Published 11/05/2023 15:18 | Edited 5/11/2023 3:19 PM
This Tuesday (9), the UN warned of the spiral of violence that has taken over the Haitian metropolises, “reaching levels comparable to those of countries in armed conflict”. The international organization has asked for the urgent dispatch of a support force, as the month of April alone has already accumulated more than 600 deaths among gangs and lynchings in Port-au-Prince.
Reports from international agencies and videos on social media report the shocking scenes of burning bodies piled up in the streets. People surround them, shouting with rage. A person can be seen hitting the lifeless bodies with a sharp object.
The April figures were registered “after the murder of at least 846 people in the first three months of 2023, in addition to 393 injured and 395 kidnapped in the period”, detailed the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in a statement.
Since the beginning of 2023, 22 police officers have been killed by gangs. This trend is set to accelerate unless UN-requested efforts are made to urgently equip and train police, recruit new officers, and improve working conditions to retain existing personnel.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday called for the immediate deployment of an international armed force to Haiti to quell escalating gang violence and the country’s worst human rights crisis in decades.
“I reiterate my appeal to the international community to send a specialized support force, that respects human rights and limited in time, with a complete plan of action to help Haitian institutions”, insisted the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk
The UN official denounced “an endless cycle of extreme violence in Haiti”. The environment of social barbarism is the result of generalized poverty, after a profound political, security and health crisis. With that, 200 gangs were formed that control and dispute the capital with impunity, while the population defends itself through “surveillance brigades” taking justice into their own hands, for not trusting the police.
These groups triggered mass lynchings, with the deaths of at least 75 people, including 66 gang members, in the first quarter, according to the report.
“But the reality is that the State does not have the capacity to act. The population does its own justice, but this only feeds the spiral of violence, ”she warned.
no one escapes
In a quarterly report (January to March) published on Tuesday, the UN highlights that violence is not only more extreme and frequent, but is spreading inexorably as gangs try to expand their control.
Areas of Port-au-Prince that were previously considered safe, such as Kenscoff and Pétion Ville, as well as the department of Artibonite, are now affected by violence. Rooftop snipers often shoot people in their homes and on the streets, at random, to express their control over the area.
Kidnappings (at least 395 in the first quarter of 2023) increased by 12% compared to the previous quarter and gangs continue to use sexual violence to impose terror and make the population suffer.
In their quest for more territory, he said, gangs also continued to use rape and other forms of sexual violence “to instil fear and assert control over communities”, with women and girls disproportionately affected.
Gangs in Haiti have grown in strength since the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise, with residents caught in the middle as large portions of the capital and much of the countryside have become lawless. Bloody gang battles left hundreds dead and thousands displaced.