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Jonathan Katz, NPR discuss persistence of Haiti Cholera epidemic

March 21, 2014 - 09:31

NPR interviewed journalist Jonathan Katz, who has been covering the cholera epidemic in Haiti since it began three years ago. Katz discusses how lack of sanitation has prolonged the epidemic despite $9 million in foreign aid pledged to fight cholera. On the United Nations response to claims of blame, Katz notes ”since [the IJDH lawsuit], the science [supporting the claim] has been so overwhelming that the UN basically doesn’t even take up the issue of whether it’s responsible.”

Why Cholera Persists In Haiti Despite An Abundance Of Aid

NPR

March 21, 2014

It’s been more than three years since cholera struck Haiti. And the epidemic continues today.

The deadly bacteria have killed more than 8,500 people. And it has infected hundreds of thousands.

Why has the outbreak been so hard to contain — especially given the $9 million in foreign aid pledged to the country?

Lack of sanitation, says journalist Jonathan Katz, who has been covering the cholera epidemic since it began.

Haiti doesn’t have sewers. Instead, the country relies on what’s known as the bayakou: independent, and somewhat secretive, laborers who clean the cesspools under people’s latrines.

“Almost all of them are men … and they work in a very interesting way,” he says. “The job is done is by hand. They climb into the latrines with a bucket. They scoop out the excrement and put it somewhere else.”

“The job is incredibly important,” Katz says, “because it’s basically the only way that people who have underground cesspools, dug under latrines in their backyard, to get them clean.”

But even having a latrine is a luxury and not common in Haiti.

“Most people in Haiti can’t afford even that kind of cesspool,” Katz says. “So what most people do, especially in the rural areas, is that they look for an open field or they look for a canal. Most people prefer to go at dawn.”

And when those choices aren’t available, many people use an even less sanitary method: the so-called flying toilet.

“You take a plastic bag. You go in the plastic bag. And then you throw it,” Katz says. “That’s the way the sanitation tends to get done.”

After the 2010 earthquake, foreign aid flooded into Haiti. And a major concern then was getting clean water and toilets into the country. But nothing has been done to solve Haiti’s water and sanitation problems permanently, Katz says.

“There were very, very short-term, band aid type solutions,” he says. “For instance, the bladders of water provided to the displacement camps and the porta potties being installed in big, visible places. They weren’t long-term, durable solutions,” Katz says.

Evidence suggests the cholera in Haiti came from a United Nation’s base, where Nepalese peacekeeping troops lived. The strain of cholera in Haiti exactly matches that one found at the UN base. And the sanitation on the base wasn’t sufficient enough to prevent contamination of the adjacent river.

Haitian citizens recently brought a lawsuit against the UN. They’re seeking compensation for the spread of cholera.

“Before these lawsuits were brought forward, UN officials were trying to actively deny they were responsible,” Katz says. “Since then, the science [supporting the claim] has been so overwhelming that the UN basically doesn’t even take up the issue of whether it’s responsible.”

And once cholera takes hold in region, the infectious disease doesn’t leave easily.

“It’s very hard to get out of the environment,” Katz says. “But that said, there have been many places in the world that have dealt with horrific cholera epidemics over very long periods of time.”

What was the solution? Sewers and better sanitation. “Build underground pipes,” Katz says. “As long as people continue to drink water that is infected, cholera is going to be a major problem.”

 

Click HERE for original article.

Report of the independent expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti

March 21, 2014 - 08:28

Report of the independent expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti

Gustavo Gallón
February 7, 2014

The following is a report by Gustavo Gallón, independent expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti, appointed in June 2013 by the Human Rights Council. The independent expert carried out a mission to Haiti in September 2013, to Port-au-Prince and Jacmel.

In his report, Gallón identifies five main problems that contribute to the commission of human rights violations in Haiti and require urgent action including social inequality, the plight of detainees, the weakness of the rule of law, human rights violations committed in the past, and the impact on human rights of the disasters that have hit Haiti.

Click HERE for full report.

High-Level Bilateral Haiti-DR Talks Postponed

March 19, 2014 - 11:15

The monthly meeting between Haiti and the Dominican Republic originally scheduled for Thursday March 20 has been postponed to April 8. According to a statement released by the Dominican Republic, both countries’ technical teams have requested to postpone the bilateral talks. For more information on the talks thus far, as well as a brief overview of historical Haiti-Dominican Republic relations, see a review here.

Haiti-Dominican Republic Talks Postponed Until April

Caribbean Journal staff, Caribbean Journal

March 17, 2014

High-level bilateral talks between the Dominican Republic and Haiti originally scheduled for Thursday have been postponed until April 8, the Dominican Republic announced Monday.

The meeting had been scheduled to take place in the Haitian city of Jacmel.

In a statement, the Dominican Republic said “the technical teams of both countries have requested to extend the deadline to allow time to mature and prepare agreements on trade, health, tourism and migration.”

The Dominican Republic’s government said that teams from both sides would work together on proposals over the next two weeks to advance “all the work possible with an eye toward the [April] 8 meeting.”

Dominican Republic Minister of the Presidency Gustvao Montalvo, who has been leading the Dominican side in the monthly bilateral talks, said he had accepted the request for postponement.

“Remember that this is an unprecedented event in the history of both countries,” he said Monday. “We have established a constructive dialogue on important issues, seeking to provide real and lasting solutions to our people’s solutions, always on the basis of mutual respect for sovereignty.”

Haiti Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe is leading the Haitian commission in the bilateral dialogue.

 

Click HERE for the original article.

USCIS Stakeholder Teleconference

March 19, 2014 - 10:30

Teleconference on Temporary Protected Status extension for Haitians.

 

WHERE: 

Register for this event here. All registrations must be received by Friday, March 14, 2014. Be sure to provide your full name and, if applicable, the name of your organization by following the steps below:

  • Enter your email address and select “Submit”
  • Select “Subscriber Preferences”
  • Select the “Event Registration” tab
  • Complete the questions and select “Submit”

Once your registration is processed, you will receive a confirmation email with additional details.

WHEN:

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 from 1:30 to 2:30pm (Eastern)

MORE INFO:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) invites you to participate in a stakeholder teleconference on Wednesday, March 19, 2014 from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. (Eastern) to discuss the Temporary Protected Status extension for Haitians.

On March 3, 2014, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson extended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for eligible nationals of Haiti for an additional 18 months, effective July 23, 2014 through January 22, 2016.

During this teleconference, USCIS officials will share information about the TPS re-registration period and procedures for eligible Haitian nationals. USCIS officials will also provide information on employment authorization documents, fee waivers, and respond to your questions and concerns.

Additional information on TPS for Haiti—including guidance on eligibility, application process, and where to file—is available online at www.uscis.gov/tps. Further details on this extension of TPS for Haiti, including application requirements and procedures, are available in the Federal Register notice published today. For more information about USCIS and its programs, visit www.uscis.gov.

 

Click HERE for official announcement.

Drought in Haiti Spawns Severe Lack of Water

March 19, 2014 - 09:35

Yet another natural disaster is striking Haiti, where people are still recovering from the 2010 earthquake, as well as droughts and floods in 2012 caused by Tropical Storm Isaac and Hurricane Sandy. Two harvest seasons have already been lost due to the eight-month-long drought in northeast Haiti. Food and water are scarce, and international aid organizations are working with the local government to coordinate a response effort.

Drought causes extreme emergency in Haiti

Everton Fox, Al Jazeera

March 19, 2014

A state of emergency has been declared across northeastern Haiti. This is a country where 78 per cent of the population lives below the poverty level. A severe drought is wiping out sorely needed crops and livestock.

The dry season is due to last at least another month. Even then it will take the area at least another six months to recover when the rains do finally come.

The eight month long drought has caused the loss of two harvest seasons. The hardship is evident in some schools where there is food for students but no water to cook with.

There has been some rain in the area recently but not enough to replenish crops. Indeed the second rainy season began later than usual last year.

Until last November, rainfall had been evenly spread across the crop-producing areas, but that second rain season which usually comes in August, was almost three weeks late. To make matters worse, northeastern Haiti received very little of that rainfall.

Nearby, Jamaica has also been in a state of drought. The government has recently had to dispatch water trucks to the drought-parched west of the island.

The Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change says that at least six parishes have been affected, including the one that holds the popular tourist spot of Montego Bay.

There is the possibility of some thundery showers around the northern Caribbean this week, but many places will not see any wet weather. The dry season across the Greater Antilles runs until the end of March.

 

Click HERE for the original article.

How IDB’s Aid Embargo Affected Cholera in Haiti

March 13, 2014 - 14:22

Jeb Sprague questions Inter-American Development Bank staff on their Haiti aid embargo and how it aggravated the current cholera epidemic. If IDB had continued with a loan to Haiti for potable water in 2001, cholera probably would not have spread so widely and quickly.

Jeb Sprague
March 13, 2014

Duvalier Attorney Appeals Political Violence Decision

March 13, 2014 - 10:33

Jean-Claude Duvalier attorney Reynold Georges has filed an appeal to the February 20th Appellate Court decision to charge Duvalier with political crimes. Georges said that Haitian law doesn’t recognize crimes against humanity and ruling against Duvalier would lead to a civil war.

Duvalier attorney in Haiti files appeal

Trenton Daniel, Miami Herald
March 12, 2014

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – The lead defense attorney for Haiti’s former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier has said judges will be responsible for a “civil war” if an appeals court rules against his client.

Privately owned Radio Kiskeya on Wednesday broadcast the remarks by lawyer Reynold Georges, who spoke at Haiti’s Supreme Court after filing an appeal Tuesday against a lower court decision that Duvalier can face charges involving human rights abuses. Georges also said he requested the removal of three judges because they were untrustworthy.

“If a decision is taken against Jean-Claude Duvalier by the court of appeals,” Georges said, “that could cause civil war. The judges will be held responsible and held accountable for the civil war.”

The judges ruled last month that the Duvalier case warranted further investigation into the human rights abuses that were allegedly committed during the dictator’s 15-year reign, which ended with a popular uprising in 1986. The court decision was celebrated by the prosecution because it creates an opportunity for prosecutors to submit more evidence and perhaps even put him on trial.

The court found that Duvalier could be charged with rights abuses because Haiti is bound by international law that says there’s no statute of limitations for crimes against humanity.

Georges said he filed the appeal because Haiti doesn’t have a law that recognizes crimes against humanity.

“Baby Doc” Duvalier abruptly returned to Haiti in 2011 following 25 years in exile in France. Human rights and embezzlement charges were filed against him but he was never jailed.

Duvalier defended his tenure last year when he gave an unexpected testimony. He described Haiti as a better place under his rule.

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Obama Administration Supports UN Immunity in Cholera Case

March 13, 2014 - 07:57

The Obama Administration supports UN immunity in the cholera case, saying that UN officials and MINUSTAH cannot be sued.

Obama Administration Backs U.N. in Disputes Over Haiti Cholera Epidemic

Jacob Gershman, The Wall Street Journal
March 12, 2014

The Obama administration has told a federal judge that diplomatic immunity shields the United Nations from liability for a cholera outbreak that ravaged Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.

Haitians living in the U.S. and Haiti have filed at least two lawsuits seeking class action status in federal courts in New York claiming that the U.N. failed to screen infected peacekeepers deployed from Nepal. The lawsuits also claim the U.N. mission constructed shoddy sanitation facilities that allowed contaminated human waste to run into the country’s major river, helping to spread the disease.

The 2010 cholera outbreak killed more than 8,000 Haitians and sickened hundreds of thousands, according to U.S. officials.

The latest lawsuit was filed on Tuesday in Brooklyn federal court on behalf of nearly 1,500 residents of Haiti and the U.S. who say they “have been or will be sickened, or have family members who have died or will die, as a direct result of the cholera introduced to Haiti.”

The named plaintiffs are four Haitians living in New York City and Atlanta whose father and stepmother were allegedly killed by the disease. A similar lawsuit on behalf of Haitian victims was filed in Manhattan federal court in October.

While declining to comment specifically on the litigation, a spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement Wednesday that the U.N. “continues to be committed to do all that it can to help the people of Haiti overcome the cholera epidemic.”

Last month, the U.N.’s Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, Miguel de Serpa Soares, wrote to U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power asserting “that the United Nations continues to maintain its immunity and the immunity of its officials in connection with this matter,” according to court documents.

The letter requested that the Obama administration “take necessary action to ensure respect for the privileges and immunities of the Organization and its officials and ensure that no judgment or other adverse decision is entered by the Court against the Organization and its officials.”

On Friday, the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office expressed its agreement with the U.N. in a letter to the Manhattan federal judge presiding over the case. The letter says the U.N. enjoys absolute immunity that hasn’t been waived.

“[B]ecause the U.N. has not waived its immunity in this case, the U.N., including [the U.N. Stabilization Mission In Haiti], enjoys absolute immunity from suit, and this action should be dismissed as against the UN for lack of subject matter jurisdiction,” the U.S. attorney’s office wrote.

The plaintiffs say the U.N. has “well-established legal obligations,” citing a 2004 “stabilization agreement with Haiti” that they say explicitly waives sovereign immunity.

They are asking a U.S. district judge to order the U.N. to set up a claims commission that would compensate victims and pay for water and sanitation improvements. “We’re asking for some modest compensation,” Stanley Alpert, an attorney for the plaintiffs and former federal prosecutor, told Law Blog. “Nobody is talking about American-style punitive damages.”

 

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Haiti Needs Better Sanitation Infrastructure NOW

March 13, 2014 - 07:40

Bayakou in Haiti have a tough job–cleaning out the human waste from latrines and cesspools at night, when nobody can see them. But this job is crucial given Haiti’s lack of sanitation infrastructure. Despite the economic and health (i.e. eradicating cholera) benefits of improving it, the international community has done little to help Haiti take the necessary steps.

HAITI’S SHADOW SANITATION SYSTEM

Jonathan M. Katz, The New Yorker
March 12, 2014

Russell Leon works under the cover of darkness as part of a small crew sworn to secrecy. He is a bayakou, a manual laborer who empties the cesspools that collect deep bogs of human waste under Haiti’s back-yard latrines. In a country with no working sewers and roads that are often too ramshackle for tanker trucks, he is the sanitation infrastructure, charged with climbing down into concrete or earthen holes and scooping out the ordure with a plastic bucket.

On the streets of Port-au-Prince, “bayakou” is often used as a hateful slur. Public scorn forbayakou is so acute that some never tell their wives what they do for a living; contacting a man like Leon, therefore, often requires navigating the webs of middlemen that obscure his identity. But bayakou fill one of Haiti’s most important roles, separating citizens from their own waste. They have only become more crucial to public health in recent years, as Haiti grapples with the world’s most serious ongoing cholera epidemic, which began, some scientists believe, when a battalion of United Nations peacekeepers from Nepal spilled its infected feces into the country’s most important river system. U.N. officials initially denied responsibility for the epidemic. Even as evidence has mounted for its culpability, the organization has refused to comment on the outbreak’s cause, because “consideration of these claims would necessarily include a review of political and policy matters.”

Cholera likely originated in India, and first swept across Europe and the United States in the late eighteen-twenties and early eighteen-thirties. It is caused by a waterborne microbe that can dehydrate and kill a healthy adult in hours by inducing vomiting and diarrhea. The discovery, in 1854, that a cholera outbreak in London was caused by a cesspool leaking into a water pump contributed to the development of modern epidemiology and the modern municipal sewer. Until then, jobs like Leon’s had been common in Europe and North America: the night-soil men of Victorian London had commanded double the average skilled laborer’s wage for their services while, in tenement-era New York City, cesspools were manually emptied by “necessary tubmen.” Though investment in sewer systems has eliminated both manual sanitation and cholera in areas that have benefited from global trade, the job and the disease are both common among the third of the world’s population that still lacks adequate sanitation.

The only way to end Haiti’s cholera epidemic is to keep infected waste out of food and water. A subterranean network of pipes, pumping stations, and waste-treatment plants would be the ideal solution, but Haiti’s successive governments have had too little money, power, or will to build massive public works on their own. The $1.4 billion that New York City set aside to maintain and operate its sanitation system this year is equal to more than half the entire national budget of Haiti. International donors have been little help: in one case, the U.S. government, to protest the way an election was conducted, withheld funds to build water and sanitation infrastructure in northern Haiti for more than ten years. From 1990 to 2008, the proportion of Haitians with access to basic sanitation decreased from twenty-six per cent to seventeen per cent. Cholera broke out in 2010. Four years into the epidemic, a trip to the bathroom, for most Haitians, still means looking for an open field or wading into a public canal at dawn. Those who can afford to do so dig cesspools under outhouses. When the cesspools get full, it’s time to call a man like Leon.

The job is as simple as it is foul. “Somebody has to climb down the toilet hole with a bucket, and somebody has to be up top to pull the bucket up, you understand?” Leon said. There are three people in his crew: two subordinates—a bucket man and a man with the wheelbarrow to cart off the waste—and the boss, who goes down the hole.

Leon is the boss. He is fifty-four, with a worn, crevice-filled face, and he speaks in Creole, holding onto his vowels in the singsong manner typical of the Haitian countryside. He wore a clean polo shirt with mustard yellow stripes, black pants, and a pair of beat-up sneakers without socks. Leon grew up in a poor cattle-raising family in Haiti’s rural southwest. As a young man, he joined the Tonton Macoutes, Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier’s secret police force, which tortured and disappeared thousands of Haitians. When Duvalier fled the country, in 1986, Leon burned his denim uniform and went underground, eventually following a tide of rural migrants to the capital. There, desperate for work, he met a master bayakou, who showed him the rudiments: how to pour a bottle of lavender-scented floor cleaner into the pit to soften excrement and cut the smell, and how to find a good spot nearby to dump, burn, or bury the excreta.

Leon explained how he does his job: after the floor-cleaning solvent has soaked its way into the cesspool, he kicks off his shoes and removes his pants and shirt. To avoid ruining his clothes, he prefers to work naked—“the way I came out my mother.” He climbs into the hole carefully. This is the dangerous part, because careless clients often throw trash into their latrines. A single cut from a broken bottle can mean infection, even death. If he does get cut, Leon uses a candle to cauterize the skin. Then he gets back to work. There is no time to lose: to remain unseen, the crew will leave when dawn comes and return the next night to finish. Haitian sanitation expertssay that a bayakou team can empty a fifty-cubic-metre cesspool, roughly the size of a thirteen-by-thirteen-foot room, in two to three nights.

Because the bayakou work unseen, Haitian folklore sometimes invests them with a kind of mystical power. For Leon, though, the work is all about the money. Bayakou make at least thirty dollars per latrine, according to some estimates—the equivalent of a month’s salary sewing Hanes T-shirts in a Port-au-Prince garment factory. Leon said that he can get six hundred dollars for a three-day job.

Building a nationwide water and sanitation infrastructure would cost $1.6 billion, Pedro Medrano Rojas, the new U.N. senior coordinator for cholera response in Haiti, told me. There is a strong economic argument for meeting that cost: studies have shown that spending on sanitation infrastructure can yield a fivefold return on investment, while inadequate sanitation can sap as much as seven per cent of G.D.P. per year. But Haiti certainly can’t afford to undertake such projects, and the international community seems unwilling to help. A year ago, the U.N. issued a $2.27 billion request for cholera eradication in Haiti. So far, member states and multilateral organizations have disbursed just a hundred and eighty million dollars, Rojas told me.

Philanthropists prefer small-scale, privatizable projects: in 2012, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation held a contest to redesign toilets for developing countries. First prize went to a solar-powered, electricity-generating design from Caltech with a price tag of about a thousand dollars per toilet. Boston’s MASS Design firm has won acclaim for planning a Haitian cholera clinic that doubles as a waste-treatment site. (Cost: four hundred and fifty thousand dollars per facility.) The firm’s founders told me that their design is only a medium-term solution, a stop-gap until a subterranean waste infrastructure can be built “in the next fifteen to twenty years.”

The Haitians who will die in the continuing epidemic won’t be able to wait that long. Since the outbreak began, in October, 2010, eighty-five hundred people have died and seven hundred thousand have been infected. At least a dozen new cases come to light each week, and the disease has spread beyond Haiti’s borders, killing hundreds as far away as Mexico.

Many advocates argue that the billions in needed investments must be made now, and that they should be made through the United Nations. Last year, lawyers representing five relatives of Haitian cholera victims filed a class-action lawsuit against the organization in U.S. district court, in Manhattan. On March 7th, the Justice Department recommended that the judge dismiss the suit, citing the U.N.’s absolute “immunity from every form of legal process.” The judge’s final decision is pending; other lawyers say that they are filing two additional, separate U.S. federal lawsuits for cholera relief against the U.N. The U.N. has not officially commented on the allegations in any of the lawsuits, other than to maintain its legal immunity.

Without outside help, there is little chance that sanitation in Haiti will improve. The country’s newly formed National Directorate for Potable Water and Sanitation, or DINEPA, which opened its doors in 2009, has just nine staffers to oversee sanitation for a nation of ten million. International aid did help to open two new waste-treatment plants north of Port-au-Prince, but one of them closed last year, owing to a lack of funds; the other is operating below capacity.

Most bayakou continue dumping their waste wherever it’s convenient: on the ground, in ravines, or even in rivers. DINEPA and some aid groups have resolved to work with bayakou by hiring them directly, or by creating a regulatory system to oversee their work, reasoning that any useful program will have to build on the imperfect systems that Haiti already has. If Haiti ever does get the kind of sanitation infrastructure that it needs, Leon could be out of a job. He isn’t concerned. There will always be waste, he said. “There will always be a bayakou.”

Jonathan M. Katz is a writer based in Durham, North Carolina, and the author of “The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster.”

Photograph by Ramon Espinosa/AP.

 

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Les avocats de Duvalier contestent la décision de la cour d’appel

March 12, 2014 - 10:55

Les avocats de Jean-Claude Duvalier sont mécontents de la décision de la cour d’appel le concernant. Ils disent que la decision est un complot contre Duvalier et que les juges n’étaient pas impartiaux.

Les avocats de Duvalier rejettent l’arrêt de la cour d’appel Monstruosité juridique, mascarade judiciaire, violation du droit haïtien, tels sont les différents qualificatifs utilisés par les avocats de l’ancien dictateur Jean-Claude Duvalier, mardi, pour parler de l’arrêt de la cour d’appel autorisant les poursuites contre Duvalier. Les avocats, ayant signifié une requête de renvoi pour cause de suspicion à la cour d’appel, entendent saisir la Cour de cassation. Une nouvelle page dans ce qui devient une saga judiciaire.

Louis-Joseph Olivier, Le Nouvelliste
11 mars 2014

Quelques semaines après le verdict de la cour d’appel ordonnant les
poursuites contre l’ancien dictateur Jean-Claude Duvalier, les avocats de
l’ancien président à vie sont montés au créneau et rejettent d’un revers de
main cette décision. « C’est un complot contre la personne du président
Jean-Claude Duvalier. Cet arrêt n’a absolument rien à voir avec le droit
haïtien », a déclaré Me Reynold Georges, avocat de l’ancien dictateur, qui
soutient que la cour d’appel a violé tous les principes de droit en prenant cet
arrêt.

Avant de rencontrer la presse, le cabinet de maître Reynold Georges avait
déposé à la cour d’appel une requête en renvoi pour cause de suspicion
légitime. Dans cette requête, les avocats de Duvalier mettent en question la
partialité des juges de la cour d’appel dans le cadre de cette affaire. Sur ce
point, ils critiquent surtout la désignation du juge Durin Duret Jr pour diriger
un supplément d’instruction alors que celui-ci aurait déjà pris position sur l’affaire.

« Le supplément d’information désiré et ordonné n’est qu’une manoeuvre
pour masquer la décision qu’ils auront à prendre contre le sieur Jean-Claude
Duvalier comme ils l’ont déjà démontré dans leur oeuvre, par le fait de
désigner un juge de cette composition, Durin Duret Jr, pour faire ce
supplément d’instruction dont la conviction est faite pour avoir interrogé les
parties au procès, lu l’arrêt avec les deux autres membres de la composition,
rejeté les questions les plus pertinentes des avocats requérants et décidé
conjointement, ce qui est un acte contraire au principe d’équité et
d’impartialité ; que le juge d’instruction instruit avant tout à charge et à
décharge », soutiennent les avocats de l’ancien dictateur dans la requête
adressée à la cour d’appel mardi matin.

Les avocats déclarent avoir reçu le soutien de plusieurs autres membres du
barreau de Port-au-Prince qui ont décidé volontairement d’apporter leur
soutien à la cause de l’ancien dictateur. Dans la salle du Ritz Kinam où ils
intervenaient, on pouvait noter la présence de plusieurs hommes de loi, dont
Gérard Gourgue et Osner Févry. Ce dernier a particulièrement appuyé la
position des avocats de Jean-Claude Duvalier qu’il estime être du côté du
droit. Des sympathisants et des étudiants de l’école de droits des Gonaïves
parrainés par l’ancien dictateur étaient présents aussi dans la salle.

Sur l’accusation de crime contre l’humanité retenue par la cour d’appel, qui
évoque la coutume internationale, les avocats de Jean-Claude Duvalier,
soutiennent que le terme n’est pas reconnu par le droit haïtien. Maître Frizto
Canton, l’un des avocats de Duvalier, s’en est particulièrement pris aux juges
de la cour d’appel sur le point concernant les crimes contre l’humanité. « Que
les juges de la cour d’appel me disent ici, quelle loi de la République traite de
la notion de crime contre l’humanité. Qu’un juge me donne la preuve d’une
convention portant sur le crime contre l’humanité qui a été signé par Haïti et
ratifié par le Parlement haïtien pour lui permettre d’entrer dans
l’ordonnancement juridique interne », a-t-il martelé, ajoutant que la
coutume internationale ne saurait remplacer les lois internes du pays.

L’avocat, très amer, a évoqué l’article 276 et suivant de la Constitution
haïtienne soutenant que « toute règle internationale, toute convention,
accord, sous quelque forme que ce soit, avant d’entrer dans le droit interne
doit être sanctionné ou ratifié. «Nous ne disposons ici d’aucune convention
ratifiée portant sur les crimes contre l’humanité. En ce sens, je crois que les
juges devraient aller réviser leurs copies, si ce n’est pas la malveillance qui a
guidé leur esprit », a-t-il indiqué.

Les avocats, qui n’excluent pas que des crimes ont eu lieu sous la présidence
de Jean-Claude Duvalier, se sont montrés plutôt hostiles aux procédures
utilisées par les tribunaux et continuent de défendre le principe de la
prescription prévu par la loi dans certains cas. « Les crimes sont réprimés
par des lois, et les lois attribuent un délai pour porter plainte. Une fois ce délai passé, vous n’avez plus rien à dire », a argumenté Me Reynold Georges.

Les avocats de Jean-Claude Duvalier promettent de porter l’affaire pardevant la Cour de cassation et affirment avoir « récusé les juges de la cour d’appel pour la partialité qu’ils montrent dans le traitement de ce dossier ». « Nous sommes déterminés à aller jusqu’au bout avec eux. Nous allons nous battre contre eux », a soutenu l’avocat Alix Aurélien Jeanty, traitant de monstruosité juridique l’arrêt de la cour d’appel.

 

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Une autre plainte contre l’ONU pour le choléra

March 12, 2014 - 08:56

Un autre groupe a déposé une plainte contre l’ONU pour l’épidémie de choléra en Haïti.

1500 Haïtiens poursuivent l’ONU

Associated Press, Radio Television Caraibes
12 mars 2014

NEW YORK, États-Unis – Une nouvelle poursuite a été déposée par 1500 Haïtiens contre les Nations unies, en lien avec une épidémie de choléra qui a fait des milliers de morts dans l’île des Caraïbes.

La poursuite a été présentée mardi devant un tribunal fédéral de Brooklyn. Elle réclame une compensation pour les morts et les maladies ainsi que du financement pour assurer l’approvisionnement en eau potable d’Haïti, qui a été dévastée par un tremblement de terre en 2010.

Des études scientifiques ont démontré que l’épidémie de choléra a probablement été causée par des Casques bleus provenant du Népal, où la maladie est endémique.

Le nouvelle poursuite demande aussi au tribunal de statuer que l’ONU ne jouit d’aucune immunité.

Une autre poursuite déposée en octobre devant un tribunal fédéral de Manhattan citait des données de l’Organisation mondiale de la Santé selon qui le choléra avait infecté près de 700 000 Haïtiens et fait 8400 victimes en date du 23 décembre.

L’ONU a défendu son intervention en Haïti.

 

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Another Cholera Lawsuit Against the UN

March 12, 2014 - 08:37

A second group has filed a lawsuit against the United Nations for bringing cholera to Haiti. Their class action suit, filed March 11, 2014, represents 1500 cholera victims and also seeks UN accountability, compensation for the victims, and sanitation infrastructure.

Haiti cholera victims file new lawsuit against UN

AFP
March 12, 2014

Washington — Victims of Haiti’s deadly post-earthquake cholera epidemic filed a new lawsuit Tuesday against the United Nations in US federal court, demanding compensation over the organization’s alleged responsibility for the outbreak.

The class-action suit — representing some 1,500 victims — is the “the largest lawsuit against the UN regarding the outbreak to date,” plaintiffs’ representatives said in a statement.

“The lawsuit seeks to force the UN to take responsibility, compensate victims, and bring critical sanitation to the devastated Haitian communities the UN was sworn to protect,” it said.

The suit was filed at a federal court in Brooklyn, in New York.

There had been no cholera in Haiti for at least 150 years until it was allegedly introduced to the Caribbean nation by Nepalese UN peacekeepers sent there in the wake of the devastating earthquake in January 2010.

According to the plaintiffs, who include several New Yorkers and US citizens who lost members of their family, the epidemic has “killed approximately 9,000 and sickened 700,000 and counting” since it broke out in 2010.

The source of the cholera epidemic was traced to a river that runs next to a UN camp in the central town of Mirebalais, where Nepalese troops had been based.

The strain of cholera is the same as one endemic in Nepal.

But the United Nations has so far refused to officially recognize responsibility for the outbreak, arguing it is impossible to concretely determine its origin and noting it is immune from prosecution in the United States.

On October 9, a group of five Haitian victims of the epidemic filed a first lawsuit against the United Nations in US federal court in New York.

A study by Yale University last August had found the peacekeepers responsible for sparking the epidemic. An earlier study in 2011 came to the same conclusion.

However, on Friday, the US State Department said the United Nations and its mission in Haiti “are immune from suit in this case.”

The cholera epidemic has yet to be brought under control: In 2013 alone some 65,000 cases and 55 deaths were recorded, in addition to cases in neighboring countries including the Dominican Republic, Cuba and most recently, Mexico.

 

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Did International Community Stage “Silent Coup” Against Preval?

March 12, 2014 - 07:21

An interview with former Organization of American States diplomat Ricardo Seitenfus, on his new book. The book speaks of NGOs’ and the United Nations’ often-toxic relationship with Haiti and an alleged “silent coup” by the international community against former president Rene Preval.

Interview: Former OAS Diplomat Exposes the Crimes of the “International Community” in Haiti

Georgianne Nienaber and Dan Beeton, Haiti Liberte
between March 5 and 11, 2014

In his new book, Ricardo Seitenfus writes about the “electoral coup” which brought President Martelly to power, the UN’s “genocide by negligence” through importing cholera, and Venezuela’s “new paradigm” with PetroCaribe

(First of two parts)*

The title of Brazilian professor Ricardo Seitenfus’ book, HAITI: Dilemas e Fracassos Internacionais(“International Crossroads and Failures in Haiti,” published in Brazil by the Editora Unijui – Universite de Ijui– in the series Globalization and International Relations) appropriately opens with a reference to existentialist philosopher Albert Camus.

Camus’ third great novel, The Fall, is a work of fiction in which the author makes the case that every living person is responsible for any atrocity that can be quantified or named. In the case of Haiti, the January 2010 earthquake set the final stage for what amounted to what Seitenfus says is an “international embezzlement” of the country.

The tragedy began over 200 years ago in 1804, when Haiti committed what Seitenfus terms an “original sin,” a crime of lèse-majesté for a troubled world: it became the first (and only) independent nation to emerge from a slave rebellion. “The Haitian revolutionary model scared the colonialist and racist Great Powers,” Seitenfus writes. The U.S. only recognized Haiti’s independence in 1862, just before it abolished its own slavery system, and France demanded heavy financial compensation from the new republic as a condition of its honoring Haiti’s nationhood. Haiti has been isolated and manipulated on the international scene ever since, its people “prisoners on their own island.”

To understand Seitenfus’ journey into the theater of the absurd, it is necessary to revisit the months after the 2010 Haiti earthquake. As the Organization of American States’ (OAS) Special Representative in Haiti, Seitenfus lost his job in December 2010 after an interview in which he sharply criticized the role of the United Nations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the devastated country. But it appears that the author also had insider information about international plans for a “silent coup d’etat,” electoral interference and more.

On the Ground in Haiti: October-December 2010

It was not yet one year since a 7.0 magnitude earthquake killed 220,000 or more, left infrastructure in chaos, and 1.5 million people homeless. Accusations were rampant in October international press reports that the United Nations mission to Haiti (MINUSTAH) had introduced cholera into Haiti’s river system. As of Feb. 9, 2014, 699,244 people contracted cholera and 8,549 have died.

Ground zero for the outbreak was negligent sewage disposal at the Nepalese Mirebalais MINUSTAH camp. The malfeasance was first documented by the Associated Press and ultimately provided crucial proof of the U.N.’s guilt. Thousands were infected and the number of dead rose exponentially. On Nov. 28, the national election was contested in what can only be termed an electoral crisis. Hundreds of thousands of voters were either shut out of the electoral process or boycotted the vote after the most popular party in the country — Fanmi Lavalas — was again banned from competing. Many of those displaced by the earthquake were not allowed to vote, and in the end less than 23% of registered voters had their vote counted.

Eyewitness testimony on election day reported numerous electoral violations: ballot stuffing, tearing up of ballots, intimidation and fraud. Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council , responsible for overseeing elections, announced that former first lady Mirlande Manigat won but lacked the margin of victory needed to avoid a runoff. An OAS “experts” mission was dispatched to examine the results. Even though it was indeterminate that he should advance, due to the OAS’ intervention, candidate and pop musician Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly was selected to compete in the runoff instead of the governing party’s candidate Jude Célestin.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) subsequently released a report showing that there were so many problems with the election tallies that the OAS’ conclusions represented a political, rather than an electoral decision.

CEPR reported that for some 1,326 voting booths, or 11.9% of the total, tally sheets were either never received by the CEP, or were quarantined for irregularities. This corresponded to about 12.7% of the vote not being counted and not included in the final totals that were released by the CEP on Dec. 7, 2010 and reported by the press. CEPR also noted that in its review of the tally sheets, the OAS Mission chose to examine only a portion, and that those it discarded were from disproportionately pro-Célestin areas. Nor did the OAS mission use any statistical inference to estimate what might have resulted had it examined the other 92% of tally sheets that it did not examine.

The runoff was finally scheduled for Mar. 20, 2011 and Martelly was declared the winner with 67.6% of the vote versus Manigat’s 31.5%. Turnout was so low that Martelly was declared president-elect after receiving the votes of less than 17% of the electorate in the second round.

Into the fray stepped Brazilian professor Ricardo Seitenfus. Seitenfus, a respected scholar, made statements to Swiss newspaperLe Temps criticizing international meddling in Haiti in general and by MINUSTAH and NGOs in particular. He was abruptly ousted on Christmas Day. The press was equivocal on whether Seitenfus was fired or forced to take a two-month “vacation” before his tenure ended in March 2011.

Was Seitenfus let go for citing a “maléfique ou perverse” (evil or perverse) relationship between the government of Haiti and NGOs operating amidst fraud and waste; his accusations about the cholera cover-up; or more troubling, knowledge of a silent coup being orchestrated against then-President Rene Préval by a secret “Core Group?” Was he silenced because of his knowledge of covert meetings between the then Special Representative of the Secretary-General and MINUSTAH chief Edmond Mulet, then U.S Ambassador Kenneth Merten, and then-Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive?

Seitenfus’ passionate accounting of the events in the year after the January 2010 earthquake reveals a man seemingly at odds with his internal moral compass and what he describes as “the black hole of western consciousness” in relations between Haiti and the international community of donor nations. This is a book written by a man enthralled by the beauty and promise of Haiti. It is also a book written by a professor serving as a diplomat struggling to be a whistleblower in the absurd and troubling world of international diplomacy.

 

Q: You write about international collusion in plans for a “silent coup.” Why wait until now to name the perpetrators? Does the fact that Mulet, Bellerive and Merten have all moved on from their offices have anything to do with your timing? You state emphatically that you opposed the coup plans.

RS: No. It is not true that I kept quiet. I gave various interviews to the Brazilian and international press, in late December 2010 and early January 2011, mentioning this and other episodes. See, for example, the BBC and AlJazeera.

The problem is that the international press was manipulated during the electoral crisis and never had an interest in doing investigative journalism. In the interviews that I gave, and especially in my book (“International Crossroads and Failures in Haiti”), soon to be published in Brazil and other countries, I describe the electoral coup in great detail.

Furthermore, the vast majority of the elements I reveal, I discovered in a scientific research project over the past three years. Many questions were hanging in the air, without adequate answers. I believe I managed to connect the different views and actors, providing the reader a logical and consistent interpretation about what happened. We are dealing with a work that is required by the historical memory, without any shadow of revenge or settling of scores.

Q: Were you the background press source on early reports of the cholera epidemic being caused by MINUSTAH in October 2010? You write about the “shameless” attitude of the United Nations (including Edmond Mulet and Ban Ki-moon) and ambassadors of the so-called “friends of Haiti;” countries that refused to take responsibility after MINUSTAH introduced cholera to Haiti. You say that this “transforms this peace mission into one of the worst in the history of the United Nations.” Would you be willing to testify in the current class action lawsuit, filed in a U.S. federal court, accusing the U.N. of gross negligence and misconduct on behalf of cholera victims in Haiti?

RS: There is no doubt that the fact that the United Nations — especially Edmond Mulet and Ban Ki-moon — systematically denied its direct and scientifically-verified responsibility for the introduction of the Vibrio cholera into Haiti, projects a lasting shadow over that peace operation. What is shocking is not MINUSTAH’s carelessness and negligence. What is shocking is the lie, turned into strategy, by the international community. The connivance of the alleged “Group of Friends of Haiti” (integrated at first by Argentina, the Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Chile, the United States, Guatemala, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, as well as Germany, France, Spain and Norway, in their role as Permanent Observers before the OAS) in this genocide by negligence, constitutes an embarrassment that will forever mark their relations with Haiti.

Even former President Clinton, in a visit in early March 2012 to a hospital in the central region of Haiti, publicly admitted that “I don’t know that the person who introduced cholera in Haiti, the U.N. peacekeeper, or [U.N.] soldier from South Asia, was aware that he was carrying the virus. It was the proximate cause of cholera. That is, he was carrying the cholera strain. It came from his waste stream into the waterways of Haiti, into the bodies of Haitians.” [1]

Although soon after he stated that the absence of a sanitation system in Haiti propagated the epidemic, these statements by the Special Envoy of the U.N. Secretary General for Haiti represent the first major fissure in the denial strategy of the crime committed by the United Nations.

Currently, the United Nations hides behind the immunity clause conferred by the Jul. 9, 2004 agreement signed with Haiti legalizing MINUSTAH’s existence. Now, this agreement is void, since it was not signed, as provided in the Haitian Constitution (Article 139), by the Acting President of Haiti, Boniface Alexandre, but by the PM [Prime Minister] Gerard Latortue. According to the 1969 and 1986 Vienna Conventions on the Law of Treaties, any treaty signed by someone who lacks jus tractum — that is, treaty making power — is null and considered ineffective.

As with any legal action, without validity it has no [legal] effect. The existence of a lack of consent — whether due to the inability of state representatives to conclude a treaty or to an imperfect ratification — results in the absolute voiding of the action (Vienna Convention, Article 46, paragraph 1).

With the contempt for Haitian constitutional rites and for the legal principles that govern the Law of Treaties, the United Nations demonstrated, once again, the constant levity with which it treats Haitian matters. Responsible for establishing the rule of law in the country, according to its own mission, the UN does not follow even its own fundamental provisions, thus making the text that it supports and that should legalize its actions in Haiti void and ineffective.

Therefore, the UN’s last recourse in trying to deny its responsibility for introducing cholera in Haiti can be easily circumvented, since MINUSTAH’s very existence is plagued with illegalities.

Clearly, I am and will always be available to any judicial power that deals with this case. Even federal courts in the United States. If asked, I will testify, with the goal of contributing to establish the truth of the facts and the search for justice.

Q: Were you threatened in any way prior to your departure from Haiti? Since you were effectively fired, why not name names and discuss the actions of the “Core Group” in 2010?

RS: As a coordination agency for the main foreign actors (states and international organizations) in Haiti, a limited Core Group (which includes Brazil, Canada, Spain, the United States, France, the UN, the OAS and the European Union) is an indispensable and fundamental instrument in the relations between the international community and the Haitian government. It is not about questioning its existence. What I was able to verify was that on [election day] Nov. 28, 2010, in the absence of any discussion or decision about the matter, [then head of MINUSTAH] Edmond Mulet, speaking on behalf of the Core Group, tried to remove [then president of Haiti] René Préval from power and to send him into exile. Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince published a press release at 9 p.m. the same day dismissing the voting results and imposing its position on the whole Core Group. Still, the majority of the decisions in which I participated as representative to the OAS in the Core Group during the years 2009 and 2010 were sensible and important.

Q: You write about the “maléfique ou perverse” (evil or perverse) relationship between NGOs and Haiti. In your view, has this problem become institutionalized? You said some of the NGOs exist only because of Haitian misfortune?

RS: There is a will — deliberate or tacit — by the international community to bypass the Haitian institutions and to give preference to Transnational Non-Governmental Organizations (TNGOs). [2] Their overwhelming invasion following the earthquake reached levels never before imagined. [Then] U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, herself pointed out in an interview some months after the earthquake that more than 10,000 TNGOs were operating in Haiti. This means that there was an increase in their presence of over 4,000% in the course of a short period of time. This NGOization turns Haiti into what many have called a true “Republic of the TNGOs.”

In the face of a weakened state and one that was almost destroyed by the earthquake, the emergency aid apparatus had no option but to directly confront reality. Direct connections were established with the victims and even those in charge of the UN system in Haiti were not taken into account. A true pandemonium came into being in which everyone decided on his own what to do, and when and how to do it.

An optimistic and official report, presented by Ban Ki-moon to the UN Security Council in October 2012, recognizes that of the alleged US$ 5.78 billion in contributions made over the 2010-2012 period by bilateral and multilateral donors, a little less than 10% (US$ 556 million) was given to the Haitian government. It is worth mentioning that the governments of the donor states use both private donations and public resources to cover the spending of their own interventions in Haiti. As such, for example, more than US$ 200 million in private donations from U.S. citizens served to finance the transportation and stay of U.S. soldiers in Haiti soon after the earthquake.

Traditionally in Haiti, the “goods” such as hospitals, schools and humanitarian aid are delivered by the private sector, while the “bads” — that is, police enforcement — is the state’s responsibility. The earthquake further deepened this terrible dichotomy.

The circle was closed with the ideological discourse to justify this way of proceeding. According to this [discourse], the transfer of resources is done through the TNGOs for the simple reason that the Haitian state suffers from total and permanent corruption. Sometimes, the lack of managerial capacity is cited. Therefore, there is nothing more logical than to bypass public authorities without even thinking that without a structured and effective state, no human society has managed to develop.

The former Governor General of Canada, Michäelle Jean — of Haitian origin — is one of the rare voices in the international community to propose a complete change of strategy. To her,

“Charity comes from the heart, but sometimes, when it’s poorly organized, it contributes more to the problems than to the solutions. Haiti is among the countries that’s been transformed into a vast laboratory of all the experiments, all the tests, and all the errors of the international aid system; of the faulty strategies that have never generated results, that have never produced or achieved anything that’s really sustainable despite the millions of dollars amassed in total disorder, without long term vision and in a completely scattered fashion.” [3]

Certainly, direct financial cooperation with a state that has a lack of administrative capacity increases the risk that resources will be misused. However, there is no other solution: either the public management capacity of the Haitian state is strengthened or we will keep plowing the sea.

Unfortunately, the international community prefers to continue with the strategy that has already proved to be thoroughly inefficient. It not only impedes financial transfers to Haitian institutions, but it also tries to force them to channel their own meager resources to be administrated by international organizations. There was, for example, an attempt to transfer the PetroCaribe fund resources for Haiti to the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission. The determined resistance by Préval and Bellerive terminated this move. Nonetheless, in every election campaign, the donor countries insist on having the resources of the Haitian treasury be administered by the UN Development Program (UNDP). Therefore, the strategy of the international community not only impedes institutional strengthening, but it also takes away from the Haitian state the little financial autonomy that it possesses.

The model imposed on Haiti since 2004 has two elements. On the one hand, there is the military presence through MINUSTAH, and on the other the civil presence in the form of the TNGOs and the alleged private development corporations. Added to these are the bilateral strategies of the member states in the so-called Group of Friends of Haiti. In interpreting the popular sentiment, it is impossible to disagree with these words by Liliane Pierre-Paul:

“The great majority of Haitians weren’t mistaken and the promises ultimately did nothing to change the disastrous perception of an international community that was bureaucratic, condescending, wasteful, inefficient, and lacking in soul, modesty and creativity.” [4]

As long as this model is not significantly revamped there will be no solution. Social vulnerability and the precariousness of the state continue to be major Haitian characteristics. With the model applied by the international community through the UN system, the TNGOs and the United States, we are deceiving ourselves, misleading world public opinion and frustrating the Haitian people.

Q: What are your thoughts on the amount of agricultural land taken out of production to make way for the Caracol Industrial Park, a $300 million public-private partnership among a diverse set of stakeholders??

RS: Caracol symbolizes a development policy far more than any loss of mainly agricultural lands. It so happens that the Caracol model was used during the dictatorship of Jean-Claude Duvalier and its results are known to everyone. As a complement to agricultural production, Caracol is acceptable. Nonetheless, to want to turn Haiti into a “Taiwan of the Caribbean” [5] is to completely disregard the social, anthropological, historical and economic characteristics of the country.

Q: You write that Venezuela’s PetroCaribe initiative was a key motive for the U.S. government’s turn against Préval. Why then do you think the U.S. and the OAS wanted a candidate – Michel Martelly – in the second round of elections who would ultimately be even friendlier with Venezuela? Do you think Martelly’s relations with Venezuela might pose a threat to him as well?

RS: Compared to the alleged development cooperation model imposed by the international community on Haiti, Cuba and Venezuela follow absolutely opposite paths. Whatever our opinion about the domestic policies of these countries, it cannot be denied that their form of cooperation takes into account more the demands and needs expressed by Haitians themselves. Cuba — lacking financial resources and rich in human resources –since 1998 has implemented a local family health and medicine program that reaches the most remote places in Haiti. Cuban medical diplomacy directly benefits the most humble of the Haitian people and attempts to compensate for the brain drain in the health sector promoted by certain western countries, particularly Canada.

In turn, although recent, the Venezuelan development cooperation offered to Haiti asserts itself as a new paradigm in the Caribbean Basin. It is sustained through the following trilogy: on the one hand, Caracas listens to the Haitian claims and strives to make its offers and possibilities compatible with these demands. On the other, nothing is carried out without the knowledge and previous consent of the public institutions and the Haitian government. Finally, the cooperation aims to bring direct benefits to the Haitian people without taking into consideration any ideological discrepancy there may be with the incumbent government in Haiti. This is a principle equally espoused by Cuba and it explains not only the absence of any interference by the two countries during the election crisis of 2010, but also the excellent relations maintained, both by Havana and Caracas, with the Martelly administration.

The PetroCaribe program is the crown jewel of Haitian-Venezuelan cooperation. Everything is put into it. Everything depends on it. In the face of a true boycott of Haitian public power promoted by the so-called Group of Friends of Haiti, the resources made available by the PetroCaribe program represented, in 2013, 94% of the investment capacity of the Haitian state. [6]

Most of the beneficiary countries — as with Haiti — do not include the resources from the PetroCaribe program in the national budget, preventing legal and accounting oversight. This situation generates distrust and criticism, both domestic and foreign, due to the lack of transparency in using them.

Far beyond its results, the philosophy on which the Venezuelan cooperation is based contrasts with that of the developed countries. The energetic Pedro Antonio Canino Gonzalez, Venezuelan ambassador in Port-au-Prince since 2007, highlights the principles that guide the actions of the ALBA countries in Haiti: “We did not come to carry out an electoral campaign in Haiti. Why would we make spurious commitments? Venezuela’s assistance aims to attenuate the Haitian people’s misery without any strings attached. My government isn’t even interested in the Haitian Republic’s diplomatic relations with other countries, including the U.S.. This is a prerogative of the Haitian authorities, who are free to have relations with whomever they wish.” [7]

This is the exact opposite of the long and constantly increasing list of conditionalities that characterizes the cooperation offered by the west. With disregard for national idiosyncrasies, the idea of democracy is used as a screen to camouflage their own national interests.

The United States and its allies in Haiti should pay attention to the lessons of the young Venezuelan cooperation because, in addition to respect for the public institutions of the host state, as a current Haitian leader bluntly states, ” Friendship with a country as poor and with as many needs as Haiti isn’t measured in the number of years of domination, but in how many millions are on the table. “[8]

Although the PetroCaribe program is based on an anti-imperialist and liberationist discourse to mark a break between Monroe and Bolivar, it is, in fact, a counter model to traditional development aid from the developed countries and international organizations. In the universe of the international cooperation provided to Haiti, Venezuela constitutes an exception, being the only one that provides, regularly, financial resources directly to the Haitian state. [9]

(To be continued)

* This article was originally published under the title “International Crossroads and Failures in Haiti” by the LA Progressive. Georgianne Nienaber is a freelance writer and author and frequent contributor to LA Progressive. Dan Beeton is International Communications Director at the Center for Economic and Policy Research and a frequent contributor to its “Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch” blog.

 

Click HERE for original article with notes.

Ile a Vache Residents Fight to Keep Their Island

March 11, 2014 - 07:39

When Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe and Minister of Tourism Stephanie Villedrouin started promoting tourism on Ile a Vache, they didn’t consider the farmers who live there. As the residents of the small island banded together and fought back, they began to be attacked by Haitian police and paramilitary. Children are even being kept from school due to fears of raids by armed men.

Spread the word of this injustice so that these people can be protected and keep their land and livelihood.

Land Grab at Ile a Vache: Haiti’s Peasants Fight Back

Dady Chery, News Junkie Post
March 1, 2014

Before Haiti’s Prime Minister declared all of Haiti’s offshore islands to be Zones of Tourism Development and Public Utility, he did not consult with the residents of the islands whose lands would be appropriated. Instead Mr. Laurent Lamothe went to a favorite online magazine in December 2012, to promote his plans. “[W]e have decided to take the tourism development to the island of Ile a Vache, so there we’re going to build an international airport, and then the tourism [infrastructure] to attract investors — we have several investors already…. I think Ile a Vache has great potential, and it doesn’t present the challenges for land title that you might face on the mainland.”

As Ile a Vache, a 20-square mile island off of Haiti’s southern coast was promoted to investors in Qatar, the Dominican Republic, China, the wider Caribbean, the United Kingdom, and United States as being a jewel of the Caribbean and a potential draw for eco-tourists, the residents of the island, mostly small farmers who had cultivated food crops and fished sustainably for centuries and who occupied homes that had been in their families for many generations, were ignored. The islanders’ requests for meetings with government representatives went unanswered, even while Tourism Minister Stephanie Villedrouin found ample time to report the details of the $230 million project in March 2013, once again, to a magazine.

The island’s coasts and beaches, normally used for fishing, would be appropriated for the construction of several resort hotels (about 1500 hotel rooms), plus 2500 villas and bungalows for a “laid-back, low-density eco-tourism-style development, highlighting areas like cultural heritage, agro-tourism…” Initially, an area called Anse Dufour, near the currently touristic Madame Bernard area, would be developed into the “Village of Marie Anne,” with a community center, radio station, restaurants, bars, cafes, arts and craft shops, theater, school to train hotel workers, pirate museum, health clinics and spas, heliport, villas, and bungalows. Later, there would be yet more bungalows, villas, pools, restaurants, floating bars and ports for hydroplanes. There would also be “agricultural infrastructure” to allow wealthy members of the diaspora, adventure travelers, wellness travelers, and honeymooners to learn to farm sustainably as part of their full eco-tourism experience.

By December 2013, after the island’s only forest had been razed, with assistance from the Venezuelan government, to build an airport with a 2.6-km (1.6 mile) runway, the islanders formed the Organization of Ile à Vache Farmers, or KOPI (Konbit òganizasyon peyizan Ilavach), and began to take to the streets in regular protests. The farmers refused to accept the presidential decree that had appropriated as “state assets” all properties and lands in Haiti’s offshore islands and unilaterally annulled all legal property rights that had resulted from either sales, leases, or bequests from individuals retroactively for five years.

On January 6, 2014, the residents issued a one-week ultimatum to the Haitian government, demanding that it immediately stop all plans for “tourist destination, Ile a Vache.” They were especially incensed by the fact that their need for a hospital and high school had been ignored in favor of hotel rooms and golf courses for tourists. Moreover, they noted that local masons, foremen and technicians had been rejected for construction work in favor of people from out of town. One KOPI leader reported that KOPI members had received death threats, but “even our bones will not leave Ile à Vache.”

The Minister of Tourism did visit Ile a Vache on January 16, 2014, not for a discussion but a presentation that disappointed the residents. The residents complained that Mrs. Villedrouin had merely presented them a slide show, when they had expected to examine detailed plans of the tourism project and participate in an extensive discussion of these plans.

The islanders then undertook a new series of protests in which they blocked the roads to paralyze all business activity and construction work on the island. “Ile a Vache is not for sale, not in bulk not in retail,” they chanted. Soon a group of paramilitaries appeared, who began to attack the people in advance of their protests. On the evening of February 9, 2014, for example, police beat up Charles Laguerre, Bertin Similien, and Maxo Bell and forced them to remove the barricades they had erected for their protest; the following day, they beat up a young woman, Rosena Masena, merely for walking in the area of Madame Bernard.

The protests have caused several of the companies for the tourism-development project to leave the island. On the other hand, the campaign to persecute the residents, especially the KOPI leaders has gone into full swing. On Thursday February 20, 2014 over 100 heavily-armed police from the Motorized Intervention Brigade (BIM) invaded a school and destroyed several houses. The following day, a government delegation inaugurated a new community center, restaurant and radio station even as people protested and KOPI’s Vice President (a well-known policeman on the island) Jean Matulnès Lamy was arrested.

On Tuesday February 25, 2014, despite a heavy rain, a spontaneous protest broke out when the islanders learned that Matulnès Lamy had been taken to the national penitentiary without being allowed to see a judge. A group of BIM policemen arrived at the protest, along with the local interim governor Fritz Cesar, who singled out the KOPI members for arrest. Live ammunition was fired into the crowd to break up the protest; two people were arrested and 12 were injured.

Residents are outraged by the violence that the government has brought to a bucolic agricultural island that had traditionally needed only two policemen. Children can no longer go to school because of the invasion of their school by heavily-armed police. KOPI members have gone underground and say they are being called “bandits” and accused of poisoning people’s minds.

Seventeen Haitian organizations have signed a communique to demand the release of Jean Maltunès Lamy, and pledged solidarity with the Ile à Vache residents. “We, the signatory organizations bring our solidarity to the struggle of the people of Ile a Vache to stop the island from being turned into a zone for tourism, and we denounce the arrest and imprisonment [without trial] of Jean Maltunès Lamy for having supported the mobilization of the people of the island. We denounce the attacks and other arrests by police to intimidate the population. We believe that these actions against the Ile a Vache population fit in with the logic of macoute power, at the service of the international, that does not respect the principle of the right to self preservation, which is a fundamental democratic principle.”

Senate Committee for Justice and Security Chairman, Pierre Francky Exius has qualified the arrest of Mr. Jean Maltunès Lamy as being politically motivated. Senator Exius announced on February 27, 2014 that he will call on Justice Minister Jean-Renel Sanon and the Chief of Police to discuss the Ile à Vache situation.

As Haitian businessman Antoine Izmery remarked in 1993, during a similar administration when Haiti was run by a US-controlled military junta: “This country is so corrupt that the Americans do not have to do the corruption. They let you steal your own country, just giving you a little protection.” Haitian culture and agriculture are being dismantled, not by foreign interests this time, but by corrupt Haitians, with a nod and a wink from their foreign handlers.

The people of Ile a Vache do not recognize the May 10, 2013 government decree that wants to divest them of their lands and declare the entire island a zone of public utility. KOPI President Marc Lainé Donald (Jinal) said: “This is a lousy decree. This project reflects a macabre plan, a rat trap, a collective suicide, that aims to drive all the residents from the island. It is a cultural genocide that puts everyone in the island’s storm and dispossesses people of their lands. No one has the right to build on the island any more. If Ile à Vache is a hidden treasure, its people should enjoy it and get integrated into the proposed developments. We are craftsmen who have worked to beautify this corner of paradise that is so coveted by Lamothe’s administration.”

Ile a Vache residents call on people everywhere, especially Haitians on the mainland and the diaspora, to support their struggle. They caution everyone to remember the proverb: “When chicken passes by and sees turkey being feathered, chicken should check if it is wet.”

Editor’s Notes: For frequent updates on this story, click here.  Photographs two, three, four, six, eight, ten, twelve, fourteen and fifteen by Marie Chantalle. Photographs one, five, seven, nine, eleven and thirteen, and radio reporting in Kreyol by Radyo VKM, Vwa Klodi Mizo.

 

Click HERE for original.

United States Chooses UN Immunity over Justice in Haiti Cholera Case

March 11, 2014 - 06:27

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Brian Concannon, Jr., Esq., IJDH Director, brian@ijdh.org, +1-617-652-0876 (English, French, Kreyol)

United States Chooses UN Immunity over Justice in Haiti Cholera Case

Advocates regret missed opportunity to stand up for justice

(BOSTON, March 10, 2014)—The U.S. government submitted a statement of interest late last Friday in a lawsuit seeking accountability for the United Nations’ (UN) catastrophic introduction of cholera to Haiti, arguing that the case should be dismissed because the UN is immune from suit. The epidemic has killed more than 8,500 and injured nearly 700,000 people to date.

“We are disappointed that the United States government has foregone this opportunity to stand up in support of justice for the victims,” said plaintiffs’ co-counsel and Director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), Brian Concannon, Jr. “The UN’s immunity is a two-way street. In exchange for protection from national courts, the UN has agreed to provide victims with justice through other mechanisms. It has refused to provide such a mechanism for victims of the Haiti cholera epidemic, so here immunity means a complete lack of accountability.”

The victims initially sought to resolve their claims through the UN’s internal procedures in November 2011, but the UN rejected their petitions, stating that they were “not receivable” without providing legal justification. Said plaintiffs’ co-counsel Ira Kurzban of civil rights law firm Kurzban, Kurzban, Weinger, Tetzelli & Pratt (KKWTP), “The UN’s position is based on astoundingly circular logic: ‘we can’t receive your claims because we have decided that they are not receivable, and we can’t be sued because we have decided that we can’t be sued.’ That is nothing short of operating with impunity.”

The statement of interest notes that the UN is also refusing to waive its immunity in the federal litigation. The UN itself has refused to appear in the case, choosing instead to request the U.S. government to seek dismissal of the case on the UN’s behalf. “We understand that the U.S. government believes it has an obligation to assert immunity, but there are many other ways this could have been handled that would also have respected the victims’ right to access court,” said Jeff Brand, co-counsel for the plaintiffs.

The statement from the United States comes on the heels of calls from the Haitian-American community that the U.S. government stand up for victims’ rights. The UN itself has been widely criticized for failing to respond justly to the epidemic, including in statements by the U.S. Congress and UN insiders. “Although the UN claims to be setting up a commission to address the epidemic in Haiti, this was first announced in October of last year and there are still no signs of it getting off the ground,” said Concannon.

The case, Georges et al. v. United Nations et al., was filed in the Southern District of New York in October 2013 by the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), IJDH and KKWTP on behalf of five named plaintiffs. The named plaintiffs include both Haitian and Haitian-American victims of cholera, and the lawsuit seeks to proceed as a class action on behalf of all who have been injured or killed since the disease broke out in 2010.

 

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Haiti-DR Relations Seem to be Improving

March 10, 2014 - 13:11

It seems that relations between Haiti and Dominican Republic are improving. With pressure from the international community, the two countries have held a few talks so far and DR has a naturalization plan for Dominicans of Haitian descent living there. This article also gives a brief overview of what brought Haiti-DR relations to the poor state that they are in today.

Troubled Haitian-Dominican Bilateral Relations Await Progress

Wilhelmina Agyapong*, Truthout
March 9, 2014

Recent events have demonstrated that disputatious bilateral issues between the Dominican Republic (DR) and Haiti may have (finally) taken a positive turn. A second round of talks held between the two governments was launched in Jimani, DR, this past February 3, 2014. These concluded with the decision that the DR’s Congress will commence a naturalization plan on February 27 for all Dominicans of Haitian descent living in the country. This meeting came after a series of events that had severely impacted Haiti-DR ties. These included Haiti’s existing ban on the DR’s imports of poultry and eggs on June 8, 2013; then came the first round of talks held in Ouanaminthe, Haiti on January 7, and finally a closed-door meeting in late January held during the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States’ (CELAC) Summit in Havana, Cuba.

With the recent lift of the ban on imports and the immigration consensus at the February 3 meeting, one can finally expect to see warming links between the two countries. Nevertheless, in spite of these improvements, one must understand that abysmal relations and abiding hostility between the two countries date back to the colonial era and have continued to sour relations between the two states until today.

Historical Background: A Foundation for Conflict:

From 1822-1844, Haiti occupied the entire Island of Hispaniola, which cradled the colonized societies of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. During its early history, the Dominican Republic was known as Santo Domingo and was ruled by Europeans of Spanish extraction, while Haiti was known as Saint-Domingue and was ruled by the French. [1]

According to Ernesto Sagás, the author of “Case of Mistaken Identity…” the people of Santo Domingo, mostly of Spanish Caucasian origin, saw themselves as superior in stature in comparison to the people of Santa Domingue, who were for the most part dark and of African descent. As a result, the occupation of Santo Domingo by the people of Saint-Domingue (Haitians) generated deep resentment among the Santo Domingo people (Dominicans). [2] This historical context created an abiding anti-Haitian sentiment, also known as antihaitianismo, among the residents of Santa Domingo (today, known as the DR).

This hate or distaste for Haitians reared once again in 1937, when the Dominican dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina, seven years into his 30 year dictatorship, ordered the Haitian Massacre, a policy of mass murder against Haitians residing at the time in the DR. “From late September to late October in 1937, between 9,000 to 18,000 ethnic Haitians (we will never truly know the exact number) were systematically rounded-up and killed on Dominican territory…” by Dominican security forces. [3] These executions took place on the border region, as well as eastern parts of the country such as Moca, Santiago, Puerto Plan, and San Francisco de Macorís. [4] Though Trujillo’s motives were dubious, his very specific actions materialized in a virulent form of anti-haitianism, almost serving as a state doctrine in the DR and preceded to coalesce into an ideology that eventually categorized into what it meant to be a Dominican. The Dominican government and Trujillo set the blame on farmers and never formally acknowledged or provided legitimacy for the atrocities; neither were they ever indicted by the civilized world for this inhumane behavior.

Events such as the Haitian Massacre and the racial animosity that etched into the colonial era, in addition to other baleful manifestations of that epoch, has underlined many of the recent harsh racist attitudes that existed between the two countries. These included Haiti’s ban on imported Dominican poultry and eggs and the chronic deplorable immigration policies that poisoned Haitian descendants that sought economic and political refuge in the DR.

Background on the ban of poultry and egg imports:

On January 16, news came out of Port-au-Prince that the ban on Dominican poultry and eggs, implemented on June 8, 2013, had been lifted. [5] This announcement, which was made by the DR’s Agriculture Minister, Luis Ramón Rodríguez, came right after Haiti’s Agricultural Minister, Jacques Thomas, noted the modification in Haitian legislation. [6] The ban that affected the importation of poultry and egg products into Haiti came after allegations were made that the bird flu had spread along the border between the two countries. The Dominican Republic, however, denied these allegations. The ban had been a primary cause of the deterioration of bilateral relations between the two neighboring countries.

Reverberations of Haitian Immigrants in the DR:

In addition to the ban on imports, the DR’s government has challenged the resident citizenship of Haitian immigrants in the DR and the legal status of Dominicans of Haitian descent there. The DR began to tighten its grip on the nature of Haitian immigration when an influx of islanders began pouring in over the Haitian side of the border shortly after a devastating earthquake pillaged much of the southwestern portion of Haiti near Port-au-Prince on January 12, 2010. [7] Since then, increased discriminatory acts towards Haitians living in the DR began to surface. Following the stepped-up influx of immigrants into the DR, Dominican nationals began calling for Haitians to return to their country. “The tension became pitched enough that the International Organization for Migration [IOM] offered a way out: paying Haitians $50 apiece, plus additional relocation assistance, to go home willingly. More than 1,500 Haitians have gone back through the program thus far.” [8] The IOM hoped this action would militate against an increase in violence against Haitians living in the DR. It quickly became apparent, however, that this tactic would be unsuccessful.  Hate-crimes, including an enhanced murder rate against Haitians by Dominicans increased from 2010-2013. Several cases of killings were also reported in which Dominican police officers killed Haitian civilians. As of 2013, there were 458,233 Haitians living in the DR, most of whom work in the agricultural and construction sectors and live in fear that they may be deported or subjected to the aforementioned roster of discriminatory practices. [9]

To further contribute to an already deteriorating unstable situation, the DR recently made its most sharply discriminating ruling yet. The DR government passed a law requiring deportation and the voiding of citizenship affecting all Dominicans with Haitian ancestors, who illegally immigrated to the country. According to the Center for Migrant Studies, “On September 26, 2013, the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic issued a ruling to revoke the citizenship of the children of unauthorized migrants born in the Dominican Republic since 1929.” [10] This move came as a blow to citizens who all but forgot, or had never been exposed to their Haitian ancestry.  In November of 2013, COHA’s Research Associate, Tamanisha John, gave a detailed analysis on this ruling in her article,  “The Dominican Republic-Haiti Tensions are on the Rise.” [11]

This decision not only proved to be devastating to the fates of those Dominicans of Haitian background affected by the situation, but also greatly rattled concerned organizations such as the United Nations and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) for very specific reasons. CARICOM feared that the DR was violating human rights of Haitians by rendering thousands of its citizens stateless. Still, however, lists of individuals have been taken from about sixteen thousand birth certificates and are currently being compiled for deportation in the upcoming year.

International Pressure Leads to Progress:

Shortly after the DR’s decision to deport all Dominicans of Haitian descent, CARICOM, the fifteen-member organization that includes Haiti, deferred the DR’s application to join the organization on November 26, 2013. CARICOM stated that the reason behind its decision was that the DR, through its immigration measure, left thousands of its nationals stateless and violated their human rights. [12]

Finally, a first round of talks, facilitated by Venezuelan officials and pressed on by the United Nations, the Caribbean Community and the European Union, took place between the two countries on January 7, 2014 in the town of Ouanaminthe, Haiti.[13] Later that month, the CELAC Summit emblematically established that the region of Latin America would officially be declared as an area of peace and free states. Clearly, the recurrent disputes between the DR and Haiti challenge this statement. As a result, the summit asked that the DR and Haiti hold a meeting behind closed doors during the CELAC Summit. The gathering quickly prompted five hours of harshly exchanged words between Haitian President Michel Martelly and DR President Danilo Medina. [14]

Overall, it was evident that international pressure that was inflicted upon the DR from the United Nations, CARICOM, and the CELAC Summit has led to some positive echos. After the meeting at the CELAC Summit, the two countries had agreed to a second round of talks, which were held on February 3, 2014 in the Dominican Republic’s town of Jimani. The DR established February 27, 2014, as the occasion to initiate deliberations within the DR’s congress in order to create improved conditions for the citizens of Haitian descendant dwelling within the Dominican Republic. [15]This pending law, perhaps, will provide justification for those citizens affected by deportation laws or can help legitimize their residency in the Dominican Republic. According to CARACOL.com’s recent article, “Haiti and Dominican Republic moving in immigration, police and customs matters,” “the two countries reached agreements on agriculture, police, environment, customs, and drug enforcement…” in addition to reaching a consensus on the immigration issue. [16] Moreover, efforts to strengthen bilateral trade and investments were made as businessmen from both countries assembled to formulate policies on trade and competitiveness.

What does this mean for future relations between Haiti and The Dominican Republic, and the rest of Latin America?

With the recent agreements in trade and immigration, one can only question what progress will do regarding future relations between the two disputatious neighbors. If relations improve, then the goal set forth at the CELAC gathering, which declares Latin America as a zone of peace and free states, will be fulfilled.

The pressure that has descended upon both Haiti and the Dominican Republic has forced the two countries to come to a compromise if they want to continue to participate in multilateral organizations. This especially will ring true for the Dominican Republic if that country continues its efforts to qualify for membership with CARICOM and if it wants to stay clear of being charged with human rights violations of its own from the United Nations Human rights Council.

 

Click HERE for original article, with references.

*Wilhelmina Agyapong is a Research Associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA).

US Defends UN Immunity in Cholera Case

March 10, 2014 - 08:16

The United States decided to defend the United Nations (UN) in the case that seeks UN accountability for bringing cholera to Haiti. US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Bharara, cited UN immunity in his defense of the UN.

United States Government: UN “Absolutely Immune” in Haiti Cholera Suit

Alexander Britell, Caribbean Journal
March 10, 2014

All of the defendants in the Haiti cholera lawsuit are “immune from legal process and suit,” US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara wrote in a statement of interest submitted to Federal Judge Paul Oetken on Friday.

In a blow to the suit seeking compensation for victims of cholera in Haiti, the United States government, through Bharara, said the United Nations could not be served or sued in the case.

“The UN, including its integral component, defendant the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, is absolutely immune from legal process and suit absent an express waiver, pursuant to the charter of the United Nations,” Bharara wrote. “In this case, the UN, including MINUSTAH, has not waived its immunity from legal process and suit, and instead has repeatedly and expressly asserted its absolute immunity.”

Bharara also said that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and former Undersecretary-General for MINUSTAH Edmond Mulet were “similarly immune from legal process and suit,” pursuant to the UN Charter and the Vienna Conventions.

Bharara was writing the statement of interest in response to a Feb. 7 court order concerning whether the plaintiffs had effectively served the United Nations.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs had been seeking, unsuccessfully, to officially serve the United Nations with the lawsuit, which has repeatedly ignored these attempts.

The weight of scientific evidence has concluded that cholera was brought to Haiti by United Nations peacekeepers from Nepal, with the outbreak most likely resulting from the dumping of infected sewage into the banks of the Meille Tributary.

The outbreak has killed more than 8000 people in Haiti and the disease has spread to Cuba.

In a letter in December, United States Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power similarly urged US authorities to “take appropriate action to ensure full respect for the privileges and immunities of the United Nations and its officials.”

 

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Cholera Eradication Plans Still Grossly Underfunded

March 10, 2014 - 07:35

Although the cholera epidemic UN peacekeepers brought to Haiti in 2010 continues devastating the population, many donors feel it is no longer an emergency. The $2.2 billion plan to improve water and sanitation in Haiti is vastly underfunded and the UN official in charge of cholera response is struggling to find donors.

Cholera epidemic in Haiti ‘poses major threat to Latin America and Caribbean’ UN assistant secretary general says deadly outbreak, which has been blamed on UN troops, demands decisive action

Mark Tran, The Guardian
March 7, 2014

Haitian women bathe in a stream in Port-au-Prince, where a man contracted cholera recently. Sanitation must be improved in order to eradicate the disease, the UN says. Photograph: Getty

Haiti needs a “Marshall plan” for water and sanitation to quell a cholera epidemic which poses a major threat to the Caribbean and Latin America, according to the UN assistant secretary general.

Pedro Medrano Rojas, who is co-ordinating the response in Haiti, is visiting European capitals this week to drum up support for the faltering effort to deal with an epidemic that has killed 8,540 since 2010 and infected almost 700,000 people.

Studies have shown the cholera strain was probably introduced to the country by UN troops from Nepal, who were deployed in Haiti after the January 2010 earthquake that killed more than 217,000 people.

Evidence suggests the outbreak of cholera, which is endemic in Nepal, occurred when contaminated sewage was discharged from barracks into a watercourse. Cholera is spread through infected faeces. Once it enters the water supply, it is difficult to contain, especially in a country such as Haiti, which has almost no effective sewage disposal systems.

Cholera cases had previously been rare in Haiti. Survivors of the 2010 outbreak are filing a compensation claim against the UN in a New York court, demanding that billions of dollars in damages be paid to them and the relatives of those killed. The UN maintains it has legal immunity from such compensation claims and rejected demands from affected Haitians. The case is being pursued by the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.

Medrano drew a distinction between the lawsuit and UN efforts to respond to the outbreak. “We cannot link these two things,” he said. “One is a legal case with a different path that can take years … we have to respond now.”

The first case in the current cholera epidemic was reported in October 2010; the outbreak has since become one of the worst in modern history. There were 65,000 cases last year, Medrano said. This year estimates range from 40,000 to 80,000.

“It all depends on the resources we get,” he said. “If we get them, it could be 40,000; if not, it could be 80,000 – maybe more – new cases. It is a major threat for the whole Caribbean and Latin America region.”

The 2010 earthquake wrought havoc in the already fragile country. Even before the disaster, basic sanitation coverage had decreased from 26% in 1990 to just 17% in 2008, with rural residents worst affected. Medrano said the main reason donors were not contributing more was because they did not consider the situation in Haiti to be an emergency.

As part of its anti-cholera effort, the Haitian government has set up a high-level committee chaired by the prime minister. It brings together key ministries – finance, health and public works – as well as donors and NGOs including the UN agency for children, the World Health Organisation and Médecins Sans Frontières.

Haiti has introduced a $2.2bn (£1.3bn) 10-year plan for the long-term eradication of cholera though the large-scale development of public health and sanitation services. The UN is appealing for $69m for the next two years as part of this effort. This year, it is asking for $40m, but so far the only funding committed is $6m from the UN central emergency response fund.

“This is vastly insufficient to meet urgent needs,” the UN said. “The lack of available funds today risks the departure of cholera actors, which could compromise gains attained so far and lead to resurgence in suspected cases.”

Medrano said the current dry season provided an opportunity for a sustained effort, including the vaccination of 500,000 people. Other measures include the supply of water pumps, mobile latrines, mobile health services, water purification tablets and the training of community workers to raise awareness of basic sanitation such as washing hands. But he warned that donors must act now to stem the epidemic.

“Last year was the lowest number of cases, which is a tribute to the Haitian government, but we are operating in an environment with less resources and a third fewer actors,” he said. “People wrongly feel it’s over, but this will take five to 10 years to stop. We have to respond now.”

 

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Brian Concannon, Mario Joseph Honored for Human Rights Work

March 7, 2014 - 08:54

BAI’s Mario Joseph and IJDH’s Brian Concannon have won the Salem Award for human rights, to be presented at a ceremony March 23, 2014 in Salem, MA. This article summarizes the history of Brian and Mario’s partnership, BAI/IJDH, and why the pair was nominated for this award.

Human rights lawyers will be honored for Haiti work

Staff, Boston Haitian Reporter
March 6, 2014

On Sunday, March 23rd, community activists will gather at the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem to celebrate the 22nd annual Salem Award for Human Rights and Social Justice. The award will be presented to Mario Joseph and Brian Concannon, Jr. in recognition of their work to promote human rights in Haiti.

Joseph and Concannon have been working to strengthen the rule of law in Haiti for the past two decades. Their journey began at the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), the oldest and largest public interest law firm in Haiti. Together, Joseph and Concannon developed a victim-centered approach that made legal services accessible to poor Haitians for the first time. In its early years, BAI prosecuted high-profile political assassination cases. As time went on, it expanded its practice to represent victims of a wide range of human rights violations. In 2000, Joseph and Concannon led the prosecution against those responsible for the Raboteau Massacre. Their victory marked a watershed moment in the development of the Haitian justice system.

Joseph and Concannon co-managed BAI until 2004, when the U.S.-led coup against Jean-Bertrand Aristide compelled Concannon to reconsider how he could promote human rights in Haiti most effectively. Concannon, who first traveled to Haiti as a UN volunteer, returned home to the United States in an effort to raise awareness of the need for improved U.S. policies toward Haiti and to build a network of grassroots organizations committed to advancing them. To that end, he founded the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH). IJDH works in close collaboration with BAI, where Joseph is now Managing Attorney. Recognized by The New York Times as “Haiti’s most prominent human rights lawyer,” Joseph has represented dozens of jailed political prisoners before Haitian courts and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. He has also provided expert testimony to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and he served on the Haitian government’s Law Reform Commission. These days, Joseph leads a team of attorneys and attorneys-in-training all working to secure justice for victims of human rights abuses in Haiti. Meanwhile, Concannon provides support from his office in South Boston. Like Joseph, Concannon has represented Haitian political prisoners, including former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, before Haitian and international courts. Much of his work is done outside the courtroom, though. Concannon has trained judges, asylum officers, and law students across the United States.

In the words of Dr. Paul Farmer, co-founder of Partners in Health/Zanmi Lasante, Joseph and Concannon are “richly deserving” of the Salem Award. Farmer wrote to the Salem Award Foundation to express his support of BAI and IJDH. Remarking on Joseph’s leadership at the BAI, Farmer wrote, “By his example, Mario is almost single-handedly creating a tradition of public interest lawyering in Haiti, the effects of which will be both long-term and far-reaching (and indeed have already proved transformative).”

Today, Joseph and Concannon are leading the movement for justice for victims of the cholera outbreak in Haiti. More than 8,500 people have died and 700,000 others have been infected since United Nations (UN) peacekeeping troops discharged raw sewage into a tributary of the Artibonite River in 2010. Last October, BAI and IJDH filed a lawsuit against the UN in response to its ongoing refusal to accept responsibility for the outbreak. The lawsuit seeks remedies in the form of: 1) clean water and sanitation infrastructure; 2) fair compensation for the victims; and 3) a public acknowledgement of the UN’s role in the outbreak. The case is now pending before a U.S. federal court in New York.

For Karen Ansara, the cholera case reflects the unwavering commitment to social justice that is at the core of everything Joseph and Concannon do. After the 2010 earthquake, Ansara co-founded the Haiti Fund at the Boston Foundation. She has been a strong supporter of Joseph and Concannon ever since. Eager to share her enthusiasm with the local community, Ansara nominated the pair for the Salem Award. In her letter to the selection committee, Ansara wrote, “Mario is, in my estimation, the Martin Luther King, Jr. of Haiti, defending the most vulnerable and rewriting a just future.” Of Concannon, she said, “Brian is one of my living heroes—laser-focused, unstoppable, strategic, pragmatic, exceedingly humble, and a magnet for global volunteers.”

Every year since 1992, the Salem Award Foundation has sought to preserve the lessons of the infamous Witch Trials by commending social justice activists. According to its website, the Foundation aims to “recognize, honor, and perpetuate the commitment to social justice and human rights of individuals and organizations whose work is proven to have alleviated discrimination or promoted tolerance.” Above all, the Foundation strives to increase public awareness of and end existing inequalities. The Foundation also partners with the City of Salem and the National Park Service to maintain the Salem Witch Trial Memorial. Located behind the Peabody Essex Museum in downtown Salem, the Memorial serves to honor those who were unjustly persecuted during the Witch Trials of 1692.

The 22nd annual presentation of the Salem Award will be made Sunday, March 23rd. A formal dinner will follow the ceremony, which is scheduled to begin at 4pm in the Hawthorne Hotel Ballroom at 18 Washington Square West in Salem. Tickets to the ceremony and dinner are available for $60. Guests who wish only to attend the ceremony may purchase tickets for $15.

To reserve tickets and learn more about the Salem Award Foundation, visit salemaward.org. For details on the 2014 award recipients and their efforts to advance human rights in Haiti, go to haitijustice.org.

 

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Duvalier Decision a Landmark Victory for Haitians

March 7, 2014 - 08:34

The Appellate court decision to reinstate political violence charges against Duvalier was a landmark victory for the victims, lawyers, and the Haitian justice system as a whole. In this article, IJDH Staff Attorney Nicole Phillips gives her and Mario Joseph’s perspective on that remarkable day (February 20, 2014) and emphasizes the bravery of the judges who made the decision, given the dangers of human rights work in Haiti.

Reinstatement of criminal case against Duvalier a momentous victory for Haitians

Nicole Phillips, Boston Haitian Reporter
March 6, 2014

The Appellate Court decision last month to reinstate political violence crimes against former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier was a momentous victory for Haitians all over the world. The court courageously challenged the impunity of the justice system, but also applied international human rights law to protect poor people for the first time in Haiti’s history.

This historic win was finally sinking in as I left the Duvalier court room on that day with Haitian lawyer Mario Joseph of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI). With an ear-to-ear grin, Joseph declared the hearing “une victoire totale” (total victory).

Jean-Claude Duvalier, one of the most notorious dictators of the 20th Century, became President of Haiti in 1971following the death of his father, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier. Gaining power at the age of 19, Jean-Claude soon asserted control over the repressive regime created by his father and remained in power until overthrown in 1986. In January 2011 he returned to Haiti from 25 years of exile in France and within days criminal charges for political violence, embezzlement and corruption were filed against him.

A magistrate judge, newly appointed to the case by President Michel Martelly, upheld the financial criminal charges in January 2012, but dismissed the political violence crimes upon the recommendation of the government prosecutor, another Presidential appointee, on the basis that they were past Haiti’s ten-year statute of limitations. Both sides appealed the split decision.

From December 13, 2012 through May 16, 2013, the Port-au-Prince Court of Appeals held weekly hearings. The three-judge panel listened to testimony from Duvalier and eight of his victims who had been arrested, deported, imprisoned and, in some cases, tortured.

Meanwhile, Duvalier traveled around Port-au-Prince a free man (I saw him on several occasions) and dined in fancy restaurants. President Martelly presented Duvalier at public events as an elder statesman, and has even renewed his diplomatic passport.

On February 20, 2014, after nine months of virtual silence on the case, the Appellate Court reinstated the political violence charges against Duvalier. The Court held that under international law, to which Haiti is bound, a statute of limitations does not apply to crimes against humanity. One of the three appellate judges that issued the ruling will reopen the investigation and interview relevant witnesses and those accused of the crimes. The judge’s report will be considered by the Court, who will then decide whether Duvalier should stand trial.

According to the BAI’s Joseph, who represents victims in the case, “the Court’s ruling applying crimes against humanity against Duvalier is a significant step towards combating impunity in Haiti’s justice system.” The Haitian Constitution of 1987, section 276.2, gives the court the power to use international law to protect victims of human rights violations. But this is the first time that a Haitian court has invoked international law to protect the poor. Joseph says that he hopes “that judges and lawyers consult this decision to end two centuries of impunity brought by our 1835 penal and criminal procedure codes.”

Given that several lawyers and judges who challenged government corruption and impunity through the court system have recently received death threats, and faced police surveillance and false criminal charges, the Court’s decision is also courageous. Underscoring the importance of the ruling, Joseph speaks from experience. Following months of death threats, in 2012, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights awarded precautionary measures “to guarantee the life and physical integrity” of Joseph in response to a report by a former prosecutor that the Minister of Justice ordered his unlawful arrest and the closure of the BAI.

There were other legal victories during the appellate hearings. First, after several hearings with aggressive argument from the both sides’ lawyers, the court forced Duvalier to testify about his actions as dictator for the first time in an open courtroom packed with victims of his regime and journalists.

Secondly, this is a victory for the survivors of Duvalier’s brutal regime whose hard work and patience brought Duvalier to justice. In particular, the Haitian Collective Against Impunity played a key role in legal strategy and media communication, and helped pack the courtroom every week with survivors and their supporters.

Lastly, the international human rights community, including Amnesty International, the Center for Justice and Accountability, and Human Rights Watch prepared reports, amicus briefs and press statements that educated the Court and reminded Haiti of its international legal obligations to prosecute Duvalier. The Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued statements supporting the Duvalier prosecution. Notably absent from the chorus of support, unfortunately, was the United States Government.

Joseph acknowledges that we have a lot of work ahead of us. We won the battle, but not the war. The Appellate Court’s decision will likely be appealed to the Supreme Court, which has been stacked with President Martelly appointees. Support for justice in this case must be strengthened in and out of Haiti to limit the government’s undue influence on the courts. Visibility will also help keep these brave Appellate Court judges safe.

But for now, we rejoice in the victories.

Nicole Phillips is based in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and is a staff attorney with the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and law professor at the Univeristé de la Fondation Dr. Aristide (UNIFA). For more information on IJDH’s work on the Jean-Claude Duvalier prosecution, click here.

 

Click HERE for original.