Haiti situation 'cataclysmic': UN

General |Author: AFP | April 1, 2024, Monday @ 17:53| 2352 views

Canadian soldiers stand guard in front of their embassy in Port-au-Prince on March 28 2024. The situation in chaos-wracked Haiti is "cataclysmic", with more than 1,500 people killed by gang violence so far this year and more weapons pouring into the country, the UN said Thursday. In a fresh report, the United Nations rights office detailed how "corruption, impunity and poor governance, compounded by increasing levels of gang violence (had) eroded the rule of law and brought state institutions... close to collapse".(Photo by Clarens SIFFROY / AFP)

The situation in chaos-wracked Haiti is "cataclysmic", with more than 1,500 people killed by gang violence so far this year and more weapons pouring into the country, the UN said Thursday.

In a fresh report, the United Nations rights office detailed how "corruption, impunity and poor governance, compounded by increasing levels of gang violence (had) eroded the rule of law and brought state institutions... close to collapse".

This, it said, had left Haiti in "a cataclysmic situation".

Impoverished Haiti, which has long grappled with violence, has been rocked by surging clashes since late February when gangs launched a coordinated offensive and demanded Prime Minister Ariel Henry resign.

Henry, who has led Haiti since the 2021 assassination of president Jovenel Moise, promised more than two weeks ago to step down after a transitional council is set up -- though reaching that stage has proved exceedingly difficult due to squabbles among party leaders.

- Killings, rapes, lynchings -

In the meantime, the number of victims is skyrocketing.

The UN rights office determined that gang violence left 4,451 people dead and another 1,668 injured last year.

And just in the first three months of 2024 alone, up to March 22, 1,554 people were killed and 826 injured, it said.

The report described rampant sexual violence, including women forced into exploitative sexual relations with gang members, rapes of hostages and of women after seeing their husbands killed in front of them.

And it highlighted the recruitment and abuse of children -- both boys and girls -- who are unable to leave the ranks of gangs for fear of retaliation.

"All these practices are outrageous and must stop at once," UN rights chief Volker Turk said in a statement.

The report also pointed to the so-called "self-defence brigades" set up to counter the intensifying gang violence, warning that they continue to take justice into their own hands.

"Individuals accused of petty crime or suspected of association with gangs continued to be lynched, stoned, mutilated, or burned alive" by such brigades, it said.

At least 528 cases of lynchings were reported last year, including 18 women, according to the report, while 59 more have been reported so far this year.

- 'Shocking' -

Despite an international arms embargo put in place to try to stem the violence, the report said that there was still a reliable supply of weapons and ammunition flowing across Haiti's "porous borders".

It called for tighter national and international controls to stem the trafficking of weapons and ammunition to the conflict-torn country.

"It is shocking that despite the horrific situation on the ground, arms keep still pouring in," Turk said.

"I appeal for a more effective implementation of the arms embargo."

Thursday's report also reiterated the need for an urgent deployment of a Multinational Security Support mission to help Haiti's police stop the violence and protect the population.

Kenya, which agreed to lead a long-awaited, UN-approved mission to Haiti to back its security forces as they grapple with the well-armed gangs, has put its plans on hold until the transitional council is in place.

Once the mission is established, Turk stressed that it would be "essential" that it "effectively integrates human rights into the conduct of its operations and establishes a compliance mechanism to mitigate and minimise harm”.

The rights office report also emphasised that enhancing security alone would not bring long-lasting solutions to Haiti's woes, stressing the need for policies aimed at restoring the rule of law.

"Widespread corruption and dysfunction of the justice system greatly contribute to the pervasive impunity for grave human rights violations,” Turk said.

"They need to be addressed urgently."

© Agence France-Presse


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