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UN, US slap sanctions on four Haiti gang leaders

Published 12/08/2023, 07:07 PM
Updated 12/08/2023, 07:50 PM
© Reuters. Former police officer Jimmy "Barbecue" Cherizier (not pictured), leader of the 'G9' coalition, is accompanied by Security during a march against Haiti's Prime Minister Ariel Henry, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti September 19, 2023. REUTERS/Ralph Tedy Erol/File

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) -The United Nations Security Council on Friday said it had approved the addition of four suspected Haitian gang leaders to its sanctions list, a long-awaited addition as the Caribbean nation faces a worsening humanitarian crisis.

The U.N. slapped sanctions on Renel Destina, believed to be the main leader of the Grand Ravine gang; as well as Vitel'homme Innocent, understood to head the Kraze Barye gang; Johnson Andre of 5 Segond; and Wilson Joseph of 400 Mawozo.

The U.S. Treasury Department earlier on Friday announced fresh sanctions against the same four individuals.

Survivors have identified Andre and his gang as directly responsible for 1,035 cases of sexual violence in 2022 alone, the Treasury Department said in a statement.

The Treasury said Destina, a key ally of Andre, was responsible for killings, robberies, rapes, looting and burning down homes, and has also been indicted for kidnapping U.S. citizens in 2021.

Joseph and Innocent are both indicted for roles in the kidnapping of U.S. citizens in October last year, it added.

"Criminal gangs now reportedly control approximately 80% of (Haiti's capital) Port-au-Prince," the Treasury said in a statement. "Kidnapping, rape, robbery, murder and sexual violence are daily threats for Haitians, including children."

Rights groups have meanwhile called for sanctions to target those funding the gangs and for a clampdown on arms trafficking, believed to come largely from small-scale traffickers shipping guns and ammunition from Florida.

The conflict has displaced tens of thousands and spread to farmlands north of the capital, further threatening food supplies in a country where the U.N. estimated close to half of the population is going hungry.

© Reuters. Former police officer Jimmy

The U.N. sanctions announcement comes as it calls on countries to volunteer troops for a multinational security mission to help national police fight the gangs which have expanded their control over much of the Haitian territory.

Previously, the international body had only sanctioned one Haitian: Jimmy Cherizier, a former police officer and leader of the G9 Alliance, which competes with the G-Pep alliance for control over swathes of Port-au-Prince.

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