Security Council open briefing on the current security crisis in Haiti 26 Avril, 3pm

26 Apr 2023

Security Council open briefing on the current security crisis in Haiti 26 Avril, 3pm

Mr. President,
Distinguished members of the Security Council,

1.I would like to thank you for this opportunity to address the Council for the first time since I took office this month as Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Haiti. It is also an honour to be in the presence of the Foreign Ministers Généus of Haiti and Álvarez of the Dominican Republic. During my first week in Haiti, I had the opportunity to interact with civil society representatives, notably women’s groups, as well as with national authorities and senior government officials. I also managed to circulate through some of the streets of Port-au-Prince, where I felt the tension and recognized the fear Haitian people experience every day.

2. During my initial exchanges and interactions, I observed that a path for Haitians to engage in dialogue towards restoring democratic institutions in the country has been charted. However, the general sentiment is that it will be difficult to move forward without effectively addressing rampant insecurity.

3. Since the last briefing to the Council by my predecessor in January gang criminality has grown. Gang violence is expanding at an alarming rate in areas previously considered relatively safe in Port-au-Prince and outside the capital. The horrific violence in gang-ridden areas, including sexual violence, particularly against women and girls, is emblematic of the terror afflicting much of Haiti’s population. 

4. Allow me, Mr. President, to share figures that illustrate the shocking increase in criminality in Haiti. According to data collected by the Haitian National Police and by BINUH, in the first quarter of 2022, 692 criminal incidents – that is homicide, rape, kidnappings and lynching -were reported. In the same period in 2023the number of recorded criminal incidents more than doubled to 1,647. Last month showed the highest incident rates since 2005

 5. Faced with these increasingly violent armed gangs vying for control of neighbourhoods of the capital, with limited or no police presence, some residents have begun to take matters in their own hands. These dynamics lead indefectibly to the breakdown of social fabric with unpredictable consequences for the entire region. Only two days ago, as you may know, in Port-au-Prince, a group of civilians took13 suspected gang members from police custody, beat them to death and burned their bodies.

6. The Government has continued to invest in the Haitian National Police. However, the force is severely understaffed and ill-equipped to address violence and criminality. Deaths, dismissals, and increased resignations among the police have cut its operational strength from 14,772 to about 13,200personnel, of whom only approximately 9,000 perform police tasks. Barely 3,500 police officers are on public safety duty at any given time, nationwide. In the meantime, recruitment of new police officers has been halted due to deteriorating security and logistical constraints. 

7. The national police succeed in mounting some effective anti-gang operations but holding these security gains is merely momentary. The need for urgent international support to the police to address the rapidly deteriorating security situation cannot be overemphasized.

Mr. President,

8. Beyond the immediate support the national police require, it is urgent to make progress towards a nationally led solution to the long-standing political impasse. This is fundamental to restore sustainable and durable security, as well as social and economic stability.

9. Despite Haiti’s security challenges, efforts continue towards the implementation of the 21 December agreement. The newly established High Transitional Council, which I had the opportunity to meet, has continued to work with the Government and various stakeholders. Their efforts to broaden consensus on the way forward continue. The implementation of the agreement proceeds, including steps towards the establishment of a Provisional Electoral Council. This milestone is critical for the eventual holding of elections that would hopefully usher in a return to democratic governance.

10. The Court of Cassation was rendered functional on 28 February and stands ready to swear in a new Provisional Electoral Council once established. In parallel, the Court has also started to address the obstacles faced by the judiciary.

11. In accordance with the 21 December agreement and in efforts to continue dialogue, the upcoming national security forum and political roundtable to be convened under the auspices of the High Transitional Council provides a critical opportunity. This aims to strengthen national consensus on the creation of the necessary security and political conditions for holding elections. Notwithstanding these political gains, the overall process remains fragile and vulnerable to the deteriorating security situation.

Mr. President,

12. I will now turn to the human rights situation. With the increase in armed gang violence, Haitian people have continued to suffer one of the worst human rights crisis in decades. People living in areas under gang control are exposed to the highest rate of human rights abuses. Interviews carried out by BINUH indicate that gangs continue to use sexual violence, including multiple perpetrator rape, to terrorize and inflict pain on populations living in areas under the control of their rivals. Other forms of sexual violence, such as sexual exploitation, were also reported as being used by gangs against women and girls living in communities under their influence. 

13. Children are among the victims of the most heinous crimes, including killings, kidnappings, and rape. Over the last three months, school children have been hit by bullets while sitting in their classrooms and kidnapped when being dropped off at school. Furthermore, many schools closed late last year as a result of violence and extortion by gangs. Despite most reopening in early 2023, many children have not returned to the classroom due to violence near the school or in their neighbourhoods, or inability by their families to pay school fees. I am deeply shocked by reports of snipers indiscriminately targeting civilians. In this context of high vulnerability, children are being recruited into armed gangs. The appointment by the High Commissioner for Human Rights of an Independent Expert on Human Rights following a request from the Haitian Government, is a welcomed development that will strengthen human rights monitoring and protection mechanisms.

Monsieur le Président,

14. Je condamne fermement les incidents répandus de violence sexuelle commis par des gangs armés. Ces incidents sont gravement sous-déclarés par rapport à d'autres types de violence en raison de la peur des représailles, de la stigmatisation par les familles et les communautés et de la disponibilité limitée des services de santé et psychosociaux, entre autres facteurs. Il est essentiel que ces crimes ne restent pas impunis et que les auteurs de violences sexuelles soient traduits en justice.

15. Près de la moitié de la population –c'est-à-dire 5,2 millions de personnes – a besoin d'aide humanitaire. Le nombre de déplacements internes a augmenté de 50 pour cent dans la commune de Port-au-Prince par rapport à novembre 2022. Quelque 39000 cas suspects de choléra ont été signalés depuis la réapparition de l'épidémie en octobre dernier. Les Nations Unies et ses partenaires humanitaires restent sur le terrain et fournissent des services essentiels. Entre mars et avril, au moins 22 missions d'urgence ont été menées dans des zones contrôlées par des gangs à Port-au-Prince.

16. To conclude, I would like to emphasize the urgent need for the deployment, authorized by the Security Council, of an international specialized force, as articulated by the Secretary-General in his letter dated 8 October 2022.We need to find innovative ways to define the force to support the Haitian National Police. Haiti requires immediate assistance to counter increasing armed gang violence and to develop its police. The rapidly deteriorating security situation demands that the country remains at the centre of international attention and action. Further delay in addressing the unprecedented insecurity in Haiti could also lead to a spill-over of insecurity in the region. The decisive support of the Security Council remains crucial in ensuring security, rule of law, stability, and peace in Haiti.

Mr. President, Members of the Council,

Time is of the essence, and the Haitian people deserve your urgent action. If not supported, the vicious circle of violence, political, social, and economic crisis, in which the people struggle every day, will continue to turn. Breaking this daunting circle must not be delayed. The Haitian people cannot wait. We need to act now.

Thank you for your attention.