UN to vote on choking off small arms from gangs in Haiti

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council scheduled a vote Friday on a resolution that calls on all countries to stop the transfer of small arms, light weapons and ammunition to any party supporting gang violence and criminal activity in Haiti, which has seen an upsurge in bloodshed and kidnappings.

The draft by the United States and Mexico does not authorize an arms embargo as China sought. Other council members said an embargo would...

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council scheduled a vote Friday on a resolution that calls on all countries to stop the transfer of small arms, light weapons and ammunition to any party supporting gang violence and criminal activity in Haiti, which has seen an upsurge in bloodshed and kidnappings.

The draft by the United States and Mexico does not authorize an arms embargo as China sought. Other council members said an embargo would be unenforceable.

It does demand an immediate cessation of gang violence and criminal activities, as China wanted. It would also express the council’s readiness to impose sanctions that could include travel bans and assets freezes “as necessary” on individuals engaged in or supporting gang violence, criminal activity or human rights violations in Haiti within 90 days of the resolution’s adoption. That language is weaker than China’s proposal which called for action within 30 days.

The back and forth came in negotiations over a resolution to extend the mandate for the U.N. political mission in Haiti. The council’s previous authorization for the mission expires Friday.

The U.S.-Mexico draft calls for the extension of the mission, known as BINUH, until July 15, 2023. China wanted an extension until Oct. 15, 2023.

The draft put in final form late Thursday makes no mention of China’s call for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to discuss with various parties possibly establishing “a multinational police unit” to help Haitian police tackle gang violence. Instead, the U.S.-Mexico draft would ask Guterres to consult with Haiti’s government, “relevant countries” and regional organizations on “possible options for enhanced security support … to combat high levels of gang violence” and to submit a report by Oct. 15.

The original U.S.-Mexico draft called for beefing up the U.N. mission to include up to 42 police and corrections department advisers, led by a U.N. police commissioner, and staff to ensure that sexual and gender-based violence are addressed, and that remains in the final text.

When the current resolution extending the U.N. mission was adopted in October, Haiti had been contending with the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse last July, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake that killed over 2,200 people in August, and escalating gang-related killings, kidnappings and turf wars.

A year after Moïse’s assassination, gang violence is even worse, and Haiti has gone into a freefall that has seen the economy tumble and many Haitians flee the country to escape the turmoil. At the same time, attempts to form a coalition government have faltered, and efforts to hold general elections have stalled.

This week, officials in Haiti’s capital reported that dozens of people had died as a result of days of fighting between rival gangs in the violent Cite Soleil neighborhood. Doctors Without Borders said thousands of people were trapped in the district without drinking water, food and medical care.

The resolution to be voted on expresses “grave concern about the extremely high levels of gang violence and other criminal activities, including kidnappings and homicides, and sexual and gender-based violence, as well as ongoing impunity for perpetrators, and the implications of Haiti’s situation in the region.”

It notes “with deep concern the protracted and deteriorating political, economic, security, human rights and food security crisis in Haiti.”

The draft urges the government to strengthen the rule of law, tackle social and economic problems, initiate violence reduction programs, singling out the need to target sexual violence and manage weapons and ammunition. It also calls for the illicit trafficking and diversion of arms and illicit financial flows to be urgently addressed.

With the end of the mandate for the U.N. political mission looming, the 15 council members wrangled this week over wording for the new resolution needed to extend the mission. The U.S. and Mexico drew up the original proposal, and China offered revisions Thursday supported by its ally Russia.

A spokesperson for China’s U.N. Mission reiterated Friday that as the Security Council negotiates gang violence escalates and an embargo on weapons for criminal gangs is “the minimum” that the council should do in response to the appalling situation in Haiti.

“Anything falls short of that will not only disappoint the Haitian people, but also means a lost opportunity for the Security Council,” said the spokesperson, who commented only on condition of anonymity.

A spokesman for Russia’s U.N. Mission said that “taking into account the situation in Haiti, we believe we need to have an opportunity to make changes to the mandate of the mission.”

The United Nations has been involved in Haiti on and off since 1990, and the last U.N. peacekeeping mission was in the country from 2004 until October 2017. The political mission now there advises Haiti’s government on “promoting and strengthening political stability and good governance,” including the implementing the rule of law, inclusive national dialogue and protecting and protection of human rights.

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