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United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk. (CMC image)

Human rights official says Haiti is enduring ‘conditions of nightmarish violence’

March 7, 2023

CMC – The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, Tuesday, said the people of the French-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country of Haiti are enduring “conditions of nightmarish violence”.

In his Global Update to the UN Human Rights Council, Türk, said heavily armed gangs control services and access in large sections of the capital and the country “perpetrating frequent killings, abductions, random sniper attacks and a horrifying level of sexual violence.

“The situation calls for a combination of responses: turbo-charging the political process towards free and transparent elections; fully implementing the arms embargo; effective sanctions against those who sponsor and direct armed gangs; and international support to build up the capacity of Haiti’s police and judicial systems to fight pervasive impunity and corruption,” he told the Council.

Turk, who had visited Haiti earlier this year,  said there was also the need for the deployment of “a time-bound specialized support force, with human rights safeguards.

“We must keep Haiti in our focus, including in support to my Office’s work on the ground,” he told the Council.

Over the last weekend, Caribbean Community (CARICOM) governments reiterated their resolve to continue efforts to encourage dialogue among Haitian stakeholders and to support efforts at finding solutions to the multi-dimensional crisis facing Haiti.

A statement issued by the Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat noted that regional leaders with responsibility for Haiti met on Sunday, under the chairmanship of Bahamas Prime Minister Philip Davis, who is also the CARICOM chairman, to receive the report  from Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who led a CARICOM Special Mission to Haiti on February 27.

It said that the mission met with a broad range of Haitian stakeholders to hear their views on the way forward to a Haitian-led solution and demonstrate CARICOM solidarity with Haiti.

“The Leaders agreed that there must be a follow-up meeting with the stakeholders to chart a path to consensus building in order to bring peace and stability to the country,” the statement said.

In his address to the Council, Turk spoke of the situation in several countries, saying he is aware that discussions of complex human rights issues may be difficult or sensitive, for some.

“Others may feel they are best whispered behind closed doors. Yet, we need to regain the space where we can discuss them in a constructive and open spirit, undisturbed by the tug of geopolitics and bearing in mind that nobody is perfect.

“In the spur of the moment you may not like what you hear but over time you may appreciate what we had to say. My only consideration, and in fact my duty, is to stay true to the mandate, the normative human rights framework and the imperative of improving people’s lives.”

Tirk said contempt for the human being reaches agonizing levels when war breaks out, and violence becomes a daily occurrence.

“One quarter of humanity is living today in places affected by conflict, and it is civilians who suffer the most. Peace is precious and it is fragile – and we must nurture it. First and foremost, by respecting the Charter of the United Nations and international law, including international human rights law.”

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