published : 2023-08-22

Human rights group urges international community to help stop gang violence in Haiti

Over 30 Haitian police officers were killed from January to June

A heart-wrenching image of a mother in Haiti with despair in her eyes, her expression reflecting the turmoil and anguish that has become a pervasive part of her life - Taken with Nikon D850

A prominent human rights organization has called upon the international community to swiftly intervene and put an end to the escalating gang violence in Haiti.

Reportedly, the country's capital has run rampant with horrific sexual assaults and killings.

The plea from Human Rights Watch follows Haiti's request to the UN Security Council in October for instant deployment of an international armed force to confront the rising violence.

Ida Sawyer, the organization’s crisis and conflict director, warned of further escalation in violence and suffering.

Recently, the US promised to bring forth a UN Security Council resolution sanctioning Kenya to head a multinational police force to combat Haitian gangs, although no timeline was provided.

Sawyer empathized that the people of Haiti need immediate support and the situation within the country has worsened to an unprecedented level.

She brought attention to the fact that gangs now control approximately 80% of Port-au-Prince, with only about 10,000 police officers for over 11 million citizens.

A staggering 30+ officers were killed within the span of six months, and over 400 police facilities rendered non-functional due to criminal activities.

A chilling shot of a deserted police station in Port-au-Prince, testament to the rise of criminal activities and the diminishing law enforcement presence - Taken with Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

A significant concern is also the 20% increase in the number of Haitians, estimated at 5.2 million individuals, in need of humanitarian assistance compared to last year.

Moreover, Sawyer stressed the need for strict supervision over Kenyan police if deployed.

In an eruption of public discontent, the first of three protests were initiated in Port-au-Prince, demanding the ousting of Prime Minister Ariel Henry due to escalating violence and worsening poverty.

A 35-year-old local shop owner, Cassandre Petit, expressed her constant fear of robbery or potential death.

Accusing the government of unfulfilled promises, Petit expressed hope in receiving assistance from an international police force.

Human Rights Watch further appealed to nations such as the US, Canada, and France to back the formation of a transitional government and recognize their historical responsibilities.

The onus is on these countries to rectify historic damages and contribute towards an impactful reparations process led by the Haitian people themselves.

A distressing account of abuse and violence was shared by a 33-year-old mother, who became a victim of rape when she left home for selling goods.

A powerful picture of Cassandre Petit, a local shop owner visualizing the ordinary citizens' defiance and resilience amidst rising violence and failures of government - Taken with Sony Alpha a7 III

Sadly, her sister lost her life when she resisted an attempt at rape.

Such incidents have spurred an outcry for justice and aids, with organizations such as Doctors Without Borders reporting that they assisted over a thousand victims of sexual violence—a near doubling from the same time last year.

The number of kidnappings and killings have seen an alarming surge.

More than 2,000 individuals lost their lives in just six months, marking an almost 125% increase from the previous year, with over 1,000 kidnappings recorded during these months according to the UN Integrated Office in Haiti.

It is clear that the Haitian government has been unsuccessful in protecting its people from the growing criminal activity.

The absence of police and other authorities in volatile areas has left the community in distress.

Over 190,000 Haitians have been displaced from their homes since last year, some fleeing the country and others living in horrendous conditions in makeshift shelters.