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UN says over 1,500 killed this year in 'cataclysmic' Haiti

March 28, 2024

A new UN report detailed different types of gang violence which have intensified this year. Gangs have taken over much of the capital, and staged an insurrection to overthrow Prime Minister Ariel Henry.

Dominican military controls the flow of Haitians waiting to cross the border to stock up on products, mainly food, at the Binational Market in Dajabon, Dominican Republic, 25 March 2024.
The UN human rights office detailed killing, lynching, sexual violence and child abuseImage: Orlando Barria/EPA

Intensified gang violence which has gripped Haiti has led to the death of over 1,500 people so far this year, the United Nations said on Thursday, describing the situation as "cataclysmic."

In a new report, the UN human rights office detailed killing, lynching, sexual violence and child abuse.

"All these practices are outrageous and must stop at once," the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said in a statement released alongside the report.

Haiti's gang violence peaked in early March, when armed groups unleashed a coordinated offensive seeking to overthrow Prime Minister Ariel Henry.

Henry announced his resignation on March 12.

Violence engulfs Haitian capital Port-au-Prince

What did the report say?

The report documented 4,451 killings last year and 1,554 more this year through to March 22.

Killings were conducted at residents' homes, targeting civilians accused of supporting the police or rival gangs, the report said. It also documented killings due to crossfire or snipers in densely-populated streets.

One victim was a three-month-old baby.

Haitians living in the US fear for their families

Sexual violence and child exploitation

The report also described rampant sexual violence. The UN said women were forced into exploitative sexual relations with gang members, while hostages and women were raped.

Child recruitment and abuse were highlighted, with the report saying boys and girls were unable to leave the ranks of gangs, fearing retaliation.

The UN documented at least 528 cases of lynching last year and 59 more this year, believed to be by so-called "self-defense brigades. Victims were suspected of links to gangs.

The report warned of people continuing to take justice into their own hands.

Haiti faces humanitarian crisis in wake of political unrest

Calls for arms embargo implementation

Despite a UN Security Council arms embargo, in place since October 2022, the report argued there was still a reliable supply of weapons and ammunition flowing across the country's "porous borders."

The UN called for tighter national and international controls to stop the flow of weapons and ammunition.

"It is shocking that despite the horrific situation on the ground, arms keep still pouring in," Türk said.

"I appeal for a more effective implementation of the arms embargo."

UN says Haiti situation 'cataclysmic'

rmt/wd (AFP, Reuters)