By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - Recent improvements in Haiti's humanitarian situation are in jeopardy unless the Security Council approves of the deployment of an international force, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' envoy for Haiti warned Tuesday.
Helen La Lime told the council that as Haiti marks the 13th anniversary of an earthquake that ravaged the capital and killed hundreds of thousands, the island nation is facing gang-related violence that has not been seen in decades. Kidnappings doubled last year from levels seen in 2021, and murders increased for a fourth consecutive year, increasing by a third since 2021.
"The violence is part of well-defined strategies designed to subjugate populations, and expand territorial control," she said, warning that gangs have been using rape as a weapon of war and have intentionally blocked deliveries of food and water to spread fear in local communities.
La Lime hailed the council's unanimous decision to implement sanctions on Haiti's criminal organizations in October, as well as bilateral sanctions adopted by individual nation states, saying the actions "are creating space for additional political dialogue and necessary reforms."
The envoy said those efforts are being bolstered by actions within Haiti to improve the judiciary, including by reducing reliance on what is known as pre-trial detention, and the vetting of judges, and by the signing of a national consensus by political, religious, union and business leaders.
La Lime stressed that the agreement is "by no means a done deal," emphasizing that the Haitian government's call for an international force's deployment in October needs to be approved by the council.
"The reality is that without this international deployment, operating in an integrated way with the HNP, the very positive effects of the political process and the sanctions so far will remain fragile and vulnerable to being reversed," she said, referring to Haiti's national police force.
"Haitians overwhelmingly want this assistance so they can go about their daily lives in peace. The population is living in fear and are all too conscious of the limitations of their police force. In this month of remembrance, the people of Haiti whose suffering never, ever ends are counting on you," she added.