Barricades are regularly erected to block roads in Port-au-Prince. © UNOCHA/Giles Clarke - Photo: 2024

Haiti: Unprecedented Human Rights Violations and Humanitarian Catastrophe

By Reinhardt Jacobsen

BRUSSELS | 4 April 2024 (IDN) — The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, has warned that the “scale of humanitarian right violations is unprecedented in Haiti’s modern history” and an already exhausted people are facing a “humanitarian catastrophe”.

Mr Türk said in a video statement to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, part of an interactive dialogue on his most recent report on the Caribbean country, that the already alarming situation in Haiti has deteriorated in recent weeks as gangs launched attacks against police stations, prisons, critical infrastructure and other public and private facilities.

A state of emergency is in effect, but while institutions are collapsing, a transitional government is not yet in place following the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry three weeks ago

Restoring public order and ensuring access to aid must be priorities in Haiti, where criminal gangs continue to terrorize the population, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said on April 2 in Geneva.

Meanwhile, escalating violence has had devastating impacts on the population, with a shocking increase in murders and kidnappings.

Between 1 January and March 20 alone, 1,434 people died, and 797 others were injured in gang-related violence. Mr Türk said this was the most violent period since his office began monitoring gang-related killings, injuries, and kidnappings more than two years ago.

Sexual violence, particularly against women and girls, is pervasive and has most likely reached record levels.

More than 360,000 Haitians are now displaced, and roughly 5.5 million, mainly children, are dependent on humanitarian aid. Although 44 per cent of the population faces food insecurity, delivery of additional aid is becoming almost impossible.

Meanwhile, Haiti Matters—a network of people and organisations supporting the Haitian people, collaborating under EEPA+, a Belgium-based Centre of Expertise with in-depth knowledge—has presented its bi-monthly Situation Report.

Situation in Haiti

  • Clashes between the police and gangs took place on 1 April near the national palace in Port-au-Prince. Five civilians and four police officers were killed in the shootings.
  • Heavy exchange of fire also took place in Pétion-Ville on 1 April, with gunshots heard continuously throughout the day.
  • Up to 40 people have died in Pétion-Ville after severe unrest in the past week. One of those who died was gang leader Ernst Julmé, also known as Ti Greg.
  • 18 health facilities in Port-au-Prince are no longer functioning, including the largest public hospital.
  • Haiti is facing a shortage of medicine as 213 of the 216 supplying laboratories are outside of Haiti and are unable to send the supplies. One of the laboratories in Haiti is also not currently functional due to the insecurity.
  • Over 1,500 people have been killed since the start of the year in Haiti, while 160,000 of Port-au-Prince residents have been displaced.
  • More than 53,000 people have fled the capital of Port-au-Prince in less than 3 weeks, the majority of whom have been going to the rural southern region.
  • The UN published a report on the human rights situation in Haiti. Among the topics covered is the rampant sexual violence used by gang members, with some women forced into sexual slavery. Rape of hostages has also been used to coerce family members to pay ransoms.
  • The report further outlined the recruitment and abuse of children by gangs, with some children having been killed for trying to escape. Gangs are composed primarily of young men and children.
  • In total 59 cases of lynching were reported in 2024, carried out by so-called “self-defence brigades” as extrajudicial killings of gang members. In 2023, 528 cases of lynchings as extrajudicial killings were reported.
  • UNICEF condemns the burning down of a school in Port-au-Prince on 25 March, depriving 1,000 students of their right to education.
  • The UN estimates that 5.5 million Haitians, including 3 million children, will be dependent on humanitarian protection and assistance in 2024.
  • The World Food Programme (WFP), the Center for Peasant Animation and Community Action (CAPAC), and the Group for Inclusion, Research and Development Support Haiti (GIRADEL Haiti) have distributed 100,000 meals to 23,000 displaced people.

Situation on the Transitional Presidential Council

  • According to the office of outgoing PM Ariel Henry, the formation of a Transitional Presidential Council may be unconstitutional. Henry’s office is seeking advice on the matter from CARICOM.
  • The Council of Ministers announced on Monday, 1 April, that lawyers have been entrusted with writing the decree establishing the functioning of the Transitional Presidential Council.
  • Two designated members of the Presidential Council have already stepped down due to threats issued by the gangs. Dominique Dupuy was the first to step down; he has since been replaced.
  • The Presidential Council stated on 27 March that it is pledging to restore public and democratic order by ensuring the security of the lives and property of the Haitian people, relief from poverty, and free elections.
  • The Council further states that they have developed mechanisms and criteria for choosing a president, prime minister, and a ministerial cabinet.
  • CARICOM sent the definitive list of the Council members to Ariel Henry on 28 March.
  • Guy Philippe, a former coup leader, urged the resigned government not to sign the decree establishing the Presidential Council and called on the designated members to step down.
  • He further stated that the Haitians have asked him to be in charge of the transition and that he is ready to take on this responsibility.

Situation on the Multinational Security Support (MSS) mission

  • Canadian Armed Forces members have been deployed to Jamaica to train CARICOM military personnel who will participate in the MSS mission.
  • The gang leader Jimmy Cherizier, also known as Barbecue, stated that he would be open to talks and a ceasefire if invited to the peace talks. He further states that any foreign intervention would be considered an invader.
  • The United States has agreed to supply the Haiti National Police Force (PNH) with 10 million US dollars worth of weapons and gear.

Regional situation

  • The Dominican Republic has started building a border wall with Haiti, meant to cover half of the border area. The president of the Dominican Republic, Luis Abinader, stated that the border would reduce the smuggling of weapons and thereby fight organised crime.
  • 7,702 Haitians were repatriated from the Dominican Republic in February and March. They are dropped off in Ouanaminthe, from where it is difficult to transport them to their destination due to road insecurity.
  • Amnesty International has urged the Dominican Republic to stop its racist migration policies and the forced returns of Haitians who need protection. [IDN-InDepthNews]

Photo: Barricades are regularly erected to block roads in Port-au-Prince. © UNOCHA/Giles Clarke

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

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