Haiti: Rise in extreme gang violence makes for “living nightmare”
Extreme violence and gross human rights abuses, including mass incidents of murder, gang rape and sniper attacks, have sharply increased in Cité Soleil on the outskirts of the Haitian capital, said a UN report* published today, creating “a living nightmare” for thousands.
“The findings of this report are horrifying: it paints a picture of how people are being harassed and terrorized by criminal gangs for months without the State being able to stop it. It can only be described as a living nightmare,” Volker Türk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said.
The report said that from 8 July to 31 December 2022 gang violence resulted in 263 murders in the Brooklyn neighbourhood of Cité Soleil, the impoverished and densely populated commune near the capital Port-au-Prince. It documented at least 57 gang rapes of women and girls, as well as kidnappings and sexual exploitation.
On one day alone, 8 July 2022, gang members murdered 95 people, including six children one of whom was two years of age.
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The situation in Brooklyn mirrors the plight of hundreds of thousands of others in Haiti who reside in areas under the control of heavily armed gangs, the report by the Human Rights Service of the UN Integrated Office in Haiti said.
The G-9 gang has spread terror by using snipers, who indiscriminately kill anyone who enter their field of vision, the report said, adding that on average six people are killed each week by snipers.
The gang blocked access to the neighbourhood, thus controlling the entry of basic necessities such as food and health services. Unsanitary conditions have been exacerbated, leading to the spread of infectious diseases such as cholera.
The report detailed the case of Rose, a mother of four and five months pregnant, who was severely beaten and raped in the presence of her children by three heavily armed masked men who forced their way into her home in Cité Soleil. Earlier in the day, Rose’s husband was shot by members of the same gang. Before leaving, the gunmen set fire to her house.
“The case of Cité Soleil is not an isolated one, and sadly many Haitians are experiencing similar ordeals,” said Türk. “It is time for the international community to help the Haitian authorities regain full control, so this suffering can be stopped.”
The UN Human Rights Chief called for a strengthening of the security forces, as well as the judicial system. All perpetrators, as well as those providing support and finance to the gangs, must be prosecuted and tried according to rule of law, and all victims recognized and their rights to truth, justice and reparations must be fulfilled, Türk added.