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Fatal Assistance Screening/Q&A in SF

April 3, 2014 - 16:00

Join IJDH’s Nicole Phillips in SF for a screening and Q&A.

WHAT:

University of San Francisco’s Human Rights Film Festival will include a screening of Fatal Assistance. After the film, Nicole will lead the Q&A. Fatal Assistance, produced by acclaimed Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck, explores the failures of international aid to Haiti after the 2010 Earthquake. It answers the common questions of “Where did the money go?” and “What did we do wrong?” from a Haitian perspective.

WHERE:

USF Presentation Theater
2350 Turk Blvd. at Masonic Ave.
San Francisco, CA

WHEN:

Thursday, April 3, 2014 at 7pm

For more on the film festival in general, click HERE.

UN Impunity for Haiti Cholera Weakens Its Credibility

April 3, 2014 - 12:11

This post chronicles the cholera epidemic in Haiti, from when grassroots organizations first started making noise about it to IJDH; BAI; and law firm Kurzban, Kurzban, Weinger, Tetzelli & Pratt decided to file a suit against the UN, all in hopes of the UN taking responsibility. The post also emphasizes how the UN’s lack of accountability is undermining their goals to promote human rights and the rule of law around the world when the organization itself isn’t respecting human rights.

UN Accountability for Haiti’s Cholera Epidemic

Ira Kurzban, Beatrice Lindstrom, Shannon Jonsson, AJIL Unbound
April 3, 2014

Editor’s note: The following is the second in our series of posts covering a recent panel discussion held at the American Society of International Law’s headquarters in Washington, DC.

* * *

A lawsuit pending in U.S. courts against the United Nations for its responsibility for Haiti’s cholera outbreak is the largest challenge yet to the impunity of the organization, which has thus far refused to comply with its legal obligations to provide a settlement mechanism to the victims. With no such avenue of redress available to them, those affected by the epidemic have been left in the bizarre situation where in order to obtain justice they must file lawsuits against the United Nations, whose mandate is to defend the rule of law and promote human rights. If successful, the suit would improve accountability for the organization and underscore the need for it to comply with international law.

In October 2013, the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and the civil rights law firm Kurzban, Kurzban, Weinger, Tetzelli & Pratt filed a groundbreaking lawsuit in the Southern District of New York on behalf of Haitian and Haitian-American plaintiffs, contesting the immunity of the UN and seeking to hold the organization and its subsidiary, the UN Mission for Stabilization in Haiti (MINUSTAH), accountable for the disastrous introduction of cholera to the Caribbean nation in 2010. The cholera epidemic in Haiti is the largest in the world, having killed more than 8,500 and injured more than 700,000 people as of March 10, 2014, and has now spread to the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Mexico. Amidst this ongoing tragedy, the lawsuit represents a head-on challenge to the framework that governs UN accountability. There is little doubt that this is a purely private law matter that the United Nations has an undisputed obligation to hear and settle, and that had it been a multinational corporation—say, BP—that polluted Haiti’s waterways with untreated human waste that triggered a deadly epidemic, sensitivity to international outrage, and exposure to liability would have prompted a swift response that included compensation to victims. It is difficult to understand, then, why the very organization charged with upholding international human rights has taken such an obstructive position that thwarts the victims’ right of access to justice.

Cholera suddenly appeared in Haiti in October 2010 after at least 100 years without any recorded cases of the disease. Public health experts stress the importance of understanding how the disease arrived in Haiti, and it is no longer a matter of dispute that it was brought there by UN peacekeepers deployed from an area of cholera-endemic Nepal that had recently experienced a surge in infections. Almost immediately, evidence emerged pointing to reckless waste disposal practices on a UN base as the source of the epidemic. As a result, we expected the United Nations to do the right thing by conducting a serious investigation and accepting responsibility for its actions. Instead, its response was to deny any role in the outbreak—a position that they maintain to this day in the face of overwhelming evidence.

MINUSTAH’s introduction of cholera to Haiti occurred at a time of growing popular discontent with the Mission for its perceived lack of accountability to the population and immunity from legal prosecution for acts of sexual violence, excessive use of force, and other misconduct. Groups that had been active in organizing for MINUSTAH accountability understood that making noise (fè bri in Haitian Creole) would be critical to persuading the United Nations to conduct an independent investigation into cholera’s origins and respond justly to the cholera epidemic. Thus, Haitian grassroots groups organized demonstrations and pushed the media to maintain pressure on the United Nations.

It took months before the United Nations yielded to pressure and appointed a panel of independent experts to investigate the source of the outbreak. During that time, cholera spread through Haiti like wildfire. The report produced by the independent experts revealed gross negligence if not recklessness on the part of the United Nations. They found that the cholera outbreak coincided with the arrival of peacekeepers from Nepal, where cholera is endemic, and that the strain of cholera in Haiti was a perfect match to the strain of cholera present in Nepal at that time. They learned that the peacekeepers were not tested or treated for cholera prior to their arrival in Haiti and observed that this contingent of peacekeepers from Nepal was stationed on a base perched on the banks of the Meille Tributary, which flows into Haiti’s principal river system. Perhaps most damning of all, they found that the sanitation piping on the base was cracked and haphazard, and the base dumped its untreated human waste in open air pits that overflowed into the river when it rained. Their findings have been further corroborated by genetic studies, other epidemiological investigations, and accounts by journalists who visited the base and witnessed the sanitation disaster first hand. Despite all of this evidence, the last page of the report stated that the epidemic was the result of a confluence of circumstances, including Haiti’s weak water and sanitation infrastructure, suggesting that somehow Haitians were to blame for the United Nations’ recklessness. The United Nations seized on this language instead of acknowledging responsibility, and continued to deny that it had any role in the introduction of cholera to Haiti.

When it became clear that the United Nations was not going to take responsibility in spite of the clear scientific evidence of its fault, we believed that it was time to take action. The UN presence in Haiti is governed by the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed by both the United Nations and the government of Haiti—an agreement that, inter alia, requires the United Nations to respect all local laws and regulations, including those with respect to health and sanitation. Although the SOFA and the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations(CPIUN) afford the United Nations protection from national courts, they also impose on the United Nations reciprocal obligations to provide out-of-court remedies.

Section 29 of the CPIUN requires the UN to provide “appropriate modes of settlement” for “disputes of a private law character.” The cholera claims fall squarely under the category of private law claims, which result from a tort or breach of contract but do not include challenges to the UN mandate or decisions made from military operational necessity, such as battlefield decisions. Tellingly, the United Nations has cited third-party claims for personal injury or death arising out of peacekeeping operations as archetypal examples of private law claims that the UN must settle.

Moreover, paragraphs 54 and 55 of the SOFA require that third-party claims for personal injury, illness or death attributable to MINUSTAH, which cannot be resolved through the United Nations’ internal mechanisms, be heard and settled by a standing claims commission. This is a standard clause in the SOFAs that the United Nations enters into wherever it launches a peacekeeping mission. Despite these commitments, the United Nations never established a standing claims commission, or any other settlement mechanism, in Haiti. Indeed, the organization has not established a standing claims commission in any country that has hosted a UN peacekeeping operation, despite its thirty-two agreements promising to do so.

Nevertheless, it was with the hope and the understanding that the United Nations would honor these agreements that we presented the organization with some 5,000 private law claims for personal injury and wrongful death in November 2011. We asked the United Nations for three forms of remedies: first, the water and sanitation infrastructure required to control the epidemic; second, just compensation for the victims and their families; and third, a public acceptance of responsibility. We also petitioned for the establishment of the promised standing claims commission.

The UN quickly acknowledged that it had received the claims and would get back to us in due course, but it took an additional fifteen months before we received its formal response in the form of a two-page letter. After more than a year in which the epidemic was ongoing and the United Nations was doing little to respond to the public health emergency, we were shocked to find that the United Nations had summarily dismissed the claims as “not receivable pursuant to Section 29 of the [CPIUN]” because review of the claims “would necessarily include a review of political and policy matters.” Such a bald statement is baffling on its face because no such exception to Section 29 exists, and it is difficult to fathom what policy or politics would be involved in leaking cholera-laden waste into a river system. We sent a lengthy reply to the United Nations asking for clarification of its conclusion, drawing attention to the organization’s own stated commitments to resolve private law claims and requesting a meeting or mediation to discuss the issues, but the organization refused to engage in dialogue. Instead, it restated its position without further explanation, thereby highlighting the stark contrast between the stated human rights mission of the United Nations in theory and its lack of accountability and transparency in practice.

It is against this backdrop that we filed our federal class-action lawsuit in October 2013. While we understand that the United Nations has, for good reason, been granted immunity from the jurisdiction of national courts, affording this protection is untenable when the United Nations violates its obligation to provide alternative settlement mechanisms. Although other lawsuits have been filed against the United Nations in U.S. courts, our case is unique because it presents the conflict between the well-established right to a remedy and the ability of the United Nations to operate with impunity. Furthermore, ours is the first case we know of in which plaintiffs have sought to avail themselves of the promised mechanisms but have been completely foreclosed from being allowed to access them. The cholera victims have been denied any and all access to the remedies they were guaranteed under the SOFA, and will face a complete accountability vacuum should courts uphold UN immunity. Courts are growing increasingly impatient with immunity when the protected organizations fail to offer alternative remedies, and other jurisdictions that have confronted this conflict have taken a lack of remedies very seriously, in some cases refusing to afford immunity.

The legal efforts to seek accountability are a key part of a much broader public advocacy movement to secure a just response from the United Nations. An informal network that includes cholera victims, lawyers, grassroots activists, filmmakers, journalists, academics, scientists and healthcare professionals is mounting a growing international advocacy campaign to raise public awareness, build solidarity, and influence decision-makers to respond adequately to the ongoing cholera crisis. The judicial and non-judicial efforts to secure remedies are slowly but steadily pushing the United Nations toward a more just response.

A growing number of voices, both within and outside the United Nations, are recognizing that a system that allows the organization to deny victims access to promised settlement mechanisms while simultaneously claiming immunity from national courts is indefensible. People affiliated with the United Nations have called on the organization to do more to provide a just response. Former UN Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS, Stephen Lewis, stated that UN responsibility for the outbreak is “unequivocal” before arguing that immunity should not apply with regard to the cholera outbreak:

[I]mmunity should not be blanket; it should not be wholesale. There are instances where immunity should be lifted, and what happened in Haiti is one of those instances. And what is so galling about it . . . is that they won’t even establish a commission to see whether or not the contesting parties can reach a rapprochement. There’s something about the UN which makes it feel as though it is above the law. It should not be above the law. Accountability is a terribly important principle, and it’s not a principle that they’re taking seriously.

On the question of compensation for the victims, Gustavo Gallón, the United Nations’ own Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti, stated in his official UN report that the cholera victims should be paid “full reparation for damages.” Likewise, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, announced that she “stand[s] by the call that . . . those who suffered as a result of that cholera be provided with compensation.”

Others outside the UN have noted that the organization’s position in the case is a violation of its obligations and damages its reputation as a bastion of human rights—and with it, its ability to operate effectively. Researchers from Yale Law School and the Yale School of Public Health found that “the UN’s ongoing unwillingness to hold itself accountable to victims violates its legal obligations under international law,” while the New York Times urged the United Nations to “acknowledge responsibility, apologize to Haitians and give the victims the means to file claims against it for the harm they say has been done them.” Similarly, members of the U.S. Congress have stated that the United Nations’ response “threatens to undermine the United Nations’ mandate to promote human rights and peace around the globe” and “failure to accept responsibility for its actions will make it significantly more difficult for MINUSTAH to fulfill its mandate to build the rule of law in Haiti.”

Despite these calls, the United Nations continues to refuse to accept responsibility, instead attempting to shift the focus to its efforts to respond to the epidemic. Even these efforts, however, have not been adequate to combat the epidemic, although the United Nations warns that the epidemic may kill up to 2,000 more people in 2014 if it continues to be left unchecked. For example, although in principle the United Nations supports investment in the water and sanitation infrastructure necessary to eliminate cholera, in practice the organization has only provided 1 percent of the total funding needed, with another 9 percent rerouted from undelivered earthquake donation pledges. Moreover, these efforts do nothing to rectify the harm already done to thousands of Haitians who continue to live in fear of contracting this disease. The epidemic has further impoverished an already poverty-stricken people. People who have lost family members and breadwinners are reeling from the economic impact of paying for healthcare and funeral costs. As a result, children are being withdrawn from school because their families can no longer afford the fees, and an entire generation of Haitians may be condemned to a lifetime of poverty.

As the epidemic carries on, the United Nations persists in refusing to enter an appearance or even accept service of process in the lawsuit. Instead, the organization has requested the U.S. government to ask for the case to be dismissed. On March 7, the U.S. government filed a statement of interest arguing that the United Nations and other defendants were immune from suit under the CPIUN and asking the court to dismiss the case. The United States misses the fact that the United Nations has failed to fulfill its own obligations under the treaties, which forms the basis for the plaintiffs’ case. We trust that the court will take heed of the fact that the victims in this case have had no access to a remedy and the United Nations has failed to uphold its own promises.

On a broader level, failure to take responsibility for its actions is undermining the United Nations’ ability to call on others to respect human rights and the rule of law. As the Washington Post has declared, “by refusing to acknowledge responsibility, the United Nations jeopardizes its standing and moral authority in Haiti and in other countries where its personnel are deployed.” The United Nations’ continued assertion of impunity not only sets a dangerous example in Haiti, but also weakens the credibility of the organization as a champion of human rights. Our lawsuit questions this regime of impunity, and at a more fundamental level it forces the United Nations to re-examine its conduct in Haiti as well as its own accountability framework. The overarching goal is for justice to be done, and that can only be achieved when the United Nations is held accountable.

Ira Kurzban is a civil rights and immigration lawyer, and a partner at Miami civil rights law firm Kurzban, Kurzban, Weinger, Tetzelli & Pratt. Mr. Kurzban is the author of Kurzban’s Immigration Law Sourcebook, the most widely used one-volume treatise on immigration law in the United States. He is counsel of record in Georges et al v. United Nations.

Beatrice Lindstrom is a staff attorney at the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti and counsel of record in Georges et al v. United Nations.

Shannon Jonsson is a legal fellow at the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti.

 

Click HERE for original.

Duvalier and Ending Impunity in Haiti

April 3, 2014 - 09:58

Citing many examples of impunity in Haiti’s past and present, this article focuses on the Duvalier prosecution and why it is such a crucial step towards combatting impunity and moving Haiti towards justice.

Haiti: In the Kingdom of Impunity

Michael Deibert, The Huffington Post
April 2, 2014

There are many striking sights to be seen in Haiti today. In the north of the country, where over 200 years ago a revolt of slaves began that would eventually topple French rule, a 45-minute journey on a smooth road traverses the distance between the border with the Dominican Republic and Haiti’s second largest city, Cap-Haïtien, replacing what used to be a multi-hour ordeal. From Cap-Haïtien itself, a city buzzing with economic activity, travel to Port-au-Prince, the nation’s capital, could previously be a 10-hour odyssey, but is now accomplished in around 5 hours via a comfortable air-conditioned bus. Once the traveler arrives in Port-au-Prince itself — a city which, along with its environs, was largely devastated by a January 2010 earthquake — one finds, startlingly, functioning traffic lights, street lights powered by solar panels and armies of apron-clad workers diligently sweeping the sidewalks and gutters of what has historically been the filthy fiefdom of Haiti’s myriad of warring political factions. To the south, in the colonial city of Jacmel, which sheltered the South American revolutionary Simón Bolívar at a critical time during his struggle to break South America free from the yoke of Spain, one of the most pleasant malecóns in the Caribbean has been built, facing the tumbling sea and mountains sloping dramatically in the distance.

But perhaps no scene in the new Haiti — governed since May 2011 by President Michel Martelly, now assisted by Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, a former telecommunications mogul — was as striking as that which occurred in the northern city of Gonaives on January 1st of this year. There, at an annual ceremony marking Haiti’s independence, President Martelly, who in a previous incarnation was known as Sweet Micky and was perhaps the best-known purveyor of Haiti’s sinuous konpamusic, greeted on the official dais none other than Jean-Claude Duavlier, who ruled Haiti as a dictator from 1971 until 1986, and fled the country amid pillaging of the state and gross human rights abuses.

“Despite everything that has happened in the last 30 years, it is as if they want us to return to the situation that existed before February 7, 1986,” says Laënnec Hurbon, Haiti’s most well-known sociologist, referring to the date of Duvalier’s departure.

Duvalier had taken over from his dictator-father, François Duvalier, a psychopath who lorded over a terrifying police state since 1957, and had created the infamous Tontons Macoutes, denim-clad paramilitary henchmen.

The younger Duvalier was only 19 when he ascended to office, but he grew into the role soon enough. In a speech in October 1977 — the 20th anniversary of his father’s assumption of the presidency — the 24 year-old Jean-Claude Duvalier gave a speech in which he heralded the advent of “Jean-Claudism,” supposedly a liberalizing trend in Duvalierism that would foster economic development. The near-fatal beating of a prominent government critic, Pastor Luc Nerée, only weeks later gave a flavor for how limited that liberalization would be. Fort Dimanche, a Port-au-Prince prison, during the Duvaliers’ reign became known as the Dungeon of Death for the thousands of government opponents and other unfortunate souls who perished there.

In a landmark decision last month, a Haitian court ruled that Duvalier could be tried for crimes against humanity and for abuses committed by security forces during his rule, but deferred a decision as to whether he could be tried on various corruption charges.

“The Duvalier decision is a little victory against impunity and corruption,” says Pierre Espérance, director of the Réseau National de Défense des Droits Humains(RNDDH), Haiti’s most well-known human rights organization. “But we still have a lot of work to do.”

Along with several other organizations, RNDDH is a member of the Collectif contre l’impunité, a coalition of groups advocating for legal action against Duvalier.

Duvalier is far from the only Haitian politician with a trial potentially in his future. The former boy dictator, now grown gray and sallow in old age, returned to Haiti in January 2011 in the midst of the contentious vote that saw Martelly elected. He was followed by another former president, and arch-rival, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

During his 2001 to 2004 second turn in office and immediately preceding it, Aristide was accused of, among other misdeeds, arming and organizing paramilitary youth groups known as chimeres, presiding over brutal collective reprisals by his security forces against the rebellious city of Gonaives, and a ghastly massacre in the town of Saint-Marc in February 2004, the latter killings by a combination of police, security personnel from Aristide’s National Palace and allied street gangs having claimed at least 27 lives. In recent testimony presented in a Haitian court, Aristide was also accused of orchestrating the April 2000 murder of Jean Dominique, the country’s most well-known journalist. Two separate bodies — the Unite Centrale de Renseignements Financiers (UCREF) and the Commission d’Enquete Administrative– that examined financial irregularities from Aristide’s time as Haiti’s president foundthat “Aristide’s government illegally pumped at least $21 million of his country’s meager public funds into private firms that existed only on paper and into his charities.”

Nor can those tasked with checking the power of the executive branch be viewed with great confidence, with Haiti’s legislative branch of government often resembling a prison more than a parliament.

Two members of Haiti’s lower house of parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, Rodriguez Séjour and N’Zounaya Bellange Jean-Baptiste (who as parliamentarians enjoy immunity from prosecution), have been credibly accused of involvement of the April 2012 murder of Haitian police officer Walky Calixte, but both men remain free with apparent little fear of trial or even arrest. In the slain policeman’s Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Carrefour, mournful graffiti still reads Adieu, Walky. Another deputy, fierce Martelly critic Arnel Belizaire, is alleged by the government to have managed to get himself elected despite the fact that he was a fugitive who had broken out of jail a few years before. (What is beyond debate is that Belizaire is prone to bouts of physical violence in the parliament itself).

One of President Martelly’s chief advisers, Calixte Valentin, was identified as being responsible for the killing of a merchant named Octanol Dérissaint in the town of Fonds-Parisien, near the border with the Dominican Republic, in April 2012. Valentin was never tried for the crime and remains a free man to this day.

It is amid such a discordant background – foreign investment flooding into the country as never before in terms of tourist initiatives and industrial parks even as Haiti’s politic milieu remains deeply dysfunctional – that long-delayed legislative elections for two-thirds of the country’s senate, the entire chamber of deputies, and local and municipal officials such as mayors are scheduled to take place in October. Several political parties have not as-yet signed on to the electoral plan.

“There are a few parties who chose not to participate, but it was an open process,” says Carl Alexandre, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti, known by its acronym MINUSTAH. “It is our hope that those who didn’t participate initially will want to join as the process unfolds, because the alternative is unthinkable. If the elections are not held this year, in January there will not be a functioning parliament. There will be no one there.”

(The UN mission in Haiti has had its own issues with impunity. A cholera epidemic, all-but-certainly introduced by Nepalese peacekeepers, has killed over 8,000 people in the country, but the UN has claimed immunity from any damages.)

Around the country, the Martelly-Lamothe government seems to remain broadly popular, with one moto taxi driver plying Port-au-Prince’s dusty Route de Freres telling me “they are working well for Haiti,” a sentiment I heard often in my travels around the country. This despite the fact that — from the crowds in Gonaives chanting “Martelly for 50 years!” to the huge billboards around the country bearing Martelly’s image (in violation of Article 7 of Haiti’s constitution, which bans “effigies and names of living personages” from “currency, stamps, seals, public buildings, streets or works of art”) — the government seems to have by no means entirely abandoned the realpolitik of Haiti’s past. As they once did for Aristide, graffiti slogans around Port-au-Prince laud the bèl ekip (beautiful team) of Martelly-Lamothe.

Haiti’s economy is indeed moving — even roaring — forward, but the old need for a mechanism for crime and punishment of the country’s powerful keeps knocking on Haiti’s door, unbidden, perhaps unwanted, but there nonetheless. In a marriage of impunity and economy, perhaps the echoes of Jean-Claudism do not appear so distant after all.

“We are talking about the situation of impunity that has been the rule since François Duvalier came to power in 1957, and something has to be done to stop that,” says Sylvie Bajeux, director of the Centre Œcuménique des droits humains (CEDH), who also served as one of the officials who investigated Aristide’s alleged financial misdeeds. Like RNDDH, the CEDH is a member of the Collectif contre l’impunité. “If we don’t, we are going nowhere, we cannot talk about reconstruction.”

“Jean-Claude Duvalier’s case has become the symbol for the need to put an end to impunity,” Bajeux says. “He’s being charged with monstrous deeds. So what is going to happen? What happens with Duvalier’s case is something that will affect the whole future of this country, one way or another.”

 

Click HERE for original.

Seeking UN Peacekeeper Accountability

April 3, 2014 - 08:57

This article discusses ways people may bring third-party claims against the UN, the Mothers of Srebrenica and Haiti cholera cases against the UN, and sexual abuse by peacekeepers.

Remedies for Harm Caused by UN Peacekeepers

Bruce Rashkow, American Society of International Law
April 2, 2014

Editor’s note: On February 26 of this year, the American Society of International Law, in cooperation with the United Nations Association-National Capital Area, the American Bar Association Section of International Law, and the Washington Foreign Law Society hosted a panel discussion titled “Remedies for Harm Caused by UN Peacekeepers.” The discussion focused generally on misconduct by UN peacekeepers that may result in harm to third parties and specifically on third-party claims in the context of the cholera epidemic in Haiti (including, for example, allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeeping forces). The following is the first in a series of posts by the speakers of the panel.

* * *

I. Remedies in response to harm caused by UN peacekeeping activities

Since the creation of the United Nations, the need for the Organization to enjoy immunity from the jurisdiction of Member States has been widely recognized as necessary to achieve its important and far ranging purposes. However, it has also been understood that this immunity was not intended to shield the Organization from responsibility as a “good citizen” on the world stage to respond to justifiable claims against the Organization by third parties resulting from the activities or operations of the Organization. The United Nations has generally achieved these dual objectives, although two recent situations in the peacekeeping context have raised questions about whether it continues to do so, namely the cases involving the Mothers of Srebrenica and the Haiti Cholera victims.

Claims by third parties against the United Nations come from a broad range of claimants who allege to have been harmed in some way by the activities or operations of the United Nations. These claims are of generally of two types: Contractual or Tortious.

Third-party claims, generally

The norm with individual consultants, large and small contractors, and others who interact contractually with the United Nations, including in the peacekeeping context, is that they must seek to resolve their claims in some manner through Section 29 of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations (General Convention). That provision calls for a modality for resolving disputes of a private law character.

This normally means an initial effort to amicably resolve the dispute administratively (e.g., by a negotiated settlement). Failing such an amicable resolution, the parties would seek to resolve the dispute through arbitration, usually under the terms of the contract entered into with the Organization. Of course, the opportunity for arbitration, while attractive and useful to large commercial entities with large claims, is not so attractive to individual contractors or consultants. The United Nations is considering revising its newly reformed internal justice system to address such small claimants that would offer Ombudsman services and/or some form of streamlined, inexpensive arbitration process more appropriate for such smaller claims.

In regard to tort claims, initially, the focus was on automobile accidents involving UN vehicles or vehicles driven by UN staff or officials in the performance of official functions, including in the field. In addition, as the role of the United Nations expanded over the years in the area of peacekeeping and other field missions, it became necessary or desirable for the Organization to obtain its own air carrier capability, routinely through charter arrangements with providers of the aircraft, rather than rely on services provided by commercial entities or even Member States. In both instances, the United Nations has relied on worldwide insurance policies to address its exposure to risks of third-party claims, although in regard to air services it also seeks to protect itself by contractually shifting the risk to the provider.

In regard to third-party claims resulting from the operations and activities of operational subsidiary bodies of the United Nations in the field (e.g., UNDP and UNICEF), the Organization routinely enters into agreements with the beneficiary states where such activities occur to hold harmless the Organization in respect of claims that may arise in relation to its activities.

Over the years, for one reason or another, tort claims have usually been amicably resolved—without recourse to arbitration. That said, occasionally, the Organization has been sued or threatened to be sued in a national court. Such suits are inevitably either amicably resolved or dismissed on the basis of the Organization’s immunity.

Third-party claims in connection with peacekeeping

With respect to peacekeeping missions, the Organization has internal administrative processes in place to deal with claims against it. Initially, these processes have included internal claims review boards the decisions of which may be challenged by requests for further administrative review within the Organization—or arbitration.

As a practical matter, these boards have worked well over the years to resolve claims on a day-to-day basis, even if at times their decisions have been challenged. The Status of Forces agreements (SOFAs) between the Organization and the states in which such peacekeeping missions take place also provide routinely for a standing claims commission. However, throughout the history of United Nations peacekeeping missions no such commission has ever been established.

In the late 1990s, however, in response to the growth in peacekeeping missions and related claims, the Organization adopted a special regime to deal specifically with third party contract and tort claims arising in the context of such missions. The Organization went to great lengths in designing this regime to balance the obligations of UN peacekeeping missions to respond to third-party claims with the obligations of the host country that invited such mission into the country to assume some responsibility in principle for such claims.

That balance resulted in certain types of claims being excluded altogether and limits being set on the damages for which the Organization would be liable in relation to certain contract and tort claims. The Organization established these financial limitations with the understanding that the host country would ultimately be responsible for compensation, if any, beyond these limits.

The regime excludes liability altogether for claims resulting from or attributable to activities of UN peacekeepers arising from “operational necessity.” [See A/Res/52/247, para. 6, as defined in para. 14 of A/51/389 (September 20, 1996).]

The concept of “operational necessity” was developed specifically in connection with UN peacekeeping operations and, while similar to the more traditional concept of “military necessity,” goes a bit further. [See A/51/389 (September 20, 1996).] Notably, the concept of “military necessity,” governed by the laws of war, remains under the new regime as an exemption from liability specifically relating to combat operations.

The new regime imposes temporal and financial limitations on the liability of the Organization in terms of personal injury, illness, or death and for property damage resulting from or attributable the activities of peacekeeping operations in the performance of their official duties. In this last respect, it also excludes certain kinds of damages (e.g., non-economic loss).

The new regime recognizes that third-party claims may continue to be addressed, as they have in the past, by local claims review boards. It also preserves the long-standing but never invoked option for the establishment of a standing claims commission.

New challenges for the United Nations in responding to claims in the peacekeeping context: Mothers of Srebrenica and Haiti cholera

At this point we should briefly address the two most recent controversial liability challenges facing the United Nations: the Mothers of Srebrenica and the Haiti cholera cases. Underlying the efforts of the Organization throughout the years to amicably settle third-party claims has been the desire or goal of the United Nations not only to be a good citizen on the world stage—to be fundamentally fair in dealing with individuals injured in some manner as a direct result of UN actions—but also to avoid bad publicity. However, with the increase in peacekeeping activities and the evolution of more robust peacekeeping mandates since the end of the Cold War, the realities of such a more active engagement are raising new challenges. These challenges are perhaps most clearly reflected in the decisions of the United Nations in invoking immunity in the face of claims by the Mothers of Srebrenica and the Haitian cholera victims.

On the one hand, with the Mothers of Srebrenica, the issue is the failure of UN forces to protect innocent civilians from almost certain death in the face of a policy, if not mandate, to provide such protection. On the other hand, with the Haitian cholera victims, the issue is the ostensible negligence of the United Nations in failing to screen troops for cholera prior to deployment in Haiti or to properly maintain waste treatment facilities utilized by such troops that arguably caused a cholera outbreak that affected thousands of innocent civilians. In both cases, the Organization declined to accept responsibility to compensate the victims.

In the Mothers of Srebrenica case brought in Dutch courts, the United Nations maintained its immunity. The Dutch Supreme Court, overruling the Appellate Court, upheld immunity as absolute, indicating that the assertion of immunity is not affected by the failure of the United Nations to provide a modality for bringing these claims under Section 29 of the General Convention.

The ruling of the Dutch Supreme Court raises a fundamental issue of the relationship of the claimed immunity under Section 2 of the Convention to the requirement under Section 29 for the United Nations to provide a modality for reviewing these claims. The ruling also raises the issue of what is meant under Section 29 by its reference to disputes of a “private law character.” The claimants appealed this decision to the European Court of Human Rights.

In the case of the Haitian cholera victims, the United Nations publicly announced simply that the claims are “not receivable,” suggesting that this is because considering them would necessarily include a review of political or policy matters. Thus far, the United Nations has declined to further explain the basis of its decision not to entertain such claims. The claimants while continuing to urge the Organization to establish a claims commission under the terms of the SOFA with Haiti to review these claims, have filed suit against the UN in the Federal District Court in New York.

Initially, the situations of the Mothers of Srebrenica and the Haitian cholera victims are very different. Failure to use military force, even where there is a policy or mandate to do so to protect innocent civilians, is very different from the failure to screen UN peacekeeping troops and negligent maintenance of sanitary facilities for those troops.

Admittedly, the use of force under a UN Security Council mandate is always a complex issue. These differences are inherently relevant and important to the issue of whether the actions of the UN troops that are at the heart of the claims of the Mothers of Srebrenica present a claim under Section 29 of a “private law character.”

The European Court of Human Rights recently declared the application of the Mothers of Srebrenica inadmissible. In so doing, the Court upheld the immunity of the United Nations stating, in passing, that what was at issue were “operations established by the Security Council resolutions under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter are fundamental to the mission of the United Nations to secure international peace and security.” The Court added that, “the Convention (European Convention on Human Rights) cannot be interpreted in a manner that would subject the acts and omissions of the Security Council to domestic jurisdiction without the accord of the United Nations.”

It is much more difficult to see how the new peacekeeping liability regime wouldn’t apply to the Haitian cholera victims. More specifically, it is difficult to understand the United Nations’ position that these claims “are not receivable.” Indeed, as the head of the UN legal office that routinely handled claims against the Organization for some ten years, I did not recall any previous instance where such a formulation was utilized in regard to such claims. Recently, however, the Organization in 2011 used that formulation in response to claims against the Organization for damage to health suffered by third parties as a result of lead contamination in certain Internally Displaced Person camps in Kosovo. In that instance, the United Nations took the position that “[t]he claims do not constitute claims of a private law character and, in essence, amount to a review of the performance of UNMIK’s mandate as the interim administration in Kosovo. Based on the framework established by Member States, therefore, the claims are not receivable under Section 29 . . . or . . . the new peacekeeping liability regime.”

It is important to note what appear to be certain critical distinctions between that situation and the Haiti situation. Initially, and perhaps most critical, is the fact that in Kosovo, the United Nations was not operating in the capacity simply of a “peacekeeping mission.” It was acting in the capacity essentially of the temporary governmental authority—the “Interim Administration.” In this context, in explaining its position, the United Nations addressed other possibly critical factors relating to the long history of industrial pollution in the area and the precarious security situation in Kosovo.

Arguably, when the United Nations acts in such circumstances, it is the government for which it is temporarily acting that is ultimately responsible for such matters. In this respect, there is a much stronger case for characterizing the actions of the “Interim Administration” as addressing political or policy matters of a governmental nature that do not give rise to claims of a private law character within the meaning of Section 29, than there is in the Haiti situation.

II. Remedies for harm caused by UN peacekeepers in regard to misconduct relating to sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA)

Sexual exploitation and abuse by UN staff and officials and UN peacekeepers became a significant issue during the 1990s and early 2000s in connection with the increase in UN peacekeeping activities in the Balkans and Africa—particularly with widespread reports of such abuses by UN peacekeeping troops and civilian staff of the UN’s mission in the Congo—MONUC—in 2004.

In 2003, in response to earlier reports of sexual exploitation of refugees by aid workers in West Africa, Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued an administrative issuance expressly prohibiting such conduct by UN staff, including the staff of the separately administered organs and programs of the United Nations. The issuance stipulates that any acts of sexual exploitation and abuse committed by UN staff members or persons under contract with the UN “constitute acts of serious misconduct and are therefore grounds for disciplinary measures, including summary dismissal.”

In addition to disciplinary action, in cases where SEA has been determined to have occurred, the United Nations routinely considers referral of the matter to the national authorities of the perpetrator for prosecution or other appropriate action.

There was, however, a considerable loophole in the United Nations’ response; the issuance did not cover UN peacekeeping troops. Neither were civilian police and military observers expressly covered in the issuance covered, until 2004 when the prohibitions in the issuance were specifically made applicable to them. In response to subsequent and more numerous reports of SEA, the Secretary General commissioned a report on the subject of SEA from a panel led by Ambassador Zeid of Jordan.

The Zeid report addressed a wide a wide spectrum of behavior ranging from solicitation of prostitutes, which was legal in some host countries, to acts considered criminal offenses in virtually all countries—such as rape and pedophilia. This included rape disguised as prostitution—for instance when the victim was given money or food to give the acts the appearance of consent. In addition to the issue of rape, there is also the issue of “peacekeeper babies” which is very difficult to address because of the absence often of an effective legal system in the host country.

Most importantly, the issue of addressing SEA is complicated by the fundamental nature of UN peacekeeping—where members of troop contributing contingents are under the exclusive authority of the commanders of those contingents—not the United Nations. The Zeid panel came up with a number of recommendations to address this problem. Unfortunately, the General Assembly declined to act on a number of those recommendations, primarily those relating to troop contingent Member States.

In a nutshell, the regime for military contingents is that complaints are referred to national contingents who are responsible for investigating and taking appropriate action. This usually involves repatriating the named individuals and following up in the troop contributing Member State. There is a responsibility on the part of the State that provides the peacekeeping forces to report the results of the investigation and follow up action to the United Nations.

Since the 2003 issuance and the Zeid report, the United Nations has implemented a number of important initiatives to address SEA in order to educate and sensitize both UN peacekeeping personnel and the local population as to what SEA is and the responsibility of the United Nations for responding to allegations of such misconduct, including the procedures for dealing with complaints, and measures for assisting the victims of SEA. Among these initiatives are the following:

In addition, the Secretary General has issued reports regarding the implementation of UN initiatives to address SEA, including an annual report on “Special measures for the protection from exploitation and sexual abuse.” [See A/67/766 (April 2013).]

Unfortunately, as the latest annual report demonstrates, while the situation has improved, there continues to be problems with compliance by troop contributing states. According to the report, since 2005, the number of complaints has fallen from 373 to 88 in 2012.

However, the report also demonstrates that the greatest number of complaints continue to be in regard to peacekeeping troops and that there continues to be problems with the troop contributing states following up on the complaints.

In regard to remedies available to individuals harmed by this misconduct, the United Nations in its Comprehensive Strategy on Assistance specifically provides for basic assistance and support to both complainants and victims of SEA. Assistance and support takes the form of “medical care, legal services, support to deal with psychological and social effects of the experience and immediate material care, such as food, clothing, emergency and safe shelter.” Children born as a result of SEA are to receive assistance with their individual needs, and the United Nations is to “work with Member States to facilitate, within their competence, the pursuit of claims related to paternity and child support.”

Notably, the Comprehensive Strategy expressly provides at the outset: “The strategy shall in no way diminish or replace the individual responsibility for acts of sexual exploitation and abuse, which rests with the perpetrators. The Strategy is not intended as a means for compensation.” As this provision suggests, SEA is considered in the same manner as ordinary criminal acts by UN personnel—not UN actions for which the United Nations might be liable to third parties.

The United Nations throughout the decades since its establishment and notwithstanding the immunity provided it to perform its important functions, has generally achieved the objective of acting as a good citizen on the world stage in responding to third-party claims, including in the peacekeeping context. However, the situation in the Mothers of Srebrenica matter and the Haiti Cholera victims case, raise the issue of whether the Organization is continuing to do so and the implications of its position in these matters for the future of UN peacekeeping.

Bruce Rashkow is currently Lecturer in Law at Columbia University. He formerly held senior positions in the UN Office of Legal Affairs as well as in the Office of the Legal Adviser in the U.S. Department of State and with the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.

 

Click HERE for original.

PM Lamothe Replacing Half of Haiti’s Cabinet

April 2, 2014 - 19:22

Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe announced April 2nd that he’s replacing 11 Cabinet members. Read about some of the new appointments below.

Haiti PM shakes up Cabinet for 3rd time in 2 years

Trenton Daniel, The Olympian
April 2, 2014

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI — Haiti’s prime minister used Twitter on Wednesday to announce he was replacing about half of the 22-member Cabinet, marking the third major government shake-up in less than two years.

There had been talk since November that Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe wanted to change ministers because of grumblings in the government that some of them couldn’t pull their weight.

But the decision to form a new Cabinet wasn’t taken until after the executive and legislative branches and opposition parties signed a broad agreement last month that, among other things, seeks to organize parliamentary and local elections before year’s end.

Perhaps the most unusual appointment is Marie Carmelle Jean-Marie as finance minister. She resigned from that job last year for reasons neither she nor officials ever disclosed, although a media report said she left because she didn’t receive the support she wanted for bringing transparency and other reforms to the office.

Lamothe’s office also named new ministers for interior, foreign affairs, education, defense, environment and sports.

It didn’t immediately give reasons for the changes.

The new interior minister will be Reginald Delva, a key post that oversees domestic security and local government and could play a role in the upcoming elections. Delva previously served as secretary of state for public security.

This is the third sizeable Cabinet reshuffle since Lamothe became Haiti’s No. 2 official in May 2012. It’s the fifth change of its kind since President Michel Martelly took office in 2011.

The elections are more than two years overdue. They will fill 20 seats in the 30-member Senate, all the seats in the 99-member Chamber of Deputies and 140 municipal posts. The agreement proposes to hold the election Oct. 26.

The Chamber of Deputies unanimously approved the accord Tuesday. It still needs to pass the Senate.

Click HERE for original.

The Big Truck That Went By Presentation

April 2, 2014 - 17:00

In Coral Gables, Jonathan Katz will present his famous book, The Big Truck that Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster.

WHERE:

265 Aragon Ave
Coral Gables, FL
33134-5008

WHEN:

April 2, 2014 8pm

WHAT:

On January 12, 2010, the deadliest earthquake in the history of the Western Hemisphere struck the nation least prepared to handle it. Jonathan M. Katz, the only full-time American news correspondent in Haiti, was inside his house when it buckled along with hundreds of thousands of others. In this visceral, authoritative first-hand account, Katz chronicles the terror of that day, the devastation visited on ordinary Haitians, and how the world reacted to a nation in need.

More than half of American adults gave money for Haiti, part of a monumental response totaling $16.3 billion in pledges. But three years later the relief effort has foundered. It’s most basic promises—to build safer housing for the homeless, alleviate severe poverty, and strengthen Haiti to face future disasters—remain unfulfilled.

The Big Truck That Went By presents a sharp critique of international aid that defies today’s conventional wisdom; that the way wealthy countries give aid makes poor countries seem irredeemably hopeless, while trapping millions in cycles of privation and catastrophe. Katz follows the money to uncover startling truths about how good intentions go wrong, and what can be done to make aid “smarter.”

With coverage of Bill Clinton, who came to help lead the reconstruction; movie-star aid worker Sean Penn; Wyclef Jean; Haiti’s leaders and people alike, Katz weaves a complex, darkly funny, and unexpected portrait of one of the world’s most fascinating countries. The Big Truck That Went By is not only a definitive account of Haiti’s earthquake, but of the world we live in today.

 

Click HERE for event page.

Edwidge Danticat Speaking at Boston College

April 1, 2014 - 16:00

Our friend Edwidge Danticat is speaking at Boston College in their Lowell Humanities Series.

WHAT: 

Fiction Days presents Edwidge Danticat

Edwidge Danticat, who was born in Port-au- Prince, Haiti in 1969, is widely considered to be one of the most talented young writers in the United States, celebrated in particular for her impassioned, meditative, and poetically intense prose style. She became a finalist for the National Book Award at the age of twenty-six for Krik? Krak!, and has received the 1995 Pushcart Short Story Prize and fiction awards from The Carribean Writer, Seventeen, and Essence magazines. Her works include Breath, Eyes, MemoryThe Farming of Bones, and Brother I’m Dying. Her Lowell lecture will be part of a three-day residency at Boston College.

WHERE:

Gasson Hall 100
140 Commonwealth Ave
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467

WHEN:

April 1, 2014 at 7-8:30pm

 

Click HERE for more on the Series and previous guests.

UN Official Urges Increased Donations for Cholera Relief

April 1, 2014 - 08:10

Although Haiti is still suffering from the largest cholera epidemic in the Western Hemisphere, international donor countries aren’t thinking about cholera much anymore. The Secretary-General’s Senior Coordinator for the Cholera Response in Haiti, Pedro Medrano, recently travelled to a series of donor countries, explaining why cholera is still a major issue and urging them to do more.

Haiti: Senior UN official urges donor community to ramp up efforts to tackle cholera

UN News Centre
April 1, 2014

The United Nations official tasked with coordinating the response to the cholera epidemic in Haiti says the country is not receiving the international attention it deserves, and is calling on the donor community to scale up support to combat the disease.

“Haiti is not receiving the attention of the international community, particularly the donor community,” Pedro Medrano told the UN News Centre, as he reported on a recent trip during which he met with officials in Canada, the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands.

“It is clear that this epidemic is not on their radar screen,” added Mr. Medrano, who is the Secretary-General’s Senior Coordinator for the Cholera Response in Haiti.

Even if we are making progress, and we have a lower number of cases today, we are not out of the woods.

The cholera outbreak which has affected Haiti since October 2010 is still considered the largest in the Western Hemisphere, with more than 700,000 cases and over 8,500 deaths.

Mr. Medrano travelled to the donor countries to try and raise their understanding of what the UN is attempting to do to eliminate cholera in Haiti. “I think that it is clear that any country with the number of people suffering last year – 65,000 new cases, and we have more than 700,000 cases in total – would consider this an emergency,” he added.

Since the beginning of the epidemic, the UN has initiated a system-wide effort to support the Government of Haiti in the fight against what the Senior Coordinator referred to as “a silent emergency.” In December 2012,Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched an initiative for the elimination of cholera in Haiti and the Dominican Republic that focuses on prevention, treatment and education.

The UN has worked with partners in the community and international groups to launch a series of actions, including establishing/upgrading cholera treatment facilities, constructing waste water treatment plants, purchasing oral cholera vaccines, and supporting community-based hygiene campaigns.

As the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Haiti, Sandra Honoré, indicated in her recent briefing to the Security Council, “Delivering and sustaining better health requires an urgent, scaled-up effort to combat the disease and address decades of under-investment in basic systems for safe water, hygiene, sanitation and healthcare.”

According to Mr. Medrano, less than 17 per cent of the population has access to sanitation while about half of the population has access to safe drinking water. “It’s impossible to stop the transmission of cholera and other water-borne diseases without urgent interventions in water and sanitation,” he stressed. This has prompted him to call for a Marshall Plan for the Caribbean nation.

The UN system in Haiti has developed a two-year, $68 million initiative in support of the Government’ s 10-year National Plan for the Elimination of Cholera. In addition, the UN and the Haitian Government are finalizing the creation of a high-level committee that will oversee the coordinated implementation of the cholera response measures as contained in the National Plan.

Haiti’s Ministry of Health has a plan, with the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), to vaccinate 200,000 people in the next couple of months and another 300,000 before the end of the year. The issue of money along with the availability of vaccines is a major challenge. The global stockpile is not sufficient to meet the needs of 500,000 people, Mr. Medrano noted.

Countries have indicated they will consider allocations to this programme in the near future. As Mr. Medrano indicated, resources are extremely important not only for medical treatment but also for water and sanitation: “We can’t wait 5, 10 years until we have everything.”

Mr. Medrano went on to say, “There is no doubt that we have made substantial progress. Today, we have fewer cases of cholera than we had in previous years. The figures from January and February 2014 show that there were 1,400 new cases – the lowest number of new cases since the epidemic began.”

The Senior Coordinator was quick to note that there was no room for complacency. “Even if we are making progress, and we have a lower number of cases today, we are not out of the woods.”

 

Click HERE for original.

US Congressional Lawmakers Demand Elections in Haiti

March 31, 2014 - 12:11

On March 31, Haitian President Michel Martelly sent a package of laws to the Senate and Lower Congress, including laws about the long-overdue elections. This news comes after 3 US lawmakers visited Haiti the week before, and emphasized the need for elections to take place. The lawmakers’ reactions to the visit were a mix of hope that Martelly will keep his word, doubt that the elections will take place soon, and appreciation for improvements they noticed in Haiti.

Haiti elections top priority for South Florida congressional lawmakers

Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald
March 31, 2014

South Florida congressional lawmakers say they plan to closely monitor a Tuesday vote in Haiti’s Senate that will help determine if long-overdue elections take place this year.

On Monday, Haitian President Michel Martelly sent an amended electoral law to the Senate and lower chamber of deputies as part of a package of laws to be voted on, including legislation to make it easier to do business in the country.

“Haiti is a democracy. There are certain things a democracy must do: they must have annual elections; no ifs, ands or buts about it,” said U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami. “Let’s hope that they do because the consequences will not be kind.”

Wilson along with Miami Republican lawmakers Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen visited Haiti last week to meet with Martelly, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe and parliamentarians.

“We basically had two lines of questioning throughout every meeting: ‘Are you being good stewards of the public money, especially U.S. taxpayers dollars, and you’ve got to schedule a date certain for elections,’ ” Ros-Lehtinen said. “Transparency, accountability and elections, elections, elections.”

The amended electoral law, an impending cabinet reshuffle and possible changes to the council charged with organizing the balloting are part of a political accord reached after two months of dialogue between Martelly and dozens of opposition parties. The exchange was mediated by the Roman Catholic Church, whose new cardinal, Chibly Langlois, as late as last week was still trying to salvage the agreement.

Senate President Simon Desras said while be believes the new law will pass, he still doubts the executive has the political will to stage the balloting, scheduled for Oct. 24.

“The government didn’t need an accord to respect the constitution, or to organize elections. They don’t do an accord to do carnival,” he said.

The ongoing political crisis has triggered traditional signs of malaise in Haiti: anti-government protests — the most recent took place on Saturday in Port-au-Prince — and increased migration attempts.

On Monday, after 114 Haitians were intercepted off the Turks and Caicos, Gov. Peter Beckingham, who oversees the British territory, called on Haitian authorities “to do all that they can to stop this dangerous and illegal trade.”

“It is exacting too high a price in Haitian lives and TCI public spending,” Beckingham said.

To date, a migration agreement between the two nations has not been signed. Last week, Haitian and Bahamian officials reached an accord during the visit of Bahamian Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell. The agreement, which includes an anti-migration public service campaign, would be signed within 60 days, officials said.

The U.S. Coast Guard on Monday also reported that it had returned 82 Haitian migrants back to Cap-Haitian. The group was among more than 200 migrants from Haiti, Cuba and the Dominican Republic Coast Guard intercepted over 10 days.

“There were no deaths, but it could have ended up in deaths,” said Marilyn Fajardo, deputy public affairs officer.

So far, 559 Haitian migrants have been interdicted at sea since the fiscal year began Oct. 1. Coast Guard officials said 508 were interdicted in the last fiscal year.

Ros-Lehtinen said if Haiti wants to attract investments, and keep people at home, it has to work on stability, and elections and accountability are necessary first steps.

“If they don’t see hope for the future, they are going to act on their own and vote with their feet,” she said. “The onus is on the government, the ruling party to deliver on the promises made, they have to provide a better economic future.”

Still Ros-Lehtinen said she was feeling more “optimistic than in previous visits.” Wilson said it was “a wonderful experience.”

“I saw things in Haiti I didn’t know were there,” she said, mentioning the police training academy.

For his part, Diaz-Blart said the meetings were positive. He remains concerned, however, about how U.S taxpayer dollars are being spent in the country, issues raised in a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office report.

“We were able to see on the ground some of the noticeable improvements that have been made by the Haitian government,” he said. “We will continue to keep an eye out on the issues in the report as funding continues.”

 

Click HERE for original.

BAI/IJDH Work Means Hope for Justice in Haiti

March 31, 2014 - 07:20

A great opinion piece by the Salem State student who introduced Mario and Brian at the Salem Award ceremony of March 23, 2014. Kinnflo, the student, talks about why Mario’s and Brian’s advocacy and legal work is so important for Haiti, particularly for cholera victims.

Column: Unfinished business in Haiti

Kinnflo Michel, The Salem News
March 31, 2014

As a Haitian-American, born in the Haitian countryside of Jeremie, I recently had the privilege of sharing in the introduction of this year’s recipients of the Salem Award for Human Rights and Social Justice: Brian Concannon and Mario Joseph. In honoring the advocacy work and accomplishments these two men have done on behalf of my fellow countrymen, I was reminded of how much still lies ahead for Haitians to truly achieve democracy and social justice.

The world took note of the plight of Haiti in January 2010 when the island was hit by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake, leaving more than 250,000 people dead and another 600,000 homeless. As that disaster slowly faded from the headlines, replaced by news of other natural disasters and political unrest, a virulent outbreak of cholera choked recovery efforts. The cholera epidemic has killed more than 8,000 people and continues to do so today.

As the actions of a United Nations peacekeeping mission are allegedly responsible for the cholera outbreak, news of this health crisis has also faded from media attention. Through the brave efforts of Concannon and Joseph in filing a lawsuit to force the U.N. to take responsibility for the epidemic, there is hope that justice will be served for its victims.

Concannon and Joseph are no strangers to standing up to human rights violations in Haiti. Their founding of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and the subsequent rulings challenging the atrocities of the Duvalier regime, along with their ongoing advocacy, prove that small voices can have a loud impact. What they do is dangerous, yet they continue to be the voice of a poor nation whose government disregards them. We need to support them and continue to keep the story of the struggles in Haiti at the forefront of our awareness.

I want to acknowledge and thank the Salem Award Foundation for honoring Brian Concannon and Mario Joseph for their courage and hard work on behalf of the Haitian people. Not only did we honor them, but hopefully, we have sent a message to the world — and especially the corrupted Haitian government — that these men are not alone. This award signifies that so many here in Salem, and in this country, will work to protect their efforts in restoring democracy and social justice to the Haitian people. As a community, I believe that we have the power to do so much to win the fight against all odds. Let’s stand together. Together we are stronger; together we are indestructible.

Kinnflo Michel emigrated from Haiti at the age of 17. After graduating from Medford High School, he enrolled at Salem State University. He will graduate in May with a degree in criminal justice.

 

Click HERE for original.

La Cérémonie Salem et l’histoire du BAI/IJDH

March 28, 2014 - 06:59

Cet article décrit très bien ce qui s’est passé dans la cérémonie Salem Awards le 23 Mars 2014. L’auteur parle de l’histoire du BAI et IJDH, l’histoire du Salem Awards, et qui a parlé lors de la cérémonie.

Les avocats Mario Joseph et Brian Concannon honorés aux Etats-Unis pour leur travail en droits humains en Haiti

Jane Regan, AlterPresse
27 mars 2014

Salem, Massachusetts, Etats-Unis, 27 mars 2014 [AlterPresse] — Mario Joseph, directeur du Bureau des avocats internationaux (Bai) et Brian Concannon, directeur de l’Institut pour la justice et la démocratie en Haïti (Ijdh), partenaire du Bai, ont reçu le 22e « Salem Prize » pour leur travail en Haïti et aux Etats-Unis, en faveur des droits humains et de la justice.

Le Salem Prize, est un prix accordé tous les ans par un jury du Salem award foundation for human rights & social justice, pour saluer des « champions du temps moderne des droits humains et de la justice sociale qui ne craignent pas de s’exprimer malgré les intimidations ».

L’Haïtien Mario Joseph et l’Américain Brian Concannon ont ainsi été honorés le 23 mars, devant un public composé de politiciens américains, journalistes, militants des droits humains et de plusieurs amis d’Haïti, à Salem dans le Massachussets.

Salem est une ville située près des côtes de l’Atlantique à 26 kilomètres au nord de la ville de Boston. En 1692, cette ville faisait partie de la colonie britannique du Massachussets, et se trouvait sous le contrôle des leaders du « puritanisme », une interprétation radicale du protestantisme.

Dans une vague d’hystérie, plusieurs centaines de personnes ont été accusées de « sorcellerie ». Après une série de procès, 19 personnes ont été condamnées à mort, la plupart étaient des femmes. Ces personnes ont été pendues. Une autre condamnée a refusé de parler. Elle est morte sous la torture.

Dans leurs discours, Concannon et Joseph ont évoqué les crimes et violations de droits humains à Salem en 1692, et les ont comparés avec la faiblesse de la justice et les violations de droits humains en Haïti, aujourd’hui. En 1692, plusieurs personnes, parmi elles le ministre du culte puritain, Cotton Mather, savaient parfaitement que ce qui se passait à Salem était mal.

« A l’image de Cotton Mather, les Nations Unies savent ce qu’elles font [au sujet du dossier du cholera] », a dit Brian Concannon.

Concannon et Joseph ont également souligné que leur travail est le résultat de celui de beaucoup de personnes : d’autres avocats de leurs équipes, des stagiaires, volontaires, sans compter le support des bailleurs. A la fin de leur présentation, les deux hommes ont été applaudis durant plusieurs minutes.

Par la suite, Mario Joseph a fait savoir l’importance du prix à ses yeux.

« Il est important parce qu’il donne une visibilité à notre travail. Compte tenu des dangers liés à notre travail, [ce prix] est important », explique t-il. « La reconnaissance internationale nous donne une certaine protection et nous encourage, parce que nous constatons que beaucoup de personnes ont conscience de notre travail ».

D’après Joseph, il y a 7 avocats et 3 stagiaires au Bai. Ils sont impliqués dans plus de 100 cas, dont des cas d’ouvriers révoqués et de résidents de camps de déplacés du séisme de 2010, victimes d’expulsions forcées.

Dans le discours d’introduction, Julie Rose, responsable de la Salem award foundation, a donné au public une idée du travail du Bai et de l’Ijdh : défense des victimes du régime des Duvalier, dépôt de plainte contre les Nations Unies pour leur implication dans l’épidémie de cholera, défense des ouvriers et ouvrières licenciés.

Rappelant le courage des personnes ayant critiqué les procès de Salem, le congressman John Tierney (D-MA) s’est dit fier de sa formation d’avocat, comme les deux récipiendaires du Salem Prize.

« Nous autres avocats travaillons sans arrêt pour la justice », a-t-il affirmé. « Nous souhaitons tous que la communauté internationale continue à nous appuyer ».

Tierney a signalé que lorsque Joseph avait reçu des menaces récemment, lui ainsi que d’autres parlementaires américains avaient écrit au département d’Etat, pour lui demander de dire à l’administration de Michel Martelly que ces menaces étaient inacceptables.

Patricia Meservy, présidente du Salem State, une des grandes universités publiques, a demandé aux Nations Unies d’admettre leur responsabilité dans l’introduction du cholera en Haïti, tout en saluant les deux avocats.

« Ils ont transformé en bien public leur formation en droit », selon elle.

Parmi les autres personnes à prendre la parole, ont figuré le maire de Salem et deux étudiants du Salem State, un haïtiano-américain né aux Etats-Unis et un Haïtien natif de Jérémie.

« J’apprécie tout ce qu’ils ont fait pour Haïti » a déclaré Kinnflo Michel, le natif de Jérémie.

Etudiant de dernière année, Michel fait des études juridiques. Il a évoqué le massacre de 1964 à Jérémie, les actes des casques bleus, tels les viols contre des femmes et des hommes, et l’assassinat de civils en 2005 à Cité Soleil. Il a remarqué qu’il n’y a pas eu de justice dans aucun de ces cas. Pour lui, l’un des plus grands problèmes en Haïti, est la peur de prendre position.

« En général les adultes disent aux enfants ‘’si vous voyez quelque chose n’en parlez pas ; si vous pensez quelque chose n’en parlez pas », a-t-il indiqué.

« Cependant, certaines personnes font preuve de courage, n’ont pas peur de parler. C’est le cas de Mario Joseph », a-t-il conclut, souhaitant devenir avocat à la fin de ses études.

Récemment, diverses organisations de droits humains nationales et internationales ont constaté des menaces et dangers dans le domaine des droits humains. Le 8 février dernier, Daniel Dorsinvil, un des fondateurs du Groupe alternatif de justice (Gaj) et coordonnateur de la Plateforme des organisations haïtiennes de droits humains(Pohdh), ainsi que sa femme ont été tués par balles. De plus, l’an dernier, l’avocat de droits humains Patrice Florvilus a reçu des menaces dans le cadre de son travail, selon Amnesty international.

Par ailleurs d’autres personnalités et institutions ont également reçu le Salem Prize. Il s’agit de Morris Dees, fondateur du Southern Poverty Law Center, de City Life/Vida Urbana, une organisation luttant pour la justice économique et le logement à Boston, et de la Coalition of Immokalee Workers, se battant pour les droits des ouvriers et ouvrières agricoles aux Etats-Unis.

 

Cliquez ICI pour l’original.

Seremoni Salem Awards la ak istwa BAI/IJDH

March 27, 2014 - 12:23

Atik sa dekri trè byen sa-k te pase nan seremoni Salem Awards la 23 mas 2014. Otè a pale de istwa BAI ak IJDH, istwa Salem Awards la, e kiyès ki te pale nan seremoni a.

Pri pou 2 avoka k ap goumen pou dwa moun an Ayiti !

Jane Regan, Haiti Liberte
24 mas 2014

Devan yon piblik entènasyonal ki te gen politisyen etzinizyen, jounalis, militan dwa moun ak plizyè sanmi Ayiti; dimanch swa, Salem Award Foundation for Human Rights & Social Justice te onore de (2) avoka k ap goumen pou dwa moun an Ayiti avèk yon pri ki sonje kouraj kèk moun te genyen nan vil sa a nan lane 1692, pandan yon seri pwosè kont swadizan “sorcières” kote otorite yo te touye 20 moun.

Mario Joseph, direktè Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) nan Port-au-Prince, ak Brian Concannon, direktè Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) http://www.ijdh.org/ , ki se patnè etazinizyen BAI, te resevwa 22zyèm “Salem Prize” pou travay y ap mennen an Ayiti ak Ozetazini pou dwa moun ak pou jistis pou ayisyen.

Salem Prize la se yon pri yon jiri Salem Foundation bay chak lane pou rekonèt “champyon dwa moun ak jistis sosyal nan tan modenn ki pa pè pale menm lè gen entimidasyon.”

Salem se yon vil sou kot lanmè Atlantik, 26 kilomèt nan nò vil Bostonn. Nan lane 1692, vil la te fè pati koloni Angletè yo to rele l “Massachusetts,” epi ki te anba kontwol divès lidè yon entèpretasyon radikal relijyon pwotestan yo to rele “Puritan.” Nan yon vag istwa, plizyè sentèn moun te tonbe anba akizasyon “sorcellerie.” Te genyen yon seri pwosè ki te kondane 19 moun – preske tout se te fanm – pou pèn lanmoò. Yo pann yo. Yon 20tyèm te refize pale. Li mouri anba presyon gwo woch yo te mete sou li pou eseye fòse l pale.

Nan diskou entwodiksyon li, Julie Rose, reskonsab Fondasyon an, te fè piblik le konnen yon ti kras sou travay BAI ak IJDH: nan defann viktim rejim Duvalier, nan pote plent kont Nasyonzini sou koze kolera, nan defann ouvriyè ak ouvriyèz ki pèdi travay yo.

Pandan li te sonje kouraj moun ki te kritike pwosè Salem yo, Congressman John Tierney (D-MA) te di li te fyè li gen edikasyon avoka, tankou 2 moun ki t ap jwenn pri yo. “Nou menm, avoka, nou travay nou se kanpe pou jistis,” li te di. “Nou tout swete kominotè entènasyonal kontinye kanpe zepòl-zepòl avèk nou.”

Tierney te di, lè Joseph te resevwa menas denyèman, li menm ak lòt palmantè etazinizyen te ekri Depatman Deta, pou mande yo fè gouvènman Michel Martelly konnen, menas sa yo pa akseptab.

Patricia Meservy, prezidan Salem State, pami pi gwo inivèsite piblik nan leta a, te mande Nasyonzini admèt reskonsabilite yo nan pote kolera, pandan li te salye 2 avoka yo. “Yo te itilize edikasyon dwa yo epi yo te fè l tounen yin byen piblik,” dapre li.

Pami lòt moun ki te pale, te genyen majistra Salem ak 2 etidyan Salem State, youn ayisyen-ameriken ki te fèt Ozetazini, ak yon lòt ki te fèt Jeremi. “Mwen apresye tout sa yo fè pou Ayiti,” Kinnflo Michel, moun Jeremi, te di. Yon etidyan nan dènye lane li, Michel ap etidye jistis. Li te pale sou Masak Jeremi ki te fèt nan lane 1964, ak sou zak solda Nasyonzini yo fè, tankou vyòl sou fanm ak gason ak asasina senp sitwayen nan lane 2005 nan Sitecolèy. Li remake, pa t gen jistis nan okenn ka sa yo. Michel te di, youn nan pi gwo pwoblèm an Ayiti se moun ki pè pran pozisyon.

“Anpil granmoun an Ayiti di timoun yo ‘si ou wè yon bagay – pa pale l; se ou panse yon bagay – pa pale l,’” li te di. “Sepandan, gen moun ki gen kouraj, ki pa pè pale.” Moun sa a se Mario Joseph,” daprè Michel, ki swete tounen avoka lè l fin gradye.

Nan diskou pa yo, Concannon ak Joseph te pale sou krim ak vyolasyon dwa moun nan Sale nan lane 1692, epi yo fè konparezon ak mank jistis ak vyolasyon dwa moun an Ayiti, jouk jounen jodia. Nan 1692, plizyè moun – pami yon jij ki gen non Cotton Mather – te konnen byen anpil, sa ki t ap fèt Salem yo pa t korèk. “Menm jan ak Cotton Mather, Nasyonzini konnen, sa y ap fè [sou dosye kolera],” li te di.

Concannon ak Joseph te di, tout travay yo fè, se rezilta travay anpil moun: lòt avoka nan ekip yo, stajyè yo, ak volontè, ansanm ak bourad bayè ki apiye travay la nan divès mannyè. Lè prezantasyon an te fini, tout piblik la te kanpe pou bat bravo pandan plizyè minit.

Apre, Mario Joseph te di, pri a enpotan pou li anpil. “Li enpotan paske sa bay travay nou vizibilite. Lè nou konsidere danjè ki genyen nan travay n ap fè a, li enpotan,” li te di. Loske entènasyonal la konnen, sa bay nou yon ti kras pwotèksyon epi sa ankouraje nou anpil, paske nou wè, anpi moun ap pran konsyans sou travay nou.

Aktyelman, gen 7 avoka ak 3 estajyè nan BAI, dapre Joseph. Yo enplike nan plis pase 100 ka, pami yo ouvriye ki revoke ak moun ki te anba tant epi yo mete nan lati ilegalman. Dènyeman, divès òganizasyon dwa moun nasyonal ak entènasyonal te konstate menas ak danje pou moun ki travay nan domèn dwa moun. Jou ki te 8 fevriye, Daniel Dorsinvil manm fondatè Groupe alternatif de justice (GAJ) ak kòdonatè Plateforme des organisations haitiennes des droits humains (POHDH), ak madanm li te mouri anba bal asasen. Anplis, lane dènye avoka dwa moun Patrice Florvilus te resevwa anpil meas pou travay li, you, dapre Amnesty International.

Pami lòt moun ak enstitisyon ki te resevwa Salem Prize la, genyen Morris Dees, fondatè Southern Poverty Law Center, City Life/Vida Urbana, yon òganizasyon ki goumen pou jistis ekonomik ak lojman nan zòn Boston, ak Coalition of Immokalee Workers ki goumen pou dwa ouvriye ak ouvriyez agrikilti nan Etazini.

 

Klike ISIT pou atik orijinal la.

Ile a Vache Residents Continue to Fight for Their Rights

March 27, 2014 - 07:49

Ile a Vache residents continue to protest as their voices continue to be ignored in the decision to develop the island as a tourist destination. A community leader, Jean Maltunes Lamy, has been arrested with no charges against him and no trial. His wife, proud that the arrest was for a noble cause, is rallying the community to fight for his release.

Ile a Vache Population: ‘Martelly-Lamothe Are Selling Haiti!’

Dady Chery, Haiti Chery
March 27, 2014

The La Hatte section of Ile a Vache, Haiti, is paralyzed by popular protests and roadblocks once again. The population calls for support from everywhere, especially the other parts of the island. The protests were occasioned by several recent actions.

Environmental destruction by the Dominican company Ingenieria Estrella S.A.

Construction crews ripped through several areas during the night before Wednesday, March 26, 2014, as part of their road-building project. The population is especially angered by the fact that the most beautiful mountaintop on the island, near the area of Madame Bernard, has been bisected by bulldozers, and moreover, this was done without any contact with the landowners. The Dominican-Republic based construction company Ingeniería Estrella S.A. is currently unable to continue to work.

House-to-house searches and systematic repression

A Martelly-appointed local interim governor, Fritz Cesar, together with his brother, Henri Cesar, and a group of militarized police from the Motorized Intervention Brigate (BIM), descended on the area the next day for a series of house-to-house searches. One of the affected people was Organization of Ile a Vache Farmers (Konbit Organizasyon Peyzan Ayiti, KOPI) member Kenold Alexis.

Speaking on Radyo VKM, Mr. Alexis described that he had gone to teach, and around noon he received some phone calls alerting him that his house was being searched. He returned home to find his front door destroyed, his house in a shamble, and 20,000 gourdes (about $450) missing. He had raised this sum from the recent sale of a cow to pay for his children’s education. According to witnesses, Fritz Cesar, together with six death-squad members wrecked the house. In response to questions about whether he had been accused of a crime, Mr. Alexis said: “I am a school teacher, with a 24-year career. I have never been in any trouble with the law.”

Mr. Alexis noted that “those who feel solidarity with Haiti must ask why Martelly [has dismissed all the country’s local executives and] is appointing alleged criminals as provisional executives of various areas of the country.” He pointed out that Mr. Fritz Cesar has a criminal record and is therefore unqualified to hold a government post.

The case described by Mr. Alexis is not the only instance of the appointment of an alleged criminal to the Haitian government. For example, Gaby Silencieux was named Deputy Commissioner for the Limbe District in the Northern Department by Martelly on July 5, 2012, despite a warrant being issued on May 21, 2010 for Silencieux’ alleged involvement in torching the Court and Tax Offices in Cap Haitien. Currently, there are no local institutions to which people can bring their appeals. Police Commissioners, Departmental Delegates, local Justices of the Peace, have all been replaced by provisional Martelly appointees in an attempt to centralize all of Haiti under one single corrupt government.

All local officials have been silent about Ile a Vache. Unimpressed by the attempts to sow panic and intimidation, Mr. Alexis said: “I will not leave Ile a Vache…. I am a member of KOPI, and I will remain a member of KOPI.”

Return visit by tourist minister

Yet another visit from Tourism Minister Stephanie Balmir Villedrouin on Monday, March 24, 2014, amounted to nothing. A political party called SHRAD, which apparently works with the minister, offered training for jobs, such as carpentry work and electrical work, to the population rather than respond to their unanswered demands to:

  • Recall the decree to declare the island a zone of tourism development and public utility,
  • Release KOPI Vice President Jean Maltunes Lamy,
  • Withdraw 115 militarized police from the island.

The minister’s visit had the effect of frustrating the population even more and mobilizing it to respond to Martelly-Lamothe by plans to take to the streets during the week of March 31, 2014 and block all work until Jean Maltunes Lamy is free.

Mrs. Lamy speaks

In a March 27, 2014 interview with Jean Claudy Aristil on Radyo VKM, Jean Maltunes Lamy’s wife, Marie Nahesca Destil, said: “I am happy and proud that it is under these circumstances that my husband was imprisoned and arrested, because of his defense of a just cause.”Mrs. Lamy specified that her husband was not against the Ile a Vache project but rather “against the way the project was brought to the island.” She described how her husband was called in for questioning twice by the government: the first time, to be told that “a policeman should not participate in protests, and he should not go on the island.” He was reinstated in his job, but he was called in again for questioning after he participated in a Radio VKI program on Ile a Vache. When he appeared the second time for questioning, he was arrested and then sent to prison without a trial. Although the government has liberally defamed Mr. Lamy, he has never been charged with a crime. One of the unofficial accusations against him is that a misfiring of his gun was the reason for his arrest. According to Mrs. Lamy, however, her husband “was never questioned about a fired weapon.” Furthermore, there are no documents associated with Mr. Lamy’s arrest other than the two letters that called him in for questioning.

In her efforts to free her husband from Haiti’s National Penitentiary, where he has been incarcerated since February 25, 2014, Mrs. Lamy has appealed to the Tourism Minister for her husband’s release, and the minister has responded that the case falls, not under her domain, but that of the justice department. Mrs. Lamy has also appealed to Human Rights Minister, Mrs. Rosanne Auguste, who said that she is unaware of even a file on Jean Maltunes Lamy and “does not know why he is in prison.” Human-rights lawyers Andre Michel and Nancy Vigne have told Mrs. Lamy that the file on her husband is with the investigative office, but she also said that neither lawyer has specifically “seen her for arrangements” about the case.

When asked if there is anything Ile a Vache can do to help free Jean Maltunes Lamy, Mrs. Lamy responded that SHRAD has told her to wait and see what the government does. She added: “If by this coming weekend, Maltunes is not returned, the population should stand up again. The support of the population is the most important thing.”

Mrs. Lamy’s message to the Haitian authorities and the Ile a Vache population is: “I ask one thing, and it is the unconditional release of my husband. I ask the Ile a Vache population to join me in this. If the population does not wear down the government, does not put on some heat, then nothing will happen. The population needs to give some heat to the government to get a decision…. I want to tell the Ile a Vache people to hang in there, don’t soften up, continue the mobilization.”

For the full Radyo VKM March 27, 2014  interviews, in Kreyol, click on the arrow below:

Jean Claudy Aristil talks with KOPI’s Kenold Alexis and Marie Nahesca Destil, wife of KOPI Vice President, Jean Maltunes Lami, who has been imprisoned without charge or trial since February 25, 2014.

 

Click HERE for original.

PAHO Urges Improved Water and Sanitation to Fight Cholera

March 25, 2014 - 08:13

Pan American Health Organization and WASH Advocates are urging international support for major improvements in water and sanitation in Haiti so that cholera may be prevented rather than simply treated. PAHO says that poor water and sanitation are what allowed cholera to spread so quickly in the first place and are the key to stopping the epidemic.

Improved water and sanitation infrastructure key to controlling Haiti cholera

Caribbean360
March 25, 2014

More than 700,000 people have been sickened by the disease and more than 8,500 have died up to mid-March 2014.

WASHINGTON D.C., United States, Tuesday March 25, 2014, CMC – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) says while Haiti has made significant progress in slowing the spread of cholera, controlling and eventually eliminating the disease will require major improvements in water and sanitation infrastructure.

Representatives from PAHO and its partner organizations in the Regional Coalition for Water and Sanitation to Eliminate Cholera from Hispaniola are urging stepped-up support for a “call to action” launched in 2012.

“World Water Day is an opportunity to highlight how critical water and sanitation are in the fight against cholera,” said PAHO Deputy Director Jon K. Andrus on Friday, designated by the United Nations as World Water Day.

“This was a key lesson learned in stopping the cholera epidemic that swept the Western Hemisphere in the 1990s,” he added.

During that time, Andrus said countries prioritized safe water and sanitation as fundamental to stopping cholera transmission while ensuring access to safe water as a basic human right.

“We want to go far beyond treating cholera patients. We want to stop the actual transmission of cholera in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and elsewhere, and to get there we need major improvements in water, sanitation and hygiene,” said John Oldfield, chief executive officer of WASH Advocates, a Washington-based non-profit, nonpartisan initiative dedicated to helping solve the global safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) challenge.

Since October 2010, PAHO said cholera has spread to all of Haiti’s departments, into the neighbouring Dominican Republic, and beyond the island of Hispaniola to Cuba and Mexico.

In Haiti alone, it said more than 700,000 people have been sickened by the disease and more than 8,500 have died, as of mid-March 2014.

Although the epidemic has slowed considerably, PAHO warned that cholera has continued to sicken an average of 385 people per week in Haiti during 2014.

Even before the January 2010 earthquake, PAHO noted that Haiti had the lowest levels of water and sanitation coverage in the Americas, with only 63 percent of the population having access to improved sources of drinking water, and 17 percent having access to improved sanitation.

“These conditions facilitated the rapid spread of cholera after its initial outbreak in October 2010,” said PAHO, adding that in order to fight the epidemic, the governments of Haiti and the Dominican Republic in 2012 launched a “Call to Action” for the international community to support major improvements in safe water, sanitation, and hygiene.

In response, PAHO said it formed with several partners the Regional Coalition for Water and Sanitation to Eliminate Cholera from Hispaniola “to mobilize international support for the two countries’ efforts in this area”.

 

Click HERE for original.

Brian Concannon & Mario Joseph Hailed “Heroes” in Salem

March 24, 2014 - 09:19

This article describes the Salem Award ceremony of March 23, including Brian and Mario’s presentation, background on the two, and dignitaries present at the ceremony.

Salem Award honors Haitian heroes

Tom Dalton, The Salem News
March 24, 2014

SALEM — Two lawyers who have taken on everyone from military strongmen to the United Nations in their fight for the poor of Haiti were honored yesterday with the 22nd annual Salem Award for Human Rights and Social Justice.

Mario Joseph and Brian Concannon received the award in an afternoon ceremony before a packed ballroom at the Hawthorne Hotel.

“Mario and Brian are the most courageous, persistent and effective human rights activists I have met during 30 years of working in Haiti…” Dr. Paul Farmer, cofounder of Partners in Health, a leading health organization in Haiti, wrote in introductory remarks read to a crowd of more than 200 at yesterday’s ceremony.

Joseph, a native of Haiti, was a lead attorney in a landmark legal case, the prosecution of 59 military and civilian paramilitary fighters involved in what became known as the Roboteau Massacre.

In 1994, the defendants led an early-morning assault on Roboteau, a shanty town where demonstrations had been held in support of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti’s first democratically elected president who had been deposed in a military coup.

The attackers went door to door, beating and shooting residents. Estimates of the number killed ranged from six to more than 20.

Joseph, managing attorney of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, helped secure convictions of some of the country’s most feared military leaders during a six-week trial. The New York Times called him “Haiti’s most prominent human rights lawyer.”

Concannon, a Boston native who is director of the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, helped prepare the prosecution in the Roboteau case.

He also sued the United Nations for billions of dollars on behalf of the families of thousands of victims who died or became ill from a 2010-11 cholera outbreak which medical panels ruled most likely was caused by U.N. peacekeepers.

In accepting the award, Concannon lauded the courage of the many people in Haiti who work closely with their two organizations, and also singled out his corecipient for praise.

“Mario is under pretty significant physical danger for his work,” he said.

Two Salem State University students, Haitian native Kinnflo Michel, and Haitian-American Naomie Pacoulouce, spoke at the ceremony.

Dignitaries in attendance included Congressman John Tierney, Mayor Kim Driscoll, state Sen. Joan Lovely and state Rep. John Keenan.

The Salem Award honors individuals whose lives and work emulate the moral lessons learned from the tragedy of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.

Past winners include Morris Dees, founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center; Eric Reeves, an activist for peace in the Sudan; Fahima Vorgetts of the Afghan Women’s Fund; and Chinese dissident Harry Wu.

Tom Dalton can be reached at tdalton@salemnews.com.

 

Click HERE for original.

Mennonite Central Committee Job Opening

March 24, 2014 - 07:30

The Mennonite Central Committee is looking for a Legislative Associate for International Affairs.  See the position details below.

Date Opened: March 12, 2014
Start Date: May 1, 2014
Resumes Accepted Until: April 4, 2014
Full Time Equivalent: 1
Reports To: MCC Washington Office Director
Travel Percent: 15-20%

Synopsis:
This position will monitor, write about and guide advocacy efforts on U.S. policy with regard to Latin America and Asia. The position includes significant research, analysis, writing, speaking and networking responsibilities and may include mentoring of interns who follow international policy issues.

Individuals interested in this position should send a letter of intent and current resume by April 4, 2014 to Becky Ream at beckyream@mcc.org. Questions may also be directed to Becky via email or by calling 717-859-1151.

Qualifications:
§ B.A. degree (preferably with studies in Bible/religion, international affairs, political science, history, economics or related fields); master’s degree, preferred
§ 1-3 years experience working in public policy advocacy and/or work experience connected to Latin America or Asia
§ Proven research, oral and written communication skills
§ Ability to prioritize and manage multiple issues and tasks
§ Understanding of and ability to articulate biblical and Anabaptist perspectives on public policy
§ Ability to work effectively in coalitions and with diverse groups of people
§ Spanish-language proficiency, preferred

Assignment Description:
Contact/Relationships:
Extensive contacts internally with MCC workers in domestic and international settings, as well as externally with congressional staff and peers from like-minded organizations in DC. Gathers, interprets and communicates information—excellent research, writing and oral skills necessary. Presents workshops, seminars and speaking engagements for constituency groups.

Supervision:
This position does not supervise anyone.
Complexity/Competencies:
Extensive resourcing of constituents and collaboration with other MCC staff. Should be a self-starter, able to synthesize information gathered from multiple sources and develop program plans accordingly. Tasks include constituent education through seminars, articles and action alerts; making congressional visits; and collaborating with members of other faith-based organizations in DC. Some degree of creativity and innovation is required.

Independent Action:
Position requires significant self-initiative, with ability to determine own approaches and methods. Must also be team player, able to participate in diverse coalitions, and the Washington Office team of 5-6 individuals. Supervision is monthly-quarterly.

End Result:
Gathers input from MCC International Program staff and service workers to determine MCC’s position on foreign policy issues. Communicates well to MCC constituency and U.S. policymakers MCC’s position on relevant issues.

Major Responsibilities:
Education – 35%Networking – 30%Advocacy – 35%

Duties:
Education – 35%
· Prepare action alerts and write educational articles for various outlets
· Relate to constituency through seminars, speaking engagements, direct inquiries, etc.
· Assist in planning and conducting seminars for constituency
· Provide occasional mentoring for interns in office
Networking – 30%
· Collaborate extensively with other MCC staff and service workers related to Latin America and Asia
· Attend and participate in MCC-related activities (staff meetings, retreats, etc.)
· Work with colleagues from other church and like-minded agencies in DC
Advocacy –35%
· Research, monitor and analyze U.S. foreign policy by participating in (and, in some instances, giving leadership to) legislative working groups and attending conferences and congressional hearings
· Meet regularly with congressional offices and facilitate congressional visits by MCC staff and partners

Location Description:
The MCC Washington Office is located on Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, about 8 blocks from the U.S. Capitol building. It is easily accessible via public transportation.

Washington, DC is a highly diverse city of about 600,000, with the total metro area population numbering approximately 5.8 million.

 

Click HERE to view description on MCC site.

Haiti Still Has Highest Cholera Incidence Worldwide

March 24, 2014 - 04:57

UN Special Envoy Sandra Honore claimed that there has been progress against the cholera epidemic in Haiti but Haiti still has the highest number of cholera cases in the world. The United Nations continues to hide claim diplomatic immunity from taking responsibility for the epidemic.

UN: Haiti has more cholera than any other nation

Peter James Spielmann, Yahoo News
March 24, 2014

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Haiti’s cholera outbreak is still the worst in the world, the top U.N. envoy there said Monday.

Sandra Honore briefed the U.N. Security Council about the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti, crime rates, public health, and the cholera outbreak.

She told reporters “progress is being made” on the cholera epidemic. Of the 680,820 cases reported since 2010, only 6 percent arose last year — some 58,000 infections.

Honore said “the overall incidence of the disease has been reduced by half, and the fatality rate is below 1 percent, which is the alert threshold defined by the World Health Organization globally.”

But she told the Security Council Haiti “still has the highest number of cholera cases in the world.” Health officials in Haiti say the epidemic has killed more than 8,000 people.

Scientific studies have shown that cholera was likely introduced in Haiti by U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal, where the disease is endemic.

The United Nations has claimed diplomatic immunity from class-action lawsuits being filed by lawyers representing Haitian survivors and relatives of the dead who say the U.N. peacekeepers contaminated Haiti’s principal river with cholera-infected human waste beginning in October 2010.

In 2012, the United Nations announced a $2.27 billion initiative to help eradicate cholera in Haiti.

Honore also told the Security Council that major crime was down in 2013, with homicides dropping 21 percent and kidnappings down 53 percent from a year before.

 

Click HERE for original.

Salem Award Ceremony

March 23, 2014 - 13:00

Celebrate Mario and Brian at the Salem Award ceremony for their work in Human Rights and Social Justice!

WHEN:

Sunday March 23 @ 4pm

WHERE:

Hawthorne Hotel Ballroom

18 Washington Square

West Salem, MA

WHY:

To make sure human rights violations like the Salem Witch Trials never happen again.

Click HERE to view the event page and RSVP.

Top Ten Reasons to Install Clean Water in Haiti

March 22, 2014 - 07:00

In an interview with NPR, Jonathan Katz noted that lack of proper sanitation and water access contributes to the persistence of cholera in Haiti. In celebration of World Water Day, the team at IJDH has put together an additional ten reasons to focus on clean water initiatives in Haiti.

1. Eliminate cholera that the United Nations brought to Haiti and put an end to the epidemic sickening and killing people (Reference: NPR)

2. Save 4000+ lives every year from waterborne disease related deaths (Reference: Human Rights Watch)

3. Revolutionize access to basic human rights and dignity (Reference: Special Rapporteur submission)

4. Yield a fivefold return on investment through improving health, education, and creating jobs in establishing an adequate sanitation system. Consequently, inadequate infrastructure can sap as much as 7% of G.D.P. per year. (Reference: Jonathan Katz, New Yorker)

5. When asked if compensating victims and admitting fault would harm the UN or impact future UN operations, former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations, Stephen Lewis said: “No, I don’t think it would compromise the UN. In fact, I think it would do the UN a lot of good to be seen as principled in the face of having caused so much devastation.” (Reference: Rabble)

6. The United Nations has a moral and legal responsibility to do so (Reference: Conyers & 64 Colleagues Write Ambassador Samantha Power Urging UN to Take Responsibility & Remedial Action for Haiti Cholera Outbreak)

7. Opportunity for the UN to fulfill its original mission mandate in Haiti: to restore a secure and stable environment, to promote the political process, to strengthen Haiti’s government institutions and rule-of-law-structures, as well as to promote and to protect human rights. (Reference: MINUSTAH)

8. Promote an already existing UN goal. UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay supports “the defence and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms” at the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, and through Resolution 64/292, the UN recognized the human right to water and sanitation. (References: OHCHR, UN Water for Life)

9. Provide an appropriate and tangible response to Haitian needs (Reference: BBC)

10. Guarantee the basic human rights of the poorest members of the society (Reference: MINUSTAH)

Celebrate World Water Day by learning more about how the United Nations and partner organizations plan to bring clean water and energy to those who need it most around the world.

Vision Toward a New Sovereign Haiti

March 21, 2014 - 14:00

Join the Cholera Justice Project for a forum in Randolph, MA.

WHAT:

The Cholera Justice Project will be holding a forum entitled, “Vision Toward a New Sovereign Haiti”, from March 21st until the 22nd. During this conference there will be discussions about MINUSTAH and cholera. Please join us to discuss what can be done so that Haiti can once again be a sovereign nation. The price for this event is $60 and dinner will be included.

Afterwards, join us on March 23rd for the Salem Awards, where Brian Concannon and Mario Joseph will be awarded for their fight for human rights in Haiti.

WHERE:

Lantana Ballroom
43 Scanlon Drive
Randolph, MA 02368

WHEN:

Friday March 21st: 5pm-10pm
Saturday March 22nd: 3pm-10pm

 

For more information please contact Dr. Jean Ford Figaro at (508)2507926 or kolerajistisprojet@gmail.com

 

Click here for the event poster in French.