Violence, rape, impunity grow worse in Haiti, UN chief warns
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks during interview at the UN Headquarters, Thursday, January 20, 2022, in New York. (Photo: AP)

UNITED NATIONS, United States (AFP)— Gang-plagued Haiti is sinking further into bloodshed and lawlessness, the United Nations chief warned in a report Wednesday, urging the international community to provide security and financial aid to the troubled Caribbean nation.

Brutal gangs are tightening their grip on Haiti, with snipers shooting indiscriminately from rooftops and people burned alive, which prompts vigilante groups to respond with more violence.

"Gang-related violence has continued to increase in intensity and brutality, with gangs expanding their control within and beyond Port-au-Prince," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a report published Wednesday.

"Sexual violence, including collective rape, continue to be used by gangs to terrorise populations under the control of rival gangs," he added.

The report comes as members of the UN Security Council debate the mandate of an international security mission, requested by Haitian authorities, to support the underfunded and understaffed police force, which will be led by Kenya.

Nearly 2,800 murders were recorded between October 2022 and June 2023, including nearly 80 targeting minors, according to the report.

Kidnappings for ransom are also on the rise, with nearly 1,500 people abducted over the past year, including 55 minors, the report said, adding that the true number could be even higher as families don't always report such crimes to the authorities, preferring to negotiate directly with kidnappers.

Despite the adoption of a sanctions regime and a targeted arms embargo against Haiti, "experts assess that the illicit trafficking of weapons and ammunition has continued unabated," the report said.

As a result, police are outnumbered and outgunned, while prosecutors and judges are afraid to go after gang members.

"Stabilising the security situation in Haiti will require significant international support, not only to the national police to restore security, but also in the areas of corrections, the justice system, custom control and border management," Guterres said.

He urged world leaders to show "significant political will and commitment to securing adequate, predictable and sustained financing to preserve institutional gains in the long term."

Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, has been hit by a stream of economic, political, health and other crises in recent years.

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