People fleeing gang violence take shelter at a sports arena, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on September 1. File photo credit Reuters/Ralph Tedy Erol.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti--Haiti's Center for Human Rights Analysis and Research CARDH is provisionally suspending its work due to imminent danger to its staff, its executive director said on Thursday, as gang wars escalate in parts of the capital Port-au-Prince.
Gedeon Jean, who heads the 16-person operation, said a co-worker who had been kidnapped on October 29 and freed on November 17 had warned that the group that kidnapped him was targeting the organisation, the work of which was "disturbing" certain sectors.
"He confirmed I am being directly targeted by the kidnappers," said Jean.
"CARDH's reports and analyses have demonstrated the close ties between crime, politics and the economy in Haiti, putting a spotlight on the real 'masters' of the crime industry, who are not the gangs leaders."
The United States and Canada have sanctioned several politicians and businessmen accused of helping finance gangs.
CARDH has published reports on the living conditions of people displaced by the gang wars, suspected gang members being lynched by vigilante "Bwa Kale" groups, killings of police officers and assessments of foreign sanctions.
It has also quantified the rise of what it calls a kidnapping "industry" under which gangs use extreme violence and torture to extract ransoms from families.
This year through September, CARDH counted 901 kidnappings as well as 1,564 murders and a rise in mass kidnappings in the Bas-Artibonite region north of the capital, which it warned could become a major gang hub if measures are not taken.
As the killing of a prominent gang leader unleashed fresh violence in Cité Soleil earlier this month, the United Nations estimated over 146,500 people were displaced in the West Department alone, the bulk in the metropolitan area of the capital.
In a statement on Wednesday, CARDH said it had been reducing its activities for months, and with threats having been carried out, it was pausing its operations and waiting for protective measures to be taken so it could continue its work. ~ Reuters ~