Criminal gangs have been blocking access to the main fuel terminal in the capital Port-au-Prince, bringing critical services to a standstill, as Haiti grapples with a widening cholera epidemic, amid political and economic meltdown.
“Catastrophic” levels of hunger have been recorded this month for the first time, in the gang controlled Cite Soleil neighbourhood, and 4.7 million people are facing acute hunger, with many losing access to jobs, markets, health and nutrition services.
Resolution 2653, drafted by the United States and Mexico, is the first sanctions regime adopted since that of Mali, just over five years ago. It establishes a committee which will be responsible for designating the individuals and entities to be sanctioned.
Enemy of the people
The resolution specifically sanctions notorious gang leader, Jimmy Cherizier, an ex-police officer who is reportedly the most powerful gang boss in the country, known by his alias “Barbeque”.
He heads the so-called “G9 Families and Allies”, and the annex notes that he has engaged in “acts that threaten the peace, security and stability of Haiti”, having planned or directed acts that amount to “serious human rights abuses.”
Asset freeze, travel ban, arms embargo
Sanctions include an assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo, against those engaging in or supporting criminal activity and violence, involving armed groups and criminal networks.
Designated activity includes recruiting children, carrying out kidnappings, trafficking, murder and sexual and gender-based violence.
Crucially, the resolution also designates the obstruction of humanitarian assistance to and inside Haiti, and any attacks on personnel or premises, of UN missions and operations.
Speaking in the Council chamber following the vote, US Ambassador and co-pen holder on Haiti, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said the unanimous vote represented “an important step to help the Haitian people”, and was “truly reflective of Council consensus.”
‘Clear message’ to the gangs
She said the Council was “sending a clear message to the bad actors, that are holding Haiti hostage. The international community will not stand idly by, while you wreak havoc on the Haitian people.”
She said clear measurable and well-defined safeguards were also in place to review the effectiveness of the targeted sanctions, but the challenge now remained of restoring security and alleviating the humanitarian crisis.
Non-UN force in the pipeline
Ms. Thomas-Greenfield reminded that the US-Mexico are working on a resolution which will authorize a “non-UN international security assistance mission” to address security issues to facilitate humanitarian aid. This was not only in response to a request from the Haitian Government, but also an option suggested by the UN Secretary-General, she added.