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HomeNewsRegional NewsInternational support needed now to stop spiralling gang violence in Haiti

International support needed now to stop spiralling gang violence in Haiti

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UNITED NATIONS, CMC – The United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Volker Türk, says Haiti needs “urgent” support from the international community to stop the suffering of people at the hands of violent gangs, who have been shooting people at random and burning them alive.

At the same time, the UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) said in the month of April alone, more than 600 people were killed in violence in the country’s capital. This follows the killing of at least 846 people in the first three months of 2023.

BINUH stated that overall, the number of victims of killings, injuries and kidnappings increased by 28 per cent in the first quarter of the year, with a total of 1,634 cases reported.

The UN human rights office added that mob killings and lynchings of alleged gang members are also on the rise, as “vigilantes take the law into their own hands”.

At least 164 such murders were documented in April.

The latest OHCHR report and BINUH pointed to the emergence of vigilante groups, “following calls by some political figures and journalists for citizens to form self-defence organisations to fight gang violence”.

Commenting on the findings, the UN rights chief stressed that vigilantism will only “fuel the spiral of violence”.

The report noted that gangs use snipers on rooftops to “indiscriminately shoot people carrying out their daily activities”. In some instances, gang members burst into neighbourhoods on a killing spree, “burned people alive in public transportation vehicles” and executed “everyone perceived to be opposed to the gang”.

The report also documented the use of sexual violence, including collective rape, “to terrorise and inflict pain” on populations under the control of rival gangs. According to a local human rights organisation quoted in the report, at least 652 women and girls were “subjected to individual and collective rape in gang-controlled areas over the past year”.

The UN rights chief underscored that poverty and the lack of basic services were among the root causes of the gangs’ stranglehold over the country.

Earlier this year, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) had warned that half the population of Haiti, or some 4.9 million people, were struggling to access food.

Last month, the country was on the agenda of the Human Rights Council, which adopted a resolution calling for the appointment of an independent rights expert on Haiti.

Sponsored by Haiti itself, the resolution called for “coordinated and targeted international action”.

In line with the resolution, the duties of the new independent expert on human rights in Haiti, William O’Neill, include focusing on the situation of children and of human trafficking and providing advice and technical assistance to the Haitian government, national human rights institutions and civil society organisations to help promote and protect human rights.

Independent rights experts appointed by the United Nations rights chief in accordance with the Human Rights Council resolutions are not UN staff nor are they paid for their work.

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