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Another Cholera Lawsuit Against the UN

March 12, 2014 - 08:37

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

Haiti cholera victims file new lawsuit against UN

AFP
March 12, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Click HERE for original.

Did International Community Stage “Silent Coup” Against Preval?

March 12, 2014 - 07:21

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

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

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

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

(First of two parts)*

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

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

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

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

On the Ground in Haiti: October-December 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(To be continued)

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

 

Click HERE for original article with notes.

Ile a Vache Residents Fight to Keep Their Island

March 11, 2014 - 07:39

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

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

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

Dady Chery, News Junkie Post
March 1, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Click HERE for original.

United States Chooses UN Immunity over Justice in Haiti Cholera Case

March 11, 2014 - 06:27

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

United States Chooses UN Immunity over Justice in Haiti Cholera Case

Advocates regret missed opportunity to stand up for justice

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Haiti-DR Relations Seem to be Improving

March 10, 2014 - 13:11

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

Troubled Haitian-Dominican Bilateral Relations Await Progress

Wilhelmina Agyapong*, Truthout
March 9, 2014

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

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

Historical Background: A Foundation for Conflict:

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

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

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

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

Background on the ban of poultry and egg imports:

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

Reverberations of Haitian Immigrants in the DR:

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

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

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

International Pressure Leads to Progress:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Click HERE for original article, with references.

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

US Defends UN Immunity in Cholera Case

March 10, 2014 - 08:16

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

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

Alexander Britell, Caribbean Journal
March 10, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Click HERE for original.

Cholera Eradication Plans Still Grossly Underfunded

March 10, 2014 - 07:35

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

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

Mark Tran, The Guardian
March 7, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Brian Concannon, Mario Joseph Honored for Human Rights Work

March 7, 2014 - 08:54

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

Human rights lawyers will be honored for Haiti work

Staff, Boston Haitian Reporter
March 6, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Click HERE for original.

Duvalier Decision a Landmark Victory for Haitians

March 7, 2014 - 08:34

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

Reinstatement of criminal case against Duvalier a momentous victory for Haitians

Nicole Phillips, Boston Haitian Reporter
March 6, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But for now, we rejoice in the victories.

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

 

Click HERE for original.

Haitian-American Elected Officials Urge U.S. to Protect Cholera Victims’ Rights

March 6, 2014 - 10:05

Cholera Justice Project

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Jean Ford Figaro, Cholera Justice Project; jean.figaro@bmc.org; +1-508-250-7926 (English, French, Kreyol, Spanish)

Haitian-American Elected Officials Urge U.S. to Protect Cholera Victims’ Rights

Haitian diaspora groups join letter to Secretary of State on cholera justice

(BOSTON, March 4, 2014)—Members of the National Haitian American Elected Officials Network (NHAEON) are appealing to Secretary of State John Kerry to do everything in his power to ensure that victims of Haiti’s ongoing cholera epidemic have their day in court and can access justice. Twenty-six Haitian diaspora groups have also signed on to the letter, which was transmitted to the State Department today.

The appeal comes as the State Department deliberates whether to support the United Nations (UN) in a federal lawsuit seeking accountability for the organization’s reckless introduction of cholera to Haiti in 2010. The UN continues to deny responsibility despite overwhelming scientific evidence that it caused the epidemic, and has persistently disregarded repeated calls for justice from prominent UN human rights representatives, members of the U.S. Congress, and the media. Prior to the filing of the lawsuit in October 2013, the UN rejected victims’ efforts to seek justice through the organization’s internal claims process.

“We are concerned that the UN will now try to prevent the victims from having their day in a U.S. court by asking your Department to intervene in favor of its impunity,” the letter reads.

“The diaspora is rising up and calling on our government to stand with the victims of cholera. The government has a choice between supporting justice for its own people and the people of Haiti, and supporting bad policy and impunity,” said Jean Ford Figaro, a medical doctor and activist with the Cholera Justice Project, the diaspora group that organized the sign-on initiative.

The State Department has until March 7 to decide how to proceed in the case.

Meanwhile, cholera continues to present a public health emergency; it has killed over 8,500 people in Haiti, and has spread to the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Mexico. The UN warns that another 2000 people could die in 2014. “We in the diaspora have lost family and friends to cholera, and we live in fear of losing more of our people,” the groups stressed in the letter.

The officials and groups wrote to Secretary Kerry: “We urge you, and your Department, to stand up for justice and international law by refusing to intervene [in the lawsuit], and letting the cholera victims take their case to court…. This insistence on impunity sets a dangerous example in Haiti, and profoundly undermines the organization’s credibility and ability to carry out any of its missions.”

 

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Information and Background on Cholera Suit Against UN

March 6, 2014 - 09:17

An excellent, very comprehensive op-ed on cholera in Haiti. It discusses everything from UN responsibility to the epidemic, to poor water and sanitation infrastructure in Haiti, to the legal claims against the UN for cholera.

Part of it is below. Click HERE for the full version.

The UN is not above the law

Lauren Carasik, Al Jazeera America
March 6, 2014

Few people dispute that the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti, known by its French acronym, MINUSTAH, is culpable for introducing the devastating cholera epidemic to that country. Yet the U.N. continues to evade responsibility. The U.S. government must decide Friday whether to support the victims’ right to their day in court or bolster the U.N.’s impunity. The U.S. is authorized by law to file a statement of interest with the court outlining its position, as it has done in previous cases.

The deadly outbreak first hit Haiti in October 2010, ten months after a calamitous earthquake killed more than 200,000 people and ravaged the country’s already crumbling infrastructure. The diarrheal disease, which had not been seen in Haiti in at least a century, infected hundreds of thousands within months. Haiti now hosts the world’s largest cholera epidemic: Between 2010 and 2012, cholera cases there represented half of the total reported to the World Health Organization. To date, 8,500 people have died and more than 700,000 have been sickened by the waterborne pathogen. By the U.N.’s own estimate, another 2,000 Haitians may die from cholera in 2014.

The U.N.’s liability has been independently verified. At least 10 studies, including a comprehensive report by Yale University’s Law School and School of Public Health, have confirmed the U.N.’s responsibility for the outbreak. “By causing the epidemic and then refusing to provide redress to those affected, the U.N. has breached its commitments to the Government of Haiti, its obligations under international law, and principles of humanitarian relief,” the Yale report said.

A host of voices have demanded that the U.N. take responsibility for the tragedy. U.N. Special Envoy to Haiti and former U.S. President Bill Clinton identified U.N. peacekeepers from South Asia as “the proximate cause of cholera” in Haiti. More than 100 Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives have called on the U.N. to take responsibility for bringing the cholera bacteria to Haiti. The U.N.’s independent expert on human rights in Haiti, Gustavo Gallon, has called for compensation for the victims, decrying the world body’s refusal to respect the victims’ right to a remedy. Even the U.N.’s own high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, expressed support for compensating those harmed by the illness.

Yet the U.N. has consistently refused to accept responsibility…

 

Click HERE for full version.

Haitian American Elected Officials Letter to Secretary Kerry

March 6, 2014 - 08:58

Below is part of a letter from the National Haitian American Elected Officials Network (NHAEON) to Secretary of State John Kerry. The letter calls for the State Department to refuse to intervene on behalf of the UN in the cholera case, asking Kerry to do everything in his power to get justice for cholera victims.

Click HERE for the full version.

March 5, 2014

Dear Secretary Kerry,

We write as members of the Haitian-American community and the National Haitian American Elected Officials Network (NHAEON) to express our deepest concerns by the United Nations’ failure to take responsibility for the cholera epidemic occurring in Haiti. We are writing to you with deep respect, for your decades of support for Haiti, the rule of law and global health, and asking you to do everything in your power to ensure that Haiti’s cholera epidemic is stopped and the people are provided justice.

As you know, the cholera epidemic has killed over 8,500 Haitians and sickened over 700,000 since October 2010. Every week 1,100 people are infected and nine are killed. We, in the diaspora, have lost family and friends to cholera, and live in fear of losing even more. As Haitian-Americans visit their family, they are among those who contract this disease and die. In addition, cholera has an economic impact on members of the diaspora, where many of us regularly send money to our relatives. This epidemic has placed a harder financial burden on those living abroad due to funeral expenses, healthcare costs and sending funds for school fees for children whose parents have passed away.

Click HERE for the full version.

Haitian Diaspora Letter to Secretary Kerry

March 6, 2014 - 08:43

Below is part of a letter from 26 Haitian Diaspora groups to Secretary of State John Kerry. The letter calls for the State Department to refuse to intervene on behalf of the UN in the cholera case, asking Kerry to do everything in his power to get justice for cholera victims.

Click HERE for the full letter.

March 5, 2014

Dear Secretary Kerry,

We write as members of the Haitian-American community deeply concerned by the United
Nations’ failure to take responsibility for the cholera epidemic that it brought to Haiti. We are writing to you with deep respect, for your decades of support for Haiti, the rule of law and global health, and asking you to do everything in your power to ensure that Haiti’s cholera epidemic is stopped and we are provided justice.

As you know, the cholera epidemic has killed over 8,500 Haitians and sickened over 700,000 since October 2010. Every week 1,100 people are infected and nine are killed. We in the diaspora have lost family and friends to cholera, and we live in fear of losing more of our people. Haitian-Americans visiting family in Haiti are among those who have contracted this disease and died. In addition, cholera has an economic impact on members of the diaspora, where many of us regularly send money to our relatives. The epidemic has placed a harder financial burden on those living abroad due to funeral expenses, healthcare costs and sending funds for school fees for children whose parents died.

 

Click HERE for the full letter.

When will UN and Haitian Government support cholera victims?

March 6, 2014 - 08:26

After the explosion of UN Independent Expert Gallón’s report on cholera, many questions have surfaced about cholera in Haiti. When will the UN take responsibility? When will the Haitian government and Caricom react and side with cholera victims? While many others have taken a stand, the Haitian government’s lack of response is especially noticeable.

Editorial: UN fails to help cholera victims

Barbados Daily Nation
March 3, 2014

Image from article reprint in Guyana Chronicle Online.

HOW MUCH longer will it take for the United Nations to come to grips with its moral, if not legal responsibility as well, to compensate the thousands of Haitian victims of a cholera epidemic in 2010 that has been traced to negligence by a detachment of United Nations peace-keeping troops in that Caribbean Community member state?

And why are both the Haitian government of Prime Minister Michel Martelly and the 15-member Caribbean Community in general seemingly unenthusiastic in vigorously championing the cause of the dead Haitian victims – numbering between 7 000 and 8 000 – as well as thousands of other infected survivors of this dreaded contagious disease?

These questions have resurfaced following the intervention this past weekend by a United Nations-appointed human rights expert in Haiti, Gustavo Gallon, in a report submitted to UN headquarters in New York.

The outbreak of the cholera epidemic had followed the unprecedented earthquake disaster of January 2010 that wreaked havoc, resulting in the loss of lives and homes and destruction of infrastructure.

The epidemic itself was traced to negligence on the part a detachment of Nepalese peace-keeping UN troops in Haiti via contamination of leaking sewage into the inland waterways system. Ironically, both Nepal and Haiti are categorised as being among the world’s 49 poorest nations.

While Mr Gallon’s call for the UN to begin the process of awarding compensation to those killed by the cholera epidemic, as well thousands of other infected victims, is commendable, he is not the first UN official to have done so, as recently noted in international media reports. A stirring call for compensation had initially come from then UN Human Rights Commissioner, Navi Pillay, during an awards ceremony in Geneva on October 8, 2010.

Within CARICOM, outside of editorials and news reports in various editions of the Nation newspapers focused on the cholera epidemic and post-earthquake reconstruction, there was specific intervention by the former long-serving Prime Minister of Jamaica, P. J. Patterson, who noted that “it is simply appalling, a most reprehensible behaviour for the UN to claim immunity” against compensation claims.

Mr Patterson, a lawyer by profession, who has frequently acted in the role of a CARICOM consultant on Haiti and worked with former President Bill Clinton’s special fundraising committee for post-earthquake reconstruction, has argued that the UN’s compensation failure was even more distressing “when scientific evidence substantiates that the cholera epidemic was introduced in Haiti at the time of peace-keeping soldiers from Nepal under United Nations command”.

Meanwhile, as the Haitian government of President Martelly seems to be missing in action in relation to evoking a positive response from the UN on compensation for the cholera victims, human rights lawyers in the United States are vigorously pursuing a lawsuit against the world body that requires compensation estimated at US$2.2 billion.

 

Click HERE for original.

Haitian-Americans Ask State Department Not to Intervene on UN Behalf

March 6, 2014 - 07:58

Haitian American elected officials, including Massachusetts Senator Linda Dorcena Forry, wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry asking that the State Department not intervene on behalf of the UN in the cholera case.

Haitian-American officials to State Department: Don’t intervene in cholera lawsuit

Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald
March 5, 2014

Haitian-American elected officials are asking the U.S. State Department not to side with the United Nations in a legal battle over a deadly cholera epidemic in Haiti that has killed more than 8,000 and sickened more than 700,000 Haitians.

State Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry of Massachusetts, a member of the National Haitian American Elected Officials Network, wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday, saying the organization was “concerned that the U.N. will now try to prevent the victims from having their day in court by asking your Department to intervene in favor of its impunity.”

“We urge you and your Department to stand for justice and international law by refusing to intervene and letting the cholera victims take their case to court,” she said in the letter.

Forry did not elaborate on why the network or lawyers who sued the U.N. in October on behalf of victims of the waterborne disease believe the U.N. would seek the State Department’s support.

Brian Concannon of the Boston-based Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti said the U.N. typically asks the country where the suit is filed to tell the courts that that they cannot accept a case against the U.N.

“Sometimes the U.S. just passes the U.N.’s position on to the court, but sometimes it makes a more vigorous defense of the organization. These letters are intended to push toward the former option,” said Concannon, whose group represents victims.

The letter comes on the heels of two South Florida Haitian-American advocacy groups — the Haitian Lawyers Association and Haitian Women of Miami — filing of a friend-of-the-court brief in federal court in Manhattan late last month in support of the suit.

Victims’ lawyers say process servers have been unable to serve the suit, and the Miami groups asked the court to declare that the U.N. has been properly served.

The U.N. has refused to comment on the lawsuit but instead pointed to a $2.2 billion, 10-year cholera-eradication plan to stamp out the disease in Haiti and the neighboring Dominican Republic through improved infrastructure and other projects. The initiative, however, has struggled to get donors’ support.

Since cholera was discovered in Haiti in October 2010, scientific studies have found evidence linking the outbreak to Nepalese soldiers deployed to Haiti shortly after the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital city.

 

Click HERE for original.

Gallón’s Cholera Accountability Demands Reveal Debate Within UN

March 5, 2014 - 07:37

UN Human Rights Expert Gustavo Gallón surprised many when he stood up for cholera victims in a report on Haiti. The otherwise-ordinary report called for compensation of victims and punishment of those responsible. These statements are the strongest so far in a time of increasing support from current and former UN officials.

Immune Response

R.R.L., The Economist
March 4, 2014

LAST month the United Nations’ Independent Expert on Human Rights in Haiti delivered his annual assessment (French version here) of the state of the poorest country in the Americas. Gustavo Gallon, a respected Colombian jurist, wrote of many troubling—and familiar–problems. They included prolonged pre-trial detention for 80% of all prisoners in Haitian jails; institutional “brittleness” on account of long-delayed elections to the Senate and local bodies; rising homicide rates; and a depressing predilection for public lynching, which indicates little confidence in the justice system.

If the indictment of Haiti was unsurprising, less predictable was Mr Gallon’s position on the country’s cholera epidemic, which first broke out in 2010. More than 8,000 Haitians have since died from cholera, and nearly 700,000 more, or one out of every 16 people, infected. Medical evidence indicates the cholera strain was brought to Haiti by Nepalese UN peacekeepers, although the UN neither admits responsibility for the outbreak nor agrees to make reparations. In October 2013 human-rights lawyers filed a class-action claim on behalf of the victims; the UN, which claims diplomatic immunity against such claims, is reportedly refusing to acknowledge even being served the lawsuit.

Mr Gallon’s report is consequently significant. He called for “diplomatic difficulties” to be resolved to “stop the epidemic” and to compensate victims fully. Silence is the very worst response, he noted, echoing his predecessor’s more muted assessment from a year ago. Mr Gallon’s forthright remarks are being seen as a sign that a heated argument is underway at Turtle Bay, the UN’s New York headquarters. The battleground is the gap between UN’s irredeemably idealistic purpose and its all-enveloping legal immunity. Even the UN’s human-rights chief, Navi Pillay, has acknowledged that someone (she didn’t specify who) needed to pay up for the suffering and havoc wreaked by cholera. Retired officials, including Canada’s ambassador to the UN, Stephen Lewis, have spoken in the same vein.

However the debate is settled, compensation would only be palliative. The bigger concern is eliminating the disease. Last year, according to Haiti’s health ministry, there were nearly 600 deaths. Late last month, the UN’s first cholera envoy, Pedro Medrano, said that falling mortality rates do not signify the end of the “silent emergency” because a cholera epidemic can ebb and wane and come back stronger as the bacterium mutates. Mr Medrano says the best chance for cholera eradication lies with a $2.27 billion UN fund-raising campaign that would help fund a proper water and sanitation infrastructure, among other things. Whatever its responsibility for introducing the disease, the UN is also Haiti’s best hope for getting rid of it.

 

Click HERE for original.

Haiti Still Deals with Repercussions of 2004 Coup

March 4, 2014 - 14:28

This article details the misinformation on the coup d’etat against Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and the ensuing human rights violations. It cites many sources and includes a quote from Aristide attorney and IJDH Board Chair Ira Kurzban.

Ten Years After the Coup in Haiti, Democracy is Still Under Siege

Dan Beeton, Center for Economic and Policy Research
March 1, 2014

It has been 10 years since the February 29, 2004 coup d’etat that ousted the democratically-elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti. Paramilitary groups – including many former members of Haiti’s disbanded army and/or CIA-funded death squads – had engaged in a campaign of violence directed against supporters of the government, and the Haitian National Police (HNP), for years before. Supported by the Dominican government and advised by groups based in Washington, they unleashed a wave of terror, killing innocent civilians including children and women, assaulting and brutalizing others, and burning down police stations and other government buildings. In the end, however, these groups seem to have realized they could not mount a successful incursion into Port-au-Prince, and it was a U.S. plane that flew Aristide out of the country.

As CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot wrote after the coup, Washington also directed international financial institutions to withhold funds from the Aristide government (some of which were designated for potable water – their being withheld helping to create the conditions for the cholera epidemic several years later):

[T]he Administration has been working on toppling Aristide for the past three years, plunging the country into chaos in the process.

The major international financial institutions (IFI’s) — including the IMF, World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, supported the administration’s destabilization efforts by cutting off hundreds of millions of dollars in credit to one of the most desperately poor countries in the world.

The pretext was a dispute over the election of seven senators of Aristide’s party in 2001. Aristide offered every possible solution but it didn’t matter. With Washington and the IFI’s backing them, the opposition refused any agreement short of Aristide’s resignation.

In the end, Aristide did not resign – although the Bush administration claimed he did. Aristide himself claimed instead that he was the victim of a “kidnapping in the service of a coup d’etat.” His account is verified by witnesses, as Randall Robinson has pointed out in his account of events related to the coup. Bundled onto a plane, he and First Lady Mildred Aristide were flown to an unknown destination, what turned out to be the Central African Republic.

The coup took place amidst what can only be seen as a massive disinformation campaign against Haiti’s popular and democratic government. Scholars such as Jeb Sprague and Peter Hallward have combed through previously classified U.S. government documents and conducted countless interviews with people involved. Often the perpetrators of the destabilization of the Aristide government have been open in discussing their activities and who supported them. Accounts of grave human rights abuses by the Aristide government – often promoted by Haitian organizations that had essentially been bought off – have now been shown to be false, but at the time they were carried in the domestic and international media and did much to harm Aristide’s reputation. They also served as a pretext for the political persecution of members of Aristide’s government, including Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, Interior Minister Jocelerme Privert, and leaders and prominent supporters of the Fanmi Lavalas party such as Annette Auguste and the late Father Gerard Jean-Juste.

In the coup’s wake, the people of Haiti experienced one of the country’s worst human rights disasters in recent times. Human rights researchers estimate that some 4,000 people were killed for political reasons, with killings targeting members of Fanmi Lavalas and opponents of the coup and of the interim government imposed on the country; some massacres carried out in broad daylight. Others were falsely imprisoned, or forcibly disappeared. Some 35,000 women and girls reported having been the victim of sexual assault; of these “officers from the Haitian National Police accounted for 13·8% and armed anti-Lavalas groups accounted for 10·6% of identified perpetrators” according to a study in The Lancet. Some of the same paramilitaries who had rampaged through Haiti from 2000 up to the coup carried out the violence while the interim government and international community stood by. (Many of them would be integrated into the HNP, as Sprague explains in detail.) Other atrocities were committed by the HNP, sometimes with the involvement or tacit support of MINUSTAH (U.N. mission) troops. At the urging of Haiti’s powerful elite, HNP officers and MINUSTAH troops carried out deadly raids into slums in order to eliminate “gang” leaders, often killing bystanders in the process.

International human rights organizations paid little attention to what was almost certainly the largest human rights crisis in the hemisphere at the time, and the international media even less. A few brave journalists – usually independent – documented some of these events.

While the intensity of the post-coup human rights crisis may have been greater, this period of political persecution and repression never really ended. Fanmi Lavalas leaders and supporters have continued to find themselves targeted. In 2007, when René Préval was president, human rights activist and Fanmi Lavalas supporter Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine was kidnapped and disappeared. International cries of alarm were met with rumors that it was a “fake” kidnapping, and that Lovinsky was trying to get attention. He has never been found. More recently, leading human rights activist Daniel Dorsainvil and his wife Girldy Lareche were murdered, and a new round of bogus accusations have been leveled against Annette Auguste, Mirlande Libérus Pavert and others relating to the still-unsolved murder of journalist Jean Dominique in 2000, while some of the individuals that evidence links most closely to the crime are ignored. More well-known is that Fanmi Lavalas as a party has been arbitrarily excluded from elections since the coup.

Aristide’s return to Haiti from forced exile in 2011 – against the U.S. government’s wishes and efforts to convince the South African government to stop him – has undermined the various false accusations leveled at him and Fanmi Lavalas. For years, we heard that Aristide would likely face charges of corruption and human rights crimes if he ever returned to Haiti. Nearly three years later, he has yet to be charged with anything. As Aristide’s attorney Ira Kurzban wrote before Aristide’s return to Haiti – and as still holds true, he is “charged with no crime” and “The New York Times noted during his first exile (1991-1994), [Aristide] ‘won Haiti’s first and only democratic election overwhelmingly,’ followed by a “seven-month tenure [that] was marked by fewer human-rights violations and fewer boat people than any comparable period in modern Haitian history.’”

The coup and the events after also are part of a pattern of foreign intervention in Haiti going back centuries, and such interference continues today as well, as the U.S. government seeks to “manage Haiti” through the ongoing MINUSTAH presence and other means. Along with the U.S. government, France and Canada also overtly supported the undermining and removal of the Aristide government (France motivated in part by Aristide’s call for it to pay back the ransom it demanded Haiti hand over as a price for its independence). This intervention has continued, notably – as recently recounted by former Organization of American States (OAS) Special Representative to Haiti Ricardo Seitenfus — in the 2010 threatened removal of then-President Préval (via airplane, a la Aristide) and the blatant intervention by the OAS – led by the U.S., Canada and France – in Haiti’s elections, resulting in the arbitrary replacement of governing party candidate Jude Célestin with Michel Martelly in the run-off. Martelly would go on to win the presidency despite receiving votes from less than 17 percent of the electorate in the second round.

In order for Haiti to be able to move beyond the 2004 coup and the subsequent political and human rights crisis, this foreign intervention must end. Fanmi Lavalas and other political parties must be allowed to participate in elections, and the Haitian people’s will freely expressed in choosing its government and its own path forward. This is called national sovereignty and democracy, and it is unfortunately what powerful outside interests have been trying to impede in Haiti for over 210 years.

 

Click HERE for original.

TPS for Haitians Extended through January 22, 2016

March 4, 2014 - 07:08

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for eligible nationals of Haiti has been extended for an additional 18 months through January 22, 2016.  The re-registration period runs from March 3rd through May 2nd, 2014. Read more about the extension below.

Temporary Protected Status Extended for Haitians

US Citizenship and Immigration Services
March 3, 2014

WASHINGTON—Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson will extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for eligible nationals of Haiti for an additional 18 months, effective July 23, 2014 through Jan. 22, 2016.

Current Haitian beneficiaries seeking to extend their TPS status must re-register during a 60-day period that runs from March 3, 2014, through May 2, 2014. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) encourages beneficiaries to re-register as soon as possible once the 60-day period begins. USCIS will not accept applications before March 3, 2014.

The 18-month extension also allows TPS re-registrants to apply for a new Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Eligible Haitian TPS beneficiaries who re-register during the 60-day period and request a new EAD will receive one with an expiration date of Jan. 22, 2016. USCIS recognizes that some re-registrants may not receive their new EADs until after their current EADs expire. Therefore, USCIS is automatically extending current TPS Haiti EADs bearing a July 22, 2014 expiration date for an additional six months. These existing EADs are now valid through Jan. 22, 2015.

To re-register, current TPS beneficiaries must submit Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status. Re-registrants do not need to pay the Form I-821 application fee, but they must submit the biometric services fee, or a fee-waiver request, if they are age 14 or older. All TPS re-registrants must also submit Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. TPS re-registrants requesting an EAD must submit the Form I-765 application fee, or a fee-waiver request. If the re-registrant does not want an EAD, no application fee is required.

Applicants may request that USCIS waive the Form I-765 application fee or biometrics fee based on an inability to pay by filing Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver, or by submitting a written request. Fee waiver requests must be accompanied by supporting documentation. Failure to submit the required filing fees or a properly documented fee-waiver request will result in the rejection of the TPS application.

All USCIS forms are free. Applicants can download TPS forms from www.uscis.gov/forms or request them by calling USCIS toll-free at 1-800-870-3676.

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

For more information about USCIS and its programs, visit www.uscis.gov. Follow us on Facebook (/uscis), Twitter (@uscis), YouTube (/uscis) and the USCIS blog The Beacon.

 

Click HERE for original.

IJDH Aristide Film Screening and Discussion

March 3, 2014 - 16:00

Commemorate the 2004 Coup at IJDH’s film screening/discussion.

WHAT:

In commemoration of the 2004 Coup in Haiti and its aftermath, IJDH is screening Aristide and the Endless Revolution. This 2005 film documents Aristide’s terms as Haiti’s president, his exiles, and the controversy around the 2004 Coup. It includes extensive interviews with Aristide himself,as well as famous figures such as Noam Chomsky, Maxine Waters, and Danny Glover. After the film, Jean Senat Fleury will speak about his perspective on the Coup, particularly from a legal standpoint. Jean Senat Fleury was a long-serving Haitian judge who presided over the Raboteau Massacre Trial in 2000 before being forced off the bench by the Latortue regime.

Click here for more on the film.

WHERE:

IJDH
666 Dorchester Ave
Boston, MA 02127

WHEN:

March 3, 2014 7-9pm

Cholera as a Grave Violation of Right to Water in Haiti

March 3, 2014 - 10:33

February 28, 2014

The following is a joint submission on behalf of IJDH and the International Human Rights Clinic at John Marshall Law School for the UN Special Rapporteur’s report on violations of the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation. The submission discusses violations of the right to water in Haiti, focusing specifically on Haiti’s ongoing cholera epidemic and efforts to seek accountability and redress.

The cholera crisis in Haiti represents a grave violation of the right to water, and provides a highly relevant case study in the strategies used and difficulties faced by victims seeking accountability and remedies for right to water violations perpetrated by non-State actors, including the underlying structural causes and power relations that limit access to judicial accountability mechanisms and complicate non-judicial accountability relationships.

 

IJDH JMSL Violation of Right to Water in Haiti