Gang violence in Haiti is escalating and spreading with a significant increase in killings, UN says

Sep 27, 2023, 7:29 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Gang violence in Haiti is escalating and spreading from the capital Port-au-Prince through the center of the country to its two other major cities, Gonaives and Cap-Hatien, with a significant increase in killings, kidnappings and rapes in the past few months, the U.N. chief said in a report circulated Wednesday.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in the new report to the U.N. Security Council that 2,728 intentional killings were recorded between October 2022 and June 2023 including 247 women, 58 boys and 20 girls.

The continuing rise in homicides is attributed to the emergence of a vigilante movement, known as “Bwa Kale,” in the capital in April which has gone after the gangs, he said. The U.N. chief also reported an increase in kidnappings for ransom during that time with 1,472 reported, though he said the actual number is almost certainly higher because families often do not report missing members to authorities out of fear for the victims’ safety.

Gang members also continue to use sexual violence including collective rape “to terrorize populations under the control of rival gangs,” Guterres said, pointing to 452 rape cases reported during the October-June period.

The secretary-general’s report on progress toward meeting key benchmarks in the Security Council resolution adopted last October that imposed sanctions against a powerful gang leader was issued as council members were negotiating a new U.N. resolution that would authorize a non-U.N. multinational force led by Kenya to combat the gangs.

Diplomats said the resolution is expected to be voted on later this week or next week.

Political instability has simmered in Haiti since the 2021 still-unsolved assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, who had faced protests calling for his resignation over corruption charges and claims that his five-year term had expired.

Gangs have grown more powerful since his assassination, and Guterres said they now control or exercise influence over 80% of the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area and their violent activities have expanded especially to the central Artibonite Valley and the regions of major cities Gonaives in the northwest and Cap Hatien in the north.

He said indiscriminate attacks have displaced almost 130,000 people.

Guterres said there had been little or no progress on the benchmarks in the October resolution: a judicial system that can handle gangs and criminal-related activities, a progressive reduction in gang violence, improvements in human rights, a decrease in illicit arms trafficking and financial flows, and an increase in arms seizures.

Thee gangs “have overwhelmed already weak national institutions, including the judiciary, the national police and the prison administration directorate,” he said.

“Corruption remains endemic,” impunity remains pervasive and 84% of inmates in Haitian prisons are in pretrial detention and the conditions they face are “alarming,” the secretary-general said. And a recent vetting exercise lifted the certification of about one-third of the country’s judges and prosecutors “due to a lack of moral integrity, invalid credentials or unlawful release of criminals,” he said.

The police have been unable to deal with the powerful gangs despite an increase in their budget, Guterres said, and they are “grappling with a constantly declining workforce due to resignations, dismissals, retirements and fatalities in the line of duty.” While 714 new police officers were selected in December, 774 officers, representing more than 5% of the force, left in the first six months of this year, he said.

Over the past year, the secretary-general said, the human rights situation also continued to deteriorate, with escalating gang attacks including the use of snipers on rooftops “to indiscriminately shoot people carrying out their daily activities.”

In some instances, gangs have attacked entire neighborhoods, firing guns indiscriminately, “burning people alive and executing individuals perceived as being opposed to them,” he said.

Since the sanctions resolution was adopted last October, and despite a targeted arms embargo, Guterres said, “experts assess that the illicit trafficking of weapons and ammunition has continued unabated due to poor border control, limited capacity for seizures and weak weapons management systems.”

The U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime assesses that increasingly sophisticated and high-caliber weapons and ammunition are being trafficked into Haiti, the secretary-general said, and most are from the United States and make their way to gang members through intermediaries.

United States News

President Joe Biden gestures after speaking to graduating students at the Morehouse College commenc...

Associated Press

Biden tells Morehouse graduates that scenes in Gaza from the Israel-Hamas war break his heart, too

Joe Biden on Sunday offered his most direct recognition of U.S. students' anguish over the Israel-Hamas war.

3 hours ago

A helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi suffered a “hard landing” on Sunday, May ...

Associated Press

Helicopter carrying Iran’s hard-line president apparently crashes in foggy, mountainous region

A helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, the country's foreign minister apparently crashed in mountainous Iran on Sunday.

7 hours ago

Associated Press

Child is among 3 dead after Amtrak train hits a pickup truck in upstate New York

NEW YORK (AP) — A child was among the three victims killed when a passenger train hit a pickup truck, officials said. The northbound Amtrak train hit a Dodge truck Friday evening in North Tonawanda, New York, a small town along the Niagara River between Niagara Falls and Buffalo, police said. The victims included a […]

9 hours ago

Associated Press

11 hurt in mass shooting that marked a weekend of gun violence in Savannah, Georgia

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — An argument between two women led to a gunfight that left 11 people hurt in a busy tourist area of Savannah, Georgia, late Saturday, one of five weekend shootings in the city, two of which were fatal, authorities said. Two people were injured in separate shootings Friday. Two more shootings Saturday […]

9 hours ago

Associated Press

Pro-Palestinian protesters set up a new encampment at Drexel University

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Pro-Palestinian protesters set up a new encampment at Drexel University in Philadelphia over the weekend, prompting a lockdown of school buildings, a day after authorities thwarted an attempted occupation of a school building at the neighboring University of Pennsylvania campus. Up to 60 protesters were at the encampment on the campus’ Korman […]

11 hours ago

Associated Press

Power restored to most affected by deadly Houston storm, with the rest by Wednesday

HOUSTON (AP) — Houston area residents affected by deadly storms last week received some good news as officials said power had been restored Sunday to a majority of the hundreds of thousands who had been left in the dark and without air conditioning amid hot and humid weather. The widespread destruction of Thursday’s storms left […]

11 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.


Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.


Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

Gang violence in Haiti is escalating and spreading with a significant increase in killings, UN says