William O’Neill, the United Nations Independent Expert on Human Rights in Haiti, has concluded his second official visit to the country with an urgent call to action. His visit revealed an alarming situation marked by widespread violence, human rights violations, and a dire humanitarian crisis.
O’Neill expressed his gratitude to Haitian authorities for their support of his mandate while highlighting the invaluable role of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) and civil society organizations. He also extended his appreciation to the victims with whom he had engaged.
The human rights situation in Haiti is causing deep concern, with a rapid escalation of violence in various departments, including Artibonite and the Northwest. Murders, injuries, and kidnappings have become a daily occurrence for the Haitian population. Sexual violence against women and girls remains endemic, and no significant progress has been made in terms of access to services and justice for victims since O’Neill’s last visit.
The Independent Expert emphasized that children are among the hardest hit by this crisis. They are victims of severe violence and rights violations while facing a catastrophic humanitarian situation. Many neighborhoods controlled by gangs are particularly affected, with limited access to healthcare, water, food, and education. Malnutrition is rampant, with many children suffering from wasting. Over 500,000 young people are deprived of education, and many of them end up recruited by gangs due to a lack of opportunities or fear of retaliation.
O’Neill also lamented the persistent dysfunction of the Haitian justice system, highlighting the alarming prison overcrowding, lack of access to clean water, and prolonged detention of minors without conviction. He nonetheless commended the establishment of an intergovernmental commission aimed at decongesting prisons, while calling for concrete results in the near future.
Internally displaced persons are another source of concern for the Expert. Over 200,000 people are currently displaced in Haiti, living in inhumane conditions with no access to basic services, surviving in makeshift camps. Testimonies describe deplorable living conditions, repeated rapes, and a lack of access to medical care. O’Neill urged the Haitian government to take responsibility for preventing human rights violations and protecting vulnerable populations.
The Expert also highlighted the Haitian population’s desire to welcome the Multinational Security Support Mission (MSS). He emphasized the importance of the imminent deployment of this mission, under strict conditions to respect human rights, to alleviate the population’s suffering. However, he stressed the need to anticipate long-term challenges and restore the population’s trust in its institutions.
Institutional strengthening, anti-corruption efforts, reform of the Haitian National Police, and justice reform are essential to ensure a more stable future for Haiti. William O’Neill also called on the international community to end the illegal trafficking of arms and ammunition that continues to claim victims.
Finally, the impact of the closure of the border with the Dominican Republic was highlighted, especially concerning access to healthcare, water, and food. O’Neill called for dialogue and international cooperation to mitigate the humanitarian impact of this measure.