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Press releases Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Haiti: UN Human Rights Chief warns against ‘never-ending cycle of violence’

09 May 2023

People huddle in a corner as police patrol the streets after gang members tried to attack a police station, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti April 25, 2023.  ©REUTERS/Ralph Tedy Erol TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

GENEVA (9  May 2023) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk on Tuesday warned against a “never-ending cycle of violence” in Haiti as gangs continue to inflict extreme cruelty on people, and vigilantes take the law into their own hands.

“Every report I get from Haiti underlines the scale of the suffering, and rams home the message that Haitians need urgent support, and they need it now,” said Türk.

“I reiterate my call on the international community to deploy a time-bound, specialized and human rights-compliant support force, with a comprehensive action plan to assist Haiti's institutions,” he added.

In the month of April alone, more than 600 people were killed in a new wave of extreme violence that hit several districts across the capital, according to information gathered by the Human Rights Service of the UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH). This follows the killing of at least 846 people in the first three months of 2023, in addition to 393 injured and 395 kidnapped during that period – a 28 per cent increase in violence on the previous quarter.

Overwhelmed by the ever-increasing insecurity, Haiti is seeing a worrying increase in mob killings and lynchings of alleged gang members, with at least 164 of these murders documented in April.

“It is the State’s obligation to protect its citizens. People should be able to rely on the police and the judicial authorities to tackle gang violence. But the reality is that the State does not have the capacity to respond. People are thus taking the law into their own hands – but this will only fuel the spiral of violence,” he added.

The UN Human Rights Office and BINUH today launched their quarterly update (January to March), which highlights the emergence of vigilante groups, following calls by some political figures and journalists for citizens to form self-defence organizations to fight gang violence.

The report also underscores that the violence is not only becoming more extreme and more frequent, but spreading relentlessly as gangs seek to extend their control. Areas of the capital previously considered safe, notably Kenscoff and Pétion Ville, as well as the Artibonite department, are now affected.

Among other modus operandi used by gangs, the report identifies incidents of snipers indiscriminately shooting at people on the street or firing into homes, and of people being burned alive on public transport.

"We must not forget that extreme poverty and the lack of basic services lie at the root of the current violence and of the gangs’ power over communities. The Government, with support from the international community, must do its utmost to comply with its obligation to provide people with regular and unimpeded access to clean water, food, health and shelter,” Türk said.

“The current human rights emergency calls for a robust response – urgently,” he added.

To read the full report, please click here


For more information and media requests, please contact

In Geneva
Ravina Shamdasani - + 41 22 917 9169 / [email protected] or
Jeremy Laurence -  +41 22 917 9383 / [email protected]

In Nairobi
Seif Magango - +254 788 343 897 / [email protected]

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