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UN: Haiti gangs kill 1,500 in three months

World
 The charred remains of vehicles that were burned near a garage are seen in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on March 25, 2024.[File, VOA]

Gang violence has killed more than 1,500 people in Haiti so far this year, the United Nations said Thursday, as it deplored the continuing stream of weapons pouring into the Caribbean Island nation.

The U.N. described the situation in the chaos-wracked country as "cataclysmic."

"It is shocking that despite the horrific situation on the ground, arms keep still pouring in,” Volker Türk, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said in a statement. “I appeal for a more effective implementation of the arms embargo."

The U.N. said dozens of people have been lynched by so-called self-defense brigades this year. Many of the gang members are convicted criminals, 4,000 of whom have escaped from Haiti’s two biggest prisons.

"All these practices are outrageous and must stop at once," Türk said.

The U.N. said the gang wars have intensified in recent weeks as heavily armed rivals have engaged in new waves of attacks, including raids on police stations and the international airport.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry announced his resignation on March 11. He left Haiti and now is in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, with the gangs preventing his return to Haiti.

A transitional presidential council that will be responsible for selecting a new prime minister issued its first official statement on Wednesday, pledging to restore “public and democratic order” in Haiti.

“We are determined to alleviate the suffering of the Haitian people, trapped for too long between bad governance, multifaceted violence and disregard for their perspectives and needs,” the council said.

The council members said that as soon as they are officially installed, they would help “put Haiti back on the path of democratic legitimacy, stability and dignity.”

The U.N. report documented 4,451 killings last year and 1,554 through March 22 of this year. The U.N. said some of the killings have occurred in residents' homes due to civilians' alleged support for the police or rival gangs, or in densely populated streets due to crossfire or snipers. One victim was a three-month-old baby.

In addition, the U.N. rights office said that with lax security in Haiti, 528 people suspected of links to gangs were lynched by armed brigades last year and 59 more this year.

Some material in this report came from Agence France-Presse, Reuters and The Associated Press.

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