The US Department of Justice (DOJ) Monday unsealed charges against seven leaders of five Haiti-based gangs for alleged kidnappings of US citizens in 2021 and 2022.Lanmo Sanjou and Jermaine Stephenson, alleged members of the 400 Mawozo gang, and Vitel’homme Innocent, alleged leader of the Kraze Barye gang, were charged with conspiracy to commit hostage taking and hostage taking for their alleged participation in the kidnapping of 16 Christian missionaries in October 2021. Sanjou, Stephenzon and Innocent remain at large. On Monday, the US Department of State announced a $3 million reward under the Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program for “information leading to the capture” of the defendents. Joly Germine and Jean Pelice of 400 Mawaozo were previously charged in July for their involvement in the kidnapping.Charges against members of other Haiti-based gangs for unrelated kidnappings were also unsealed. Renel Destina of the Gran Ravine gang allegedly participated in the kidnapping of a US citizen in February 2021 and held the victim for two weeks. Emanuel Solomon of the Village de Dieu gang allegedly kidnapped a US citizen in January 2021 and posted about gang activity on social media. John Peter Fleronvil and Jean Renald Dolcin of the Kokorat san Ras gang were charged for the alleged kidnapping of three US citizens in July. Fleronvil is in custody, but Destina, Solomon, and Dolcin are at large.Attorney General Merrick Garland said the US is dedicated to working with “interagency and international partners to disrupt these kidnapping-for-ransom schemes that endanger the lives of American citizens and that fuel the violent gangs harming the Haitian people.” Gang violence remains a pressing issues in Haiti amid corruption, economic distress and political turmoil. Nonprofit Transparency International ranked Haiti the 164 out of 180 total countries on its 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). US Attorney for the District of Columbia Matthew Graves said his office will “stand with the people of Haiti, whose country has been ravaged by violent gangs impacting every facet of society.” However, human rights organization Amnesty International has sharply condemned the US’s treatment of asylum seekers from Haiti. Americas director Erika Guevara-Rosas alleged that authorities “have continued to restrict [asylum seekers’] right to seek international protection at the US-Mexico border” and have “also continued to evoke the evils of slavery by shackling and handcuffing Black Haitians onboard expulsion flights, inflicting further pain and mental suffering upon them that amounts to torture under international human rights law.”

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