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U.N.: Immediate action is need to end Haiti's 'cataclysmic situation'

The Sun

April 11, 2024

Credits @FFHR.CZ

Immediate action is needed to combat the "cataclysmic situation" in Haiti caused by rampant gang violence, a new report from the United Nations' human rights office states, as it documents how criminal organizations recruit children into their ranks and use sexual violence to brutalize, punish and control their victims.

The security situation in the Hispaniola nation has been degrading since President Jovenel Moise was assassinated in July 2021, which has created a political vacuum at the country's helm.

Last April, the U.N.'s Human Rights Council directed its High Commissioner to produce a report on the situation of human rights in Haiti.

Published Thursday, that report, which covers the period from September to February, states gang violence is the "main driver of human rights abuses and violations" in Haiti and that dialogue leading to free and fair legislative and presidential elections is needed.

It also calls for the urgent deployment of a multinational security support mission to bolster the Haitian National Police force and re-establish security as well as create conditions that could lead to free and fair elections.

The report states that violence exploded in the country in 2023, with at least 4,451 people killed and nearly 2,000 more kidnapped.

In the first two first two months of this year, there were at least 1,436 victims to gang violence, including 686 people killed, 371 injured and 379 kidnapped -- and those figures do not include people involved in the violence with 695 gang members also being killed or injured in that time frame.

"Gangs have continued to clash for keeping territories under their control and have intensified their attacks in areas previously considered safe to spread their influence," the report states. "While the capital remains the epicenter of the violence, insecurity has continued to expand beyond Port-au-Prince, especially the adjacent Artibonite Department."

The report states corruption has allowed of the illicit trafficking of weapons and ammunition into the country and that the recruitment of children into gangs remains "a critical problem."

Male children folded into the criminal organizations are used as lookouts to facilitate kidnappings and robberies while female children perform house chores as well as spy, according to the report, which said that while several children have said they want to leave the gangs they are prevented from doing so for fear of retaliation.

Some children who successfully exit the gangs were later executed, it said.

Gangs also use sexual violence as a tool to spread fear and as a punishment, it said.

The report documents how women and girls have been raped in broad daylight on their way to work and school and how some are forced into exploitative sexual relations with gang members under threat of death if they refuse.

"Rape of kidnapping hostages also continues to be used as a tactic to coerce families into paying ransoms," it said.

The report adds that due to community stigma, the threat or retaliation and insufficient healthcare and psychosocial services as well as a lack of trust in the justice system, sexual violence "remains severely underreported."

Other human rights violations credited to the gang violence in the report includes the international displacement of some 313,900 people.

In support of the multinational security support mission, the human rights experts said the local police force lacks adequate capabilities to deter, arrest and disarm heavily armed gangs that tend to have superior firepower and that the porous embargo is permitting illegal trafficking.

Since the mission that created the report has ended, the situation in Haiti has seemingly worsened. Early this month, Haiti declared a state of emergency after gangs attacked two prisons, facilitating the escape of nearly 3,600 inmates.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry resigned on March 11 in an effort to improve the situation as the public was calling for him to step down.

"For more than a week, our country has seen an increase in acts of violence against the population. Assassinations, attacks against law enforcement, systematic looting, destruction of public and private buildings," he said.

"The government that I lead cannot remain insensitive to this situation. As I have always said, no sacrifice is too great for our country Haiti."



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