I am extremely concerned for the security of human rights defenders in the Haiti. A climate of complete insecurity is pervading the country and reports I have received indicate risks for local human rights defenders (HRDs) have increased.
In July 2021, I held hearings with Haitian human rights defenders to hear about the climate for their work promoting and protecting human rights. At the time, many said that simply identifying as human rights defenders put a target on their back, and the participants underlined the rampant impunity around gang activity.
Since then, the situation appears to have deteriorated severely, with the current levels of violence impeding HRDs from pursuing their work.
One defender has told me how they try to stay indoors as much as possible, forcing them to carry out meetings over the phone despite poor connections, in particular in rural areas. They explained how they fear the threats they received in the past may be acted upon now, with no rule of law to prevent impunity or deter potential attackers.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has described the current context as “the worst human rights and humanitarian situation in decades” and called for “urgent and sustained action” to tackle the crisis and its root causes. The Head of the World Food Programme has warned of the risk of famine.
If a deterioration of the situation is to be avoided, the Haitian authorities and international community must do all they can to support local human rights defenders. In the long-term, it is they who will be key to ending the inequality and injustice that has become the norm in the country.