Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

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Why is US Arguing for UN Absolute Immunity?

October 24, 2014 - 11:43

This article explores the US government’s interest in the case against the United Nations for bringing cholera to Haiti. At yesterday’s oral arguments on the question of UN immunity, a US attorney argued in favor of absolute immunity for the UN, though the US isn’t a party to the litigation. The US has also submitted two statements in support of UN immunity in 2014.

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.

The U.N. Caused Haiti’s Cholera Epidemic. Now the Obama Administration Is Fighting the Victims.

Jonathan Katz, New Republic
October 24, 2014

Four years ago this month a battalion of United Nations soldiers, fresh from a cholera outbreak in Nepal, allowed their sewage to flow into Haiti’s biggest river and, scientists say, sparked the deadliest acute epidemic of the century. An estimated 9,000 people have died—nearly double the death toll of the current Ebola outbreak—and an estimated 700,000 people have been infected. On Thursday, embattled victims finally got a day in court. What was most remarkable about the hearing in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan was not the lawyers’ arguments or Judge J. Paul Oetken’s pointed questions, but who was doing the arguing. The opposition to the thousands of Haitian cholera victims did not come from the U.N., which did not send a representative, but the United States government.

In private conversations with U.N. officials, there seems to be a grudging acceptance—and even more pervasive sense of shame—that the peacekeepers were responsible for the massive epidemic, which not only caused tremendous loss of life but set back the Haitian economy and civil society that so many at the U.N. have pledged to help build. (Cholera’s corrosive power on Haiti’s medical infrastructure and society has been echoed in reports from the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. In a coincidence, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in New York City was admitted to nearby Bellevue Hospital Center hours after the hearing.) Ban traveled to Haiti this summer for the first time since the outbreak, where he affirmed a“moral responsibility” to end the cholera epidemic. As the U.S. takes the lead fighting the case in the courts, time will tell if the U.N. leader has the power or will to accept actual responsibility as well.


Click HERE for the full text.

Reflections from the Bolt Bus: Cholera, Collaboration and Justice

October 24, 2014 - 09:43

Brian Concannon
October 23, 2014

Three years ago next week I was on a nighttime Fung Wah Bus from New York back to Boston, feeling exhilarated and terrified.  That morning we had announced the filing of a claim with the United Nations on behalf of 5,000 victims of the UN cholera in Haiti. I was exhilarated because we had taken an important first step towards justice for those killed and sickened by the epidemic, and the installation of the water and sanitation infrastructure necessary to stop cholera’s killing. I was terrified because I feared that a small organization—without even a paid staff lawyer besides the Director—could not contend with the United Nations that boasted some of the best international lawyers in the world and millions of dollars for outside lawyers and public relations work.

Three years later I am on a nighttime Bolt Bus from New York back to Boston. I am again feeling exhilarated, and this time less terrified.  My fears were actually justified—there is no way that our small organization could contend with the UN’s vast resources. But we have since learned that a small organization, combined with our colleagues at the BAI, Haitian and Haitian-American activists, a prestigious and generous law firm, an army of volunteer lawyers and students, doctors, more doctors, UN insiders, law school Deans, Board Members, writers, filmmakers, more filmmakers, journalists, Bar Associations, petition-signers, Universities, political leaders, international law scholars, retweeters, Facebook friends, editorial boards,  NGOs, advisors, inspirations and our essential financial supporters, plus many others—sorry for the omissions—can more than match the UN’s resources.

Today we took another important step towards justice with a hearing in Manhattan Federal Court, on whether the UN could hide behind immunity if it refused to uphold its end of the bargain by providing the victims an alternate mechanism for justice (transcript here). IJDH Staff Lawyer Beatrice Lindstrom, who drafted the 2011 petition as a volunteer, masterfully presented the victims’ case, aided by lawyers representing Haitian-American organizations, international law scholars and European law scholars. The Judge was prepared, engaged, and clearly considering our arguments carefully. The courtroom was packed with supporters of the cholera victims’ fight for justice, and journalists. It will take time for the court to issue its decision, and the case may end up on appeal. But for now it has been demonstrated that there is a strong legal case for overcoming UN immunity, with broad and deep public support.

Along the way, all of us together have reframed the debate. Three years ago, most observers gave credence to the UN’s denial of responsibility for bringing in cholera. Now, the UN does not seriously contest that fact. Films exposing the injustice of the UN response have won Emmy and Peabody Awards and been featured at film festivals. Over 100 members of the US Congress have sided with justice, as have the UN’s own expert panel on cholera and many UN Human Rights experts.

There is no guarantee that we will win the lawsuit. But I do promise that the legal team at the BAI and IJDH will keep fighting, taking busses, riding boats and hiking trails as long as we need to. And I am confident that sooner or later, with or without a court order, we will convince the UN to respond justly to cholera!

Beatrice Lindstrom Courthouse Interview on Cholera Hearing

October 24, 2014 - 08:13

In this brief interview, Beatrice Lindstrom, attorney for the plaintiffs, explains why the October 23 hearing took place. Democracy Now! also gives some brief background information.

Part of the text is below. Click HERE for the full text and video (start at 7:34).

U.S. Judge Considers U.N. Immunity in Haiti Cholera Case

Democracy Now!
October 24, 2014

Beatrice Lindstrom: “We argued today that the United Nations cannot enjoy immunity in this suit when the United Nations is responsible for the death of over 8,500 people and over 700,000 people who have been injured. And the United Nations has clear legal obligations under their own treaties to provide remedies for people who have been harmed by the United Nations, and that is uncontested by the U.N. itself.”


Click HERE for the full text and video (start at 7:34).

Cholera Plaintiffs and US Attorney Debate UN Immunity

October 24, 2014 - 03:52

This article provides a great description of the October 2014 hearing on the question of UN immunity in the case of Georges et al. vs. United Nations et al. Staff Attorney Beatrice Lindstrom, arguing on behalf of the plaintiffs, contended that the UN cannot enjoy immunity when it has violated its obligations to provide alternate remedies to the victims. The US attorney, Ellen Blain, argued that the UN enjoys immunity regardless of any violations.

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text and video.

US Court Hears Pleas for Justice over UN Role in Haiti’s Cholera Epidemic

Makini Brice, PanAm Post
October 24, 2014

Haitian cholera victims finally had their day in court on Thursday: a hearing at the US District Court in the Southern District of New York on a gray, rainy New York morning. About 50 official observers and other interested parties watched, as lawyers for theInstitute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, the US Attorney’s Office, and other attorneys debated over whether the case would continue.

It centers on a cholera epidemic that seized Haiti in the aftermath of its staggering 2010 earthquake. Over the past four years, the epidemic has sickened about 700,000 and killed 8,500, in a country that had not had a cholera case in about 150 years.

A number of scientific studies have pointed to a UN peacekeepers’ camp about 35 miles from Port-au-Prince as the source of the outbreak. Further, they have stated that a sewage pipe from the facility leaked into a river used for drinking water in the community.

Beatrice Lindstrom argued on behalf of IJDH, while Jennifer Ellen Blain argued on the side of the United States, though Blain made sure to state that the United States was not a party inGeorges et al. vs. United Nations et al. Both spoke for 15 minutes, while friends of the court each spoke for 10 minutes. That included Kertch Conze from the Haitian Women of Miami and the Haitian Lawyers Association; Muneer Ahmad, a Yale Law School professor and supervisor for the Yale project behind a report on the epidemic last year; and Monica Iyer, a human-rights attorney.

The court adjourned with the judge announcing he would make his decision later.

The United Nations has refused legal responsibility for the cholera outbreak. Lindstrom said that, by November 2012, 5,000 families had filed claims with the institution, and for 15 months, their claims went unanswered. In July 2013, the United Nations said the claims were “not receivable.”

Pressure on the international organization has not subsided, however. Two other groups have also filed lawsuits against the United Nations.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Haiti this summer and did say that the United Nations has a “moral responsibility” for the country. The United Nations has also called for a US$2.2 billion fund for cholera eradication, but most of it has gone unfunded. Since 2010, cholera incidences have declined by 75 percent throughout the country.


Click HERE for the full text and video.

Haiti’s Cholera Victims Seek Justice in Court

October 23, 2014 - 14:09

This article briefly describes the latest news on the cholera epidemic in Haiti, including the October 23 oral arguments on UN immunity. It includes quotes from Ban Ki-moon, Mario Joseph (BAI Managing Attorney), and Beatrice Lindstrom (IJDH Staff Attorney who argued on behalf of the plaintiffs).

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.

Haiti Cholera Victims Seek Damages from UN in US Court

Margaret Besheer, Voice of America
October 23, 2014

A U.S. District Court judge heard oral arguments Thursday in a lawsuit brought by victims of Haiti’s cholera outbreak, who are seeking compensation from the United Nations.

The plaintiffs blame a contingent of Nepalese peacekeepers for bringing the disease to their nation after the 2010 earthquake.

The suit was filed on behalf of five Haitians and Haitian-Americans whose family members died of the water-borne disease or who were infected with it.

They allege that U.N. peacekeepers who were sent to the country after the devastating 2010 earthquake contaminated a branch of the Artibonite River with cholera. The river is the country’s main water source for tens of thousands of Haitians.

Subsequently more than 8,500 people died of the disease, which can cause severe diarrhea and vomiting, and hundreds of thousands more were sickened.

The United Nations has never taken responsibility for the crisis and is claiming immunity in this lawsuit.

Mario Joseph of the International Lawyers Bureau in Haiti told reporters the government will not say the U.N. is responsible for the outbreak, and has forbidden public hospitals from giving cholera victims their medical records.
appealed directly to the U.N. chief.

“The United Nations stands for the promotion of human rights for all, and that should include Haitians.  So we ask the secretary-general to listen to Haitians when they ask for justice in this case,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Lindstrom.

The United Nations said it has worked to improve water, sanitation and health in Haiti, and that its efforts are paying off as cholera cases are down 75 percent over last year.


Click HERE for the full text.

IJDH Ella Baker Fellow Wins Scholarship

October 23, 2014 - 13:30

Attend Lawyers Weekly’s Top Women of Law event in Boston.


One of our legal interns, Ella Baker Fellow Mayumi Grigsby, has won a Lawyers Weekly Leadership Scholarship. This is awarded for high academic achievement, exceptional leadership qualities and involvement with community service. We look forward to her future achievements.


The Top Women of Law event celebrates outstanding achievements made by exceptional women. Each year Lawyers Weekly honors women who have made tremendous professional strides and demonstrated great accomplishments in the legal field, which includes: pro bono, social justice, advocacy and business. The awards highlight women who are pioneers, educators, trailblazers, and role models.


Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel
138 St. James Avenue
Boston, MA 2116


Thursday, October 23, 2014
5:30 to 8pm


Click HERE for more on the event and Lawyers Weekly.

Will UN Be Granted Immunity in Cholera Case?

October 23, 2014 - 13:06

France24 describes the scene outside the Manhattan Federal Courthouse on Thursday, October 23, 2014, when Haitians and Haitian-Americans gathered in driving rain to continue discussing the ongoing case against the United Nations. Oral arguments had just taken place on the issue of UN immunity between the Plaintiffs and the US Government, which has intervened in the case and argued for dismissal on immunity grounds. Judge J. Paul Oetken has deferred a decision on whether that immunity will be granted in this case, where the UN has refused to provide cholera victims any access to a remedy despite their many attempts to engage the organization. Mario Joseph, a lead attorney for Plaintiffs, pointed out the UN’s double standards in addressing this crisis, noting how different things would have been had the outbreak occurred in the US.

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.

US judge wavers on UN immunity in Haiti cholera case

Jessica Le Masurier, France24
October 23, 2014

A US judge on Thursday deferred a decision on whether the United Nations can be sued by thousands of Haitian families over a deadly cholera outbreak that is widely believed to have been caused by negligence at the hands of the world body.

Dozens of Haitians braved driving rain outside the Manhattan courtroom to call for the UN to be stripped of its immunity so that thousands of plaintiffs who lost family members to the devastating cholera outbreakcan proceed in their suit against the organisation.

More than 8,500 people were killed and 700,000 sickened after human waste, allegedly from a UN peacekeeping base, leaked into a central Haitian river.

Federal Judge Paul Oetken presided over the hearing, which reviewed the technical interpretations of a 1946 convention which has so far been understood to offer the UN immunity in the case.

Attorney Beatrice Lindstrom argued that the UN had forfeited its right to immunity by refusing the right to out-of-court settlements under section 29 of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations.

The United Nations has stringently declined to comment on the cases. When questioned on the UN’s role in the cholera epidemic by FRANCE 24 in July, former head of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), Edmond Mulet, denied that there was any proof linking the Nepalese UN peacekeepers to the outbreak, despite several epidemiological reports proving otherwise.


Click HERE for the full text.


Hearing Held in UN Cholera Case

October 23, 2014 - 09:56



Press Contact:

Shannon Jonsson, Legal Fellow, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti,, +1-617-652-0876

Kermshlise Picard, Communications Coordinator, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti,, +1-617-652-0876

Hearing Held in UN Cholera Case

Plaintiffs argue against UN claim to absolute immunity from justice

(New York, October 23, 2014)—Marking the first court proceeding in Georges v. United Nations, oral argument took place this morning in front of Judge J. Paul Oetken at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Counsel for Plaintiffs and amici curiae presented arguments on whether the UN can invoke immunity when it refuses to comply with its international law obligation to provide  victims of the UN cholera in Haiti access to justice.

The argument is a pivotal moment in the case seeking to hold the UN accountable for introducing cholera to Haiti in 2010. To date, the epidemic has killed over 8,500 and infected more than 700,000 Haitians. It has become the worst cholera epidemic of modern times.

Arguing for Plaintiffs, Beatrice Lindstrom, Staff Attorney for the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), pointed out that even the UN’s own experts concluded that the UN was responsible for the outbreak, and the UN has repeatedly confirmed its obligation to compensate people injured by its operations. Lindstrom explained that the UN’s immunity claim in this case extends far beyond the previous limits recognized by U.S. Courts. “The UN is claiming that one part of the UN’s General Convention prevents any other court from reviewing anything the organization does, no matter how much the UN breaches reciprocal obligations under the Convention, no matter how much bad faith it displays.”

Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, also represents the cholera victims. He noted that “the UN spends lots of time and money telling our officials and citizens to respect the rule of law. Then it refuses to have the law apply to itself after killing thousands of Haitians. Does the UN think Haitians do not notice the double standard?”

Brian Concannon, Jr., Esq., Director of IJDH, said that “under the law, immunity is a two-way street. The UN has protection from national courts, for good reason, but also has an obligation to provide an alternate mechanism for justice, also for good reason. This principle has been recognized by many courts, especially in Europe. Today’s hearing gets the principle a big step closer towards recognition by U.S. courts.”


October 23 Hearing on UN Immunity

October 23, 2014 - 06:04

On October 23, 2014, Judge J. Paul Oetken heard oral arguments on the question of UN immunity and whether service of process was effective in the ongoing case against the UN on behalf of Haiti cholera victims.. The following article summarizes the oral arguments made by IJDH Staff Attorney Beatrice Lindstrom, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ellen Blain, and one of the three amici who argued in support of Plaintiffs, Kertch Conze. Conze, representing the Haitian Women of Miami and the Haitian Lawyers Association, gave a passionate argument on behalf of the Haitian community, explaining that the UN could not assert immunity after breaching its legal obligations to provide victims access to a remedy.

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.

Court Asked to Intervene in Haiti Cholera Suit

Adam Klasfeld, Courthouse News Service
October 23, 2014

MANHATTAN (CN) – Blaming the United Nations for the “worst cholera epidemic in modern times,” a lawyer for the Haitian victims told a federal judge Thursday that diplomatic immunity has prevented her clients from delivering a lawsuit some 4 miles uptown to the organization’s headquarters overlooking the East River.
While Secretary General Ban Ki-moon acknowledged the UN’s “moral responsibility” earlier this year for the outbreak that killed 8,000 and infected 700,000 Haitians, he has insisted that the institution should not face legal liability.
The United Nations has dodged a class action lawsuit from the victims for more than a year.
Lawyers for Delama Georges, whose father died during the outbreak, and other Haitians have been unable to serve the federal complaint because UN premises is considered “inviolable.” They asked a federal judge to acknowledge service, or allow for the unprecedented step of mailing, faxing, or emailing their lawsuit to the United Nations.
Hoping to avoid a diplomatic headache, the United States dispatched attorneys from the Justice Department and State Department to prevent that fate.
This first hearing in the high-profile case Thursday drew dozens of spectators to the grand courtroom of New York’s Thurgood Marshall Courthouse, but arguments largely focused on arcane details of international law.
Beatrice Lindstrom, representing the plaintiffs for the Institute of Justice & Democracy in Haiti, said the fundamental facts of the case are “not disputed.”

Kertch Conze, of the Haitian Lawyers Association, became particularly passionate and indignant as he emphasized the thousands of innocent victims claimed by the UN’s alleged negligence.
“These people who have been infected, they did nothing wrong,” he said.
Conze echoed the plaintiffs’ arguments that the UN’s alleged violation of one section of the treaty waived whatever immunity the other portion provided.
“If you breach the contract and you come to court and tell the judge, ‘I have immunity,’ then you come to court with unclean hands,” Conze said.
Such a position also would be “patently unfair,” he added.


Click HERE for the full text.

Cholera Hearing in NY Federal Court

October 23, 2014 - 06:00

Show support for Haiti’s cholera victims at this NYC hearing in the lawsuit against the UN.


On September 29th, we received news that the Manhattan Federal Court granted our request for a hearing in the class action lawsuit IJDH filed against the UN last year for introducing cholera to Haiti. The Court’s decision to schedule a hearing is a crucial step towards justice, and shows that the court is taking a serious look at the UN’s international law obligation to provide victims justice. The court has ordered all parties to appear, including several groups who submitted amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs in support of IJDH’s clients.

The hearing is open to the public, and we encourage everyone who cares about this issue to be present and show their support. Seating is on a first come first served basis. A government-issued photo ID is required for entry, and electronics use will not be allowed (e.g. cell phones, laptops, cameras).


Courtroom 318
Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse
40 Foley Square
New York, NY, 10007


October 23, 2014 at 10am


Learn more about the cholera epidemic and our fight for justice here.

Droits humains, les mouvements populaires, et la justice

October 23, 2014 - 04:07

Travail de droits humains avec un impact: dirigé par ceux dont les droits ont été violés; soutenu et amplifié par un réseau d’avocats engagés, militants, journalistes et étudiants. Cet article utilise notre travail de plaidoyer pour choléra comme une étude de comment le travail pour les droits humains qui renforce les dirigeants de base peut vraiment avoir un impact sur le système. Fran Quigley, auteur de How Human Rights Can Build Haiti, décrit la façon dont nous avons utilisé un “Réseau justice pour choléra” pour créer une dynamique pour la justice pour les victimes du choléra en Haïti.

Partie de l’article est ci dessous. Cliquez ICI pour le texte complète.

Les militants et le droit en Haïti : des campagnes de défense des droits de l’homme multi-niveaux pour obtenir justice

Fran Quigley, openDemocracy
23 octobre, 2014

Chris Jochnick a récemment posé une question éminemment importante lorsqu’il a demandé si les cours de justice, les militants et les avocats pouvaient réellement faire la différence en matière de pauvreté. Je pense que nous pouvons sans crainte dire que c’est le cas. Actuellement, un partenariat entre l’organisation des droits de l’homme haïtienne, le Bureau des avocats internationaux, connue sous le nom de BAI, et leur partenaire basé aux États-Unis, l’Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), constitue le moteur d’une remarquable campagne internationale multi-niveaux et multi-forum visant à obtenir justice pour les victimes de l’épidémie de choléra haïtienne d’octobre 2010.

Il est important de noter que la campagne n’a pas commencé dans les bureaux d’un avocat ou au siège d’une ONG. Elle a été lancée dans les rues d’Haïti. Les haïtiens ont un héritage glorieux en matière de militantisme populaire qui remonte à la seule rébellion d’esclaves réussie dans l’histoire et l’évincement ultérieur de dictateurs comme Jean-Claude Duvalier. Ainsi, dans les jours suivant l’épidémie d’octobre 2010, les haïtiens s’organisèrent et manifestèrentpar milliers à l’extérieur des bases de l’ONU dans le pays, demandant jistis ak reparasyon, justice et réparations, pour les dévastations vécues.

Et il y a en effet des poursuites contre L’ONU pour le compte de milliers de victimes du choléra. Les plaidoiries devraient se tenir le 23 octobre dans l’affaire Georges et al. c. United Nations et al. Les poursuites en justice sont importantes, mais elles n’occultent pas les autres éléments de cette action de plaidoyer. En fait, l’affaire du choléra est seulement une partie de l’ensemble de l’agenda en matière de droits de l’homme qui est poursuivi par le BAI et l’IJDH. Le partenariat a également dirigé les efforts visant à poursuivre en justice l’ancien dictateur Duvalier pour ses crimes contre les droits de l’homme. Il a également été un élément clef de la coalition répondant aux viols dans la période suivant le tremblement de terre, et a constamment fait pression en faveur d’élections libres et justes en Haïti.  

Mon récent livre sur ce partenariat, How Human Rights Can Build Haiti, (Comment les droits de l’homme peuvent construire Haïti) illustre la manière dont les actions de plaidoyer en matière de droits de l’homme–à condition que les droits économiques et sociaux soient inclus et que le renforcement des mouvements populaires demeure un soucis constant–peuvent vraiment construire Haïti. Et cela peut également contribuer à construire une vie meilleure pour les pauvres du monde entier.


Cliquez ICI pour le texte complète.

Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program Teleconference

October 22, 2014 - 10:00

Join this teleconference on the implementation of a limited Haitian Family Reunification Parole program.


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) invites you to participate in a teleconference to discuss the implementation of a limited Haitian Family Reunification Parole (HFRP) program.

Under this program, certain Haitians in Haiti who are beneficiaries of approved family-based immigrant visa petitions may be considered for parole to come to the United States up to two years before their immigrant visa priority dates become current.

During this teleconference, USCIS officials will provide an overview and address questions about the HFRP program.


On the day of the session, please use the information below to join the teleconference. We recommend that you call in 10 to 15 minutes before the start time.

Toll-free call-in number: 1-888-972-4308
Toll number if you are calling from outside of the U.S.: 1-312-470-7184
Passcode: HFRP


Wednesday, Oct. 22, from 2:00 to 2:45 p.m. (Eastern)
If you have any questions regarding the registration process, or if you have not received a confirmation email within two business days, please email

Human Rights, Grassroots Leaders, and Justice

October 22, 2014 - 07:42

Human rights work with impact:  led by those whose rights have been infringed; supported and amplified by a network of committed  attorneys, activists, journalists, and students. This article uses our cholera advocacy work as a case study of how human rights work that empowers grassroots leaders can really make an impact on the system. Fran Quigley, author of How Human Rights Can Build Haiti, describes how we have used a “Cholera Justice Network” to build momentum for justice for Haiti’s cholera victims.

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.

Activists and law in Haiti: multi-level human rights campaigns to find justice

Fran Quigley, Open Democracy
October 22, 2014

Chris Jochnick recently posed a critically important question when he asked if courts, activists and lawyers really can make a difference on poverty. And I think we can safely say yes. Right now, a partnership between the Haitian human rights organization Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, known as BAI, and their US-based partner, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti(IJDH) is the driving force behind a remarkable multi-level, multi-forum, multinational campaign to obtain justice for the victims of the October 2010 Haitian cholera epidemic.

Importantly, the campaign did not begin in a lawyer’s office or in the headquarters of an NGO. It was launched in the streets of Haiti. The Haitian people have a proud legacy of grassroots activism that dates back to history’s only successful slave rebellion and the subsequent ouster of dictators like Jean-Claude Duvalier. So, within days of the October 2010 outbreak, Haitiansorganized and demonstrated by the thousands outside of UN bases in the country, insisting on jistis ak reparasyon—justice and reparations—for the devastation they experienced.

And yes, there is litigation against the UN on behalf of thousands of cholera victims. Oral arguments are set to be heard on October 23rd in the case ofGeorges et al. vs. United Nations et al. The litigation is important, but it does not overshadow the other components of the advocacy. In fact, the cholera case is only one piece of the broad human rights agenda pursued by the BAI and IJDH. The partnership also led the effort to prosecute the former dictator Duvalier for his human rights crimes, was a key part of the coalition responding to post-earthquake rape crisis, and consistently pushes for free and fair elections in Haiti.  

My recent book about this partnership, How Human Rights Can Build Haiti, illustrates how human rights advocacy—to the extent that it embraces economic and social rights and keeps a laser focus on empowering grassroots leadership—can truly build Haiti. And it can help build a better life for the rest of the world’s poor as well.


Click HERE for the full text.

Cholera Victims One Step Closer to Justice

October 22, 2014 - 01:00

This article gives a detailed overview of UN immunity in the case of the cholera epidemic in Haiti. It tracks the UN response to claims against it since they were first filed in 2011, all the way to the October 23, 2014 hearing on the question of UN immunity. There are many opinions mentioned on the effects of waiving UN immunity but regardless of those views, this hearing presents an opportunity for Haiti’s cholera victims to finally have justice.

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.

Haiti cholera victims get a hearing in U.S. court

Olivia Crellin, Al Jazeera America
October 22, 2014

Delama Georges lives one stop from the end of the No. 2 train line in Brooklyn, right next to Holy Cross Cemetery. His proximity to so much death did not bother him until Nov. 9, 2011, when he learned that both his parents had contracted cholera during a visit with his sister in Haiti. While Georges’ mother lay in a coma, brought on by violent vomiting and diarrhea, his father died, joining more than 8,500 Haitians who died in the epidemic, which began four years ago this month.

The tragedy took on a new dimension after a coalition of U.S. and Haitian lawyers from the Boston-based Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti filed a class-action lawsuit against the United Nations for the alleged role of Nepalese peacekeepers in contaminating the country’s waterways.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, center, visits Los Palmas in the central plateau of Haiti during his two-day visit to the country on July 14, 2014.  Hector Retamal / AFP / Getty Images

This week, Delama Georges, one of five Haitian and Haitian-American plaintiffs named in the case, may be one step closer to being granted his day in court. IJDH lawyers will get their chance on Thursday to argue that the lawsuit should go forward. Since the suit was filed in a federal court in New York a year ago, the United Nations has declined to acknowledge it, on the grounds that the organization enjoys diplomatic immunity.

During a visit to Haiti in July, Ban said the U.N. has a “moral responsibility” to help Haiti eliminate cholera. But the U.N.’s only response to the litigation so far came in March, when the United States filed a response, stating that the body “enjoys absolute immunity.” No U.N. officials are expected to attend Thursday’s hearing.

Whatever the results of that hearing — which could take weeks, or months, to be determined — an appeal is likely. Said Lindstrom, “We’ve always understood the lawsuit to be a tool to keep public attention and pressure on the U.N. to change course and do the right thing.”


Click HERE for the full text.

Rep. Ros-Lehtinen Supports Haitian Family Reunification

October 21, 2014 - 07:25

Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen calls the plan to partially implement Haitian Family Reunification in 2015 “a great step forward.” She states some of the program’s benefits, like remittances to Haiti, and also the importance the the US helping Haiti. She says “They’re our hemispheric partner. We need to help them.”

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text and video.


Ian Hanchett, Breitbart TV
October 21, 2014

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) stated that she believed the Department of Homeland Security’s recently announced program to allow thousands of Haitians into the US was “a great step forward” that she hoped would provide an example for policies to handle the parents of children who fell under the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on Tuesday’s “Jose Diaz-Balart” on MSNBC.

Ros-Lehtinen expressed that she hoped the Haiti program would be a step to taking similar action for parents of children who fell under DACA.

Click HERE for the full text and video.

The History and Future of Cholera in Haiti

October 20, 2014 - 11:31

This blog post describes the beginning of the cholera epidemic from one observer’s perspective. It also compares the initial lack of international response and local vulnerability to the disease to the ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Part of the post is below. Click HERE for the full text.

Cholera in Haiti, four years later

October 20, 2014

On the evening of October 20, 2010, I posted an item from Treyfish at Pandemic Information News: Haiti: A mysterious outbreak. Excerpt:

Health officials in rural Haiti are investigating a possible disease outbreak that could be responsible for dozens of deaths and a surge in hospital patients, U.N. aid workers said Wednesday.

Haitian government officials say at least 19 people have died after suffering brief bouts of fever, vomiting and severe diarrhea, with dozens of more deaths suspected. Most are reportedly children.

Hundreds of patients reporting those symptoms have overwhelmed a hospital in the seaside town of St. Marc, some 45 miles (about 70 kilometers) north of the capital of Port-au-Prince, Catherine Huck, country deputy for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told The Associated Press.

“I’ll look for more details in the morning,” I wrote, blissfully ignorant of what I was letting myself in for.

Since October 2010 cholera has receded from the western consciousness. It’s now endemic in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, but no real threat to North Americans’ peace of mind. The same will not be true of Ebola; it may become endemic, but the chance of its escaping West Africa to Europe or Asia or the Americas will generate many alarming headlines for years to come. Just as cholera has inspired countless “Poor Haiti” storoes, we can look forward to any number of Poor Guinea/Liberia/Sierra Leone reports as social disorder becomes yet more ingrained in those unlucky countries.

It is not a pleasant prospect.


Click HERE for the full text.

Finally, a Haitian Family Reunification Program!

October 19, 2014 - 15:59

This editorial reflects the years of persistent advocacy which yielded Friday’s DHS announcement that it will implement early next year a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program. Calls for this program date to January 2010, nearly five years ago.  The program is limited: only DHS-approved beneficiaries whose visa priority dates will become current within two years will be eligible, while some are on wait lists of up to 12 years in Haiti.  But it’s a start, and in coming months we will monitor its implementation and seek to expand its coverage.

Part of the editorial is below. Click HERE for the full text.

Finally, Mr. President…

Miami Herald
October 19, 2014

Here’s what the Editorial Board said two years after a cataclysmic earthquake turned Port-au-Prince and much of the island to rubble, killing hundreds of thousands:

“President Obama has failed to do the one thing in his power that could help lift Haiti out of the morass that has engulfed it since the January 2010 earthquake: Order the Department of Homeland Security to admit into the United States the thousands of Haitian nationals whom DHS already has approved for U.S. visas. He could expedite this orderly migration process immediately. It doesn’t take an act of Congress, literally.”

And three years after the earthquake:

“The U.S. government can do its part by speeding up the family reunification process. Homeland Security has already approved family-based visa petitions for 106,312 Haitians, but the waiting period to enter this country of 21/2 to 12 years makes little sense.”

And four years:

Of course, the Editorial Board’s wasn’t the only voice calling for the president to act over the years. Steven Forester, policy coordinator of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, said that there have been letters signed by South Florida’s entire Congressional delegation and editorials in major newspapers.

DHS has yet to determine the date of implementation. After all this time and foot-dragging, we would suggest immediately.


Click HERE for the full text.

DHS To Implement Haitian Family Reunification Program!

October 17, 2014 - 08:15

The Department of Homeland Security announced today that it will implement a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program (HFRPP), starting in early 2015. This HFRPP will let thousands of approved Haitian beneficiaries promptly enter the U.S. if they are within two years of their visa priority dates.  IJDH, with Haitian American leaders and others nationwide, has led a years-long effort to win this program’s creation to save lives and help Haiti recover.  While the program is more limited than needed, thousands should benefit, and we will monitor its implementation and seek its expansion in coming months.

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.

Obama administration to allow thousands of Haitians to legally enter United States

Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald
October 17, 2014

Thousands of Haitians who have been waiting to reunite with U.S. citizens and lawful permanent resident family members in the United States will now have a chance to do so – up to two years before their immigrant visa for a green card may be issued.

Beginning next year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will implement a Haitian Family Reunification Parole (HFRP) Program to expedite family reunification for eligible Haitian family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are living in Haiti and have already been approved for a family-based immigrant visa.

The major policy shift announced Friday comes nearly three months before the fifth anniversary of Haiti’s devastating Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake, which launched a campaign by immigration and Haitian advocates to speed up family reunification for Haitians, some of whom have been waiting as long as 12 years in the immigration pipeline.

But after 80 pieces of support, including letters signed by the entire South Florida Congressional delegation and 17 editorials in nearly a dozen major U.S. newspapers, some had given up hope that such a program would happen.

“There have been more political letters than I can count,” said Steve Forrester, who has led the effort as immigration policy coordinator for the nonprofit Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti.

Forrester hailed the announcement although it doesn’t cover immediately the approximately 100,000 Haitians whose I-130 visas have already been approved for a potential green card.

Under the Haitian Family Reunification Parole program, Haitians authorized parole will be allowed to enter the United States and apply for work permits but will not receive permanent resident status any earlier than when their priority date is due.


Click HERE for the full text.

Cholera Hearing Will Scrutinize UN Immunity

October 17, 2014 - 07:26

Thursday, October 23 we will have a hearing in New York Federal Court, about the issue of UN immunity. This article does an excellent job of explaining what the hearing is all about and giving a brief history of the cholera epidemic in Haiti, which precipitated this case. It also features an interview with Brian Concannon, IJDH Executive Director.

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.

Outbreak On Trial: Who’s To Blame For Bringing Disease Into A Country?

Richard Knox, WBUR’s CommonHealth
October 17, 2014

If an international agency introduces a devastating disease to a country, should it be held accountable?

That’s the big question at the heart of a court proceeding that gets underway next Thursday. The international agency is the United Nations. The disease is cholera. And the nation is Haiti.

Four years ago this month, thousands of Haitians downstream from a U.N. peacekeeping encampment began falling ill and dying from cholera, a disease not previously seen in Haiti for at least a century.

Since then cholera has sickened one in every 14 Haitians — more than 700,000 people; and over 8,000 have died. That’s nearly twice the official death count from Ebola in West Africa thus far.

A year ago, a Boston-based human rights group sued the U.N. for bringing cholera to Haiti through infected peacekeeping troops from Nepal, where the disease was circulating at the time. The U.N. camp spilled its sewage directly into a tributary of Haiti’s largest river.

Brian Concannon of the IJDH says the U.N.’s immunity is limited. He says it’s supposed to have a mechanism to compensate those injured by its actions – which might cover such things as sexual assault by peacekeeping troops, or property damage, as well as the introduction of lethal diseases.

That mechanism is called a Standing Claims Commission, which would resolve disputes over damage claims.

“The U.N. has never set up a Standing Claims Commission in 60 years of peacekeeping missions,” Concannon said in an interview.

His group petitioned the U.N. in 2012 to set up such a commission to address cholera claims. But as the secretary-general’s spokesman says, the U.N. found those claims “not receivable,” which provoked the current lawsuit.

Despite the opposition of the U.S. government, Concannon says he’s optimistic. For one thing, Judge Oetken didn’t have to schedule a hearing at all. “The safe route for the judge would be to say, ‘I’m going to defer to the government and dismiss the case,’” Concannon says. “The fact he granted our request for a hearing is a sign the court is taking this seriously.”

Click HERE for the full text.

New Haiti Documentary Released October 2014

October 16, 2014 - 20:01

Don’t miss this new documentary on the other side of Haiti.


A new documentary, “Lakay,” by Chicago-based Haitian-American filmmaker Tirf Alexius, which deals with the recovery of Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake, will get a nationwide theatrical release after it screens at the 9th Annual Harlem International Film Festival this month.

Told from a personal POV, and starring Alexius, along with his brother Remoh Romeo (who also produced the project with Alexius, along with Hugh Grady and Macdanne Edmond), the documentary chronicles what happened when the two brothers returned to Haiti to locate their loved ones after the earthquake. However, what they found is a story of courage and resilience by the survivors, as well as a new hope.


The film is getting a nationwide theatrical release starting on October 17th, when it opens in 2 suburban Chicago area theaters – the AMC Woodfield 20 Lowes theaters in Schaumburg, and the AMC Loews Country Club Hills 16.
Then on October 24th, the film opens in New York, Atlanta and Los Angeles, and in more cities the week after, on Oct. 31st.


Click HERE for more on the film, and to watch the trailer.