In a press briefing published Friday, a UN spokesperson highlighted the human rights issues associated with Haiti’s recent rise in violence. The briefing called for an end to the lynching of local gang members and the vigilante group members who have attempted to reduce gang violence through “self-defence” groups.
In the press briefing titled “Haiti: Deaths and injuries amid gang violence,” Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, outlined what was described as “extreme brutality of violence” against the people of Haiti. The briefing clarified that since the beginning of the year, the region has seen at least 2,439 killings, 902 injuries and 951 kidnappings. As a result, there has been a trend of “popular justice” and self-defence groups who fight back against gang violence. Unfortunately, this has been met with yet more violence. Since April, “Those killed have included 310 alleged gang members, 46 members of the public and a police officer.”
On August 14, there were reports of gang violence in response to local support for a self-defence group to oppose local gangs. In retaliation, local gang members shot and killed a local municipal representative, his wife, and his child at their house in the Decayette neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince. That same day, seven members of one family were burned alive in their home by the Grand Ravine gang, also reportedly due to their support of a self-defence group. The Grand Ravine gang has been terrorising the region since July, with reports of gang members killing or injuring 28 people and looting or setting fire to at least 50 houses. Two police officers were also murdered due to their ties to the self-defence groups.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk called for a UN multinational force to support the region, stating, “The human rights of the Haitian people must be protected and their suffering alleviated.” Last month, the Haiti-based human rights group National Human Rights Defense Network raised alarm over the increasing amount of attacks, assassinations and kidnappings for ransom in the country, particularly in the country’s West Department.