Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

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Live in an Intentional Community

June 13, 2014 - 06:46

Interested in intentional community and spiritual growth?

Please consider applying for Still Harbor’s Spiritual Accompaniment & Interior Life (SAIL) Program, an intentional living and learning opportunity, within Still Harbor’s spiritual community in South Boston.

This residential program is based on a dynamic integration of spiritual formation and discernment, community, and community action for those committed to personal growth and social transformation.

Spiritual Formation
Explore your connection and relationship to self, other, and the sacred through monthly individual one-on-one spiritual direction, group sessions, retreats, & other programming.

Community
Nurture life-changing relationships and co-create programming with your fellow community members in residence at Still Harbor’s Center for Discernment & Action—offering private rooms with shared bathrooms close to the Red Line in South Boston and three-stops to downtown.

Service
Cultivate broader community and hospitality at the Center, engage in service with affiliated social justice organizations, and discern your own call to service in the world.

Past residents have included activists, artists, and divinity & graduate students of all ages. Please apply today, or consider sharing this email and program with a friend who might be interested.

Learn more and apply today

Program Dates
Move-in: September 1.
Move-out: May 31. Summer residence in 2015, if available.

Weekend Retreats
Opening Retreat:
September 5 – 9, 2014
Mid-Year Retreat:
January 17, 2015
Closing Retreat:
May 29 – 31, 2015

Group Sessions
Tuesdays 5:30 – 8 pm (some breaks for holidays)

Program Cost
$675/month, includes retreats, housing.

Learn More
Contact Sandy North:
sandy@stillharbor.org
617.682.0259

Apply Today
Online applications accepted on a rolling basis.
Final Deadline: August 1.

http://www.stillharbor.org/SAIL

REBEL

June 12, 2014 - 15:00

Attend an original play about the Haitian Revolution, in Cambridge, MA.

WHAT:

This spring, the Community Art Center’s School Age Child Care Program is working on an original play about the Haitian Revolution.

Visual, media, dance and theater arts classes at the Community Art Center are collaborating to tell the story of Johanne, a young girl coming of age in the revolutionary landscape of Saint-Domingue- the French colony that would become Haiti.

As Johanne witnesses and participates in the changing life around her she must confront her present fears and find new, future hopes. Her story is told. Through the telling, we learn what freedom, courage and responsibility mean for one girl in one country struggling for liberation.

WHERE:

Cambridge YMCA

820 Massachusetts Avenue

WHEN:

Thursday, June 12, 2014 at 6pm

 

For more information, contact James Pierre at james.adius.pierre@gmail.com

Assessing Progress in Haiti Act Seeks Reconstruction Accountability

June 12, 2014 - 12:13

Heads of development, faith-based, human rights, and social justice organizations sent this letter to Senators Menendez and Corker to emphasize the importance of the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act of 2013. This bill, which has bipartian support, will hold USAID and other relief organizations accountable for proper use of funds meant for post-2010-earthquake recovery and reconstruction in Haiti. Over 4 years later, much of this money remains unspent, misused (in terms of what Haitians need) or unaccounted for.

Leaders Call on Senators Menendez and Corker to Support Haiti

Rev. Dr. William Schulz, UUSC
June 12, 2014

The following is a June 12, 2014, open letter from organizational leaders calling on Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator Robert Menendez and Ranking Member Senator Bob Corker to support swift passage of the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act.

Dear Chairman Menendez and Ranking Member Corker,

We, the undersigned heads of development, faith-based, human rights and social justice organizations, remain steadfast in our commitment to see a just recovery in Haiti after the deadly 2010 earthquake. We write to strongly urge the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to support swift passage and enactment of the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act of 2013 (H.R.3509). This bill, which passed the House of Representatives last December with bipartisan support, provides much needed transparency, accountability and overall policy oversight for U.S. efforts in Haiti.

The Assessing Progress in Haiti Act was originally drafted in 2011 in response to the enormous complexities in providing aid in the aftermath of Haiti’s earthquake. The bill passed the House and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with your support during the 112th Congress. In June 2013, a General Accounting Office (GAO) report highlighted the concern that “Congress lacks information on the amounts of funds obligated and disbursed and program-by-program progress of U.S. reconstruction activities [in Haiti].” With significant post-earthquake assistance still unspent and the needs of the Haitian people still unmet, it is time for Congress to provide stronger oversight and policy guidance to the State Department. The Assessing Progress in Haiti Act of 2013 would address these significant and unmet needs.

As the US aspires to be a leader on the global stage of humanitarian and development relief, particularly in post disaster contexts, it is critical that future US policy and practice is informed by what has or has not been achieved in Haiti. The Assessing Progress in Haiti Act makes an important contribution to that learning.

The Assessing Progress in Haiti Act would reinstitute and strengthen requirements for the State Department to provide comprehensive reports to Congress on post-earthquake reconstruction and development projects in Haiti. The bill will provide this committee with a meaningful way to ensure the responsible allocation of U.S. taxpayer funds and help ensure that our efforts in Haiti are fulfilling the hopes and aspirations of the Haitian people.

In the current political environment, we understand the importance of finding common ground to reach important goals. The United States, through USAID, “extends help from the American people to achieve results for the poorest and most vulnerable around the world. That assistance does not represent a Democratic value or a Republican value, but an American value.”  The Assessing Progress in Haiti Act has widespread bi-partisan support, has undergone extensive consultations and is supported by organizations with a strong commitment to a just recovery in Haiti.  Our organizations have long advocated for the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act and will continue to call on you and your colleagues to take meaningful action.

The time has come to bring the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act before your committee, to the Senate floor and on to the President’s desk. We urge you to support this bill’s swift passage and enactment into law.

Sincerely,

Click HERE for the original.

International Community’s Continual Meddling in Haitian Elections

June 11, 2014 - 11:07

This article highlights the current elections gridlock in Haiti and how the international community led Haiti to this point with their continual meddling in Haiti, particularly in the last presidential election when they essentially installed Martelly by various methods of voting fraud. Now,the US is threatening to rescind crucial aid packages if Haiti doesn’t quickly take steps towards “free and fair” elections that are once again very unconstitutional.

Haiti’s Chief Foreign Import: Meddling As Haiti faces yet another political crisis, it’s time to recognize the role the international community has played in creating it.

Nathalie Baptiste, Foreign Policy in Focus
June 11, 2014

In late April, thousands took to the streets in Haiti’s capital city demanding the resignation of President Michel Martelly, who had come to office in 2011 through fiercely disputed elections.

They also called for the departure of the United Nations Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH), a decade-old peacekeeping force that stations 9,000 foreign troops in the country. Tensions have long accompanied the UN’s role in Haiti, but criticism reached a crescendo after evidence emerged that MINUSTAH had actually caused Haiti’s deadly 2010cholera outbreak.

International entities—from the UN to the U.S. government to the Organization of American States (OAS)—have long intervened in Haitian politics. Their stated purpose is to benefit Haiti, whether as peacekeepers, guarantors of free and fair elections, or providers of aid. However, they seldom acknowledge the negative consequences of their own efforts—including violence against civilians, sham elections, and health hazards that kill thousands.

Now, as Haiti faces yet another political crisis, it’s time to recognize the role the international community has played in creating it.

Elections: Neither Free Nor Fair

Washington has wielded a heavy hand in Haiti since at least 1915, when the United States occupied the country after a mob brutally murdered President Vilbrun Guillaume Sam. U.S. marines remained in the country for nearly 20 years afterward.

Nearly a century later in 2004, the United States aided a paramilitary group in overthrowing the democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, subsequently exiling him to South Africa and banning his political party, Fanmi Lavalas, from participating in elections.

Fast forward to Haiti’s November 2010 presidential election, which came less than a year after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake leveled buildings, killed hundreds of thousands of people, and displaced millions, and just weeks after the beginning of a devastating cholera outbreak. Martelly eventually emerged victorious from the disputed poll, but the vote suffered from a grievous lack of legitimacy.

Even before Election Day, many Haitians planned not to vote. After all, Fanmi Lavalas, the most popular political party in the country, had been banned—a move tantamount to forbidding Democrats or Republicans from participating in U.S. elections. On Election Day itself, many eyewitnesses reported ballot box stuffing, ballots being torn up, voter intimidation, and fraud. In the end, fewer than 23 percent of registered voters cast a ballot in the elections.

Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), the government body responsible for overseeing the elections, declared former First Lady Mirlande Manigat the leader, with the government’s candidate Jude Célestin coming in second and Michel Martelly in third. But although Manigat had secured a plurality, she didn’t have the margin of votes required to avoid a runoff. The CEP’s announcement of these results sparked riots and protests, mostly by Martelly supporters. To quell the resistance, the internationally community intervened once again.

The Organization of American States (OAS) dispatched a mission of experts to determine who would compete against Manigat in the runoff elections. Through a highly flawed process, OAS chose Martelly over the candidate with the second-most votes, Célestin. The so-called experts got this result by evaluating only 8 percent of the tally sheets, with the majority of the discarded results coming from pro-Célestin areas. More troubling still, the “experts” did not use any statistical method to examine what the outcome would have been had they counted the other 92 percent of the tally sheets.

The runoff election finally took place on March 20, 2011. Voter turnout was so abysmally low that Martelly won the presidency with the votes of only 17 percent of the electorate. Essentially, the OAS mission, backed by the international community, installed Martelly as president with utter disregard for democracy and sovereignty in Haiti.

Three years into his presidency, Martelly now faces a political crisis. Parliamentary elections are two years overdue, and the U.S.-backed Martelly government is at a stalemate with the Haitian Senate over the composition of Haiti’s electoral body. Earlier negotiationsbrokered by the Catholic Church—known as the El Rancho Accord after the hotel the talks took place in—had called for elections to be held in October 2014. However, many Haitians, including the Lavalas party and Senate president Simon Dieuseul Desras, have denouncedthe El Rancho talks, calling them a “sham” because they involved only Martelly allies.

Meanwhile, Michel Martelly and his prime minister, Laurent Lamothe, appear to be in lockstep with the United States and the rest of the international community. Lamotherecently praised the president for his policies, alleged that it’s the opposition that wants to obstruct progress, and affirmed his belief that the El Rancho Accord should be upheld.

The United States agrees with him. In March, Washington sent three members of Congress to Haiti to urge the Haitian Senate to accept the El Rancho Accord.

Thumbs on the Scale

The role the international community played in exiling Aristide and banning Haiti’s most popular political party, along with the flawed election process conducted by the OAS, means that the current impasse is due in no small part to the meddling of international powers in Haiti. Perhaps if the international community hadn’t so grossly undermined democracy in the last presidential election, Haiti’s political climate wouldn’t be so unstable right now.

But instead of taking some of the blame, the international community has decided to threaten the Haitian government. In April, the United States announced that Haiti stood to lose $301 million dollars in aid money if it failed to prove that officials are taking the necessary steps to hold fair and free elections. That money, allocated by the U.S. Congress, was slated to support Haiti’s coast guard, health ministries, and other projects.

Despite the strings that come with foreign aid, Haiti is in no position to start losing aid packages. A decrease in funding to any sector spells trouble, but the health sector is particularly vulnerable. With no end in sight for the deadly cholera outbreak and with the rainy season underway, healthcare providers, hospitals, and clinics will already be struggling to provide services. Revoking an aid package will probably not cause any damage to the government officials tasked with holding elections, but it will hurt the poorest, sickest, and most vulnerable populations of Haiti.

Ignoring its own role in this and previous crises, the international community has warnedthat Haiti is headed toward another political crisis with “unpredictable consequences.” This is no minor prospect, since political crises in Haiti have historically led to violence against citizens and military coup d’etats, causing thousands of Haitians to attempt to leave the country in shoddy, hastily built boats.

According to the United Nations, if elections aren’t held in 2014, this could lead to thedissolution of Parliament in January 2015, leaving Martelly to rule by decree—an alarming prospect for a country with a history of brutal dictators.

As if to underscore that point, on May 6 Martelly unilaterally decided to appoint Fritzo Canton as a member of the body that is to oversee elections. Canton is the lawyer of Jean-Claude Duvalier, the former dictator of Haiti currently being tried for crimes against humanity and embezzlement. This appointment will surely stir up yet more controversy from the opposition.

On May 13, John Kerry certified that Haiti is in fact taking the correct steps to ensure that free and fair elections take place. That may bode well for retaining aid packages, but it ignores the fact that the Haitian Senate and the president are still in a gridlock. If the dire warnings do come true and political chaos breaks out in Haiti, then it will be high time for the international community to step back and examine its own role in Haitian politics.

Nathalie Baptiste is a Haitian-American contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus who lives in the Washington, D.C. area. She holds a BA and MA in International Studies and writes about Latin America and the Caribbean. You can follow her on Twitter at @nhbaptiste.

 

Click  HERE for the original.

Tahirih Justice Center Now Hiring

June 11, 2014 - 10:42
DEPUTY DIRECTOR

The Tahirih Justice Center (Tahirih) is a growing national non-profit organization that protects courageous immigrant women and girls who refuse to be victims of violence, elevating their voices in communities, courts and Congress. Through pro bono holistic legal services, community outreach and education and nonpartisan public policy advocacy, Tahirih empowers and supports women and girls seeking protection from gender-based human rights abuses such as domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, female genital mutilation, “honor” crimes, and forced marriage. Tahirih is a Bahá’í-inspired organization and works to create a world where women and girls enjoy equality and live in safety and with dignity. Winner of the 2010 Meyer Exponent Award which recognizes outstanding nonprofit executive directors and the 2007 Washington Post Award for Excellence in Nonprofit Management, Tahirih has a staff of 48 with offices in Falls Church, VA; Houston, TX; and Baltimore, MD.

Position Summary: Tahirih is seeking an experienced attorney with deep management expertise to serve as its Deputy Director with accountability for delivery of holistic legal services and community education nationally. S/he will directly manage local office directors, promote and cultivate local office growth; ensure programmatic consistency and quality nationally; support legal staff nationwide regarding key ethical and strategic legal services questions that arise; publicly represent the organization; and lead Tahirih’s expansion to two additional sites within the next three years. S/he will look for strategic legal impact opportunities and support the drafting of amicus briefs, impact litigation, and public policy advocacy where appropriate.

Based at Tahirih’s national headquarters office in Falls Church, VA, the Deputy Director will report to the Executive Director and will be a key player on the senior leadership team, participating in strategic decision making as Tahirih builds capacity and expands nationally. This position will require regular travel to Tahirih’s current (Houston and Baltimore) and future (two cities yet unidentified) local offices.

Primary Responsibilities

Programmatic

  • Lead a high performing team of local directors who manage all aspects of local service delivery, community education and outreach, financial and operational sustainability of their offices.
  • Institute a consistent monitoring, evaluation, and learning plan across local offices, including establishing qualitative and quantitative performance measurements.
  • Ensure that all program activities maintain a high level of quality and ethics, supporting the mission and values of Tahirih.
  • Provide technical assistance to local Directors and staff attorneys on matters related to relevant substantive areas of law, professional responsibility, and legal ethics.
  • Ensure social services staff and their local Directors receive quality technical assistance on complex social services situations, professional responsibility and ethics.
  • Serve as the “go to” person for programmatic trouble shooting and relationship management.
  • Ensure high quality and consistent legal and social services throughout the organization, particularly supporting “best practices” knowledge sharing across offices.
  • Ensure the quality, efficiency, and consistency of Tahirih’s pro bono legal program, including national-level training materials, retainer agreements, pro bono attorney engagement protocols, metrics, and key law firm relationships.
  • Champion technologies to support national-level pro bono legal and social services’ program (e.g., pro bono attorney web-portal, brief bank, online training, etc.).
  • Identify local and national trends and challenges facing Tahirih’s clients with a view to informing public policy advocacy.
  • Strategize with public policy team regarding opportunities for initiating or contributing to impact litigation and amicus briefs.

Outreach and Development

  • Coordinate with Communications Team to publicize Tahirih’s legal victories, briefs, practice-oriented guides and observation of trends with the larger legal community.
  • Represent Tahirih with external constituency groups, including community, governmental, and private organizations.
  • Cultivate relationships with corporations, individual donors and foundations to support the organization.

Finance and Administration

  • Lead local Directors in developing annual local office budgets in conjunction with the Director of Finance and Executive Director
  • Oversee all personnel, budget and contract decisions for the five offices, ensuring sound fiscal management and continued financial viability of each office
  • Work with the Operations Team to ensure Tahirih’s services are in compliance with all federal, state, and city regulations, certifications, and licensing requirements, including valid solicitations permits, current business registration, current insurance coverage, timely tax filings etc.

Required Qualifications

  • An experienced manager with at least 15 years of work experience and a track record of strategic and supportive management of high performing legal teams.
  • A law degree, with a demonstrated commitment to public interest law
  • Law firm experience or an informed understanding of how law firms function
  • Exceptional legal and analytical skills
  • Experience with impact litigation and appellate law
  • Strong relationship-building skills
  • Donor and volunteer service mindset
  • A keen interest in systems and processes with practical experience in monitoring, evaluation, learning and planning
  • A strong advocate and compelling public speaker
  • Energetic, positive leader and supportive team player
  • Sharp attention to detail as well as an appreciation for the big picture
  • A sincere commitment to nonpartisanship and a demonstrated ability to collaborate with individuals, groups and policymakers with opposing points of view and diverse political perspectives
  • Ability to travel and provide on-site support to manage multiple offices.

Annual salary and benefits: Annual salary is competitive and depends on experience. Generous benefits including: 15 days of paid accrued vacation during the first year (20 days of vacation after the first year), additional week of vacation between Christmas and New Year’s, flex-spending account, sick and parental leave, fully-paid health and dental insurance coverage, 403(b) plan, in-house training programs, staff enrichment retreats and other professional development opportunities.

Submissions: Please email a cover letter, resume, and a list of three references to:

Human Resources Department
Tahirih Justice Center
6402 Arlington Blvd, Suite 300
Falls Church, VA 22042
recruiting@tahirih.org
Fax: 571-282-6162
* In the subject line, note: Application for Deputy Director

Please note: Candidates applying must have work authorization in the United States.

The Tahirih Justice Center is an equal opportunity employer which does not discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, religion, age, color, sex, sexual orientation, disability or veteran’s status, or any other characteristic protected by local, state or federal laws, rules or regulations. Tahirih’s policy applies to all terms and conditions of employment. Men are particularly encouraged to apply.

International Criminal Court Asks Haiti to Ratify Rome Statute

June 9, 2014 - 08:36

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has asked Haiti to ratify the Rome Statute, which deals with issues of international justice, impunity, and the rule of law. Members of the Coalition for the ICC say that now would be a crucial time for Haiti to take this step.

Haiti – Justice : Haiti called to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court

Haiti Libre
June 9, 2014

The Republic of Haiti should take the necessary measures to ensure the ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) declared the Coalition for the ICC.

In a letter dated June 3 to the President Michel Martelly, the Coalition noted the recent findings of the independent UN expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti, who presented his report at the 25th session Council of human Rights. In its report, the independent expert, Gustavo Gallon reported that one of the key challenges that have contributed to the commission of violations of human rights in Haiti are the weakness of the rule of law, the need to treat past violations and impunity. In this regard, the Coalition noted recent court decisions that provide an encouraging message of Haiti’s willingness to address such impunity.

Haiti’s task of addressing past human rights violations comes at a crucial time in which the international community must take an important stand against impunity.

“A clear and unequivocal message in this direction can certainly be transmitted by Haiti by joining the ICC,” expressed Michelle Reyes Milk, the Coalition’s regional coordinator for the Americas. “Ratification of the Rome Statute is also an opportunity to enhance the national judicial system, given that, under the principle of complementarity, the Rome Statute recognizes the primary jurisdiction of States to investigate and prosecute alleged perpetrators of crimes under International Law included in the Rome Statute.”

“Haiti’s ratification of the Rome Statute will not only reaffirm its commitment to international justice but also signifies a key step in the country’s stabilization process, contributing towards the restoration of a society based upon Rule of Law,” declared Jelena Pia-Comella, program director at the Coalition for the ICC.

Ratification by Haiti by 1 October would also allow it to participate as a state party in the upcoming 13th Assembly of States Parties, to take place in New York on 8-17 December, and vote in the election of 6 new judges to the ICC bench.

 

Click HERE for the original.

50 Years of Radical Lawyering Since Freedom Summer

June 6, 2014 - 06:00

Tune in to the livestream of the annual Bertha Justice Conference.

Registration has closed for the annual Bertha Justice Conference this year. However, you can tune in from home and watch the live-stream! Portions of the event that will be live-streamed include: The Welcome and Opening Remarks, afternoon Keynote by Phillip Agnew of the Dream Defenders, Closing Remarks by CCR Executive Director Vincent Warren, and our evening Keynote by Harry Belafonte. All panels and some workshops will be recorded and will be available on Bertha’s website.

To view a live-stream of the event, please click here.

This year’s Bertha Justice Conference will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer by profiling global and domestic models of “movement lawyering”–lawyers and organizers working together within grassroots social justice movements to build power. Bertha is honored to spotlight some of the most important movements of our time and the lawyers supporting them including: Stop-and-Frisk in NYC, anti-LGBTQ legislation in Uganda, stand your ground laws in Florida, Guantanamo, torture in Colombia, exploitation of laborers in New Orleans, and the Marikana mineworker massacre in South Africa. The goal is to expose participants to the many different ways lawyers support social movements around the world, and to strategize together about how we can more effectively work for change. The full conference schedule is below:

8:30 – 9:00 a.m.

Registration (Main Lobby)

Breakfast (Outside of Auditorium, Room 2-301)

9:00 – 9:25 a.m.- Welcome: Purvi Shah, Director, Bertha Justice Institute at the Center for Constitutional Rights (Auditorium, Room 2-301)

9:25 – 9:50 a.m.Opening Remarks: Bill Quigley, Professor, Director of the Stuart H. Smith Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice and the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center at Loyola University New Orleans. (Auditorium, Room 2-301)

10:00 – 11:45 a.m. Morning Panels

Combating Hate: Challenging U.S. Right Wing Attacks on LGBTQI Movements In Uganda (Room 2/116)

Learn how organizers and lawyers have worked together to challenge rights-erasing attacks in Uganda. In 2012, CCR filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) against Abiding Truth Ministries President Scott Lively, a U.S.-based self-described expert on the “gay movement.” The suit alleges that Lively’s involvement in anti-gay efforts in Uganda, including his active participation in the conspiracy to strip away fundamental rights from LGBTI persons, constitutes persecution. This is the first known Alien Tort Statute (ATS) case seeking accountability for persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

- Moderator: Laura Raymond, Advocacy Program Manager, Center for Constitutional Rights
- Pam Spees, Senior Staff Attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights
- Pepe Onziema, Executive Director, Sexual Minorities Uganda
- Kapya Kaoma, Senior Religion and Sexuality Researcher, Political Research Associates
- Holly Richardson, Co-Director, Out Now

 

The Future of Work: Labor Rights, Retaliation, Corporate Accountability & Worker Organizing (Room 3-301)

As markets continue to become transnational, so too are workers’ organizing strategies. How are workers using the law to defend fundamental labor protections and challenge corporate attacks on the right to organize? What did we learn from the 2012 massacre in Marikana that left 34 striking miners dead? This panel features lawyers and activists who support some of the most vulnerable and visionary workers in the world, including domestic workers, South African miners, communal Mexican landowners, and New York taxi drivers.

- Moderator: Harmony Goldberg, Future of Work Program Manager, Roosevelt Institute
- Alejandra Ancheita, Founding Director, ProDESC (Mexico)
- Nomzamo Zondo, Staff Attorney, Socio-Economic Rights Institute (South Africa)
- Bhairavi Desai, Executive Director, New York Taxi Workers Alliance
-Haeyoung Yoon, Deputy Program Director, National Employment Law Project

 

Greatest City in the World? Actualizing Civil, Social & Economic Rights New York City(Room 1-205)

New York is often touted as the ‘Greatest City In the World’, but how great is the city for poor and working people? Five local activists and lawyers will dissect the landscape of civil, social and economic rights in NYC, highlighting recent campaign victories and challenges. As we look to the future, what does NYC need to actualize its greatness? And what should be the role of lawyers in helping us get there?

- Moderator: Chaumtoli Huq, General Counsel for Litigation, Public Advocate for the City of New York (not in official capacity)
- Chauniqua Young, Bertha Fellow, Center for Constitutional Rights
- Jennifer Ching, Project Director, Queens Legal Services New York
- Hilary Klein, Chief of Staff, Make the Road New York
- Stephanie Rudolph, Staff Attorney, Urban Justice Center’s Community Development Project

 

Murder By The State: Accountability for Extrajudicial Killings, Occupation, Torture & Drones (Room 3-302)

How can we better use the law to support movements for truth and accountability in the face of state-perpetrated violence? From targeted killings of U.S. citizens abroad, to Colombian struggles to hold U.S. companies responsible for the disappearances and deaths of trade unionists, to crimes against humanity against former president Jean-Claude Duvalier, this panel highlights movements innovating international human rights law.

- Moderator: Michael Ratner, President Emeritus, Center for Constitutional Rights
- Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney, Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti
- Soraya Gutiérrez Arguello, Staff Attorney, Jose Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective (Colombia)
- Pardiss Kebriaei, Senior Staff Attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights
- Hazem Jamjoum, Policy Member, al-Shabaka/ Palestinian Policy Network

 

50 Years of Youth Movements Since Freedom Summer (Room 3-114)

Around the world, youth are standing up. South African youth are leading the struggle to undo class and race inequalities in education. Black and brown youth-led movements in the US have built powerful national networks that helped win deferred action for immigrant youth facing deportation and bring the Trayvon Martin case into the national consciousness. They are dismantling the cradle-to-prison pipeline, organizing “dream-ins” and other acts of civil disobedience, and demanding citizenship rights. How have today’s youth movements built on the lessons of Freedom Summer, and what do the next 50 years hold for youth organizing?

- Moderator: Steve Williams, Organizer and Co-Founder of LeftRoots
- Ahmad Abuznaid, Legal and Policy Director, Dream Defenders
- Dmitri Holtzman, Executive Director, Equal Education Law Center (South Africa)
- Brad Brockman, General Secretary, Equal Education (South Africa)
- Sofia Campos, Board Co-Chair, United We Dream

Defending the Accused: Storytelling, Community Education & Advocacy for Criminal Defense (Room 2/119)

Criminal defense attorneys who are part of social movements often build their cases with one eye looking far beyond the courtroom. Join criminal practitioners for a session exploring how to service individual clients while also building collective power.  In the Bronx, clients can now access a “holistic defense” model in which family support, social work, and civil legal services are woven into criminal defense.  Arab-American communities are working with lawyers to develop “community defense strategies” to disrupt the pipeline funneling individuals into the criminal system.  Modern day abolitionists are challenging solitary confinement on a macro level while also providing long-term, post-conviction support to prisoners, their families and allies.   Can the practice of criminal defense evolve to provide better support to individuals while also challenging the circumstances driving poor people and people of color into the criminal justice system?

- Moderator: Baher Azmy, Legal Director, Center for Constitutional Rights
- Ahmed Ghappour, Visiting Assistant Professor and Director, Liberty, Security, & Technology Clinic, UC Hastings College of the Law
- Kate Rubin, Civil Action Practice Managing Director, Bronx Defenders
- Linda Sarsour, Executive Director, Arab-American Association of NY
- Bret Grote, Co-Founder, Abolitionist Law Center

11:45 – 12:45 p.m. LUNCH (Outside Auditorium)

12:45 – 1:30 p.m. KEYNOTE: Philip Agnew, Executive Director, Dream Defenders(Auditorium, Room 2-301)

1:30 – 1:45 p.m. Break

1:45 – 3:30 p.m. Afternoon Workshops                                                                                                                                                  

Embodied Leadership Training (Room 3-301)

Is your leadership aligned with your core principles and values? Do your day-to-day work and actions represent of the kind of world you are striving to create? Often we find ourselves struggling to keep our humanity, our principles, and values at the forefront of our work. The daily stress and trauma of our important work can get the best of us and we find that we longer hold in our centers that which truly fuels are work. This interactive workshop will leave participants with concrete tools and strategies to strengthen their teamwork and leadership skills to ensure that our actions align with our values towards creating more balance in work and lives.

- Rusia Mohiuddin, Leadership Trainer & Somatic Coach, Universal Partnership

 

Movement Lawyering: Sharpening Our Theory, Deepening Our Practice (Room 3-302)

Despite our best intentions, organizers and activists often recount examples of where legal advocates were in severe conflict, worked at cross purposes, and/or ultimately did more harm than good to political and social movements. In this interactive and participatory workshop, participants will have the opportunity to strengthen their understanding of how to work collaboratively with organizers and activists to build social movements that have the power to win. Specifically, in the workshop participants will: explore the range of roles legal advocates play & the competing tradeoffs of varying approaches; identify the core strategies, tactics, and skills of movement legal work; share real stories of cases/campaigns and constructively reflect on challenges and opportunities; and discuss power & privilege and the importance of an anti-oppression framework to movement legal work.

- Nikki Thanos, Consultant & Trainer, Bertha Justice Institute, Center for Constitutional Rights
- Meena Jagannath, Attorney, Community Justice Project, Florida Legal Services
- Jeena Shah, Cooperating Attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights

 

Palestine 101 for Social Justice Advocates (Room 2-116)

In the US, the Palestinian-Israel conflict has been framed as a national security crisis at worst and an intractable ethno-religious conflict between two peoples at best. While there are indeed national security and ethno-religious implications related to the conflict, this workshop will explore Palestinian social movements through an anti-colonial lens. How has Israel institutionalized Jewish national privilege by law and facilitated the steady and forced removal of Palestinians from within Israel as well as the Occupied Territories?  What role can U.S. advocates play in the Palestinian struggle for human rights and equality?   Deepen your understanding of Palestinian history, the Nakba, land confiscations, the Apartheid Wall, and international law with trainers committed to equipping you with practical tools for talking about Palestine.

- Noura Erakat, Professor, Attorney, and Human Rights Advocate

- Radhika Sainath, Staff Attorney, Palestine Solidarity Legal Support

Political Economy for Lawyers (Room 2-119)

Social justice lawyers are tasked with representing individuals and communities dealing with the concrete impacts of systemic inequality— be it poor families facing repeated eviction, immigrant workers struggling to get paid, or young people tracked into the prison system.  As we watch clients cycle through the legal system and hence our doors, many of us begin to wonder—why is the world the way it is? How do we dismantle the underlying systems of inequality—be it legal, political or economic—that shape our clients’ experiences? This interactive workshop uses case studies to explore how the legal system structures interactions between economic and political forces and how the law is used by the powerful and wealthy to legitimize exploitation and shroud their authority. A political economy approach to law can enable social justice lawyers not to shy away from developing macro-scale perspectives of political, social and economic dynamics and institutions. In particular, the political economy approach can enable the practice of law in ways that question and challenge the underlying distribution of bargaining power within given social, political and economic systems. No matter what kind of law you practice or what setting you work in, take home a new framework for understanding how your work fits into the bigger picture—and how you can more strategically scale up the impact of your work.

- Mazibuko K. Jara, Activist & Scholar

 

Storytelling, Film & Law (Room 1-205)

Despite the fact that humans communicate and interpret the world in diverse ways, social justice advocates often privilege analysis over narrative. Analysis uses critical reasoning and evidence to examine the world. Narrative uses story and emotion to engage how we experience the world and to expose why we act as we do. Lawyers often use analysis to persuade, despite evidence that people are effectively moved by stories. When it comes to getting people to take action, sometimes a well-reasoned analysis is simply no match for a well-told story. In this workshop, explore techniques for effective storytelling—be it images, words or film—and explore how stories can raise consciousness, mobilize resistance, influence public policy, and sway decision-makers.

- Omar Farah, Staff Attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights
- Ibraham Qatabi, Legal Worker, Center for Constitutional Rights
- Aliya Hussain, Legal Worker, Center for Constitutional Rights
- Adam Stofsky, Director, New Media Advocacy Project

Understanding the New Terrain of the Internet (Room 3-114)

The countermeasures utilized by the United States against “national security threats” have constructed a legal and structural framework for a “preventative” paradigm of security that is dependent on mass surveillance capabilities. The consequences range from community profiling, to initiation of law enforcement investigations on the basis of protected speech (such as religious practice or political dissent), to the targeting killing of individuals that do not pose an instant harm to the United States. During this workshop, experts will discuss the rise of the modern surveillance state and what it means for activists and movement lawyers. Drawing on experience in law, technology and activism, the panelists will discuss practical steps that can be taken to protect yourself (and your clients, witnesses and allies) when it comes to mass surveillance, and offer a framework for thinking about privacy on the Internet.

-Ahmed Ghappour, Visiting Assistant Professor and Director of the Liberty, Security, & Technology ClinicUC Hastings College of the Law
-Nicholas Merrill, Executive Director, The Calyx Institute
-Jacob Appelbaum, Founder, Tor Project

3:30- 3:45 p.m. Break

3:45 – 5:00 p.m. Real Talk: Stories & Reflections from Radical Lawyers

Wind down the day with a reflective and intimate conversation with noted people’s lawyers. Presenters will share with participants about both the personal and political aspects of being an activist and people’s lawyer. Topics for discussion might include career paths and trajectory, reflections on movements past and present, successes and challenges of the work, how to maintain a work/life balance, and what inspires you. Participants will also have time to reflect on what they have learned throughout the day and voice questions about their fears and challenges. Together, we will surface solutions and strategies to maintain a healthy, vibrate and innovative community over the long haul.

 

Chuck Elsesser, Director, Community Justice Project of Florida Legal Services and
Vince Warren, Executive Director, Center for Constitutional Rights. 
Facilitated by Alana Greer. (Room 3-301)

Bill Quigley, Professor, Director, Stuart H. Smith Law Clinic and Center for Social Justiceand the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center at Loyola University New Orleans and
Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney, Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. 
Facilitated by Jeena Shah. (Room 3-302)

Alejandra Ancheita, Founding Director, ProDESC and
Katie Redford, Co-Founder and Co-Director, EarthRights International.
Facilitated by Terri Nilliasca. (Room 3-114)

Michael Ratner, President Emeritus, Center for Constitutional Rights and
Noura Erakat, Professor, Attorney & Human Rights Advocate.
Facilitated by Nikki Thanos. (Room 1-205)

5:00 – 5:15 p.m. Break

5:15 – 5:30 p.m. Thanks & Closing Remarks, Vince Warren, Executive Director, Center for Constitutional Rights (Auditorium, Room 2-301)

5:30 – 6:30 p.m. KEYNOTE: Mr. Harry Belafonte in conversation with Purvi Shah, Director, Bertha Justice Institute at the Center for Constitutional Rights (Auditorium, Room 2-301)

 

Click HERE for the livestream.

International Criminal Court Panel on Haiti

June 5, 2014 - 16:00

Don’t miss this interesting Brooklyn, NY panel on crimes against Haiti.

Bipartisan Leaders Urge Expedited Haitian Family Reunification

June 5, 2014 - 08:48

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:           Steven Forester, Immigration Policy Coordinator, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), steveforester@aol.com, 786 877 6999 (English and Kreyol)

Bipartisan Leaders Urge Expedited Haitian Family Reunification

(BOSTON, June 5, 2014) — President Obama has received three new pleas for the Department of Homeland Security to create a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program (FRPP) to speed entry into the United States of nearly 110,000 beneficiaries of DHS-approved family-based visa petitions who remain on wait lists of up to over 12 years in Haiti.

Democrat Alcee Hastings and Republican Mario Diaz-Balart co-sponsored a May 30 letter to the President signed by 63 members of the U.S. House of Representatives urging him to create this program “to save lives and accelerate Haiti’s recovery efforts.”  Signatories included Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, former Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, seven of her Foreign Affairs committee colleagues, Immigration subcommittee ranking member Zoe Lofgren and three subcommittee colleagues, the entire South Florida congressional delegation and many others.

The letter cites dire conditions including the ongoing deadly cholera outbreak and “what the U.S. Coast Guard knows all too well.  Desperate Haitians are increasingly abandoned and dying at sea as they resort to smugglers to cross perilous routes… including the notoriously treacherous 80-mile-wide Mona Passage strait toward Puerto Rico.”

“Creating a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program would not only save lives and reunite families, but empower individuals to actively assist in Haiti’s recovery.  Haitians remit about $2 billion annually, mostly from the diaspora in the United States, and Haitian parolees would be able to obtain work permits and send much-needed remittances back to Haiti.”

The letter urges the President “to put an end to the indefinite waiting lists as soon as possible” through the creation of this program.

In his May 31 South Florida Sun-Sentinel op-ed, “Create plan for Haitians equal to one for Cubans,” Archbishop Thomas G.Wenski of Miami also urged immediate creation of a Haitian FRPP.  Citing the years-long wait periods for Haitians as an example of a broken system, he noted not only conditions in Haiti but the direct precedent of the Cuban FRPP created by DHS in 2007 under which tens of thousands have entered the United States.

And on April 28, Congressional Black Caucus members U.S. Reps. Frederica Wilson, Yvette Clarke, Maxine Waters, Barbara Lee and John Conyers wrote President Obama urging immediate creation of a Haitian FRPP to “provide a lifeline to Haiti’s economy and reunite tens of thousands of Haitian families.”

They called its creation “well rooted in need, precedent, and … critical for Haiti’s economic development.  Creation of a Haitian FRPP, similar to that previously established for Cubans, would immediately boost Haiti’s economy, bolster the international effort to create sustainable growth in Haiti, and reunite tens of thousands of Haitian-Americans with family members already approved by [DHS].”

“We respectfully request a meeting with you to discuss this much-needed action,” they urged the President. “The creation of a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program is an executive action that would have strong support from members of Congress, other elected officials throughout our nation, non-profit organizations, and millions of American citizens.  Congressional colleagues have joined us in sending letters to your Administration urging the creation of this program.”

###

CEPR Needs Fall International Program Intern

June 4, 2014 - 08:22

Job Description: The Center for Economic and Policy Research is currently looking for a full-time International Program Intern for Fall 2014 (September 1st-December 19th).

Responsibilities include assisting staff with research on upcoming papers and opinion pieces; organizing events with Latin American delegations, CEPR staff, and visiting academics; assisting in tracking and logging press mentions; as well as working on outreach to press, advocacy organizations, and Congress.

The responsibilities vary based on their interests and experience, as well as the particular issues that CEPR is working on at the time. Interns will be able to attend relevant events around Washington, DC.

Qualifications: We are looking for applicants with a general understanding of economics, international relations, and democracy issues, and an interest in economic justice. Previous research, data and/or outreach experience is extremely helpful; interns with strong economics or foreign policy experience (including Master’s degrees) will have the opportunity to engage in serious research, and those with strong organizing or outreach experience will have event management opportunities. The intern will need to be fluent in Spanish, including the ability to perform accurate written translations; able to work in a fast-paced environment with limited management; and be a self-starter and independent learner. Should have excellent writing and communications skills.

Stipend: $1,588.41 per month, plus up to $250 for health insurance reimbursement per month.

Closing Date of Position: June 6, 2014.

To Apply: Send cover letter, resume, and a brief (2 page) answer to the question “How can the US improve its foreign policy toward Latin America?” via email to internationalintern@cepr.net No calls or faxes please.

Organization Description: The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) was established in 1999 to promote democratic debate on the most important economic and social issues that affect people’s lives. It is an independent nonpartisan think tank based in Washington, DC. CEPR is committed to presenting issues in an accurate and understandable manner, so that the public is better prepared to choose among the various policy options.

CEPR is an ideal place to learn about current economic and global justice issues in a friendly, relaxed and fun environment.  Work schedules are flexible.

CEPR is an equal opportunity employer that considers applicants for all positions without regard to race, color, religion, creed, gender, national origin, age, disability, marital or veteran status, sexual orientation, or any legally protected status.

Cholera and the Growing Movement for Justice

June 3, 2014 - 13:54

Below is Bureau des Avocats Internationaux‘s Managing Attorney, Mario Joseph’s contribution to the “Perspectives on Global Governance” section of CIVICUS’ State of Civil Society Report 2014. In it, Mario discusses the cholera epidemic in Haiti, building international and Haitian diaspora awareness and support against UN impunity, and the need for justice.

The Fight Against UN Impunity and Immunity in Haiti: The Cholera Scandal

Mario Joseph, Civicus
June 2014

I. Introduction

In October 2010, an epidemic of cholera broke out in Meille, Haiti for the first time in the country’s recorded history. It soon became the worst single-country cholera epidemic in modern times. By the end of 2013, the disease had killed 8,500 people and sickened another 700,000.[i] Almost immediately after the first victims fell ill, residents of Meille identified a UN peacekeeping base as the source of the outbreak.[ii] The base, located on the banks of a tributary to Haiti’s principal river system, provided housing for peacekeepers serving in the UN Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). The Meille residents had long endured noxious odours emanating from the base and waste overflowing from its disposal pits toward their homes when it rained.[iii] International journalists who conducted follow-up investigations at the base documented sewage pipes emptying into the Meille tributary.[iv] Shortly thereafter, epidemiologists confirmed that the contaminated tributary was the source of the outbreak.

Despite ample, unrefuted evidence pointing to the UN, the organisation has not responded justly to demands that it accept responsibility, compensate victims and take action to strengthen Haiti’s water and sanitation system in order to eliminate cholera. The cholera outbreak received renewed attention last October when the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), a Haitian public interest law firm, and its sister organisation in the United States (US), the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), filed an unprecedented class action suit against the UN. Although the lawsuit marks a crucial step, the fight for justice is largely being waged outside the courtroom. While the UN continues to deny responsibility, an informal network of victims, victims’ advocates, journalists, lawyers, doctors, scientists and other concerned citizens is successfully mobilising to challenge the global accountability framework and secure justice for the cholera victims.

 

II. Exposing the injustice

Organising in Haiti

MINUSTAH’s introduction of cholera to Haiti occurred at a time of mounting popular discontent with the Mission for its perceived lack of accountability to the population and immunity from legal prosecution for acts of sexual violence, excessive use of force and other misconduct. Groups that had been active in organising against MINUSTAH impunity understood that making noise (fè bri in Haitian Creole) would be critical to persuading the UN to respond justly to the cholera epidemic. These groups initially took the lead in organising peaceful demonstrations on cholera and also mobilised community education campaigns on cholera prevention.

The early demonstrations quickly grew into an informal and decentralised movement of victims’ groups and community organisations across Haiti, staging demonstrations from Cap Haïtien in the north to St. Marc in the west and Les Cayes in the south. In the capital of Port-au-Prince, fourteen grassroots groups established the Kolektif pou dedomaje viktim kolera an Ayiti, a collective that organised demonstrations, held press conferences and engaged with local and international media to raise the profile of the issue and shed light on the injustice. Groups such as Association Haitienne de Droit de l’Environnement (AHDEN), a non-profit environmental law group, sought to engage the UN directly by writing to the UN Secretary-General and demanding a more just response. Demonstrations on cholera continue to date and have on several occasions attracted thousands of people demanding that MINUSTAH accept responsibility and provide compensation for the victims.

Building international awareness

In the weeks and months immediately following the outbreak, Haitian and international news agencies reported heavily on cholera. The Associated Press and Al Jazeera English played a remarkable role in investigating the source and exposing UN responsibility for cholera before any official investigations were underway. Haitian news outlets persistently pressed the UN for answers at press conferences and spread public awareness through extensive radio coverage and newspaper articles. Many international news agencies were at first reluctant to report on the UN’s culpability, however, serving instead as an echo chamber for the UN to object to the allegations. Activists worked hard to educate the international press about the evidence and latest developments in the early investigations and genetic testing, which over time allowed for continuous coverage of the story and put pressure on the UN to conduct a formal investigation.

Pushing for investigations into the source

Despite these efforts, the UN rebuffed the growing circumstantial evidence, denying the very possibility of a causal link and refusing a formal investigation. Civil society calls for transparency and accountability were publicly dismissed as “attempts at stigmatization,”[v] a counter-productive “blame game” and a “political” diversion from the humanitarian response,[vi] despite strong consensus among public health professionals that understanding the origins of an epidemic is critical to an effective response.[vii] Over time, however, the persistent organising – combined with investigations and follow-up from journalists and the release of scientific reports establishing a genetic link – pushed the UN to conduct a thorough investigation into the source of the epidemic. In January 2011, the UN Secretary-General relented to pressure and announced the appointment of a panel of independent experts to study the origins of cholera in Haiti.

The international research team commissioned by the UN released its findings in May 2011. The panel’s report included genetic and epidemiological evidence tying the source of the outbreak to the MINUSTAH base, finding that “[t]he evidence overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that the source of the Haiti cholera outbreak was due to contamination of the Meye Tributary of the Artibonite River with a pathogenic strain of current South Asian type Vibrio cholerae as a result of human activity.”[viii] The findings came as no surprise to the Haitian public or to others who had been monitoring the crisis, but added significant credence to the movement and spurred an additional wave of media coverage pressuring the UN to acknowledge responsibility, including hard-hitting reports by the BBC and The New York Times, among others.

 

III. Legal efforts to seek justice

Seeking to brush aside the mounting evidence, the UN continued to skirt responsibility by citing the panel’s findings as inconclusive. Faced with the UN’s unrelenting position, victims and grassroots groups in Haiti began to seek legal avenues for securing a just response. In the late summer of 2011 – as the one-year anniversary of the outbreak approached without an appropriate response from the UN – BAI began to organise victims in the Central Plateau, the region hit hardest by the outbreak. BAI worked with community leaders, who in turn mobilised victims to come forward and helped prepare over 5,000 legal claims on their behalf.

In accordance with the UN’s international law obligations to hear claims from individuals harmed by its negligence and provide redress, BAI and IJDH submitted the claims to MINUSTAH in Port-au-Prince and UN headquarters in New York in November 2011.[ix] The victims petitioned for remedies in the form of a) clean water and sanitation infrastructure to control the epidemic, b) fair compensation for their losses, and c) a public acceptance of responsibility. Additionally, they requested that the UN establish a standing claims commission to hear the claims, as required by the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that governs MINUSTAH’s operations in Haiti. These efforts were accompanied by a strong media campaign that drew the attention of prominent international media outlets, including daily newspapers in the global south.

After more than a year of silence, the UN rejected the victims’ claims as “not receivable,” without providing valid legal justification. BAI and IJDH then requested mediation or an in-person meeting. Those requests were also denied. The dismissal of the claims was widely scrutinised by international law experts who found that it violated the UN’s legal obligations. In August 2013, Yale Law School and the Yale School of Public Health, in partnership with AHDEN, released a definitive report on the UN’s role in the cholera outbreak.[x] In “Peacekeeping without Accountability,” the authors explain how the UN has a legal obligation to hear claims from Haitian cholera victims. Media outlets around the world condemned the UN’s dismissal in front-page stories and editorials. The editorial board of The Washington Post newspaper stressed that “by refusing to acknowledge responsibility, the United Nations jeopardises its standing and moral authority in Haiti and in other countries where its personnel are deployed,”[xi] and The New York Times newspaper’s editorial board urged the organisation to “acknowledge responsibility, apologise to Haitians and give the victims the means to file claims against it for the harm they say has been done them.”[xii]

In October 2013, BAI and IJDH, working in collaboration with public interest lawyers in the United States, filed a ground-breaking class action lawsuit against the UN in a US federal court. The lawsuit challenges the UN’s immunity on the basis that the organisation has violated its international law obligations to provide remedies to victims of its harms. The lawsuit has spurred influential discussions on the deficiencies in the current framework for accountability of international organisations. The UN’s legal responsibility for cholera has since become the topic of numerous academic conferences, panels and legal scholarship. The involvement of influential legal scholars is an invaluable component in the movement for justice, as their efforts lay the groundwork for systemic improvements to the international accountability framework.

 

III. Public advocacy for a just response

Continued organising in Haiti

Throughout the crisis, the government of Haiti has been notably silent in calling for UN accountability, in part due to the heavily interdependent relationship between the government and the UN. The absence of government leadership has demanded greater activism on the part of civil society. In Haiti, advocates have continued to pressure both the Haitian government and the UN by lobbying officials and continuing targeted demonstrations. For example, in 2012, advocates mobilised to make cholera a central issue of a UN Security Council visit to Haiti. A few days before the visit, cholera was not even on the Council’s agenda. BAI and IJDH provided briefing packets to Council members and issued a press release urging them to address cholera. Major news outlets carried the press release, which helped raise awareness of the issue as the delegates travelled to Haiti. Upon their arrival, the delegates were confronted by two demonstrations that the BAI and its grassroots collaborators had organised. In meetings with members of the Haitian parliament, the delegates faced tough questions from legislators who had been briefed on the cholera crisis by BAI. Haitian journalists followed up with probing questions of their own during the delegates’ press conference. In formal remarks to the Council after they returned to New York, three of the delegates publicly urged a more just response to the epidemic. BAI and IJDH issued a press release about their statements, which a journalist in Haiti used as a basis for questioning former US President Bill Clinton, UN Special Envoy for Haiti, about UN responsibility. In response to the journalist’s question, Clinton admitted that UN peacekeepers were the “proximate cause” of the epidemic, resulting in the first public admission of responsibility by a UN official.[xiii]

Other advocates in Haiti have taken legal action to force the government into action, including lawyers Newton Saint Juste and Andre Michel, and the Defenseurs des Opprimés (DOP), a grassroots legal organisation. DOP has also organised a series of public events and demonstrations in partnership with the Kolektif. Moreover, cholera victims and grassroots activists have continued to connect with journalists and filmmakers to make their voices heard. Their participation in numerous interviews and documentaries has created compelling narratives about the impacts of cholera and has humanised the fight for justice.

The cholera victims and their supporters are advancing the movement amid growing hostility toward human rights advocates. The lawyers leading the cholera accountability efforts in Haiti are increasingly coming under pressure for their work. Threats and harassment against Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney at the BAI, escalated in 2012. Joseph has been the subject of illegal searches, unjustified court summons and numerous death threats. In September 2012, the chief prosecutor in Port-au-Prince resigned from his post after being pressured to issue an unlawful arrest warrant for Joseph and other attorneys doing politically sensitive work. The situation has only deteriorated over time. In 2013, DOP Executive Director Patrice Florvilus was the target of death threats and unjustified criminal charges. Later in the year, Andre Michel was illegally arrested and held by authorities. The targeting of human rights defenders has outraged Haitian civil society as well as the international community. In response, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted two precautionary measures directing the government of Haiti to ensure human rights workers’ physical safety and their ability to work free from intimidation. The strong showing of solidarity in Haiti and abroad has resulted in a temporary reprieve for particular individuals. Nevertheless, the overall political climate in Haiti remains precarious for civil society leaders.

Haitian diaspora

Early efforts to organise on cholera were centralised in Haiti, but the Haitian diaspora has also mobilised on the issue in influential ways. Several diaspora groups have joined forces in Le Collectif Solidarité avec les victimes du choléra that staged a demonstration outside UN headquarters in New York to coincide with the Haitian prime minister’s address to the UN General Assembly in September 2013. The demonstration brought activists into the streets, where they sang songs and held up signs demanding action. Diaspora leaders have formed new initiatives around cholera, such as the Cholera Justice Project, which is organising community meetings across the United States to educate and mobilise the diaspora on the issue. In an important effort to make English-language information more accessible to Haitians, diaspora leaders in Canada have published a website that compiles key reports on UN responsibility in French.[xiv] Others are raising awareness by speaking out on television and talk radio shows. The diaspora is also playing an important role in advocacy with the Haitian and US governments. In Haiti, members of the diaspora are lobbying district officials and cabinet ministers to ensure that victims have access to health care. Most recently in the United States, the National Haitian American Elected Officials Network (NHAEON) sent a letter to the State Department urging the US to take a position in the lawsuit that does not prevent the cholera victims from having their day in court. While the US government did not heed this recommendation, choosing instead to support UN immunity, the organising continues on this issue.

International solidarity

Haitian civil society has partnered with solidarity groups abroad to build an international movement for justice. Members of the US-based Haiti Advocacy Working Group (HAWG), a coalition of civil society organisations working in Haiti, have played a leading role in advocating for a more just UN response. HAWG members are engaging influential decision-makers such as key UN member states and members of the US Congress. Using creative social media strategies, advocacy groups have led a number of campaigns on the issue. In November 2012, 48 human rights groups signed a letter asking the UN Secretary-General to respond to victims’ claims and 30,000 people have signed an Avaaz.org petition that calls on the UN to eliminate cholera in Haiti. Three hundred thousand people have viewed and shared Baseball in the Time of Cholera, a documentary short about the human impacts of cholera on one family in Haiti.

Impact

In Haiti, grassroots advocacy has turned cholera into a key political issue and has created dissent within the Haitian government regarding how to address UN responsibility. While the president – who wields the most foreign relations powers to put pressure on the UN – remains woefully silent on the issue, the opposition-controlled Senate has passed numerous resolutions calling on MINUSTAH to provide reparations to victims of cholera. Notably, the day of the diaspora protest in New York, Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe told the General Assembly that he believes “that the United Nations has a moral responsibility in this epidemic,”[xv] marking the first time the Haitian government has publicly acknowledged the UN’s responsibility in such stark terms. Still, the Haitian government is far from taking adequate action to protect the rights of its people and push the UN to provide a just response.

Advocates have also targeted the US government, because of the United States’ status as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and the largest donor to the UN and MINUSTAH, and because it is home to UN headquarters as well as a large Haitian-American diaspora. The groundswell of public outrage has reached the halls of the US Congress, where over 100 representatives have signed letters highlighting the UN’s responsibility and its obligation to respond more justly. In January 2014, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. and 64 other members of the House of Representatives sent a letter calling on US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power to assure that the US Mission to the UN “intensif[ies] efforts to find a just solution” to the outbreak. By using its voice to promote a just resolution to the cholera crisis, the US government can strengthen accountability within the UN system and contribute to a constructive resolution.

The movement for justice is slowly but steadily pushing the UN toward a more just response. In December 2012, the UN recognised its obligation to eliminate cholera in Haiti by announcing its support for the official cholera elimination plan drafted by the governments of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, known as the Initiative for the Elimination of Cholera in the Island of Hispaniola. Funding for the initiative has been slow, however, with the UN pledging only $23.5 million – a mere one percent of the total needed – and other donors have so far failed to mobilise the remaining funds.[xvi] In October 2013, the UN announced the establishment of a joint commission to address the problem more holistically, though the commission’s mandate and potential impact remain unclear. Still, these are signs that momentum for a just outcome is building. A growing number of current and former UN officials have publicly declared their support for the movement. Speaking at the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders ceremony in October 2013, where lead attorney Mario Joseph of the BAI was being honoured, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said she “stand[s] by the call that…those who suffered as a result of that cholera be provided with compensation.”[xvii] Former UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis echoed the Commissioner’s words one month later, saying in a radio interview, “I don’t think [liability] would compromise the UN. In fact, I think it would do the UN a lot of good to be seen as principled in the face of having caused so much devastation.”[xviii] Their voices are spurring important conversations inside the UN and tipping the scales in favour of a just response.

Conclusion

Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. once wrote, “Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.”[xix] Through their grassroots organising, cholera activists have exposed a tragic injustice. They have been met with fierce resistance every step of the way by one of the most powerful actors in the world. The leaders of the movement – including Mario Joseph of the BAI and Patrice Florvilus of DOP – have received threats and face continuous harassment. Yet despite knowledge that their lives could be in danger, the activists press on. It is the resilience and courage of the Haitian people that inspire others around the globe to join the movement. Laboratory scientists, university professors and political leaders outside of Haiti – many of whom are separated by a time zone or language barrier – are using the tools of their professions to send a message to the UN that it cannot hide behind immunity. They do this in the hope that one day soon, the light of human conscience and the air of international opinion will give rise to justice for the cholera victims.

 

 

[i] Epidemiological Update, Pan-American Health Organization, 23 December 2013, http://www.paho.org/hq/index.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_view&gid=23900+&Itemid=999999&lang=en .

[ii] J Katz, UN worries its troops caused cholera in Haiti, Associated Press, 20 November 2010, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/40280944/ns/health/t/un-worries-its-troops-caused-cholera-haiti/#.UupkP7SPOSo .

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] J Katz, UN probes base as source of Haiti cholera, Associated Press, 28 October 2010, http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2010/10/28/un-probes-base-source-haiti-cholera-outbreak.html  .

[v] M Terrien, Transcript of 28 October 2010 press conference, Pan-American Health Organization.

[vi] Above fn 2.

[vii] P Farmer, Haiti after the Earthquake, New York: Public Affairs, 2011.

[viii] D Lantagne et al., Final Report of the Independent Panel of Experts on the Cholera Outbreak in Haiti, May 2011, http://www.un.org/News/dh/infocus/haiti/UN-cholera-report-final.pdf  .

[ix] The UN shall provide for appropriate modes of settlement of private law claims. Section 29 Convention on Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, Adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 13 February 1946, https://www.un.org/en/ethics/pdf/convention.pdf ; The UN shall establish a standing claims commission to hear claims from third parties suffering injury, illness, or death attributable to the UN. Section 54-55, Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), Agreement Between the United Nations and the Government of Haiti Concerning the Status of the United Nations Operation in Haiti, http://www.ijdh.org/2004/07/archive/agreement-between-the-united-nations-and-the-government-of-haiti-concerning-the-status-of-the-united-nations-operation-in-haiti/#.U1OILfmSyuk .

[x] Peacekeeping without Accountability, Transnational Development Clinic, Yale Law School, 6 August 2013,http://www.law.yale.edu/documents/pdf/Clinics/Haiti_TDC_Final_Report.pdf .

[xi] Editorial board, United Nations must admit its role in Haiti’s cholera outbreak, The Washington Post, 16 August 2013, http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-08-16/opinions/41417425_1_cholera-outbreak-united-nations-haiti-and-haitians  .

[xii] Editorial board, Haiti’s Imported Disaster, The New York Times, 12 October 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/13/opinion/sunday/haitis-imported-disaster.html?_r=0  .

[xiii] M Mosk, Bill Clinton, UN Envoy, Admits Peacekeepers as Source of Haiti Cholera, ABC News, 9 March 2012, http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/bill-clinton-admits-united-nations-source-haiti-cholera/story?id=15885580  .

[xiv] For more information, please see: http://www.dossierhaiticholera.com

[xv] At UN, Haitian leader urges ‘second look’ at island nation, where real progress is taking hold, UN News Centre, 26 September 2013, http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46067&Cr=general+debate&Cr1#.Us7ukrSQOSp  .

[xvi] Cholera in Haiti: The UN Strain, The Economist, 15 July 2013, http://www.economist.com/blogs/americasview/2013/07/cholera-haiti  .

[xvii] T Daniel, UN Official Makes Rare Case For Compensation For Haiti Cholera Victims, Huffington Post, 8 October 2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/08/un-haiti-compensation-_n_4066697.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003  .

[xviii] R Annis, CBC News examines implications of Haiti cholera lawsuit for UN operations worldwide, including in the Philippines, Vancouver Observer, 14 November 2013,http://www.vancouverobserver.com/politics/commentary/cbc-news-examines-implications-haiti-cholera-lawsuit-un-operations-worldwide  .

[xix] M King, Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 16 April 1963, http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/documentsentry/annotated_letter_from_birmingham/  .

 

Click HERE for the original.

Boston Haitian Flag Day Events

May 31, 2014 - 14:30

Celebrate Haitian Flag Day in Boston.

 

Haitian Heritage Month Kick-off Ceremony
Thursday, May 1st, 2014, 6 – 7:30 P.M.
Haitian Multi Service Center, 185 Columbia Rd., Dorchester

10th Annual Haitian Flag Day Breakfast
Friday, May 16, 2014, 10:00 A.M. to 11:30 A.M.
Boston City Hall, 5th Floor, Government Center, Boston.

19th Annual Haitian Flag Raising Ceremony
Friday, May 16, 2014 , 12:00 to 2:00 P.M.
Boston City Hall Plaza, Government Center, Boston.

Toussaint Louverture Art Exhibition Opening Reception
Friday, May 16, 2014 , 6:00 P.M.
Mattapan Branch Library, 1350 Blue Hill Ave, Mattapan.

Haitian Flag Day Conference
Hosted by Cholera Justice Project
Saturday, May 17, 2014, 5:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M.
Sant Bel Vi, 6 Frontenac Street, Dorchester.

14th Annual Haitian-American Unity Parade
Sunday, May 18, 2014, Departure 1:00 P.M.
Mattapan Square, Blue Hill Ave.

Haitian Heritage Month Celebration at the Massachusetts State House
Hosted by State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry
Thursday, May 29, 2014 – 1:00 to 2:30 P.M.
Massachusetts State House

YOFESTIVAL 2014
An annual Talent Contest To celebrate Haitian Heritage
A presentation of Youth and Family Enrichment Services (YOFES)
Saturday, May 31, 2014 starting at 5:30 P.M.
Roxbury Community College, 1234 Columbus Ave, Roxbury Crossing, Boston.

For more information Contact:
Cholera Justice Project (508) 250-7926, Haitian-Americans United, Inc. (H.A.U.) (617) 298-2976, General Consulate of Haiti in Boston (617) 266-3660, Office of State Senator Linda D. Forry (617) 722-1150, Haitian-American Public Health Initiatives (HAPHI) (617-298-8076), Association of Haitian Women in Boston (AFAB) (617) 287-0096, Youth and Family Enrichment Services (YOFES) (617) 364-0370.

 

Click HERE for Haitian Heritage Month events all over the US.

Miami Archbishop Supports Haitian Family Reunification

May 31, 2014 - 10:39

Archbishop of Miami Thomas G.Wenski wrote an excellent op-ed urging that DHS immediately create a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program, a course strongly urged in the bipartisan May 30 letter to the President by 63 Congresspersons including ranking Foreign Affairs committee and Immigration subcommittee members, ten of their committee colleagues and the members of the South Florida delegation.

Create plan for Haitians equal to one for Cubans

Thomas Wenski, Sun Sentinel
May 31, 2014

One example of how our present immigration system is broken are the numbers of people who have been already approved to immigrate legally to the United States but who languish waiting approval to travel to the U.S. Some are told they may have to wait 12 years for their number to be called.

Right now the Department of Homeland Security has approved family-based immigrant visa petitions for more than 110,000 Haitians. Traditionally, U.S.- immigration policy has promoted family reunification — and family members who are U.S. citizens or legal residents have petitioned for these relations to join them in the United States as provided for by the law. However, they are — because of the inadequacies of the present system — put on seemingly interminable wait lists.

This could be fixed with President Obama’s storied phone and pen. The Department of Homeland Security could easily create a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program similar to the one that already exists for Cubans since 2007. Haiti continues to struggle on many fronts: It still is faced with the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, an ongoing cholera epidemic and a chaotic political situation due to failure to organize parliamentary elections. Given these factors, it makes more sense — and it is certainly a safer option – for these people who one day will immigrate from Haiti to the U.S. to come sooner rather than later.

Such a parole program wouldn’t give any one a green card any sooner than the date they have already been given. But parole into the U.S. — with an approved work permit — would allow them to reunite with their families now even as they wait for their turn to adjust their status to that of lawful permanent U.S. resident.

Such an action on the part of the administration would certainly also eliminate the perverse incentive to illegal entry that these excessively long wait lists have created. But more importantly, helping to unite families rather than keeping them divided will help these families to integrate more speedily and successfully into American society. A Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program is simply the right thing to do.

Most Rev. Thomas G. Wenski is Archibishop of Miami.

 

Click HERE for the original.

63 U.S. Representatives Strongly Urge President to Create a Haitian Family Reunification Program

May 30, 2014 - 11:30

May 30, 2014

U.S. Representatives Alcee Hastings and Mario Diaz-Balart, joined by 61 of their colleagues (Foreign Affairs committee member Rep. Connolly asked to join after the letter had been sent), strongly urged President Obama Friday to create a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program “to save lives and accelerate Haiti’s recovery efforts. This would allow Haitians with approved family-based visa petitions to come to the United States while they await their visas.”

Co-signers include eight other Foreign Affairs Committee members (Ros-Lehtinen, Engel, Keating, Deutch, Sires, Frankel, Bass, Meeks); four Immigration Subcommittee members (Lofgren, Gutierrez, Jackson Lee, and Garcia); and the members of the South Florida congressional delegation.

The letter references continuing deplorable conditions including tent camps, the ongoing deadly cholera outbreak, and “what the U.S. Coast Guard knows all too well. Desperate Haitians are increasingly abandoned and dying at sea as they resort to smugglers to cross perilous routes…, including the notoriously treacherous 80-mile-wide Mona Passage strait toward Puerto Rico.”

The House members write: “Creating a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program would not only save lives and reunite families, but empower individuals to actively assist in Haiti’s recovery. Haitians remit about $2 billion annually, mostly from the diaspora in the United States, and Haitian parolees would be able to obtain work permits and send much-needed remittances back to Haiti.”

Urging the President “to put an end to the indefinite waiting lists as soon as possible through the creation of a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program,” they write: “As of November 1, 2013, DHS had approved family-based immigration visa petitions for 109, 489. However, due to arbitrary per country limits, they unconscionably remain on waiting lists of up to more than 12 years in Haiti. Your administration can take immediate steps to save and improve lives by allowing Haitians who have already been approved to join their families in the United States.”

Please see Rep. Hastings’ press release below and click HERE for the letter.

For Immediate Release                                                      Contact: Evan Polisar

May 30, 2014                                                                              (202) 225-1313

Hastings and Diaz-Balart Call for Creation of Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program

(Washington, D.C.) Today, Representatives Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), along with 61 of their colleagues in Congress, sent the following letter to President Barack Obama, urging him to direct the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to create a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program that would allow Haitians with approved family-based visa petitions to come to the United States and work while they await their visas. (Please find below and attached a copy of the letter).

Joining Hastings and Diaz-Balart as co-signers of the letter were (61): Reps. John Conyers, Jr., Charles B. Rangel, George Miller, John Lewis, Frank Pallone, Jr., Elliot L. Engel, Jim McDermott, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, James P. Moran, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Maxine Waters, Jerrold Nadler, Sanford D. Bishop, Jr., Corrine Brown, Luis V. Gutiérrez, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Bobby L. Rush, Bennie G. Thompson, Chaka Fattah, Sheila Jackson Lee, Zoe Lofgren, Earl Blumenauer, Donna M. Christensen, Danny K. Davis, James P. McGovern, Gregory W. Meeks, John F. Tierney, Barbara Lee, Michael E. Capuano, Janice D. Schakowsky, Wm. Lacy Clay, Michael M. Honda, Raúl M. Grijalva, David Scott, Emanuel Cleaver, Al Green, Gwen Moore, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Albio Sires, Kathy Castor, Yvette D. Clarke, Steve Cohen, Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr., Peter Welch, André Carson, Theodore E. Deutch, Karen Bass, William R. Keating, Cedric L. Richmond, Frederica S. Wilson, Donald M. Payne, Jr., Matt Cartwright, Lois Frankel, Joe Garcia, Robin L. Kelly, Mark Pocan, Marc A. Veasey, Elijah E. Cummings, José E. Serrano, and Donna F. Edwards.

May 30, 2014

The Honorable Barack H. Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:
We write to strongly urge you to direct the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to create a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program in order to save lives and accelerate Haiti’s recovery efforts. This would allow Haitians with approved family-based visa petitions to come to the United States while they await their visas.

Tragically, over 200,000 Haitians were killed and millions more were affected by the catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010. The devastation left Haiti’s infrastructure severely compromised and its citizens vulnerable. Over four years later, approximately 150,000 Haitians still live under deplorable conditions in the country’s infamous tent camps, and tens of thousands have had no other alternative but to live in unsafe, makeshift shelters that comprise the informal settlements around Port-au-Prince. In addition, while the United Nations (UN) has played an important role in the post-earthquake recovery effort, it has failed to adequately address and take responsibility for a deadly cholera outbreak that has killed more than 8,500 Haitians and sickened more than 700,000 since October of 2010.

Furthermore, many media reports have documented what the U.S. Coast Guard knows all too well. Desperate Haitians are increasingly abandoned and dying at sea as they resort to smugglers to cross perilous routes in search of a better life, including the notoriously treacherous 80-mile-wide Mona Passage strait toward Puerto Rico. According to Captain Mark Fedor, Chief of Enforcement of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Seventh District in Miami, “[the smugglers] want to get the run done and collect their money…there’s probably a lot of death we don’t know about.”

As of November 1, 2013, DHS had approved family-based immigrant visa petitions for 109,489. However, due to arbitrary per country limits, they unconscionably remain on waiting lists of up to more than 12 years in Haiti. Your administration can take immediate steps to save and improve lives by allowing Haitians who have already been approved to join their families in the United States.

The Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program, which was created by DHS in 2007 and subsequently renewed by your administration, has successfully paroled tens of thousands of approved Cuban participants into the United States. Creating a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program would not only save lives and reunite families, but empower individuals to actively assist in Haiti’s recovery. Haitians remit about $2 billion annually, mostly from the diaspora in the United States, and Haitian parolees would be able to obtain work permits and send much-needed remittances back to Haiti.

The creation of a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program is supported by 100 Members of Congress from both parties, 10 major editorial boards in at least 17 editorials, the New York and Philadelphia city councils, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, American Bar Association, Miami-Dade County Commission, Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, and thousands of petitioners.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. The people of Haiti are incredibly resilient and eager to take control of their future. We therefore urge you to put an end to the indefinite waiting lists as soon as possible through the creation of a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program.
Sincerely,

Reps. Alcee L. Hastings, Mario Diaz-Balart, John Conyers, Jr., Charles B. Rangel, George Miller, John Lewis, Frank Pallone, Jr., Elliot L. Engel, Jim McDermott, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, James P. Moran, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Maxine Waters, Jerrold Nadler, Sanford D. Bishop, Jr., Corrine Brown, Luis V. Gutiérrez, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Bobby L. Rush, Bennie G. Thompson, Chaka Fattah, Sheila Jackson Lee, Zoe Lofgren, Earl Blumenauer, Donna M. Christensen, Danny K. Davis, James P. McGovern, Gregory W. Meeks, John F. Tierney, Barbara Lee, Michael E. Capuano, Janice D. Schakowsky, Wm. Lacy Clay, Michael M. Honda, Raúl M. Grijalva, David Scott, Emanuel Cleaver, Al Green, Gwen Moore, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Albio Sires, Kathy Castor, Yvette D. Clarke, Steve Cohen, Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr., Peter Welch, André Carson, Theodore E. Deutch, Karen Bass, William R. Keating, Cedric L. Richmond, Frederica S. Wilson, Donald M. Payne, Jr., Matt Cartwright, Lois Frankel, Joe Garcia, Robin L. Kelly, Mark Pocan, Marc A. Veasey, Elijah E. Cummings, José E. Serrano, and Donna F. Edwards
Cc:

The Honorable Jeh Johnson
Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
The Honorable John Kerry
Secretary, U.S. Department of State
Congressman Alcee L. Hastings serves as Senior Member of the House Rules Committee, Ranking Democratic Member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and Co-Chairman of the Florida Delegation.

###

Haitian Heritage Month Celebration at IIIC

May 28, 2014 - 13:00

Celebrate Haitian Heritage Month at Boston’s Irish International Immigrant Center.

WHAT: 

Kompa lessons, Kreyol language activities, trivia, and more.

WHERE:

Irish International Immigrant Center
100 Franklin Street LL
Boston, MA

WHEN:

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 @ 4-7pm

 

Click HERE to learn more about the IIIC.

Bloomberg View reinforces UN responsibility for Haiti’s cholera epidemic

May 27, 2014 - 08:32

This short slideshow from Bloomberg View makes a clear and compelling argument, laying responsibility for Haiti’s cholera epidemic directly at the door of the UN, and calling for the UN to make the financial investment necessary to halt the spread.

Cholera in Haiti, Negligence at the UN

The Editors, Bloomberg View
May 2014

 

Click HERE to watch it.

End Child Slavery in Haiti

May 25, 2014 - 09:30

Join the movement to end child slavery in Haiti.

Tibebe is a survivor of restavèk slavery who now leads a growing network of survivors using their stories to speak out against this injustice.

Guyto is the Director of Beyond Borders’ Child Protection Program, leading a team that’s trained more than 3,000 Child Rights Activists who are ensuring the safety and support of Haiti’s most vulnerable children.

Tibebe and Guyto are coming to your area to talk about child slavery in Haiti and how you can join the No Child a Slave campaign.

Watch this video to learn more about them.

 

Here’s where they’ll be going:

Date: Thursday, May 22, 2014
Event Host: Jamestown Philomenian Library
Time: 6:00 pm
Location: 26 North Rd, Jamestown, RI 02835

Date: Friday, May 23, 2014
Event Host: Imago Dei Fund & Ansara Family Fund
Time: 11:30 am
Location: 200 Clarendon Street, 35th Floor Boston, MA 02116

Date: Sunday, May 25, 2014
Event Host: Saint Cecilia Parish
Time: 12:30 pm, following the 11:15 am service
Location: 18 Belvidere St., Boston, MA 02115

Black Immigration Network Kinship Assembly

May 23, 2014 - 06:00

Gather for Action in Miami with the Black Immigration Network.

Event Description:

A National convening for African Americans and Black immigrants will take place from May 23 through 25, 2014. Over 150 community leaders plan to converge in Miami, Florida to discuss racial justice and immigrant rights. The Black Immigration Network (BIN), a national network comprised of Black Immigrants and African Americans committed to racial equity and migrant justice, held its first initial meeting nearly five years ago. Since its humble beginnings the membership of organizations and individuals has grown, and now boasts of representing thousands of Blacks nationwide. The Black Immigration Network (BIN) will convene its national membership in Miami to promote growth and advancement, as it tackles the tough issues facing Black immigrants and African-Americans in the fight for justice in the U.S. This conference will be an opportunity for people of African decent to participate in training, networking and strategy sessions.  (from Haitian Times)

 

Click HERE for registration and more info.

Dominican senate approves citizenship bill

May 22, 2014 - 09:21

Last year, the Dominican Republic announced a ruling that left thousand of Dominicans of Haitian descent stateless and stripped of their citizenship. After longstanding debate between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and public outcry from the international community, Dominican lawmakers unanimously approved a naturalized citizenship bill that would permit individuals without proper documentation 90 days to register for regular immigration status, and after two years of residency apply for full citizenship.

Dominican citizenship bill gets final OK in Senate

EZEQUIEL ABIU LOPEZ, Miami Herald

May 21, 2014

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — The Senate gave final legislative approval Wednesday night to a bill that will set up a system for granting naturalized citizenship and permanent residency to people of Haitian descent born in this Caribbean country.

All 26 lawmakers present in the Senate chamber voted for the bill during an emergency session. It must now be officially published by President Danilo Medina to become law. The measure was introduced by Medina’s administration and the lower house unanimously passed it last week.

Medina submitted the bill after an international outcry erupted over a ruling last year by the country’s Constitutional Court allowing the government to strip the citizenship of thousands of people born to migrants living illegally in the Dominican Republic.

Rights groups estimated about 200,000 people could lose their citizenship, nearly all of them of Haitian descent. But the government maintained that only 24,000 people would be affected, with some 13,000 of them of Haitian ancestry.

The court’s ruling aggravated longstanding tensions between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, which share the island of Hispaniola. Both countries withdrew their ambassadors, but officials of both governments have since met to talk about the decision.

Anibal de Castro, the Dominican Republic’s ambassador to the U.S., praised the president and the country’s lawmakers for their swift action in approving the legislation.

“Through this historic legislation, President Danilo Medina fulfilled his commitment to finding a just and equitable solution for undocumented persons, while giving clarity to an outdated system,” de Castro said in a statement.

The legislation seeks to uphold citizenship rights for children born to foreign parents, but only those who are registered with the government’s civil registry and who have various identification documents.

Critics of Medina’s bill have noted that many people do not possess those documents or have had them seized by government officials. They say the legislation will force these people to register as aliens in the land of their birth.

Under the legislation, people without the proper documents but who are able to prove they were born in the Dominican Republic will have a window of 90 days to register for regular immigration status. They can then apply for full citizenship after two years of residency.

Juliana Deguis Pierre, a woman of Haitian descent who has been fighting for her Dominican citizenship, said last week that she hopes the measure achieves what it promises.

The Dominican electoral board, which is responsible for the civil registry, will oversee a public awareness campaign to ensure that people across the country know what the new citizenship rules are.

Click Here for original

Chikungunya Virus Spreads in Haiti, US Possibly Next

May 19, 2014 - 03:42

The mosquito-borne Chikungunya virus is spreading rapidly across Haiti, with epidemiologists saying it’s probably heading for the US next. Although it’s extremely painful, the virus usually lasts for a few days and doesn’t come back because one develops immunity. Currently, the only official treatment is Tylenol.

Mosquito-Borne Breaking Bone Disease Spreads In Haiti

Peter Granitz, NPR
May 19, 2014

Transmitted by mosquitoes, the chikungunya virus causes rash, fever and excruciating joint pain. It has no cure. The good news: It’s rarely fatal. Epidemiologists say the virus is headed to the U.S.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

A mosquito-borne virus is spreading across the Caribbean. It’s called Chikungunya. It’s hardly ever fatal but it does hurt, causing severe joint pain. And public health officials expect the disease to eventually reach the U.S. Reporter Peter Granitz takes us to Haiti, the country with the most recent confirmed outbreak.

PETER GRANITZ, BYLINE: Chikungunya was first detected more than 50 years ago in Tanzania before spreading elsewhere in Africa, Asia and India. In December, it was diagnosed on the Caribbean island of St. Martin and since has spread to more than half a dozen islands. Haiti saw its first case in early May. The name means that which bends up in the language of the Makonde people of Tanzania.

DR. ROGER NASCI: It refers to the posture of the people that are afflicted with the disease, referring to being bent up or bent over because of the severe arthralgia that it produces.

GRANITZ: That’s Doctor Roger Nasci. He investigates vector-borne diseases for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

NASCI: It’s a pretty painful disease.

GRANITZ: That pain is concentrated in the bones and is accompanied by high fever and rashes. Locals have started calling it kraze le zo – breaking bone in Creole. The symptoms look a lot like dengue fever – another common disease here. Much of the world already calls that broken bone syndrome. The mosquito that carries dengue also carries chikungunya. Jacques Boncy leads Haiti’s national laboratory.

JACQUES BONCY: The virus of chikungunya is completely different, but the symptoms are alike. So you could miss one for the other. The recommendation for the physician is to test for both. So if the person is dengue negative, and has the symptoms, the possibility of having chikungunya is higher.

GRANITZ: But Haitian physicians cannot test for both. There is no facility here capable of testing for the chikungunya virus yet. Boncy expects the CDC and World Health Organization to provide test kits in the next couple of months. The Haitian health ministry said last week more than 1,500 cases meet the clinical definition of chikungunya, but Boncy says the number could be exponentially hig her. The CDC’s Nasci says the strain spotted in the Americas most likely came from the Pacific.

NASCI: There’s a lot of travel between the Philippines and the Caribbean. You know, we can’t be unequivocally positive about how the virus got there, but looking at the virus lineage, the greatest likelihood is that it came from that region of the world.

GRANITZ: There is no cure, but the virus is rarely fatal. Physicians can recommend Tylenol, but there’s really nothing else they can do. For someone living day-to-day, it could mean no income that week. The intense pain and fever usually pass within a few days. But that’s not much solace to Esther Emma, who’s at a local clinic.

(SOUNDBITE OF BABY CRYING)

GRANITZ: She’s holding her 15-day-old daughter Fritzline, who has a faint rash on her back.

ESTHER EMMA: (through translator) She was moaning, moaning, moaning.

GRANITZ: Fritzline doesn’t sleep for more than a couple of minutes at a time before she wakes up in pain. At first, Emma says, she thought her newborn had a stomachache. But Emma had already had what looked like chikungunya – a terrible fever, and pain in her body so bad she says she couldn’t open her hands. So she brought Fritzline here, to Heartline Maternity.

EMMA: (through translator) It’s very scary to see a little baby like this have the fever because I had it and I know how painful it is.

GRANITZ: The rainy season has begun in Haiti creating fertile breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Public health officials say they expect a spike in chikungunya cases before the spread of the disease tapers off because once infected, people develop immunity. For NPR News, I’m Peter Granitz in Port au Prince.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

 

Click HERE for the original.