OHCHR chef warns Haiti ‘can’t wait’ for gangs violence, terror to end

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Anjali Sharma

GG News Bureau
UNITED NATIONS, 3rd April.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk on Tuesday said that restoring public order and ensuring access to aid must be priorities in Haiti, where criminal gangs continue to terrorize the population.

Volker Türk said in a video statement to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that “The Haitian population cannot wait any longer,” during an interactive dialogue on his report on the current situation in Haiti.

Mr. Türk said the alarming situation in Haiti has deteriorated in recent week as gangs launched attacks against police stations, prisons, critical infrastructure and other public and private facilities.

OHCHR reported that a state of emergency is in effect but while institutions are collapsing, a transitional government is not yet in place after the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry three weeks ago.

The escalating violence has had devastating impacts on the population, with a shocking increase in murders and kidnappings. Sexual violence, particularly against women and girls, is pervasive and has most likely reached record levels, according to the UN officials and news media reports.

UN human rights office reported that between 1 January and March 20, 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.

“The scale of human rights violations is unprecedented in Haiti’s modern history. This is a humanitarian catastrophe for an already exhausted people,” he said.

Over 360,000 Haitians are displaced, and 5.5 million, mainly children, are dependent on humanitarian aid.

Some 44 per cent of the population is facing food insecurity, delivery of additional aid is becoming almost impossible.

Mr. Türk recalled his visit to the capital Port-au-Prince just over a year ago, where he met two young girls. One had been gang-raped and the other had survived a bullet to the head. He warned that an entire generation is at risk of being victims of trauma, violence and deprivation.

“We must end this suffering. And we must allow the children of Haiti to know what it is to feel safe, to not be hungry, to have a future,” he said.

Mr. Volker in his report called to restore some degree of law and order as an immediate priority to protect Haiti’s people from violence and ensure access to humanitarian assistance.

He noted that this will require close cooperation with the Multinational Security Support Mission, authorized by the UN Security Council last October, whose deployment he hoped was imminent.

“All measures taken to restore security must fully comply with human rights standards,” he said.

He added that “humanitarian corridors must be established as soon as possible.”

Mr. Türk urged all stakeholders in Haiti to put the national interest at the centre of their discussions so that agreement can be reached on the arrangements for the transitional government.

“The transitional authorities must strive to create the conditions necessary for free and fair elections to be held. They must also begin the process of strengthening police and judicial institutions in order to reestablish the rule of law and, therefore, put an end to impunity,” he said.

The report stated that the protection of children must be an absolute priority, including those recruited by armed gangs.

He highlighted the need for reintegration programmes, including prolonged psychosocial support, and guaranteed access to quality education and healthcare.

Mr. Turk called for the international community to take stronger measures to prevent the illicit supply, sale, diversion or transfer to Haiti of light weapons, small arms and ammunition.

It is time to end the political impasse, urgently rebuild peace, stability and security in the country, and give Haitians the hope they so desperately need,” he said.

The envoy of Haiti to the UN in Geneva, Justin Viard, hailed Mr. Volker’s report and underscored the deep challenges that Haitians are facing.

He stressed that the international community and Haiti must act together to both address the armed gangs and the root causes of the crisis, which include widespread unemployment, a failing educational system and food insecurity.

We must move from words to concrete actions,” he said. “We cannot allow for Haiti to one day show up in a page of history as an example of the powerlessness of the international community or the abandonment of the population of a UN Member State.”

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