More than 1,400 people have been killed and over 1,000 kidnapped in Haiti this year by gangs who also use sexual violence, the UN said Friday.
Volker Turk, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, called for a show of “political courage and responsibility at a national and international level” to address the “endemic impunity”.
Haiti, the poorest nation in the Americas, is facing an acute political, economic, security and health crisis which has paralysed the country and sparked a breakdown of law and order.
The assassination of president Jovenel Moise in July 2021 exacerbated the crises, as gangs grew in strength and territorial control.
This “multifaceted and protracted crisis… cannot be ignored,” Turk told a press conference in Geneva.
“This is a country where armed gangs, reportedly supported by economic and political elites, control more than 60 percent of the capital, where some 4.7 million face acute hunger,” he said.
“Since the beginning of this year, a staggering 1,448 people have been killed, 1,145 injured and 1,005 kidnapped by gangs.”
He stressed that these were not just numbers, with each victim leaving “entire families and communities… torn apart by the violence.”
Turk, who took over as the UN rights chief in October, also decried that gang members were “using sexual violence to instill fear and exert control over the population”.
A UN report published in October found that the gangs use sexual violence to “punish, subjugate, and inflict pain” on the citizens and as a coercive tool to force cooperation.
It detailed gang rapes of children as young as 10 and of elderly women, often in front of family members.
“Sexual violence is an additional factor that is very chilling for the population and one that really needs to be countered,” Turk said.
He insisted “the root causes of the crisis, especially social inequalities, rampant corruption, collusion between powerful elites and gang leaders, and endemic impunity, must be addressed.”
“It is unconscionable that there are people benefiting from this endemic insecurity and the suffering of Haitians.”
Turk hailed a recent UN Security Council decision to sanction members of Haiti’s economic and political elites who reportedly support the gangs, saying it sends “a very strong message to those threatening Haiti’s peace, security and stability.”
He called on countries to make sure that people fleeing Haiti “have access to fair and efficient asylum procedures.”