By JUHAKENSON BLAISE, The Haitian Times
PORT-AU-PRINCE —The United Nations Human Rights Office is once again calling for a multinational force to intervene in Haiti after its latest report found that gangs there have killed at least 531 people, injured 300, and kidnapped 277 since the year began.
The UN figures come from a count of reported incidents between January and March 15. As of mid-March at least 160,000 people have been reported as displaced, the agency said Tuesday.
In its latest report, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said in the first two weeks of March alone, clashes between gangs left 208 dead, 164 injured, and 101 kidnapped.
“We are gravely concerned that extreme violence continues to spiral out of control in Haiti,” said OHCHR spokeswoman Marta Hurtado.
“Half the population does not have enough to eat,” she added. “In some areas, such as Cité Soleil, hunger has reached particularly alarming levels.”
Throughout Haiti and abroad, reports of gang violence are constant. At the beginning of the week, nine people were killed in Pétion-Ville, allegedly by the “Kraze Baryè” gang led by Vitélhomme Innocent, according to residents. The same gang is being blamed for killing four people in Mali the week prior, including a two-year-old.
In Delmas this week, unidentified individuals murdered Jean David Pierre of the Haitian National Police.
“The latest report from @ONU_fr gives an idea of the reality of the Haitian people who suffer the fury of armed civilians both in the metropolitan region of Port-au-Prince and in remote areas such as Bas-Artibonite,” jurist Camille Occius tweeted on Tuesday.
“It’s up to the members of the Security Council to act!” added Occius, a human rights advocate.
Most victims were killed or injured by random gunfire while in their homes or walking on the street, the UN said.
At area schools, students and teachers have been hit by stray bullets during clashes between gangs in Bel-Air, Maya, and Solino, and parents and students have been abducted near their schools. All of this has forced several officials to close their schools’ doors.
“Without the protective environment of schools, many children were forcibly recruited by armed gangs,” said Hurtado.
She also condemned the sexual violence used against women and girls to terrorize the population.
The agency urged member nations to deploy a multinational force in Haiti to “break the cycle of violence, corruption and impunity.” The multinational organization said all who support gangs must be tried and the international community must urgently consider sending a specialized support force alongside UN security forces.
Faced with the refusal of the international community to intervene, Prime Minister Ariel Henry decided to invite the Haitian armed forces to reinforce the police in their fight against the bandits.
“Officers, non-commissioned officers, soldiers, are you ready to engage in the battle against insecurity,” Henry told soldiers at an army base. “Are we ready to work hand in hand with police forces in the battle against insecurity?”