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Rule of LawHaiti

Haiti: UN says gang violence has killed hundreds in 2023

March 22, 2023

Over 530 people have lost their lives in Haiti since the start of the year, according to the United Nations, which has reiterated calls for the international community to help.

A parent, carrying his child after picking him up from school, runs past police carrying out an operation against gangs in Port-au-Prince
Violence was causing many to flee, with the UN saying at least 160,000 people have been displacedImage: Odelyn Joseph/AP/picture alliance

The UN on Tuesday expressed grave concern over "extreme violence" in Haiti, which it said was continuing to spiral out of control.

The UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that as of March 15, a total of 531 people had been killed, 300 injured and 277 kidnapped in gang-related violence, this year alone.

The information had been gathered by the Human Rights Service in the UN's Haiti office, with the incidents mainly taking place in the capital Port-au-Prince.

What did the UN say?

"Clashes between gangs are becoming more violent and more frequent, as they try to expand their territorial control throughout the capital," the OHCHR said in a statement.

During the first two weeks of March, the UN said at least 208 people had been killed, most of whom were the victims of snipers firing indiscriminately at people in their homes or in the street.

The UN said that sexual violence was also being used by gangs against abducted girls and women to force ransom payments from their families.

The spike in violence in central Haiti has been largely blamed on a gang called "Baz Gran Grif," which roughly translates to "Big Claw Crew."

The vicious cycle of violence was causing many to flee, with the UN saying at least 160,000 people had been displaced. Many were forced to live in informal settlements and were having to survive on limited means.

The level of instability had also caused a spike in prices and food insecurity, leading to "alarming levels" of hunger in some places.

Police officers carry out an anti-gang operation in the Lalue neighborhood of Port-au-Prince
The UN has called for the international community to help support the Haitian National PoliceImage: Odelyn Joseph/AP/picture alliance

What is the international community doing to help Haiti?

The UN pointed out that very little had been done since UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk highlighted the dire situation during a trip to the country in February.

The UN called for the need for the Haitian police to be strengthened with the help of the international community, while there also needed to be "profound reform" of the country's judicial and penal systems.

The UN reiterated the call for the international community to "urgently consider" sending a "time-bound specialized support force" to Haiti.

In February Canada said it would send naval vessels to the Caribbean country for intelligence-gathering purposes. However, the international community has been largely hesitant to step in to assist the troubled country.

Gangs have managed to grow in power since the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise, and are estimated to be in control of 60% of Port-au-Prince.

Haiti faces humanitarian crisis

kb/jsi (Reuters, AP)