A new report by Harvard Law School and a Haitian crime observatory alleges that state officials and police assisted in gang attacks that left hundreds of people dead, showing how the government has helped to unleash criminal violence on poor neighborhoods.
The researchers lay out how the government of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse allegedly took part in state-sponsored massacres by providing gangs with money, weapons, police uniforms, and government vehicles. These were used in three prolonged attacks on neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince between 2018 and 2020, according to the report published by Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic and the Haitian Observatory of Crimes Against Humanity (Observatoire Haïtien des Crimes contre l’humanité - OHCCH).
Former government officials also planned the attacks and off-duty police officers helped carry them out, according to the report's authors.
The most high-profile of the attacks occurred between May and July 2020, when gangs stormed the commune of Cité Soleil, killing at least 145 people. The gangs involved in the attack were all allegedly part of the “G9 an Fanmi,” (G9 and Family), an alliance brokered among at least nine gangs in Port-au-Prince. The gang federation is led by Jimmy Chérizier, alias "Barbecue," a former police officer who has a history of involvement in extrajudicial killings.
Two armored vehicles belonging to the National Police "passed through an area under G9 attack and shot at passersby in the direction of homes," killing at least five civilians in early July of last year, the report stated.
In November 2019, Chérizier and members of four gangs -- Delmas 6, Base Nan Chabon, Krache Dife and the St Martin Street Gang -- set houses ablaze and killed at least 24 people in a four-day attack across the Bel-Air neighborhood. Undercover police officers attacked civilians alongside gang members in the Bel-Air attacks, according to the report.
A year earlier, seven armed gangs overseen by Chérizier carried out a massacre in the capital’s La Saline slum, killing at least 71 people. At the time, Chérizier was still a police officer himself, while leading the Delmas 6 gang. He already had a reputation for violence, having been linked to a massacre in the Grand Ravine neighborhood in 2017, the report confirmed.
Witnesses reported that former government official, Joseph Pierre Richard Duplan, had been present during the attack in La Saline, talking to Chérizier and other gang leaders, according to the report. At the time, Duplan was the West department's "delegate," one of ten government representatives appointed by President Moïse across the country. Duplan remained in office for another year after the attack.
Chérizier - who appears to have played a "central role" in orchestrating and executing each of the attacks - operates with the assistance of police officers, who "facilitate his travel and ensure his safety, including during the course of criminal activities," according to the report, citing a Haitian human rights organization, the National Network for the Defence of Human Rights (Réseau National de Défense des Droits de l’Homme - RNDDH).
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The report's findings that the killings were orchestrated by state officials underscores how the government's desire to repress political dissent has bred longstanding ties among police, state officials and criminal leaders in Haiti.
The coordinated attacks have benefited both state officials and gang leaders. Officials have been able to clamp down on the opposition, while the gangs expanded territorial control. The gangs also gained strength from the use of state resources and backdoor payments from officials.
As InSight Crime reported last year, several human rights groups have alleged that the G9 alliance has benefited from President Moïse's protection.
Anti-government protests and subsequent backdoor negotiations between officials and gang leaders preceded both the La Saline and Bel-Air attacks.
Duplan and Fednel Monchéry, former director-general of Haiti's interior ministry, allegedly "supplied Chérizier and his gang with weapons, police uniforms, and government vehicles" to use in the La Saline attack, according to the report, citing witnesses. Perpetrators of the attack later used automatic weapons and machetes to target residents of the slum.
According to the report, the United Nations warned that a lack of accountability contributed to an increase in gang attacks throughout 2020, including the attacks on Cité Soleil, where police resources were reportedly used on multiple occasions.
Such government support, however, has led the gangs to grow to the point where they can no longer be reined in, allowing criminality to explode.