Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

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Haitian Cholera Victims Need Access to Justice

November 3, 2014 - 09:28

This article describes in detail the origin of the cholera epidemic in Haiti, the UN’s failure to provide the victims justice since the epidemic began in 2010, and the litigation that is trying to force the UN to be accountable for its (in)actions. At the center of all this is the demand that UN immunity not be treated as impunity.

An excerpt is below. Click HERE for the full text.

Access to Justice for Victims of Cholera in Haiti: Accountability for U.N. Torts in U.S. Court

Beatrice Lindstrom, Shannon Jonsson, and Gillian Stoddard Leatherberry; Boston University’s International Law Journal
November 3, 2014

As the human costs of a lack of U.N. accountability grow, the international community, including U.N. insiders, is beginning to recognize that in some cases immunity should give way to the need for accountability from an otherwise untouchable institution. Former U.N. Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis has taken the view that:

immunity 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. . . . I don’t think [liability] 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.[66]

Numerous other human rights experts affiliated with the U.N. have also spoken out publicly in favor of U.N. accountability for the cholera epidemic, including former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay,[67] U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Water Catarina de Albuquerque,[68] and U.N. Independent Expert on Human Rights in Haiti Gustavo Gallón,[69] among others.[70]

The cholera case is not the only situation in which U.N. immunity has recently come under scrutiny.[71] An abundance of questions regarding the reputation of the United Nations have arisen in other contexts, including instances of egregious sexual violence perpetrated by U.N. peacekeepers.[72] Together, these concerns amount to a credibility crisis for the organization.[73]  Ultimately, enforcing a balanced interpretation of U.N. immunity when the organization harms innocent bystanders will render it stronger as an institution, and reinforce its legitimacy as a bastion of international human rights.

 

Click HERE for the full text.

L’affaire contre le régime Duvalier devrait continuer

November 1, 2014 - 08:04

Des organisations des droits humains demandent que la poursuite du régime de Duvalier doit continuer. Bien qu’il soit mort, les autres responsables des crimes perpétrés sous son régime peuvent être poursuivis en justice.

Part of the article is below. Cliquez ICI pour l’original.

Haïti – Duvalier : La justice haïtienne doit poursuivre son enquête

HaitiLibre
1 novembre 2014

 Près d’un mois après le décès de l’ancien Président Jean Claude Duvalier (4 octobre 2014), la Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l’Homme (FIDH) a organisé, en partenariat avec ses organisations membres en Haïti, le Réseau National de Défense des Droits Humains (RNDDH) et le Centre Œcuménique des Droits Humains (CEDH), une mission destinée à évaluer l’état de la procédure judiciaire menée par la Cour d’appel de Port au Prince sur les crimes contre l’humanité perpétrés sous le régime de Jean Claude Duvalier.

« La procédure judiciaire n’est en aucun cas compromise par le décès de Jean Claude Duvalier » a déclaré Pierre Espérance, Directeur exécutif du RNDDH et Secrétaire général de la FIDH.

 

Cliquez ICI pour l’original.

LIDS Symposium on Post-Conflict Resolution

October 31, 2014 - 08:00

Attend this symposium on post-conflict resolution in Cambridge, MA, hosted by Harvard Law and International Development Society.

WHAT:

On Friday, October 31st, experts, practitioners, and academics working on issues of development and reconstruction in post-conflict countries will convene at Harvard Law School to discuss strategies to best promote growth, stability, and long-term development in countries arising from violent conflict. In light of recent conflicts in countries such as Syria and Iraq, and keeping in mind the long, expensive, challenging – and in many cases, still ongoing – efforts to rebuild and develop in countries such as Afghanistan, Rwanda, and Cambodia, it is a particularly critical inquiry that will shed light on how we can help countries move forward from ongoing conflicts. Countries arising from conflict have often had basic infrastructure and institutions destroyed, poor prospects for economic growth, and face lack of security and rule of law. The Symposium’s speakers will highlight barriers that countries from Rwanda to Afghanistan have faced in the process of transition, as well as the best practices employed in moving forward — including in promoting economic growth and development, institutionalizing the rule of law, and implementing justice and security sector reform.

Lunch will begin at 12pm with the Keynote Speaker, Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank, and former Minister of Finance and Economic Planning in Rwanda. Other notable panelists hail from the UN, World Bank, USAID, The Asia Foundation, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative, and Namati. The two panels will be followed by an evening reception with speakers in the Hark.

WHERE:

Harvard Law School
Wasserstein Hall, Milstein East BC (2nd floor)

WHEN:

12pm to 4:30pm
Friday, October 31, 2014

 

Click HERE for more info on the agenda and panels.

Duvalier Case Will Continue Despite His Death

October 30, 2014 - 14:27

 

The investigating judge assigned to prosecute Jean-Claude Duvalier and his associates is continuing the process, despite the former dictator’s death. Since complaints were not aimed solely at Duvalier, his victims still have a chance at justice. The UN Human Rights Committee has also stressed the importance of continuing the case, to combat impunity and promote the rule of law in Haiti.

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.

Case against Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier continues even after death

Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald
October 30, 2014

A Haiti investigative judge assigned to look into allegations of corruption and crimes against humanity by former President-for-Life Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier is continuing to pursue the case despite Duvalier’s death, a human-rights lawyer said Thursday.

Clémence Bectarte, coordinator of the International Federation for Human Rights’ Litigation Action Group, told the Miami Herald that Judge Durin Duret is continuing to interview people and gather evidence. He is not only only looking at Duvalier, who suffered a heart attack in Port-au-Prince while eating cornflakes and milk this month, but others who worked for him during his 15-year-rule.

“From the beginning, the complaints were not aimed exclusively at Jean-Claude Duvalier,” she said. “The judge has the legal possibility to indict any persons who committed these crimes under the Duvalier regime.”

 

Click HERE for the full text.

UN Human Rights Committee Concerned about Haiti

October 30, 2014 - 12:00

(Francais çi dessous)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Press Contact:

Mario Joseph, Av., Managing Attorney, Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI),  Mario@ijdh.org, +011 509 2943 2106/07 (in Haiti, speaks French and Creole)

Nicole Phillips, Esq., Staff Attorney, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), Nicole@ijdh.org, +1 510 715 2855 (in U.S., speaks English and French)

UN Human Rights Committee concerned by overdue elections, lack of judicial independence, threats against human rights defenders, and forced evictions in Haiti

(Geneva, October 30, 2014)—The UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva released concluding observations today to the Government of Haiti expressing concern for the lack of judicial independence, long-overdue elections (since 2011), an increase in firearm deaths by police officers, and threats and intimidation to human rights defenders, journalists and political opponents. Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, commended the Committee’s relevant recommendations, which he says “reveal problems of impunity and corruption in the government led by President Michel Martelly. We are very pleased by the Human Rights Committee’s recommendations, many of which will assist ongoing cases of the BAI.”

Joseph, who was in Geneva on October 8 and 9 for the Committee’s review of Haiti, said that he was “encouraged by the Committee’s recommendations.” In particular, he welcomed the recommendations that the Haitian government bring to justice all persons responsible for violations committed during Duvalier’s presidency and grant victims reparations; hold election as soon as possible; document and prosecute homicide cases by law enforcement; guarantee judicial independence, particularly from the Executive and Legislature in judicial decisions; and take all measures to protect human rights defenders and journalists so that they can exercise their functions freely without constraint.

The Committee addressed the more than 100,000 Haitians still living in earthquake displacement camps, urging the government to guarantee that each person displaced from the earthquake receive a durable solution, and no one be evicted from a camp without an alternative for them and their families.

 

The Committee was also concerned about discrimination and an increase in violence against women and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons (LGBT). The Committee urged the government to conduct gender-sensitivity training to reduce negative gender stereotypes. Courts were encouraged to recognize that medical certificates are not required to prosecute rape crimes; the testimony of a victim is sufficient to trigger a criminal investigation for rape.

Joseph added, “We hope that the Haitian government heeds these recommendations from the Committee.  Meanwhile, we will continue to document human rights abuses and file legal cases to force our government to respect Haitians’ human rights.”

BAI/IJDH reports submitted to the Human Rights Committee in partnership with eight other organizations and other relevant information are available here.

 

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POUR DIFFUSION IMMÉDIATE

Contact Presse:

Mario Joseph, Av., Directeur, Bureau des avocats internationaux (BAI), Mario@ijdh.org, 011 509 2943 2106/07 (en Haïti, parle français et créole)

Nicole Phillips, Esq., Avocate, Institut pour la Justice et la Démocratie en Haïti (IJDH), Nicole@ijdh.org, +1 510 715 2855 (aux Etats-Unis, parle anglais et français)

Comité des droits de l’homme des Nations Unies concerné par les élections en souffrance, le manque d’indépendance du pouvoir judiciaire, les menaces contre les défenseurs des droits de l’homme, et les expulsions forcées en Haïti.

(Genève, 30 Octobre, 2014)—Le Comité des droits de l’homme des Nations Unies à Genève a publié ses observations finales aujourd’hui au gouvernement d’Haïti exprimant sa préoccupation pour le manque d’indépendance judiciaire, les élections attendues depuis longtemps (depuis 2011), une augmentation des décès par arme à feu par les officiers de police, et les menaces et l’intimidation contre les défenseurs des droits de l’homme, des journalistes et des opposants politiques. Mario Joseph, procureur général du Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) à Port-au-Prince, en Haïti, a salué les recommandations pertinentes du Comité, qui, selon lui, “révèlent des problèmes d’impunité et de corruption dans le gouvernement dirigé par le président Michel Martelly. Nous sommes très heureux par les recommandations du Comité des droits de l’homme, dont beaucoup aideront les affaires en cours de la BAI.

Joseph, qui était à Genève le 8 et le 9 Octobre pour le passage en revue d’Haïti par le comité, a déclaré qu’il était «encouragé par les recommandations du Comité.” En particulier, il a salué les recommandations que le gouvernement haïtien traduise en justice toutes les personnes responsables des violations commises lors de la présidence de Duvalier, et accorde aux victimes des réparations; tienne des élections dès que possible; documente et poursuive les cas d’homicide par les forces de l’ordre; garantisse l’indépendance judiciaire, en particulier des pouvoirs exécutifs et législatifs dans les décisions judiciaires; et prenne toutes les mesures pour protéger les défenseurs des droits de l’homme et les journalistes afin qu’ils puissent exercer leurs fonctions librement sans contrainte.

Le Comité a adressé le cas de plus de 100.000 Haïtiens vivant encore dans des camps de déplacés du tremblement de terre, exhortant le gouvernement à garantir que chaque personne déplacée par le séisme reçoive une solution durable, et que personne ne soit pas expulsée d’un camp sans une alternative pour cette personne et sa famille.

Le Comité était également préoccupé par la discrimination et une augmentation de la violence contre les femmes et les lesbiennes, les gays, les bisexuels et les personnes transgenres (LGBT). Le Comité a exhorté le gouvernement à procéder à la formation de la sensibilité au genre afin de réduire les stéréotypes sexistes. Les cours ont été encouragées à reconnaître que les certificats médicaux ne sont pas exigibles pour poursuivre les crimes de viol; le témoignage d’une victime est suffisant pour déclencher une enquête criminelle pour viol.

Joseph a ajouté: «Nous espérons que le gouvernement haïtien fait attention à ces recommandations du Comité. En attendant, nous allons continuer à documenter les violations des droits de l’homme et déposer des plaintes juridiques pour forcer le gouvernement à respecter les droits humains des Haïtiens ».

Les rapports du BAI/IJDH soumis au comité des droits de l’homme en partenariat avec huit autres organisations et d’autres information pertinente sont disponible ici.

 

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UN refuses to take responsibility for cholera in Haiti

October 29, 2014 - 10:38

This article was written for Omvärlden, the Swedish Development Agency’s magazine.

The pdf file is below. Here’s an unofficial translation:

UN refuses to take responsibility for cholera in Haiti UN troops are understood to have caused the catastrophic cholera epidemic in Haiti. Yet the UN is rejecting all requests for compensation by pointing to its immunity.  Can an organization that works for human rights refuse people’s right to access justice? This question is now to be decided by a court in New York.

Haiti, October 2010. Jean Salgadeau Pelette who lives in the little mountain village of Meille, north of the capital Port-au-Prince, goes to take his usual morning dip in the river.  After a few ours, he is found unconscious by the river bank and is carried home. His relatives do not even have time to evaluate whether they should take him to the hospital, Jean is already dead by that same afternoon.

A week later, several thousand Haitians have been infected in what is now viewed as one of the world’s worst cholera epidemics.

The scale of the catastrophe is difficult to take in. First, Haiti was hit by a powerful earthquake.  Over 100,000 people died, even more were injured and over 1 million people became homeless.

Less than a year later – in the middle of the difficult reconstruction work – the epidemic broke out. Cholera had been eradicated from the country for around 100 years prior. Now, it spread quickly in the poor countryside and in the earthquake victims’ basic tent camps.

Doctors Without Borders deployed immediately to the affected areas.

Cholera is generally not difficult to treat. It involves preventing dehydration by providing liquids, either by cup, spoon or intravenously. But it must happen quickly. The course of the disease – from the first sign of symptoms of acute vomiting and diarrhea to death – can take just a few hours.

“The body dries out very fast. When so many become sick at the same time, we had a difficult time to coordinate the relief efforts in time.”  That was the case for many actors, explains Olivier Schulz, the country head in Haiti.

Today, four years later, the number of dead in Haiti exceeds 8,500 and the number sickened exceeds 700,000. That means that almost every ten Haitians have been infected with cholera.  And the danger isn’t over.

“The epidemic continues still, even though it has subsided significantly.  For the first time since 2010, the number of sick has one down dramatically this year, “ says Schulz.

In the first twelve months, Doctors Without Borders treated 150,000 patients, this year they’ve “only” treated 300. Aside from fewer Haitians residing in tent camps, the country’s sanitation situation has improved and more have learned how to avoid contracting the disease.

In the beginning, the earthquake or climate change were seen as possible causes of the cholera outbreak.  But fairly quickly, suspicion pointed to a UN base located by the river right by the village of Meille where the first cases were discovered. The UN denied the charges; the Nepalese peacekeeping troops that arrived only a week before had been tested before they came to Haiti.

But then medical experts demonstrated in several different studies – one of which was commissioned by the UN —that the relevant bacterial strain was most identical with the one active in Nepal.  The UN apparently placed too much trust in their own medical protocol.  What is more, the provisional sanitation system on the base contained serious inadequacies.

Untreated sewage ran, according to the epidemiologist, directly into the river Meille – which flows into Haiti’s largest river, the Artibonite. The consequences were devastating.

“It’s common to both wash and bathe and also gather water from that river, says Claes Hammar, the Sweden-based ambassador to Haiti who himself witnessed the tragedy on site in the fall of 2010.

“It was chaotic after the earthquake and politically unstable in advance of the elections. Cholera became yet another problem.”

When the first rumors surfaced that the UN could be behind the epidemic, violent riots broke out.

Officially, the UN has not admitted their responsibility or compensated the impacted. Nor have they established a claims commission – where the injured can turn with their claims and requests for compensation — as they are required to do for these types of disputes by their own regulations.

“It’s indefensible. The UN must solve the problem they themselves caused,” says Beatrice Lindstrom, a spokesperson for the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, IJDH.

Together with the International Lawyers Office, BAI, IJDH demanded three years ago that the UN pay compensation to the Haitian cholera victims and fund the installation of better water and sanitation systems in the country.

Two years later, nothing had happened. Then both organizations decided to take the UN to court.  In October last year, they filed a complaint in federal court for the Southern District of New York.

The case consists of five Haitians, and they hope to set a precedent. One of them is Lisette Paul, who lost both her father and her brother to cholera.  The brother suddenly fell sick one day while working in the fields and died a week later despite receiving medical care.  Lisette’s sister-in-law was required to pull her oldest daughter out of school so the family could afford the funeral.  Today they are struggling to make a living, and are at daily risk of contracting cholera because they lack access to clean water.

“The individual compensation does not amount to a large amount for the UN, but for those impacted, the compensation would be life changing,” says Beatrice Lindstrom.

The former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, as well as the new Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, have spoken out in support of the victims’ right to compensation.

The UN itself, through the host country United States, has repeatedly pointed to the organization’s immunity: the UN can’t be sued in a national court. That is an argument that “rings of double standards”, thinks Krister Thelin, who was a judge with the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia in the Hague and until last year was a member of the UN Human Rights Committee.

He is one of 25 prominent jurists from around the world who support the litigation against the UN through a special submission to the court in New York.

“It’s unacceptable that an organization that fights for human rights can refuse people their right to access justice,” says Krister Thelin.

The court in New York has divided up the case against the UN in two parts. On October 23, there will be oral arguments on the UN’s immunity, and thereafter the actual trial may take place, dependent on the outcome in the first stage proceeding.

“The difficult hurdle is immunity.  If they prevail on that question, there will be no difficulty prevailing on liability,” says Krister Thelin.

Much points to him being right.  Leading up to a visit to Haiti in July 2014, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed regret for the cholera epidemic. According to AFP, he said that “regardless of what the legal implication may be, as the Secretary-General of the United Nations and as a person, I feel very sad. I believe that the international community, including the United Nations, has a moral responsibility to help the Haitian people stem the further spread of this cholera epidemic.”

The statement has been interpreted as an implied admission to the victims’ claims.

“We don’t understand why the UN doesn’t resolve the disputes directly rather than hiring all these expensive lawyers,” says Beatrice Lindstrom. She responds to her rhetorical question:

“The UN has grown used to being able to ignore these kinds of cases. They’ve either resolved disputes quietly, under the table, or the complainants have eventually given up. This is the first time that the protests are so loud. We hope the UN realizes that they can no longer simply sweep complaints under the rug.”

Respect for the UN looms large. Haiti’s government has kept a low profile throughout the process. The government hasn’t even supported the required claims commission for the victims, which it must do in order for the UN to establish it.

“Haiti’s government is presumably afraid to bump heads with the UN since they depend on UN support in other matters,” says Krister Thelin.

Even Swedish officials are keeping quiet.  Swedish politicians and “friends of the UN” are ducking the sensitive question with various excuses.

Under Secretary-General Jan Eliasson sends a message through his office in New York that he does not have time to comment.

Former Foreign Minister Carl Bildt points to the current Foreign Ministry leadership: “As outgoing Foreign Minister one shouldn’t opine on something that falls under the new Foreign Minister. That is considered good form in these circumstances,” he explains by email.  Current Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom has also declined to comment.

Hans Corell, who was the UN’s Legal Counsel from 1994-2004, also does not want to take a position:

“The Haiti case is unique. I know that this is viewed as a serious and deeply unfortunate thing inside the UN. But to be able to speak on it one has to be inside the organization with direct knowledge, which I am not. And I shouldn’t speak on this, where it may cause trouble for the current legal counsel.”

Has this turned into a case of maintaining pride?

“The case is extraordinarily complicated. Not in the least because it could involve huge compensation amounts. In the end it’s the member states who have to foot the bill. Somewhere there has to be a solution, but it’s hardly that a national court decides the case,” says Hans Corell.

In principle, Hans Corell has a large understanding for both the UN and the United States’ arguments.

“The UN must, just as other international organizations — and their personnel — have immunity.  They can’t be brought into national courts around the world. It would never work.”

But the UN must waive immunity when it’s accused of having committed a crime so the accused can be prosecuted, and also put in place a claims commission as needed, says Hans Corell.

He himself relied on both frequently. In the latter case, it was often for disputes with transportation companies that helped move troops.

At the same time, Corell admits that immunity is problematic.

A deployed UN solider who commits a crime – for example buys sex or violates the local population – is to be tried in his or her home country. But this assumes that the act is considered a crime in the home country.

A civil UN officer deployed on a peacekeeping mission does have to comply with the host country’s laws. The problem is that these troops often find themselves in countries where the legal system is dysfunctional.

“There is a large ongoing effort to review the rules of international organizations,” says Corell.

“Under no circumstances should the end result be that a UN employee goes unpunished for a crime he or she has committed.”

If the same reasoning holds true for the UN as an organization, that could have decisive implications for Lisette Paul and the thousands of her affected countrymen.

 

UN Scandals [boxed text]

The UN has a long history of scandal. Several have occurred in the Democratic Republic of Congo:

1961: Newly arrived UN-Swedes in the Congo visit a brothel on their first night. An investigation the same year shows that half of the deployed had sex during their stay in the Congo. After this, sexual relations with the prostitutes among the local population is forbidden.

2005: Employees of the Swedish Red Cross witnesses UN troops in Congo-Kinshasa regularly exchange food and money for sexual favors. The UN’s own investigation showed later that the sexual exploitation was extensive.  Once again, all relations with the local population in exchange for sexual favors is prohibited.

2008: A large group of Indian UN soldiers are exposed to have exploited both boys and girls over several years. The same year, BBC reveals that Pakistani and Indian troops exchange weapons for gold with Congolese rebel groups.

 

FN vägrar ta ansvar för koleraspridning på Haiti

Karolina Andersson, OmVärlden
November 2014

Here’s the pdf.

Immunity or Impunity

October 28, 2014 - 13:00

Haitian Student Unity’s panel on the cholera suit, in Boston.

WHAT: 

Join Haitian Student Unity, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, and others for a panel discussion on the groundbreaking lawsuit against the United Nations over the cholera outbreak in Haiti.

WHEN:

Tuesday, 10/28/2014 at 5pm

WHERE: 

Northeastern University School of Law
Dockser 42
65 Forsyth Street
Boston, MA

Author Talk With Bryan Stevenson

October 27, 2014 - 14:00

At Boston Public Library, hear about Bryan Stevenson’s new book on America’s criminal justice system.

WHAT:

IJDH board member and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, Bryan Stevenson, will speak about his new book, Just Mercy. The book tells the story of Walter McMillian, a black man sentenced to die for a murder he insisted he didn’t commit, along with many others facing America’s criminal justice system. It is available now from Random House.

The release of Bryan Stevenson’s book, “Just Mercy” was preceded by an exemplary TED talk, a recent appearance on The Daily Show, and an interview on NPR. Don’t miss this chance to hear Bryan speak.

WHERE:

Commonwealth Salon
Central Library in Copley Square
700 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02116

WHEN:

Monday, October 27, 2014 at 6-7pm

 

Click HERE for more on this event.

Haiti’s Cholera Epidemic Comes to US Court

October 27, 2014 - 11:20

This article describes the cholera epidemic in Haiti, as well as the October 23 oral arguments on the question of UN immunity. It also compares the cholera epidemic to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, both of which are exacerbated (or even allowed) by poverty. Ebola is very difficult to combat but cholera is, fortunately, easy to fight and prevent. What would help most is the UN taking responsibility for the epidemic it caused and helping Haiti build the water and sanitation infrastructure it needs to be cholera-free.

An excerpt is below. Click HERE for the full text.

There’s an Epidemic on Trial in New York — But It’s Not Ebola

Lauren Carasik, VICE News
October 27, 2014

The UN has declined to appear in court on its own behalf. Instead, Assistant US Attorney Ellen Blain argued that as both the host nation to the UN and a party to treaties governing UN affairs, the US is obligated to respond on the UN’s behalf. Blain urged the judge to dismiss the case on the grounds of absolute immunity, claiming that allowing the case to go forward would open the floodgates for suits against the UN that would impair its ability to advance its mission.

Beatrice Lindstrom, a lawyer with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti argued that the immunity conferred by the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations depends on the provision of an appropriate settlement mechanism for private law claims, which the UN has not done. Moreover, the UN committed to set up a Standing Claims Commission in its Status of Forces Agreement with Haiti. It has not. Victims’ lawyers point out that they are asking for a narrow ruling of liability, based on the egregious facts of this case alone: the catastrophe unleashed by the UN and its refusal to provide any forum for victims to seek a remedy. Impunity, advocates argued, does not advance the UN’s role in fostering peace and upholding the rule of law.

Judge J. Paul Oetken engaged with both sides, evincing a nuanced understanding of the issues and the stakes involved. But he cautioned that the plaintiffs had “a steep hill to climb,” citing previous decisions by the court in upholding the UN’s immunity. As Yale Law School’s Muneer Ahmad lamented, “Haitian people are all too familiar with the court expressing sympathy to their plight but closing doors to them.” A ruling could take months.

 

Click HERE for the full text.

HRC’s Concluding Observations on Haiti Human Rights

October 27, 2014 - 10:24

The Human Rights Committee’s concluding observations for Haiti were published on October 30, 2014 with a press conference at 1:30 p.m. Geneva time. This is the final outcome document that brought Mario Joseph and Nicole Phillips to Geneva earlier this month. (Their conference call, along with other Haitian human rights leaders, is available here.) Below are excerpts from the press release pertaining to Haiti.  A press release from IJDH and BAI commending the Committee’s concluding observations is available here.

UN Human Rights Committee’s Concluding Observations on: Haiti

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
October 27, 2014

PRESS CONFERENCE –THURSDAY 30 OCTOBER
Palais des Nations, Press Room III at 13:30

GENEVA (27 October 2014) – The UN Human Rights Committee will be holding a news conference to discuss the outcome of its 112th session on Thursday 30 October at 13:30 in Press Room III, Palais des Nations. Members will respond to questions on their concluding observations, follow-up to past recommendations to States, and their adopted General Comment on liberty and security of person. 

The Committee will share with the UNOG-based press corps advance copies of its Concluding Observations, strictly embargoed until 13:30 on 30 October. 

Among the issues discussed: 

Haiti: Impunity for grave human rights violations; violence against women and LGBT persons; prolonged pre-trial detention; extra-judicial killings by police;  protection of children against exploitation (“restavek”), abusive adoption and trafficking; forced evictions and closure of camps for people displaced by 2010 earthquake. 

The Human Rights Committee published its concluding observations here on 30 October:
http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/SessionDetails1.aspx?SessionID=811&Lang=en

 

Here‘s the final document, in French.

Many Set to Immigrate Through Haitian Family Reunification

October 26, 2014 - 06:09

This article describes a couple who were part of just a small Haitian community when they first moved to Fort Pierce, FL. Now, the growing population of Haitians will likely grow even more as the Obama administration has agreed to implement a Haitian Family reunification program starting in 2015. IJDH Immigration Policy Coordinator Steve Forester, and others, describe why this program is so important for both Haiti and the US.

An excerpt is below. Click HERE for the full text.

More Haitians make Tampa Bay area their home

José Patiño Girona, The Tampa Tribune
October 26, 2014

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama announced the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will oversee the Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program to more quickly unify Haitians who are here and their families who stayed behind.

The program makes it easier for Haitians living in the United States who are legal citizens or legal permanent residents to petition to have their relatives come legally to the U.S. The change, long lobbied for by Haitian advocates, makes it easier for Haitian relatives to come to the United States, but the process still will be slower than many Haitians would like.

Once a petition is approved, the relatives still will usually remain in Haiti under a waiting period for two to 12 years, said Steven Forester, immigration policy coordinator for the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti.

Haitians approved under the new program will be able to receive work permits. Advocates expect many will send money back to Haiti to help relatives there, many of whom are still suffering from the 2010 earthquake, Forester said.

“These people are coming anyway,” Forester said. “Family reunification is the backbone of our entire immigration system.”

 

Click HERE for the full text.

First Annual Haitian Creole Month Celebration

October 25, 2014 - 06:00

Celebrate Haitian Culture in Cambridge’s first Haitian Creole Month.

Transcript of Cholera Litigation Oral Arguments

October 24, 2014 - 11:53

October 23, 2014

Part of the transcript is below. Click HERE for the full text.

Good morning, everyone, and welcome. We are here for
oral argument on the pending motions in this case. As you
know, the complaint in the case was filed in October 2013, just
a little over a year ago. Plaintiffs allege that the United
Nations and entities affiliated with the United Nations caused
a cholera epidemic, beginning in October of 2010, in Haiti, and
they bring claims for negligence and related claims against the
United Nations and associated entities and individuals of the
United Nations. They have sought to serve those entities, the
defendants.
The United Nations defendants have resisted service,
and we are here for oral argument really on just the issue of
whether this Court should deem service to have been made and
the related issue of whether the action should be dismissed, as
the United States Government has argued, on the ground of

United Nations immunity, that is, under the applicable legal
governing authorities, whether the United Nations and the other
defendants are immune both from service and from the lawsuit
itself, the claims in the lawsuit. So we are here to address
specifically those issues.
On October 17th, I indicated I would give plaintiffs
and the United States 15 minutes each for argument. I don’t
have red and yellow lights like the Second Circuit does, so
I’ll just cut you off when you’ve reached your time, unless I
don’t want to. Then I’ve also allowed each of three groups of
amici to speak for ten minutes each, first, the amici FANM and
Haitian Women of Miami and the Haitian Lawyers Association,
then a group of international law scholars and practitioners,
and finally a group of European law scholars and practitioners.
I’ve read all the papers, so you don’t really have to repeat
what’s in the papers, but you’re welcome to highlight any
issues that you’d like to raise, and I’ll question you as
appropriate.
So, unless there are any preliminary matters — oh,
yes, there is one pro hac vice motion on behalf of Muneer
Ahmad, and that application is granted.
MR. AHMAD: Thank you, your Honor.
THE COURT: So we will begin with the original
movants, counsel for plaintiffs, Ms. Lindstrom?
MS. LINDSTROM: Thank you, your Honor.

 

Click HERE for the full text.

Why is US Arguing for UN Absolute Immunity?

October 24, 2014 - 11:43

This article explores the US government’s interest in the case against the United Nations for bringing cholera to Haiti. At yesterday’s oral arguments on the question of UN immunity, a US attorney argued in favor of absolute immunity for the UN, though the US isn’t a party to the litigation. The US has also submitted two statements in support of UN immunity in 2014.

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.

The U.N. Caused Haiti’s Cholera Epidemic. Now the Obama Administration Is Fighting the Victims.

Jonathan Katz, New Republic
October 24, 2014

Four years ago this month a battalion of United Nations soldiers, fresh from a cholera outbreak in Nepal, allowed their sewage to flow into Haiti’s biggest river and, scientists say, sparked the deadliest acute epidemic of the century. An estimated 9,000 people have died—nearly double the death toll of the current Ebola outbreak—and an estimated 700,000 people have been infected. On Thursday, embattled victims finally got a day in court. What was most remarkable about the hearing in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan was not the lawyers’ arguments or Judge J. Paul Oetken’s pointed questions, but who was doing the arguing. The opposition to the thousands of Haitian cholera victims did not come from the U.N., which did not send a representative, but the United States government.

In private conversations with U.N. officials, there seems to be a grudging acceptance—and even more pervasive sense of shame—that the peacekeepers were responsible for the massive epidemic, which not only caused tremendous loss of life but set back the Haitian economy and civil society that so many at the U.N. have pledged to help build. (Cholera’s corrosive power on Haiti’s medical infrastructure and society has been echoed in reports from the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. In a coincidence, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in New York City was admitted to nearby Bellevue Hospital Center hours after the hearing.) Ban traveled to Haiti this summer for the first time since the outbreak, where he affirmed a“moral responsibility” to end the cholera epidemic. As the U.S. takes the lead fighting the case in the courts, time will tell if the U.N. leader has the power or will to accept actual responsibility as well.

 

Click HERE for the full text.

Reflections from the Bolt Bus: Cholera, Collaboration and Justice

October 24, 2014 - 09:43

Brian Concannon
October 23, 2014

Three years ago next week I was on a nighttime Fung Wah Bus from New York back to Boston, feeling exhilarated and terrified.  That morning we had announced the filing of a claim with the United Nations on behalf of 5,000 victims of the UN cholera in Haiti. I was exhilarated because we had taken an important first step towards justice for those killed and sickened by the epidemic, and the installation of the water and sanitation infrastructure necessary to stop cholera’s killing. I was terrified because I feared that a small organization—without even a paid staff lawyer besides the Director—could not contend with the United Nations that boasted some of the best international lawyers in the world and millions of dollars for outside lawyers and public relations work.

Three years later I am on a nighttime Bolt Bus from New York back to Boston. I am again feeling exhilarated, and this time less terrified.  My fears were actually justified—there is no way that our small organization could contend with the UN’s vast resources. But we have since learned that a small organization, combined with our colleagues at the BAI, Haitian and Haitian-American activists, a prestigious and generous law firm, an army of volunteer lawyers and students, doctors, more doctors, UN insiders, law school Deans, Board Members, writers, filmmakers, more filmmakers, journalists, Bar Associations, petition-signers, Universities, political leaders, international law scholars, retweeters, Facebook friends, editorial boards,  NGOs, advisors, inspirations and our essential financial supporters, plus many others—sorry for the omissions—can more than match the UN’s resources.

Today we took another important step towards justice with a hearing in Manhattan Federal Court, on whether the UN could hide behind immunity if it refused to uphold its end of the bargain by providing the victims an alternate mechanism for justice (transcript here). IJDH Staff Lawyer Beatrice Lindstrom, who drafted the 2011 petition as a volunteer, masterfully presented the victims’ case, aided by lawyers representing Haitian-American organizations, international law scholars and European law scholars. The Judge was prepared, engaged, and clearly considering our arguments carefully. The courtroom was packed with supporters of the cholera victims’ fight for justice, and journalists. It will take time for the court to issue its decision, and the case may end up on appeal. But for now it has been demonstrated that there is a strong legal case for overcoming UN immunity, with broad and deep public support.

Along the way, all of us together have reframed the debate. Three years ago, most observers gave credence to the UN’s denial of responsibility for bringing in cholera. Now, the UN does not seriously contest that fact. Films exposing the injustice of the UN response have won Emmy and Peabody Awards and been featured at film festivals. Over 100 members of the US Congress have sided with justice, as have the UN’s own expert panel on cholera and many UN Human Rights experts.

There is no guarantee that we will win the lawsuit. But I do promise that the legal team at the BAI and IJDH will keep fighting, taking busses, riding boats and hiking trails as long as we need to. And I am confident that sooner or later, with or without a court order, we will convince the UN to respond justly to cholera!

Beatrice Lindstrom Courthouse Interview on Cholera Hearing

October 24, 2014 - 08:13

In this brief interview, Beatrice Lindstrom, attorney for the plaintiffs, explains why the October 23 hearing took place. Democracy Now! also gives some brief background information.

Part of the text is below. Click HERE for the full text and video (start at 7:34).

U.S. Judge Considers U.N. Immunity in Haiti Cholera Case

Democracy Now!
October 24, 2014

Beatrice Lindstrom: “We argued today that the United Nations cannot enjoy immunity in this suit when the United Nations is responsible for the death of over 8,500 people and over 700,000 people who have been injured. And the United Nations has clear legal obligations under their own treaties to provide remedies for people who have been harmed by the United Nations, and that is uncontested by the U.N. itself.”

 

Click HERE for the full text and video (start at 7:34).

Cholera Plaintiffs and US Attorney Debate UN Immunity

October 24, 2014 - 03:52

This article provides a great description of the October 2014 hearing on the question of UN immunity in the case of Georges et al. vs. United Nations et al. Staff Attorney Beatrice Lindstrom, arguing on behalf of the plaintiffs, contended that the UN cannot enjoy immunity when it has violated its obligations to provide alternate remedies to the victims. The US attorney, Ellen Blain, argued that the UN enjoys immunity regardless of any violations.

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text and video.

US Court Hears Pleas for Justice over UN Role in Haiti’s Cholera Epidemic

Makini Brice, PanAm Post
October 24, 2014

Haitian cholera victims finally had their day in court on Thursday: a hearing at the US District Court in the Southern District of New York on a gray, rainy New York morning. About 50 official observers and other interested parties watched, as lawyers for theInstitute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, the US Attorney’s Office, and other attorneys debated over whether the case would continue.

It centers on a cholera epidemic that seized Haiti in the aftermath of its staggering 2010 earthquake. Over the past four years, the epidemic has sickened about 700,000 and killed 8,500, in a country that had not had a cholera case in about 150 years.

A number of scientific studies have pointed to a UN peacekeepers’ camp about 35 miles from Port-au-Prince as the source of the outbreak. Further, they have stated that a sewage pipe from the facility leaked into a river used for drinking water in the community.

Beatrice Lindstrom argued on behalf of IJDH, while Jennifer Ellen Blain argued on the side of the United States, though Blain made sure to state that the United States was not a party inGeorges et al. vs. United Nations et al. Both spoke for 15 minutes, while friends of the court each spoke for 10 minutes. That included Kertch Conze from the Haitian Women of Miami and the Haitian Lawyers Association; Muneer Ahmad, a Yale Law School professor and supervisor for the Yale project behind a report on the epidemic last year; and Monica Iyer, a human-rights attorney.

The court adjourned with the judge announcing he would make his decision later.

The United Nations has refused legal responsibility for the cholera outbreak. Lindstrom said that, by November 2012, 5,000 families had filed claims with the institution, and for 15 months, their claims went unanswered. In July 2013, the United Nations said the claims were “not receivable.”

Pressure on the international organization has not subsided, however. Two other groups have also filed lawsuits against the United Nations.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Haiti this summer and did say that the United Nations has a “moral responsibility” for the country. The United Nations has also called for a US$2.2 billion fund for cholera eradication, but most of it has gone unfunded. Since 2010, cholera incidences have declined by 75 percent throughout the country.

 

Click HERE for the full text and video.

Haiti’s Cholera Victims Seek Justice in Court

October 23, 2014 - 14:09

This article briefly describes the latest news on the cholera epidemic in Haiti, including the October 23 oral arguments on UN immunity. It includes quotes from Ban Ki-moon, Mario Joseph (BAI Managing Attorney), and Beatrice Lindstrom (IJDH Staff Attorney who argued on behalf of the plaintiffs).

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.

Haiti Cholera Victims Seek Damages from UN in US Court

Margaret Besheer, Voice of America
October 23, 2014

A U.S. District Court judge heard oral arguments Thursday in a lawsuit brought by victims of Haiti’s cholera outbreak, who are seeking compensation from the United Nations.

The plaintiffs blame a contingent of Nepalese peacekeepers for bringing the disease to their nation after the 2010 earthquake.

The suit was filed on behalf of five Haitians and Haitian-Americans whose family members died of the water-borne disease or who were infected with it.

They allege that U.N. peacekeepers who were sent to the country after the devastating 2010 earthquake contaminated a branch of the Artibonite River with cholera. The river is the country’s main water source for tens of thousands of Haitians.

Subsequently more than 8,500 people died of the disease, which can cause severe diarrhea and vomiting, and hundreds of thousands more were sickened.

The United Nations has never taken responsibility for the crisis and is claiming immunity in this lawsuit.

Mario Joseph of the International Lawyers Bureau in Haiti told reporters the government will not say the U.N. is responsible for the outbreak, and has forbidden public hospitals from giving cholera victims their medical records.
appealed directly to the U.N. chief.

“The United Nations stands for the promotion of human rights for all, and that should include Haitians.  So we ask the secretary-general to listen to Haitians when they ask for justice in this case,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Lindstrom.

The United Nations said it has worked to improve water, sanitation and health in Haiti, and that its efforts are paying off as cholera cases are down 75 percent over last year.

 

Click HERE for the full text.

IJDH Ella Baker Fellow Wins Scholarship

October 23, 2014 - 13:30

Attend Lawyers Weekly’s Top Women of Law event in Boston.

WHY:

One of our legal interns, Ella Baker Fellow Mayumi Grigsby, has won a Lawyers Weekly Leadership Scholarship. This is awarded for high academic achievement, exceptional leadership qualities and involvement with community service. We look forward to her future achievements.

WHAT:

The Top Women of Law event celebrates outstanding achievements made by exceptional women. Each year Lawyers Weekly honors women who have made tremendous professional strides and demonstrated great accomplishments in the legal field, which includes: pro bono, social justice, advocacy and business. The awards highlight women who are pioneers, educators, trailblazers, and role models.

WHERE:

Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel
138 St. James Avenue
Boston, MA 2116

WHEN:

Thursday, October 23, 2014
5:30 to 8pm

 

Click HERE for more on the event and Lawyers Weekly.

Will UN Be Granted Immunity in Cholera Case?

October 23, 2014 - 13:06

France24 describes the scene outside the Manhattan Federal Courthouse on Thursday, October 23, 2014, when Haitians and Haitian-Americans gathered in driving rain to continue discussing the ongoing case against the United Nations. Oral arguments had just taken place on the issue of UN immunity between the Plaintiffs and the US Government, which has intervened in the case and argued for dismissal on immunity grounds. Judge J. Paul Oetken has deferred a decision on whether that immunity will be granted in this case, where the UN has refused to provide cholera victims any access to a remedy despite their many attempts to engage the organization. Mario Joseph, a lead attorney for Plaintiffs, pointed out the UN’s double standards in addressing this crisis, noting how different things would have been had the outbreak occurred in the US.

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.

US judge wavers on UN immunity in Haiti cholera case

Jessica Le Masurier, France24
October 23, 2014

A US judge on Thursday deferred a decision on whether the United Nations can be sued by thousands of Haitian families over a deadly cholera outbreak that is widely believed to have been caused by negligence at the hands of the world body.

Dozens of Haitians braved driving rain outside the Manhattan courtroom to call for the UN to be stripped of its immunity so that thousands of plaintiffs who lost family members to the devastating cholera outbreakcan proceed in their suit against the organisation.

More than 8,500 people were killed and 700,000 sickened after human waste, allegedly from a UN peacekeeping base, leaked into a central Haitian river.

Federal Judge Paul Oetken presided over the hearing, which reviewed the technical interpretations of a 1946 convention which has so far been understood to offer the UN immunity in the case.

Attorney Beatrice Lindstrom argued that the UN had forfeited its right to immunity by refusing the right to out-of-court settlements under section 29 of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations.

The United Nations has stringently declined to comment on the cases. When questioned on the UN’s role in the cholera epidemic by FRANCE 24 in July, former head of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), Edmond Mulet, denied that there was any proof linking the Nepalese UN peacekeepers to the outbreak, despite several epidemiological reports proving otherwise.

 

Click HERE for the full text.