Latin America

Shootings and lynchings: UN concerned about gang violence in Haiti

Against the background of escalating gang violence in Haiti, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for international action. Media reports of turf wars and public lynchings.

The human rights crisis in the Pacific country of Haiti continues to worsen. The country has been suffering from criminal clans for years. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has therefore called for the urgent deployment of international forces to curb the escalating gang violence.

Guterres warned in a report that insecurity in the capital Port-au-Prince “has reached levels comparable to countries in armed conflict”. Haitian authorities reported 815 deaths in the first quarter of 2023, while 637 people were kidnapped in the same period. Again and again there are fights between rival groups, protest actions and looting. Women and girls are being raped, and there is a travel warning for the country.

Guterres calls for intervention

Haiti is the poorest country in America. In addition to frequent natural disasters, the people there suffer from corruption, hunger and disease. At the request of Prime Minister Ariel Henry and the country’s Council of Ministers, the United Nations chief called for an international operation to end the crisis. But at a UN Security Council meeting in January, neither the United States, which has been criticized for previous interventions in Haiti, nor Canada showed any interest in leading such an operation.

The international community instead chose to impose sanctions and send in military equipment and other resources. Guterres, in his report to the Security Council, reiterated that the deployment of an international force remains crucial to help the Haitian authorities contain violence and restore the rule of law. The report will be discussed on Wednesday.

National Police in distress

Haiti’s own security forces are barely able to deal with the situation. Again and again there are attacks against members of the National Police. “Since early 2023, 22 police officers have been killed by gangs,” Guterres said. “These trends are expected to accelerate.” Many officials left their posts due to the ongoing violence, the secretary-general said. There are desertions and flight abroad.

Since the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July 2021, Haiti’s gangs have become more powerful and violent. Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who was appointed by Moise, is currently leading an interim government. The office of President is vacant. According to the Haitian authorities, there are seven large gangs, to which around 200 groups belong.

In December, the United Nations estimated that the violent groups controlled about 60 percent of Port-au-Prince. It is said by the population that the entire capital is controlled by gangs.

Gang members lynched

Fear and anger in the population are unleashed in no less violent acts. According to media reports, at least 13 suspected gang members were lynched by an angry mob on Monday. The police arrested the group. Videos on social media show people being burned alive.

This was preceded by a night-time shooting in Canape-Vert in the metropolitan area of the capital Port-au-Prince, which forced hundreds of families to flee. The arrested gang members are said to have transported ammunition. “Light them up” and “We’ll kill them” are said to have been shouted by the people when they saw the arrested people being transported on a bus.

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