PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI (AFP) – A new United Nations mission dedicated to supporting the rule of law in Haiti began Monday, after the end of a 13-year peacekeeping mission in the deeply impoverished Caribbean nation rocked by political instability.
The UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH), composed of 1,275 police officers and 350 civilians, will also train national police and advance human rights.
“I am still convinced that Haiti will be able to seize the opportunity offered by this MINUJUSTH deployment to strengthen the political stability of recent years in order to pave the way toward a democratic, stable and prosperous future for all Haitians,” said UN humanitarian coordinator Mamadou Diallo.
The Guinean diplomat is temporarily leading MINUJUSTH ahead of a UN nomination of the permanent chief of mission.
“MINUJUSTH reflects the commitment of the United Nations to continue supporting the consolidation of peace and promotion of stability in Haiti,” said a statement by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s office.
Haitian Foreign Minister Antonio Rodrigue hailed the advances made possible by the previous UN mission, MINUSTAH, while pointing to the negative consequences of the peacekeepers’ lengthy presence in Haiti.
“Strict rules must be set in order to favor zero tolerance,” he said, referring to sex crimes committed by the foreign soldiers against Haitian women and children. “The cholera issue cannot be kept quiet either.”
A cholera epidemic that began in October 2010 that has killed more than 10,000 Haitians was traced back to Nepalese soldiers working for MINUSTAH.
At the time of the outbreak, Haiti’s health care and sanitation infrastructure was badly hampered by a devastating earthquake early that year.
The UN only apologized six years after the ongoing epidemic began, but it continues to skirt any legal responsibility over the issue.
Less than five percent of the required $400 million to eradicate the disease from Haiti has been collected by the UN from member states.
Hobbled by endemic corruption, the Haitian justice system is extremely slow. Suspects can wait in prison for years before being tried, helping push jail occupation rates to 400 percent, one of the worst cases of prison overpopulation in the world.