Haiti gang wars have claimed more than 530 lives this year alone, UN says
Geneva – More than 530 people have been killed in gang violence in Haiti this year, many killed by snipers, the United Nations said Tuesday. The United Nations human rights office said it was concerned that extreme violence in Haiti was spiraling out of control.
“Clashes between gangs are becoming more violent and frequent, as they try to expand their territorial control in the capital and other areas and target people living in areas controlled by rivals,” spokeswoman Marta Hurtado said. are.”
This year, as of March 15, “531 people have been killed, 300 injured and 277 kidnapped in gang-related incidents, mainly in the capital Port-au-Prince,” he told reporters in Geneva. In the first two weeks of March alone, Hurtado said at least 208 people were killed, 164 injured and 101 kidnapped in gang clashes.
“Most of the victims were killed or injured by snipers who were allegedly shooting randomly at people in their homes or on the streets,” he added.
Students and teachers have been hit by stray bullets, and kidnappings of parents and students around schools have increased, forcing many to close.
Without a safe school environment, “many children are forcibly recruited by armed groups,” Hurtado said.
Haiti, the poorest nation in the Americas, has been in the grip of a worsening political and economic crisis since July 2021. Assassination of President Jovenel Moiseand gangs now control more than half of the country’s territory.
Chronic instability and violence have driven up food prices, and half the population does not have enough to eat, Hurtado said.
At least 160,000 people have been displaced and live in precarious conditions, with a quarter living in makeshift settlements with limited access to basic sanitation, he added.
“Sexual violence against women and girls is also used by gangs to intimidate, subjugate and punish the population,” Hurtado said, adding that gangs use sexual violence against kidnapped girls. While pressuring the families to pay the ransom.
UN human rights chief Volker Turk has urged Haitian authorities to urgently address the security situation by strengthening the police and reforming the judicial system.
“To break the cycle of violence, corruption and impunity, all those responsible, including those who support and finance gangs, must be prosecuted under the rule of law,” Hurtado said.
“We also call on the international community to immediately consider the deployment of an ad hoc, special support force,” he added.