UN Chief Insists on Special Armed Forces as Haiti Spirals

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A bullet's impact is seen on an armored police car in Port-au-Prince, Haiti
A bullet's impact is seen on an armored police car in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023. One of Haiti's gangs stormed a key part of the capital, Port-Au-Prince, and battled with police throughout the day, leaving at least three officers dead and another missing. (AP Photo/Megan Janetsky)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — U.N. Secretary General António Guterres on Monday insisted on the deployment of an international specialized armed force to Haiti and called on governments to consider halting deportations as the country’s situation spirals.

The recommendations were issued as part of a report on the U.N. Integrated Office in Haiti, with Guterres noting that gang-related violence and human rights violations have reached a critical level.

“The people of Haiti are suffering the worst human rights and humanitarian emergency in decades,” he wrote.

Guterres noted that while last year’s gang-led siege at a main fuel terminal has ended, a special force is still needed to ensure that key infrastructure remains unobstructed and that people are able to safely vote in a general election whose date has not been set.

The number of reported killings soared by 35% last year compared with the previous year, with more than 2,100 slain. In addition, kidnappings more than doubled last year, with more than 1,350 victims.

Meanwhile, Haiti’s National Police is underfunded and under-resourced, with only some 9,700 active-duty officers in a country of more than 11 million people.

“There are also allegations that a significant number of national police…may be associated with gangs,” Guterres said.

In recent months, countries including Canada and the U.S. have offered training and resources including armored vehicles, but police remain largely outmatched by gangs whose power and territorial control have expanded since President Jovenel Moïse was slain at his private residence in July 2021.

Haiti also is struggling with a deadly cholera outbreak worsened by gang violence and a spike in the number of people who are starving as countries including the U.S. and the Dominican Republic have deported tens of thousands of Haitians in the past year.

The report was released a day before the U.N. Security Council is scheduled to meet and talk about Haiti.

Late last year, the council imposed sanctions on individuals and groups that threatened peace in Haiti, including a powerful gang leader, but it did not vote on the deployment of armed forces as requested by Haiti's top officials in October.

With no democratically elected institutions left in Haiti after the terms of the remaining 10 senators expired on Jan. 9, Prime Minister Ariel Henry has pledged that he is working to hold general elections as soon as possible.

Last week, Henry's administration published a decree with the names of the three members appointed to the High Transition Council, which will be responsible for choosing the provisional electoral council, the first step in preparing for elections. The decree stated that the council also will push economic and human rights reforms, create and execute a public security plan and establish milestones and deadlines for the transition period.

“We will move forward with all those who wish to do so,” Henry said earlier this month.

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