UN high commissioner for human rights Michel Bachelet said Tuesday she was deeply disturbed by violence involving armed gangs in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince.
Armed gangs have long had a presence in the poorer neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, but violence has intensified in recent years amid numerous assassinations and abductions.
What did Bachelet say?
“Armed violence has reached unimaginable and intolerable levels in Haiti,” Bachelet said.
“It is crucial for urgent steps to be taken to restore the rule of law, to protect people from armed violence and to hold to account the political and economic sponsors of these gangs.”
Bachelet said that the fragility of state institutions has fueled lawlessness and expressed fear that violence will continue to escalate.
The former president of Chile and now UN human rights chief said gang violence had forced the closure of dozens of schools, businesses and markets. This has left many people struggling to get access to food. Gangs have also hampered major road links between the capital and the rest of the country.
This could “have long-term devastating impacts on the already difficult economic situation in Haiti,” the commissioner added.
What happened in Port-au-Prince?
The UN said that in Port-au-Prince alone at least 92 people unaffiliated with gangs and some 96 alleged gang members were killed during coordinated armed attacks in just over three weeks — between April 23 and May 16. The UN warned that the actual death toll could be far higher.
According to UN figures, 113 people were injured, 12 were reported missing and 49 were kidnapped for ransom.
The UN statement said that extreme violence has been reported, including beheadings, the burning of bodies and the killing of minors accused of being informants for a rival gang. The UN reported that children as young as 10 had suffered sexual violence.
Bachelet said the United Nations Security Council plans to debate the future mandate regarding the UN presence in Haiti in the coming weeks.
sdi/jsi (AFP, dpa)