HAITI: Children and Armed Conflict

Summary: The information below is based on the 2011 report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (A/65/820-S/2011/250) issued on 23 April 2011. More information is available in the report.

Since my last annual report, the security environment was marked by the 12 January 2010 earthquake, which displaced over a million people into precarious and internally displaced camps, and two rounds of presidential and legislative elections, on 28 November 2010 and 20 March 2011. More firearms are reportedly circulating, and gangs possess an estimated 17,000 of the 205,000 illegal weapons now in circulation. This poses an increased risk for children, who are recruited as gang members, especially as conventional social structures and protective environment — their schools and families, churches — remain disintegrated as a result of the earthquake. The political turmoil and the volatile security situation have also heightened the risk of opportunistic alliances by armed elements with political or private sector actors for political or criminal purposes. Further, trafficking of children remains a serious concern in Haiti. Many of these children are victims of mistreatment, sexual abuse, forced labour and criminal exploitation.

Although there was a decline in the number of child abductions prior to the earthquake owing to the arrest of armed elements and gang leaders involved in child abduction by the Haitian National Police in close cooperation with the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) (89 cases in 2008; 21 cases in 2009), the numbers increased slightly in 2010, with 27 children (including 13 girls) abducted for ransom or for assault, including by armed elements, predominantly in Port-au-Prince. Abducted girls were exposed to sexual abuse and rape during captivity. Underreporting to the authorities by families owing to fear of repercussions suggests that the total number of abductions may be higher.

According to official figures provided by national law enforcement authorities, 17 boys and 4 girls were killed during armed confrontations among Port-au-Prince gangs in 2010. During the last week of November and the first week of December alone, nine children were reported killed by armed gangs in Martissant as a result of the political unrest related to the first round of elections.

Despite more frequent patrols by the Haitian National Police, rape and other sexual violence against children committed by armed elements continue to be reported, particularly in the internally displaced persons’ camps that have limited or intermittent access to law enforcement services. Several IDP camps were a base for escaped prisoners and gangs’ operations. Sixty per cent of the 284 cases of sexual violence registered during the reporting period by an international NGO in Port-au-Prince were children under the age of 18; and the Haitian National Police recorded 279 cases of rape and sexual violence against women and girls and 1 case of male child rape in Port-au-Prince between January and October 2010. Given that collecting data on sexual violence cases in post-earthquake Haiti has been extremely challenging with no active case registration system in the country, information on the number of cases perpetrated against children in IDP camps was not available at the time of writing.

Children as young as 10 years old are reportedly being used by armed elements in and around Port-au-Prince to courier drugs, warn members when security forces are conducting operations, carry weapons and intervene in armed confrontations, convey messages, act as spies, collect ransom during kidnapping, carry out arson attacks or destroy private and public property. In Martissant, approximately 30 children reportedly belong to one armed gang.

Physical damage to rule-of-law institutions by the earthquake has exacerbated existing challenges, including the lack of adequate detention facilities and the prolonged pre-trial detention of children. Of the 342 children detained across the country in December 2010, 88 per cent were held in pre-trial detention and 14 per cent were girls. Children charged and undergoing a judicial process lacked adequate detention facilities. Nevertheless, the Direction de l’Administration Pénitentiaire has undertaken steps to resolve this issue, within the framework of the development strategic plan for the period 2007-2012.





pdf: http://www.un.org/children/conflict/english



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