Over fifty women and girls have come forward with harrowing accounts of rape and beatings at the hands of Haiti’s largest gang federation.
Gangs engaged in a bloody conflict in Cité Soleil, one of the poorest parts of Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince, have been accused of carrying out campaigns of mass rape. Haiti’s top criminal alliances, G9 and Family (G9 an fanmi) and G-PEP, have targeted dozens of women and girls in recent months, according to a new report by Haiti’s National Human Rights Defense Network (Réseau National de Défense des Droits de l’Homme – RNDDH)
The accounts are harrowing. Of the women who spoke with RNDDH, twenty had been raped in the presence of their own children. And in almost all cases, rapes were accompanied by robbery, beatings, humiliation, and violence towards other family members present.
The violence was indiscriminate. RNDDH spoke with shopkeepers assaulted while at work, mothers who were attacked inside their homes, wives targeted while accompanied by their husbands, and others kidnapped and taken to remote parts of the city to be raped. Some were shot afterwards.
“During these bloody events, the bodies of women and girls are often used as weapons of war, to reach the rival group. And precisely, several of the survivors met during this investigation testified that they were subjected to interrogation before being raped,” wrote RNDDH.
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The rampant use of sexual violence is yet another facet of the near-complete impunity held by the G9 and G-PEP gangs.
In criminal organizations that adhere to male-dominated power structures, as is the case in Haiti’s G9 under Jimmy Chérizier, alias “Barbecue,” low-level gang members and leaders alike target the inhabitants of neighborhoods held by rival gangs with no legal repercussions.
With the G9 alliance currently holding the upper hand in Cité Soleil, its members directly accused women of sleeping with the enemy and targeted them for assault. At least five women who spoke to RNDDH reported being accused by G9 members of being the wives or lovers of G-PEP’s leader, Ti Gabriel. Others were allegedly forced to yell slogans in support of the G9 during their assault.
RNDDH’s executive director Pierre Esperance wrote in the report that these accusations made by gang members were baseless. “We cannot say that they were a member of Gabriel’s gang. These are people who just live there and have no choice and cannot even leave,” he explained.
From 2006 to 2019, Haiti’s courts convicted an average of 49 individuals a year for sexual assault but RNDDH warned that this figure is declining. “Since 2019, sexual assault trials have become increasingly rare. It is precisely this rarity that…leads the bandits to engage in cases of collective and repeated rape, without fear of being prosecuted and convicted,” wrote the report.
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