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Press releases Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Haiti: “Cataclysmic” situation demands immediate and bold action – UN report

28 March 2024

The charred remains of vehicles that were burned near a garage are seen in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on March 25, 2024. © Clarens SIFFROY / AFP

GENEVA (28 March 2024) – A UN Human Rights Office report published today calls for immediate and bold action to tackle the “cataclysmic” situation in Haiti.

“Corruption, impunity and poor governance, compounded by increasing levels of gang violence, have eroded the rule of law and brought State institutions... close to collapse. The impact of generalised insecurity on the population is dire and deteriorating...and the population is severely deprived of enjoying its human rights,” says the report.

“Tackling insecurity must be a top priority to protect the population and prevent further human suffering. It is equally important to protect institutions essential to the rule of law, which have been attacked to their very core,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk.

The report covers the period from 25 September 2023 to 29 February 2024 and includes information provided by the Human Rights Service of the UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH), as well as information gathered by William O’Neill, Designated Expert of the High Commissioner on the situation of Human Rights in Haiti.

The number of people killed and injured due to gang violence significantly increased in 2023 – 4,451 killed and 1,668 injured. The number of victims skyrocketed in the first three months of 2024 – 1,554 killed and 826 injured up to 22 March.

Gangs continued to use sexual violence to brutalise, punish and control people. Women have been raped during gang attacks on neighbourhoods, in many cases after seeing their husbands killed in front of them.

According to the report, some women are forced into exploitative sexual relations with gang members. In addition, the rape of hostages continues to be used to coerce families into paying ransoms. Sexual violence remains severely underreported and largely unpunished.

Gangs continue to recruit and abuse children – boys and girls – who are unable to leave gangs’ ranks for fear of retaliation, which, in some instances, has led to young gang members being killed for trying to escape. Daily life is also disrupted by restrictions imposed by gangs on the movement of people, goods and services.

“All these practices are outrageous and must stop at once,” said the High Commissioner.

In parallel to the intensification of gang violence and the inability of the police to counter it, so-called “self-defence brigades” have continued to emerge and take justice into their own hands, the report says. At least 528 cases of lynching were reported in 2023, and a further 59 in 2024.

The report also highlights how, despite an arms embargo, there is a reliable supply of weapons and ammunition for the gangs coming through porous borders, resulting in the gangs often having superior firepower to the Haitian National Police.

The report calls for tighter national and international controls to stem trafficking of weapons and ammunition to Haiti.

“It is shocking that despite the horrific situation on the ground, arms keep still pouring in. I appeal for a more effective implementation of the arms embargo,” Türk said.

The report reiterates the need for an urgent deployment of a Multinational Security Support mission to help the National Police to stop violence, effectively protect the population and restore the rule of law in the country.

“It is essential that the mission effectively integrates human rights into the conduct of its operations and establishes a compliance mechanism to mitigate and minimize harm,” said the UN Human Rights Chief.

The report stresses that enhancing security alone will not bring long-lasting solutions and calls for policies aiming at the restoration of the rule of law and the prevention of violence to be pursued.

“Widespread corruption and dysfunction of the justice system greatly contribute to the pervasive impunity for grave human rights violations, and they need to be addressed urgently,” said Türk.

“Accountability is paramount to restore public trust in the rule of law and the state institutions,” he added.

The High Commissioner also called on all national stakeholders to engage constructively in dialogue to facilitate a political agreement that allows a democratic transition leading to free and fair legislative and presidential elections.

To read the full report, please click here

To watch the video, please go to https://vimeo.com/928008184/814945aaf9?share=copy

For more information and media requests, please contact:

In Geneva

Ravina Shamdasani - + 41 22 917 9169 / [email protected] or

Liz Throssell - + 41 22 917 9296 / [email protected] or

Marta Hurtado - + 41 22 917 9466 / [email protected]

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