UN chief calls for robust international police force to help fight Haiti’s armed gangs

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday called for a robust international force to help fight Haiti’s armed gangs and restore security to the impoverished nation, saying an expert of the UN estimates that Haiti needs up to 2,000 additional anti-gang police. officers is no exaggeration.

Stressing that the UN is not calling for a military force or a political mission, António Guterres called on members of the UN Security Council and potential contributing countries “to act now” to deploy a multinational force to help the Haitian National Police to “defeat and dismantle the gangs”. “

The Caribbean nation has been asking for such a force since last October.

The UN chief, who visited Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince on Saturday, told reporters that criminal gangs had a “stranglehold” on the population. “The Haitian people are trapped in a living nightmare. The humanitarian conditions are beyond appalling,” he said.

Guterres spoke ahead of a Security Council meeting later Thursday on his report on Haiti and after Wednesday’s press conference by the UN Independent Expert for Haiti, William O’Neill, who concluded a trip 10 days in the country last week.

O’Neill estimated that Haiti needs 1,000 to 2,000 international police with expertise in organized crime gangs and their financing, as well as kidnappings and urban operations. He stressed that the quality of officers is more important than quantity.

O’Neill, an American lawyer who has worked on Haiti for more than 30 years and helped establish the Haitian National Police in 1995, told reporters, “I have never seen the situation as bad as it is. NOW.

Secretary General Guterres, when asked about O’Neill’s estimate, said the exact number of an international force needs to be assessed but that it should be “a significant number” and that he believes the numbers of the UN expert “do not reflect any exaggeration”. “He added that the police also needed funding, training and equipment.

António Guterres called for simultaneous action on three fronts: restoring security, working towards a political solution that restores democratic institutions and responding to urgent humanitarian needs. He called on donors to respond quickly to the UN’s appeal for $720 million to help more than three million people, which is only 23% funded.

The UN chief said these three steps are essential to breaking Haiti’s cycle of suffering and creating a pathway out of the current crisis.

The gangs have grown in power since the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and are now estimated to control up to 80% of the capital. The upsurge in murders, rapes and kidnappings has led to a violent uprising by civilian vigilantes who have killed nearly 200 people since April in their fight against suspected gang members.

O’Neill said he met with senior Haitian National Police officials, including the inspector general, and they told him they were committed to seriously reviewing the integrity and competence of all officers and to seek evidence of misconduct, abuse of authority, criminal activity or collusion. with the gangs.

He said the inspector general told him that 80 officers had been suspended and were being investigated for misconduct or criminal activity, and that police involvement in a vigilante justice movement called “bwa kale” was also under investigation.

O’Neill said he plans to meet with council members and other countries active in Haiti over the coming week to discuss his visit and his recommendations, including an immediate arms embargo as well as the deployment of international police experts.

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