UN calls for foreign intervention in Haiti as violence surges

‘Specialized support force’ urged for Caribbean state where 530 have been killed in gang-led violence so far this year

The United Nations has called for the deployment of an international “specialized support force” to impede Haiti’s accelerating tumble into extreme violence after more than 530 people were killed in the opening weeks of this year.

“Clashes between gangs are becoming more violent and more frequent,” the spokesperson for the UN human rights office, Marta Hurtado, warned on Tuesday, voicing “grave concern” that the security situation was spiraling out of control.

The UN agency said that already this year its staff had counted 531 killings, 300 injuries and 277 kidnappings in gang-related incidents, mostly in Haiti’s gang-throttled capital, Port-au-Prince.

At least 208 of those killings and 101 of the kidnappings took place in the first half of this month. “Most of the victims were killed or injured by snipers who were reportedly randomly shooting at people in their homes or on the streets,” Hurtado said.

Haiti’s collapse will reportedly be on the agenda when the US president, Joe Biden, visits Canada this week, with Washington reportedly seeking to persuade Ottawa to spearhead a security intervention aimed at stabilizing the violence-stricken Caribbean nation.

Another country the US has reportedly sought to enlist for such a role is Brazil, which helped lead the 2004-2017 UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti, Minustah. However, speaking to the Guardian at the start of this year, Brazil’s new foreign minister, Mauro Vieira, appeared to rule out the South American country’s participation in a military response to what he admitted was a “massive, worsening crisis” in Haiti.

“I think we need to seek other solutions – I don’t know if sending troops or a peacekeeping operation is the solution,” Vieira said. “And I think other countries could also take part.”

Haiti’s long-running crisis intensified after the 2021 assassination of its president, Jovenel Moïse, at his Port-au-Prince residence. Since then, politically connected gangs have seized control of more than 60% of the capital, Haitian politics has been plunged into a morass of infighting, the resource-starved police force has mutinied, and an already dramatic humanitarian crisis has intensified.

“You cannot imagine. It’s living hell,” the UN’s high commissioner for human rights, Volker Türk, said while visiting Haiti last month. “Twenty thousand people are in catastrophic famine-like situation.”

The catastrophic track record of foreign interventions in Haiti, stemming back to the 19th century, makes many people – in Haiti, and abroad – profoundly wary of yet more international interference.

“You won’t go there for three months or six months,” Gilles Rivard, a former Canadian ambassador to Haiti, told the Washington Post this week. “You will go there for at least a couple of years.”

Yet the scale of the current disaster means prominent members of the international community have backed such a deployment, originally request by Haiti’s embattled prime minister, Ariel Henry, last October.

Last year the UN secretary general, António Guterres, called for a “rapid action force” to help police tackle the gangs. On Tuesday, the UN human rights office urged the world to consider what it called “a time-bound specialized support force”.


Tom Phillips Latin America correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
UN makes first public admission of blame for Haiti cholera outbreak
Human rights group hail statement by international body about ‘its own involvement’ in crisis which experts say still has not received proper attention

Ed Pilkington in New York

18, Aug, 2016 @6:00 PM

Article image
Leaked UN report faults sanitation at Haiti bases at time of cholera outbreak
The UN denies its peacekeepers caused the epidemic that killed thousands but a 2010 report details sewage being dumped in the open and a lack of toilets

Joe Sandler Clarke and Ed Pilkington in New York

05, Apr, 2016 @10:00 AM

Article image
Haiti prosecutor calls for prime minister to be charged over president’s killing
Ariel Henry, 71-year-old neurosurgeon, became country’s leader in July, two weeks after assassination of Jovenel Moïse

Tom Phillips Latin America correspondent

14, Sep, 2021 @6:16 PM

Article image
Brazil announces troop pullout of Haiti

Defence minister says partial withdrawal will begin next March as UN cuts stabilisation force accused of outstaying welcome

Tom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro

30, Sep, 2011 @5:36 PM

Article image
Haiti earthquake: aid agencies fear child trafficking
Unicef warns people to avoid adopting Haiti orphans for fear of encouraging child trafficking

Esther Addley

22, Jan, 2010 @6:56 PM

Article image
Haitians urge judges to find UN culpable for cholera outbreak that killed thousands
UN peacekeepers introduced disease in wake of 2010 earthquake and supreme court considers whether to take up Laventure v UN

Ed Pilkington in New York

01, Oct, 2019 @7:00 AM

Article image
Haiti security forces arrest six alleged gunmen after president’s assassination
Seven reportedly killed as angry civilians seize suspects following a brazen killing surrounded by claims of foreign involvement

Tom Phillips, Peter Beaumont and Jean Daniel Delone in Port-au-Prince

08, Jul, 2021 @7:53 PM

Article image
Tropical Storm Grace’s heavy rains pour misery on Haiti earthquake survivors
Flash flood and landslides complicate relief efforts as power remains out with 50mm of rain an hour falling

Joe Parkin Daniels

17, Aug, 2021 @9:26 PM

Article image
Haiti faces fresh cholera outbreak after Hurricane Matthew, aid agencies fear
At least 200 suspected cases of the waterborne disease have been reported and an urgent response is called for with thousands lacking access to clean water

Amanda Holpuch in New York

14, Oct, 2016 @10:00 AM

Article image
'It was like a monster': Hurricane Matthew leaves Haiti in crisis
With bridges down and communications patchy, the scale of devastation wreaked by the storm is just beginning to emerge

Sam Jones

07, Oct, 2016 @4:40 PM