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Security Withdrawal Puts Aristide and Family at Risk

September 12, 2014 - 11:35

After security agents were mysteriously removed from in front of Aristide’s residence around 1am September 12, many questions have arisen about the cause and the former president’s safety. There are reports that the order came from the National Palace, which, if true, mean the Martelly government has put the lives of Aristide and his family at great risk. This development comes amidst an ongoing investigation of corruption charges against Aristide that have never been proven. Aristide supporters promised major protests if he were arrested. Any harm resulting from the security withdrawal could result in “significant disruption” in Haiti.

Is the Martelly Government Putting Former President Aristide in Danger?

Center for Economic and Policy Research
September 12, 2014

Fanmi Lavalas leaders report that the police that have guarded former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s residence since he returned to Haiti in 2011 were removed around 1:00 a.m. this morning. It is unclear who ordered the removal of the state security agents, but Agence Haitienne de Presse is reporting that Haitian National Police deny giving the order, and that a “pro-government source” says the orders came from the National Palace. This news conflicts with reports yesterday that Aristide is being placed under house arrest. While Judge Lamarre Belizaire reportedly issued an order for “agents of the prison administration, known as APENA” to be placed around Aristide’s house in Tabarre (according to the Caribbean Media Corporation) and “agents of the Central Department of the Judicial Police” to guard the perimeter of his residence, witnesses on the ground say it appears that law enforcement agencies have ignored Belizaire’s order. Under Haitian law, house arrest has no legal basis.

Brian Concannon of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, whose sister organization the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux’s Managing Attorney Mario Joseph represents Aristide, sees the withdrawal of security as retaliation against Aristide for exercising his civil rights. Specifically, Aristide’s lawyers’ are seeking the recusal and dismissal of Judge Belizaire, who is already barred from practicing law for 10 years after he leaves his position as judge.

Concannon says that the message is that “If you assert your civil rights, we’re going to expose you and your family to being killed.” He sees it as a clear signal from the Haitian government that “the police will not come to Aristide’s aid if something happens.” The secretive way in which the security was pulled, in the dead of night, is worrying, he notes.

Aristide continues to have many enemies in Haiti. He was twice ousted in violent coups, in 1991 and 2004. Some of the people involved in the coups and in the killing of Fanmi Lavalas members and other Aristide supporters continue to walk free in Haiti. Haiti’s former dictator, Jean-Claude Duvalier – who was ousted in a popular uprising by the grassroots movement that later provided the base for Aristide’s party – also lives freely in Haiti despite the various human rights atrocities committed during his rule and the diverting of hundreds of millions of dollars from the government for his family’s personal use.

There have been numerous recent attacks and threats against human rights defenders and political activists. Haïti Liberté reports:

On Wed., Aug. 20 in Cité Soleil, Clifford Charles, a member of the Fanmi Lavalas Political Organization was killed following a demonstration by residents demanding the release of their imprisoned comrade Louima Louis Juste in the National Penitentiary for the past six months for his political opinions.

Human rights defender Daniel Dorsinvil and his wife Girldy Larêche were murderedearlier this year. Well-known Fanmi Lavalas leader and human rights activist Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine remains missing after being forcibly disappeared in 2007, to name a few other examples.

In this context, the danger to Aristide is real, and it is clear that the Martelly government is putting his life and safety at risk.

Aristide continues to be widely popular, as was seen when thousands of peopleaccompanied his caravan from the airport to his residence in 2011. Over the past weeks, crowds of supporters have repeatedly gathered outside Aristide’s residence following rumors and news of his pending arrest. The AP reported on demonstrations in support of Aristide yesterday on the 26th anniversary of the most infamous assassination attempt against him, when death squads killed at least 13 people and injured 80 more at the St. Jean Bosco church where Aristide was saying mass. The AP’s Evens Sanon writes:

Supporters promised major protests would erupt if what they see as a politically motivated arrest is carried out.

“There is only one person who represents the people of Haiti and his name is President Aristide,” 37-year-old Lionel Patrick said in the yard of the church, which was destroyed in the January 2010 earthquake. “If anything happens to him, Haiti is going to be shut down.”

Any attack on Aristide’s residence is likely to result in many additional casualties.

As we have pointed out previously, the supposedly impending charges and arrest of Aristide – and now the new threat to his security – may be intended to distract from the postponement, yet again, of legislative and local elections that were supposed to be held on October 26. With another third of senate seats expiring next year, as well as the entire House of Deputies, the Martelly administration will be unencumbered by the check-and-balance of the legislature on his authority if elections are not held soon. He also could be in a position to replace local mayors with more appointed “municipal agents,” as he’s already done with 130 of them.

This real exercise of anti-democratic behavior by the current administration is getting far less attention than the rehashed allegations of corruption targeting a past president, even though 10 years of investigations in Haiti and a grand jury in the U.S. have failed to produce evidence of actual corruption by Aristide that could support criminal charges.

The security team’s unusual withdrawal is not just dangerous for Aristide, his wife and daughter. It puts the reputation of the Martelly administration, and its chief international supporter, the Obama administration on the line.  If anything does happen to the Aristide residence, fingers will be pointed at President Martelly and the U.S. Embassy. Many of those fingers will come from the hands of irate Lavalas supporters, who will likely take to the streets in numbers that will cause significant disruption in Haiti.

 

Click HERE for the original.

Housing Rights Activism in Haiti: International Alliances & Challenges

September 11, 2014 - 09:30

Discuss ways to combat homelessness and forced evictions in Haiti.

WHAT: 

Please join CHRGJ as it welcomes Haitian housing rights activist Jackson Doliscar along with human rights lawyer and CHRGJ alumna Ellie Happel in a public talk about ongoing activism to combat homelessness and stop evictions in Haiti. After losing their homes in the 2010 earthquake, more than 100,000 people in Haiti still live in informal tent cities.Insecure land titles jeopardize housing rights of people in the camps who face violent threats of eviction from police and private citizens alike. How can Haitian activists engage displaced communities to defend their housing rights? What can the international community can do to support local actors? How is the Global Justice Clinic engaging communities to participate in decisions and preserve their rights in the face of prospective gold-mining? What is the potential for forced displacement in mining-affected communities?

WHERE: 

WILF hall, 5th floor conference room (139 MacDougal Street, NYU School of Law)

WHEN: 

Thursday, September 11, 12:30-2:00pm

ABOUT THE SPEAKERS:

Jackson Doliscar grew up in a home that doubled as an organizing base in the movement for human rights and democracy under the Duvalier dictatorship, and later gained experience as a member of Chandel, a community organization that uses popular education to promote social change.  After the 2010 earthquake, Jackson helped found FRAKKA, the Force for Reflection and Action on Housing, a platform of organizations and camp committees that organize and accompany the internally displaced as they fight for the right to housing. Jackson worked in hundreds of camps in Port-au-Prince.  He collaborates with Haitian social justice organizations as well as Amnesty International and other allies.  In 2012 Jackson presented before the International Tribunal on Evictions in Geneva and in 2014 he participated in the Equitas human rights training program in Canada.

Ellie Happel is a 2011 graduate of NYU Law School where she was a Root Tilden Kern scholar.  Upon graduating Ellie received the Arthur Helton Human Rights fellowship to work in Port-au-Prince, where she worked on the cholera case against the United Nations and on cases of forced eviction in the internally displaced people (IDP) camps.  In January of 2013 Ellie joined Professor Meg Satterthwaite and the Global Justice Clinic to launch a new project supporting communities affected by gold mining activity in Haiti.  The GJC collaborates with the Justice in Mining Collective (“the Collective”), a platform of 5 Haitian human rights organizations based in Port-au-Prince, to help communities monitor human rights abuses and promote their interests.

 

Click HERE for more CHRGJ events and programs.

Aristide Supporters Rally Against His Arrest

September 11, 2014 - 08:54

September 11th in Haiti, Aristide supporters remembered a massacre that occurred at former President Aristide’s church, St. Jean Bosco, in 1988. There are still rumors of an arrest warrant against Aristide but the Haitian National Police have made no attempt to arrest the ex-president. Supporters maintain that the alleged warrant is an attempt to intimidate Aristide’s political party, Fanmi Lavalas, in time for the upcoming elections.

Hear more about this situation in our August 14th conference call.

Haitian ex-president supported amid arrest fears

Evens Sanon, AP
September 11, 2014

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) – Supporters of former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide rallied Thursday at the site of an infamous church massacre and outside his home as the ousted ex-leader faced possible arrest for failing to appear at a court hearing.

The rallies were intended to mark the anniversary of the deadly attack by gunmen in September 1988 at the church of St. Jean Bosco, where Aristide led services and opposition to the dictatorship as a Catholic priest – as well as to guard against any attempt to arrest him at the home where he has resided quietly since his return from exile in 2011.

Supporters promised major protests would erupt if what they see as a politically motivated arrest is carried out.

“There is only one person who represents the people of Haiti and his name is President Aristide,” 37-year-old Lionel Patrick said in the yard of the church, which was destroyed in the January 2010 earthquake. “If anything happens to him, Haiti is going to be shut down.”

Aristide was summoned to testify last month in court before a magistrate conducting an investigation into corruption and money laundering. An arrest warrant was issued when he did not show up but police have so far not made any move to carry it out.

Mario Joseph, a lawyer for the former president, said the notice to appear was not properly served on Aristide and the judge has not responded to his efforts to discuss what steps should be taken next. Joseph on Wednesday dismissed as “rumors,” the existence of an arrest warrant.

Haitian National Police spokesman Frantz Lerebours confirmed to The Associated Press that an arrest warrant was issued but he said there were no immediate plans to execute it. He said police would be stationed outside Aristide’s home in Tabarre, near downtown Port-au-Prince, to prevent him from leaving, but there was no sign of them on Thursday as about 50 supporters of the former president stood by the gate.

Lerebours wouldn’t say why the warrant had not been carried out, suggesting only that there are other issues involved. “”It’s about a former president,” he said. “It’s not really the same as if it were a normal, ordinary citizen.”

Many Aristide supporters believe the warrant is an attempt to intimidate members of the party founded by Aristide, Fanmi Lavalas, to keep them from participating in upcoming parliamentary elections. They point to the fact that Jean-Claude Duvalier, the former dictator, has not been arrested despite an investigation into corruption and human rights abuses under his rule.

“It’s clear that they are opposed to Fanmi Lavalas,” said another of the demonstrators at the church, 40-year-old Marc Henry.

Aristide built a massive following among the country’s poor during the 1980s, leading opposition to the Duvalier regime and the military. On Sept. 11, 1988, thugs burned down his church, hacking and shooting to death 13 parishioners during Mass. Aristide went on to become Haiti’s first democratically elected leader in 1990. He was toppled in a coup, then returned to power with U.S. assistance and ousted again in 2004 during a violent rebellion. He returned from exile in South Africa in 2011 and has lived largely out of the public eye ever since.

 

Click HERE for the original.

Hear more about this situation in our August 14th conference call.

IADL Calls for Cholera Accountability at Human Rights Council

September 9, 2014 - 12:33

Micòl Savia, representative of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers at the United Nations in Geneva, made a statement on cholera accountability at the Human Rights Council’s 27th Session today. In the statement, Savia commends the Special Rapporteur on the human right to water and sanitation for advocating for safe drinking water, sanitation, and justice for victims of violations; and calling attention to UN involvement in Haiti’s cholera epidemic.

Past of the statement is below. Click HERE for the full text.

Item 3: Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development – Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human right to water and sanitation

Micòl Savia
September 9, 2014

The International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), along with its partner, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), warmly welcomes the report presented by the Special Rapporteur on the human right to water and sanitation.

We commend her for the invaluable work she has done over the past six years to raise awareness of the importance of access to safe drinking water and sanitation and to promote respect for this fundamental human right. We also thank her for emphasizing the importance of access to justice for victims in case of violations.

We particularly appreciate the fact that the Special Rapporteur called attention to the cholera epidemic in Haiti and to the UN’s involvement in the outbreak. As she stated in her report, non-state actors, including international organizations, have human rights responsibilities and should be held accountable for their failures, whether they are intentional or unintentional.

Click HERE for the full text.

Elections Still Scheduled for 2014?

September 6, 2014 - 06:28

A new resolution passed September 4th will attempt to proceed with elections in 2014, according to the El Rancho Accord. As it stands, elections have been delayed more than two years. While it is crucial that elections be held promptly, it is also imperative that they be fair and democratic.

Why is this so important? Read more about elections in our FAQ, here.

 

Haiti – Elections : The Lower House passed a resolution in favor of Article 12 of El Rancho

HaitiLibre
September 6, 2014

Thursday at 5 days of the closing of the last year of the 49th Legislature, the deputies met in plenary session, have adopted a resolution (45 in favor, 7 against and 0 abstentions) in favor of the application of Article 12 of the Agreement El Rancho allowing to bypass the blockage of Senators and promote the holding of elections this year.

Article 12 of the Agreement El Rancho, signed by the Executive, Parliament and political parties, states “In cases where amendments to the electoral law planned and proposed in the framework of the dialogue are not passed by the two branches of Parliament within the period prescribed in section eight (8) of this Agreement, Parties note with the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) the physical impossibility of applying Articles referred. Consequently, the Parties agree that the said articles automatically enter into hold and the electoral body is allowed to override. Consequently, the Parties agree that the said articles are automatically in hold and the electoral body is allowed to override.”

In its Article 1, the resolution states that “The Provisional Electoral Council, pursuant to the Constitution and the electoral law, especially Article 19-1, supplemented by the Agreement of El Rancho, adopt the provisions necessary to organize the elections for two-thirds of the Senate, the Chamber of Deputies and local authorities at the end of the year 2014,” recalled that Article 19.1 of the Electoral Act 2013 states “The Permanent Electoral Council determines the positions for election and adopt the dates for opening and closing of the electoral campaign.”

Stevenson Jacques Thimoléon, is aware that this resolution has no binding effect but demonstrates that the House of Representatives is not a blocking element “Before you go on vacation [Monday, September 8, 2014] the deputies have seen fit to take this position in order to inform the national and international opinion, that they are for the organization of elections at the end of this year.”

For the deputy Sadrac Dieudonné, President of bloc minority of the opposition “Parliamentarians for Institutional Strengthening” (PRI), the resolution is a “masquerade” that will change nothing to the current electoral crisis nor blocking by the G6 in the Senate for ratification of the amendments to the electoral law.

Full text of the Agreement El Rancho (in french) :
http://www.haitilibre.com/article-10763-haiti-politique-le-core-group-salue-l-accord-inter-haitien-texte-integral-de-l-accord.html

S/ HaitiLibre

 

Click HERE for the original.

Read more about elections in our FAQ, here.

How Human Rights Can Build Haiti

September 4, 2014 - 07:13

This is a good summary of Fran Quigley’s new book, and why a grassroots, human rights approach is the best way to rebuild the country. Prominently featured in the book are Mario Joseph, Brian Concannon, and their colleagues working tirelessly to help build the legal system in hope for a better Haiti.

Book Brief – How Human Rights Can Build Haiti: Activists, Lawyers, and the Grassroots Campaign

Laura Faas, Health and Human Rights Journal
September 4, 2014

How Human Rights Can Build Haiti: Activists, Lawyers, and the Grassroots Campaign
Fran Quigley
Vanderbilt University Press (forthcoming September 2014)
ISBN: 978-0-8265-4993-1 (cloth $35.00)
240 pages

By Health and Human Rights editorial intern Laura Faas

How Human Rights Can Build Haiti: Activists, Lawyers, and the Grassroots Campaign presents the legal and grassroots battles in Haiti as human rights-based strategies that are both practical and attainable in the fight for social justice. One of this text’s accomplishments is its demonstration of how a new, bottom-up approach to transforming Haiti is “creating a template for a new and more effective human rights-focused strategy to turn around failed states and end global poverty.”

While poverty and suffering have silently overrun Haiti for centuries, the January 2010 earthquake thrust the nation’s challenges to the center of the world’s stage. In How Human Rights Can Build Haiti, author Fran Quigley explains that although the donations pledged for Haiti immediately after the disaster were on an unprecedented scale, only half of these funds were actually delivered in the first three years following the earthquake. And of the money that has been delivered to Haiti, little has been used to ameliorate the suffering of the Haitian people. Quigley writes:

The United Nations estimates that less than 1 percent of the funding has been delivered through the Haitian government, where the money could help build the state’s long-term capacity to provide services. Instead, most of the funds have been delivered to a disjointed and inefficient jumble of non-Haitian non-governmental organizations, too many of which have wasted the money meant to help those in need (3).

Quigley describes the natural and man-made disasters, corruption, and neglect that have plagued Haiti throughout its 200-year history. He lays out experts’ widely held assertions that the vast and enduring after-effects of the 2010 earthquake could have been prevented if the country had a true legal system in place. He credits Haitian lawyer Mario Joseph and American lawyer Brian Concannon of the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, with significant contributions to Haiti’s legal system since the early 2000s, maintaining that without their ongoing efforts, the impacts of the earthquake would have been even more profound. He devotes a full chapter to a landmark human rights case that Concannon and Joseph won in 2000, which resulted in the conviction of 53 soldiers for human rights abuses in connection with a 1994 massacre, a case that cemented the lawyers’ reputation as advocates for Haiti’s poor and disenfranchised.

This major legal win laid the groundwork for Joseph and Concannon’s current effort: a multi-billion-dollar class action lawsuit against the UN on behalf of Haiti’s cholera victims. In the book’s first chapter, “Kolera and the United Nations,” Quigley demonstrates the historic significance of this lawsuit, which sought reparations after the UN’s introduction of cholera to Haiti following the earthquake.

Quigley also details other efforts to hold the international community accountable for the neglect and mistakes made in Haiti pre-and post-earthquake. For example, in looking at the lack of infrastructure rebuilding since the quake, Quigley concludes that investors have no incentive to “finance construction on land in a country where it is next to impossible to prove legal title.” This is central to his argument that a legitimate system of governance would fundamentally improve Haiti.

How Human Rights Can Build Haiti is a cohesive and comprehensive text that deconstructs Haiti’s socioeconomic and political background. In doing so, it illustrates how current efforts of lawyers and activists in Haiti constitute a groundbreaking, bottom-up movement that offers real potential to “bring justice to the poor and reverse the legacy of lawlessness and suffering in Haiti.”

 

Click HERE for the original.

Tahirih Justice Center Now Hiring

September 4, 2014 - 06:46

In August, the Tahirih Justice Center received a very generous financial gift to serve vulnerable immigrant girls, particularly from Mexico and Central America, who have recently arrived along the US border as “unaccompanied alien children”. Tahirih Justice Center is seeking to immediately hire two full-time employees to work in the Houston office: a Children’s Attorney and a Children’s Legal Advocate. Both positions are a 3-year contract. Links to the job postings are below.

Job Posting Children’s Attorney, Tahirih Justice Center

Job Posting Bilingual Children’s Legal Advocate, Tahirih Justice Center 

Lessons Learned from Post-Quake Aid Failures

September 2, 2014 - 07:00

This article describes the failures of foreign aid in Haiti, particularly after the 2010 earthquake. Though billions of dollars were donated or promised, not much change has occurred. A large part of this is due to lack of accountability in distributing those funds. Human rights activists still have faith that learning from those lessons will one day create a better Haiti.

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

How Humanitarian Aid Weakened Post-Earthquake Haiti

Michelle Chen, The Nation
September 2, 2014

More than four years after Port-au-Prince crumbled to the ground, last month’s meeting with a delegation from the American Chamber of Commerce seemed to mark Haiti’s steady new pathway to recovery. Business elites posed for photo-ops and affirmed President Michel Martelly’s goal to “make Haiti an emerging country by 2030.”

Elsewhere on the island, tens of thousands had yet to emerge from the ruins of the 2010 earthquake and were clustered in makeshift encampments, still frozen in the aftermath of the catastrophe.

It was on behalf of these Haitians that human rights activist Antonal Mortime paid a visit to Washington, DC, the same week that the AmCham shmoozed in the Haitian capital. In collaboration with the American Jewish World Service, he came to tell US activists that Western aid efforts had harmed far more than they had helped. More than four years since Haiti was flooded by aid money, the chaotic rebuilding effort has widened the country’s social rifts, bringing the first emancipated black republic under the yoke of a new kind of imperialism.

In an interview with The Nation, Mortime, executive secretary of the Platform of Haitian Human Rights Organizations (POHDH), described the social disaster that had unfolded under the banner of humanitarian aid.

The money that has trickled down has been absorbed in large part by a phalanx of NGOs jostling chaotically for international grant money. Despite some good intentions, many of these groups, Mortime argues, have funneled money into ill-planned projects with little oversight or accountability, leading to waste and profiteering that have likely impeded the country’s long-term development.

For many of the countless NGOs that have mushroomed post-disaster, Mortime says, “I think it was important for them to go and help Haiti. But the way they went about it was not the right way.” Because some NGOs had haphazardly delivered services in a way that displaced indigenous institutions and local services, he adds, “humanitarian aid actually contributed to a weakening of the state and also to the weakening of local organizations.”

 

 

Click HERE for the full text.

Why Aristide Allegations Always Resurface Before Elections

August 31, 2014 - 04:58

This article does a great job outlining the current allegations against Aristide and how the Haitian and other foreign governments could use it to undermine elections. Bringing widespread media attention to Aristide’s arrest warrant is a tactic his opponents have used many times in the past, to lower public opinion of Aristide and his party (Fanmi Lavalas) before elections.

Haiti’s Fragile Democracy

Lauren Carasik, Jurist
August 31, 2014

The latest chapter in a long series of preliminary legal actions against Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has generated a series of standoffs. Outside Aristide’s house in the suburb of Tabarre, his supporters have gathered several times in the past weeks to protest announced efforts to arrest him and have usually been dispersed with tear gas by Haitian police and UN soldiers. Inside the Courthouse Judge Lamarre Belizaire insists that the police execute an arrest warrant he issued on August 14, while his chief judge issues contradictory statements about whether the effort to have him recused—now before Haiti’s Cour de Cassation (Supreme Court)—affects the warrant’s validity. In the court of public opinion, Aristide’s lawyers—who have not been allowed any hearings or access to the case file—argue that the Judge Belizaire is an illegally-appointed judge following a deeply flawed process to harass an opponent of the government that named him.

Judge Lamarre Belizaire issued the August 14 arrest warrant after Aristide failed to appear to answer a summons issued the day before, on what Aristide’s lawyers contend are politically-motivated, time-barred charges. Mario Joseph, head of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, claims the summons was neverproperly served and that Aristide never received it. The criminal investigation centers on allegations of corruption, criminal conspiracy, money laundering and misappropriation of funds during Aristide’s presidency that ended with a US-backed coup more than a decade ago.

This is not the first time that Aristide has been the target of charges that are brought with public fanfare and then dropped before Aristide has an opportunity to challenge the allegations. Aristide’s supporters claim the repeated legal actions are aimed at discrediting him and Fanmi Lavalas, the country’s most popular political party, that he founded, and intended to undermine a free and fair electoral process in Haiti.

Aristide’s lawyers Mario Joseph and Ira Kurzban claim the charges are wholly fabricated and reflect Belizaire’s bias. Belizaire, who was appointed by President Michel Martelly, has a history of using his judicial role to pursue Martelly’s political enemies. This practice led the country’s Bar Association to suspend him for ten years, starting when he steps down from the bench. Joseph and Kurzban echo the concerns of others who suggest that the meritless charges were manufactured to hinder elections scheduled that have been overdue since 2011, when Martelly became president. Joseph also believes the reports were calculated to distract the public from the jailbreak of over 300 prisoners, including Clifford Brandt—a member of one of Haiti’s wealthiest families with ties to the government, who is suspected in a number of high profile kidnappings—from a maximum security facility outside of Port-au-Prince on August 10; he has since been recaptured. Others have suggested that sullying Aristide’s reputation diverts attention from the prosecution of former dictator Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier for financial malfeasance and crimes against humanity. Aristide’s lawyers have also filed a precautionary measures (injunctive relief) petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, seeking to protect Aristide from the abuse of state power.

Aristide, the country’s first democratically-elected president, has maintained a low profile since returning to Haiti from forced exile in 2011, focusing on education and health care for the country’s impoverished masses. Yet he symbolizes a popular grassroots mobilization that those with a tight grip on the reins of power appear to find threatening.

Haiti has seen more than its share of hardship and deprivation. The 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and the cholera epidemic that followed on its heels continue to ravage the country, compounding endemic poverty and corruption. The 2011 election that brought Martelly into power was held less than a year after the catastrophic quake, in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. The voting process was widely contested: Martelly, who has ties to Duvalier, only triumphed after an unprecedented intervention by the Organization of American States (OAS) (more specifically, by the US, France and Canada) and with Fanmi Lavalas barred from participating, in an election that was widely boycotted by political parties and voters.

Legislative elections had been scheduled for October 26 of this year, but Haiti’s electoral authority announced on August 11—two days before the Arsitide summons—that they will now need to be delayed yet again. Since the 2011 elections, the terms for elected local officials and one-third of senators’ seats have alreadyexpired. The shortage of seated senators has paralyzed the legislative process since the open seats allow a small number of senators to defeat a quorum. Martelly has appointed “municipal agents” to fill the vacant mayoral seats.

Another third of the Senate seats and the 99-member House of Deputies will be vacant next year if elections are not held this fall. The process of implementing the constitutionally-mandated Permanent Electoral Council tasked with overseeing elections has been fraught with delays and controversy. Various civic groups point out that Martelly has benefitted from missteps in setting up the council. Without elections this year, Martelly will further consolidate his grip on power, and with only a third of the senate remaining, the legislative process would grind to a standstill.

The investigation into alleged wrongdoing by Aristide follows an all-too familiar pattern. The Haitian government first filed a civil suit against Aristide and several co-defendants in the US District Court of the Southern District of Florida in November 2005. The Haitian government, which had come into power following the 2004 coup, and the US government held a series of press conferences and briefings about the case, generating extensive media attention. Yet despite the apparent enthusiasm for, and investment in, the case, Haitian authorities never served the complaint on Aristide or any of the other defendants. Aristide was in South Africa at the time, complicating the process of serving him with the complaint, but other defendants were living openly in Florida. The Haitian government sought one extension to serve the defendants, but declined to seek another, eventually requesting that the case be dismissed just before the service deadline. This was more than six months after the initial filing and the Haitian government retained the right to re-file the complaint. After the enthusiastic media campaign to publicize the suit, critics questioned the government’s motivation in bringing and then dismissing the case. Charges brought in Haiti against Aristide in 2005 on the same charges were dismissed in April 2006, after a judge found that the government failed to submit the case to the appropriate court.

The current investigation is the third time the Haitian government has pursued a criminal complaint against Aristide in 20 months. Each time, the warrant was leaked to the press before being served on the former president. The first time, in January 2013, the charges were so patently unjustified that when Aristide’s lawyers pushed back, the prosecutor dropped the case after trying to save face by canceling the formal hearing and conducting an informal interview at Aristide’s house. The case backfired politically, as the informal interview was seen as an embarrassing capitulation. Aristide was targeted a second time for investigation, in May 2013, in the investigation of the April 2000 murder of journalist Jean-Dominique. Aristide was properly summoned, and attended the hearing, as 10,000 of his supporters protested outside. Lacking any merit to the allegations, the prosecutor let that case drop as well.

Mention of Aristide’s imminent arrest engenders widespread media attention. Yet the press reports on these events uncritically: the stories neglect to mention the past initiatives that were summarily abandoned, give scant attention to the procedural irregularities that taint the charges and fail to contextualize the judge’s documented history of partisan behavior. This is not a new tactic for the Haitian government. US State Department cables released by Wikileaks suggest that previous arrest warrants for Aristide were also politically motivated—and supported by top UN officials—aimed at dampening support for the deposed leader. International meddling in Haitian politics reinforces the entrenched power structure. A statistical analysis of the 2011 election by the Center for Economic and Policy Research demonstrated that the OASintervention on behalf of Michel Martelly was unwarranted.

Given the Haitian government’s pattern of charging Aristide when it is politically expedient to do so, the decade old allegations are likely to resurface even if the current investigation is not pursued. Until Haiti’s government fosters the conditions for a free and fair democracy, the descendants of the first country to throw off the shackles of slavery will continue to face bleak conditions.

 

Click HERE for the original.

UN Peacekeepers Leave Babies in Haiti

August 29, 2014 - 11:00

Despite rules against forming relationships with locals, United Nations peacekeepers have left many babies behind in Haiti. The mothers are left to provide for the children with no support from the children’s fathers. Some of these mothers are now seeking support from the UN, which does have a system for these types of claims, but needs to do a better job of making it known.

Haitian moms demand UN help for the babies their peacekeepers left behind

Amy Bracken, PRI
August 29, 2014

When the US military pulled out of Vietnam in 1973, it left something of a living legacy: Tens of thousands of pregnant Vietnamese women. But this issue is not confined to Americans in Vietnam, or even to wartime. It’s also an often overlooked side effect of United Nations peacekeeping operations.

Now, the babies of UN peacekeepers are becoming an issue in Haiti.

In the seaside town of Port Salut, 5-year-old Sasha Francesca Barrios basks in the attention of her mother and a couple of visitors. Barrios lives in a small house with her mother, grandmother and aunt. She talks about school and sings the popular Haitian children’s song “Ti Zwazo,” or Little Bird.

And when Sasha’s mother asks her to identify the young, pale man in a photo, she knows right away — “Papa.” Roselaine Duperval, her mother, says Sasha’s father was a Uruguayan marine in the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti — known as MINUSTAH, its French acronym.

“They came here, and there was one who was friends with me,” Duperval says. “He said he loved me, and we were together. I never thought if I stayed with him and had a child with him, that he would leave and not support the child.” But he did. Sasha has never met him.

Duperval says the marine gave her $200 early in her pregnancy, but he left Haiti before Sasha was born and she never heard from him again. Now she’s scraping by giving manicures and pedicures in people’s homes. And she knows other women in similar situations.

“They come in our country to help us and they don’t help us; they have kids with us and leave,” she says. “I need aid for my child, to pay for school. It’s MINUSTAH’s responsibility. We’re in a country without work. We need the UN’s help. They know MINUSTAH troops leave babies here, children without dads.”

The UN does have a policy of helping facilitate paternity claims and child support in these kinds of cases. In February, the UN brought seven mothers — including Duperval — to the capital with their children for DNA tests. The mothers are still waiting for results.

 

Credit: Amy Bracken

Sasha Barrios holds up a picture of the Uruguayan marine her mother says is Sasha’s father. The man was a member of MINUSTAH, the UN peacekeeping for in Haiti.

And while the UN plays a role, it’s ultimately up to the country where the peacekeeper is from to determine follow-up. In the case of Duperval and her six fellow mothers, a Uruguayan military official said the alleged fathers have been asked to submit DNA samples. If paternity is established, it will be up to the Uruguayan courts to determine what should be done about it.

Of course, establishing paternity and getting child support are a challenge when the dad is a local Haitian, says community activist Miriame Duclair, let alone when the father is a foreign peacekeeper.

“The difference is if it’s [a Haitian] dad, often his family will help the mom,” Duclair says. “But when a foreigner leaves a child, there’s no one to help. When the UN talks about coming to Haiti to stabilize, it’s not true. They come to destabilize.”

Both the UN and the Uruguayan army say they strictly forbid such relationships. Uruguayan Col. Girardo Frigossi says no matter what the circumstances, relationships between UN peacekeepers and locals are never acceptable.

“There’s no possibility of any relation, consensual or not,” he says. “Because the power is in the UN soldier — because they have food, they have water, they can provide security, they have money.”

Sylvain Roy of the UN’s Conduct and Discipline Unit, or CDU, makes it even clearer. “Regardless of whether the mother might have been consenting,” he says, “the relationship is exploitative.”

Yet the chances for mothers receiving restitution are slim. The UN only started pulling together paternity claim statistics last year, and they show only 19 substantiated paternity claims against peacekeepers across the entire globe from 2010 through 2012. An independent report suggests there were many more claims before the UN began recording cases.

And in Haiti, many mothers aren’t making claims because there isn’t a known system for doing that. The Port Salut women were only brought to the attention of the UN when an American journalist reported on them in 2011.

The CDU’s Roy says this is an area that needs improvement. “You cannot expect a woman living in the middle of Congo, for example, to be able to file a claim for recognition of paternity, and then child support, in a court on another continent,” he says, “but it’s a situation with which we’ve got to deal.”

In the meantime, mothers left behind have a simple request. Rose Mina Joseph was 16 when she became pregnant, she says, by a 35-year-old Uruguayan peacekeeper. “I want MINUSTAH to get me out of poverty,” Joseph says, “to put me and my child in a better place.”

 

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Dominican Citizenship Process Excludes Migrant Workers

August 28, 2014 - 16:00

Though the Dominican Republic has begun a program of documenting migrants so they can eventually gain citizenship, many are excluded from this program because of the requirements: Thousands don’t have the work documentation, passports,  or other documents required and the fees to obtain them are prohibitive. Human rights advocates continue to fight for those who remain stateless.

Dominican legal status still elusive for migrants

Ezequiel Abiu Lopez, Yahoo News
August 28, 2014

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) — The Dominican Republic will soon issue the first residency and work permits for migrants under a new program that will enable them to avoid the risk of deportation, officials said Thursday, conceding that so far few have managed to qualify.

Since the year-long application period opened on June 2, more than 115,000 people have applied for legal status in the country, according to Deputy Interior Minister Washington Gonzalez.

So far, however, only 275 have met the criteria, Gonzalez said. The first 80 will be receiving their permits in the coming days.

Gonzalez said that only about half of all applicants have submitted any of the required proof.

“This tells us where the problem is,” he said. “The foreigners can’t obtain the documents.”

The difficulty has worried advocates for migrants and frustrated many of the applicants, who have been waiting in long lines this summer to submit the piles of documents to show they meet the eligibility requirements, which include having come to the country before October 2011.

“These statistics are certainly worrisome, and you might even say alarming,” said Horacio Rodriguez, head of migration policy at Centro Bono, a Jesuit organization that has assisted migrants, mostly from neighboring Haiti, to apply for legal status.

Interior Minister Ramon Fadul has warned that migrants who don’t secure legal status under this program may face deportation as the country seeks to gain greater control over its border.

The program to allow migrants to seek legal status was approved in 2004 but stalled until the Supreme Court ordered the government to implement it in a ruling last September. The deadline for applying is May 31.

In a separate part of the September ruling, the court also said people born to non-citizens do not automatically qualify for Dominican citizenship, retroactively stripping thousands of people of what they believed to be their nationality, and it directed the government to enact a plan to resolve their status as well. The government yet done to do so.

The Dominican Republic, which has a population of about 9 million, has long drawn large numbers of migrants from neighboring Haiti, many of whom come to work in the sugar field or in other low-wage jobs. A U.N. study has estimated the population of undocumented migrants in the country at about 500,000, nearly 90 percent of Haitian descent.

Migrants seeking to establish their legal status have to produce proof that they have been in the country since before Oct. 19, 2011, as well as documentation of their work and other proof that they have established themselves, which may not be easy to obtain for those who work in construction or agricultural and other informal sectors.

Cost is also apparently a factor, even after the Haitian government dropped the price for basic identity documents such as a passport and birth certificate to help the migrants apply for legal status. Joseph Cherubin, director of an organization of Haitian workers in the country, said if you add up the price of all the documents, the services of a notary and add in transportation, it comes to about $150, more than most farmworkers earn in a month.

 

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L’OEA exhorte Haïti à tenir des élections

August 28, 2014 - 05:23

L’Organisation des États américains fait pression sur le gouvernement haïtien pour la tenue des élections, mettant l’accent sur l’accord d’El Rancho. Le problème, c’est la méthode de l’Accord de la nomination d’un Conseil électoral provisoire en contradiction avec la Constitution. D’ailleurs, le Sénat n’a pas approuvé l’accord.

Pour plus d’informations sur les elections, cliquez ICI (texte en anglais).

L’OEA appelle à l’organisation d’élections en Haïti

Haiti Press Network
28 août 2014

Le Conseil permanent de l’OEA plaide en faveur de l’organisation d’élections en Haïti en vue de renforcer le processus démocratique. Tout en renouvelant sa volonté d’apporter son soutien et son appui technique au processus, l’OEA appelle les acteurs au respect de la Constitution et de l’accord d’El Rancho pour faciliter la tenue des scrutins.

Voici le texte de la résolution adoptée par le conseil permanent de l’Organisation des États américains:

 

CP/DEC. 55 (1985/14)

 

SOUTIEN À L’ORGANISATION ET À LA TENUE

DES ÉLECTIONS EN HAÏTI CONFORMÉMENT À L’ACCORD D’EL RANCHO

(Déclaration adoptée par le Conseil permanent la séance tenue le 27 août 2014)

LE CONSEIL PERMANENT DE L’ORGANISATION DES ÉTATS AMÉRICAINS,

PRENANT EN COMPTE la déclaration CP/DEC. 53 (1965/14) du Conseil permanent en date du 30 avril 2014 sur le processus électoral en Haïti et le soutien continu de l’Organisation des États Américains au dit processus par son appui technique et ses missions d’observation électorale,

AYANT À L’ESPRIT les efforts du Gouvernement haïtien et la signature de l’accord d’El Rancho par les trois pouvoirs de l’État, à savoir, l’exécutif, le législatif et le judiciaire, et les représentants de la société civile, ouvrant ainsi la voie à l’organisation d’élections périodiques, libres, justes et transparentes,

RECONNAISSANT que les parties se sont mises d’accord sur les bases politiques et constitutionnelles pour l’organisation de ces élections lors de la signature de l’accord d’El Rancho le 19 mars 2014,

CONSIDÉRANT:

Qu’il importe que toutes les parties, à savoir, l’exécutif, le judiciaire et le législatif, respectent pleinement leurs engagements politiques ainsi que leurs obligations juridiques et constitutionnelles visant à faciliter l’organisation rapide des élections nécessaires pour le renouvellement des mandats des autorités législatives et municipales;

Les progrès réalisés depuis la signature de l’accord d’El Rancho en Haïti, en particulier la mise en œuvre des engagements par l’exécutif et le judiciaire, ainsi que l’établissement d’un Conseil électoral qui est maintenant en place et œuvre à la tenue de ces élections,

NOTANT:

Que le projet de loi électorale, outil essentiel à l’organisation de ces élections, a été voté le

1er avril 2014 par la Chambre des députés d’Haïti et immédiatement transmis au Sénat pour examen et approbation;

Notant par ailleurs qu’à ce jour, aucune mesure n’a été prise par le Sénat à cet égard,

DÉCLARE:

1. Son soutien continu au processus électoral et à la tenue sans délai des élections qui auraient déjà dû avoir lieu.

2. Sa profonde préoccupation face au manque de progrès dans le processus électoral.

3. Qu’il invite instamment toutes les branches du Gouvernement et toutes les parties prenantes à poursuivre le dialogue pour remplir, de toute urgence, leurs obligations conformément à la Constitution et à l’accord d’El Rancho afin d’assurer la tenue d’élections en 2014.

4. Sa solidarité avec les autorités et le peuple haïtien dans leurs efforts pour le renforcement de l’état de droit par le renouvellement des institutions démocratiques au moyen de la tenue d’élections libres, justes et transparentes.

5. Qu’il demeure saisi des événements survenant à cet égard.

 

Cliquez ICI pour l’original.

Cholera: From the Origin to Legal Developments

August 27, 2014 - 15:46

This article details both the theory that cholera in Haiti was triggered by environmental factors, as well as the evidence showing that United Nations peacekeepers triggered the epidemic through negligent sanitary practices. The author then describes the actions BAI and IJDH took to seek justice for cholera victims, from the 2011 petition demanding UN accountability through the 2013 complaint filed in the Southern District of New York. He also outlines some of the legal arguments against the UN’s response, as well as outside reactions to the case (including former UN High Commissioner Navi Pillay’s).

The introductory paragraph is below. Click HERE for a pdf of the full article.

Cholera in Haiti: A Perfect Storm of Scientific and Legal Uncertainty

Guy R. Knudsen, Natural Resources & Environment
Summer 2014

To date, the Haitian cholera epidemic that broke out
in 2010 has killed more than 8,500 people, and sickened
another 600,000. Although United Nations
(UN) peacekeeping forces have been widely blamed
for introducing the bacterial pathogen into Haiti, the UN
continues to deny responsibility and rejects demands for victim
compensation. Recently, two human rights groups filed a
class action lawsuit against the UN in federal court, seeking
compensation for cholera victims. The suit, which ventures
into largely uncharted waters of international law, takes place
against a backdrop of intense and sometimes rancorous scientific
debate about the human and environmental determinants
of the epidemic. The UN is relying on a two-pronged defensive
strategy: first, a defense based on immunity derived from
its traditional diplomatic privileges and immunities, which
dates back to the organization’s founding in 1946. Second, a
defense based on a lack of proximate cause, which is bolstered
by several prominent scientists’ theory that the pathogen
may have been endemic to Haiti and only was unleashed by
the combined effects of climate change, a devastating earthquake,
and unusually violent weather episodes. In this article,
I will discuss this evolving dimension of international law,
particularly as it is intertwined with ongoing scientific and
environmental controversy.

Click HERE for the full article.

OAS Pressures Haiti to Hold Long-Overdue Elections

August 27, 2014 - 07:51

The Organization of American States is pressing the Haitian government to hold elections, emphasizing the agreement made in the El Rancho Accord. The problem is, the El Rancho Accord’s method of appointing a Provisional Electoral Council contradicts the Constitution and the Senate has not approved the Accord.

Learn more about the delayed elections in our FAQ, here.

OAS Permanent Council Urged Haiti to Hold Overdue Elections and Convened a Special General Assembly on Strategic Vision

Reliefweb
August 27, 2014

The Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) today adopted a Declaration calling on the three branches of government of Haiti to comply with the agreement knows as El Rancho and to call legislative and municipal elections by the end of 2014, and also convened a Special General Assembly on the Strategic Vision for the Organization to be held on Friday, September 12.

The Chair of the Permanent Council and Representative of Saint Lucia, Ambassador Sonia Johnny, said theDeclaration on Haiti supports “the efforts of a member state to be able to hold elections in accordance with the terms of its constitution and with other agreements.”

Introducing the resolution, the Permanent Representative of Haiti, Edmond Bocchit, recalled the support given by the Council to the El Rancho Accord which provided for the holding of elections on October 26 and which he described as “a step in the right direction.” “Unfortunately this agreement is now facing great difficulties; you supported us, encouraged all actors to respect their commitments, and today I come to seek the solidarity of the OAS and its member states regarding a situation facing our nation, because we know that the well-being of Haiti’s democracy must be a priority for the region,” said Ambassador Bocchit.

The Secretary General of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza, explained the scope and impact of the situation in Haiti and said that if the elections are held as scheduled in the agreement, “on the first of January if there are no elections Haiti will be left without a Senate, therefore we’ll be left without a constitutional institution. “ He said that the OAS “is prepared to support the democratic process in Haiti, especially the elections, in accordance to the Constitution and the laws of the country,” and assured the Council that the OAS will continue to accompany the political process through high level visits, the presence of an office in Haiti, and the work of the Group of Friends of Haiti in Washington DC.

The leader of the hemispheric Organization added that “the international community, including the OAS, can only assist in this process of democratic consolidation and then only upon the request of the legitimately elected Government of Haiti. From this perspective we hope that all stakeholders in the political process continue to work together to create the best circumstances for stability and growth and security.” He insisted that the Organization “hopes that the dialogue that started at the beginning of the year will continue and that all those who are not part of this process should be encouraged to take part,” as this is the best channel to voice all their concerns and needs.

The adopted resolution states that all parties fully honor “their political commitments as well as the legal and constitutional obligations to facilitate the speedy organization of elections necessary for the renewal of the mandates of legislative and municipal authorities”; and urges all state powers “to continue the dialogue in order to fulfill, as a matter of urgency, their obligations under the Constitution and the El Rancho Accord for the purpose of ensuring the holding of elections in 2014.”

On this, the Secretary General Insulza noted that Article 3 to the El Rancho clearly speaks of the Constitution, “and this is a wider approach that takes us in the direction of Article 156 of the Constitution which relates to the responsibility of the President regarding governance and the functioning of the democratic institutions.”

(The “Strategic Vision” part of this article has been cut off because it’s not relevant to this site.)

 

Click HERE for the original.

Learn more about the delayed elections in our FAQ, here.

Opposing Parties Unite for Justice for Aristide

August 26, 2014 - 12:28

This update focuses mostly on the current case against former Haitian President Aristide, with a brief mention of the August 10th prison break at the end. One key point is that people who usually oppose Aristide are joining Aristide supporters in denouncing the judge heading the case him. Realizing the importance of the rule of law, these opponents are putting aside their political differences in the name of justice.

Haiti: Aristide’s lawyers question inquiry

Weekly News Update on the Americas blog, World War 4 Report
August 26, 2014

Former Haitian prime minister Yvon Neptune (2002-2004) appeared before investigative judge Lamarre Bélizaire at the judge’s Port-au-Prince office on Aug. 22 to answer questions in an inquiry into allegations of corruption and drug trafficking during the second administration of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004). Bélizaire has notified the authorities that 33 people, most of them connected with Aristide’s Lavalas Family (FL) party, are not permitted to leave the country because of their connection with the investigation. After the Aug. 22 session, Neptune, who has broken with Aristide, told reporters that he had no problem answering Bélizaire’s summons. (Radio Kiskeya, Haiti, Aug. 23)

Lawyers for Aristide, on the other hand, have challenged Bélizaire’s entire inquiry and his qualifications to head it. Aristide was reportedly ordered to appear before Bélizaire on Aug. 13, but human rights advocate Mario Joseph, Aristide’s lead attorney, said the former president never received the summons. Joseph himself went to Bélizaire’s office to deliver a letter on the subject, but the judge wasn’t present. Aristide’s legal team is demanding that Bélizaire be removed from the case on the grounds that there were irregularities in his appointment as judge and that he is a member of the center-right Tèt Kale Haitian Party (PHTK) of President Michel Martelly (tèt kale is Creole for “Bald Head,” a nickname for the president). Lavalas supporters have maintained barricades around Aristide’s house in the northeastern suburb of Tabarre since mid-August in case Judge Bélizaire issues an arrest warrant for the former president.

Aristide’s backers aren’t the only ones questioning Bélizaire’s investigation. “This case should be handled by another judge, one who understands respecting the law,” Pierre Espérance, the director of the National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH) and a longtime Aristide opponent, told the online Haitian news service AlterPresse. “Judge Lamarre lacks character and temperament. He kneels before the executive.” According to Espérance, Bélizaire hasn’t had training to investigate financial crimes. “If he stays on the case, it’s because he has a personal interest.” (AlterPresse Aug. 13, Aug. 13Radio Kiskeya Aug. 17, Aug. 17)

The Haitian court system is often accused of being influenced by political interests. On Aug. 11 a court in the northwestern city of Gonaïves sentenced Wilford Ferdinand (“Ti Wil”) and his cousin Alix Suffrant (“Bout Zòrèy”) to nine years at hard labor for the April 2007 murder of Johnson Edouard, a former correspondent for the weekly Haïti Progrès and a regional coordinator for FL. Ferdinand was a leader in the so-called “Cannibal Army,” a local group that initially supported Aristide but later joined right-wing paramilitary groups seeking his overthrow. Ferdinand charged that the sentence against him was politically motivated. “Investigative judge Pierre Michel Denis is a member of the Lavalas Family party,” Ferdinand said. But he thanked the public ministry’s representative, Enock Géné Génélus, for his help. Normally the public ministry, responsible to the Martelly government, would be expected to lead the prosecution; in this case, it supported the defendant. (AlterPresse, Aug. 14)

In a major embarrassment for the criminal justice system, 329 prisoners broke out of the prison in Croix-des-Bouquets, northeast of Port-au-Prince, on Aug. 10. One of the escapees was Clifford Brandt, a wealthy business leader’s son who is charged with masterminding the October 2012 kidnapping of other members of the elite. There was speculation that Brandt’s backers were behind the massive jailbreak. Brandt was captured two days later by Dominican soldiers in Hondo Valle, just across the border from Haiti. As of Aug. 13 only some 20 of the escaped prisoners had been recaptured. (AlterPresse Aug. 13, Aug. 13)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, August 24.

 

Click HERE for the original.

Earthquakes Disproportionately Impact Developing Countries

August 25, 2014 - 06:13

Although we often hear about the large financial costs of earthquakes in the US and other developed countries, the human costs are never as high as in less-developed or developing countries. Even if the gross financial costs are less in developing countries, they represent a higher proportion of those countries’ GDP. Lack of building code enforcement in developing countries also results in a higher death toll from natural disasters. The 2010 Haiti earthquake was a prime example of that fact, with the death toll in the hundreds of thousands. This is one of the many reasons Haiti needs systemic change for a better future.

Earthquakes Cost More in Rich Countries but Devastate Poor Ones

Charles Kenny, Bloomberg Businessweek
August 25, 2014

Northern California suffered its strongest earthquake in 25 years on Sunday, and although 120 people were injured, not a single fatality was reported. Meanwhile, the U.S. Geological Survey put initial estimates of economic losses at $1 billion. Both the low human cost and high economic cost illustrate constants in natural disasters: They are far more expensive—and far less deadly—in rich countries.

Earthquakes are more expensive in rich areas because there’s more to break. A barrel containing $16,000 worth of pinot noir, for example, fell and smashed at Dahl Vineyards on Sunday. North America accounted for one out of six global catastrophes in 2013, according to an analysis by insurance firm Swiss Re. But it accounted for only 1 percent of the victims, compared with as much as 23 percent of the economic loss. (Perhaps of most interest to an insurance company: It accounted for 42 percent of the insured losses worldwide.)

The CATDAT database of damaging earthquakes lists more than 7,000 since 1900 with estimates of their economic and human cost. Again, in absolute terms, by far the most expensive quakes are in rich countries: The 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan, cost over $123 billion, compared with a mere $7 billion for the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

These impressive damage totals can obscure the fact that, in relative terms, economic costs of disasters are actually higher in the developing world. While there’s more to break in wealthy countries, construction is far better—buildings have to meet earthquake—safety regulations, for example. In poor countries, a greater proportion of the existing infrastructure collapses in a quake. The CATDAT database suggests that in terms of economic loss as a percentage of gross domestic product, the vast majority of the top 35 earthquakes have been in developing, not developed, countries. Kobe’s destruction was worth about 2.3 percent of Japan’s GDP. The Haitian earthquake’s devastation was worth more than that country’s entire annual output.

Related to the greater risk of infrastructure collapse, quakes are yet another deadly condition that disproportionately impact the poor. Fatalities after the Haiti quake were 20 times the Japanese fatalities from Kobe. The CATDAT database suggests that all of the top 10 most deadly earthquake-related events in the last 100 years, which killed between 52,000 and 283,000 each, happened in developing countries. Four of those top 10 have happened since 2000: the Indian Ocean tsunami, plus the earthquakes in Haiti; Sichuan, China; and Kashmir, Pakistan. The creators of the database estimate that the average number of deaths per earthquake in the most developed countries in their sample is less than 50—compared with more than 450 in the countries with the lowest income, education, and life expectancy. Don’t let the damage estimates fool you: To survive an earthquake with most of your loved ones and resources intact, it is far better to be in Napa Valley than Nicaragua or Haiti.

 

Click HERE for the original.

Haiti and Brazil Hit the ‘Ville

August 24, 2014 - 11:00

Don’t miss this Somerville, MA Haitian/Brazilian festival!

Kreyol isi.

Portugues aqui.

WHAT:

A cultural festival featuring music, dance, food, and more.

WHERE:

Union Square

Somerville, MA

WHEN:

Sunday August 24, 2pm-7pm

 

Click HERE for the City of Somerville event posting.

Aristide Warrant a Distraction from Delayed Elections?

August 23, 2014 - 06:24

This article explains the background to the Aristide case, as well as the speculation that the case is a tactic to distract from long-overdue elections being delayed again. Without elections in 2014, Parliament will become nonfunctional and President Martelly will rule by decree. There are also other serious repercussions of not having fair and democratic elections in Haiti. Learn more about elections in our FAQ.

Aristide Warrant and Brandt Prison Break Overshadow Election Derailment

Kim Ives, Haiti Liberte
August 20-26, 2014

Last week, Haitian demonstrators erected barricades of burning tires and car
frames in front of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s home in Tabarre
to prevent the government of President Michel Martelly from arresting him.
On Aug. 12, investigating judge Lamarre Bélizaire had issued a court summons
for Aristide to come to his offices for questioning the next day, Aug. 13.
Aristide never received the last-minute summons which was allegedly left at
his gate, according to his lawyer Mario Joseph. Having heard about the
summons on the radio, Joseph did show up at the 10 a.m. hearing with a
letter explaining that the summons had not been correctly served.
Ironically, Judge Bélizaire did not show up for his own hearing but
nonetheless later that afternoon issued an arrest warrant for Aristide
because of his absence.

Meanwhile, at about 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 10, two vehicles of armed men shot
automatic weapons at the outside of the new prison in Croix-des-Bouquets,
just north of the capital, precipitating the escape of 329 prisoners. Among
them was Clifford Brandt, 42, the scion of a prominent bourgeois family who
was jailed in October 2012 (but to date never tried) for heading a
kidnapping ring that held hostage the son and daughter of Haitian banker
Robert Moscoso. On Aug. 12, Dominican authorities recaptured Brandt and
three other fugitives across the border in the neighboring Dominican
Republic and turned them over to Haitian authorities, who tried to take
credit for the capture. (The Dominican Defense Minister had to issue a
statement setting the record straight.)

These two unfolding dramas, perhaps by design, have all but eclipsed a much
more ominous development last week: the cancellation of parliamentary and
municipal elections, already two years overdue, which had been promised for
Oct. 26. As a result, it is all but certain that another third of the
Haitian Senate and many in the House of Deputies will see their terms expire
on Jan. 12, 2015, rendering the Parliament nonfunctional and Martelly ruling
by decree.

This is exactly where the konpa-singer-turned-president wanted to arrive.
“First thing, after I establish my power, which would be very strong and
necessary, I would close that congress thing,” Martelly told the Miami New
Times in a 1997 feature article. “”La chambre des députés. Le sénat.” He
claps his hands. “Out of my way.”"

These were not jokes. The article made clear that even back then Martelly
was planning a run for president and was “not afraid to reveal that he has
given serious thought to his philosophy of government,” which was
essentially a “Fujimori-style solution.” Former Peruvian dictatorial
president Alberto Fujimori is presently in prison, having been convicted of
committing major human rights and corruption crimes during his
administration in the 1990s.

Martelly’s looming one-man rule marks a sharp political reversal. Last
autumn, massive popular demonstrations, led largely by outspoken Sen.
Moïse Jean-Charles and radical Lavalas base organizations, were marching
almost weekly to demand the resignation of Martelly and his Prime Minister
and business partner Laurent Lamothe and the departure of the 6,600-soldier
United Nations force, acronymed MINUSTAH, which has militarily occupied
Haiti since Jun. 1, 2004.

But in December 2013, Aristide’s Lavalas Family party (FL) expelled Sen.
Jean-Charles for criticizing and outshining the party’s Executive Committee,
and from January to March 2014, Washington and the Catholic Church connived
with the Martelly government to carry out a charade conference of national
reconciliation, resulting in the “El Rancho Accord” supposedly putting the
country on the road to the Oct. 26 elections. As a result, despite a few
sizable marches on symbolic dates, last year’s mobilization began to weaken.

Now from being on the defensive, Martelly is back on the offensive.
“It is not without reason that the puppet judge Lamarre Bélizaire published
a list with the names of [31] people who can’t leave the country a few days
before the Martelly-Lamothe-MINUSTAH government allowed its associate
Clifford Brandt to escape from jail,” said the Dessalines Coordination party
(KOD) in an Aug. 19 declaration. “They knew what kind of scandal that would
provoke… That may be why they decided to hatch a plot to issue a warrant
for former President Aristide, as a way to distract the population… That
may be why they created the crisis of Aristide’s so-called arrest to cover
not only the illegal liberation of more than 300 bandits, but the CEP
[Provisional Electoral Council] now saying that elections are not possible
this year.”

“Instead of the people being mobilized 24/7 to demand the departure of
Martelly, Lamothe, and MINUSTAH, [the regime] is now giving us our work,
making us stand out in Tabarre day and night making sure they don’t arrest
Aristide,” KOD concluded. “They have now put us on the defensive so we don’t
attack them for the crimes they are carrying out in the country.”

On Aug. 18, Dr. Maryse Narcisse, the FL’s national coordinator and now
formal presidential candidate, held a press conference at the Aristide
Foundation where she called the attacks against Aristide “maneuvers and
diversions to distract Haitians from the real problems they face daily.”
Among these, she included the ever-escalating cost of living, the eviction
of hundreds of families in downtown Port-au-Prince, the uprooting of farmers
on Ile-à-Vache, the disaster in the state exam results this year, the
withholding of elections for 4 years, the failure of the El Rancho Accord,
and the spectacular release of Clifford Brandt. She said that the latest
charges of embezzlement and drug-trafficking against Aristide, which are
drawn from a long-discredited politically-motivated report by the
Washington-installed de facto government which took power on the heels of
the Feb. 29, 2004 coup against Aristide, were “fabricated in a laboratory
with the participation of a small group of enemies of democracy.”

“The Lavalas Family continues to demand free, fair, and democratic
elections,” Dr. Narcisse concluded, from which the party “will not allow
itself to be excluded,” as it has been in all elections over the past
decade.

“The Haitian people do not accept and will never accept a retrograde,
reactionary power, which has issued from the Macoute Duvalierist ideology,
to use the justice system to persecute an honest citizen who has faithfully
put himself at the service of his people,” said Lionel Etienne, an FL
Executive Committee member and former deputy. FL leaders also called for the
release of the Martelly regime’s political prisoners like Jean Robert
Vincent, Joshua and Enold Florestal, and Louima Louijuste.

Meanwhile, on Aug. 15, Aristide along with several of his lawyers sent a
long letter to the Organization of American States’ Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to lay out numerous reasons why the
legitimacy and “impartiality of Judge Lamarre Bélizaire is far from
established, and the credibility of the judicial system is quite flawed.”
The letter called on the IACHR to “urgently adopt precautionary measures to
safeguard the freedom and rights of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide whose
freedom is seriously threatened by the reckless and arbitrary actions of
Judge Lamarre Bélizaire.”

In Haiti, Aristide’s lawyers have formally asked that Judge Bélizaire be
recused from the case for which he has summoned the former president.

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Delayed Elections Leave Haiti’s Future in Limbo

August 22, 2014 - 13:02

Amid the recent news of a massive prison break and renewed charges against former President Aristide, the Provisional Electoral Council has announced that Haiti’s elections will no longer happen October 26. If elections don’t happen by the end of 2014, President Martelly may rule by decree. This is a scary prospect given Haiti’s history of dictators and political unrest. The Martelly government needs to compromise with the opposition leaders to make sure that Haiti has fair and democratic elections this year.

For more on the importance of elections, read our FAQ.

Once again, Haiti government could be in danger of collapse

Nathalie Baptiste, Latin Correspondent
August 22, 2014

In April, the United Nations warned that if Haiti did not hold parliamentary elections this year, the entire country would be set on a dangerous path towards political chaos.

Sadly, the kind of upheaval that political strife brings is nothing new to Haiti. The last coup, backed by the United States and France, was only a decade ago and is still fresh in the minds of the Haitian people. Riots, protests and violence erupted in the capital city of Port-au-Prince, as democratically elected Jean Bertrand-Aristide was whisked away on an airplane to live in exile in South Africa.

Today, as Haiti struggles to get its economy moving after decades of mismanagement, failed interventions, deadly hurricanes in 2008, a catastrophic earthquake in 2010 and a subsequent cholera outbreak, the political landscape looks as bleak as ever.

The United States has been calling on President Michel Martelly to hold fair and free elections, now three years overdue. The El Rancho Accord — talks between Martelly and the opposition, brokered by the Catholic church — stated that the first round of elections would be held on October 26, 2014. But the two sides have been at odds for years over the composition of the electoral council, placing leaders at a gridlock and leaving the political future of the country unknown.

Last week, two major stories came out of Haiti. Three hundred and twenty-nine prisoners escaped from the country’s main prison after gunmen attacked it in an attempt to free an inmate held on kidnapping charges. Around the same time, former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who returned to Haiti in 2011, was served a warrant for his arrest.

Amidst the frenzy of searching for the prisoners and U.N. clashes with Aristide supporters, many may not have noticed the announcement from the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP): elections will not be held on October 26. This announcement has brought the Haiti government perilously close to the edge.

The initial warning from the United Nations stated that not holding elections early enough could lead to a dissolution of parliament in January 2015, leaving Martelly to rule by decree. For a country with a long and troubled history of dictators and sham presidents, the prospect of having a president rule by decree is unnerving at best and horrifying at worst.

Compounding the issue is the possible problem with aid. Donors floated the idea of cutting off desperately-needed aid if Martelly is left to rule by decree in 2015.

So, what needs to happen? There’s a small chance that the first round of elections could be held in December so it’s vital that the two opposing sides come to an agreement. President Martelly would benefit by taking into account the complaints of the opposition party, which include claims of exclusivity of the provisional council and favoritism from the Martelly regime.

Ensuring that their voices are heard will lead to productive and peaceful talks that will hopefully transform into a speedy resolution. Without a solution, Haiti’s already fragile democracy will fall apart leading to another round of political unrest that the Haitian people simply cannot stomach.

 

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For more on the importance of elections, read our FAQ.

Is arrest warrant for Aristide waived?

August 21, 2014 - 11:00

Some say that the arrest warrent against former President Aristide has been waived due to the investigation into the judge who issued the warrant, Lamarre Bélizaire. Bélizaire, on the other hand, insists that the charges were never waived and he doesn’t know why the arrest hasn’t yet been made. Aristide’s lawyers, including Mario Joseph, are seeking recusal of Bélizaire for bias and maintain that the investigation must be stopped while authorities handle the recusal. Keep an eye on our site for more information.

Haiti judge orders arrest of former president Aristide

Jamaica Observer
August 21, 2014

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti (CMC) – A judge who has issued an arrest warrant for former president Jean Bertrand Aristide says he expects the police to bring the former head of state before him by force if necessary.

Lawyers representing Aristide have filed a motion seeking to have investigating judge Lamarre Bélizaire removed on the grounds of bias.

But the judge told the Port au Prince based news website, Haitian-Caribbean News Network (HCNN) that he had not revoked the warrant in light of the motion filed the former president.

“I issued an arrest warrant for Mr Aristide and I don’t know what takes the police so long to bring him before me, because they know where he is,” Belizaire said, adding “I heard rumours that I had waived the arrest warrant.

“I want to say that it is absolutely false. The warrant still holds and I am still the judge in charge of the inquiry and nothing has changed in that regard,” he said, that he would continue his work in conformity with existing laws, without any form of abuse.

“I don’t have any particular problem with anybody. I am a judge and I am only doing what the law requires me to do and that is all I can say for now,” Belizaire added.

Aristide and several of his former colleagues have been accused of embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars from the State through his organisation, Aristide for Democracy Foundation and other organisations during the period 2001-04.

Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest, and his colleagues including Mirlande Liberus, Yvon Neptune, Jean Nesty Lucien and Gustave Faubert, have also been banned from leaving the country.

The Dean of Port Au Prince first instance court, Raymond Jean-Michel, confirmed Tuesday that he had received a copy of a motion seeking recusal and disqualification of Justice Bélizaire on the grounds of bias.

Aristide’s lawyers said their client did not receive the summons which was sent to his residence, but the judge believed he deliberately chose not to appear.

Aristide’s lawyers argue that the judge is now obligated to stop all proceedings in the case regarding serious acts of corruption blamed on the former leader, but legal observers say the arrest warrant against Aristide is still valid and that the judge may proceed with the criminal inquiry while relevant judicial authorities examine the request for recusal.

Supporters of the former president have been gathering near his home in the Tabarre district, in a show of support for the former leader, who spent seven years in exile in South Africa before returning to the country in 2011.

Last week, a spokesman for Aristide’s Lavalas Family party, Ansyto Felix, said efforts to prosecute the former leader were part of a plan by the Michel Martelly administration to persecute political opponents, on the eve of crucial elections and in the face of popular discontent,

“The government of President Martelly and Prime Minister (Laurent) Lamothe is doing nothing to solve the problems and meet the needs of the population,” he said.

 

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