Gangs are terrorising communities in Haiti: UN Chief

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The United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres says Haitians are trapped in a living nightmare with predatory gangs using kidnapping and sexual violence as weapons to terrorise entire communities.

Guterres was speaking in New York, after visiting the island nation over the weekend.

He again called on the international community to stem the violence and instability in Haiti and urged them not to forget Haiti.

“The Haitian people are trapped in a living nightmare. Humanitarian conditions are beyond appalling. Brutal gangs have a stranglehold on the people of Haiti. Port-au-Prince is encircled by armed groups that are blocking roads, controlling access to food and health care, and undermining humanitarian support. Predatory gangs are using kidnappings and sexual violence as weapons to terrorise entire communities. I have heard appalling accounts of women and girls being gang-raped, and of people being burned alive. The world must act now to stem the violence and instability.”

Guterres called for action in three essential areas, addressing the humanitarian deficit in Haiti, the need to fully fund the $720 million humanitarian response plan which remains only 23% funded, social and political actors to accelerate efforts to towards a sustainable political solution and for Haiti’s security needs to be addressed.

Guterres says the Security Council must act to create the conditions for the deployment of a multinational force to assist the Haitian National Police.

“The Haitian government requested this all the way back in October. And those appeals were echoed by many Haitians I met during my visit. I repeat: We are not calling for a military or political mission of the United Nations. We are calling for a robust security force deployed by Member States to work hand-in-hand with the Haitian National Police to defeat and dismantle the gangs and restore security across the country. The police also need financing, training and equipment. All of this is critical to restoring the authority of the State and the delivery of vital services.”

UN calls on the world to support Haiti:

West Bank

The UN Chief also addressed the situation in the Occupied West Bank after Israeli operations in Jenin left at least 12 Palestinian dead, including five children.

Three UN Special Rapporteurs accused Israeli forces of possible war crimes and egregious violations of international law.

Guterres says he was deeply disturbed with the activities in Jenin..

“I once again call on Israel to abide by its obligations under international law, including the duty to exercise restraint and use only proportional force, and the duty to minimize damage and injury and respect and preserve human life. The use of airstrikes is inconsistent with the conduct of law enforcement operations. I also remind Israel, as the Occupying Power, that it has a responsibility to ensure that the civilian population is protected against all acts of violence. I understand Israel’s legitimate concerns over its security. But escalation is not the answer. It simply bolsters radicalization and leads to a deepening cycle of violence and bloodshed. ”

Israel, lost one soldier in the Jenin operation, views the area as a hotbed of militants and growing weapons arsenals used against it, however, three Special Rapporteurs attached to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, believe the operation constituted the collective punishment of Palestinians, denouncing the “so-called counter-terrorism” operations and find they had no justification under international law.

The Rapporteurs, on the situation of Human Rights in Palestinian Territories, on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons and on Violence against Women and Girls say the killing of Palestinians may prima facie constitute a war crime.