UN Reports Surge in Gang Violence in Haiti, With Over 1,800 Killed, Injured, or Kidnapped in Three Months
The United Nations revealed a distressing increase in gang-related violence in Haiti, reporting that a total of 1,860 people were killed, injured, or kidnapped in the country from April to June. This marks a significant 14% surge in violence compared to the first three months of the year, underscoring the alarming escalation of conflict and insecurity in the nation.
Gang Violence Epicenter: Port-au-Prince
The escalating gang violence remains predominantly concentrated in the capital city of Port-au-Prince and its surrounding areas. Notably, the slum of Cite Soleil has become a hotspot for violence, with nearly 300 individuals killed or injured by snipers within its boundaries. The situation has prompted the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) to release a human rights report detailing the concerning situation.
The report was issued shortly after the United States Embassy in Haiti issued an advisory urging U.S. citizens to leave the country promptly. The ongoing insecurity, combined with infrastructure challenges, has prompted concerns for the safety of foreign nationals within Haiti’s borders.
Grim Statistics of Violence
According to the UN report, the victims of violence from April to June included 13 police officers and over 460 gang members. A majority of the gang members were killed through lynching, followed by police shootings. The period also witnessed a violent civilian uprising known as “bwa kale,” which targeted suspected criminals and resulted in the deaths of at least 230 suspected gang members.
Kidnappings decreased by 24% during the same period, with 298 individuals kidnapped. The majority of these incidents occurred in the Artibonite region, situated north of Port-au-Prince. Gangs continued to employ brutal tactics such as rape and mutilation to instill fear and exert control. At least 49 women in Cite Soleil were raped in April, with seven of them killed afterward.
Persistent Impunity and Judicial Challenges
The UN report highlighted the deeply rooted issue of impunity in Haiti, with a lack of accountability for the violence that plagues the nation. The judicial system’s dysfunctionality, attributed to factors such as corruption, political interference, and judicial strikes, has hindered efforts to bring perpetrators to justice.
BINUH’s report revealed the deplorable conditions within Haitian prisons, characterized by overcrowding and inhumane treatment. Around 85% of the 11,810 inmates are held in pre-trial detention, and the cell occupancy rate has reached over 330%. Tragically, more than 30 inmates died between April and June, primarily due to malnutrition-related diseases.
International Efforts to Address Gang Violence
Acknowledging the severity of the situation, a team of officials from Kenya recently arrived in Haiti to assess strategies to combat gang violence. The United States is drafting a UN Security Council resolution that would grant Kenya authorization to lead a multinational force, with plans to provide 1,000 officers. The resolution aims to address the dire security crisis in Haiti, a country grappling with over 11 million residents and a severely strained police force of approximately 10,000 officers.
Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry had previously requested the immediate deployment of a foreign armed force in response to the escalation of gang-controlled territories after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021. As the international community rallies to confront the crisis, urgent action is needed to curb the escalating violence that threatens the lives and stability of Haiti’s citizens.
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