Haiti: Vote on Draft Resolution Establishing a Sanctions Regime*
This morning (21 October), the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution establishing a sanctions regime on Haiti, including targeted assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo measures. The draft text was authored by Mexico and the US, the co-penholders on Haiti. If the resolution is adopted, it will establish the Security Council’s first sanctions regime since that on Mali, created through resolution 2374 of 5 September 2017.
The draft text in blue establishes a sanctions committee on Haiti and requests the Secretary-General to create, for an initial period of 13 months, a panel of experts to support the committee’s work. The committee will be responsible for designating individuals and entities to be subject to the sanctions measures, which will apply for an initial period of one year.
The designation criteria outlined in the draft resolution in blue include:
- Engaging in or supporting criminal activities and violence involving armed groups and criminal networks, including recruitment of children, kidnappings, trafficking in persons, homicides and sexual and gender-based violence;
- Supporting illicit trafficking and diversion of arms and related materiel, or illicit financial flows related thereto;
- Obstructing the delivery of humanitarian assistance to and inside Haiti; and
- Attacking personnel or premises of UN missions and operations or providing support for such attacks.
An annex to the draft text in blue designates one person under the regime: Jimmy Cherizier (also known as “Barbeque”), who heads an alliance of Haitian gangs known as the “G9 Family and Allies”. It notes that Cherizier has “engaged in acts that threaten the peace, security, and stability of Haiti” and has “planned, directed, or committed acts that constitute serious human rights abuses”.
Today’s vote comes against the backdrop of a major crisis in Haiti, where endemic gang violence and widespread popular unrest have aggravated an already dire humanitarian situation. Criminal gangs blocking access to critical infrastructure such as the Varreux Terminal, the country’s main fuel terminal, have brought critical services to a standstill, including water distribution, garbage collection, and the operation of health facilities. These conditions are likely to have contributed to the resurgence of cholera in Haiti in early October. (For more information, see our 17 October What’s in Blue story.)
The co-penholders circulated an initial draft text on 5 October and convened two rounds of negotiations, on 7 and 13 October. A revised draft was placed under silence on 14 October until Monday (17 October). Brazil, China, Norway and Russia broke silence and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) submitted further comments. On Tuesday evening (18 October), the penholders placed a revised text in blue, without initiating another silence procedure, and called for a vote to take place the following afternoon (19 October). It appears that several members felt that the draft was put in blue in a rushed manner, with some noting that their concerns about its content were yet to be addressed. The vote was therefore postponed on Wednesday (19 October), and the penholders put an amended version in blue yesterday afternoon (20 October), to be voted on this morning.
It seems that there was no major disagreement among Council members over the need to establish a sanctions regime on Haiti. However, several members believed that such a significant step should not be rushed and that an in-depth discussion on the different aspects of the perspective regime is crucial, in order that it be tailored to address the situation at hand. Russia expressed this view during the Council’s 17 October open briefing on Haiti. It seems that the pace of the negotiations remained a point of friction throughout.
Council members discussed various aspects of the sanction regime’s architecture during the negotiations. Several members—including Albania, Brazil, Ireland, Norway and the A3 (Gabon, Ghana and Kenya)—supported the inclusion of language in the operative section to ensure the existence of fair and clear procedures for delisting individuals. In a 7 October letter (S/2022/746), the Group of Like-Minded States on UN Targeted Sanctions—which includes current Council members Ireland and Norway, as well as incoming member Switzerland—encouraged the Council to enable the Office of the Ombudsperson to receive and examine petitions in the framework of the Haiti sanctions regime. (The Office of the Ombudsperson is responsible for reviewing requests for removal from the 1267/1989/2253 Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant [ISIL/Da’esh] and Al-Qaida sanctions list.) The letter called for the strengthening of fair and clear procedures for all UN sanctions regimes, stating that they often fail to meet minimum due process standards.
The penholders apparently did not incorporate the suggested language on the Ombudsperson in early versions of the draft text, prompting Brazil and Norway to break silence on 17 October. It appears that the penholders contended that the work of the Office of the Ombudsperson and its applicability to various sanctions regimes should be addressed in a broader manner and that the discussion on Haiti should not predetermine the outcomes of the wider discussion.
Following the silence break, the penholders included a preambular paragraph that recognises the need for fair and clear procedures for delisting individuals and expresses the Council’s intent to consider authorising the Ombudsperson to receive such delisting requests. This formulation is contained in the draft text in blue, although several members would have preferred a stronger reference in the operative section.
Another point of contention focused on humanitarian exemptions. On several occasions, including during the open Council meetings on 26 September and 17 October, several members—such as Brazil, China and Russia—emphasised the importance of preventing the sanctions from having harmful effects on civilians. It seems that the penholders did not include language on humanitarian exemptions in earlier drafts of the text. They apparently argued for the need to have a broader discussion on the issue and its applicability to all Security Council sanctions regimes. In this regard, it appears that the US is working on a draft resolution establishing a potential blanket humanitarian exemption for all Council sanctions regimes. After the 17 October silence break, the penholders incorporated language proposed by the UAE, which was supported by several other members, underscoring that the resolution’s provisions shall not apply to the payment of funds, other financial assets or economic resources necessary for the delivery of humanitarian assistance by the UN or its implementing partners.
It seems that there was significant discussion around criteria for the Council to review a potential future lifting of the sanctions. Several members—including China, Russia, the UAE and the A3—apparently highlighted the importance of articulating specific and detailed benchmarks for this purpose. Among the benchmarks incorporated in the first draft text that was put in blue were a progressive reduction in violence by armed groups and criminal networks and a progressive decrease in incidents of illicit trafficking and diversion of arms. Benchmarking was apparently one of the outstanding issues when the penholders put a draft text in blue for the first time on 18 October. As a result, the second draft that was put in blue, which will be voted on this morning, notes that the abovementioned benchmarks will be “measured on an annual basis, beginning over the initial period of twelve months from adoption of this resolution”.
Members are expected to soon begin negotiating a resolution which may authorise the deployment of an international specialised force in the country, in response to a 7 October request by the Haitian government. (For more information, see our 17 October What’s in Blue story.) At the 17 October Council meeting, the US announced that it will work with Mexico on a resolution that will authorise a “non-UN international security assistance mission”, which will operate under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and will be led by a “partner country with the deep, necessary experience required for such an effort to be effective”. At the time of writing, the penholders have yet to circulate a draft text on the matter.
It seems that Mexico and the US sought to include in the sanctions regime resolution language taking note of the Haitian government’s 7 October request and of an 8 October Secretary-General’s report suggesting that the Council welcome the establishment of a specialised international force. However, this was opposed by Russia, which apparently argued that the two issues should be kept separate. While the first draft that was put in blue contained this reference, it was ultimately removed in the second draft that was placed in blue.
Today’s vote comes in the context of an apparent growing convergence of views among Council members regarding the urgency of Council action to address the situation in Haiti. This may be partially attributed to a shift in tone from China, which has long contended that UN involvement in Haiti has been ineffective and failed to achieve its goals. In the past, China called for the Council to curtail its engagement on Haiti and for the UN to limit its investment of resources in the country. However, during the negotiations on resolution 2645 of 15 July, which most recently renewed the mandate of the UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH), China proposed more UN involvement, advocating the establishment of an arms embargo, the imposition of assets freeze and travel sanctions, and the establishment of a multinational force to support Haiti’s efforts to fight gang violence. (For background, see our 15 July What’s in Blue story.)
China’s current position on Haiti also departs from its position on sanctions in several other situations on the Council’s agenda. In this regard, China and Russia have often criticised western Council members for their support of sanctions imposed on African states. In some cases, like the Central African Republic (CAR), these members have called for the removal of arms embargo sanctions on the government, saying that they hinder the authorities’ ability to receive the equipment necessary to curb violence in their country. The fact that the draft text in blue imposes a targeted arms embargo on Haiti, unlike other Council-imposed blanket embargoes, may be an attempt to avoid such issues.
*Post-script: On 21 October, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2653, which established a sanctions regime on Haiti, including targeted assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo measures.
Several members noted in their explanations of vote that the sanctions regime sends a strong message of Council support to the Haitian people in their fight against criminal gangs. Some members—including Ireland, Russia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—said that sanctions alone will not solve all of Haiti’s problems and emphasised the need to promote a Haitian-led political solution.
A number of members—including Brazil, Norway and the UAE—highlighted the importance of the resolution’s robust humanitarian carveout. Ireland and the UAE also welcomed the inclusion of the perpetration of sexual and gender-based violence as a standalone designation criterion. Brazil, Ireland and Norway highlighted the importance of due process and clear and fair de-listing procedures in the sanctions regime’s work. In this regard, they underscored the need for concrete progress on extending the mandate of the office of the Ombudsperson to Haiti and to all other sanctions regimes.