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Haiti human rights group warns kidnappings and killings are on the rise after brief respite | AP News

Haiti human rights group warns kidnappings and killings are on the rise after brief respite | AP News

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — A leading human rights group in Haiti warned about an upsurge in killings and kidnappings as the U.N. Security Council prepared to meet Friday about the country’s worsening violence.

The National Human Rights Defense Network also condemned what it called the government’s inaction in a report dated Thursday.

It noted that from May 1 to July 12, at least 75 people were killed and another 40 abducted. Among those killed are an attorney, a schoolboy, two morticians and at least six police officers. Those kidnapped include a female journalist from Radio Vision 2000 who was later released. Her husband, the former president of Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council, is still being held by gang members since his abduction in mid-June.

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U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is calling for a robust international force to help combat Haiti’s armed gangs and restore security in the impoverished Caribbean nation.

An ombudsman office in Haiti has denounced what it called the “unacceptable slowness” of the investigation into the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse nearly two years after he was killed.

U.S. State Secretary Antony Blinken says a multinational force is needed to help Haiti’s National Police as he echoed recent appeals made by United Nations officials who warn that the country’s insecurity is worsening.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres is again calling on foreign governments with strong security forces to help Haiti fight a surge in gang violence.

Gangs also are accused of breaking into a hospital in the community of Canaan in northern Port-au-Prince, stealing medical supplies and abducting at least six security guards. In addition, armed criminals last month set fire to the building that housed the Jamaican consulate in Haiti.

The violence recently forced Doctors Without Borders to suspend treatment at one of their hospitals in Port-au-Prince after the group said some 20 armed men burst into an operating room and abducted a patient.

Earlier this year, the human rights group said that kidnappings and killings had diminished amid a violent uprising targeting suspected gang members, but noted that gangs have since resumed their attacks.

The group urged authorities to dismantle all armed gangs and restore order and security.

Haiti’s National Police is under-funded, under resourced and largely overpowered by gangs who have grown more powerful since the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and are now estimated to control up to 80% of Port-au-Prince. The department has only some 9,000 active duty officers for a country of more than 11 million people.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has insisted on an international force to help Haiti’s National Police, with one U.N. expert estimating that Haiti needs up to 2,000 additional anti-gang police officers.

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry requested the urgent deployment of such a force in October, but the U.N. Security Council so far has opted to impose sanctions on gang members and others.