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Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti
Updated: 1 hour 4 min ago
Hillary and Bill Clinton often discuss their love for Haiti ever since they traveled there for their honeymoon. However, their track record of unfulfilled promises to Haiti, especially after the 2010 earthquake, leaves more questions than answers. This article delves into the Clintons’ influence in Haiti and why some say that “after everything is in place…you see the Clintons at every level” of goings-on in the small country.
Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.The King and Queen of Haiti
Jonathan Katz, Politico Magazine
May 4, 2015
Sunday, January 30, 2011. Two hundred thousand people occupied Egypt’s Tahrir Square, defying a military curfew to demand the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. Tunisia’s authoritarian leader had just been overthrown, unleashing a wave of anti-government protests from Yemen to Syria to Morocco. South Sudan’s provisional president announced his people had voted overwhelmingly for independence, clearing the way for the breakup of Africa’s largest country. Yet as Hillary Clinton rushed to Andrews Air Force Base to catch her battered government-issue 727, the secretary of state was not headed to Cairo, Tunis or Juba. She was going to Haiti.
Haiti doesn’t seem like a place that would be central to a U.S. presidential candidate’s foreign policy. It’s a small country, whose 10.3 million people inhabit the western third of a Caribbean island the size of South Carolina. They are the poorest people in the hemisphere when you average their country’s meager $8.5 billion GDP among them, and would seem poorer still if you ignored the huge share held by the country’s tiny elite—which controls virtually everything worth controlling, from the banks and ports, to agriculture and, often, politics. It is not a major exporter of anything. Even its location, 500 nautical miles from the Florida Keys, has been of only passing strategic importance to the United States since a brutal 1915-1934 U.S. occupation assured no European power would surpass its influence there.
Yet the world’s most powerful couple have an abiding interest in this out-of-the-way place; the island where Bill Clinton four decades ago recommitted himself to politics after an eye-opening journey and an evening with a Vodou priest. During her tenure at State, Hillary traveled to Haiti four times, as often as she did Japan, Afghanistan or Russia. Bill Clinton continues to visit even as her presidential campaign starts up. He attended the February dedication of Port-au-Prince’s new luxury Marriott hotel, a trip on which he reaffirmed, once again, that his work in Haiti represented “one of the great joys of my life.”
Click HERE for the full text.
The Fourth Annual Haitian Art Exhibit is at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, featuring local New England Artists and for the first time in New England, some 35 pieces from young artists of Jacmel. It’s open May 2 through June 27, in celebration of Haitian Heritage Month (May).
1 Wells Avenue
Newton MA, 02459
Opening reception Saturday, May 2, 2015 at 4:30pm
Exhibit open May 2 – June 27, 2015
Our case against the UN for its lack of accountability for Haiti’s cholera epidemic has been called “the most serious challenge yet” to international organization immunity. We couldn’t do it without a network of allies who also want to see justice for Haiti’s cholera victims. The article below features an interview with one of those allies, Jack Regan of the WilmerHale, which collaborates on the case pro bono.
Click HERE for the full text.Georges v. UN: An Innovative Approach to Justice for Haiti
May 1, 2015
Five years ago, the island nation of Haiti was struck by a catastrophic earthquake, killing hundreds of thousands of people. Months after the 2010 disaster, Haiti faced another threat: cholera. Suddenly, an island that had never had a cholera outbreak in its recorded history was facing one of worst epidemics in the world. To date, the epidemic has killed nearly 9,000 and sickened 700,000 more.
A study into the origin of the bacteria led to a UN peacekeeper base, where human waste was dumped into Haiti’s principal river. As recently as January of this year, courts have ruled that the UN is immune to lawsuits on the epidemic.
Now, a Boston-based collaboration of non-profit and large firm lawyers is pioneering an innovative model for 21st century human rights advocacy. Next week, the BBA will host apanel with The Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), Nixon Peabody, and WilmerHale to discuss their cutting-edge tort suit, Georges v. United Nations, on behalf of the epidemic victims.
BBA Week spoke with BBA Past President Jack Regan (WilmerHale) on his firm’s participation in the case and why other attorneys should attend the May 7th panel.
Click HERE for the full text.
There were many missteps made in the immediate aftermath of Haiti’s 2010 earthquake that led to the well-known failures of the relief and reconstruction efforts, even to this day. Jonathan Katz, who wrote an entire books on those efforts, is now speaking out to make sure the same missteps aren’t made in Nepal after their devastating quake.
Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text and audio.Five things the international community shouldn’t do after a disaster
Shirin Jaafari, PRI’s TheWorld
April 30, 2015
Jonathan Katz was a reporter for the Associated Press in Haiti in 2010, the year a powerful earthquake there killed more than 100,000 people. He was able to see how outside help flowed into the stricken country — and how many outsiders, himself included, messed up in the aftermath of the disaster.
Katz wrote about those experiences in a book called “The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster,” and he’s now worried that some of the same mistakes will replay themselves following the earthquake in Nepal.
Here are five key things Katz says the international community must remember in responding to disasters.
- 1. Don’t assume disorder will break out
Click HERE for the full text and audio.
Join author Charlot Lucien in Boston for a poetry reading and book signing.
CelebratE Poetry the Haitian Way and pay Tribute to Haitian Heritage Month.
Une Célébration du mois de la Poésie et de l’héritage historique et culturel Haitien.
Hyde Park Branch of the Boston Public Library
Bibliothèque publique de Boston, branche de Hyde Park
35 Harvard Avenue
Thursday, April 30, 2015
Jeudi 30 avril 2015
Almost a week after Nepal’s devastating earthquake, people worldwide are looking to see how relief and reconstruction will be handled. Those who remember Haiti’s earthquake 5 years earlier, and the continued failure to rebuild Haiti, are hoping the international community will do a better job in Nepal. This article suggests five ways to make sure Nepal’s post-quake response doesn’t end up like Haiti’s.How not to rebuild NepalLessons from Haiti five years after its earthquake
Nixon Boumba, The Washington Post
April 30, 2015
Last Saturday, I watched with the rest of the world as images emerged in the wake of Nepal’s violent earthquake: the dusty faces of survivors, bloodied bodies, the ruined historic buildings. It reminded me of the devastation I witnessed after the earthquake in my homeland, Haiti, five years ago — and it made me worry about what will come next in Nepal.
Soon the people of Nepal, with the help of international donors, will begin the rebuilding process. They will face some of the same challenges that we faced in Haiti — and I hope that they will be able to avoid the grave mistakes made by Haitians and by the well-intentioned donors who came to our aid.
There were two disasters in Haiti: the earthquake, and then the humanitarian crisis that followed. More than $10 billion in foreign aid still hasn’t enabled our country to recover from this disaster. In the hope that Nepal will learn from our experience, here are five lessons for effective and just disaster relief:
1. Listen to local people.
Most aid projects in Haiti promised “community participation,” yet most failed to truly include local people. What happened with housing provides a clear example. Many aid groups insisted on moving earthquake survivors who were living under tarps into “transitional shelters.” They ignored the objections of Haitians, who feared the flimsy plywood structures — prone to leaks and collapse — would become their permanent homes. Aid groups spent more than $500 million on these transitional shelters,” but have built less than 9,000 new long-term houses. Tragically, yesterday’s “temporary” shelters have become today’s permanent slums.
2. Put money in the hands of local people.
Many aid groups sent well-meaning but barely trained volunteers and deployed foreign doctors and nurses to areas where skilled Haitian professionals were readily available. Of every dollar given to the earthquake response in Haiti, less than a penny went to Haitian organizations.
If these funds had supported local people and organizations, the money would have gone much further. I witnessed the remarkable work of community groups that helped house and care for the more than 600,000 people who fled Port-au-Prince to the countryside. The groups trained displaced people to become farmers so they could earn a living and rebuild their lives.
3. Reach the most vulnerable people.
When a disaster strikes, people who were already poor or oppressed — or who live far from the center of relief efforts — tend to suffer disproportionately. In Haiti, many villages on the periphery of Port-au-Prince didn’t receive food or water for weeks after the quake. Oppressed minorities, including the LGBT community, were particularly vulnerable to discrimination and violence in displacement camps and were overlooked by aid groups.
4. Invest in infrastructure now to prevent larger disasters in the future.
Most aid after the earthquake focused on the short term, often ignoringlong-term needs, especially infrastructure needed to prevent humanitarian crises in the future. My country is still struggling to contain the largest modern outbreak of cholera in history. The disease is thought to have been introduced by United Nations peacekeeping forces after the 2010 earthquake, but the crisis does not end there. This epidemic has continued largely because relief funds have unfortunately not been used to help Haitibuild sufficient sewage systems.
5. Aid must be coordinated, efficient and transparent.
Though coordinating aid seems like the most obvious thing to do, it didn’t happen in Haiti. Many aid groups clamored to support high-profile projects, which resulted in wasteful redundancies in some areas while allowing people in less well-known places to languish. Lack of accountability about foreign aid was the rule, with donors and Haitians receiving little news about how this aid was being spent.
In the coming days, the people of Nepal will need essential supplies like food, clean water and blankets. Later, they’ll need support to rebuild broken infrastructure and prepare for future natural disasters. Given the great need, governments and aid organizations must carefully discern how they provide that assistance. The decisions the international community makes now will reverberate into Nepal’s future — and I hope it won’t look anything like Haiti’s recent past.
Click HERE for the original.
In a recent report, French United Nations peacekeepers were accused of child sexual abuse and exploitation in the Central African Republic. When the UN failed to act to stop the abuse, UN aid worker Anders Kompass passed the report on to the French government. Kompass has now been suspended for “the leaking of confidential information.” Given the UN’s history of suspending whistleblowers, human rights advocates aren’t so sure about the motivation for this one.UN aid worker suspended for leaking report on child abuse by French troopsAnders Kompass said to have passed confidential document to French authorities because of UN’s failure to stop abuse of children in Central African Republic
Sandra Laville, The Guardian
April 29, 2015
A senior United Nations aid worker has been suspended for disclosing to prosecutors an internal report on the sexual abuse of children by French peacekeeping troops in the Central African Republic.
Sources close to the case said Anders Kompass passed the document to the French authorities because of the UN’s failure to take action to stop the abuse. The report documented the sexual exploitation of children as young as nine by French troops stationed in the country as part of international peacekeeping efforts.
Kompass, who is based in Geneva, was suspended from his post as director of field operations last week and accused of leaking a confidential UN report and breaching protocols. He is under investigation by the UN office for internal oversight service (OIOS) amid warnings from a senior official that access to his case must be “severely restricted”. He faces dismissal.
The treatment of the aid worker, who has been involved in humanitarian work for more than 30 years, has taken place with the knowledge of senior UN officials, including Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the high commissioner for human rights, and Susana Malcorra, chef de cabinet in the UN, according to documents relating to the case.
The abuses took place in 2014 when the UN mission in the country, Minusca, was in the process of being set up.
The Guardian has been passed the internal report on the sexual exploitation by Paula Donovan, co-director of the advocacy group Aids Free World, who is demanding an independent commission inquiry into the UN’s handling of sexual abuse by peacekeepers.
It was commissioned by the UN office of the high commissioner for human rights after reports on the ground that children, who are among the tens of thousands displaced by the fighting, were being sexually abused.
Entitled Sexual Abuse on Children by International Armed Forces and stamped “confidential” on every page, the report details the rape and sodomy of starving and homeless young boys by French peacekeeping troops who were supposed to be protecting them at a centre for internally displaced people in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic.
Donovan said: “The regular sex abuse by peacekeeping personnel uncovered here and the United Nations’ appalling disregard for victims are stomach-turning, but the awful truth is that this isn’t uncommon. The UN’s instinctive response to sexual violence in its ranks – ignore, deny, cover up, dissemble – must be subjected to a truly independent commission of inquiry with total access, top to bottom, and full subpoena power.”
The UN has faced several scandals in the past relating to its failure to act over paedophile rings operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kosovo and Bosnia. It has also faced allegations of sexual misconduct by its troops in Haiti, Burundi and Liberia.
The treatment of Kompass, a Swedish national, threatens to spark a major diplomatic row.
This month, the Swedish ambassador to the United Nations warned senior UN officials “it would not be a good thing if the high commissioner for human rights forced” Kompass to resign. The ambassador threatened to go public if that happened and to engage in a potentially ugly and harmful debate.
The abuses detailed in the internal report took place before and after Minusca was set up last year. Interviews with the abused children were carried out between May and June last year by a member of staff from the office of the high commissioner for human rights and a Unicef specialist. The children identified represent just a snapshot of the numbers potentially being abused.
The boys, some of whom were orphans, disclosed sexual exploitation, including rape and sodomy, between December 2013 and June 2014 by French troops at a centre for internally displaced people at M’Poko airport in Bangui.
The children described how they were sexually exploited in return for food and money. One 11-year-old boy said he was abused when he went out looking for food. A nine-year-old described being sexually abused with his friend by two French soldiers at the IDP camp when they went to a checkpoint to look for something to eat.
The child described how the soldiers forced him and his friend to carry out a sex act. The report describes how distressed the child was when disclosing the abuse and how he fled the camp in terror after the assault. Some of the children were able to give good descriptions of the soldiers involved.
In summer 2014, the report was passed to officials within the office of the high commissioner for human rights in Geneva. When nothing happened, Kompass sent the report to the French authorities and they visited Bangui and began an investigation.
It is understood a more senior official was made aware of Kompass’s actions and raised no objections. But last month Kompass was called in and accused of breaching UN protocols by leaking details of a confidential report, according to sources.
Kompass’s emails have been seized as part of the investigation into the alleged leak. One senior UN official has said of Kompass that “it was his duty to know and comply” with UN protocols on confidential documents.
Bea Edwards, of the Government Accountability Project, an international charity that supports whistleblowers, condemned the UN for its witch-hunt against a whistleblower who had acted to stop the abuse of children.
“We have represented many whistleblowers in the UN system over the years and in general the more serious the disclosure they make the more ferocious the retaliation,” said Edwards. “Despite the official rhetoric, there is very little commitment at the top of the organisation to protect whistleblowers and a strong tendency to politicise every issue no matter how urgent.”
UN sources confirmed an investigation by the French was ongoing – in cooperation with the UN – into allegations of a very serious nature against peacekeepers in the Central African Republic.
On Wednesday the French government confirmed that authorities in Paris were investigating the allegations. A statement from the defence ministry said the government “was made aware at the end of July 2014 by the UN’s high commission for human rights of accusations by children that they had been sexually abused by French soldiers.”
An investigation was opened shortly after by Paris prosecutors, it said.
“The defence ministry has taken and will take the necessary measures to allow the truth to be found,” the statement added. “If the facts are proven, the strongest penalties will be imposed on those responsible for what would be an intolerable attack on soldiers’ values.”
The ministry said the abuse was alleged by around 10 children and reportedly took place at a centre for internally displaced people near the airport of the capital Bangui between December 2013 and June 2014.
The ministry said that French investigators had gone to the CAR from 1 August last year to begin their inquiry.
A spokesman for the UN office of the high commissioner for human rights confirmed an investigation was under way into the leaking of confidential information by a staff member.
Click HERE for the original article.
United Nations peacekeepers often get away with crimes they commit while serving in fragile countries. The widespread sexual exploitation and abuse committed by UN peacekeepers is one of the most pervasive illustrations of this problem. Criminal accountability is scarcely enforced, as it falls on their home countries to prosecute peacekeepers, and the UN rarely follows up with cases to ensure accountability. Whistleblowers have even been fired in order to maintain the status quo of peacekeeper impunity and cover up the horrific details of sexual abuse and exploitation committed by UN peacekeepers. Most recently, a whistleblower from within the UN has been suspended for leaking an internal report documenting a case of child abuse committed by French peacekeepers in the Central African Republic. How can an organization that stands for human rights be so lenient in cases of human rights violations?
Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.French peacekeeper scandal exposes UN impunity again
Rosa Freedman, The Conversation
April 29, 2015
It has emerged that a UN senior humanitarian aid worker has been suspended for leaking an internal report on child abuse committed by UN peacekeepers in the Central African Republic (CAR) to the advocacy group Aids-Free World.
The details that emerge from the report, Sexual Abuse on Children by International Armed Forces, show that once again UN peacekeepers have abused their position and power to prey on the most vulnerable individuals in the most horrific circumstances.
Echoing previous events in Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (among others), the report finds that children displaced by the war – some as young as nine years old – were apparently raped and molested by peacekeepers in return for UN food hand-outs.
The allegations date back to 2014, when the CAR peacekeeping mission was being set up – and it’s clear from the report that the UN has knowledge of the abuses taking place, but has done nothing so far to hold the peacekeepers who committed those crimes accountable.
Click HERE for the full text.
Join Mario Joseph in DC for an amazing panel on UN accountability.
This panel is part of the American Bar Association Section of International Law’s Spring Meeting. Here’s their description of the panel:
The UN has been one of the world’s foremost promoters of the rule of law, and has led the way on many of the developments in international law that have come to be critical parts of international law over the past few decades, such as the evolution of international human rights law, the expansion of international law to include non-state actors, and the development of draft articles on the responsibility of international organizations. The UN’s drastic expansion of operations over the past few decades has also led to increasing allegations of non-compliance with the rule of law in countries where it operates. Prominent examples include complicity in the Srebrenica massacre, sexual violence perpetrated by UN peacekeepers, and responsibility for introducing cholera to Haiti. The panel will use the UN’s responsibility for cholera in Haiti as a case study and jumping off point to discuss UN obligations against the new legal order that it itself has created.
Muneer Ahmad, Yale Law School, Clinical Professor of Law & Supervising Attorney, New Haven, CT
Kysseline Cherestal, ActionAid, Washington, DC
Mario Joseph, Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), Port-Au-Prince, Haiti
Bruce Rashkow, Columbia University, New York, NY
Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill
11am to 12:30pm
April 29, 2015
Click HERE for the full meeting program and registration info.
In the wake of a devastating earthquake in Nepal, many are waiting to see whether aid organizations have learned anything from the botched response to Haiti’s 2010 quake. After a disaster, decisions made within the first 72 hours are crucial to the future direction of the response. This article describes lessons that should be learned from the response to Haiti’s earthquake, both by aid organizations and by journalists reporting on the situation.
Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.How Not to Report on an Earthquake
Jonathan M. Katz, The New York Times Magazine
April 28, 2015
As of Tuesday morning, exactly three days have passed since a 7.8-magnitude earthquake shook Nepal, killing thousands and leaving millions in need of help. In disaster response, the end of the first 72 hours is often considered an inflection point: the unofficial moment when the most acute phase passes, the odds of finding trapped survivors plunge and the relief effort tends to really pick up steam.
Three days into a crisis, roads and airports are often reopening, and outside responders and journalists are arriving in droves. The decisions made at this time can determine the course of the response. A misstep now can have ramifications lasting years, even decades.
I know this because I lived through a moment of just this sort five years ago, in Haiti. I was in Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12, 2010, when a powerful quake rippled outward from an epicenter 15 miles from the capital. In 40 seconds, the shock waves, according to some estimates, literally decimated the population, killing 100,000 to 316,000 people in an overcrowded, overbuilt metropolitan area that was home to more than three million. Governments and aid groups mobilized cargo planes and ships, deploying thousands of soldiers, search-and-rescue teams and medical responders. I was the lone correspondent in the country’s lone full-time foreign news bureau when the quake hit, but I wasn’t on my own for long. By the 72-hour mark, hundreds of reporters — if not more — had joined me in town, beaming images and accounts of the destruction around the world.
Time seemed to stop during the earthquake, and only gradually picked up speed in the days that followed. The first night felt as if it would never end. Aftershocks roiled the ground. People were scouring the rubble for loved ones and neighbors, but the quake had hit in the late afternoon, and in a country with little infrastructure and electricity, it was impossible to continue the search once darkness fell. Nearly everyone who could be was outdoors that night, many of them singing and praying, waiting to see if help would come from outside.
It did, though slowly at first. A trickle of aid convoys arrived overland from the Dominican Republic the next morning. A United States military advance team landed at the damaged airport and took over its operations, setting up an emergency air-traffic-control system.
Click HERE for the full text.
The major question that came up every year after Haiti’s earthquake is “Where did the money go?” Vice News is hoping to bring answers to the American public by airing a documentary on this question on HBO, April 24, 2015 at 11pm. The documentary looks at many failed US-backed projects in Haiti and why they failed, including circumventing Haitian organizations and lack of oversight.
Read part of the article below. Click HERE for the full text.HBO to Air VICE’s “Haitian Money Pit” Tonight, and It Is Worth Watching
Rick Cohen, Nonprofit Quarterly
April 24, 2015
When Vikram Gandhi presents tonight’s VICE News story on U.S. aid to Haiti—“Haitian Money Pit”—the story will have news both new and old.
The new news is that Gandhi names places and names where U.S. aid to Haiti was misused, abused, ripped off, and generally screwed up.
It’s about time that the American public learned firsthand, with poignant video, about the misguided direction and use of much of the charitable and governmental aid that went to help Haiti recover from the devastating earthquake that hit Port-au-Prince on January 12, 2010. The show, which will be aired on HBO at 11pm Eastern on Friday, hits on a variety of programs and practices that were inflicted on Haitians in the name of humanitarian relief and longer-term development assistance—some stupefyingly horrific, some darkly comic, including the following:
- $10 billion in aid to Haiti that still hasn’t led to permanent housing or decent water and sewage systems, leading to Haiti’s suffering the largest modern outbreak of cholera in history. Seven hundred thousand people affected—and nearly 9,000 deaths—from a disease that’s preventable through providing people with clean drinking water. The problem of polluted water supplies causing cholera continues even today.
Click HERE for the full text.
Here’s a debrief of the episode, from Vice’s YouTube channel:
Today, April 23, was the deadline for candidates to register for Haiti’s upcoming elections. With over 100 parties registered (a record number), the Council in charge of elections (the CEP) is worried about how to present the ballots. Fitting all these candidates would be a challenge for any country but in a country with a high rate of illiteracy, it’s especially tough to make sure all candidates are distinguishable and fairly represented. The CEP is encouraging parties to consolidate and international observers are hoping for the same.Haiti’s politicians scramble to register for overdue elections
Peter Granitz, Reuters
April 23, 2015
(Reuters) – Candidates from as many as 125 political parties in Haiti on Thursday rushed to meet a deadline to register to run in the country’s long-overdue elections later this year.
The impoverished Caribbean island has a history of turbulent elections, but that does not appear to dissuade candidates.
By late afternoon more than 2,000 people had registered for 119 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 20 open Senate seats, according to officials.
Lines at the electoral office in Port au Prince poured into the street during the day. The deadline to register for the Aug. 9 legislative elections was set to expire at midnight.
“Individual people are allowed to form political parties,” said Yolette Mengual, expressing a hint of resignation. Mengual, a member of the provisional electoral council that organizes the elections, said each party will be listed numerically on the ballot.
Among the last day entrants: First Lady Sophia Martelly. She waited until the final day to register her candidacy for Senate.
Haitians called in to local radio stations to question whether she is an American citizen, which would disqualify her. Like her husband, President Michel Martelly, she lived in the United States for several years before returning to Haiti.
International observers are hopeful the number of parties will decrease, producing a shorter ballot as politicians form alliances.
“A party could draw spot 126 but form a coalition with the party listed second,” Mengual said.
Mengual said the electoral council cannot force parties to form coalitions, but it is recommending them to do so.
President Michel Martelly has ruled Haiti by decree since Parliament dissolved Jan. 12 when the terms of every member of the Chamber of Deputies, and a third of the Senate expired.
The Senate had already been operating with only 20 of its 30 seats occupied because of previously missed elections, and lost its quorum after Jan. 12. The elections have been delayed by factors such as political feuding and lack of funding.
Every mayoral post in the country is up for grabs, as are neighborhood leadership positions.
(Editing by David Adams and Andrew Hay)
Click HERE for the original article.
Haiti’s justice system struggles with corruption and prolonged pre-trial detention. This article tells the story of a young girl who was illegally put in prison, awaiting for almost a year for a murder she did not commit. In the end, she was released due to the persistence of her attorneys but many aren’t so lucky, especially if they’re poor. In order to truly fix Haiti’s justice system, the root causes of prolonged detentions need to be addressed and nonprofits dealing with the problem need to work with Haitians to solve it.
Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.Haitian Teen Falls Into Trap of Dysfunctional Justice System
Mackenzie Rigg, Youth Today
April 23, 2015
When 13-year-old Camesuze Jean Pierre entered the iron gates of the Petionville women’s prison, she feared she would never get out.
Crammed into a tiny cell with a dozen other women and their belongings, she didn’t even have a bed her first night there. She lay down on the cold cement floor, curled up with two flimsy, tattered cotton sheets. The bathroom was a hole in the floor. And all she was given to eat each day were two meals of oatmeal and cornmeal. For days, she refused to eat anything at all.
“I cried, I cried a lot,” she said, recalling her first day there.
When her uncle, Jean Pierre St. Dieu, came to visit two days after she arrived at the prison, Camesuze was still crying. “I had to give her hope that we are trying to get her out of jail,” he said, “and that she wasn’t going to be there forever.”
The other prisoners, all grown women, in Cell Number 33 gave Camesuze, a lanky teenager, a bucket so she could clean herself; they braided her dark brown hair and scrounged for money so she could buy food she liked.
But there was nothing anyone could do to ease the crowding in what used to be police barracks. The prison has a maximum capacity of about 80, but at any given time it holds about 300 prisoners.
Click HERE for the full text.
One of Haiti’s major problems is limited access to justice for the majority of the population, which is poor. Even those who can afford lawyers often don’t understand legal proceedings because they’re conducted in French. Haiti also has a shortage of lawyers due to overwhelming obstacles post-law school. A few Haitian law schools, in partnership with US law clinics and public interest lawyers like at BAI, are fighting to change these norms. A new law clinic opening up in Jeremie will help speed the process even more.Establishing the Rule of Law in a Country Where Justice Hardly Exists Advocates are on a quest to improve the quality of life in Haiti through legal education.
Jessica Carew Kraft, The Atlantic
April 22, 2015
The president of the Haitian Bar Association, Carlos Hercule, knows that the rule of law in his country is tenuous, and that people have little faith in the justice system. “We have attorneys who [single-handedly] represent both parties in real-estate deals. We have people representing themselves as attorneys who have not been accredited. And we have judges and officials who accept bribes,” he recently explained to me in French, through a translator.
His French is impeccable, but that’s another problem. French is the official language of the courts in Haiti, but as much as 95 percent of the populationspeaks only Creole, so most defendants—if they can even afford to hire a lawyer—can’t fully grasp what goes on during the court proceedings. There are no public defenders, and available legal aid is extremely limited. Adding to the disparity, as experts have pointed out, is the fact that many Haitian lawyers are typically invested in their own elite social status and rarely offer direct defense to the poor, which they perceive as debasing the profession. The result is that the vast majority of the country’s 10.3 million-plus people—roughly three-quarters of whom live on less than $2 a day—have no real access to justice.
Alleviating these deep-rooted structural problems, however, is all but impossible in a nation that’s still struggling to recover from its colonial legacy and the aftermath of the three decades it spent controlled by a brutal dictatorship—not to mention the catastrophic earthquake that devastated the country in 2010. So while the Port-au-Prince-based bar association is working to address those issues, it has decided that a more effective solution lies in training lawyers to uphold ethical standards and encouraging them to pursue public-interest cases. For many advocates, that the initiative is even happening—despite everything that Haitian society has suffered in the past—is remarkable.
Jérémie, a town of roughly 80,000 people in Haiti’s Western Grand’Anse province, is one community where this approach is being put into action, largely thanks to the local law school’s efforts to tackle the endemic problems plaguing the justice system. Jérémie was known in the early 20th century as an artistic enclave of the educated, biracial middle class that owned charming villas overlooking the Caribbean. Decades of escalating poverty, violence, and oppression under the Duvalier dictatorships eventually ravaged the area, but now the town is slowly regaining its regional prominence, in part because it wasn’t hit by the 2010 earthquake. A new partially built national road linking it to the country’s capital and support from religious organizations have also helped bolster the town’s development.
Still, it’s clear that Jérémie is situated within a developing country—one that last year received a ranking of 168 out of 187 on the United Nations’ Human Development Index. The dense town center is home to cement block structures holding up corrugated tin roofs and donkeys that trudge through the dusty streets alongside motorcycles and uniformed school children; raw sewage runs through street-side channels toward the trash-covered beach. Most households get their water from wells and only receive electricity during certain hours of the day—if at all.
The Catholic archdiocese operates a hospital and several elementary schools in town, and a cathedral is rising incrementally depending on when donations come in. In 1995, the town’s former bishop, Willy Romelus (who famously endured violent attacks for supporting former president Jean Bertrand Aristide), established a nursing school. That same year, he also partnered with Father Jomanas Eustache to found the École Supérieure Catholique de Droit de Jérémie(ESCDROJ), a law school that occupies the nursing-school property at night. Though Romelus is now retired, Eustache, who’s also a lawyer, remains an active clerical figure in the community and serves as the dean and chief fundraiser for the law school, on top of teaching several courses. Similar to his seminary classmate Aristide—who was the country’s first democratically elected president and recently created another law school in Port-au-Prince—Eustache is on a quest to strengthen the rule of law in Haiti through legal education. ESCDROJ is one ofthree or so accredited institutions conferring law degrees in the country (which is predominantly Catholic) and the first one to focus on training public-interest lawyers.
“We’re training lawyers to enter the court system, to maintain high ethical standards and advocate for the poor,” Eustache told me. Citing the widely citedbrain drain from Haiti of highly educated citizens, he went on to emphasize: “And we want our graduates to stay in Haiti.”
In the absence of state support, priests like Eustache become enterprising, devoting their time to much more than supporting the spiritual life of their congregations. They establish schools, hospitals, and businesses, maintaining wide networks of donors to fund their institutions. Eustache, who is fluent in English (among other languages), regularly visits a number of communities in the U.S., maintaining relationships with the Haitian expats living there, as well as other Catholics supporting his mission.
At ESCDROJ, 165 or so students pursue an undergraduate degree in law while also working to support themselves and, often, their families. To accommodate these needs, the law school holds classes during the evenings; students typically pull up on motorcycles around 6 p.m., arriving to Haitian konpa music blaring out of the open-air cement classroom. Still in their work clothes, the students sidle into wooden tablet desk chairs facing a laptop projector and speaker system—which like the rest of the facility’s electric-powered equipment have to rely on power from a generator in the evenings. The school’s library consists of a single, small room housing textbooks and a few computers with insufficient Internet. The heat remains even as the sun goes down, everyone visibly perspiring and clutching sodas or bottles of water. Mosquitoes start to hover.
Over eight semesters total, the law students work through a curriculum determined by Haiti’s Ministry of Justice. The curriculum has no elective courses, meaning that students’ exposure to topics like human rights and social justice depends on guest lectures—often from academics visiting from outside the country. Throughout the years, for example, the school has maintained partnerships with several American law schools: The Columbus School of Law at Catholic University, Seton Hall University’s School of Law, and the University of California Hastings College of the Law regularly fundraise and bring students and faculty to Jérémie to provide trainings in special topics. (I work for UC Hastings and heard about the Haiti initiative through the university; however, I traveled for and conducted my reporting independently, receiving no compensation or editorial direction from the institution.)
Curriculum aside, poor post-graduation outcomes present another problem. Though most ESCDROJ students graduate from the program, according to officials, the vast majority of graduates never become licensed attorneys because of significant obstacles at the last levels of training, often working instead as jurists (those who study and analyze the law but don’t necessarily practice it). First, students must author an 80-page, originally researched dissertation, ormemoire. This is a challenging task for many students, not least because Haiti’s education system and general culture prioritizes oratory skills. Plus, given that only half of all Haitians 15 or older are literate, Haitians are used to getting their information by word of mouth. And access to technology is scarce: Judith L’Amour, an administrator at ESCDROJ, guessed that at least half of the school’s students lack access to computers apart from that they get on campus or at work, while half of Jérémie’s residents, according to estimates, don’t have regular electricity at home. It’s common to see students of all ages studying outside at night using the light from municipal street lamps.
Meanwhile, the memoire imposes a financial burden on students on top of the school’s $500 annual tuition. (Aside from a few scholarships, students have to pay tuition out of pocket because student loans aren’t available). Researching and writing the dissertation can detract as much as a year’s time from paid jobs, and students are expected to arrange for and pay a lawyer to advise them.
Then, after the memoire, students are required to work for two years, again under the supervision of a practicing attorney, in order to become licensed. Most of the time, these positions are uncompensated—even in the public sector; in fact, students often have to pay for any training received from senior lawyers in private practice, according to officials.
And though exact data isn’t available, it’s undeniable that attorneys in general are very rare in Haiti. Each year fewer than 20 lawyers are admitted to practice in the Haitian bar despite the hundreds of students who are estimated to graduate from law school annually. Lori Nessel, a law professor at Seton Hall who has close ties with ESCDROJ, explained that the overly rigorous requirements create a paradox of human resources: “In order to become a lawyer in Haiti, you have to have a lawyer supervise you,” she said. “In a country with a shortage of lawyers, it is very difficult to grow new ones.”
Eustache, noting that Haitian legal education focuses on classroom—rather than experiential learning—says he’s making it a priority to solve the serious lack of client advocacy experience for ESCDROJ students. And those efforts are starting to come to fruition. In 2008, Roxane Edmond-Dimanche, an ESCDROJ graduate, decided to organize a coalition of American and Haitian lawyers to establish Haiti’s first criminal-justice clinic as inspired by American clinical programs. After all, similar projects funded by private foundations and governments to create legal clinical programs at law schools in South Africa, Poland, and Chile have been cited as successful exports of this American educational model.
After years of fundraising and development, much of which was spearheaded by foreign law schools, the ESCDROJ clinic is scheduled to open this summer in a building designed by the American architect Tom Zook, made of repurposed shipping containers and sitting on a parcel of Eustache’s property. Edmond-Dimanche and Gabrielle Paul, another ESCDROJ alumna, will codirect and supervise the clinic, which is also aimed at providing practical experience to all interested third- and fourth-year students. Several days a week, students are slated to offer legal counsel to indigent clients from all over the Grand’Anse region, specializing in representing victims in cases of sexual violence.
Jérémie’s overcrowded jail, with its squalid, tiny cells, is another rationale for the clinic. According to an investigation by Edmond-Dimanche and Paul, 90 percent of the nearly 200 prisoners in the facility have never been arraigned, which is technically required within 48 hours of arrest, because Haiti lacks a bail system. And, because of the lack of resources, many prisoners serve years without ever seeing a judge—often much longer than they might have been officially sentenced, the two found. ”We believe that the public defense offered by the legal clinic will help the problem of severe overcrowding of the jail in Jérémie,” said Paul, who clarified that the clinic’s public-defense services will only be available in non-sexual violence cases to avoid situations in which they’d have to represent both an alleged rapist and the victim.
By offering legal assistance to victims of sexual violence, Paul said, the clinic will raise the status and legitimacy of these cases, which officially have only been prosecutable in Haiti for the past decade. “Victims, families, and communities have become desensitized to violence against women, and judicial impunity is the norm,” said Nicole Phillips, an American lawyer with one of Haiti’s only public-interest law firms, the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI). Phillips, who recently guest lectured at ESCDROJ as the leader of a delegation from UC Hastings, pointed out that rape wasn’t established as a crime in the Haitian legal code in 2005.
The BAI has filed dozens of criminal complaints on behalf of rape victims under the recent code update; 18 have gone to trial, of which 14 have been successful and two are currently on appeal. And the legal clinic aims to bring more perpetrators to justice. “These prosecutions demonstrate hope in the broken system—police, prosecutors, judges and Haitian lawyers are taking these cases seriously and bringing justice to poor Haitian women and girls,” she said.
Phillips is also optimistic about the community-education efforts that the clinic plans to implement. She said that the BAI, which is based in Port-au-Prince, receives most of its cases from grassroots women’s organizations whose leaders are themselves victims of violence. Phillips said that the cases help build the capacity of the organizations and restore their faith in the justice system. The same can be done in the Grand’Anse region, which encompasses 400,000 people spread over 738 square miles. “The 80 percent poor majority also need to be trained about their human rights and the legal system to change the system,” she said.
The clinic might also help shift attitudes among ESCDROJ students, which are still somewhat patriarchal, Paul said, despite the school’s progressive leadership. An exercise during one recent class provided instruction in various countries’ definitions of consent for sexual intercourse—a linchpin for convicting rapists. (Haiti lacks a law on consent, and police usually require the victim to produce a certificate from the state hospital documenting any injuries to open a case.) During the class I observed students were instructed to debate this question: If the wife doesn’t consent, has the husband committed rape?
“If my wife refuses me and she is not sick, then she has committed an offense against me,” one male student stated in front of the class, which was 20 percent female at the time of my visit. Paul immediately jumped up to powerfully rebut his argument: “Are you claiming that your wife is your property? Because slavery is illegal!” she shouted, poignantly referencing the history of slave rebellion in Haiti and winning applause from the crowd. (Haiti gained independence from France in 1804, making it the only nation to be founded by slaves.)
Paul, who brought her American born 17-month-old daughter with her to class, is particularly passionate about fighting sexism. Paul said that the attitudes and behaviors of men govern her approach to parenting: No one but the most trusted family members are allowed to take care of her daughter. “I’ve seen rape victims who are babies who are 4 years old,” she said.
While Paul is excited to codirect the legal clinic, she knows that its opening may be delayed, possibly for months. The fundraising isn’t complete, and the agencies tasked with managing supplies for the clinic have been slow to deliver. The three shipping containers that will make up the structure are awaiting placement on the foundation, blocked by trees that need to be removed before the forklift can drive through. Paul is also aware that the clinic’s location, far from the center of Jérémie, may present big transportation challenges to potential clients scattered across the large region. “We were supposed to get a vehicle so we can provide transport for victims, but I’m not sure we are getting it now,” she said. Nevertheless, the partners supporting the clinic say that any delays are only temporary, and it’s possible for students to offer counsel in other locations if necessary.
Even without the clinic, ESCDROJ’s record of promoting public-interest law is inspiring other Haitian law schools. The aforementioned Aristide Foundation’s law school in Port-au-Prince, which opened in 2011, is similarly promoting human rights and the rule of law in its curriculum and bringing in international collaborators to provide clinical training. ESCDROJ has demonstrated that this kind of training can significantly improve the legal culture in just a few years.
“I was struck on my last visit to see how many of the legal professionals in Jérémie were trained at ESCDROJ. Judges and prosecutors, the clerk of the court, the chief of police, and law professors are their graduates,” Nessel said. “The school is fulfilling its initial mission to create lawyers educated with a real sense of justice and rule of law who will go on to change the system there.”
Click HERE for the original article.
At NYU, learn about the future of the human rights movement from the new generation of human rights lawyers.
A conversation with Michael Posner, Co-director, Center for Business and Human Rights and Clinical Professor, Business and Society, Dean Trevor Morrison, NYU School of Law, and the newest generation of NYU School of Law Human Rights leaders: Andrea Gittleman ’09, Program Manager of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; Beatrice Lindstrom ’10, Staff Attorney at the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti; Tafadzwa Pasipanodya ’08, Associate at Foley Hoag LLP
This event is part of the first annual Bernstein Institute conference which will bring together top practitioners and scholars in the human rights field to discuss inequality and discrimination.
40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012
12:30 to 1:30pm
April 22, 2015
Click HERE for more on the conference.
Here’s the recording of this specific panel:
In December, footage was released of UN peacekeepers shooting at unarmed civilians who were protesting the Martelly government. Although the UN claimed the two peacekeepers were under investigation, it seems no progress has been made. Now, accused kidnappers affiliated with President Martelly have been acquitted by an accelerated procedure and the UN remains silent. The article below questions the UN’s lack of participation in these cases.
Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.On Haiti, UN Does If-Asked on Release of Martelly Cronies, Withholds Report
Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press
April 22, 2015
UNITED NATIONS, April 22 — When cronies of Michel Martelly in Haiti were quickly released on serious charges, the UN in Haiti said nothing. So on April 21 at the UN noon briefing (transcript here) Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about it:
Inner City Press: Since the UN has a mission in Haiti… there was a report that close affiliates of current president, holdover President [Michel] Martelly were charged with various crimes. And then recently, on Friday, two of those accused were very swiftly released and cleared. One’s name is Woodly Ethéart. The other is Renel Nelfort. Many have raised questions about the rule of law aspect of releasing friends of the President after very serious charges, including kidnapping, money-laundering, etc. So I’m wondering, MINUSTAH (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti), does it have any response to this?
Spokesman Dujarric: Sure. They’ve taken note of the accelerated procedure by which the two defendants that you mentioned were acquitted of very serious charges, including kidnapping for ransom, drug trafficking, money-laundering and organized crime, just to name a few. We further note yesterday’s filing for an appeal with Haiti’s Supreme Court by the Minister of Justice and Public Security against the fact that the lower court took the decision of releasing the two defendants. The decision’s been appealed. And the UN stands by the Haitian judicial authorities to swiftly and effectively use the powers and functions conferred upon them under Haitian law to exercise judicial oversight in this matter and ensure the delivery of justice.
Click HERE for the full text.
Bien que Haïti a souvent un nombre difficile à manier des partis politiques, le numéro de cette année–129 à ce jour–menace de faire dérailler le processus électoral. Beaucoup de personnes croient que les 64 nouveaux partis sont proches a le président, et que c’est une stratégie pour engloutir la démocratie représentative. Le CEP et le Premier ministre ont exhorté les parties à consolider. Autrement, il peut être impossible de créer bulletins utilisables.
Partie de l’article est ci-dessous. Cliquez ICI pour le texte complet.Veut-on vraiment des élections ?
Frantz Duval, Le Nouvelliste
20 avril 2015
57 en 2005, 65 en 2010, 129 en 2015. Le nombre des partis politiques a tendance à croître d’élection présidentielle en élection présidentielle. Sous le règne de Michel Martelly, le bulletin ve devoir faire un exploit pour contenir tous les prétendedants si des regroupements ne se matérialisent pas en vue de réduire le nombre des candidats au scrutin présidentiel.
Les 64 nouveaux partis, faut-il le rappeler, sont, avant tout, proches idéologiquement ou liés d’une manière ou d’une autre à Tèt Kale. L’équipe au pouvoir croit depuis la conférence d’El Rancho que le surnombre d’entités politiques est une bonne stratégie pour engloutir la démocratie représentative.
Alors quand le Premier ministre et le ministre chargé des relations avec les partis politiques font mine d’encourager la réduction des acteurs politiques sur l’échiquier électoral, on se demande pourquoi Tèt Kale ne se contente pas de réunir ses tendances, ramifications, alliés et autres pions, le nombre des partis sera ainsi réduit de moitié.
Cliquez ICI pour le texte complet.
For the first time, UN experts have filed an allegation letter against the UN and not a government. In the letter, they explain that the UN violated Haitians’ rights by causing Haiti’s cholera epidemic and not providing any method for victims to file claims. That letter, and the UN’s response, have been made public. This is yet another demonstration that even the UN needs to be accountable for its actions.
Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.Haitians’ Rights Were Violated Over Cholera Outbreak, UN Experts Assert
Rosa Freedman, PassBlue
April 20, 2015
In September 2014, four United Nations human-rights experts wrote to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon alleging that the UN had violated human rights through the cholera epidemic in Haiti, which broke out in October 2010. This is the first time that an allegation letter — a formal complaint procedure typically used against governments — has been filed against the UN. The letter and the UN’s response have, finally, been leaked to the public.
The 34-page response from the UN is the longest and most substantive explanation that the world body has provided so far on the cholera epidemic, despite years of questions from the media and rights groups on the UN’s responsibility on the matter.
It appears that the UN is much more willing to engage with and respond to human-rights experts than it is with the cholera victims and their legal representatives. In many respects, that is the most shocking discovery of the entire process: the UN feels more obliged to respond fully to independent experts than it does to the individuals affected by the epidemic.
Click HERE for the full text.
After over 3 years of delays, it seems like Haiti is going to hold all of its elections–presidential, parliamentary, and municipal–this year. There are, however, many hurdles left to overcome, such as funding the elections and organizing the long list of candidates in a way that’s understandable to a population with high illiteracy rates.Elections loom: Haiti’s year of living dangerously
Amelie Baron, Yahoo! News
April 19, 2015
Port-au-Prince (AFP) – After three years of delayed polls and simmering political unrest, Haiti’s rusty electoral machinery is finally grinding into gear.
By the end of the year, the impoverished Caribbean republic ought to have a newly elected president, parliament and local municipal governments — a test for any developing nation.
Haitians have not been able to vote in an election since popular singer Michel Martelly won the presidency in a controversial 2011 poll.
Since then, presidential nominees have replaced elected mayors in many towns and the Senate and House of Representatives have shrunk away.
But the long delay has not dampened the ambition of Haiti’s political elite.
More than 120 parties have registered to take part in the contests, in a country of scarcely 11 million with a checkered electoral past.
Not all will field candidates for all the races, but the sheer number of factions will add to the challenge facing organizers in an unruly country reeling from an earthquake and a cholera epidemic.
“We can’t restrict a citizen’s right to form a political party,” sighed Mosler Georges, executive director of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP).
“But we have to admit it’s going to difficult in logistical terms.”
- Electoral marathon -
The numbers underline Haiti’s challenge.
Between mayors, town councilors, deputies, senators and the president, more than 6,000 seats are up for grabs in races spread across three polling days on August 9, October 25 and December 27.
It shouldn’t have been such a marathon. Under Haiti’s young constitution, most of the contests should have been fought months or even years ago at well-spaced intervals.
But things are rarely easy in Haiti. Martelly’s camp and the divided but determined opposition have been at daggers drawn for years, and their stand-off disrupted the program.
Parliament accused the president of trying to stuff the electoral commission with his supporters. The presidency accused lawmakers of delaying a vote on a key electoral law.
As months went by without any votes, local councilors and national lawmakers saw their mandates expire with no replacements named.
On January 12, the national parliament fell into disuse, with too few members to form a quorum to vote on legislation.
Under pressure from the street, where opposition demonstrations were getting louder, and from nervous foreign capitals, Martelly issued a March 2 decree.
There would at last be elections.
Pretenders to the presidency are supposed to register their intent during the second week of May, but already dozens of names are circulating.
“If we have 50 or 60 presidential candidates, you can just imagine how long the ballot paper will be,” Georges told AFP.
Long indeed. Alongside each name on the ballot there must be the candidate’s photo, campaign logo and party registration number.
Around half of the population is illiterate and might otherwise struggle to pick a name.
“So everyone wants either number one or number 10,” George said.
Candidate Number One will be easy to find at the top of the ballot, he explained, and: “Ten is Lionel Messi’s shirt number.”
Argentine footballers may be better known to Haitians than their own leaders, but there is a greater challenge facing poll organizers: Money.
Haiti, already lagging behind its neighbors because of its brutal colonial history and recent years of dictatorship and rebellion, was devastated by a 2010 earthquake.
The unprecedented disaster killed 200,000 people and demolished much of the capital, Port-au-Prince. The World Bank estimated the damage as the equivalent of 120 percent of annual GDP.
Haiti has been slowly rebuilding, but much of the international aid promised in the wake of quake either never arrived or was spent on short-term disaster relief efforts rather than sustained development.
The country suffered another setback when a cholera epidemic, widely and credibly blamed on the poor hygiene of a UN peacekeeping unit, killed thousands more.
- Fear of violence -
Now Haiti needs to pay to organize elections.
The CEP estimates the cost at $60 million (50 million euros). Haiti has found $13.8 million itself and foreign donors offered $24 million more — leaving a shortfall of around a quarter of the cost.
But despite the logistical and financial hurdles, for most in Haiti the main threat to polling is the fear of fraud, violence and intimidation.
Every election organized in Haiti since the fall of brutal strongman Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier in 1986 has been marred by unrest.
To this day, the country has only 12,000 police officers, and the United Nations is slashing the size of its international peacekeeping force.
Between now and July, despite the approach of polling, the Blue Helmet force will be cut in half again to only 2,370 troops.
The foreign troops are often unpopular on the streets, but Haitian authorities have come to rely on them.
In January, when a delegation of ambassadors from member states of the UN Security Council came to visit, Justice Minister Pierre Richard Casimir pleaded for a larger force.
His request fell on deaf ears.
Finally, after all the expense and risk, how many of Haiti’s six million voters even take part? In 2011′s presidential race, turnout was less than a third.
Click HERE for the original article.
Business Insider a écrit un grand article sur l’epidemie du choléra en Haïti. Dans l’article, l’auteur décrit une lettre d’accusation ecrit par des rapporteurs spéciaux de l’ONU. La lettre cite la responsabilité de l’ONU pour l’épidémie du choléra en Haïti et accuse l’ONU de violer les droits de l’homme en ce cas. La lettre est une étape importante vers la justice. Elle “démontre qu’il y a un mouvement croissant de personnes liées à l’ONU qui reconnaissent que la position de l’organe mondial sur l’épidémie n’est plus tenable.”
Ci dessous est une traduction non-officielle. Read the original text (English) HERE.
Par Armin Rosen, le 9 avril 2015
Traduit par Lika Doehl Diouf, le 18 avril 2015Ban Ki-moon, Secrétaire général de l’ONU sort d’une maison pendant une visite à Los Palmas, un village frappé par le choléra. 14 juillet 2014.
La flambée de choléra en Haïti est l’affaire Watergate de l’ONU, sauf qu’elle a moins de conséquences pour les personnes responsables, et un impact réel et infiniment plus désastreux.
Un échange de lettres à ce sujet entre trois rapporteurs spéciaux des Nations unies et le Secrétaire général de l’ONU Ban Ki-moon à la fin de l’année dernière démontre que l’organe mondial continue de se protéger de tout examen.
Une éclosion de choléra débuta environ 10 mois après le tremblement de terre catastrophique de janvier 2010.
Malgré la ruine de l’infrastructure du pays et le déplacement de centaines de milliers de personnes, l’apparition du choléra suivant le séisme était une surprise, car aucun cas de cette maladie n’a été signalé depuis le milieu des années soixante, ou peut-être même avant.
Des scientifiques et des journalistes, notamment Jonathan Katz, ancien chef de pupitre d’Associated Press à Port-au-Prince, ont démontré de façon concluante que le choléra a été transmis au pays par des Casques bleus népalais, et que la source de la contamination du fleuve Artibonite et des réserves d’eau était un site d’élimination de déchets humains mal géré situé à une base de maintien de la paix.
Katz a documenté que l’ONU en fait avait camouflé sa responsabilité au début de la flambée, ainsi retardant une compréhension médicale, susceptible de sauver des vies, du caractère de la maladie.
L’ONU a refusé de reconnaître sa culpabilité même quand il est devenu évident que cette épidémie ne saurait exister en Haïti sans l’ONU, son dépistage déficient de ses Casques bleus, et la négligence du contingent de maintien de la paix népalais.
L’épidémie a tué environ 9000 personnes avant la fin de 2014 et a infecté plus que 1 sur 20 haïtiens. Grâce à la Convention de 1946 sur les privilèges et immunités des Nations unies, l’ONU jouit d’une protection juridique large et presque absolue à travers le monde.
Les victimes haïtiennes du choléra n’ont pas eu de chance en poursuivant des cas contre l’ONU devant les tribunaux américains. Récemment, en janvier 2015, une action contre l’ONU au nom des victimes a été rejetée par la cour fédérale des Etats-Unis, mais des projets envisagent de faire appel de la décision plus tard cette année.
Pour traiter les plaintes des victimes sans lever son immunité, l’ONU est tenue d’établir des mécanismes de remplacement au sein de son système. Mais elle ne l’a pas encore fait pour les victimes du choléra, car elle ne se considère pas responsable pour l’éclosion.Flickr L’éclosion de choléra a mis à rude épreuve un pays souffrant déjà d’une infrastructure décimée à cause d’un séisme en janvier 2010.
Si l’ONU était vraiment convaincue en ce regard de son immunité réel et à long terme, elle serait disposée de reconnaître sa responsabilité pour la flambée, en toute confiance qu’elle à aucun moment ne fera face à une action devant un tribunal national.
Mais au lieu de soit lever son immunité, ou admettre que ses erreurs ont donné lieu à l’épidémie de choléra, l’ONU a pris un chemin de milieu problématique : elle a refusé d’assumer responsabilité, et ainsi intensifié la méfiance de l’organisation et compliqué les efforts de secours, tout en invoquant son immunité juridique et résistant à toute tentative à donner redresse dans son propre système.
L’ONU se comporte comme une organisation qui sait qu’elle a quelque chose à cacher – mais son immunité la donne une option de non-participation qui n’a point d’égal entre les organisations mondiales.REUTERS
« S’ils avaient confiance dans le fait qu’ils ne sont pas responsables, aucune raison ne saurait nier un procès équitable aux victimes » Beatrice Lindstrom, avocate à l’Institute for Democracy and Justice in Haiti, déclara au Business Insider.
Néanmoins, ils n’ont pas encore obtenu un procès juste et équitable. En octobre 2014, cette situation a suscité chez trois rapporteurs spéciaux de l’ONU des inquiétudes croissantes au point d’envoyer une lettre d’accusation au bureau du Secrétaire général Ban Ki-moon.
Un rapporteur spécial est un expert non-rémunéré nommé par l’ONU pour mener à sa demande des études sur diverses questions d’importance internationale. Ils ne sont pas officiellement employés de l’ONU, mais font partie intégrante de l’ensemble du système onusien.
Les rapporteurs spéciaux envoient souvent des lettres d’accusation destinés aux états ou institutions qu’ils considèrent manquent à leurs obligations sous la Charte de l’ONU ou d’autres conventions internationales.
Cette lettre était destinée à l’ONU même.
« Nous exprimons la grave inquiétude que l’ONU supposément ait omit de déployer des efforts raisonnables et d’agir avec la diligence requise pour prévenir l’introduction et l’éclosion de choléra en Haïti depuis 2010 » y écrivirent Leilani Farha, Dainus Puras et Catarina de Albuquerque.
Ils sont, respectivement, les rapporteurs spéciaux sur «le logement convenable en tant qu’élément du droit à un niveau de vie suffisant», sur «le droit de toute personne de jouir du meilleur état de santé physique et mentale possible», et sur «la réalisation du droit à l’eau potable et à l’assainissement».
« En outre, nous exprimons la grave inquiétude que jusqu’à date, prétendument, les personnes touchées par la flambée de choléra ont été privées d’accès à des voies de recours et n’ont reçu aucune compensation. Finalement, nous exprimons l’inquiétude que jusqu’à date les efforts de lutte contre le choléra et pour améliorer les installations d’eau et d’assainissement en Haïti ont été inadéquats. »
La lettre inclut aussi une « annexe » citant « des instruments et normes internationaux des droits de l’homme pertinents à ces allégations ». En substance, les rapporteurs ont publiquement accusé l’ONU de violer les droits humains en omettant d’établir un mécanisme de remplacement pour que les victimes du choléra puissent déposer une plainte contre l’ONU, et en niant sa responsabilité de nettoyer le gâchis que ses Casques bleus ont laissé de diverses autres manières.Ali Hashisho/Reuters Les Casques bleus, et l’institution qu’ils représentent, ont peu de responsabilisation juridique.
Le bureau du Secrétaire général répondit environ un mois plus tard, avec une lettre à 33 pages, six fois la longueur de la « lettre d’accusation » des rapporteurs.
Elle a rappelé qu’un « comité indépendant » convoqué par l’ONU « a conclu que l’éclosion était causée par un concours de circonstances et non la faute ou acte intentionnel d’aucun groupe ou individu. » Elle a aussi passé en revue une série d’efforts de secours en Haïti et des changements institutionnels mis en œuvre depuis la flambée, y inclus des normes médicales renforcés pour les Casques bleus déployés de pays affectés par le choléra.
Ban promit que l’ONU adopte une approche « globale » vers l’élimination du choléra en Haïti. Mais la lettre confirma l’immunité juridique de l’ONU, même si elle s’est donné la peine de souligner que l’incapacité des victimes de porter plainte ne diminue pas la responsabilité morale de l’ONU vers eux :
« Le Secrétaire général a dit très clairement que, bien que les plaintes ne sont pas recevables au titre de l’article 29 de la Convention générale et que l’immunité des Nations unies devant les tribunaux nationaux doit être maintenue, cela ne diminue en rien l’engagement des Nations unies de faire tout ce qu’elle peut pour aider le peuple haïtien à surmonter l’épidémie de choléra.REUTERS/Swoan Parker Un garçon diagnostiqué de choléra est traite à un centre médical géré par Médecins sans frontières aux abords de Port-au-Prince. 1 novembre 2012.
Certains douteraient que l’ONU en vérité fait « tout ce qu’elle peut ». Même si le choléra maintenant n’affecte que 0,05% de la population, le nombre de cas a commencé à grimper vers la fin de 2014. En janvier de 2015, l’incidence de choléra était 75% plus élevée que les experts avaient prévu en mi-2014, et le nombre de cas a atteint un pic de croissance de 50% par rapport à l’année précédente.
Même si l’épidémie est maintenant « sous contrôle » selon les normes épidémiologiques, cela est davantage dû au fait que 2014 était un an sec, qu’à la retraite de la maladie – le choléra est véhiculé par l’eau, et la maladie est à deux doigts d’un retour en force à cause d’un ouragan ou une tempête tropicale.
Ban esquive aussi la question du refus de l’ONU d’établir un mécanisme de replacement pour porter plainte à base de l’épidémie de choléra contre l’ONU. « Ceci montre qu’ils n’ont aucune explication réelle pour leur rejet des demandes. » dit Lindstrom.
Mais l’échange de lettres démontre qu’il y a un mouvement croissant de personnes liées à l’ONU qui reconnaissent que la position de l’organe mondial sur l’épidémie n’est plus tenable.
« Cela signifie un changement important au sein de l’ONU » dit Lindstrom. « Des personnes qui font part du système s’expriment. En essence, ils disent que l’ONU viole les droits humains et posent des questions cruciales à quels l’ONU doit répondre.»
ACTUALISATION (10 avril, 10:47):
Le Business Insider a demandé au bureau du Secrétaire général si la lettre des rapporteurs spéciaux avait conduit l’ONU à des changements de politique, et si un précédent existait où un rapporteur avait adressé une lettre d’accusation à l’ONU même. Nous leur posâmes aussi des questions sur un paragraphe de la lettre de réponse du Secrétaire général où Ban écrivit qu’il consulterait le Conseiller juridique de l’ONU pour déterminer si l’organisation considère les plaintes liés au choléra non-recevables – nous voulions savoir si le conseiller avait fourni des orientations supplémentaires à ce sujet.
En réaction, le Porte-parole de l’ONU, Matthias Gillmann, a envoyé au Business Insider la réponse suivante :
« La position des Nations unies en ce qui concerne les plaintes contre l’Organisation n’a pas changé. Comme nous avons affirmé vis-à-vis d’autres cas ouverts, dans la pratique des Nations unies, il n’est pas coutumier de discuter publiquement les plaintes portées contre l’Organisation.
Les Nations unies restent fermement engagées à faire tout ce qu’elles puissent pour aider le peuple d’Haïti à surmonter l’épidémie de choléra.
En ce qui concerne les Rapporteurs spéciaux, ils sont des experts indépendants, et leurs rapports ne représentent donc pas nécessairement la position officielle des Nations unies. »
This was an unofficial French translation. Click HERE for the original article, in English.