State of emergency declared after attack on Haiti prison

Henry

The government of Haiti declared a state of emergency and a curfew on Sunday to try to regain control over this crisis-stricken Caribbean country after gangs attacked the national prison in Port-au-Prince.

Thousands of inmates escaped from custody when the facility was attacked overnight Saturday into Sunday. Many died.

By Sunday, only about 100 of the national prison’s estimated 3,800 inmates were still inside the facility, says Pierre Esperance of the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights.

“We counted many prisoners’ bodies,” says Esperance.

The deadly attack forms part of a new wave of extreme violence in the Haitian capital, where armed gangs (which control a large part of the city) have started wreaking havoc again from Thursday.

The gangs insist that Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who since the assassination of Pres. Jovenel Moise is in power in 2021, step down.

The Haitian daily newspaper Le Nouvelliste reported attackers had been spying on the national prison in Port-au-Prince using drones since Thursday before striking early Saturday night.

According to the police, gang members also attacked a second prison called Croix des Bouquets. The prison has room for 1,450 prisoners.

However, it was not immediately clear how many of these prisoners escaped during this attack.

Le Nouvelliste reported notorious gang leaders and people accused of assassinating Moise were among those being held in the main prison, which is located a few hundred meters from the National Palace.

The Haitian government said in a statement late on Sunday evening that security forces had “received orders to use all legal means at their disposal to enforce the curfew and detain those who violate it”.

At this stage, the curfew will be enforced daily from 18:00 to 05:00 in the Ouest region until Wednesday.

The curfew and state of emergency can also be extended.

The government believes these measures will allow it to “restore order and take the appropriate measures to take back control of the situation”.

Economy Minister Patrick Michel Boisvert signed the statement as the country’s acting prime minister as Henry was abroad at the time of the attack.

Henry has been in Kenya since last week to sign an agreement to deploy police from the East African country to lead a UN-backed law and order mission to the gang-ridden nation.

It was not immediately clear on Sunday whether Henry had since returned to Haiti.

Haiti’s government is notorious for its weak crackdown on kidnappings and other rampant violent crime.

It is also said that gangs in this country are much better armed than the police themselves.