SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — A human rights group urged the international community on Monday to intervene quickly to end spiraling violence by gangs in Haiti as it detailed the brutal rapes and killings committed in the troubled nation’s capital.
The call by Human Rights Watch comes as Haiti awaits a response from the U.N. Security Council to its request in October for the immediate deployment of an international armed force to fight the surge in violence.
“The longer that we wait and don’t have this response, we’re going to see more Haitians being killed, raped and kidnapped, and more people suffering without enough to eat,” said Ida Sawyer, the group’s crisis and conflict director, who visited Haiti to compile a report on the violence.
The United States said earlier this month that it would introduce a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing Kenya to lead a multinational police force to fight gangs in Haiti. However, no timetable for such a resolution was given.
“The main message we want to get across is that Haitian people need support now,” Sawyer said. “We heard again and again that the situation is worse now in Haiti than it’s been at any time people can remember.”
Gangs have overpowered police, with experts estimating they now control some 80% of the capital, Port-au-Prince. There are only about 10,000 police officers for the country’s more than 11 million people. More than 30 officers were killed from January to June, and more than 400 police facilities are inoperative because of criminal attacks, according to Human Rights Watch.
In addition to the ongoing violence, an estimated 5.2 million Haitians are in need of humanitarian assistance, a 20% increase from last year.
Sawyer also called for strict oversight of Kenyan police if they are deployed.
In Port-au-Prince on Monday, several thousand protesters marched to decry the rise in violence and demand government action. Police later fired tear gas to disperse the crowd. There were no immediate reports of any injuries.
Among those planning to march was Cassandre Petit, a 35-year-old mother who owns a small convenience store.
“You don’t know when you’re going to get robbed or shot for bubble gum money that you made that day,” she said and accused the government of making empty promises to improve people’s lives.
She added that she rarely sees police patrolling the streets and hopes an international police force will arrive soon so “I’ll be able to breathe for a little while.”
Human Rights Watch also urged the U.S., Canada, France and other governments to support the creation of a transitional government, with Ariel Henry holding power since the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.