The top UN human rights official on Friday urged the deployment of an international force in violence-ravaged Haiti, describing the island nation’s multiple crises as a “living nightmare”.
Concluding a two-day countrywide visit, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk called on world leaders “to urgently consider deploying a specialized fixed-term support force”, which even the prime minister of Haiti has been urging since last year.
Haiti has for years been mired in a vicious cycle of humanitarian, economic and health crises exacerbated by brutal gang violence.
The municipality of Cite Soleil in the capital Port-au-Prince has seen a sharp increase in mass incidents of murders, gang rapes and sniper attacks in recent months, making life unlivable, according to a United Nations report released on Friday.
“The findings of this report are horrific: 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,” Turk said in a news release. “It can only be described as a living nightmare.”
In the Brooklyn neighborhood of Cite Soleil alone, more than 260 people were killed by gang violence in the second half of 2022, and nearly 60 cases of gang rape of women and girls were recorded, according to the study.
The report highlighted the case of a woman identified as Rose, a pregnant mother of four who was severely beaten and raped in front of her children by gang members who had previously killed her husband. Before leaving the house, the gang members set it on fire, the report said.
Turk said Haiti’s police force “needs immediate coordinated international support commensurate with the challenges to strengthen its ability to respond to the security situation in a manner consistent with its human rights obligations.”
Controlling more than half of Haiti’s territory, the gangs engage in kidnappings on a daily basis.
They often subject their victims to sexual assaults while demanding huge ransoms from their relatives.
And more than half a million Haitian children living in gang-controlled areas have little access to education, Turk warned.
In October, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres conveyed a request for help to Prime Minister Ariel Henry and asked the United Nations Security Council to send an international force to Haiti.
Despite declarations of support for such a mission from various capitals, the proposal has not yet moved forward.
The poorest nation in the Americas, Haiti has been hit by a worsening crisis since the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July 2021.
National elections have not been held since 2016.