January Most Violent Month In Haiti In Two Years: UN

(AFP)— More than 1,100 people were killed, injured or kidnapped in Haiti in January alone, making it the most violent month in the country in two years of conflict, the UN rights chief said Friday.

“The already dire human rights situation has deteriorated even further, amid unrelenting and expanding gang violence, with disastrous consequences for Haitians,” Volker Turk said in a statement.

The rights office said at least 806 people not involved in violent exchanges taking place were killed, injured, or kidnapped in January, while around 300 gang members were killed or injured.

That brings the total number of people affected to 1,108 -– more than three times the number recorded in January 2023, it said.

UN rights office spokeswoman Marta Hurtado said that of those affected during the month, 547 had been killed and 266 had been kidnapped.

The Western hemisphere’s poorest nation, Haiti has been in turmoil for years, with armed gangs taking over parts of the country and unleashing brutal violence, leaving the economy and public health system in tatters.

The 2021 assassination of president Jovenel Moise plunged the country further into chaos. No elections have taken place since 2016 and the presidency remains vacant.

Gangs now run rampant in large swaths of the country, and homicides in Haiti more than doubled last year to nearly 4,800 according to a UN report released Tuesday.

The rights office said the impact of the violence on children was of particular concern, with 167 children killed or injured by bullets last year.

“Some were executed by gangs or so-called ‘self-defence’ groups for their suspected support for rivals,” the statement said, adding that “the recruitment of children into gangs remained extremely worrisome”.

The office noted that gang violence was impacting all communes in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, and that gangs were escalating their activities in areas outside the capital.

“The intensity of clashes which, in some cases, have lasted several hours, may indicate that some gangs have recently received new ammunition,” it said.

“People in areas controlled by gangs have been targeted directly. Gangs also continue to use sexual violence against women and girls as a weapon, and spread fear by sharing on local social media gruesome photos and videos of killed individuals and women being raped.”

Haiti has also been engulfed in unrest since Monday as thousands of people in Port-au-Prince and across the country have demanded that Prime Minister Ariel Henry step down in line with a political agreement forged in 2022.

Turk emphasised the urgency of deploying a multinational mission to support Haiti’s overwhelmed police force, approved by the UN Security Council last October.

But that force was thrown into doubt last month when a Kenyan court ruled against Nairobi’s plan to lead the mission with up to 1,000 personnel.