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Haiti: Security situation, including criminality, measures taken by the government and other actors to combat crime (2010-2012)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Publication Date 28 May 2012
Citation / Document Symbol HTI104083.E
Related Document(s) Haïti : information sur la situation en matière de sécurité, y compris la criminalité, et les mesures prises par le gouvernement et d'autres intervenants pour lutter contre le crime (2010-2012)
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Haiti: Security situation, including criminality, measures taken by the government and other actors to combat crime (2010-2012), 28 May 2012, HTI104083.E, available at: [accessed 20 November 2017]
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.

In an interview with the Small Arms Survey, an independent research project on small arms and armed violence at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva (n.d.), a UN official estimated that the Haitian National Police (Police national d'Haïti, PNH) lost a quarter of its police capacity as a result of the earthquake of 12 January 2010 (2011a, 236). Another estimate, by the Director of the Administrative Police of the PNH, suggests that the earthquake rendered fifty percent of the police force non-operational (CIGI Mar. 2011, 5). Sources indicate that at least 75 police officers were killed and 253 were injured (Small Arms Survey 2011a, 236; UN 3 May 2010, para. 39). Fifty-five PNH buildings were also reportedly destroyed or damaged by the earthquake (Small Arms Survey July 2011a, 236; International Crisis Group 8 Sept. 2011, 4). Isabelle Fortin, an academic affiliated with the North-South Institute (Fortin and Pierre Mar. 2011, 77), states that the PNH resumed normal operations three months after the earthquake, "under severe structural limitations" (CIGI Mar. 2011, 6). In a report on police reform published in September 2011, the International Crisis Group described the reconstruction process of the police force as "slow" (8 Sept. 2011, 4).

Sources also indicate that the operational capacity of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) was impacted by the earthquake (International Crisis Group 8 Sept. 2011, 4; Fortin and Pierre Mar. 2011, 70). International Crisis Group reports that MINUSTAH's role in supporting the PNH was interrupted due to the "damages [it] suffered," but that it appeared to have resumed its capacity-building activities by September 2011 (8 Sept. 2011, 4).

Several prisons are reported to have been damaged in the earthquake, facilitating the escape of approximately 5,000 prisoners (UN 3 May 2010, para. 46; Fortin and Pierre Mar. 2011, 72; International Crisis Group 8 Sept. 2011, 2). Sources indicate that at least 3,000 detainees escaped from the national penitentiary and destroyed the prison's records (CIGI Mar. 2011, 3; UN 3 May 2010, para. 47; Reuters 17 Jan. 2010).

1.2 Criminal Groups

According to the UN independent expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti, many of the escapees from the national prison belonged to drugs- and arms-trafficking gangs in the Cité Soleil quarter of Port-au-Prince and may have returned to the area after their escape (UN 3 May 2010, para. 46-47). Several other sources also indicate that escaped prisoners have regrouped and resumed gang activities in Cité Soleil (CIGI Mar. 2011, 6; International Crisis Group 8 Sept. 2011, 2; Reuters 17 Jan. 2010). In addition, International Crisis Group also identifies the districts of Martissant and Bel Air as areas to which some 500 "hardcore criminals" have escaped (8 Sept. 2011, 2). The UN reports that escaped prisoners established bases in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) (UN 24 Mar. 2011, para. 15), which has reportedly led to an increase in crime and insecurity in the camps (ibid.; International Crisis Group Feb. 2011).

One source reports that 10 percent of the inmates from the national prison had been re-arrested by May 2010 (CIGI Mar. 2011, 6). However, MINUSTAH estimated in 2011 that eight percent of escaped prisoners had been recaptured (UN 24 Mar. 2011, para. 13).

2. Prevalence and Types of Criminality
2.1 Prevalence

According to the UN Secretary-General's report to the Security Council on MINUSTAH, it is difficult to obtain accurate data on criminality in Haiti, due to logistical challenges and the underreporting of crimes (ibid.). Nevertheless, it noted that a "steady increase in serious crime" between 2009 and 2010 had been observed in statistics compiled by MINUSTAH (ibid.). In December 2011, Platform for Haitian Human Rights Organizations (Plate-forme des organisations haïtiennes des droits humains, POHDH), a Haitian human rights umbrella organization with eight member organizations (n.d.), wrote that, in the preceding months, there had been a rise in insecurity, including theft at gunpoint, assassination attempts, murder, robbery of businesses, rape, kidnapping, and hostage-taking in various parts of the country (28 Dec. 2011). The organization adds that all levels of society had been affected by this criminality (POHDH 28 Dec. 2011). Another human rights organization, the National Network for the Defence of Human Rights (Réseau national de défense des droits humains, RNDDH), wrote in March 2012 that the Haitian population had been [translation] "left to fend for itself" against a renewed outbreak of insecurity and organized violence, and that the authorities were not providing a sufficient response to the criminality (15 Mar. 2012). Numerous other sources also reported on increased levels of criminal violence in 2011 and 2012 (AlterPresse 15 Feb. 2012; Igarapé Mar. 2012, 1, 3; RMH 8 Mar. 2012; Radio Kiskeya 6 Mar. 2012).

The 2011 Small Arms Survey, which conducted household surveys on crime before and after the earthquake, reported that crime was considered "serious" or "very serious" by 63 percent of respondents before the earthquake and by 20 percent of respondents in the six-week period after the earthquake (2011a, 240). However, the authors of the survey stated in a March 2012 report that a "dramatic escalation" in violent crime had taken place between August 2011 and February 2012, marking the first consistent increase in violent crime and victimization since 2007 (Igarapé Mar. 2012, 1).

2.2 Types of Crime and Violence

The UN and other media sources have documented political violence and civil unrest related to the 2010 presidential elections (UN 24 Mar. 2011, para. 2; RMH 17 Mar. 2011; The New York Times 8 Dec. 2010). In August 2011, the UN Secretary-General's report on MINUSTAH noted that there had been a significant decrease in politically motivated violence after the completion of the electoral process (25 Aug. 2011, para. 9). Nevertheless, sources suggested in March 2012 that a recent rise in insecurity and violence was due to increased political instability (Igarapé Mar. 2012, 3; RMH 8 Mar. 2012; see also UN 8 Mar. 2012).

In November 2010, violent demonstrations took place, motivated by the general population's belief that MINUSTAH soldiers were responsible for a widespread outbreak of cholera that had killed at least 900 people at the time (BBC 16 Nov. 2010; Al Jazeera 16 Nov. 2010; Voice of America 16 Nov. 2010).

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime indicates that, according to UN peacekeeping operations, the homicide rate in Haiti was 6.9 per 100,000 people in 2010 (2011, 93). However, sources report that the number of reported homicides increased in 2011 (International Crisis Group 8 Sept. 2011, 1; Igarapé Mar. 2012, 1). According to one report, there was an average of 60.9 murders per 100,000 people between November 2011 and February 2012, one of the highest recorded rates since 2004 (ibid.). The same source adds that homicides often occurred in conjunction with armed robbery, and that they were particularly prevalent in the areas of Bel Air, Cité Soleil, and Martissant (ibid., 3). The UN Secretary General's report on MINUSTAH indicated that there was an average of 76 homicides a month between February and August 2011, and an average of 65 homicides a month between September and December 2011 (29 Feb. 2012, para. 10). The RNDDH recorded 147 homicides between January and mid-March 2012, including 130 due to gun violence (15 Mar. 2012), while Haitian online news source reports 103 homicides in Port-au-Prince in the same time period (9 Mar. 2012).

Sources note that citizens are often targeted for armed robbery after completing monetary transactions (International Crisis Group 8 Sept. 2011, 2; RNDDH 15 Mar. 2012), for example, after leaving banks (ibid.). Several sources have also indicated that travellers leaving the airport in Port-au-Prince have been attacked or robbed (US 8 Aug. 2011; France 16 Feb. 2012; 27 Dec. 2011. Robberies are sometimes committed in conjunction with kidnappings (US Mar. 2012). For information on kidnappings, please see Response to Information Request HTI104082 of 22 May 2012.

Two sources describe gang violence as a "major" security challenge in Haiti (International Crisis Group 8 Sept. 2011, 6; UN 25 Aug. 2011, para. 8). International Crisis Group writes that although this violence is not necessarily politically motivated, gangs will work for any political figure or group if offered enough money (8 Sept. 2011, 2). The UN Secretary-General's MINUSTAH report of 25 August 2011 states that some gangs have ties to political parties and drug traffickers (para. 8). Media reports indicate that children are also members of violent gangs (AlterPresse 15 Feb. 2012; RMH 8 Mar. 2012).

In February 2012, large armed groups reportedly formed and began training regularly throughout the country (The Guardian 1 May 2012; UN 29 Feb. 2012, para. 8). Sources indicate that the members of these armed groups are former soldiers of the disbanded Haitian armed forces (RNDDH 15 Mar. 2012, 5; The Guardian 1 May 2012). According to the Guardian, there may be up to 3,000 members, who are attempting to force a reinstatement of the Haitian army (1 May 2012). The RNDDH states that members have been patrolling the streets and engaging in confrontations with the PNH (15 Mar. 2012). Their activities have reportedly continued despite requests from the government to lay down arms (UN 29 Feb. 2012; The Guardian Mar. 2012).

Sexual assault is reported to have increased "dramatically" in the period following the earthquake (Small Arms Survey 2011b). Some human rights reports have documented the heightened vulnerability of women and girls to rape and other sexual assaults in IDP camps (AI 2011; Human Rights Watch 2011; OAS 18 Nov. 2010). For more information on sexual violence, please see Response to Information Request HTI104085 of 8 June 2012.

3. Response by Authorities

The PNH has a force of at least 10,000 (The Miami Herald 22 Sept. 2011; UN 29 Feb. 2012, para. 23; Small Arms Survey 2011, 251), which reportedly includes 760 women (UN 29 Feb. 2012, para. 23). However, security analysts have reportedly estimated that a force of 20,000 would be required to effectively serve the population and to maintain peace without outside assistance (Reuters 17 Nov. 2011; International Crisis Group 8 Sept. 2011, 5). Similarly, the UN reports that the PNH is not yet capable of taking full responsibility for internal security, despite improvements made in its performance and capacity (29 Feb. 2012, para. 11). The US Department of State's 2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report notes that vast majority of police officers are stationed in Port-au-Prince, leaving 2,175 officers in the nine other provinces (Mar. 2012, 247).

The website of INTERPOL indicates that the PNH has separate police bureaus responsible for criminal affairs, drug trafficking, vehicle theft, the protection of minors, research and intervention, and kidnapping (n.d.). A Haitian news source reports that the PNH conducted an operation known as "Operation Dragon" in December 2011, in response to increased reports of "banditry" and kidnapping ( 27 Dec. 2011). However, the 2011 Small Arms Survey finds that the provision of security is unequal and that citizens need to have connections within the police force in order for their complaints to be addressed rapidly (2011b). Similarly, Haitian online news source AlterPresse states that police response time is between two to three hours (15 Feb. 2012).

MINUSTAH's mandate has been extended until October 2012, with the number of troops being reduced to its pre-earthquake level (Human Rights Watch 22 Jan. 2012; UN 29 Feb. 2012, para. 1, 9). Various sources assert that its presence in Haiti remains integral to maintaining peace and stability (The Miami Herald 22 Sept. 2011; Reuters 17 Nov. 2011; UN 29 Feb. 2012, para. 11). However, it has also been noted that the public's confidence in the mission has declined (ibid. 24 Mar. 2011, para. 10; Small Arms Survey 2011b; Human Rights Watch 22 Jan. 2012). International Crisis Group writes that an IDP unit deployed to the largest camps has "partially filled the camp policing gap but has not curbed violence, including rape" (8 Sept. 2011, 5).

Sources report that MINUSTAH and the PNH conduct joint operations to combat criminal activity (UN 31 Oct. 2011; ibid. 29 Feb. 2012, para. 11, 12; RSF 23 Mar. 2012; Caribbean 360 15 July 2011). For example, Reporters Without Borders reported that two people were arrested in connection with a murder in March 2012 as part of a "major" anti-crime joint operation (23 Mar. 2012). Seven wanted criminals, including prison escapees, were captured in a four-day crime deterrent operation that deployed 2,100 troops and 600 police officers in Bel Air and Martissant (UN 31 Oct. 2011). The UN reports that 6,811 joint operations were conducted between September and December 2011, resulting in the arrest of five gang members (29 Feb. 2012, para. 12).

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.


Al Jazeera. 16 November 2010. "Haiti Cholera Protest Turns Violent." [Accessed 14 May 2012]

AlterPresse. 15 February 2012. "Haïti-Violence: Une augmentation de 32% fin 2011, selon Jilap." [Accessed 14 May 2012]

Amnesty International (AI). 2011. "Haiti." Amnesty International Report 2011: The State of the World's Human Rights. [Accessed 14 May 2012]

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 16 November 2010. "Haiti Protester Shot Dead by UN Peacekeepers." [Accessed 14 May 2012]

Caribbean 360. 15 July 2011. "UN Troops Crackdown on Haitian Gangs." [Accessed 14 May 2012]

Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI). March 2011. Isabelle Fortin. Security Sector Reform in Haiti One Year After the Earthquake. Security Sector Reform (SSR) Issue Paper No. 1. [Accessed 1 May 2012] 9 March 2012. "Haitian National Police Re-Launch 'Operation Dragon' 2.0." [Accessed 22 May 2012]

_____. 27 December 2011. "Haiti: Reginald Delva Considers Continuing "Operation Dragon" into 2012." [Accessed 14 May 2012]

Fortin, Isabelle, and Yves-François Pierre. March 2011. "La réforme de la police nationale et la construction démocratique en Haïti." Canadian Journal of Development Studies. Vol. 32, No. 1. [Accessed 1 May 2012]

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

The Guardian [London]. 1 May 2012. Michael Norby and Brian Fitzpatrick. "Haiti's Former Soldiers Demand Reinstatement of Army." [Accessed 14 May 2012]

Human Rights Watch. 22 January 2012. "Haiti." World Report 2012: Events of 2011. [Accessed 14 May 2012]

Igarapé Institute. March 2012. Athena R. Kolbe and Robert Muggah. Haiti's Urban Crime Wave? Results from Monthly Household Surveys, August 2011-February 2012. [Accessed 14 May 2012]

International Crisis Group. 8 September 2011. Keeping Haïti Safe: Police Reform. Latin America/Caribbean Briefing No. 26. [Accessed 14 May 2012]

_____. February 2011. "Haiti Conflict History." [Accessed 14 May 2012]

INTERPOL. N.d. "Haiti." [Accessed 9 May 2012]

The Miami Herald. 22 September 2011. Jacqueline Charles and Steward Stogel. "Haiti's President to Make UN Debut." [Accessed 14 May 2012]

The New York Times. 8 December 2010. Deborah Sontag. "Electoral Violence Flares in Haiti." [Accessed 14 May 2012]

Organization of American States (OAS). 18 November 2010. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). "IACHR Expresses Concern over Situation in Camps for Displaced Persons in Haiti." [Accessed 25 May 2012]

Plate-forme des organisations haïtiennes des droits humains (POHDH). 28 December 2011. "La POHDH demande au gouvernement de prendre des mesures pour combattre l'insécurité dans le pays." [Accessed 14 May 2012]

_____. N.d. "Les institutions membres de la POHDH." [Accessed 14 May 2012]

Radio Kiskeya. 6 March 2012. "Assassinat de Venel Joseph, ancien gouverneur de la banque centrale." [Accessed 22 May 2012]

Radio Métropole Haïti (RMH). 8 March 2012. "La Jilap et la POHDH dénoncent une hausse de l'insécurité." [Accessed 14 May 2012]

_____. 17 March 2011. "La Minustah préoccupée par les récents actes de violence électorale." [Accessed 14 May 2012]

Reporters Without Borders (RSF). 23 March 2012. "Radio Boukman Resumes Broadcasting Two Weeks After Director's Murder." [Accessed 14 May 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]

Reuters. 17 November 2011. "Haitian Army: Ghost of Bloody Past Set for Revival." [Accessed 14 May 2012]

_____. 17 January 2010. Joseph Guler Delva and Tom Brown. "Gangs Return to Haiti Slum After Quake Prison Break." [Accessed 14 May 2012]

Small Arms Survey. 2011a. "Securing the State: Haiti Before and After the Earthquake." Small Arms Survey 2011. New York: Cambridge University Press. [Accessed 14 May 2012]

_____. 2011b. Small Arms Survey 2011: Chapter 8 Summary. [Accessed 14 May 2012]

_____. N.d. "About the Small Arms Survey." [Accessed 14 May 2012]

United Nations (UN). 8 March 2012. UN News Service. "Police Reform Vital to Improve Security Situation in Haiti - UN Envoy." [Accessed 14 May 2012]

_____. 29 February 2012. Security Council. Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti. (S/2012/128) [Accessed 14 May 2012]

_____. 31 October 2011. UN News Service. "Haiti: UN Peacekeepers Support Police in Efforts to Curb Crime." [Accessed 14 May 2012]

_____. 25 August 2011. Security Council. Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti. (S/2011/540) [Accessed 14 May 2012]

_____. 24 March 2011. Security Council. Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti. (S/2011/183) [Accessed 14 May 2012]

_____. 2011. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Global Study on Homicide. [Accessed 15 May 2012]

_____. 3 May 2010. Human Rights Council. Report of the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti, Michel Forst. (A/HRC/14/44) [Accessed 14 May 2012]

United States (US). March 2012. Department of State, Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. International Narcotics Control Strategy Report. Vol. 1., Drug and Chemical Control. [Accessed 15 May 2012]

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

Voice of America (VOA). 16 November 2010. "Haitian President, UN Urge Halt to Cholera Violence." [Accessed 25 May 2012]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Attempts to contact the following organizations were unsuccessful: four human rights organizations in Haiti, three Haitian community organizations in Canada, MINUSTAH, PNH. A Haitian journalist could not provide information within the time constraints of this Response.

Internet sites, including:; European Country of Origin Information Network; Freedom House; Le Nouvelliste;; Radio Kiskeya; ReliefWeb; Toronto Haiti Action Committee; United Nations — Integrated Regional Information Networks, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Refworld, Stabilization Mission in Haiti.

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 Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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