Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

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CGRS Hiring Associate Director/Senior Staff Attorney

July 1, 2014 - 08:31

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

Click HERE for more info.


June 28, 2014 - 18:00

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


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

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


New York City
(locations vary)


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


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

Forcing Aid Organizations to Respect Human Rights

June 27, 2014 - 09:37

This article discusses the difficulty of getting justice from aid organizations even when they have clearly violated human rights, as in the Haiti cholera case. The author argues that litigation, whether the verdict is in favor of the plaintiffs or not, can draw enough negative attention and pressure aid organizations to act more carefully. While some argue that this is biting the hand that feeds you, they neglect to consider that aid organizations can fail to respect human rights like any other group.

A Good Reason to Bite the Hand That Feeds

Pooja Bhatia, Ozy
June 27, 2014

Why you should care
Recent lawsuits against aid agencies could yield a fairer and more humane international development system.

Maybe it’s not impossible to sue an aid agency, but it’s damn difficult. Sometimes it requires a stakeout.

Outside Manhattan’s Asia Society last week, process servers lay in wait. Their quarry: U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, the evening’s speaker. Cars with diplomatic plates rolled up. Ban emerged. According to lawyer Stanley Alpert, one of the process servers joined a crowd of well-wishers, moved to shake Ban’s hand, and — bam! — instead served him a complaint by Haitian cholera victims against a U.N. peacekeeping force. The U.N. maintains that a security guard interceded and slapped the papers away before they touched Ban. Alpert maintains Ban got served.

Massive, well-publicized and terribly embarrassing for aid agencies, such lawsuits could change behavior — even if unsuccessful.

And the odd tableau reveals one of the great ironies of foreign aid: the very institutions that stand for rule of law, human rights and betterment of mankind are generally immune from courtrooms — even when they screw up mightily, as seems the case in Haiti.

The vast weight of scientific evidence indicates that in October 2010, United Nations peacekeepers inadvertently contaminated a major river with the cholera bacteria. Since then, some 8,500 Haitians have died from cholera, according to the latest figures from the country’s health ministry, with more than 700,000 infected out of a population of just 10 million. At least three lawsuits on their behalf have been filed against the U.N.

Massive, well-publicized and terribly embarrassing for aid agencies, such lawsuits could change behavior. Even if ultimately unsuccessful, they could force more circumspection and influence the course of development down the road, making it hew better to human rights principles, observers say.


In March, an Ethiopian farmer, a  “Mr. O,” filed suit against Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID). Mr. O alleges that the British government supported an Ethiopian “villagisation” scheme that was supposed to settle 1.5 million people near roads and schools, but ended up forcibly displacing them, sending them to a refugee camp and selling their land to foreign investors. DFID has long been one of Ethiopia’s donors; it’s slated to spend some $600 million on the country in FY 2014-15. Mr. O’s lawyers seek a declaration that DFID violated its human rights policies and that it should investigate, publicize the investigation and ensure that DFID isn’t involved in repression.

The suits are different — one alleges direct negligence, the other support for a repressive regime — but both will likely face an immunity challenge. The United Nations, most donors and NGOs enjoy some immunity for activities judged to be within the scope of their mission.

For the supposed beneficiaries of foreign aid, there’s little to do when aid horribly messes up.

But is polluting a river with a deadly bacteria an integral part of a peacekeeping mission? We would think not, but the U.S. government seems to think otherwise. In March, the Department of Justice intervened in the Haiti cholera case, arguing for a wide scope of immunity. It’s unlikely that the Southern District of New York, where the first suit was filed, will go forward.

To be sure, immunity is not the sole reason few lawsuits are launched against aid agencies. “Litigation can be very lengthy — drawn-out, uncertain and above all costly,” says Natalie Bridgeman Fields, Executive Director of Accountability Counsel, which helps people harmed by big development projects. Her firm works outside court, typically through agencies’ internal dispute-resolution mechanisms. Accountability Counsel’s cases, which include labor violations cases in World Bank-funded projects and hydroelectric dam displacements, can be resolved in a year, rather than a decade, she says. “The [internal complaint] system is set up to not require lawyers — you could fill out a complaint on a napkin, and that’s the entry cost,” she says.


Critics of aid lawsuits sometimes liken such actions to biting the hand that feeds you. What right do beneficiaries of first-world largesse have to criticize? Such critics seem to have a hard time wrapping their heads around the notion that aid could do harm.

It can and sometimes does. For the supposed beneficiaries of foreign aid, there’s little to do when aid horribly messes up — when it, say, relocates refugees to a toxic dump site, or when it contaminates waterways, or when it supports a repressive government that tortures its citizens. There’s no one to sue, there’s no one to vote out of office and there’s rarely even a complaints hotline.

The Haiti and Ethiopia cases may change that. The time, cost and — perhaps most of all — negative publicity that accompanies such suits can affect day-to-day policy at big institutions. Right now, international financial institutions, like the World Bank and IMF, don’t merely argue they’re immune from lawsuits, but act like it, too, says Bridgeman Fields. “They don’t even like to use the words ‘human rights.’ To the extent there’s progress on the legal front, that could translate into due diligence and better compliance,” she says.

In England, at least, the public seems more watchful about which regimes their tax dollars are supporting. In London, one hot topic at this month’s summit on ending sexual violence in conflict was whether DFID is underwriting human rights abuses by security forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo. DFID has disbursed some $85 million of a pledged $102 million to the DRC’s security forces.

Satisfaction might elude plaintiffs but maybe future recipients will thank them.
Click HERE for the original.

Penn Ignores Key Points About Haiti in WSJ

June 25, 2014 - 08:00

If people don’t know the facts about Haiti, there is no accountability and progress cannot be made. A recent article by Sean Penn in the Wall Street Journal provided a very optimistic view that was unfortunately inaccurate and left out some key points. The article below highlights some of those inaccuracies and the actual situation in Haiti–economically, in housing and in elections.

Sean Penn’s ‘Corner’ in Haiti: Don’t believe the hype

Haiti Information Project
June 25, 2014

There are regular demonstrations in Haiti demanding the resignation of President Martelly, protests against the leveling of homes in downtown Port au Prince, protests against the confiscation of lands on the island of Île à Vache for tourism projects, protests demanding new national elections, protests against the high cost of living and yet more protests on the horizon. 

Police fired tear gas at protesters and live ammunition into the air during demonstrations on June 10, 2014

Despite this rising tide of protests, the messages most Americans hear about Haiti are filtered through the voices of celebrity experts like Sean Penn who recently denied anything is wrong and pronounced the small Caribbean nation has finally “turned a corner.”  In a recent tome published June 18 in Newsweek magazine Sean Penn wrote, “Haiti’s economy is among the fastest-growing in the Caribbean, as the government continues to make economic development a priority.”

At first glance, one might think Penn is correct for crowing about the handling of Haiti’s economy by his pals in the Martelly government given a recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) press release. On May 30 the IMF proclaimed, “Preliminary data for the first half of the fiscal year 2014 (i.e. October 2013 – March 2014) suggest that economic activity (as measured by gross domestic product, GDP), has advanced in line with projections, at a pace of about 3 – 4 percent. Inflation remained low, and it is projected to be in the mid-single digits by the end of the fiscal year (i.e. September 2014).”

A closer examination of historical statistics on theWorld Bank’s website shows that Haiti’s annual GDP growth was actually at 5.6% when Martelly came to power through highly controversial elections in 2011. GDP growth in Haiti then dropped to 2.8% in 2012, rose to 4.3% in 2013 and is currently calculated at 3.6% for 2014 by the World Bank. Even if we take the IMF’s higher estimate of 4% GDP for 2014, that would mean that Haiti’s annual GDP actually shrank by 1.2% since Martelly assumed office. And while inflation may have dropped from 8.4% in 2011 to 5.9% in 2013, the World Bank’s official assessment of the overall economic condition in Haiti is far less rosy, “Over half of its population of 10 million lives on less than US$1 per day, and approximately 80% live on less than US$2 per day. It is also one of the most unequal countries, with a Gini coefficient of 0.59 as of 2001.” Although arguably outdated, this last admission of income inequality has remained demonstrably true for as long as Haitians alive today can remember. It is perhaps the reality of the Gini coefficient that exposes Penn’s blind spot, namely that Haiti’s national economy still remains hostage to the dictates of a powerful wealthy elite. Given this, it appears Sean Penn’s description of Haiti’s current economic juncture as “turning a corner” is an exercise in hyperbole. This is especially true in the context of the billions of dollars in international development aid pumped into Haiti’s economy under the mantle of earthquake relief since Martelly became president.

While citing roads being paved and homes built, rebuilt and retrofitted since the earthquake is all well and good, Penn also offered this statement to demonstrate his bullish view of Haiti’s progress, “Crime rates have dropped, and in May 2011, one political party transferred power to another peacefully after an election for the first time in modern history.” Penn’s assertion that crime rates have dropped is not borne out by any available data as made clear by this Haiti 2014 Crime and Safety Report offered by the US Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security which states, “Reliable crime statistics are difficult to come by; Haitian National Police (HNP) numbers indicating a modest drop in crime during 2012 were undercut by those from other security entities operating in-country that continued to show a steady rise since 2010. A comparative analysis of figures from various police/security entities operating throughout Haiti reflects a continuation of the trend in which incidents of crimes are inaccurately or under-reported. Haiti’s perennially weak judiciary exacerbates an already unsteady security environment.”

Penn’s other assertion that Martelly’s election in 2011 represented a peaceful democratic transition appears an absurd attempt to rewrite history. The violence preceding and following the first round of the November 2010 presidential elections in Haiti is well documented. In fact, it is equally documented that most of the violence was perpetrated by the supporters of Michel Martelly after it was announced by the electoral council that Jude Celistine and Mirlande Manigat would face each other in a second round of balloting. This violence led to an infamous intervention in Haiti’s election process by the Organization of American States (OAS), backed by the US, to overturn the results. The legitimacy of the election was already in question as “nearly three-quarters of the electorate didn’t vote…” according to Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). The abysmal participation in both rounds of the presidential elections that brought Martelly to power was the result of the banning of Haiti’s most popular political party, Fanmi Lavalas.

Based on what the OAS called a “re-tabulation”, Martelly went on to the second round that also saw its share of documented violence and intimidation. Weisbrot described the outcome resulting from, “The OAS’ actions in taking the unprecedented step of overturning an election, without a recount or evidence for its action…” Judging by the thousands of demonstrators who regularly take to the streets calling for Martelly’s resignation only to be consistently dismissed by Sean Penn, it wasn’t just the credibility of the OAS that was lost in this process.

Penn and Michel Martelly in Haiti

Finally, Sean Penn has done much to transform Haiti into a cause celebre through his own intervention including his acceptance to act as an Ambassador-at-large for the Martelly government. Blurring the line between humanitarian and political operative, he has married his reputation to that of Martelly and the success of the regime. This has arguably colored his interpretation and judgment of what “turning a corner” really looks like in Haiti. This seems more obvious when we take an accounting of the facts he chooses to ignore and the social forces he regular dismisses in Haiti as unworthy of equal billing when compared to his own relatively short-lived experience there.


Click HERE for the original.

Advancing Justice Through Expert Testimony

June 24, 2014 - 10:13

Expert testimony, which can often be vital in cases like rape, is underused in Haiti. This excellent video explains the importance of expert testimony through interviews with judges, lawyers, prosecutors, grassroots activists, and a rape survivor herself. (English and Kreyol versions below.)

New Media Advocacy Project
June 24, 2014

Advancing Justice Through Expert Testimony – English Subtitles from New Media Advocacy Project on Vimeo.

Avanse Jistis Atravè Temwayaj Ekspè from New Media Advocacy Project on Vimeo.


Click HERE for the original.

Klike ISIT pou orijinal la.

Six partis politiques s’opposent élections inconstitutionnelles de Martelly

June 24, 2014 - 06:38

Depuis des mois, les élections en Haïti ont été à l’arrêt en raison de désaccords entre Martelly et le Sénat. Dimanche, six partis politiques ont publié une déclaration expliquant leur désapprobation et le caractère inconstitutionnel des actions de Martelly.

Haïti – Politique : L’opposition préoccupée par les manœuvres de l’Exécutif…

June 24, 2014
Dans un communiqué conjoint daté du 22 juin, les partis et regroupements de partis politiques de l’opposition démocratique et de la résistance patriotique, notamment Fanmi Lavalas, Inite, Fusion et le « Mouvement Patriotique de l’Opposition Démocratique » (MOPOD), se disent préoccupés par les manœuvres du pouvoir dans le traitement du dossier électoral, lesquelles menacent le bon fonctionnement des institutions démocratiques et la stabilité politique du pays.

« Face à la crise politique créée par la mauvaise gouvernance qui a pour conséquence un déficit croissant de légitimité de l’administration Martelly/Lamothe soutenue par une fraction de la communauté internationale ;

Préoccupés par les manœuvres du pouvoir dans le traitement du dossier électoral, lesquelles menacent le bon fonctionnement des institutions démocratiques et la stabilité politique du pays ;

Convaincus de la nécessité pour les démocrates haïtiens d’utiliser tous les moyens pacifiques afin de contrecarrer le projet antidémocratique du pouvoir en place ;

Ont décidé d’unir leur voix pour :

  • Réaffirmer leur attachement aux valeurs de la démocratie et de l’État de droit ;
  • Confirmer leur volonté de participer à des élections libres, honnêtes, démocratiques et souveraines pour le renouvellement des élus tant au niveau national que local, comme moyen de garantir une stabilité politique durable dans le pays ;
  • Dénoncer les manœuvres déloyales du pouvoir exécutif qui cherche par tous les moyens à renforcer sa main mise sur l’appareil électoral et la machine administrative ;
  • Rejeter la politique de violation systématique de la constitution et des lois et ne pas accepter de telles violation comme un fait accompli indiscutable et irréversible ;
  • Démasquer les menées du Conseil Électoral Provisoire illégal et inconstitutionnel de 7 membres qui, sans attendre la fin du processus de constitution de l’institution et le vote des amendements indispensables de la loi électorale, tente de mettre en place un appareil électoral au service du pouvoir ;
  • Dire à la nation toute entière qu’ils n’entendent pas accepter et de fait n’acceptent aucun ultimatum ni aucune date butoir de la part de ce soi-disant Conseil Électoral Provisoire ;
  • Rappeler que la loi électorale du 27 novembre 2013 comporte plusieurs dispositions qui ne permettent pas de l’utiliser sans amendement pour l’organisation des élections pour les deux tiers du Sénat, la Chambre des Députés et l’ensemble des collectivités locales ;
  • Mettre en garde tous ceux, nationaux ou étrangers qui veulent maintenir notre pays dans une instabilité politique permanente et croient pouvoir commettre l’absurdité d’organiser des élections dans le pays sans la participation des partis politiques représentatifs de l’opposition démocratique et de la résistance patriotique.

Signataires : Jonas Coffy (Ayisyen Pou Ayiti), Joel Vorbe/ (Fanmi Lavalas), Rosemond Pradel (Fusion), Levaillant Louis Jeune (Inite), Rudolph Prudent (Kontra pèp la), Jean André Victor (Regroupement politique MOPOD). »


Cliquez ICI pour l’original.

IADL-CETIM Statement on Cholera at Human Rights Council

June 23, 2014 - 06:28

On June 23, Micòl Savia of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers delivered a statement on cholera before the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). As the HRC is a political organ, NGOs often use it for advocacy but this is the first time a statement on cholera has been delivered there.

Cliquez ICI pour la version française.

Human Rights Council
26th Session
Item 4: Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention – General Debate

The International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) and the Europe – Third World Centre (CETIM) call the attention of the Human Rights Council to the ongoing cholera epidemic in Haiti and the United Nations’ continuing refusal to accept responsibility for the catastrophic health crisis it caused.

In October 2010, as Haiti was recovering from a devastating earthquake, one of the largest cholera epidemics in modern history broke out in Haiti. To date it has killed over 8,500 people and sickened more than 700,000. The epidemic continues to this very day; UN experts warn that another 2,000 people may die during 2014. Haiti has 0.14% of the world’s population, but now has 55% of the world’s cholera cases.

Prior to October 2010, Haiti had not experienced a cholera outbreak in over two centuries.

Extensive studies, including one conducted by the UN’s own panel of experts, show that the epidemic was caused by the UN’s reckless disposal of untreated human waste from Nepalese soldiers serving in the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Through leaking pipes and overflowing disposal pits, the UN poisoned Haiti’s principal river system with cholera-laden bacteria.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called on the UN to compensate victims, and the UN Independent Expert on Human Rights in Haiti has urged the UN to provide reparations to victims. Yet the Organization refuses to take responsibility or establish the legally mandated alternative settlement mechanism to hear cholera victims’ claims.

The challenges faced by Haitian cholera victims in their efforts to enforce their rights and obtain remedies highlight a serious gap in the accountability of international organizations, like the UN, for violations of human rights. Improving accountability mechanisms for international organizations is essential to strengthening protections of human rights and ensuring that victims have access to remedies when violations occur.

UN accountability for cholera in Haiti is imperative. The rights to life, health, clean water and sanitation, a healthy environment, and an adequate standard of living of hundreds of thousands of Haitians have been violated by the UN’s wrongful actions. By denying justice to victims, the UN not only fails to comply with its legal obligations, but also jeopardizes its moral credibility and ability to fulfill its mandate, both in Haiti and everywhere else in the world.

We call on the Human Rights Council to urge the UN to take responsibility and

  •  guarantee victims’ fundamental right to an effective remedy, as recognized by all major human rights instruments, by providing access to a fair hearing on their claims;
  •  guarantee victims’ an adequate, effective and prompt reparations for injuries, death and losses arising from the organization’s wrongful actions;
  •  take immediate action to end cholera’s killing by providing clean water and sanitation

Cliquez ICI pour la version française.

Prosperity Catalyst Seeks Part-Time Controller

June 23, 2014 - 05:47

Prosperity Catalyst Overview

Prosperity Catalyst aspires to be a global leader in promoting women-owned and led enterprises in the developing world. We place female entrepreneurship and empowerment at the center of all that we do—believing that it is not only a fundamental human right, but is critical for expanding life opportunities for women, families, communities, and nations, and paving the way for transformations in social stewardship, decreases in population pressures, and innovations in poverty reduction.

Program Overview

The Finance team works in partnership with other Prosperity Catalyst staff to develop budgets, implement and manage financial control measures, establish policies and procedures, and ensure compliance with generally accepted accounting principles, and governmental and nongovernmental grant requirements.

Position Purpose

The Controller (Part-Time) directs accounting operations, institutes and maintains internal controls, and serves as financial management resource to programmatic and operational staff on all levels. S/he leads process improvement efforts to streamline and improve accounting, control and administrative operations.

Key Responsibilities

  • Directs all aspects of accounting function and maintains accounting records of the organization in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles and grant requirements.
  • Oversees preparation of monthly and annual financial statements, including the A-133 reports, as well as all invoicing and other financial reports to donors.
  • Oversees preparation and submission of the Form 990 report to the IRS.
  • Institutes and maintains internal controls throughout the organization, at the headquarters as well as in the field offices (currently in Haiti and Iraq).
  • Oversees processing of all transactions, including but not limited to payroll, accounts payable, accounts receivable, field funding, cash management, and investment management.
  • Ensures that the leadership, program managers and all operating managers understand their financial control obligations and reviews their actual performance against those obligations.
  • Plans and directs year-end closings, determines requirements, and prepares financial statements of the organization. Coordinates and controls the conduct of annual A-133 audits with the independent public accountants.
  • Directs and supervises the activities of professional accounting staff and guides the supervision of support staff within the department.
  • Assists the Executive Director and other officers in other duties as required.
  • Reports to the Executive Director
  • Works closely with the Finance and Audit Committee of the Board of Directors

Basic Requirements

  • Bachelor’s degree, preferably in Accounting, Finance or related field.
  • CPA required.
  • A minimum of seven years’ Accounting experience, at least three of which are at a comparable level of responsibility.
  • Solid analytical, problem solving and financial troubleshooting skills.
  • Ability to quickly learn new systems, processes and procedures and adapt local practices to global standards.
  • Proactive, hands-on and confident manager who can set appropriate priorities and work effectively with diverse finance colleagues across the global organization.
  • Excellent leadership, coaching, business partnering, influencing, negotiating, presentation and project management skills.
  • Strong interpersonal and communication skill including experience in effectively reporting key data as well as translating complex financial concepts to individuals at all levels including finance and non-finance managers.
  • Ability to work effectively under time pressure and meet deadlines with attention to detail and quality.
  • Experience coordinating audit activities and managing reporting, budget development and analysis activities.
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office including Excel and Word.
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills (in English) with all levels of management, particularly department heads, directors, etc.
  • Willingness to travel internationally.
  • Experience with operations in developing countries, preferably with a young organization
  • Personal qualities of integrity, honesty and creditability.

Preferred Qualifications

  • Experience with government grants and contracts and/or federal procurement regulations desired.
  • Knowledge of regulations and requirements of State Department, USAID and/or other governmental and nongovernmental donor agencies preferred.
  • Additional language skills in a plus.
  • Experience working with international development and/or entrepreneurial start-ups a plus
  • Experience working in a non-profit organization preferred.
  • Experience training finance professionals.
  • Experience with Quick Books a plus.

Application Deadline

July 7, 2014

How to Apply

To be considered for this position, send a cover letter and resume to Executive Director, Siiri Morley at Applications will be reviewed upon receipt and interviews for qualified candidates will begin immediately. Start date is ASAP.


Click HERE for the original post.

Ban Ki-Moon Served with Another Cholera Suit

June 20, 2014 - 12:05

Another step towards justice for Haitian cholera victims: The law firm that filed suit against the UN in the Eastern District of New York in March has served Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon with their cholera lawsuit. This is the second step in the litigation process.

U.N. head served in Haiti cholera lawsuit

Aaron Morrison, Miami Herald
June 20, 2014

UNITED NATIONS – The law firm representing hundreds of Haitian cholera victims in a complaint against the U.N. said it served Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon with the lawsuit as he entered an event in New York City on Friday morning.

Stan Alpert, one of the attorneys for the 1,500 plantiffs in the lawsuit file in March at a federal court in Brooklyn, said it was the first time the firm has been able to hand the complaint to a high-ranking U.N. official, after months of attempts.

The lawsuit asserts that the U.N. should take responsibility for the cholera epidemic, which some studies show was brought to Haiti by U.N. peacekeeping troops. The outbreak has killed more than 9,000 Haitians and sickened 700,000.

“We’d attempted several methods, but we never had the opportunity to service the lawsuit until today,” Alpert told the Miami Herald on Friday afternoon. “They hide behind the wall of their fortress and their security guards.”

A spokesperson for Ban did not immediately confirm the U.N. chief’s receipt of the complaint or respond to requests for comment. During Friday’s noon briefing, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Ban was at the Asia Society in midtown Manhattan to announce a plan to stem violence in Syria.


Click HERE for the original.


Debate on Service of Suit to Ban Ki-moon Continues

June 20, 2014 - 07:34

This article gives more details, from both sides, on what happened when a second group of lawyers tried to serve UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon with a cholera lawsuit. While the lawyers say it was successfully placed in Ban Ki-moon’s hands, the Secretary General’s spokesman says security intervened before that happened. Meanwhile, the UN continues to claim no legal responsibility for bringing the epidemic to Haiti.

U.N. Chief Served Papers in Suit by Haitian Victims, Lawyers Say

Rick Gladstone, The New York Times
June 20, 2014

The United Nations has been resisting, successfully so far, lawsuits from Haiti cholera victims who assert that United Nations peacekeepers caused the 2010 epidemic still ravaging the country. But on Friday, lawyers for the plaintiffs said, something new happened: Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was personally served with court papers ordering him to appear, an assertion that his spokesman denied.

In what the lawyers called a precedent, they said a process server was able to place, into Mr. Ban’s hands, a summons and complaint, requiring a response. United Nations officials have argued that the organization is insulated from such legal entanglements because of immunity treaties and other protections, and have even refused to allow servers of court papers into the body’s New York headquarters.

“This is a significant development in the fight to hold the United Nations responsible for the tragic events in Haiti,” said Stanley N. Alpert, one of the lawyers representing more than 1,500 Haitians who have filed a suit against Mr. Ban and the United Nations in Federal District Court in Brooklyn. The suit is seeking compensation, which could theoretically run into the billions of dollars.

A spokesman for Mr. Ban, Farhan Haq, denied the secretary general had touched the papers, which Mr. Haq said an unidentified person had tried to give him as he was walking toward the Asia Society on Manhattan’s East Side on Friday morning to deliver a speech.

Mr. Ban “craned over to have a look,” said Mr. Haq, who was accompanying the secretary general and a security detail. Mr. Haq said one of Mr. Ban’s security aides intervened and declined to accept them. “We were not served with the papers,” he said.

Mr. Alpert, who was not present, offered a different version. “Our process server personally put the papers into Ban Ki-moon’s hands,” he said. “After he put them in his hands, a security guard with him smacked the papers out of his hands and onto the ground.”

Regardless, Mr. Alpert said, “he was served.”

Other legal representatives of Haitians seeking redress from the United Nations said the personal encounter with the process server might have been unprecedented, but it was not the first time Mr. Ban had been served with court papers over the cholera epidemic.

Beatrice Lindstrom, a spokeswoman for the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, a Boston-based legal rights group that helped prepare another lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan, said its process server, after repeated attempts to personally deliver papers to Mr. Ban, affixed them to the door of his Manhattan residence in January. That is a legal method known as “Nail and Mail.”

Cholera has killed more than 8,300 Haitians and sickened hundreds of thousands since it first appeared in the country, the poorest in the Western Hemisphere, after the devastating earthquake of January 2010. Forensic studies, including one ordered by the United Nations, have identified the cholera bacteria as an Asian strain carried by Nepalese members of a United Nations peacekeeping force there.

United Nations officials have described the epidemic as an enormous tragedy and have set up a fund to help but have said the organization bears no legal responsibility for causing it.

Mr. Alpert said the United Nations response reflected what he called its attitude of unaccountability.

Click HERE for the original.

Human Rights Experts Demand Citizenship for Unregistered Dominicans

June 20, 2014 - 07:23

A few steps have been taken to rectify the situation caused by the September 2013 ruling that stripped thousands of Dominicans of their citizenship. While headed in the right direction, the Dominican government has yet to take the final step to ensure that nobody is left out and fight discrimination–citizenship for those born in the country but not registered at birth.

UN Experts urge Dominican Republic to restore citizenship to those not registered at birth

UN News Centre
June 20, 2014

A group of United Nations human rights experts on the African diaspora today called on the Government of the Dominican Republic to adopt the necessary legal measures to restore Dominican citizenship for all those born in the country, but not registered at birth.

The Working Group of Experts of People of African Descent comes after the May adoption of a law to establish a special system for people born in the Dominican Republic and registered irregularly in the Dominican civil and naturalization registry.

“This is an important step towards rectifying the situation by which tens of thousands of persons of Haitian descent born in the Dominican Republic were rendered stateless by a ruling of the Constitutional Court on 23 September 2013,” said Mireille Fanon Mendes-France, who currently heads the Working Group.

“However, it is crucial to restore citizenship of those born in the Dominican Republic who were not registered at birth, and who represent a large majority,” Ms. Mendes-France emphasized. “It is essential to have an effective and transparent process to ensure that the citizenship of these people is restored at the earliest.”

The human rights expert stressed that such a step would effectively reinforce the fight against discrimination and social exclusion faced mostly by people of African descent in the country.

Last October, the UN human rights office urged the Dominican Republic to take measures to ensure that citizens of Haitian origin, including children born in the Dominican Republic, were not deprived of their right to nationality in light of the September court ruling.

Until 2010, the country had followed the principle of automatically bestowing citizenship to anyone born on its soil. But in 2010, a new constitution stated that citizenship would be granted only to those born on Dominican soil to at least one parent of Dominican blood or whose foreign parents are legal residents.


Click HERE for the original.

Was Ban Ki-moon Served? UN Continues to Deny

June 20, 2014 - 06:31

Lawyers who filed the second lawsuit against the UN say that they served Ban Ki-Moon with the suit Friday but the UN denies it, saying security intervened. Nearly four years after bringing cholera to Haiti, and despite ample evidence that peacekeepers were the cause, the UN also continues to deny responsibility for the epidemic.

Lawyers say UN chief served with Haiti lawsuit in NY

AFP, Yahoo News

June 20, 2014

Lawyers for more than 1,500 victims of Haiti’s deadly cholera epidemic said Friday they had served UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with a personal summons to appear in US court.

The lawyers claimed that Ban was handed the papers as he entered the Asia Society in Manhattan, where he delivered an impassioned call on the international community to stop the war in Syria.

But a UN spokesman denied to AFP that the papers were served, saying the secretary-general’s security had intervened and that Ban would not have to appear in court in Brooklyn.

Stanley Alpert, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, accused Ban and the United Nations of “ducking service in these lawsuits for months.”

A lawsuit was filed against the United Nations in March in US federal court in Brooklyn, demanding the UN take responsibility, compensate the victims and provide critical sanitation.

It claims that more than 8,000 people were killed and around 700,000 fell ill since the epidemic broke out in 2010.

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

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

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

But the United Nations refuses to recognize responsibility for the outbreak, arguing it is impossible to determine its origin and noting it is immune from prosecution in the United States.

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

The US State Department said the United Nations and its mission in Haiti were immune from the suit.

The cholera epidemic has yet to be brought under control.

In 2013 alone, some 65,000 cases and 55 deaths were recorded, in addition to cases in neighboring countries including the Dominican Republic, Cuba and most recently, Mexico.

“They now must face a US federal judge and explain why they feel they are immune from fulfilling that agreed-upon responsibility,” said lawyer Tim Howard on Friday.


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Sean Penn Misses Human Rights Issues in WSJ Article

June 19, 2014 - 11:04

On Wednesday (June 19), Wall Street Journal published an article by Sean Penn that criticized the media for ignoring Haiti’s progress. While this may be true, Sean Penn’s discussion of housing improvements and cholera failed to mention that many people who moved out of IDP camps now live in homes in danger of collapse or that the United Nations brought cholera to Haiti and have done little to stop the epidemic. These facts, along with Penn’s failure to discuss the elections crisis in Haiti, lead one to question his motives in writing the article. Only systemic change in housing rights and building code enforcement, UN accountability for cholera, and fair elections in Haiti will allow the country to advance; not foreign investments.

Sean Penn Accuses the Media of Ignoring Haiti’s Progress. But He’s Ignoring a Few Uncomfortable Facts, Too.

Jonathan M. Katz, New Republic
June 19, 2014

These days, when U.S. media outlets are looking for an update on the state of things in Haiti, one of the top experts they turn to is Sean Penn. That isn’t meant as a joke. The star of Mystic Riverand Milk has long since established himself as a serious player in the Caribbean republic, founder of an influential nongovernmental organization, credentialed as an ambassador, and a reputedly close friend of the nation’s president and prime minister. After four years working on, and in, the country at the highest levels of international power, Penn has as much or more claim to the slippery mantle of expertise as plenty of other foreigners who took more traditional paths.

Still, the relationship remains a bit awkward between the media and policy worlds on the one hand and the square-jawed actor on the other. Case in point: Penn’s op-ed on Haiti’s “tremendous progress” in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal.

The outlines of his argument seem straightforward at first blush. Penn primarily wants to highlight the work his aid group and allies in the Haitian government have done since the catastrophic earthquake of January 2010, which left an estimated 100,000 to 316,000 people dead and the country’s political and economic center in ruins. “The people of Haiti have come a long way,” he writes, which is fine as far as it goes, if perhaps conflating his organization and political allies with the national body politic.

But as you keep reading, the basis of Penn’s argument becomes decidedly less clear. Penn seems to see the enemy of this clear progress as his old bête noire, the media: “Headlines continue to spin Haiti as a dark, poverty-entrenched no-man’s-land. … Such cynicism sells papers and entices people to click, but at the cost of Haitian lives.” This kind of coverage is destructive, he argues, because it scares away the one group of people whom Penn seems to believe are the last great hope for the salvation of the Haitian people: foreign investors.

The mechanics of this are a bit hard to fathom. Does Penn suppose that investors, whose primary missions are to make money and beat the competition, depend solely on mass-media accounts of political and social problems? Is he alleging that the problems described in those unnamed reports are untrue; or just that, had journalists a bit more loyalty and tact, foreign businessmen simply wouldn’t know about them?

And what media are he talking about? Though Penn doesn’t name her, his op-ed must in some part be a response to WSJ editorialist Mary Anastasia O’Grady, who last month penned another entry in her ongoing narrative of Haiti and the world, which boils down to the personal malfeasance of Bill and Hillary Clinton. (This has been O’Grady’s take on all things Haiti for more than a decade.) O’Grady’s recent characterization of a post-quake recovery “debacle” is likely to have rubbed Penn the wrong way, or at least prompted someone to ask for his rebuttal. But it seems strange that Penn would complain about the airing of Haiti’s troubles in papers like the Wall Street Journal, since he goes on to spend the next six paragraphs airing Haiti’s troubles in the Wall Street Journal.


Moreover, the problems Penn expounds on—a continuing post-quake housing crisis and an ongoing cholera epidemic—are real, but the way he chooses to describe them do them, if anything, a disservice. Penn focuses his housing critique on the persistence of a few remaining post-quake encampments, settlements that, in a testament to the ingenuity and resilience of the people who built them, have since early on tended to be indistinguishable from other shantytown neighborhoods across Haiti, except for the fact that someone—usually the state or a powerful landowner—wanted them gone. The problem, which Penn hints at but never specifies, is that the vast majority of Haitians who have returned to pre-quake housing are living in houses as vulnerable as the ones that collapsed on January 12, 2010.

He also neglects to mention that the preponderance of evidence shows that the cholera epidemic was started by the negligent sanitation of United Nations peacekeeping soldiers, who dumped their waste in Haiti’s primary river system. Or that the U.N. and member nations including the United States steadfastly continue to refuse to pay for a cleanup, presumably because they don’t want to and nobody can make them, not because a columnist somewhere told them to beg off.

And this is where the contradictions really hit home. Penn is not, as theJournal identifies him, simply “an actor, director and the founder of J/P Haitian Relief Organization.” If he were just an outside observer, he’d likely have mentioned that one of the biggest crises in the country—and one of the ones most likely continuing to scare off investment, for what that’s worth—has been the failure of his friend, President Michel Martelly, to holdmunicipal and legislative elections since taking office in 2011.

Nor is he strictly a journalist. (A fact-checker would have noticed that, contrary to his claim, the cholera epidemic that erupted in Haiti in October 2010 has already spread to Mexico; and an editor would have prompted him to note that Haiti is flailing along with the rest of the hemisphere in the face of another epidemic, of the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus, and that his boasting of Doctors Without Borders’ ongoing work in Haiti is especially misguided given that the organization only works in emergency areas with little infrastructure, a particularly concerning fact for Haiti since they have been there since 1991.) But at the same time, no one hosting all-star fundraisers featuring the U.S. ambassador to Haiti and Anderson Cooper, or publishing critical op-eds in the Wall Street Journal, can fairly claim to be outside the media himself.

None of that is disqualifying. Who is without contradictions, after all? It just reaffirms the question anyone should ask when encountering such an opinion piece: Who is writing this? What do they want? Who, right now, is Sean Penn?


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UN Irresponsibility Forces Cholera Victims Into Litigation

June 18, 2014 - 05:07

This piece explains why cholera victims have had to resort to litigation to force the UN to take responsibility for the epidemic in Haiti. Even though there is now no doubt UN peacekeepers brought cholera to Haiti, the UN continues to deny responsibility and hasn’t raised sufficient funds for their cholera eradication plan. The longer the UN takes to accept responsibility and take action, the less they are upholding their core values of protecting human rights, causing the public to lose respect for the organization.

In Their Court: Litigation Against the United Nations as a Last Resort for Haitian Cholera Victims

Adam Houston, Health and Human Rights Journal
June 18, 2014

In 2014, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) — the latest and longest-lived of a series of UN peacekeeping missions to the country since 1993 — will mark its tenth anniversary. Unfortunately, MINUSTAH’s most lasting legacy in Haiti may prove to be the ongoing threat of cholera. Previously unknown in Haiti for at least a century, the disease was introduced to the country by MINUSTAH troops in October 2010; by early 2014, more than 700,000 Haitians had fallen sick and over 8,500 were dead.1 It is the largest cholera epidemic ever recorded in a single country in modern times.2 Today, the UN estimates it could kill another 2,000 people in 2014 alone; as this unwelcome import becomes firmly entrenched, it exacerbates the serious barriers to health already faced by the citizens of the poorest nation in the western hemisphere.3Despite their clear causal role in the epidemic, MINUSTAH and the UN have failed to assume responsibility, either by explicit acknowledgment or by taking adequate action to eliminate the disease and provide redress to its victims. Through their inaction on both counts, they have compounded their failure to protect the health and lives of the people of Haiti with failing to uphold their broader mandate of promoting human rights and the rule of law. The result has been the absurd situation where victims struggling to cope with cholera and its aftermath have been forced to take legal action to enforce their basic human rights against precisely the entity that came to their country for the purpose of protecting and promoting those rights.

The origins of the epidemic can no longer be considered a matter of real debate. Overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates conclusively that the strain of cholera responsible for the epidemic arrived in Haiti with a Nepalese contingent of UN peacekeepers. Despite a concurrent cholera outbreak in Nepal, troops were deployed without taking proper steps to mitigate the risk they would take the disease with them. Once in Haiti, reckless sewage disposal practices allowed contaminated human waste to enter the Artibonite River, the primary water source for tens of thousands of Haitians. This sequence of events has been confirmed by a series of investigations, including oneconducted by an independent panel appointed by the UN itself.4

One would expect a cholera epidemic to be precisely the kind of humanitarian crisis the UN would be well-positioned to address – though of course one might also have the same expectation about prevention. In any case, its direct responsibility for this particular crisis should provide an obvious impetus to respond quickly, effectively, and in a manner respectful of those who have suffered as a result. Beyond a flurry of press releases, however, the UN has done relatively little in practical terms to address the problem it has created, to ease the suffering of those harmed, or to prevent the inevitable future harms cholera will inflict. A UN initiative launched in vocal support of a pre-existing plan to eradicate cholera from the island of Hispaniola – a plan that would not only eliminate cholera but would also save thousands of lives lost due to other waterborne diseases – was accompanied by a financial commitment of only one percent of the US$2.2.billion price-tag.5 By contrast, it continues to spend over $500 million on MINUSTAH peacekeepers annually.6 This is despite the fact that Haiti has never been in a state of war during its decade-long tenure, and has one of the lowest homicide rates in the Caribbean.7 Indeed, the UN has actively avoided acknowledging its causal role, even where a simple apology would not only cost the organization nothing, but would in fact add value to a brand already tarnished by other serious allegations, including multiple instances of sexual exploitation and abuse, leveled against MINUSTAH personnel.8

In the face of its refusal to accept responsibility and take the necessary steps to aid those affected, 5000 victims of the epidemic and their families submitted claims to the UN on November 3, 2011. A prompt response was not forthcoming. In fact, it was not until February 21, 2013, 15 months later, that the Under Secretary-General for Legal Affairs sent a letter summarily rejecting the claims in two sentences: “With respect to the claims submitted, consideration of these claims would necessarily include a review of political and policy matters. Accordingly, these claims are not receivable pursuant to Section 29 of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations [CPIUN], adopted by the General Assembly on 13 February, 1946.”9

Section 29 of the CPIUN states that “[t]he United Nations shall make provisions for appropriate modes of settlement of disputes arising out of contracts or other disputes of a private law character to which the United Nations is a party.”10 It is exactly such a provision that is contemplated in the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the UN and Haiti, which extends legal immunity to the UN on the understanding that any such dispute will be addressed by a standing claims commission.11 As many observers have pointed out, the UN’s response failed to make clear how inadequate sewage facilities constituted matters of politics or policy, or exempted the UN from fulfilling this obligation.

What was made very clear, however, was that the UN was refusing to accept responsibility — whether moral, legal, or financial — for the damage it had caused. Since that time, the UN has continued its refusal to accept the claims, to set up a standing claims commission as required under the SOFA to investigate the claims, or even to meet with the complainants and their representatives. The UN has never put forward any legal or moral argument to support this refusal. Consequently, on October 9, 2013, a lawsuit was filed against the UN in US District Court in the Southern District of New York, not far from UN Headquarters.

Litigation is a last resort for those seeking the justice that the UN should itself be at the forefront of promoting. The two further lawsuits that have since been filed on behalf of cholera victims will at the very least help to ensure the issue does not simply fade away. At the same time, legalistic minutiae around how a court case should proceed, if it can proceed at all, serve to divert attention from a more central issue: the moral responsibility of the UN to live up to the values that form its raison d’être and whose propagation are at the core of the UN’s mandate in Haiti. As outlined in the very first article of the UN Charter, the underlying purposes of the organization include not only achieving international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights, but also maintaining the peace through conformity with the principles of justice and international law in the settlement of international disputes.12

By the time the Charter turns, much later, to the privileges and immunities of the UN under Article 105, it is clear that they are meant to be extended to the organization only as far “as are necessary for the fulfillment of its purposes.” By contrast, the UN’s conduct in Haiti illustrates how a tool designed to protect the UN’s ability to promote and respect human rights is being used to do quite the opposite. This has implications for future UN activities not only in Haiti, where there is considerable resistance to the ongoing presence of MINUSTAH, but also elsewhere in the world, where the effectiveness of the organization in promoting respect for the rule of law is affected by its ability to lead by example.

Of course, it should not need to come to this in the first place; the UN has had ample opportunity to resolve these issues in a manner befitting its stature in the international community and the values it professes. Many within the UN itself would agree; those who have publicly questioned the UN’s conduct or called for compensation for cholera victims include UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, former Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno, former UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis, and both the former and current UN Independent Experts on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti, Michel Forst and Gustavo Gallón, while even greater numbers have done so in private. They know that, regardless of what happens in a court of law, the UN’s refusal to address this issue promptly and in accordance with its own values means it faces a harsh verdict in the court of public opinion.

Acknowledgments: Beatrice Lindstrom, Jeffrey Brand, Brian Concannon, Katharina Rall, and Shannon Walker provided feedback throughout the drafting of this article.

Adam Houston, JD, MA, LLM, is a Legal Fellow with the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), Boston, MA, USA.

Please address author correspondence to the author:

Competing interests: The Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti is currently involved in litigation against the UN on behalf of the victims of the Haitian cholera epidemic.


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Toussaint Louverture and the New England Abolitionist Movement

June 17, 2014 - 15:30

Learn Toussaint Louverture’s impact on abolition at this Boston Public Library panel.


Panelists will discuss Haitian Revolution leader Toussaint Louverture’s historical impact and his influence on the abolitionist movement and popular culture in the United States—particularly New England and Boston—during the nineteenth century and beyond.
Panelists: State Representative Byron Rushing, Dr. Marc Prou, Professor Patricia Hills.
Moderators: Former State Representative Marie St. Fleur, Dr. Nesly Metayer.
This event is a collaboration among Haitian-Americans United, Inc.; Haitian Artists Assembly of Massachusetts; Office of State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry; Office of City Councilor Charles Yancey; Haitian Studies Association/Africana Studies at University of Massachusetts, Boston; NAACP-Boston Branch; Haitian Consulate of Boston; Trilingual Press; and Boston Public Library.


Rabb Lecture Hall
Central Library in Copley Square
700 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02116


Tuesday June 17, 2014 @ 6:30-8:30pm


Click HERE for more on the panel and Toussaint Louverture exhibit at the library.

Getting at the Root of Haiti’s Troubles

June 16, 2014 - 21:00

This piece counters many of the claims in an editorial the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette posted last week. That piece, called “Troubled Haiti: Overdue elections add to the list of its problems,” fed into the ideas that Haiti is plagued with problems and reliant on foreign aid, without explaining the root of the problems–mainly foreign intervention. This piece ends with one of the key lessons of the 2010 earthquake aid failures: “Assistance should be in partnership with governments to ensure capacity building that will allow the recipient country to make real gains.”

Haiti’s history

Dan Beeton, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
June 17, 2014

It pained me to see the June 10 editorial “Troubled Haiti,” in which the people of Haiti are depicted as incapable of governing themselves and as dependent on outside aid. Foreign intervention is largely to blame for the state Haiti is in, starting with the brutal injustice of slavery to the crippling ransom that France demanded from Haiti as the price of its independence. Haiti only paid this off in 1947. A series of dictatorships, supported by the United States and France, continued to hold back progress. Haiti’s democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was overthrown twice with U.S. assistance.

Contrary to the statement that the U.N.’s culpability for the cholera epidemic that has killed over 8,500 “is still under dispute,” at least 10 scientific studies — including the U.N.’s own — have shown that U.N. troops brought the disease to Haiti. Journalists documented the disposal of raw sewage at a U.N. camp directly into the river where the outbreak occurred. There has been a loud outcry calling for the United Nations to take responsibility for the epidemic, but its $2.2 billion plan to eradicate the disease remains woefully underfunded.

The claim that Mr. Aristide seeks to reclaim the presidency is also without basis. Even detractors have had to admit that Mr. Aristide does not appear to be interested in politics since he returned to Haiti three years ago.

The editorial concludes that donors are “probably correct” in wanting to bypass the Haitian government in providing assistance for fear of corruption. Much of the world has, since the 2010 earthquake, come around to supporting the philosophy promoted by Paul Farmer that assistance should be in partnership with governments to ensure capacity building that will allow the recipient country to make real gains. It’s a shame the Post-Gazette hasn’t caught up with this idea.

Observatory Hill
Dan Beeton is international communications director for the Center for Economic and Policy Research and a frequent contributor to its “Haiti Relief and Reconstruction Watch” blog. He has worked on Haiti policy for 15 years.


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Satire on Lack of UN Cholera Accountability

June 16, 2014 - 07:25

While this satire brings light to an unacceptable situation, it does a great job of highlighting key issues in terms of lack of UN accountability for the cholera epidemic. Nearly four years after bringing cholera to Haiti, the UN has only just formed a high-level committee on cholera, its cholera programs remain grossly underfunded, and the UN still hasn’t taken responsibility for the epidemic.

Haiti Cholera Victims Rejoice: We Have a Committee!

Johan Schnee, Truthout
June 16, 2014

Port-de-Paix, Haiti, June 3, 2014: Cholera victims and their relatives reacted with boundless rejoicing throughout Haiti to last week’s announcement by the United Nations of the First Meeting of the High-Level Committee for the Elimination of Cholera in Haiti.

Jocelyne Augustin, 36, paused briefly as she pranced through the streets of Port-de-Paix, a wide smile across her face. Augustin lost her husband and two children to the cholera epidemic, introduced to Haiti in 2010 from a UN military base that deposited its human wastes into Haiti’s Meille River. “We have been through a lot, that’s true, but it all seems worth it now. We have a Committee!”

Her son Sadrac, 10, one of Augustin’s three surviving children, all unable to attend school in three years because of funeral expenses and the loss of their father’s income, added “not just a Committee, a High-Level Committee!”

The UN announced that bold steps already taken by the Committee to eliminate cholera included discussing “its administrative procedures, the launch of a national sanitation campaign as well as a social communications campaign.”  The Committee was hastily established by the Haitian Government and the United Nations “to ensure that a strategy is applied for the elimination of cholera in Haiti,” only 1,316 days after the first UN cholera cases appeared in the country. Cholera has killed only 8,562 Haitians- a mere 55% of worldwide cholera deaths this decade-and sickened just 700,000 in this initial period, and the UN’s responsibility for the epidemic has only been established by dozens of studies, including the UN’s ownpanel of experts. The High Level Committee’s fast-track approach is intended to get ahead of the epidemic before it becomes serious.

There was some grumbling about the UN’s stalled Cholera-Free Hispaniola Initiative, that has not begun construction or treatment since its 2012 launch and has less money available than was originally announced, the UN’s refusal to implement the recommendations of its own Panel of Independent Experts issued in May 2011, or the closing of 2/3 of the country’s cholera treatment centers. But most people in Port-de-Paix believed the UN had reestablished credibility by announcing an Open Defecation Campaign the same week as the High-Level Committee.

Pierre Calixte of the Cholera Survivors Network sees the announcement as a step towards greater things for Haiti: “a High-Level Committee is nice, but we can do better. The UN said that Haiti could have 2,000 cholera deaths and 180,000 illnesses this year alone. If we can keep that pace up for three to four more years, we could even get a Joint Working Group. Would you like a glass of water? 

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.


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June 2014 Update

June 13, 2014 - 13:25

Quick Links:

Other Links:

Brian Concannon Recognized for International Justice Work

June 13, 2014 - 10:37

We’re very excited to share the news that Brian Concannon, IJDH Executive Director, has won the Debra Evenson Venceremos International Award from the National Lawyers Guild! To be presented in Chicago this September, this award honors outstanding international legal work, legal solidarity, international advocacy, and justice beyond borders. It epitomizes Debra Evenson (former Guild president)’s commitment to international solidarity and struggle for justice. Stay tuned for more information on the ceremony.

The National Lawyers Guild is dedicated to the need for basic change in the structure of our political and economic system. They aim to bring together all those who recognize the importance of safeguarding and extending the rights of workers, women, LGBTQ people, farmers, people with disabilities and people of color, upon whom the welfare of the entire nation depends; who seek actively to eliminate racism; who work to maintain and protect our civil rights and liberties in the face of persistent attacks upon them; and who look upon the law as an instrument for the protection of the people, rather than for their repression. (