Haiti needs international force to end ‘living nightmare’: UN rights chief

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The United Nations’ top human rights official urged on Friday for an international force to be deployed to violence-ravaged Haiti, describing the island nation’s multiple crises as a “living nightmare.”

Wrapping up a two-day visit around the country, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk called on world leaders “to urgently consider the deployment of a time-bound specialized support force,” which Haiti’s prime minister has also urged since last year.

Haiti has been for years mired in a vicious cycle of humanitarian, economic and health crises exacerbated by brutal gang violence.

According to a UN report released Friday, the Cite Soleil commune in the capital Port-au-Prince has seen a sharp increase in mass incidents of murder, gang rape and sniper attacks in recent months, rendering life unlivable.

“The findings of this report are horrifying: 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 press release. “It can only be described as a living nightmare.”

In the Brooklyn neighborhood of Cite Soleil alone, over 260 people were killed in gang violence during 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 earlier 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 capacity 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 daily kidnappings.

They often subject their victims to sexual assault while demanding enormous ransoms from their relatives.

And over half a million Haitian children living in gang-controlled areas have little access to education, Turk warned.

In October, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres relayed a plea for help from Prime Minister Ariel Henry and asked the UN Security Council to send an international force to Haiti.

Despite statements 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 gripped by a worsening crisis since the July 2021 assassination of president Jovenel Moise.

National elections have not been held since 2016.

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