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Statements and speeches Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Deepening violence in Haiti

Interactive Dialogue on Haïti

10 October 2023

Delivered by

Nada Al-Nashif United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights


54th session of the Human Rights Council


Geneva, Palais des Nations, Room XX

Mr Vice-President,

I am deeply concerned by the continued and widespread deterioration of the human rights situation in Haiti and its impact on the region. The magnitude of armed violence, which has exacerbated since President Moïse’s assassination in July 2021, now affects all communes in the metropolitan area of ‎Port-au-Prince, including those considered safe until recently, spilling over into neighbouring regions.

Gangs are threatening the authority of the State at an unprecedented scale, having access to sophisticated high-calibre firearms and ammunition trafficked into Haiti, with brutal attacks committed against the population, including killings, mutilations, and kidnappings. This is happening with complete impunity, destroying any prospect for stability and undermining Haiti’s social fabric. Between 1 January and 30 September 2023, we have recorded 5,599 cases of gang related violence, including 3,156 killings, 1,159 injuries, and 1,284 kidnappings, a sharp increase compared to the same period last year.

Individuals accused of petty crime or suspected association with gangs, continue to be lynched to death, or burned alive by members of the population or the so-called “self-defence brigades” as part of the vigilante justice Bwa Kale movement. This year, our Office in Haiti has recorded at least 420 cases of lynching, with most recorded in the capital. Bwa Kalé is a symbol of the failure of the State to respond to the violence, further weakening the rule of law.

Furthermore, gangs are increasingly using sexual and gender-based violence to instil fear among the population. Collective rape of women and girls is endemic, and limited if no progress has been made by the authorities to tackle the problem this year. To date, victims of sexual violence, mostly woman and girl survivors, continue to lack protection and access to adequate health care, psycho-social counselling, and economic support while impunity remains the norm.

The cycle of violence will never end unless there is accountability. This past July (2023) marked the two-year commemoration of the killing of President Moise. Investigations into his assassination, as well as into other cases, have made very limited progress so far, illustrating the general inertia of the competent authorities, in particular the Judiciary towards accountability.  A significant number of national police personnel are reportedly associated with gangs, notably in the capital.

Widespread corruption, combined with poor oversight, has penetrated most of the State’s entities, including those in charge of law enforcement. This, together with an inadequate domestic legal framework, insufficient resources, and limited technical expertise, constitute structural impediments to effectively tackling impunity in Haiti.

Another issue of concern is the sharply deteriorating humanitarian situation on the ground, with widespread insecurity impeding access to basic services, including health and education. Staggering levels of violence have also forced people to flee their homes, with almost 200,000 registered internally displaced people, a tenfold increase in two years. The recent closure of the border by the Dominican Republic already has a deleterious impact on heath care centres in Haiti. Several hospitals have raised concerns as they are running out of essential medicines and other health products, previously imported from the Dominican Republic.

I welcome humanitarian exemptions granted for UN agencies, funds and programmes in Haiti following the closure of the border. Yet, this measure is not enough. I reiterate the High Commissioner’s request to the Dominican Republic to reconsider its decision and adopt all necessary measures to avoid the further deterioration of an already alarming crisis.

Mr Vice-President,

Increased rates of attrition continue to hinder efforts to expand the capacities of the Haitian National Police. Security is desperately needed. The recent adoption of resolution 2699 (2023) authorizing member states to deploy a Multinational Security Support (MSS) mission to Haiti to help re-establish security in the country, offers a glimpse of hope in this very grim landscape.

I welcome this positive development. We need to ensure that all safeguards are in place for a successful mission, including its strict compliance with international human rights law and standards, from planning to the conduct of operations through to deployment. We must guarantee that the necessary oversight mechanisms are indeed in place to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse and other types of misconduct. In this context, our Office stands ready to work with the MSS mission in developing a human rights compliance framework.

Mr. Vice-President,

While restoring security is a priority, any long-lasting change requires addressing the root causes of the crisis. The deployment of an MSS mission must be accompanied by measures supporting the rapid and sustainable re-establishment of State institutions, as well as a profound reform of the Judiciary and the penitentiary system, in line with international human rights law and standards.

The Haitian Government, with the cooperation of the international community, must urgently invest in socio-economic development to enable the people of Haiti, notably the most vulnerable who have disproportionately suffered from gang violence, to access better living conditions and ensure lasting stability and prosperity in Haiti.

The organization of elections will be crucial to restore faith in State institutions. There is no democratically elected representative in Haiti today. The legislative assembly has been inoperative since January 2020, when the terms of all delegates of the lower chamber and of most senators expired.

M. le Vice-président,

La communauté internationale s'est enfin mobilisée pour répondre à l'urgence que la crise demande. La mise en place d’une dynamique de changement est impérative. La première pierre que l’on posera contribuera à construire l’édifice du futur. Nous ne pouvons pas répéter les erreurs du passé. La réponse devra être guidée par les droits humains. Ne perdons pas de vue l’objectif qui est le nôtre : soutenir une population qui a trop souffert.

Par là même, je demande instamment au gouvernement de démontrer qu'il est au service de son peuple en déployant tous ses efforts pour remédier aux défis auxquels il fait face avec détermination, comme le garantissent les instruments internationaux ratifiés par l'État d'Haïti.

Je vous remercie.