Haiti’s gang violence: Rights group pleads for swift international intervention

August 15, 2023  -Human Rights Watch sounded the alarm on Monday over escalating gang violence in Haiti, pressing the international community for swift intervention.

Gang Dominance in Haiti

The plea arrives as the UN Security Council deliberates Haiti’s plea, made in October, for an immediate international armed force deployment in response to the rising violence.

Concerns are deepening as the Security Council’s response remains pending.

Ida Sawyer, the group’s crisis and conflict director said that delays could lead to more Haitians becoming victims of violence, including acts of murder, rape, and abduction.

Sawyer also pointed out that more people will suffer without enough to eat.

Earlier in the month, the US proposed a UN Security Council resolution to empower Kenya in spearheading a multinational police force targeting Haitian gangs. Nevertheless, details on when such a resolution would be implemented remain uncertain.

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“The main message we want to get across is that Haitian people need support now,” Sawyer said. “We heard again and again that the situation is worse now in Haiti than it’s been at any time people can remember.”

Human Rights Watch paints a grim picture, suggesting that gangs currently have the upper hand in the capital, Port-au-Prince, controlling an estimated 80 per cent of the city.

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The strained state of Haiti’s police force

The island nation’s police force, numbering roughly 10,000 for a population exceeding 11 million, has been hard-pressed to maintain order. Between January and June, the violence claimed the lives of over 30 officers, and a staggering 400 police facilities have been rendered non-operational due to criminal onslaughts.

Reports are that approximately 5.2 million Haitians now require aid, marking a 20 per cent rise from the previous year.

Sawyer also called for strict oversight of Kenyan police if they are deployed.

Public outcry and protests

Demonstrators have voiced their dissatisfaction with the current administration, decrying the rise in violence and worsening economic conditions. Many echo the sentiment of longing for the arrival of international forces as a potential reprieve from the chaos.

Human Rights Watch further emphasized the necessity for countries like the US, Canada, and France to back the formation of an interim Haitian administration. Haiti has been mired in uncertainty since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021.

The advocacy group also underscored the historic role of countries like France and the US in Haiti’s struggles, advocating for a reparation process steered by Haitians.

Haiti’s past is marked by its 1804 declaration as the world’s inaugural Black republic, followed by a burdensome financial obligation to France as compensation for lost colonial assets.

This debt, adjusted to 90 million gold coins, was settled in 1947 but has had lasting implications on the nation’s economic health.

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