Outcry in Haiti after the rape of 17 women, including a minor, in a prison

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Tollé in Haiti after the rape of 17 women, including a minor, in a prison

The cycle of violence that has reigned in Haiti for more than a year does not spare women detained in prison.

Gonaives, capital of the department of Artibonite, in Haiti

Several local media and NGOs for the defense of human rights denounce the gang rape of 17 women, including a minor, last Wednesday in the civil prison in Gonaïves, Haiti, in the north of this impoverished Caribbean country.

The attack happened on the night of January 26-27, during a mutiny in which 14 prisoners were killed and 11 others escaped, according to official government data. Organizations for the defense of human rights report about twenty people killed.

During this riot, 17 women, including a minor, were raped by around 50 detainees, according to the organization Mains Ensemble pour le développement d'Haiti (MEDHA), which regularly produces reports on the situation of prisoners. in this penitentiary.

Lawyers Without Borders Canada (ASFC) deplored the conditions of detention in the prison of Gonaïves and affirmed that they contravene national and international standards.

Haiti is plunged into a health and security crisis.

Contacted by Radio-Canada, the NGO calls on the Haitian authorities to prevent the worst from happening again by separating the detainees according to their sex, their age and the reasons for their detention.

According to the CBSA, the Gonaives prison is overcrowded and poorly ventilated. Prisoners held there are primarily charged with alleged involvement in scenes of looting…kidnapping for ransom and murder. Due to socio-political instability, many are victims of abusive pre-trial detention, says the NGO.

“The State has the obligation to guarantee the rights to life, integrity and security of women and girls. It is incumbent on the authorities to take urgent and adequate measures to prevent and punish such acts. »

— Taïna Noster, director of the Haitian branch of ASFC

Me Pascal Paradis, general manager of ASFC, recalls for her part that tragically, this is not the first times that women are victims of rape in the civil prison of Gonaives. It should be the last.

In November 2019, 12 women were gang-raped in the same prison. Following an appeal for habeas corpuscollective filed by our partners […] in April 2020, eight of them were released, specifies the CBSA.

In a report published following this attack , the NGOs National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (RNDDH) and Solidarité Fanm Ayisyèn (SOFA) had already recommended separating men from women in Haitian prisons.

There is no doubt that if the authorities at the highest level of the State had respected the principle of the separation of detainees according to age, sex and offence, the women detained in the civil prison of Gonaïves would not would not have been victims of gang rape, they indicate in their report, recalling that rape in prison constitutes a form of torture against the victims.

“Having women detained with men in the same space exacerbates their risk. The Haitian authorities have the ability to change things. »

— Me Pascal Paradis, Director General of LWBC

Me Paradis tells Radio-Canada that his NGO is committed to providing legal aid and legal assistance services to people detained. They too have the right to access justice, he stresses.

According to ASFC, the 17 women assaulted in Gonaives prison received treatment from their cells with the support from Doctors Without Borders (MSF). A medical report is expected to be released in the coming days.

On January 24, the UN said gang violence and the humanitarian emergency have reached unprecedented levels for decades in Haiti. In 2022, 1,359 kidnappings were recorded, more than double 2021, an average of four per day. Murders have also increased by a third in a year, to a total of 2,183, said Helen La Lime, UN envoy to Haiti, who denounces the use of rapes of women and prisoners. #x27;children as a tactic to spread fear.