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Latin America & Caribbean

HRC55: Expert on Haiti highlights rise of violence, need to address root causes of instability

At the 55th session of the Human Rights Council, the High Commissioner for Human Rights held an interactive dialogue on the situation of Haiti with the participation of the Designated Expert, William O’Neil.

During the debate, William O’Neil presented his report, which summarised the situation of insecurity in the country, created not only by gang violence, but also by long-standing root causes.

According to O’Neil’s report, 5.5 million people in Haiti were dependent on humanitarian aid and between 1 January and 20 March 2024 alone, and at least 1,436 people lost their lives. The report also emphasised the increased risk of sexual violence for women and girls and the food insecurity threatening 44 percent of the population, while also acknowledging that all these problems have been exacerbated by the closure of the border with the Dominican Republic.

With only some exceptions, State representatives that took the floor expressed their support for the Multinational Security Support (MSS) mission in Haiti. According to O’Neil, the mission should be not understood as an occupation, stating that the MSS should not be seen as ‘MINUSCA or other UN missions 2.0’, but rather as support for what the Haitian government is already doing.

O’Neil also stressed the importance of listening to Haitian civil society: ‘I would urge all of us […] to look to Haitian civil society organisations for guidance, for what they want, what they need, how can we help them and how we can be supporting them,’ the Designated Expert said.

Many countries echoed this sentiment, expressing the need to defend Haitian sovereignty, as well as the importance of the current Haitian crisis being resolved by Haitian citizens.

During his closing remarks, the Expert urged States to fund the humanitarian appeal recently launched by OHCHR, which has currently only reached 7 percent of its stated objective. Among the conclusions and recommendations in the Experts’ report is the need to engage in constructive, meaningful and participatory dialogue to reach a political agreement that will allow for a democratic transition, with free and fair legislative and presidential elections, in accordance with international law.  

For his part, the High Commissioner said that ‘this could and should be a turning point for Haiti, a country with a remarkable history in its struggle against slavery’.

Aligned with this statement, ISHR, together with the civil society organisation MOSCTHA, delivered a joint statement calling on the international community to implement an intensive development plan to strengthen Haitian social and political organisations, so that together Haitians can work towards a new Haitian State.

Watch the video and find the written statement below:

Read the full statement:

The violence in Haiti has created great challenges for the population, affecting the right to free transit and creating an internal humanitarian and human rights crisis. This has affected the distribution of food to the Haitian people, worsening physical and sexual violence against women and girls.

For over a year we have had access to our office in Haiti. Preventing us from responding to the needs related to health, education and community orientation.

Internal displacement is estimated at more than 1 million people. The political and social crisis in Haiti affects those who have migrated to different countries in the Americas and who face other types of violence. We know that every country must determine who does and does not accept in its territory, however, carrying out deportation in the midst of this crisis is not only an act of absolute cruelty but also a violation of the principle of non-refoulement.  

In the case of the Dominican Republic, the government violates the human rights of the Haitian immigrants who have been living in the territory for decades, not allowing the renewal of immigration documents and carrying out indiscriminate immigration raids, mistreating dark-skinned Dominicans, mainly those who do not have documentation.

To solve this crisis, the Human Rights Council should implement an intensive development plan and strengthen Haitian social and political organisations, so that they can work together for a new Haitian State.

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