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UN human rights chief calls for special forces in Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — On Friday, the UN human rights chief urged the international community to consider deploying a specialized armed force to Haiti, warning that violent gangs are creating a “living nightmare” for thousands of people.

The appeal by the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, came at the end of a two-day visit to Haiti at the request of a government unable to control gangs that kill, rape and loot in a growing number of neighborhoods. Violence has increased in the impoverished country since the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.

“It is time for the international community to help the Haitian authorities regain full control so that this suffering can end,” Türk said.

He added that since multiple crises around the world are vying for attention, he is concerned that “the situation in Haiti is not receiving the urgent attention it deserves.”

A few hours later, at a meeting of the Organization of American States in Washington, the US government said it was continuing to discuss with international partners the possibility of sending a multinational force composed mainly of police.

Francisco Mora, U.S. Ambassador to the OAS, added that the United States was still working with others on a framework to ensure security and stability and would also soon implement new sanctions and restrictions. visa.

Mora spoke after Haitian Foreign Minister Jean Victor Généus called for a specialized international force “to be allowed to stand by our side.”

“There is a worsening crisis in the country which calls for humanitarian aid,” he said.

The call came as the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti released a 24-page report on what it described as incidents of mass killings, gang rapes and sniper attacks in Cité Soleil, the largest slum in Haiti. It is in the capital of Port-au-Prince.

“The findings of this report are horrifying,” Turk said. “It paints a picture of how people are harassed and terrorized by criminal gangs for months without the state being able to stop it.”

The report says that from last July 8 to December 31, at least 263 people were killed and at least 57 women and girls were raped in a single neighborhood of Cité Soleil known as Brooklyn. This area has become ground zero for intense fighting between warring gangs.

During this time, according to the report, the inhabitants lived in “a climate of almost permanent terror due to the use of snipers who killed, at random, anyone who passed in their field of vision”.

Officials added that snipers would stand on schools and other buildings in broad daylight to attack innocent residents, with an average of six people killed or injured each week. Among the targets were at least 17 women and several children, the youngest being only 8 years old.

Gang members also randomly entered homes in rival territory, killing at least 95 people, including six children, one of whom was 2 years old, according to the report. People trying to flee the violence were killed at makeshift checkpoints.

“It is important to underline (…) that this violence and these exactions are not committed randomly but are motivated by the interest of political actors to control territories”, indicates the report.

Officials noted that three men were killed by a gang leader because they spoke of the possibility of foreign military intervention, which Prime Minister Ariel Henry urgently requested in October to no avail amid a fuel terminal siege that has closed gas stations and crippled life in Haiti. .

The report blamed the violence on at least eight gangs, including Haiti’s largest – G9 Family and Allies, which is a gang federation headed by former police officer Jimmy Chérizier. He was accused of blocking access to food and water in part by damaging public water pipes and threatening to kill water tanker drivers if they went to certain neighborhoods.

As a result, the first cholera deaths in nearly three years were recorded in October 2022 in the Brooklyn borough, officials said.

In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Chérizier denied the charges, saying he was simply waging a “social fight.”

The report says the warring gangs use weapons including assault rifles smuggled into Haiti and even rely on motorboats to attack their rivals. The wave of violence has displaced tens of thousands of Haitians who remain homeless after their homes were razed or burned down, according to the report.

The UN office has urged local officials to hold elections, provide more training and equipment to a severely understaffed police department and arrest those responsible for “gross human rights abuses.” “.

He also called once again on the international community to urgently consider the deployment of foreign troops.

“The issues are vast and overwhelming,” Türk said. “They need the attention of the international community.”


Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico.


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