UN describes the situation in Haiti as a “cataclysm”

In just the first three months of 2024, at least 1,554 deaths and 826 injuries were recorded.

Haitian police in the street.

The UN Office for Human Rights asserted on Thursday that the situation in Haiti, a country plagued by gang violence, is a “catastrophe” with over 1,500 deaths at the hands of these groups so far this year, prompting a call for “bold and immediate” action to address it.

According to a report from the office led by High Commissioner Volker Türk, escalating levels of gang violence in the country have worsened corruption, impunity, and governance failures, eroding the rule of law and severely depriving the population of their rights.

“Widespread corruption and dysfunction in the judicial system significantly contribute to the widespread impunity for serious human rights violations and must be urgently addressed,” stated the High Commissioner when presenting the report.

The report’s data reveal a significant increase in the number of victims of gang violence in 2023, with 4,451 deaths and 1,668 injuries recorded between September 2023 and February 2024.

In just the first three months of 2024, at least 1,554 deaths and 826 injuries were recorded.

Cases of sexual violence by gangs to “brutalize, punish, and control” individuals have also been verified, with instances of women being sexually exploited or raped to force their families to pay ransoms.

Furthermore, gangs continue to recruit and abuse minors who cannot leave their ranks for fear of reprisals, leading in some cases to the death of young gang members attempting to escape, the report warns.

The High Commissioner’s office also expressed alarm at the emergence of so-called “self-defense brigades,” which it stated “take justice into their own hands,” with at least 528 cases of lynchings perpetrated by these brigades in 2023 and another 59 in 2024.

The report also highlights how, despite the arms embargo, there remains a cross-border supply of weapons and ammunition to the gangs, often giving them greater firepower than the Haitian National Police themselves.

In response to this situation, Türk reiterated the urgent need for a multinational security support mission to assist the country’s National Police in “stopping violence, effectively protecting the population, and restoring the rule of law in the country.”

“It is shocking that, despite the dire situation on the ground, arms continue to flow in. I call for more effective enforcement of the arms embargo,” Türk declared.

However, he emphasized that bolstering security alone will not provide lasting solutions and urged for policies aimed at restoring the rule of law and preventing violence.

He urged all national parties to engage in constructive dialogue to facilitate a political agreement towards a democratic transition leading to free and fair legislative and presidential elections.

The UN Security Council approved the deployment of a multinational force in Haiti in October of last year, at the request of the Haitian government itself, to halt the spiral of violence.

This mission was initially to be led by security forces from Kenya, although the Kenyan courts blocked its deployment in January, deeming it “unconstitutional,” thus delaying an operation that, despite being approved by the UN, does not directly depend on it.

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