GENEVA, March 21, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - More than 530 people have been killed this
year in gang violence in Haiti, the United Nations said Tuesday, with many
killed by snipers shooting victims at random.
The UN human rights office said it was concerned that extreme violence was
spiralling out of control in Haiti.
"Clashes between gangs are becoming more violent and more frequent, as they
try to expand their territorial control throughout the capital and other
regions by targeting people living in areas controlled by rivals,"
spokeswoman Marta Hurtado said.
This year, up to March 15, "531 people were killed, 300 injured and 277
kidnapped in gang-related incidents that took place mainly in the capital,
Port-au-Prince," she told reporters in Geneva.
In the first two weeks of March alone, gang clashes left at least 208 dead,
164 injured and 101 kidnapped, Hurtado said.
"Most of the victims were killed or injured by snipers who were reportedly
randomly shooting at people in their homes or on the streets," she added.
Students and teachers have been hit by stray bullets, and kidnappings of
parents and pupils in the vicinity of schools has surged, forcing many to
Without the protective school environment, "many children have been forcibly
recruited by armed gangs", Hurtado said.
- Thousands displaced -
Haiti, the poorest nation in the Americas, has been gripped by a worsening
political and economic crisis since the July 2021 assassination of president
Jovenel Moise, and gangs now control more than half the country's territory.
The chronic instability and violence have sent food prices surging, and half
the population does not have enough to eat, Hurtado said.
At least 160,000 people have been displaced and are living in precarious
circumstances, with a quarter living in makeshift settlements with limited
access to basic sanitation, she added.
"Sexual violence is also used by gangs against women and girls to terrorise,
subjugate and punish the population," Hurtado said, with gangs using sexual
violence against abducted girls to pressure families into paying a ransom.
UN human rights chief Volker Turk has urged the Haitian authorities to
address the security situation immediately, by bolstering the police and
reforming the judicial system.
"To break the cycle of violence, corruption and impunity, all those
responsible, including those providing support and finance to the gangs, must
be prosecuted and tried according to the rule of law," Hurtado said.
"We also call on the international community to urgently consider the
deployment of a time-bound, specialised support force," she added.