kidnappings has not [translation] "exploded" since the earthquake (7 Jan. 2012).

Several media reported kidnappings in 2011 (Signal FM Haïti 15 Apr. 2011; Le Nouvelliste 26 Aug. 2011; Haïti Libre 30 Aug. 2011; Radio Métropole Haïti 20 Dec. 2011; Radio Kiskeya 26 Dec. 2011). For example, two newspapers indicated that kidnappers had abducted an American of Haitian origin at his home in August 2011 and demanded a ransom of 300,000 dollars (The Guardian 31 Aug. 2011; Haïti Libre 30 Aug. 2011). The victim was rescued by the Haitian national police without one penny being paid (ibid.; The Guardian 31 Aug. 2011). According to the International Crisis Group, there was an increase in kidnapping reports in 2011 (8 Sept. 2011, 1). Radio Kiskeya, located in Port-au-Prince (n.d.), also indicated that there was a [translation] "resurgence" of kidnappings in Port-au-Prince in November 2011 (26 Dec. 2011). In March 2012, the National Human Rights Defense Network (Réseau national de défense des droits humains, RNDDH), a human rights organization located in Port-au Prince that promotes the rule of law in Haiti (n.d.), declared itself [translation] "profoundly concerned with the upsurge of acts of insecurity and violence [namely abductions and kidnappings for ransom] in the country, particularly in the metropolitan area" (15 Mar. 2012, 1).

Sources stated that kidnappings increase in Haiti as the holiday season approaches (The Guardian 31 Aug. 2011; U.S. 11 Mar. 2012). According to the report from the United States Bureau of Diplomatic Security, that increase, also noted before school sessions begin, are due to the belief that people have more cash at home during those periods to pay for gifts and school fees (ibid.).

3. Targeted groups

According to the United States Bureau of Consular Affairs, kidnapping victims are not targeted according to their profession, nationality, race, gender or age (U.S. 8 Aug. 2011). The report from the United States Bureau of Diplomatic Security stated that the breakdown of victims in recent years are spread fairly evenly between men, women and children (11 Mar. 2012). According to the report from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of Canada, Haitian citizens, regardless of their social class, run the risk of being kidnapped (1 Mar. 2012). However, other sources stated that Haitians from the middle or upper class, or those who are perceived to have money, are at greater risk (U.S. 11 Mar. 2012; IJDH 27 Apr. 2012; Haïti Libre 2 Sept. 2010). Nevertheless, the IJDH director noted that the majority of crime victims, including kidnapping victims, are poor; wealthy people have security to protect them (27 Apr. 2012).

Several sources noted the kidnapping of foreigners (France 16 Feb. 2012; Canada 1 Mar. 2012; U.S. 8 Aug. 2011; The Miami Herald 1 Sept. 2010; Haïti Libre 30 Aug. 2011; Reuters 9 Mar. 2012). A report from France's Department of Foreign and European Affairs (ministère des Affaires étrangères et européennes) indicated that approximately 10 percent of victims are foreign nationals (16 Feb. 2012). The spokesperson for the United Nations police in Haiti was cited in two newspapers as saying that 83 percent of kidnapping victims between January and August 2010 were Haitians, while 17 percent were foreigners (The Miami Herald 1 Sept. 2010; Haïti Libre 2 Sept. 2010).

According to the United States Bureau of Diplomatic Security, home invasions for the purpose of kidnapping and robbery have increased since 2010 (U.S. 11 Mar. 2012). Sources indicated that the kidnappers target the most affluent neighbourhoods, namely Pèlerin and Thomassin, in south Pétionville (ibid.; The Miami Herald 1 Sept. 2010).

The Bureau of Diplomatic Security also noted the "serious problem" of vehicle thefts commonly committed in conjunction with kidnappings (U.S. 11 Mar. 2012). Haitian sources indicated that seven people travelling by car were kidnapped by armed bandits in 2010 (Haïti Libre 2 Sept. 2010; Radio Kiskeya 1 Sept. 2010). According to the newspaper Haïti Libre, the kidnappers demanded a ransom of 150,000 dollars for the release of one of the victims (2 Sept. 2010). In March 2012, Dominican truckers blocked a border crossing point between Haiti and the Dominican Republic to protest against the recent kidnappings of three Dominican truck drivers in Haiti and the general lack of security for drivers (Reuters 9 Mar. 2012; Puerto Rico Daily Sun 12 Mar. 2012).

3.1 Political kidnappings

According to the United States Bureau of Diplomatic Security, most kidnappings are motivated by criminal rather than political reasons (U.S. 11 Mar. 2012). However, the International Crisis Group stated that many unsolved cases of kidnapping and murder between 2009 and 2011 are "frequently labelled political killings" (8 Sept. 2011, 3). In September 2010, the Miami Herald wrote that some sources, including the UN, suspected that politicians of hiring gangs to commit kidnappings for ransom in order to collect money to hire protesters during the election (1 Sept. 2010). Additional information on this topic could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

4. Measures taken by the authorities

According to Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2010, published by the United States Department of State, police reform has made "significant improvements" in the Anti-Kidnapping Unit of the Haitian national police in 2010 (8 Apr. 2011, 7). Sources indicated that the police sometimes manage to arrest kidnappers and rescue hostages (Radio Métropole Haïti 13 Dec. 2011; ibid. 20 Dec. 2011; Radio Kiskeya 26 Dec. 2011; IJDH 27 Apr. 2012). However, sources also stated that some police officers have been complicit in kidnappings (ibid.; U.S. 8 Apr. 2011, 3). Moreover, the RNDDH stated that [translation] "it appears the Haitian authorities have not assessed the scope of the situation to enable an appropriate response to the acts of insecurity and organized violence" (15 Mar. 2012, 1).

For more information on crime in Haiti, see the response for information request HTI104083.

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.

References

Canada. 1 March 2012. Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. "Travel Report: Haiti." [Accessed 26 Apr. 2012]

France. 16 February 2012. "Conseils aux voyageurs : Haïti." [Accessed 24 Apr. 2012]

The Guardian [London]. 31 August 2011. "Haitian Police Free Kidnapped American Citizen." [Accessed 26 Apr. 2012]

Haïti Libre. 30 August 2011. "Insécurité : toujours sans nouvelle de l'Américain enlevé vendredi." [Accessed 24 Apr. 2012]

_____. 2 September 2010. "Haïti - Insécurité : 8 nouveaux kidnappings en 7 jours." [Accessed 24 Apr. 2012]

Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH). 27 April 2012. Correspondence sent to the Research Directorate from the director.

_____. N.d. "What We Do." [Accessed 4 May 2012]

International Crisis Group. 8 September 2011. Keeping Haiti Safe: Police Reform. Latin America/Caribbean Briefing No. 26. [Accessed 18 May 2012]

The Miami Herald. 1 September 2010. Trenton Daniel. "Violence Mars Haiti's Recovery: The Number of Kidnappings in the Hills Above Port-au-Prince Has Increased as Haiti Stands at a Political Crossroads." (Factiva)

Le Nouvelliste [Port-au-Prince]. 26 August 2011. Roberson Alphonse. "Rapts et frayeur sur la capitale." [Accessed 25 Apr. 2012]

La Presse [Montréal]. 7 January 2012. Étienne Côté-Paluck. "Quatre mythes sur Haïti déboulonnés." [Accessed 10 Apr. 2012]

Puerto Rico Daily Sun. 12 March 2012. "Dominican Truckers Protest Halts Haiti Traffic." [Accessed 3 May 2012]

Radio Kiskeya. 26 December 2011. "Un otage de 10 ans enlevé la veille de Noël en sa résidence à Pétion Ville, libéré par la police." [Accessed 26 Apr. 2012]

_____. 1 September 2010. "L'assassinat en Haïti d'un fonctionnaire américain, très commenté en Floride." [Accessed 4 May 2012]

_____. N.d. "Contactez-nous." [Accessed 4 May 2012]

Radio Métropole Haïti. 20 December 2011. "Arrestation d'un des ravisseurs d'un important homme d'affaires." [Accessed 24 Apr. 2012]

_____. 13 December 2011. "La sécurité publique, principal enjeu en cette fin d'année." [Accessed 24 Apr. 2012]

Réseau national de défense des droits humains (RNDDH). 15 March 2012. "Le RNDDH tire la sonnette d'alarme sur la dégradation de la situation sécuritaire du pays." [Accessed 4 May 2012]

_____. N.d. "Vision et mission du RNDDH." [Accessed 4 May 2012]

Reuters. 9 March 2012. "Dominican Truckers Protest Kidnappings in Haiti." [Accessed 26 Apr. 2012]

Signal FM Haïti. 15 April 2011. "Multiplication des cas d'enlèvements et d'arrestations à Port-au-Prince." [Accessed 25 Apr. 2012]

United States (U.S.). 11 March 2012. Bureau of Diplomatic Security, Department of State. Haiti 2012 Crime and Safety Report. [Accessed 26 Apr. 2012]

_____. 8 August 2011. Bureau of Consular Affairs, Department of State. "Travel Warning: Haiti." [Accessed 25 Apr. 2012]

_____. 8 April 2011. Department of State. "Haiti." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2010. [Accessed 26 Apr. 2012]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Attempts made to contact a representative of the Réseau national de défense de droits humains were unsuccessful. A Haitian journalist was unable to provide any information within the time constraints for this Response.

Internet sites, including: Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement; Canadian Foundation for the Americas; defend.ht; ecoi.net; Haitian national police; Human Rights Watch; Interpol; Miami New Times; Organization of American States; United Nations — UN News Centre, Integrated Regional Information Networks, United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, Refworld, Security Council; The Wall Street Journal.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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