International support force needed in Haiti, says UN human rights commissioner

The UN's top human rights official says some sort of support force is needed to help stabilize the situation in Haiti.

Volker Türk says the situation in Haiti is ‘absolutely horrific’

A man speaks at a microphone, with a map of the world behind him.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk talks to the media during a press conference at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, on Dec. 9, 2022. Türk says some sort of support force is needed in Haiti. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/The Associated Press)

The UN high commissioner for human rights says an international support force is needed in Haiti to help end the gang violence and restore order to the country.

"I firmly believe that it is important to support the national police, but it can only be done through an international support force of sorts that is time bound … that gives the intelligence, that provides the type of support that the national police needs," Volker Türk said in an interview airing Sunday on Rosemary Barton Live.

U.S. President Joe Biden said Friday that deploying a military force to Haiti is "not in play at the moment."

But it's also not "off the table," he said during his trip to Ottawa.

WATCH | Top UN human rights official on situation in Haiti:

UN human rights commissioner calls situation in Haiti 'absolutely horrific'

6 months ago
Duration 8:12
Rosemary Barton Live speaks with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk about his calls for an international support force to help end the violent situation in Haiti. Canada has committed $100 million in aid to Haiti's police force.

The Canadian government has announced it will provide $100 million in aid to the Haitian National Police to help the country restore law and order.

"Canada will keep Haiti in the heart of the solution for resolving this crisis ... We are determined to increase international support for Haiti, including through humanitarian assistance," Trudeau said during a press conference by the two leaders Friday.

Türk told CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton he has spoken to the Haitian police about the help they need. 

"I've been able to talk to the chiefs, many of them who are actually wanting to do something about it. But they need better equipment, they need the training, they need the support from the international community to be able to do their jobs."

MSF hospital temporarily closes

Türk visited Haiti back in February of this year and witnessed the violence first hand. He described it as an "absolutely horrific" situation. 

"There are snipers, people shooting at children, there is sexual violence, there are killings, kidnappings and unfortunately ever since I left, the situation has only become worse," he said. 

In less than three months, 627 people were killed by gangs and 365 people were kidnapped in Haiti, according to Türk. About half of the country's population is now in need of humanitarian assistance.

Police officers take cover during an anti-gang operation in the Lalue neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, March 3, 2023.
Police officers take cover during an anti-gang operation in the Lalue neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on March 3. (Odelyn Joseph/The Associated Press)

The violence is so bad in Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, that medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières had to temporarily close its hospital in the Cité Soleil neighbourhood.

Benoit Vasseur, MSF's head of mission in Haiti, said he regularly sees dead bodies lying on the streets of Port-au-Prince.

"One of our patients got shot in the back, a 70-year-old man trying to reach our facilities," he said. According to Vasseur, MSF's hospital in the Turgeau suburb of Port-au-Prince saw more than 100 bullet injuries in one week.

When it comes to what the international community can do right now to end the violence, Türk says it's absolutely critical to immediately enforce the arms embargo. 

"There's not one single arm that is produced in Haiti, but there are still arms flowing into the country," he said. 

"I think there's enough information out there where these arms are coming from and who is transporting them. So I think that has to stop."


Sarah Ramsaran is a producer at CBC News based in Toronto.

With files from Rosemary Barton