World

Kenya High Court ruling throws planned deployment of police to gang-plagued Haiti in doubt

A Kenyan court on Friday ruled a plan to send police officers to Haiti to lead a UN-approved mission was unconstitutional, throwing into doubt the future of an initiative aimed at tackling gang violence in the Caribbean nation.

Canada has helped lead stabilizing forces in Haiti in the past, but balked at doing so last year

A woman carries large sacks atop her head on a street as a massive fire burns behind her in an urban setting.
A woman walks past burning tires set on fire by protesters to call attention to the country's insecurity and demand the resignation of the prime minister, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Thursday. (Odelyn Joseph/The Associated Press)

A Kenyan court on Friday ruled a plan to send police officers to Haiti to lead a UN-approved mission was unconstitutional, throwing into doubt the future of an initiative aimed at tackling gang violence in the Caribbean nation.

An opposition party in October challenged the government's decision to send 1,000 officers to address a deepening crisis in Haiti, where gang violence killed nearly 5,000 people and forced around 200,000 people from their homes last year.

Kenya had hoped to have its officers in Haiti as soon as this month after the United Nations Security Council approved the mission in October, but a court issued a stay on the deployment shortly after.

High Court Judge Chacha Mwita said that under Kenyan law, the authorities could only deploy officers abroad if a "reciprocal arrangement" was in place with the host government.

"Any further action or steps taken by any state organ or state officer in furtherance of such a decision, contravenes the Constitution and the law and is therefore unconstitutional, illegal and invalid," Mwita said.

The government said in a statement that it would appeal the decision and reiterated "its commitment in honouring its international obligations as a member of the community and comity of nations."

Thousands killed, kidnapped last year

Haiti first requested help in 2022 as gang violence surged but was unable to find a country willing to lead a security mission.

Many governments have been wary of supporting Prime Minister Ariel Henry's unelected administration and intervening in a nation where previous missions have been dogged by human rights abuses.

WATCH l UN official tells CBC multi-pronged approach needed in Haiti: 

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

1 year 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.

Canada last year said it would provide $100 million in aid to the Haitian National Police and sanctioned a number of economic and political actors it believes have enabled gang violence and corruption, but balked at leading an armed international stabilizing force. Canada has been a part of such missions in Haiti in the late 1990s, and in 2004, the year then-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled the country amid corruption allegations and rebel violence.

Kenya finally stepped forward last July, saying it was doing so in solidarity with a brother nation. The Bahamas then committed 150 people, and Jamaica and Antigua and Barbuda said they were willing to help.

The United Nations said this week that it had documented 4,789 people killed by gang violence in Haiti last year, an increase of 119 per cent from 2022, and that another 3,000 were kidnapped.

Six Catholic nuns who were kidnapped in the Haitian capital last week were released Wednesday alongside two more hostages, the archbishop of Port-au-Prince said in a statement late Wednesday. The statement did not say whether a ransom had been paid or give any detail on who might be responsible.

The head of the United Nation's drugs and crime office, Ghada Waly, on Thursday warned of a "vicious cycle" of arms trafficking to increasingly powerful Haitian gangs. A recent UNODC report found that most illegal firearms seized in Haiti came from the United States.

With files from CBC News

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