A rise in vigilante justice on the impoverished island of Haiti has reportedly led to a dramatic reduction in the vicious gang violence that has plagued the island for years.
The New York Times reported that the “brutal vigilante campaign” began in late April when a group of people “overpowered” police in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince after they took 14 alleged gang members into custody.
The group of vigilantes took the suspects outside, doused them with gasoline, and burned them to death.
Since the 14 suspects were executed, civilians have reportedly killed at least 160 additional gang members in the area, the report said.
The report said that the vigilante campaign has led to a “sharp drop in kidnappings and killings attributed to gangs.”
People in the areas infested with gangs have reportedly feared leaving their homes for a long time and often face extortion. In a less than 10-day span last summer, nearly 500 people were murdered in the city, leaving many afraid to even go buy food.
“Before the 24th, every day someone passed by and demanded that I give him money because of my little business,” one resident told the newspaper. “When I had no money, they took whatever they wanted from my table, and this happened at any time of the day.”
Burning gang members alive appears to be one of the vigilantes’ preferred methods for dealing with the thugs.
“The reaction of the population, after years of gangs imposing their law, can be attributed to self-defense,” Gédéon Jean, the executive director of CARDH, told The New York Times. “Gangs are supported by certain authorities, politicians and business people. At almost all levels of the police force, gangs have links with police officers. The police do not have the means to systematically and simultaneously confront the growing gangs.”
The gang problem exploded when Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated at his home two years ago. The result has been a power vacuum and a country on the brink of a civil war.