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UN urges intervention force in Haiti as vigilantism surges

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The United Nations (UN) has called for the deployment of an intervention force to stabilize Haiti, citing a rise in extrajudicial killings of suspected gang members as evidence of the nation’s deteriorating security situation.

Haiti, already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, is grappling with a compounding series of crises, including humanitarian, political, and security challenges. Gangs have gained control over much of the capital, perpetuating a climate of fear through frequent kidnappings, rape, and murder.

Both UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry have been advocating for an international force to assist in suppressing the escalating violence. However, despite their appeals, no country has yet come forward to lead the operation, resulting in a lack of progress.

Highlighting the absence of an adequate security apparatus to combat rampant gang activities, UN Haiti envoy Maria Isabel Salvador informed the Security Council on Thursday that the UN office in Haiti, known as BINUH, has documented at least 264 alleged gang members killed by vigilante groups. She emphasized that this trend further complicates the already challenging security situation in the country.

One particularly gruesome incident took place in April when a group of civilians captured several gang members from police custody, brutally beat them to death, and burned their bodies in the street. Weeks later, Haiti’s Minister for External Cooperation, Ricard Pierre, warned of a high risk of “civil war” unless foreign intervention was forthcoming.

During his visit to Port-au-Prince before attending the CARICOM summit, where Haiti was a prominent topic, Guterres reiterated his plea for an international force. He described the Haitian population as “trapped in a living nightmare” and clarified that the UN was not advocating for a military or political mission but a robust security force deployed by Member States working in collaboration with the Haitian National Police to dismantle the gangs and restore security nationwide.

When questioned about the required size of the force, Guterres stated that it would need to be “robust” and consist of a “meaningful number of officers,” implying that estimates of 1,000 to 2,000 personnel were not exaggerated.

Since 2016, Haiti has not held any elections, and Prime Minister Henry, appointed just days before the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July 2021, faces legitimacy concerns. Guterres acknowledged that achieving lasting and inclusive political solutions necessitated a drastic improvement in the security situation.

While some countries express support for the idea of an international force, no nation has volunteered to lead such an operation due to previous failed foreign interventions in Haiti. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who met with Haiti’s prime minister during the CARICOM summit, confirmed that the United States was actively engaging with countries in the region and beyond to identify a leader for the intervention force.

Haitian Foreign Minister Jean Victor Geneus reaffirmed the country’s request for robust international assistance to support the efforts of the national police. He also expressed openness to considering various options proposed by the Security Council.

China, as a veto-holding permanent member of the Security Council, has long advocated for a comprehensive arms embargo on Haiti. China’s UN ambassador, Jun Zhang, reiterated this call, warning that if the flow of weapons to Haitian gangs continued unchecked, providing further support to the Haitian police would be futile.

Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness, addressing the Security Council as CARICOM’s representative on Haiti, emphasized that expressions of solidarity were meaningless without urgent action to help Haiti achieve the peace, stability, and prosperity it deserves.

In addition to the escalating violence, nearly half of Haiti’s population, approximately 5.2 million people, are in dire need of humanitarian assistance, including approximately three million children.

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