(Port-au-Prince) More than a dozen suspected gang members were stoned and burned alive on Monday by residents of a neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, according to police and witnesses, the UN alarmed that same day by an insecurity worthy of an “armed conflict”.
This new bout of deadly violence occurred when the police had just arrested these armed men, in a context of high tension in the Haitian capital.
“During a search of a minibus carrying armed individuals, the police confiscated weapons and other materials. In addition, more than a dozen individuals traveling in this vehicle were unfortunately lynched by members of the population,” said the Haitian National Police in a statement.
Police in Haiti did not specify the exact number of victims. She did not detail either under what conditions she had lost custody of these suspects, who were then murdered by the inhabitants of this district called Canapé-Vert.
But the violence had started before dawn, when gang members burst into several residential areas of the capital, looting homes and attacking residents, according to witnesses.
“It was the sounds of projectiles that woke us up this morning. It was 3 a.m., the gangs invaded us. There were shots, shots,” said a resident of the adjoining district of Turgeau.
“If the gangs come to invade us, we will defend ourselves, we too have our own weapons, we have our machetes, we will take their weapons, we will not flee,” added another resident, very tense. “Mothers who want to protect their children can send them elsewhere,” he added.
In fact, dozens of families left these neighborhoods caught in the spiral of violence on Monday, AFP journalists noted. Men, women, children fled the scene on foot, carrying some personal effects in bags or bundles.
At least three other suspected gang members were killed and then burned midday, according to photos and videos that have been shared online.
“The people of Haiti remain in the grip of one of the worst human rights crises in decades and a major humanitarian emergency,” Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ report describes.
“Due to the high number of deaths and the growing area of areas controlled by armed gangs, insecurity in the capital has reached levels comparable to those in countries in situations of armed conflict”, he adds.
Between January 1 and March 31, the number of reported homicides in the country increased by 21% compared to the previous quarter (815 against 673), and the number of kidnappings by 63% (637 against 391).
The armed gangs “continue to compete for control of territory in the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince, and extend to neighborhoods hitherto spared”, also notes the report, describing clashes “more violent and more frequent between gangs, and between police and gangs.
As a result, “the situation of people living in areas controlled by armed gangs remains quite appalling” and “in areas recently targeted by gangs, the situation is deteriorating drastically.”
According to the statement, between April 14 and 19, clashes between rival gangs left nearly 70 people dead, including 18 women and at least two minors.
In this context, the UN Secretary General repeats in the report that “there is an urgent need to deploy a specialized international armed force” in particular to help the police to restore order.
Antonio Guterres had relayed in October a call for help from Prime Minister Ariel Henry, asking the Security Council to send this force. But without result since: while a few countries have indicated that they are ready to participate, none seem to want to take the lead.