Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

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Ban Ki-Moon’s Controversial Trip to Haiti

July 15, 2014 - 02:51

BBC News has also picked up the story of Ban Ki-moon’s visit to Haiti. Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney of BAI, has called it an insult for the Secretary General to visit Haiti for a photo op while the UN continues to dodge responsibility for the cholera epidemic.

Ban Ki-moon: UN to help Haiti fight cholera epidemic

BBC
July 15, 2014

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says he will try to raise $2.2bn (£1.3bn) in aid money to fight the spread of cholera in Haiti.

Mr Ban, who is visiting Haiti, said it was the “moral duty” of the UN to help tackle the disease.

More than 8,500 people have died in the cholera epidemic which has swept through the country since 2010.

Evidence suggests UN peacekeepers introduced cholera to Haiti, but it has so far rejected compensation claims.

‘Anger and fear’

Speaking at a church service in one of the villages worst affected, Mr Ban said that he was aware that the epidemic had “caused much anger and fear” in Haiti and continued to affect “an unacceptable number of people”.

Haitians gathered to demand more financial assistance from the UN

The United Nations is facing three lawsuits in connection with the epidemic, but has claimed legal immunity.

A lawyer for the victims said it was an insult to all Haitians for Mr Ban to come for a photo-opportunity when he refused to take responsibility for thousands of deaths.

In December 2012, Mr Ban launched a $2.2bn plan to eliminate cholera from Haiti within 10 years, but donors have been slow in coming forward with the needed funds.

The UN says it has not yet been able to raise the $400m needed to fund the programme in its first two years.

Mr Ban and Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe on Monday launched an initiative aimed at improving hygiene in rural areas of Haiti, where one in two people lack adequate sanitation.

More than 700,000 people in Haiti have been infected with cholera, which is spread by infected sewage, since late 2010.

No cases of the bacterial infection, which causes diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and muscle cramps, had been recorded in Haiti for a century until the outbreak started.

 

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UN Secretary General Launches Sanitation Initiative in Haiti

July 14, 2014 - 17:33

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is travelling all over Haiti, visiting cholera victims, meeting with the President and Prime Minister, and trying to reassure people that the UN is working to end cholera as quickly as possible. Yet, the UN still hasn’t claimed responsibility for the epidemic and their 2012 cholera elimination plan still hasn’t attracted enough donors.

UN Chief in Haiti Launches Sanitation Program

Pierre-Richard Luxama and David McFadden, New York Times
July 14, 2014

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited rural Haiti on Monday to help launch a program to improve sanitation and fight the spread of cholera, a disease many Haitians blame U.N. peacekeepers for introducing to the impoverished Caribbean country.

An outbreak of the disease that followed Haiti’s devastating earthquake in 2010 has killed more than 8,500 people and sickened about 700,000. Studies have shown cholera-infected waste likely was inadvertently introduced in one of Haiti’s biggest rivers by troops from Nepal, where the disease is endemic.

The outbreak is the subject of three lawsuits in U.S. courts, including one filed this year by nearly 1,500 Haitians seeking compensation from the U.N. A previous claim by cholera victims was rejected by Ban and the U.N., which cited diplomatic immunity.

At a church service in the village of Los Palmas, Ban said that he knew the cholera epidemic “caused much anger and fear” in Haiti and that the disease “continues to affect an unacceptable number of people.”

“As secretary-general of the United Nations, I want to assure you that the United Nations and its partners are strongly committed to ending the epidemic as quickly as possible,” he said.

In 2012, Ban announced a $2.2 billion initiative to help eradicate cholera in Hispaniola, the island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. But the program has not attracted nearly enough foreign donors.

Ban’s visit was criticized by some in Haiti who said the U.N. must accept responsibility for introducing the disease and provide compensation to families.

“It is an insult to all Haitians for the secretary-general to come to Haiti for a photo-op when he refuses to take responsibility for the thousands of Haitians killed and the hundreds of thousands sickened by the U.N. cholera epidemic,” said Mario Joseph, a leading lawyer for Haitian cholera victims.

On Monday, Ban and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe launched an initiative dubbed “Total Sanitation” aimed at boosting sanitation and hygiene in rural areas. Most of Haiti’s 10 million people have no access to bathrooms, giving the country the worst sanitation access in the Western Hemisphere and providing fertile ground for cholera.

Later in the capital, Ban met with President Michel Martelly and discussed Haiti’s upcoming legislative and municipal elections, among other topics.

An accord setting Oct. 26 as election day has not been authorized by the Senate, where a group of Martelly opponents argue it is unconstitutional.

Ban said he was encouraged by Martelly’s “strong commitment” to holding the long-delayed elections in October, but expressed some concern there was still disagreement between the executive and legislative branches.

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UN Chief Visits Haiti Nearly 4 Years After Cholera Began

July 14, 2014 - 13:29

A summary of the current controversy regarding UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s visit to Haiti. This is the first time he’s visiting Haiti since the cholera epidemic was started and the UN still does not take responsibility for causing it, though much evidence shows UN peacekeepers did.

UN Chief in Haiti to Launch Sanitation Program

Associated Press, Yahoo News
July 14, 2014

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in rural Haiti on Monday to help launch a program to improve sanitation and fight the spread of cholera, a disease that many Haitians blame U.N. peacekeepers for introducing to the impoverished Caribbean country.

A deadly outbreak of the disease that followed Haiti’s devastating earthquake in 2010 has killed more than 8,500 people and sickened roughly 700,000. Studies have shown cholera-infected waste likely was introduced in one of Haiti’s biggest rivers by U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal, where the disease is endemic.

The outbreak is the subject of three separate lawsuits in U.S. courts. Earlier this year, nearly 1,500 Haitians filed a suit seeking compensation from the U.N. A previous claim by cholera victims was rejected by Ban and the U.N., which cited diplomatic immunity.

In an interview with The Miami Herald before his trip to Haiti, Ban said of the cholera outbreak: “Regardless of what the legal implication may be, as the secretary-general of the United Nations and as a person, I feel very sad.” He said the U.N. has a “moral responsibility” to help Haiti fight the epidemic.

In 2012, Ban announced a $2.2 billion initiative to help eradicate cholera in Haiti.

The U.N. chief’s visit was criticized by some human rights activists, who said the U.N. must accept responsibility for introducing the disease to Haiti and provide compensation to families.

“It is an insult to all Haitians for the secretary-general to come to Haiti for a photo-op when he refuses to take responsibility for the thousands of Haitians killed and the hundreds of thousands sickened by the U.N. cholera epidemic,” said Mario Joseph, a leading attorney for Haitian cholera victims.

On Monday, Ban was scheduled to visit a village in central Haiti with Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe to launch the “Total Sanitation” effort, which the U.N. says aims to boost sanitation and hygiene interventions in rural areas.

Ban is also expected to meet with Haitian families affected by cholera, a waterborne disease caused by bacteria found in tainted water or food. It can kill through dehydration if not treated in time.

 

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UN Chief Makes First Haiti Visit Since Cholera Introduction

July 14, 2014 - 12:22

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:

Mario Joseph, Av., Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, (in Haiti), mario@ijdh.org, +509-3701-9878 (French, Creole, English)

Brian Concannon, Jr., Esq., Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, brian@ijdh.org, +1-541-263-0029 (English, French, Creole)

Beatrice Lindstrom, Esq., Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, beatrice@ijdh.org, +1-404-217-1302 (English, Creole, French)

UN Chief Makes First Haiti Visit Since Cholera Introduction

Victims and Advocates Call for More Action, Less Empty Words 

(Port-au-Prince, July 14, 2014)— On July 14-15, 2014, United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is visiting Haiti for the first time since the UN introduced a deadly cholera epidemic to the Caribbean nation in 2010.  The UN reports that the Secretary-General will meet with victims of the UN-caused disaster, and announce the launch of a sanitation campaign that “aims to scale up sanitation and hygiene interventions in rural areas.”

“For four years now, the UN has been launching new initiatives and making statements of sympathy, without taking any real action.  Over 8,000 people have died and cholera keeps killing, and the UN still won’t even issue an apology, let alone provide funding to eliminate cholera in Haiti” said Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), which has been working with cholera victims to seek justice since 2010.

Under increasing fire from UN insiders, members of the U.S. Congress and legal experts to respond seriously to the crisis, Ban told the Miami Herald last week 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.”

But the organization has not accepted responsibility for having caused the epidemic in the first place. Nor has it provided compensation to cholera survivors, as it is required to do by its own international agreements.

Over two and half years ago, Ban launched an initiative to eliminate cholera in Haiti, but to date the UN has furnished only 1% of the total funding needed, and gathered another 9% in recycled earthquake pledges. As a result, the plan remains critically underfunded and the effort has yet to get off the ground.

The UN also announced the establishment of a joint committee to address cholera in October 2013, but the committee only met for the first time in May 2014, and has yet to release information publicly about its mandate or operations.

“It is an insult to all Haitians for the Secretary-General to come to Haiti for a photo-op when he refuses to take responsibility for the thousands of Haitians killed and the hundreds of thousands sickened by the UN cholera epidemic,” Attorney Joseph added.

Cholera continues to afflict Haiti’s vulnerable population. The UN itself has warned that the disease may kill up to 2,000 more people in 2014.

“The Secretary-General lectures others on the importance of accountability and the rule of law, but refuses to comply with long-established and clear legal obligations to compensate Haitians harmed by its reckless introduction of cholera into Haiti,” said Brian Concannon, Jr., Esq., who directs the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), a Boston-based non-profit that represents plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit against the UN. “The double standard is outrageous, and deeply undermines the UN’s credibility throughout the world.”

Three lawsuits are currently pending against the organization and the Secretary-General for their reckless oversight and management that caused the cholera outbreak.

For more information, including case documents and background materials, see www.IJDH.org.

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POUR DIFFUSION IMMÉDIATE

Contact:
Mario Joseph, Av., Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, (Haïti), mario@ijdh.org, +509-3701-9878 (français, kréyol, anglais)

Brian Concannon, Jr., Esq., Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, brian@ijdh.org, +1-541-263-0029 (anglais, français, kréyol)

Beatrice Lindstrom, Esq., Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, beatrice@ijdh.org, +1-404-217-1302 (anglais, kréyol, français)

Le numéro un de l’ONU fait première visite depuis l’Introduction du choléra

Victimes et avocats réclament plus d’Action, moins de mots vides 

(Port-au-Prince, 14 juillet 2014)— Le 14 et 15 juillet 2014, Ban Ki-moon, Secrétaire général des Nations Unies (ONU) va rendre visite en Haïti pour la première fois depuis l’introduction du choléra en 2010 dans cette nation des Caraïbes par l’ONU à travers le traitement des déchets de manière imprudente à sa base de maintien de la paix. Les rapports de l’ONU indiquent que le Secrétaire général rencontrera des victimes de la catastrophe et annoncera une campagne «visant à intensifier l’assainissement et l’hygiène des interventions dans les zones rurales.»

« Depuis quatre ans maintenant, l’ONU a lancé de nouvelles initiatives ainsi que des déclarations de sympathie, sans prendre de véritables mesures. Plus de 8.000 personnes sont mortes et le choléra continue à réclamer des vies; l’ONU ne présente même pas des excuses, ni donner de fonds pour éradiquer le choléra en Haïti. » selon Mario JOSEPH, Directeur du Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), qui travaille avec les victimes de choléra pour obtenir justice depuis 2010.

L’organisation est sous le feu des initiés à l’organisation, les membres du Congrès des États-Unis, et les experts juridiques de n’a pas avoir répondu sérieusement à la crise. Dans une interview avec le Miami Herald la semaine dernière, Ban a déclaré que “la communauté internationale, y compris les Nations Unies, a une responsabilité morale pour aider le peuple haïtien à endiguer la propagation de cette épidémie.»

Cependant, l’organisation n’a pas accepté la responsabilité pour avoir causé l’épidémie en premier lieu, ni n’a fourni une indemnité aux victimes du choléra, comme c’est requis de le faire par ses propres accords internationaux.

Il y’a plus de deux ans, depuis que l’ONU a lancé une initiative visant à éradiquer le choléra en Haïti. Cependant, l’organisation a donné seulement 1% du financement totale requis et recueilli 9% en plus en promesses de dons. Ainsi, le plan reste gravement sous-financé et les efforts n’ont pas encore véritablement commencé.

En Octobre 2013, l’ONU a annoncé l’établissement d’un comité mixte chargé d’aborder le choléra mais le comité s’est réuni seulement pour la première fois en mai 2014, et n’as pas encore communiqué au public les détails concernant son mandat ou ses opérations.

Maître Joseph a noté « C’est une insulte pour tous les Haïtiens que le Secrétaire-Général vient en Haïti pour une occasion de photos pendant qu’il refuse de reconnaitre ou de prendre la responsabilité pour les milliers d’Haïtiens morts et les centaines de milliers rendus malades par l’épidémie du choléra de l’ONU.»

Pendant ce temps, le choléra continue à affecter la population vulnérable d’Haïti. L’ONU lui-même a averti que la maladie peut tuer jusqu’à 2,000 personnes de plus en 2014. A présent, l’épidémie a tué plus de 8.500 et a rendu plus de 700.000 malade.

« Le Secrétaire-Générale fait la morale aux autres sur l’importance de responsabilité et l’état de droit, mais il refuse de se conformer aux obligations claires et établie de longue date à dédommager les Haïtiens touchés par son introduction imprudent du choléra en Haïti » a dit Brian Concannon, Jr., Esq. qui dirige l’Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) (l’Institut pour la justice et la démocratie en Haïti), une organisation à but non lucratif qui représente les plaignants dans une action en justice contre l’ONU aux Etats-Unis. « Le double standard est scandaleux et réduit gravement la crédibilité de l’ONU partout dans le monde. »

Trois actions en justice sont actuellement en cours contre l’organisation et le Secrétaire-Générale pour leur négligence et gestion imprudentes ayant causé l’épidémie du choléra.

Pour plus d’information, y compris les documents relatifs à l’affaire, visitez www.ijdh.org.

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Cholera Case Featured on Swedish Radio

July 14, 2014 - 09:30

Our very own Staff Attorney, Beatrice Lindstrom, was featured on Swedish radio explaining whether we think that Ban’s ‘moral responsibility’ statement signals a change in their position vis-a-vis the lawsuit. Below is a rough translation. (The segment starts at 16:45.)

Sveriges Radio
July 15, 2014

Reporter 1: Right now, the UN’s Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is visiting Haiti. The UN is still not accepting legal responsibility for the cholera epidemic that was spread by UN troops four years ago, but several organizations have sued the UN. One of them is the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, where Beatrice Lindstrom is a lawyer.

Beatrice: More and more people who work within the UN are speaking out against the way that the Organization has handled this catastrophe. So we hope that the UN will eventually change its position. The ultimate end goal for us is of course not a trial in itself, but to obtain justice for the families that have been sickened and those who have lost family members.

Reporter 2: It was in January 2010 that Haiti was hit by a devastating earthquake. Ten months later a cholera epidemic spread across the country, which until now has killed 8,000 people. The cholera came via UN soldiers, who carried the disease which then spread into Haiti’s largest river.

When Ban Ki-moon arrived in Haiti yesterday, he visited a few of the country’s cholera impacted families. Before the trip, he said that the UN has a moral responsibility to help Haiti end the epidemic. But this does not mean that the UN accepts any legal responsibility. Instead, they are pointing to international immunity enjoyed by the UN.

Ola Engdahl, who is an expert in human rights, says the UN could waive it’s immunity so that the case be tried legally and liability assigned.

Ola: This would be a step in the right direction, I think, because until now, we have seen a dearth of good practice on UN responsibility for acts undertaken in peacekeeping operations.

Click HERE for the recording.

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UN Secretary General Admits Moral Responsibility for Cholera

July 13, 2014 - 06:05

As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon prepares to go to Haiti, he makes one of his strongest statements on cholera yet, admitting that the UN has a moral responsibility to help stop the epidemic. Unfortunately, the UN is struggling to raise money to fight cholera due to lack of credibility because they don’t admit to causing the epidemic; donors’ “Haiti fatigue;” and political uncertainty, particularly with the long-overdue elections. Perhaps if the UN takes their “moral responsibility” more seriously, international donors will do the same.

United Nations top official goes to Haiti to promote cholera elimination, elections While not offering an apology or admission, the head of the United Nations says the global body bears “a moral responsibility” in helping Haiti tackle what experts say is the world’s worst cholera epidemic.

Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald
July 13, 2014

UNITED NATIONS, N.Y. – In his strongest statement since a deadly cholera epidemic erupted in Haiti almost four years ago, the head of the United Nations said the global body bears “a moral responsibility” to help the Caribbean nation end the outbreak.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made the declaration in an exclusive interview with the Miami Herald as he prepared to visit Haiti, where he will travel to the region where the contamination happened and meet with families hard hit by cholera. Detected 10 months after Haiti’s devastating Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake, the waterborne disease has killed 8,563 people and infected 704,245.

Since then, the U.N. has refused to admit responsibility for the outbreak, which scientific evidence and its own independent panel of experts suggested was brought to Haiti by Nepalese peacekeepers stationed at a military base in the Central Plateau region.

Nor has the world body offered an apology, which victims and their families are seeking along with compensation, in three separate lawsuits filed in United States courts.

“Regardless of what the legal implication may be, as the secretary general of the United Nations and as a person, I feel very sad,” Ban said. “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.”

Ban’s statement on the eve of his arrival Monday comes after Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe called on the U.N. last fall to take “moral responsibility” for cholera, and after the U.N.’s independent human rights expert on Haiti earlier this year demanded “full compensation” for cholera victims. In the Feb. 7 report, Gustavo Gallon criticized the silence while publicly disagreeing with the U.N., which has rejected compensation and invoked immunity in the legal cases.

“The diplomatic difficulties surrounding this issue must be overcome to ensure the Haitian people that the epidemic can be stopped in the shortest possible time frame and pay full compensation for the damages suffered,” Gallon said.

By the U.N.’s own admission, foreign donors have been slow to contribute to a $2.2 billion, 10-year cholera-elimination campaign that Ban launched in December 2012 with the presidents of Haiti and the neighboring Dominican Republic. The organization has struggled even to raise an initial $400 million it says is needed in the first two years to contain the epidemic and build clean water and sanitation infrastructure.

Getting donors to deliver the money will be a key issue during his visit, Ban said, noting that Haitians “have suffered a lot” under the world’s worst cholera epidemic. The way to prevent a repeat of cholera, he said, is to help Haiti address the root cause: poor sanitation.

“The international community has been struggling to overcome this global financial difficulty, and we have so many crises happening at the same time around the world,” said Ban. “That is one reason why we have not been able to effectively mobilize.”

While the humanitarian crises have also put pressure on Ban to reduce the size of the peacekeeping mission in Haiti, observers say they believe donors are holding onto the purse strings for other reasons.

Some blame Haiti fatigue, which has some donors quietly reassessing and reducing financial aid to the country. Others say another factor is the U.N.’s refusal to accept that leaking sewage pipes at its base were to blame for cholera’s spread.

There is also Haiti’s political gridlock, which continues to threaten the staging of long-overdue local and legislative elections in October.

With every disagreement, observers say, Haiti’s politicians get further from reaching a compromise for the balloting.

“My political message to Haitian leaders, government and parliamentary leaders will be that it’s crucially important that this election be held as agreed and scheduled in October,” Ban said.

Helping Haitians break the gridlock, and the future of the U.N. Stabilization Mission’s (MINUSTAH) 5,000 blue helmets and 2,600 police officers in Haiti will also top his agenda, he said.

“Haiti cannot afford drifting without . . . a full Senate, a full Assembly and executive branch,” said Mark Schneider, senior vice president for the International Crisis Group, which monitors Haiti. “He needs to play the convening role in bringing the still very widely divided political actors together to produce a compromise that will help Haiti reach parliamentary elections this fall.”

While Schneider welcomes Ban’s visit and his acknowledgment of “the debt owed to the Haitian people as a result of the introduction of cholera,” he noted the U.N.’s failure to apologize for cholera has caused it to be the target of criticism, including growing calls for its departure.

“The U.N. and MINUSTAH have played a fundamental role in helping to deal with the aftermath of the earthquake, to help build Haitian institutions, and continues to play a critical role,” Schneider said. “But with respect to the issue of cholera, they have simply failed to recognize how deeply this has hurt their image in Haiti.”

Brian Concannon, an attorney with the Boston-based rights group, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, said he isn’t surprised by donors’ reluctance to aid the U.N.’s anti-cholera campaign.

“Certainly the U.N.’s refusal to accept responsibility and comply with its legal obligations undermines its mission to promote the rule of law in Haiti and elsewhere,” said Concannon, whose group was the first to file claims on behalf of 5,000 cholera victims and their families.

“Somewhere this afternoon, a police trainer is giving Haitian police officers a lecture about how they need to sacrifice their personal and friends’ interests and respect the rule of law so that Haiti can advance,” he said. “The trainees are looking at the logo on her/his shirt and laughing.”

Longtime Haiti observer Robert Maguire said Haiti’s current political reality also cannot be dismissed in tackling the cholera crisis.

“Does the fact that Haiti is once again manufacturing a political crisis discourage international donors from solving what is more of a social crisis?” said Maguire, director of the Latin American and Hemispheric Studies Program at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs in Washington, D.C. “If Haiti didn’t have elections that are two years delayed, constant provocation, these eternal disputes and gridlock, wouldn’t that perhaps encourage international donors to be more generous with Haiti?”

Cholera aside, Maguire said Ban serves an important purpose.

“The United Nations remains committed to leaving behind in Haiti an effective and independent police force. That is probably among the most salient objectives of MINUSTAH,” Maguire said about the force, whose strength and ability to secure Haiti is viewed as a key benchmark for the U.N.’s eventual departure.

“Over the past three years, there has been some discomfort about whether there could be political erosion in Haiti and the independence of the police force,” he said. “This is one of MINUSTAH’s objectives in maintaining a presence, mitigating any tendencies in Haiti to politicize the police force. I think that is quite clear.”

In June, the U.N. marked a decade in Haiti. Even as military troops quietly pull out of some regions, leaving security to the local police, questions and uncertainty remain about the mission’s future configuration.

“We are not going to completely withdraw,” Ban said from his 38th-floor office at the U.N.’s New York headquarters. “We are going to try and reduce our soldiers so that the Haitian government and people can really enhance this capacity and stand on their own.”

Ban said he is encouraged, for instance, by the progress the government has made in building up the 11,000-member Haitian National Police force. But there is more work to do, he acknowledged.

“The Haitian people and government have made considerable progress, first of all in ensuring stability, of course with the help of MINUSTAH, and enhancing the [national police],” he said. “But at the same time, we hope there could be more progress in justice and accountability areas. Common, ordinary people should be able to get some support and protection from the government.”

 

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HSG Annual General Meeting

July 12, 2014 - 12:00

Join the Haiti Support Group in London for their annual general meeting.

WHAT:

“The Haiti Support Group warmly invites HSG members, supporters and Haiti watchers to attend our Annual General Meeting which will take place on Saturday July 12 2014 in London. We would like to welcome all those interested in helping our work so that we can continue to amplify the voices of Haitian civil society and ensure that progressive, participatory groups in Haiti are included in shaping the future of their country. With the five-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake of January 12 2010 just around the corner, we believe that 2014-2015 is a pivotal moment to place Haiti back on the international agenda.”

WHERE:

Room 103
Institute of the Americas, University College London
51 Gordon Square
London, England WC1H 0PN

WHEN:

Saturday July 12, 2014 @ 3-6pm

 

Click HERE for the original post.

Opposition Parties Denounce Martelly’s Electoral Council

July 10, 2014 - 16:57

This article explains why elections in Haiti have been delayed so long: After the executive branch stalled for years, President Martelly has appointed an unconstitutional Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), which is biased in his favor.  Opposition parties refuse to accept this CEP. If elections, scheduled for October 26, 2014, don’t occur this year, Martelly will rule by decree.

Opposition sides claim Haiti elections jeopardized

Associated Press, The Washington Post
July 10, 2014

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Leading opposition factions are alleging that Haiti’s presidentially appointed electoral council is stacking the deck in favor of President Michel Martelly, who has scheduled long-delayed legislative and municipal elections for October.

Parties complaining of exclusion and unfair advantages include the Unity party of former President Rene Preval and the Lavalas Family founded by former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. They are among the major opposition groups that boycotted election talks earlier in the year and have refused to register with the Provisional Electoral Council, which they contend is rigged.

An accord setting Oct. 26 as election day has not been authorized by the Senate, where a group of staunch Martelly opponents argue it is unconstitutional.

The electoral council picked by Martelly has only seven of its mandated nine members and its president, Fritzo Canton, is a lawyer who is defending former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier against charges of embezzlement and human rights abuses.

“What Haiti needs is an impartial electoral council that won’t take sides for either the government or the opposition,” said Dieudonne Saincy, Unity’s spokesman. “We are now in a political crisis because this electoral council is entirely under the control of Martelly.”

Former Lavalas senator Louis Gerald Gilles asserted that Martelly’s government “is doing everything it can to take over the election process.”

Martelly’s administration has brushed off the criticism as the intransigence of his political opponents, some of whom have organized street protests to demand his resignation. Martelly insists he has made several concessions to opponents, including forming a new Cabinet, and has actively tried to make compromises with members of the Senate.

Despite pressure from the United Nations, the U.S. and other major supporters of Haiti, previous efforts to hold the legislative and municipal vote over the last couple of years were snarled by political infighting between the executive and legislative branches. In April, Washington warned Haitian authorities that $300 million earmarked for the country’s coast guard, health ministry and various projects was at risk because of the tardy vote.

In May, Martelly announced he had appointed a new council to oversee the balloting in Haiti, where elections have never been easy. The Oct. 26 election date was announced in early June, and Martelly said late last month that the Caribbean country was committed to that date.

The Organization of American States has said it will provide support. But political observers have expressed skepticism that the elections can take place in late October, and opposition figures are promising a fresh wave of street protests in coming days.

The long-overdue elections would fill 20 seats in the 30-member Senate, all 99 seats in the lower chamber and 140 municipal positions. The terms of 10 senatorial seats are due to expire in January, which would leave the body with only 10 senators, not enough for a quorum. If the election isn’t held by then, Martelly would rule by decree.

 

Click HERE for the original.

For more information on the issues with Haiti’s election, please read our Elections FAQ.

Senate Passes Assessing Progress in Haiti Act

July 10, 2014 - 15:59

The Assessing Progress in Haiti Act, which seeks aid accountability and has been stalled for some time, finally passed the Senate. Given the failures of foreign aid to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, this Act is a promising accountability mechanism. It will now go back to the House for further action.

Senate passes bill to assess post-earthquake Haiti

Ramsey Cox, Yahoo News
July 10, 2014

The Senate passed a bill Thursday that would authorize an assessment on the progress Haiti has made after a devastating earthquake.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) introduced S. 1104, the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act, which would require the secretary of State to give Congress an annual report until 2017 on post-earthquake recovery and development efforts in Haiti.

The Senate also passed S. 653, the Near East and South Central Asia Religious Freedom Act, from Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).

Blunt’s bill would authorize the president to appoint a special State Department envoy to promote the freedoms of religious minorities in Asian countries.

Both bills were passed through unanimous consent agreements before the Senate adjourned for the day. They now head to the House for further action.

 

Click HERE for the original article, with the Senate report.

Food Aid Undermines Sustainable Nonprofit in Haiti

July 10, 2014 - 08:29

Medika mamba, a local product that can restore malnourished children to health, is made by a nonprofit that uses sustainable methods – like buying peanuts from local farmers – to affect systemic change in Haiti. Because of free and subsidized food aid from USAID, this nonprofit, Meds & Food for Kids, is having trouble staying afloat.

The west’s peanut butter bias chokes Haiti’s attempts to feed itself Local provider of food to tackle malnourishment faces closure because aid agencies buy subsidised products from abroad

Rashmee Roshan Lall, The Guardian
July 10, 2014

Haitian children are checked by health agents for signs of malnutrition. Photograph: MFK

Bedline is 17 months and weighs just 5.3kg. She lies feverish and quiet in her grandmother’s arms, eyes glazed, her pale blue nylon frock hanging off thin shoulders.

Nearly 30 toddlers and their carers are crammed into the airless room at a makeshift malnutrition clinic atop a hill in Bahon, northern Haiti. This is a sleepy town along the Grande Riviere, an extravagantly named river that is a mere summer trickle through the north of Haiti.

Barring the odd snuffle, the room is silent. These children are not up to the mischief common among toddlers. They wait, listlessly, to be weighed and fed medika mamba, Haitian Creole for peanut butter medicine.

Medika mamba is a local product, manufactured by the non-profit Meds & Food for Kids (MFK) to standards approved by the World Health Organisation and the UN children’s agency, Unicef. Internationally trademarked as Plumpy’Nut by the French company Nutriset, a 150-sachet carton can restore a severely malnourished child to health in six to 12 weeks. About 22% of under-fives in Haiti are chronically malnourished.

Soon, medika mamba will be rolled out in Guatemala and beyond through Unicef’s programmes for malnourished people. But Haiti’s newest export will not be the measure of success it sounds.

“The World Food Programme (WFP) rang in December and said they wouldn’t be buying anything from us for four years because they had a corn-soy blend from USAid – for free. That was half of our annual income gone. We nearly closed in June,” says American paediatrician Patricia Wolff who founded MFK 10 years ago to make a local malnourishment product that would feed children, as well as benefit farmers.

An official explains that the donation of US corn-soy blend was bought by WFP last year with emergency USAid funding in advance of Haiti’s generally calamitous hurricane season. But it was not needed and “in 2014 USAid approved a WFP request to use the already in-country corn-soy blend stock for their ongoing programme of treating malnutrition”, the official said.

No one seems to have pondered the local implications of the decision. The official said it was standard practice for unused goods from one programme to be transferred to another. But, as the experience of medika mamba demonstrates, it is a risky policy for Haitian workers – closing the factory would have cost 42 local jobs, and hundreds of Haitian peanut farmers would have lost a reliable buyer. Wolff lobbied heavily against the “market-distorting” effects of importing a therapeutic food when a local one exists.

In April, she won a year’s grace, landing the Unicef export order. The factory – built in 2012 with a $732,000 (£427,000) loan from the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (Gain) and LGT Venture Philanthropy –stayed open. This year, MFK expects to buy 50 tonnes of peanuts from local farmers, nearly 50% more than in 2013.

Wolff believes that with assured international aid buyers for medika mamba, the factory could boost production year on year, creating economies of scale and a sustainable local loop of supply and demand. “Producing 550 metric tonnes makes us sustainable because it covers the cost of everything,” she says.

In theory, that is development economics at its best – saving lives while sustaining change in low-income countries. It will tackle acute child malnutrition, which rose from 5.1% in 2012 to 6.5% last year, according to the Haitian government. And it creates much-needed jobs in a country where unemployment hovers around 40%. It is also able to redouble ongoing efforts to improve peanut farmers’ productivity and post-harvest handling and storage.

In the longer-term, Gain, a foundation that supports public-private initiatives that address malnutrition, sees the rising global demand for Plumpy’Nut as an export opportunity for Haiti’s MFK.

But whether this optimism is borne out in Haiti is dependent on whether Unicef, or other agencies, renew their order. Wolff says she lives from month to month and order to order, having no idea whether the factory will still be open next year. The loan from Gain, repayable over seven years at 6.75% interest, will need to be repaid.

The 300 peanut farmers in the north of the country, who have been selling their produce to MFK, will also be adversely affected if the factory closes.

There is little disagreement about the inherent value of localism in tackling child malnourishment in Haiti, and the WFP in Haiti says local food purchase remains a priority. But a WFP official admits that this year its nutrition activities are taken up by USAid’s Kore Lavi food voucher programme, which means it can’t buy from MFK at present.

But the politics, perverse logic and lack of coordinated thinking on aid from the west means well-meaning international agencies sometimes prefer to feed countries like Haiti rather than give them the means to feed themselves. As a result, local ventures such as MFK are constantly at risk of being forced out of business.

None of which bodes well for children like Bedline, who will inherit this poisoned legacy.

 

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BAI and IJDH Seek UN Accountability for Cholera

July 9, 2014 - 12:57

This article describes the origin of the cholera epidemic the United Nations brought to Haiti in 2010, what has happened since, and what BAI/IJDH are doing to seek justice for the victims. The UN continues to be unaccountable for the actions that caused the epidemic, and also hasn’t raised enough money for improved water and sanitation in Haiti.

Attorneys in the Time of Cholera

Mary H. White, MD, JD Supra
July 9, 2014

This is the story of how lawyers are fighting the cholera epidemic in Haiti.

I am a physician with a subspecialty in infectious diseases. Since 2003, I have periodically travelled to Haiti to deliver basic medical care in underserved areas. I was also in Haiti two months after the earthquake that devastated the country and led to a quarter million deaths, reduced innumerable homes to rubble, abruptly terminated livelihoods and educations, and resulted in chronic disability for many.

In March, 2010, I worked at a field hospital about an hour outside of Port-au-Prince. Patients were assigned to each of about 50 large canvas tents, but each patient was accompanied by one or more family members, so conditions were crowded. The rainy season had not yet arrived, and it was hot, dry, and dusty. Many patients were immobilized by amputations or external hardware holding shattered bones in place.  These sweaty conditions contributed to an already substantial risk for bacterial wound infections.

I met people whose responses to the earthquake were not just related to their physical injuries: one man unashamedly declared he was abandoning his wife because of the new large scar on her face;  another man refused to go to a nearby clinic for removal of his infected metal rods until he was reassured that it was in a one-story building that was seismically-engineered; a pregnant woman receiving prenatal care for the first time learned she had HIV and she left the camp, abandoning her toddler to the category of “unaccompanied minor”; and someone stole a prosthetic foot.

In sum, the earthquake of January 12, 2010 left a population that was extremely vulnerable to many other traumas, besides the physical ones.  So, when cholera was first introduced into Haiti in October 2010, the bacteria laid siege to an undefended population.

Haiti had plenty of waterborne dysentery-like illnesses previously, but a case of cholera had not been seen in over 100 years. Since cholera’s introduction nearly four years ago, 700,000 people have developed the severe diarrheal illness, and at least 8,500 have died.

How did this happen? In mid-October, United Nations (“UN”) peacekeepers from Nepal arrived at their base camp situated on the banks of Haiti’s principle river system in the Artibonite Valley. Days later, several Haitians, who lived downstream from the UN base, were carried to local clinics with profound dehydration secondary to copious vomiting and continuous “rice water” diarrhea, the classic description of cholera. Over the ensuing weeks, Haiti’s already taxed and partially destroyed health care system was overrun with patients.

Epidemiological and microbiological studies as well as forensic molecular technology showed that Haiti’s cholera strain is identical to the strain that is endemic (or commonplace) and often asymptomatic  in Nepal. Associated Press and Al Jazeera reporters visiting the Nepalese base documented the UN workers dumping sewage where it flowed into the Artibonite River tributaries.

The UN’s own panel of independent experts has confirmed that the cholera outbreak coincided with the arrival of UN peacekeepers from Nepal, and that the strain of cholera present in Haiti is a perfect match with the strain in Nepal. The UN panel also reported that the Nepalese peacekeepers were not tested or treated for cholera prior to their deployment in Haiti, and that the sanitation piping on the base was cracked and haphazard. Finally, they confirmed the press reports that the base dumped their untreated human waste in open air pits that overflowed into the river when it rained.

Enter the United States-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (“IJDH”) and its Haitian partner, Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (“BAI”), who together recognized the fundamental responsibility for this medical disaster lay with the UN. Both IJDH and BAI are small non-profit organizations made up of human rights attorneys. In Haiti, they have advocated for women who were victims of sexual assault and helped them face their perpetrators in court; they have also been instrumental in bringing Jean-Claude Duvalier (“Baby Doc”) to court for the brutalities committed during his regime as Haiti’s president during the 1970s and 1980s.

Now IJDH and the BAI are holding the UN accountable for the cholera epidemic and are suing for restitution. In November 2011, cholera victims, represented by the BAI, sought to invoke the settlement procedures that the UN had agreed to in international treaties, namely, that they agreed to provide out-of-court settlement mechanisms to victims of UN wrongdoing. The BAI submitted claims to the UN in a petition asking for: 1) a public acknowledgement of responsibility from the UN; 2) just compensation for the victims; and 3) installation of water and sanitation infrastructure needed to combat the ongoing epidemic.

The UN did not respond until February 2013 when it dismissed the claims as “not receivable,” because “consideration of these claims would necessarily include a review of policy or politics.” The UN refused to engage in mediation or discussion. Since there is no appeals process, Haitian cholera victims had no access to a mechanism that would result in justice.

As a result of the UN’s refusal to abide by the legal requirements of its own agreements, cholera victims filed a class-action suit against the UN in the Southern District of New York in October 2013. The case is pending, and the question of UN immunity is currently being briefed for the judge.

Cholera remains a very real threat to public health in Haiti, and the UN itself has warned that up to 2,000 people could die from the disease in 2014. This is because Haiti has a chronically inadequate water and sanitation infrastructure that is perpetuating the infection. Major rivers are used by the Haitian people for many daily purposes: drinking and cooking water, bathing and washing clothes. These open water systems continue to be contaminated by absent or flawed methods of handling human waste. The vicious cholera cycle will continue as long as this condition persists.

By the UN’s own definitions, the cholera epidemic in Haiti is a humanitarian crisis. But independent of the legal situation, the UN has not responded adequately to this crisis; to date, the UN has provided only 1% of the funding needed and repurposed another 9% from earthquake donations to install the water and sanitation infrastructure needed to control the epidemic. Sadly, some experts believe that cholera is now entrenched in and may never be eradicated entirely from Haiti.

From the medical perspective, cholera treatment clinics were set up across the country. Haitians have been educated about the symptoms and where to go—quickly—for treatment. Shipments of antibiotics, intravenous fluids, oral rehydration solutions, protective gloves and gowns continue, and a moderately effective cholera vaccine has been distributed to portions of the population. But none of this will stem the epidemic as long as water and sanitation are not secure. In addition, 75% of the cholera treatment clinics are now closed.

So, Haitians must now wait to learn if IJDH and BAI can control the cholera epidemic with legal argument, asking the UN to be accountable for the neglect and lack of appropriate supervision over health and sanitation practices that led to this humanitarian and health crisis.

Disclosures: Mary White is a supporter of IJDH and is a member of its Advisory Board. She was assisted in the writing of the legal details in this post by Brian Concannon, Executive Director of IJDH.

 

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International Community Backs Unconstitutional Elections in Haiti

July 9, 2014 - 07:45

Despite the unconstitutional nature of the Electoral Council appointed by President Martelly, and Martell’y unilateral actions in planning elections, the international community has promised funding for the elections and continues to rush the process along. Please join us in urging these organizations not to back elections unless they are fair, inclusive and democratic.

Despite Flawed Electoral Process, International Community Support Continues Unabated

Center for Economic and Policy Research
July 9, 2014

While Haitian President Michel Martelly has unilaterally scheduled long-delayed elections for October 26, 2014, the composition of the electoral council continues to cause controversy in Haiti. The current problems stem from the deeply flawed electoral process in 2010 that saw Martelly emerge victorious after the intervention of the international community. There have yet to be elections since then, with one-third of the 30 member Senate having their terms expire in 2011 while some 130 local mayors have been replaced by Martelly appointments. Another one-third of the Senate and the entire lower house will see their terms expire in January 2015 if elections are not held. In a “frequently asked questions” document released last week, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) provides a legal analysis of the reasons behind the delays and why the current electoral council is unconstitutional. In an accompanying press release, IJDH notes:

According to Mario Joseph, managing lawyer for the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, “Prompt elections are much needed, but elections will only remedy Haiti’s political crisis if they are run fairly by a constitutionally-mandated electoral council. President Michel Martelly has delayed elections for three years because he does not want to lose the political control he has enjoyed without full parliamentary oversight.”

Joseph explains that “The current Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) put into place by President Martelly per the El Rancho Accord is unconstitutional.” The El Rancho Accord, which rules the government’s plan for elections, has not been approved by Parliament and the procedure for selecting a CEP conflicts with the Haitian Constitution. The CEP only has seven of the required nine members due to these legitimacy concerns. Parliamentarians and political opposition call the El Rancho Accord a political coup d’état.
Despite the problems associated with the “El Rancho Accord,” the international community has been supportive of the process. After praising the accord in March, the U.N. issued a statement in early May, co-signed with the “Friends of Haiti” grouping of countries, warning “that certain important decisions to advance toward the holding of the elections have yet to be made.” Days later Martelly announced the formation of the electoral council, unilaterally. In early June, the date of October 26 was announced by the government, even though the electoral body is tasked with scheduling elections. Last week, after meeting with Martelly, the Secretary General of the OAS committed “to back the holding of free and fair elections, in a process planned for October.” The OAS also said they would send an electoral observation mission.
The international community is also providing the lion’s share of the funds for the election. IJDH, for its part, has called on the U.S. and other members of the international community to “support rule of law and democracy by conditioning election funding on a lawful and independent electoral council that can run fair and inclusive elections.” Haiti’s last several elections have been criticized for not being inclusive, as several political parties – including the most popular, Fanmi Lavalas – have been arbitrarily kept off the ballot under various pretexts.

The U.S. has pledged $10 million toward the elections, but a review of contract spending shows that a significant portion of this has already been allocated and spent in coordination with a previous electoral body that no longer exists. In April of 2013, USAID awarded $2.3 million to the International Federation of Electoral Systems (IFES) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) for “electoral process support.” In April 2014, the award was raised to $3.4 million. An IFES press release from October 2013, well before elections had been scheduled, notes that the organization had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Transitional College of the Permanent Electoral Council (CTCEP) to provide technical assistance. The CTCEP has since been replaced by the electoral body that emerged from the controversial “El Rancho Accord.” Repeated requests for comment to clarify IFES’s support have yet to be answered.

Additionally, a USAID factsheet reports that $6.5 million will go toward “pre-election planning and capacity building for the” CTCEP. Those funds are part of a multi-donor project run by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Previously called “Support to Electoral Process in Haiti: 2012-2013”, the only recent update to the project’s webpage has been to change to dates to “2013-2014.” Overall, the UNDP project will have a budget of $32 million and had already spent over a $1 million as of October 2013. It remains unclear if the donors – the U.S., Brazil, Canada, Mexico and the EU – have already deposited their contributions with the UNDP.

 

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Importance of Expert Testimony in Rape Cases

July 8, 2014 - 11:55

New Media Advocacy Project writes about their excitement about their latest video, Advancing Justice Through Expert Testimony in Haiti. This video and post explain the importance of expert testimony not just in Haiti but anywhere, particularly in cases of rape. Haitian courts don’t currently use expert testimony enough but increased use of expert testimony will help ensure justice for rape victims and improve the system.

Expert Witnesses: Advancing Justice for Women in Haitian Courts

Abby Goldberg, New Media Advocacy Project
July 8, 2014

It is with great enthusiasm that N-Map launches our newest film: Advancing Justice Through Expert Testimony in Haiti.

(Pou kreyol, tanpri klike isi)

In November 2013, our partners—the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) —invited us to Haiti to produce a film that advocates for the greater use of expert witnesses in Haitian courts. The film is primarily intended for Haitian judges, prosecutors and lawyers yet the message remains universal: expert testimony is vital for all criminal trials—especially in the case of rape.

Judges are not doctors; nor are they forensic psychologists or ballistic experts. Yet they issue rulings on cases built upon evidence from these fields. Consequently, many courts call on experts to help judges understand the specificities of a case or to help lawyers best substantiate their case according to relevant scientific evidence. In Haiti, however, there is little use of expert witnesses in criminal trials. Without guidance, judges cannot provide informed decisions for the complainant or the accused. And this absence of expertise delivers only partial justice.

While it is important for Haitian courts to employ expert witnesses in all criminal trials, this need is ever more urgent for cases of sexual violence. Last summer, judges dismissed numerous sexual assault cases because female victims exhibited common symptoms of trauma: failing to remember some details of the crime or inconsistently recounting their testimony. Modern psychiatric literature recognizes this behavior as common among rape victims who experience trauma. Yet judges are not familiar with the behavioral patterns of post-rape trauma and leverage inconsistent testimony as evidence that a crime did not occur. In these cases, the Haitian justice system—in addition to the defendant—wronged the victim.

 

The need for medical expertise also highlights the importance of expert testimony in rape cases. In a case profiled in the film, a complainant under the age of 10 was seeking justice for her rape, but judges believed inaccurately that any child of that age would have not yet been sexually active and thus, would have bled from a broken hymen when raped. The gynecologist explained to the court that although most children do bleed in cases of rape, there are exceptions. She was able to tell the judges during trial that the fact that the child did not bleed is not evidence that she had not been raped. She successfully convinced the judges, who otherwise may have ruled differently, that rape can occur without blood loss in such cases.

In a more recent case, a woman who worked as a housekeeper was brutally raped in the home of her employer. When she brought the case to court, a prosecutor and later an appeals court chamber ruled that because she did not flee the situation, and since escape was possible, it proved the sexual activity consensual. It was not. Again, it is common for women to stay with their accusers due to trauma and fear. An expert helps judges understand this phenomenon, and by extension, helps rape victims find justice.

N-Map and our partners at BAI will distribute this video throughout the summer to judges and prosecutors as trials resume after a several month hiatus. Our goal is twofold: first, to convince judicial actors of the importance of expert testimony and second, to show that expert testimony is effectively employed by peers and easy to implement. Additionally, several women’s rights groups–such as our partners at KOFAVIV–requested to incorporate the video into their training. We plan to work with the Haitian Bar Association to include the video in the required curriculum for all new lawyers in Haiti as well.

The capacity of this video to advocate for expert testimony beyond Haitian courts leaves me with great hope. It also fully reaffirms my belief that expert testimony proves a prerequisite for true justice and thankfully I am not alone.

“There is a lot of injustice done at this level,” explains Carlos Hercule, President of the Haitian Bar Association. “And to solve this problem the [courts] must use scientific expertise and proof.” Many of the judges and prosecutors I interviewed agreed with Carlos. In fact, during our week of production in Haiti, I met few dissenters. Yet surprisingly, the two interviewees who expressed resistance to the incorporation of expert witness testimony into Haitian courts were the experts themselves: a gynecologist and a psychologist. Feeling confused; I asked why. Both replied with the same concern: the more time spent in court testifying on behalf of victims translates to less time in practice—offering medical or psychological services desperately needed by Haiti’s under-served population.

Those unexpected answers certainly sparked new thinking about the potential for video to alleviate the cost and the human-resource burden of expert testimony—not only in Haiti but in other under-resourced justice systems as well. Even here in the United States the expense of expert witnesses favors well-funded law firms. For public defenders—like Brooklyn Defender Service—the expense of experts proves prohibitively costly and expert testimony often favorably affects the outcome of cases. This begs the question: even with the ubiquitous use of expert testimony, what advantages come to those who can afford it?

So can video or new media ensure that marginalized complainants, and for that matter defendants, have equal access to expert witnesses? Well that’s a topic for another post…

 

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Frequently Asked Questions Released About Haiti’s Upcoming Elections

July 8, 2014 - 06:40

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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)

“Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQs) Released about Haiti’s Upcoming Elections

(PORT-AU-PRINCE, July 8, 2014)— The Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) and Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) released last week a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) briefing about the significant legal challenges facing Haiti’s upcoming elections, scheduled for October 26, 2014. Elections are long overdue; one-third of the seats in the Senate and all local mayors termed out in 2012. Another one-third of the Senate and all 99 members of the lower house will expire in early 2015 without elections this year.

According to Mario Joseph, managing lawyer for the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, “Prompt elections are much needed, but elections will only remedy Haiti’s political crisis if they are run fairly by a constitutionally-mandated electoral council.  President Michel Martelly has delayed elections for three years because he does not want to lose the political control he has enjoyed without full parliamentary oversight.”

Joseph explains that “The current Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) put into place by President Martelly per the El Rancho Accord is unconstitutional.” The El Rancho Accord, which rules the government’s plan for elections, has not been approved by Parliament and the procedure for selecting a CEP conflicts with the Haitian Constitution. The CEP only has seven of the required nine members due to these legitimacy concerns. Parliamentarians and political opposition call the El Rancho Accord a political coup d’état.

Adding to the political volatility, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier’s former political party plans to enter candidates in the upcoming elections, and his lawyer, appointed to the CEP by President Martelly, is the CEP’s president. Duvalier faces criminal charges for murder, disappearances and torture under his regime.

Nicole Phillips, Staff Attorney with the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) warns that “these elections must not repeat the errors of the last. Illegitimate elections in 2010, contaminated by a corrupt electoral council, illegal exclusion of political parties, ballot-stuffing, and an arbitrary recount by the Organization of American States, set Haiti on its way to its current political crisis.” Phillips recommends that “international support for prompt elections in Haiti strengthen rule of law and democracy by conditioning elections funding on a lawful and independent electoral council that can run fair and inclusive elections.”

The FAQs is available here.

 

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Haiti Needs Sustainable Alternatives to IDP Camps

July 4, 2014 - 09:29

After spending a week in Haiti, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of Internally Displaced Persons has reported that the steps taken to empty Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in Haiti aren’t sufficient. IDPs and other vulnerable people need sustainable housing solutions, not just rent subsidies, and they should be included in the electoral process as well.

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Haiti: Time to push for development to achieve durable solutions for the internally displaced and the vulnerable

United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
July 4, 2014

PORT-AU-PRINCE (4 July 2014) – Four years after the earthquake, it is time to move from a largely humanitarian approach to a development base drive, United Nations independent expert Chaloka Beyani has said today, while calling for durable solutions for the internally displaced and the vulnerable segments of the population in Haiti.

“It is high time to focus on a development approach for the achievement of durable solutions for the displaced,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs) at the end of his first mission Haiti. “Durable solutions are reached only when the needs related to displacement no longer exist, which is medium to long term complex development led process for all IDPs and not just those living in camps or sites.”

“The closure of IDP camps by itself does not mean that durable solutions for them have been found.” Mr. Beyani stressed. “Although the number of those displaced has decreased from 1.5 million after the earthquake to the rough official number of 100,000 today, much more needs to be done.”

In order to achieve that, the expert recommended carrying out a needs assessment to know the durable solutions requirements of different categories of all IDPs, verify the location of those who live outside of camps, and a survey of their intent to know which durable solutions would work for them on the basis of consultation and participation.

“The achievement of durable solutions requires development opportunities in the country as a whole, rule of law and a comprehensive housing policy that also targets IDPs,” the Special Rapporteur highlighted.

“The rental subsidy policy which aims to help IDPs leave camps and find a place to rent in the neighbourhoods is a transitional measure to decongest the camps,” he said. “In order to be sustainable, this policy must be linked to livelihoods and income-generating activities and benefit the entire community where IDPs are settled, including through enhanced access to basic services.”

Mr. Beyani welcomed the creation of sectorial platforms and inter-ministerial committees to coordinate development activities, but cautioned that these measures should also be taken to ensure that sectorial policies in all key areas such as water, sanitation, health, education, employment and agriculture extend to IDPs as well.

“Humanitarian support should continue in the remaining camps or sites to address the dire living conditions of some of the IDPs and to respond to their basic needs, particularly water and sanitation, which are critical to public health,” he said. “I call for special protection for IDPs to continue into the development phase, especially for women and children.”

The Government of Haiti, the Special Rapporteur emphasized, has the primary responsibility to work towards development based approaches to durable solutions for IDPs and the vulnerable population at large, “which will enable the integration of IDPs in urban and rural neighbourhoods where they can resume their normal lives as citizens of Haiti, without discrimination on account of their situation.”

Such primary responsibility includes putting relevant policies, effective coordination of structures and mechanisms for achieving solutions, for instance resolution of issues affecting access to land and property, housing, justice, including for women.

“The current election registration exercise should also include IDPs as equal citizens to ensure they can vote and participate in the public life of the country,” Mr. Beyani noted.

During his one-week visit, the Special Rapporteur met with the Counsellor of the President, the Minister of Justice, the Delegate-Minister for Human Rights and the Fight against Extreme Poverty, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, the Inter-Ministerial Committee for Human Rights, the Director of the Civil Protection Department, the UCLBP and DINEPA.

He also met with the UN Humanitarian and Country teams and representatives of the civil society. His programme included visits to IDP camps and sites as well as the Canaan neighbourhood in Port-au-Prince.

Chaloka Beyani, professor of international law at the London School of Economics, was appointed Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons by the Human Rights Council in September 2010. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IDPersons/Pages/IDPersonsIndex.aspx

 

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Norwegian Law School Uses Cholera Exam Question

July 3, 2014 - 06:22

Another addition to the movement for justice for Haiti’s cholera victims, a Norwegian law school featured an exam question on cholera last year. Students were given background on the epidemic and our case against the United Nations and asked to hypothetically advise the UN on their responsibility for cholera, legal consequences for waiving immunity, seeking reimbursement from Nepal, and establishing a standing claims commission. Part of the question is below.

Click HERE for the full version.

25 november 2013

JUS5540 – Public International Law
The language of examination for this course is English: students may answer in English ONLY, answers in any other language than English will be given a F (F for fail).

Please read the fact pattern and answer the questions referring to your readings, case law, normative instruments, and Annex. The Annex is composed of 1) The International Law Commission Draft Articles on the Responsibility of International Organization, 2) UN Resolution 52/247 on Third Party Liability, and 3) the UN Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations (1946). Good luck!

Three years ago, the United Nations assigned peacekeepers from Nepal to form a United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Haiti experienced a terrible earthquake and ten months later a cholera outbreak devastated the nation. Investigations led to the discovery that the Nepalese peacekeeper mission had a faulty sanitation system. This led to the contamination of a tributary that flows into Haiti’s largest river, the Artibonite (which is used by Haitians for washing and bathing). The contamination consisted of an Asian strain of bacteria which caused a severe cholera epidemic in Haiti. It is estimated that 8,300 Haitians died and over 650,000 became sick. It is expected that cholera will continue to kill ca. 1,000 Haitians per year. In response, Haiti and the Dominican Republic established the Initiative for the Elimination of Cholera in the Island of Hispaniola. The overall effort is estimated to require $2.2 billion over 10 years. The U.N. system provided $141.5 million toward this initiative as of December 2012, including $23.5 million from the U.N. itself.

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A Constitutional Electoral Council is Imperative for Haiti’s Upcoming Elections

July 3, 2014 - 05:45

July 3, 2014

Haitian President Michel Martelly issued a decree on June 10, 2014, setting parliamentary and local elections for October 26, 2014. Prompt elections are much needed in Haiti—one-third of the seats in Parliament and all local mayors have already termed out–but elections will only remedy Haiti’s political crisis if they are run fairly by a lawfully mandated electoral council.  The current Provisional Electoral Council is highly contested with serious and well-founded concerns about its legitimacy, calling into question whether it can run fair and inclusive elections.

The following “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQs) provide a legal analysis of the proposed plan for elections in Haiti, including the El Rancho Accord, the new electoral law and Provisional Electoral Council.

What is at stake in these elections?

Elections in Haiti are long overdue. Elections for all local offices and one-third of the Senate seats, whose terms expired in 2011, have still not been held. [i]

  • Without timely elections, the Senate has struggled to obtain a quorum since 2012, when one-third of its 30 seats expired (per Article 102 of the Haitian Constitution, Parliament may not make decisions or pass resolutions without a majority of each of the two houses being present[ii]).
  • The terms of some 130 local mayors also expired in 2012. Those seats have been filled by “municipal agents,” who were appointed by President Martelly.
  • The terms of another one-third of the Senate and all 99 members of the House of Deputies will expire in early 2015 without elections this year.

 

Why has it taken so long to plan elections?

Elections have been delayed for many reasons, but the principal roadblock has been the lack of an electoral council to start the election process. According to parliamentarians, political opposition and human rights groups, President Martelly has stalled elections since he came into office by facilitating unlawful electoral council appointments and creating political stalemates.

A set of 2010 constitutional amendments provided for a new selection process for a Permanent Electoral Council, which would be selected from three branches of government (executive, legislative and judiciary). The amendments were controversial because members of Parliament stated that the amendments that were published differed from those adopted in session.[iii] Amidst pressure from the U.S. and other governments, President Martelly formally adopted the contested amendments in 2012.

Many of the Permanent Electoral Council appointments in 2012 were fraught with controversy. One council member was forced to resign following a rape accusation by his employee.[iv]  According to members of Parliament, the judicial branch’s selections are not independent because President Martelly illegally named three Supreme Court justices (one was over the maximum age and the other two were not selected from the official lists submitted by the Senate as required by Article 175 of the Constitution), including the Chief Justice Anel Alexis Joseph, in 2012. His appointments allowed President Martelly to influence the nomination of the new judicial council, which is headed by Justice Joseph, and which named the council’s judicial members. Moreover, without one-third of the Senate, the legislature had difficulty appointing their three members. As a result the permanent council was nonfunctional and unable to hold elections.

To remedy the electoral council crisis, President Martelly appointed a bicameral commission in October 2012, the Collège Transitoire du Conseil Électoral Permanent (CTCEP), charged with passing a new electoral law.[v] The CTCEP submitted a proposed electoral law to a Presidential commission July 1, 2013. A presidential commission submitted the proposed law to the House of Deputies days before its last session of the year, leaving very little time for the House to approve the law. While the Prime Minister declared that the electoral law was adopted, House members say there was never an affirming vote.[vi]  The Senate never approved the electoral law, resulting in another political stalemate at the end of 2013.

Parliamentarians argue that President Martelly’s administration has benefitted from the lack of elections; President Martelly has operated without the standard checks and balances of power such as parliamentary oversight. He also has control over the 130 mayors he appointed. Executive control over the electoral council will also favor President Martelly’s political party.

 

What is the El Rancho Accord?

A series of “inter-Haitian dialogues,” led by the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Haiti, Cardinal Chibly Langlois, political parties, parliamentarians, and members of civil society took place in January and February 2014, to discuss a plan for elections. Many of the dialogue participants signed the dialogue’s outcome document, the El Rancho Accord (“the Accord”) on March 14, 2014. The Senate has not signed or approved the Accord.[vii]

The El Rancho Accord sets October 26, 2014 as Election Day for two-thirds of the Senate, the House of Deputies and local elections, and proposes a Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) to be appointed by the three branches of government. The Accord also provides for the approval of amendments to the 2013 electoral law by the executive branch, both chambers of Parliament, the CEP and political parties.

 

Why have some members of the Haitian Senate refused to approve the El Rancho Accord and disapprove of the proposed Provisional Electoral Council (CEP)?

Many parliamentarians, including six of the 20 sitting senators (called the G6) oppose the El Rancho Accord on constitutional grounds.[viii]  The Accord has not been approved by both houses of Parliament and any provision that conflicts with the Haitian Constitution is invalid (Under Article 282 of the Constitution, the Constitution can only be amended by two-thirds of each of the two Houses in Parliament).[ix]

The El Rancho manner of appointing councilors to the CEP conflicts with the manner in the Constitution. The El Rancho CEP is appointed from the three branches of government, whereas the Constitutional CEP is designated from nine different sectors of society (Executive Branch, Episcopal Conference, Advisory Council, Supreme Court, human rights; Council of the University, journalist associations; Protestant religions, and National Council of Cooperatives).[x] Every election since the Constitution was enacted in 1987 has been run by a provisional council named by different sectors.

Parliamentarians also object to Article 12 of the Accord, which provides that if both branches of Parliament do not approve amendments to the electoral law within 10 days of signature of the agreement, the law is automatically on hold and the CEP is allowed to override the lack of approval and move forward with elections.[xi] Given that the term of one-third of the Senate expired, the Senate claims that Article 12 is a loophole to evade Parliamentarian approval.

President Martelly appears to have invoked Article 12 on June 10, 2014, when he signed a presidential decree setting the elections for October 26, and confirming a CEP with only seven of the nine required members.[xii] Opposition leaders call the Accord an electoral coup d’état.

 

What is the composition of the current El Rancho Provisional Electoral Council?

The El Rancho CEP currently has only seven of the required nine members: two members from the legislative branch, two members from the judicial branch, and three members from the executive branch. Two of the nine members, Leopold Berlanger (judicial branch) and Nehemy Joseph (legislative branch) have refused to be sworn in because of concerns about the process for selecting councilors.  In order to accommodate these concerns on June 11, 2014, the judicial council voted 5-2 to replace one of its other members. Although Chief Justice Joseph participated in this vote, after President Martelly objected, Justice Joseph annulled the vote the following day.

The CEP generated additional controversy by selecting Frizto Canton as President. Canton, a lawyer for former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, was nominated to the council by the executive.[xiii]

 

How are political parties being excluded in the electoral process?

Coalitions of political parties have issued public statements denouncing the El Rancho Accord, claiming exclusion from the electoral process and demanding a provisional electoral council that is independent and selected pursuant to the Constitution. They claim that the exclusion started during the El Rancho dialogue. Several parties that observed or participated in the El Rancho talks walked out to protest that parties not aligned with the current government were being ignored.[xiv]

On June 16, 2014, CEP President Fritzo Canton announced June 25, 2014 as the registration deadline for political parties.[xv] The deadline provides an impossible dilemma for political parties. Either they register with an electoral council whose appointment violates the Constitution and is controlled by the executive branch, indicating prospects for unfair elections, or they boycott the registration to pressure the government to appoint a lawful and independent body, risking exclusion.

 

Will the Duvalier political party enter the upcoming elections?

The old political party founded under the Duvalier dictatorship (“National Unity Party”), says it plans to enter candidates in the upcoming elections. Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, who faces criminal charges for murder, disappearances and torture under his regime, attended the party’s ceremony when it announced that its candidates would run “at all levels” in the legislative and local elections.[xvi]  President Martelly has presented Duvalier at public events as an elder statesman and has renewed Duvalier’s diplomatic passport.[xvii]

 

What can the international community do to support fair and timely elections in Haiti?

Progress in earthquake reconstruction, stabilizing Haiti’s democracy and ending poverty will only be possible if the upcoming elections in Haiti are prompt, fair and inclusive. Unfortunately the upcoming elections are on the road to further undermining Haiti’s democracy rather than stabilizing it.

These elections must not repeat the errors of the last.[xviii] Illegitimate elections in 2010, contaminated by a corrupt electoral council, illegal exclusion of political parties,[xix] ballot-stuffing[xx] and an arbitrary recount by the Organization of American States,[xxi] set Haiti on its way to its current political crisis. A month before the 2010 elections, 45 members of the U.S. Congress, most of them Democrats, warned Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that supporting flawed elections “will come back to haunt the international community” by generating unrest and threatening the implementation of earthquake reconstruction projects. The U.S. government funded the elections anyway to the tune of $15 million.

The U.S. can support rule of law and democracy by conditioning election funding on a lawful and independent electoral council that can run fair and inclusive elections.

Haitian voters have tried to communicate their opposition to illegitimate elections in many ways: boycotting the 2009, 2010 and 2011 votes, demonstrating in the streets, and rejecting the elections in the press and in political meetings. They will keep trying until they find a way to make their government, and the international community, listen.


[i] Haiti must break political impasse to achieve progress, UN envoy tells Security Council, UN News Centre (Mar. 2, 2013), http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44435.

[ii] Haitian Constitution of 1987, Article 102.

[iii] Charlie Hinton, Haiti’s Constitutional Horror Show, Counterpunch, October 5, 2012, http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/10/05/haitis-constitutional-horror-show/.

[iv] Id.

[v] Haiti- Elections : Swearing in, installation, and élection of members of the Bureau of CTCP, HaitiLibre.com, April 30, 2013, http://www.haitilibre.com/en/news-8385-haiti-elections-swearing-in-installation-and-election-of-members-of-the-bureau-of-ctcep.html. See also To rebuild Haiti, Restoring Democracy is a Must, Bloomberg, April 7, 2013, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-04-07/to-rebuild-haiti-restoring-democracy-is-a-must.html.

[vi] Robenson Geffrard, Le vote des députés jette la confusion, Le Nouvelliste, September 11, 2013, http://lenouvelliste.com/article4.php?newsid=121186.

[vii] Haïti – Politique : Le « Core Group » salue l’accord inter-haitien (texte intégral de l’accord), HaitiLibre (Mar 21, 2014), http://www.haitilibre.com/article-10763-haiti-politique-le-core-group-salue-l-accord-inter-haitien-texte-integral-de-l-accord.html.

[viii] Haiti – Politic : The dialogue between the Executive and the Senate ends in failure, HaitiLibre (Jun. 5, 2014), http://www.haitilibre.com/en/news-11302-haiti-politic-the-dialogue-between-the-executive-and-the-senate-ends-in-failure.html.

[ix] Haitian Constitution of 1987, Article 282.

[x] Haitian Constitution of 1987, Article 289.

[xi] Haïti – Politique : Le « Core Group » salue l’accord inter-haitien (texte intégral de l’accord), HaitiLibre (Mar 21, 2014), http://www.haitilibre.com/article-10763-haiti-politique-le-core-group-salue-l-accord-inter-haitien-texte-integral-de-l-accord.html.

[xii] Haiti- Elections: The opposition parties denounced the decision of President Martelly, Haiti Libre (Jun. 12, 2014), http://www.haitilibre.com/en/news-11358-haiti-elections-the-opposition-parties-denounced-the-decision-of-president-martelly.html.

[xiii] Martelly Appoints Duvalier Lawyer to Oversee Elections, Center for Economic and Policy Research (May 6, 2014), http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/relief-and-reconstruction-watch/martelly-appoints-duvalier-lawyer-to-oversee-elections.

[xiv] Fanmi Lavalas, Fusion, Inite et d’autres partis réclament la formation d’un nouveau CEP, Le Nouvelliste (May 14, 2014), http://lenouvelliste.com/lenouvelliste/article/130943/Fanmi-Lavalas-Fusion-Inite-et-dautres-partis-reclament-la-formation-dun-nouveau-CEP.html.

[xv] Haiti – Notice : Registration of political parties and candidates for BED and BEC, last deadline, HaitiLibre (Jun. 18, 2014), http://www.haitilibre.com/en/news-11397-haiti-notice-registration-of-political-parties-and-candidates-for-bed-and-bec-last-deadline.html.

[xvi] Evens Sanon and Trenton Daniel, Old Duvalier party plans to run in Haiti election, The Associated Press (Apr. 24, 2014), http://news.yahoo.com/old-duvalier-party-plans-run-haiti-election-173735217.html.

[xvii] Randal C. Archibold, Haitian Dictator May Be Charged with Human Rights Crimes, Court Says, The New York Times (Feb. 20, 2014), http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/21/world/americas/haitian-dictator-may-be-charged-with-human-rights-crimes-court-says.html.

[xviii] Brian Concannon, Jr., Haiti’s Flawed Elections: They Told Us So, Boston Haitian Reporter (Nov. 2, 2010), http://www.bostonhaitian.com/node/253.

[xix] Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, Haiti’s November 28 Elections: Trying to Legitimize the Illegitimate (Nov. 22, 2010), http://www.ijdh.org/haiti’s-november-28-elections-trying-to-legitimize-the-illegitimate-ijdh/#.UjoNJBb_5Rc.

[xx] Jason Beaubien, Weary, And Wary, Haitians Prepare For Elections, NPR (Oct. 7, 2010), http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130402973; see also Elections that Do Not Reflect the Will of the People, http://www.ijdh.org/on-the-violation-of-voting-right-in-haiti-elections-that-do-not-reflect-the-will-of-the-people-bureau-des-avocats-internationaux-canada-haiti-action-network-transafrica-forum-louisiana-justice-in/#.Ujje3dJQGuJ.

[xxi] Dan Beeton and Georgianne Nienaber, Haiti’s Doctored Elections, Seen from the Inside: An Interview with Ricardo Seitenfus, Dissent Magazine (Feb. 24, 2014), http://www.dissentmagazine.org/online_articles/haitis-doctored-elections-seen-from-the-inside-an-interview-with-ricardo-seitenfus.

Click HERE for a pdf version.

Relocation for Haitian Rape Survivors

July 1, 2014 - 09:00

This is the story of Lovely, a Haitian rape survivor who was relocated, along with her family, to Canada. Relocation can be a crucial part of healing for rape survivors, through distance from the crime, financial support and even psychiatric support for those who need it. Still, there is a long way to go as resettlement is a long process, the requirements are  stringent, and the women often struggle to become self-sufficient.

Haitian rape survivors begin new lives in Canada and the US Resettlement programs offer an escape from violence and time to heal

Lisa Armstrong, Al Jazeera America
July 1, 2014

MONTREAL — There are no Haitians in the Montreal neighborhood where Lovely lives. “There are mostly whites. It’s very rare to find a black person, let alone a Haitian,” she says.

In the 11 months since Lovely left Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to live in Montreal, she hasn’t made friends at school; she is still learning to speak French, and for many reasons she prefers to stick to herself, she said. There are people she misses in Haiti — her grandmother, her school friends — but she does not miss the place. She much prefers living among the “blans,” the whites, than her own people. “I know Haiti is my home, but I do not miss it at all,” she says. “I feel safer where I am now.”

Lovely was raped in February 2011, when she was just 13. In addition to the trauma of being raped, she suffered the stigma that came with it, because there was proof of the rape in the form of a baby. Like thousands of other Haitians who were displaced after the January 2010 earthquake, she was living in a tent with her family in a camp for internally displaced people. The camps were unsafe — cloth and tarp structures did nothing to keep armed gangs out — and since the earthquake, hundreds of women and girls have been raped.

As part of a program run by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in conjunction with lawyers, Haitian grass-roots organizations and other NGOs, some rape survivors have been relocated to Canada, where they have been granted permanent residence. Lawyers have also successfully petitioned for some women to relocate to the U.S. on humanitarian parole, which, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, is “used sparingly to bring someone who is otherwise inadmissible into the United States for a temporary period of time due to a compelling emergency.”

As of the end of 2013, the UNHCR had relocated 40 rape survivors and their dependents to Canada — a total of 145 people. The women were selected in part because of the level of trauma they suffered — some were minors, others had been gang-raped or raped more than once — and applications focused on their need for psychological treatment. Lawyers working on the applications selected the most dire cases.

“Many of the women we interviewed had classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder — constantly anxious and unsettled, hypervigilant and on alert beyond a reasonable level, poor, limited sleep with graphic nightmares throughout,” said psychiatrist Dr. Daryn Reicherter, who evaluated rape survivors and consulted with lawyers working on the women’s applications, in an email. “The women we interviewed continued to live in deplorable conditions with a constant threat of violence and/or rape.”

Some, like Lovely, had taken legal action against their perpetrators and were therefore in danger of retaliatory attacks. “We’re talking about people that … are taking serious risks for their life and the lives of their families,” says Corinne Raess, a former associate protection officer at the UNHCR for Haiti. “They could be stigmatized and have no future in their own country.”

The largest camp for Haitian earthquake refugees, in Port-au-Prince in 2010. More than 212,000 people were believed killed in the quake, which left an additional 3 million injured or homeless. John Moore / Getty Images

After their house was destroyed during the earthquake, Lovely, her mother, her sister and one of her brothers settled in a camp in Lalue, a neighborhood in Port-au-Prince. Her older brother, John, also lived in the camp in a separate tent. Lovely’s mother warned her not to visit him because he was physically and verbally abusive. Still, she went so she could watch telenovelas on his TV.

One day, while Lovely was in John’s tent, he tied a piece of cloth over her mouth and raped her. She did not tell her mother because, she recalls, “he told me, ‘If you dare tell anyone what I just did to you, I have a sharp machete and I will take you to the woods and cut you into pieces.’”

Lovely’s mother eventually noticed that she had not had her period for some time and suspected she was pregnant. She asked Lovely if she had a boyfriend, and she said no. Her mother beat her because she said Lovely was lying. When, finally, Lovely told her mother that her brother had raped her, her mother continued to beat her.

“My mom said no. Even if I thought I was going to die, I had to speak up,” Lovely recalls. “I felt a lot of pain and shame. I said to myself, ‘He didn’t kill me, so I will kill myself because what happened is a shame and people will badmouth us.’ I made a big pot of bleach, then I put it away so I could drink it later and kill myself.”

When Lovely returned for the bleach, she found that her mother had used it to wash some clothes. Her mother never went to the police to report the rape but bought pills that would induce an abortion. “I took the pills,” Lovely says, “but the child would not come out.”

It was Lovely’s older sister who took her to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, where they reported the rape. Lovely was referred to the Commission of Women Victims for Victims (Komisyon Fanm Viktim pou Viktim, or KOFAVIV), a grass-roots women’s organization founded by and for rape survivors. A KOFAVIV agent took Lovely to the hospital for a medical exam and helped her file the necessary paperwork with the police so that John could be arrested. KOFAVIV also referred Lovely’s case to human rights lawyers at Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, who worked to ensure that John was arrested and prosecuted.

When John learned that Lovely had gone to the police, he threatened to kill her. “I overheard one of his friends say that my brother said that it’s only because he has no money — otherwise he’d buy a gallon of gasoline and come burn us down in the tent,” Lovely recalls.

In June 2011, KOFAVIV moved Lovely, her mother and her sister to a safe house. That month, John was arrested. Lovely was still living in the safe house when she gave birth in October 2011. The baby was a constant reminder of the rape, so Lovely wanted little to do with her. Because Lovely did not have money to buy food, the child was malnourished; she was a solemn baby, her hair was sparse, and her skin pockmarked from mosquito bites. Lovely was happiest when she was away from the little girl.

“Once I go to school, I’m at ultimate peace because that way I can’t see the baby,” she says. She never considered leaving her daughter in an orphanage because, she says, “when she grows up, you never know. Maybe she might be the only one God gives. Maybe she might be the one who will take me out of my misery.”

Though John was in prison, Lovely says that she still did not feel safe because she was afraid his friends would follow through on his threats to harm her. “If he is convicted, the case will still be on with his friends, because they are threatening me,” she says. “The best would be if I could go to another country so everything would be over.”

KOFAVIV has been working with the UNHCR to resettle some of its clients, and in July 2013, Lovely got her wish and, along with eight family members, moved to Canada.

The road to resettlement is a long one. Most of the women do not have passports, and some do not even have birth certificates, which means that the UNHCR has to assist in getting them. “In remote areas, it means maybe two days to access by car, and it takes time. There may be no registration office. There may be no records,” says Raess.

The women who were resettled in Canada had to meet strict criteria. “The beneficiary had to be an IDP [internally displaced person] who was raped after the quake and met other vulnerability factors (e.g., medical issues, disability, elder, orphans and vulnerable children, widows). If they were raped post-quake but were not an IDP, they did not qualify,” writes lawyer Jayne Fleming, who runs safe houses in Haiti and had 13 women granted permanent residence in Canada.

Even when the women get to Canada, however, they face challenges. “Immigration to a new area or new country has its own risks for the stress of acculturation,” Reicherter explains, “but these risks are minor compared to a constant risk or retraumatization by repeated gang rape.”

The women receive some financial and other support after they relocate but still struggle to become self-sufficient. “They’re not literate and have no skill sets that are transferable to employment here,” Fleming says. “They’re also traumatized and have a difficult time adjusting to the move from deep poverty to circumstances that are very comfortable, especially when they left so many of their family and friends behind in circumstances of deprivation.”

Though the women were selected for the relocation program precisely because of their need for psychological care, many women do not want to attend therapy. “Everyone knew they were coming for medical care, psychosocial and psychiatric support, but none of my clients wanted to pursue ongoing therapy, as it is stigmatized in Haiti,” says Fleming. “It’s also opening doors to dark histories that they would rather keep closed. The idea is, ‘I’m no longer in Haiti, I am moving on.’”

Lovely says she is simply tired of having to tell her story — to the police, to lawyers, to therapists. “Everything that happened [in Haiti], I would just like to forget,” she says.

The women who went to the U.S. faced an additional challenge, since applicants for humanitarian parole must have sponsors who will agree to provide housing and support them and their families financially. They were allowed to stay in the U.S. for only a year and had to apply for asylum if they wanted to remain in the country permanently.

In order to be granted asylum, applicants need to show that they have been persecuted because of their race, religion or membership in a particular social group. Fleming has three clients who have been granted asylum in the U.S. “We argued the clients were raped because they were Haitian women living in extreme poverty and the Haitian government would not protect them. Thus they were persecuted on account of their membership in a particular social group and met the refugee definition,” she explains.

Lovely says it is this fear of persecution that will prevent her from ever returning to Haiti, even to visit. She says matter-of-factly, “I was happy — not super-excited, jumping up and down — when I found out we were going to Canada. It was hard to be excited because I still had my mind on John, always wondering if he would find a way out of prison to hurt me and my family.”

She and her family live in a house paid for by a Canadian agency, and she receives free psychological counseling. Through working with a psychologist, Lovely says, her relationship with her daughter, who is now 2, is better. “Still, I will never forget what she represents,” she says.

 

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CGRS Hiring Associate Director/Senior Staff Attorney

July 1, 2014 - 08:31

The Center for Gender & Refugee Studies at University of California Hastings College of the Law needs an Associate Director/Senior Staff Attorney. This is a full-time position with benefits and salary is commensurate with experience. The deadline is July 11, 2014.

Click HERE for more info.

Selebrasyon!

June 28, 2014 - 18:00

Celebrate Haiti at New York City’s 1.5-month-long festival.

WHAT: 

Selebrasyon! will be the first of its kind in New York. This festival will bring Haitian, Caribbean, and wider New York communities together to experience Haitian film, dance, music, literary and visual art in venues across the city!

Beginning on Haitian Flag Day on May 18th during Haitian Heritage Month, and running until the end of June which is Caribbean-American Heritage Month, this festival will present events hosted in collaboration with different organizations, institutions and artists.

WHERE: 

New York City
(locations vary)

WHEN: 

Opening Night                           May 17, 2014 7-11pm
Haitian Flag Day Selebrasyon!    May 18, 2014 noon-6pm
Konpa Nite                               June 6, 2014 6pm-midnight
& many more events through June 30, 2014

 

Click HERE for more information on Selebrasyon!
Click HERE for information on & dates of each event.