Democracy and rights
Weak institutions, instability and poverty contribute to democratic shortcomings in Haiti. Both politics and the judiciary are permeated by corruption, where low wages and lack of resources are contributing factors. However, in the area of freedom of the press and opinion, the country stands reasonably well in regional comparisons.
The challenges are great in terms of political and civil rights. In the Western Hemisphere, only Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua are ranked even lower in the index that measures democracy.
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Abbreviated as HTI by Abbreviationfinder, Haiti has long been characterized by political unrest and lacked, among other things, a functioning parliament for several years (see Current policy). Elections have been repeatedly postponed for the future and political items have remained unoccupied. When elections are held, they are often characterized by low participation, violence, cheating and general disorder.
The opposition has difficulty organizing and seriously challenging power. The electoral machinery is controlled by a governing elite. Many politicians receive funding from drug power or other organized crime, which has a major influence on politics.
Opposition groups are sometimes prevented from organizing meetings at all. When protest actions are held, they may be beaten down by force by security forces. Human rights defenders and other activists are particularly at risk of threats and violence, and the perpetrators are rarely prosecuted.
Corruption is widespread and impunity is widespread. Haiti is ranked 168 out of 180 countries on the Transparency International index (for full list see here). In the case of corruption, only Venezuela is worse off on the American continents. The problem has been in focus since it was revealed that government members embezzled $ 2 billion in loans from Venezuela, money that was supposed to go to rebuild after the 2010 earthquake. In May 2019, a court accused President Jovenel Moïse of involvement in the scandal (see Calendar).
Freedom of expression and media
Freedom of speech, press and information are guaranteed in the Constitution and the media climate is quite free. There is no media censorship, but there is also no voluntary, self-cleaning institution in the style of the Press’s opinion board or the Review Committee for Radio and TV. Journalists, however, tend to resort to self-censorship so as not to hurt themselves as the media is strongly influenced by its owners. Strong fines for defamation may also be imposed on journalists if a bill that the Senate approved in 2017 is finally adopted.
Journalists’ wages are low and their education is usually limited; many find it difficult to value the information they receive. Those who have gained professional experience and knowledge are happy to move on to better paid jobs, which means that the journalist corps is constantly replenished with people with low qualifications. Several private schools provide journalism training but the standard of the courses is considered low.
It appears that journalists are subjected to violence from criminals and a number of reporters have also been murdered in recent years. Overall, however, conditions improved over a number of years and at Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, Haiti climbed significantly from a bottom listing in 125th place in 2004 to 62nd place 15 years later. However, there was a sharp fall in the index, to place 83 (for the full list see here). One contributing factor is that journalists have been exposed during the occasional violent protests against President Moïse that have occurred since 2018. One journalist disappeared that year in the capital and another was murdered the following year.
Judicial system and legal security
Haiti suffers from high crime. According to the constitution, the courts must be independent and citizens are guaranteed basic rights. In reality, the judiciary, like the state apparatus in general, is permeated by corruption and public confidence in the justice system is small. Bribery or intimidation often affects both police and judges and jurors. The president also has influence over the members of the Supreme Court, whom he appoints. The judiciary also has a shortage of money and well-trained staff.
The death penalty has been abolished in both peace and wartime. However, a major problem is the arbitrary and extrajudicial executions of suspected criminals carried out by the police, among others.
Despite some ambitions to strengthen the rule of law and reform the Criminal Code from the 1830s, conditions deteriorated most rapidly in the 2000s, first through the unrest that characterized the country in 2004 (see Modern history), then as a consequence of the 2010 earthquake.
The earthquake destroyed courtrooms and prisons and many judicial staff died. This has led to long delays in the judicial process and serious overcrowding in prisons, which has about six times more prisoners than is considered reasonable and humane according to international norms. The overcrowding is also partly due to the fact that many people may be incarcerated for a long time while awaiting trial. The sanitary conditions in the prisons are often substandard.
The work of building a stronger, more corrupt police and judiciary has been slow due to inefficiencies and political contradictions. Corruption is deeply rooted in society and also characterizes the judicial system, partly because of the low salaries of judges, prosecutors and other court personnel.
One consequence of the corruption in the justice system is that those who have committed truly serious crimes can often go free, while thieves are imprisoned.
The Prime Minister is finally approved
Only when President Martelly presents his third proposal to Prime Minister Garry Conille is it approved by the National Assembly.
The cholera epidemic requires many lives
Nearly 6,000 people are reported to have died in the cholera epidemic that broke out in the fall of 2010.
New prime minister rejected
Michel Martelly takes up the post but immediately encounters difficulties as his election of prime minister is rejected by Parliament.
Aristide again in Haiti
A few days before the second round of elections, the resigned president Jean-Bertrand Aristide also returns to Haiti (see January 2011). His party Fanmi Lavalas has been prevented from participating in the elections.
Hundreds of thousands still remain homeless
The UN reports that 810,000 people live in 1,150 camps, one year after the earthquake disaster.
Baby Doc back in Haiti
Former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier returns to Haiti after 25 years in exile (see Modern History). He is charged with corruption and human rights violations.
Turbulence around the second round of elections
The electoral authority announces that the second round of both presidential and parliamentary elections will be postponed indefinitely. The United States Organization (OAS) states in a report that Martelly received the second most votes in the first round of elections. Celestin says at first that he does not intend to jump off, but later Inite withdraws his candidacy. Eventually, the Election Authority announces that the second round of elections will be held in March, and that it stands between Manigat and Martelly.