Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Syndicate content
IJDH.org
Updated: 5 hours 21 min ago

Will Hillary Clinton Get Away with Haiti/Honduras Election Interference?

March 10, 2016 - 14:07

Haiti is currently facing an electoral crisis that can largely be attributed to Hillary Clinton. In 2010, Clinton pressured the Haitian president and electoral commission to change the election results in favor of now-ex-president Martelly. In today’s US elections, Clinton has managed to avoid any questions on her support of un-democratic governments in both Haiti and Honduras though both countries are still enduring the repercussions of her actions. Perhaps bringing such issues to light could help Haiti avoid repeating history, and help Haiti on the path of fair and democratic elections.

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

Hillary Clinton needs to answer for her actions in Honduras and Haiti

Karen Attiah, The Washington Post

March 10, 2016

If there was anything refreshing about Wednesday’s Democratic debate in Miami, it was that for once, questions on foreign affairs centered on a region other than the Middle East, China or Russia. Debate moderators asked Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Hillary Clinton tough questions on child deportations, as well as their policies on Cuba and Puerto Rico. Referring to the influx of unaccompanied minors, Sanders had this to say:

Honduras and that region of the world may be the most violent region in our hemisphere. Gang lords, vicious people torturing people, doing horrible things to families. Children fled that part of the world to try, try, try, try, maybe, to meet up with their family members in this country, taking a route that was horrific, trying to start a new life. Secretary Clinton did not support those children coming into this country. I did.

Sanders has a point — Clinton is on record saying deporting children would send a “responsible message” to families to deter them from coming into the United States. But when it comes to Honduras, Sanders as well as the moderators missed a key opportunity to bring up Clinton’s record in Central America and the Caribbean, and specifically how her State Department’s role in undemocratic regime changes has contributed to violence and political instability in Honduras and Haiti today.

 

Click HERE for the full text.

Embassy of Haiti in D.C. Seeks New Fellows

March 9, 2016 - 14:04
2016 Haiti’s Future Leadership Fellowship

The Embassy of Haiti in Washington, D.C. is now accepting applications for the 2016 Haiti’s Future Leaders Fellowship, Class of Dantès Bellegarde. An initiative of the Embassy of Haiti to the United States, the fellowship is part of the Haitian Government’s commitment to the involvement of its diaspora in the country’s development process.

For the Haiti-bound fellows, the program is an eight-week assignment in Port-au-Prince, from June to August 2016, at key Government institutions. For the 2016 class, the Embassy will select up to five individuals, each with a demonstrated commitment to the development of Haiti. Fellows will be given the opportunity to work with government officials and gain experience in public administration and policy making, while applying their qualifications to the benefit of Haiti.

Interested candidates should send their application via email to the Embassy of Haiti at amb.washington@diplomatie.ht NO LATER THAN March 15, 2016 and include “Haiti’s Fellowship” in the subject line.

Please visit www.haiti.org for more information about selection and application criteria.

Audio Recording from Oral Argument in Georges v. United Nations (3/1/2016)

March 8, 2016 - 09:42

 

Unofficial transcript of hearing based on official audio recording: http://www.ijdh.org/2016/03/topics/law-justice/unofficial-transcript-from-oral-argument-in-georges-v-united-nations-312016/

For additional information on the circumstances prior to the hearing, visit: http://www.ijdh.org/cholera/cholera-l…

NY Times article on the hearing: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/02/world/americas/court-hears-suit-against-un-on-haiti-cholera-outbreak.html?ref=world&_r=1

For further inquiries, email: info@ijdh.org

Unofficial Transcript from Oral Argument in Georges v. United Nations (3/1/2016)

March 8, 2016 - 08:08

Unofficial Transcript produced by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti based on official audio recording.

Official Recording of Oral Argument in Georges v. United Nations: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wlVN5vWIn4&feature=youtu.be

For additional information on the circumstances prior to the hearing, visit: http://www.ijdh.org/advocacies/our-work/cholera-advocacy/

For NY Times article on the hearing: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/02/world/americas/court-hears-suit-against-un-on-haiti-cholera-outbreak.html?ref=world&_r=1

For further inquiries, email: info@ijdh.org

Unofficial Transcript from Oral Argument in Georges v. United Nations, 15- 455, before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, March 1, 2016

Appearing Attorneys

•Beatrice Lindstrom, Esq., Staff Attorney, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, representing Plaintiffs-Appellants

•Ellen Blain, Assistant United States Attorney, Southern District of New York, representing United States Government as amicus curiae.

Before Hon. José A. Cabranes, presiding; Hon. Gerard E. Lynch; Hon. Barrington D. Parker

J. Cabranes: Good Afternoon. The Clerk has reported that everyone has signed in who should be signing in and we can therefore dispense with the call of the calendar and we will begin argument with the first of the cases on the calendar, Georges against United Nations.

Lindstrom: May it please the Court. I’m Beatrice Lindstrom with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and I represent the Appellants. I would like to reserve two minutes for rebuttal please. Your honors, Appellants are Haitian and American victims of a devastating cholera epidemic caused by the UN through gross mismanagement of sewage.

J. Parker: Let me ask you this. Has anything been, can, I don’t know if the record reflects this but can you just briefly let us know has anything been done to remediate this situation, has compensation been paid to these victims? How do things now stand?

Lindstrom: There has not been any compensation paid to the victims. There is a plan that has been launched by the United Nations that was referred to in the brief by the government to eliminate cholera in Haiti through water and sanitation. That plan is drastically underfunded and has not yet really begun implementation and the office to coordinate water and sanitation in Haiti which I believe was also referred to in the government’s brief has now unfortunately been closed down. The Appellants come to this Court as a last resort because unlike the Appellants in Brzak they have been denied access to any mode of settlement. Now the United Nations, an entity created by international human rights law to promote human rights, to respect treaty obligations asks this Court to selectively enforce the Convention on Privileges and Immunities, to grant it privileges, while, at the same time, absolving it of its own duties under that same treaty. This is an unprecedented interpretation of the Convention. It violates the plain text of the treaty, of international law, and emerging consensus among foreign courts that the UN’s conditional immunity does not authorize impunity. At the center of this appeal, your honors, is a narrow question of first impression that is not controlled by Brzak v. United Nations. In Brzak, the UN complied with its obligation under Section 29 to provide plaintiffs with a process to settle claims and, therefore, it satisfied a condition precedent to its invocation of immunity pursuant to Article II in the Convention.

J. Lynch: Assuming that it is the condition precedent to the immunity, who has the right to enforce the provisions of Section 29?

Lindstrom: Well, your honor, I think that this is not a pure question of enforcement, rather it’s a question of whether Section 2 comes into play in the first place.

J. Lynch: Well, that happens if Section 29 has not been complied with.

Lindstrom: Right, so where Section –

J. Lynch: On your interpretation, right. So what, what, why would individual citizens of Haiti have the right to invoke Section 29 and get a domestic United States Court to decide whether the United Nations has breached that obligation and what would follow if they did?

Lindstrom: Your honor, this is not a case where the plaintiffs have filed suit to seek enforcement of Section 29. This is a case that arises in tort. It’s a case over which the District Court would have jurisdiction but for the US government essentially asserting an affirmative defense of immunity. And so the Court in assessing the question –

J. Lynch: The US government isn’t asserting it. They’re here as amicus. The United Nations, we have to decide and I take it you agree that this is analogous to sovereign immunity and is, therefore, something that is treated as jurisdictional?

Lindstrom: Right, it’s a question of jurisdiction and in assessing whether Section 29 applies to this case to bar the District Court from asserting jurisdiction, the Court would read the treaty as a whole and assess whether the conditions precedent to immunity under Section 2 has been met. So in Brzak v. –

J. Lynch: Wouldn’t it normally be for the state parties to the treaty to invoke Section 29 and serve notice on the United Nations that it’s not complying with its side of the treaty and, therefore, the treaty is abrogated or some other provision of the treaty is abrogated. Why isn’t that something for the United States or Haiti or some other country to invoke?

Lindstrom: Because this is fundamentally a question of the Court’s jurisdiction and so the Court has the power and regularly does assess its jurisdiction the same way that it would if this case raised other types of questions around immunity. There is nothing different about the fact that this immunity comes from treaty as opposed to statute, for example, because plaintiffs are not bringing suit, they’re not seeking to enforce a cause of action under the treaty. The Convention on Privileges & Immunities is not something that at all has any weight in our lawsuit. The lawsuit is one that arises in tort and the Convention only comes up in the context of the government’s brief where they put forth the argument that because of the Convention the Court does not have jurisdiction.

J. Cabranes: So absent the Convention it’s your view that you could bring a tort action in New York?

Lindstrom: Yes, your honor, this is the correct forum for this claim. It is, New York is the place where the United Nations is headquartered, it is where both defendants, Mr. Ban and Mr. Mulet, reside. We have, there are two US plaintiffs in this case and so they are bringing the suit in their home country against defendants who are also located here and who are based here.

J. Lynch: And the substantive law would be Haitian law or New York law or something else?

Lindstrom: I believe it would be New York law, but that is also a question that could be determined at a later point.

J. Lynch: Later on.

Lindstrom: So Brzak v. United Nations of course a case that was decided by this Court is an example of how Section 29 works when Section 29 is complied with. The plaintiffs in that case, they filed claims. Those claims were considered. They were decided on the merits and the plaintiffs were given remedies and they also had access to an appeals process. And so in that situation, breach of Section 29 was not at issue before this Court in deciding that case.

J. Lynch: But wasn’t the argument of the plaintiff in that case that the remedies provided were inadequate to really comply with Section 29?

Lindstrom: One of the seven arguments that the plaintiffs in that case made before the Court was that the remedies were inadequate, but that is a very different question from the one that’s before the Court today. And, if I may explain why, –

J. Lynch: Would you draw a bright line around cases where there is simply no remedy available?

Lindstrom: We would, your honor,

J. Lynch: If the UN created an arbitration forum in which Mr. Ban, for example, got to decide his own case and decided that there was really no liability that would be good enough.

Lindstrom: Well, reasonable people may disagree about what constitutes adequate process in any given case, but the situation here –

J. Lynch: I thought you were drawing a bright line. I thought I just asked you that whether you were drawing a bright line around no remedy or whether you were suggesting that a court like this one would have the power to decide whether the remedies are adequate. Are you now suggesting that we would and that the real explanation of Brzak is that in that case we correctly thought that there were adequate remedies? But if we had thought there were inadequate remedies, it would come out the other way?

Lindstrom: No, your honor, we do draw a bright line between cases where there has been no process and cases where there are allegations that that process wasn’t adequate. This is a case where on the face of what the United Nations has responded with to the plaintiffs makes it clear that the processes that were promised, the Convention of Privileges and Immunities and other legal documents coming from the United Nations have established a minimum floor of the process that must be given.

J. Lynch: What is that minimum floor?

Lindstrom: So in the Convention –

J. Lynch: If the UN said we don’t think we did anything wrong and we’ve looked at it and there’s nothing wrong, so goodbye.

Lindstrom: Well in this case the United Nations has not said that. They have not said, they’ve not made a merits determination. They simply said in one conclusory line that the claims are not receivable because they involve a review of political and policy matters. That is not an exception that is recognized under any of the laws that the UN relies on to make Section 29 decisions and so on its face it’s a statement that’s invalid and that does not present any legitimate reasons for rejecting the claims.

J. Lynch: If this had been the United States Army and a claim were brought against the United States, there would be immunity for that would there not?

Lindstrom: That would be decided under a different framework and is –

J. Lynch: Well maybe some, just asking you do you know the answer, would it not be the case that if these were American rather than Nepali soldiers serving under the American flag rather than under the United Nations flag there would be immunity. I think that’s right but I’m asking you if you know the answer.

Lindstrom: I believe that that would be decided under the Foreign Tort Claims Act which is restrictive immunity that makes distinctions between immunities that go to the core functions of the United States government and other types of tort acts.

J. Lynch: But doesn’t this go to the core functions of the United Nations? This isn’t, I mean the cases that you cite from European courts are things like routine employment disputes and things of that sort where, in fact, some of the cases explicitly talk about the fact that these are not core functions. And the most isn’t the most analogous case the Srebrenica case.

Lindstrom: That case has very different facts from this case, your honor, in that –

J. Lynch: Isn’t that also a case, isn’t that the only case of any of the ones that at least I’ve seen in briefs of the parties who are making, that deals with immunity or not for a peacekeeping force?

Lindstrom: There is also the case of Stravinou v. United Nations that arose in Cyprus, but I think that the situation can be very well distinguished here in that when the United Nations leaked its waste into Haiti’s central river there was nothing about management of waste systems that goes to the heart of the UN’s mandate. The UN’s mandate in Haiti is to promote the rule of law and management of waste is an ancillary activity to that. It is not anything that goes to the public functions of the United Nations, even private actors regularly, on a day-to-day basis have to be responsible for proper waste management. So there’s nothing about that that’s unique to the United Nations, or that goes to the heart of its peacekeeping functions. In Srebrenica the case was about whether the UN had properly used its troops to provide protection for vulnerable populations. If that was the case here then it probably would not be a private law claim and so it would not fall within Section 29.

J. Parker: Would you concede that there is nothing in the treaty, in the text of the treaty itself that makes Section 29 an exception to Section 2?

Lindstrom: Well, your honor, I think when you read the treaty as a whole as the rules of treaty interpretation require, it is clear that Section 29 is linked to Section 2. They cover the same content. They govern the rights and obligations that attach when a claim is filed that alleges that the United Nations is responsible for injury. Section 29 refers back to Section 2 in discussing, making it clear that it is for the types of claims over which the UN has immunity, that it also incurs this obligation. Now conditions precedent do not have to be established clearly in the text, it’s a question of the parties intent and so to assess that intent it’s proper for the Court to look at the drafting history. And as we spelled out in detail in our briefs, the drafting history throughout makes it clear that immunity was never intended to amount to impunity. It was always counterbalanced with the obligation to provide a settlement.

J. Lynch: Well maybe counterbalanced, but that’s a little different that a condition precedent, right? Is there any indication, any explicit indication in the drafting history that says anyone thought that the immunity would dissipate if the remedies required by Section 29 did not materialize?

Lindstrom: The Study of Privileges and Immunities which lay the groundwork for the Convention has language that I think is particularly instructive. The drafting committee there instructed the UN to provide alternative dispute resolution if – and it uses the word if – the UN does not want to appear in court. And so they understood that it was a necessary precondition to immunity and so they wrote in a non-discretionary obligation in every draft of the treaty that followed. And to the extent that there is ambiguity in the precise nature of the relationship between Section 29 and Section 2, this Court should resolve that ambiguity in a way that is consistent with background principles of international law, of the UN Charter, and of human rights law which all make it very clear that the right to a remedy is an established right which has been explicitly worked into the Convention in Section 29 with the purpose of ensuring that individuals are not left without access to any kind of process.

J. Parker: Thank you, Ms. Lindstrom. I’ve given you some extra time, of course, but you have reserved two minutes.

Lindstrom: Thank you, your honor.

Blain: May it please the Court. My name is Ellen Blain. I’m an Assistant US Attorney in the Southern District of New York and I represent the United States which, as Judge Lynch just mentioned, is not a party to this action. The US is appearing here today because it is a party to the treaties governing the affairs of the United Nations. And to Judge Parker’s point, I’d like to first acknowledge that the United States understands that this case concerns humanitarian tragedy and the US is sympathetic to the victims of the cholera epidemic in Haiti. And to that point, the United Nations itself has spent more than 140 million dollars since the outbreak in trying to eradicate cholera. The United States itself has spent almost 95 million dollars trying to eradicate cholera in Haiti. There are many multi-national organizations there on the ground working to eradicate cholera in Haiti and so while these plaintiffs in this Court may not have recourse to sue the United Nations is not the fact that the international community has turned a blind eye to the cholera epidemic. As the District Court correctly concluded, Section 2 –

J. Lynch: Tort law does something different, right. I mean if somebody is injured through the negligence of a commercial enterprise, we don’t say, oh, look how well the company has done about seeing to it that this doesn’t happen again. We look to giving compensation to the person who is injured by negligence and that’s what they’re asking for, right?

Blain: Yes, your honor.

J. Lynch: Nothing has happened on that front.

Blain: That’s correct, your honor. And that’s because the general Convention means what it says. And Section 2 provides as this Court ruled in Brzak that the UN is absolutely immune subject only to one thing, and that is express waiver.

J. Lynch: Does Section 29 mean what it says?

Blain: Section 29 does, but Section –

J. Lynch: So is the United States doing anything in its role as party to the treaty to insist that the United Nations create these mechanisms? Again, it’s not a question of insisting that they get compensation, I have no idea whether there really was negligence or whether anyone deserves compensation. It’s a question of whether there is some adjudicatory mechanism created by the United Nations itself to assess the claim.

Blain: The United States could well under Section 30 of the Convention request that the ICJ, International Court of Justice, issue an advisory opinion. We do not, the United States has not done that here, the government of Haiti has not done that here, nor has any other member of the treaties governing –

J. Lynch: So the sympathy that you mentioned that the United States has for these victims does not extend that far.

Blain: Well, your honor, the –

J. Lynch: Nor does it extend so, I wasn’t even thinking about in effect suing the United Nations in the International Court of Justice, what about just bringing to bear diplomatic pressure of some kind within the United Nations structure where we are, I take it, an important player to ask the United Nations to do something.

Blain: Your honor, that’s a separate question from what the treaties provide here in terms of the plaintiffs.

J. Lynch: I understand, but you are the one who said the treaty means what it says.

Blain: Yes.

J. Lynch: I respect that argument, but if you’re here to come to this Court to help us to make sure that the treaty is interpreted in accordance with its language with respect to Section 2, I’m just wondering whether you’re anywhere else making the same argument with respect to Section 29.

Blain: Your honor, the government does believe that Section 29 may well be enforceable and there are two things that flow from that. One is, as your honor already pointed out, who gets to enforce that, who gets to argue that the UN has breached that. And that is only the signatories to the Convention. The second answer is the United States right now has not asked for an advisory opinion from the ICJ. That does not mean, however, that courts are not, rather that member states are not exercising their rights in the diplomatic realm or elsewhere to address the actual problem separate from the tort claim.

J. Parker: What would an enforcement action under Section 29 be?

Blain: If the questions, your honor, is how would a member state argue

J. Lynch: First of all, is it your position that it’s only available to a member state?

Blain: That’s correct, your honor.

J. Lynch: So how would it get, for example, an issue?

Blain: Under Section 30 of the General Convention a member via an organ of the UN would request the ICJ to issue an advisory opinion. And the ICJ was formed at the same time as the UN Charter.

J. Lynch: And the advisory opinion would say let’s say if your adversaries were, your adversaries wanted to

Blain: Well, I’m not sure that there would necessarily be any adversary in the ICJ, but assuming for the sake of argument that one member state argues that the UN’s interpretation is incorrect and the UN or some other member of the UN argues that the interpretation is, in fact, correct in that the UN does not need to provide an alternative method of dispute resolution in order for Section 2 immunity to attach. The ICJ would evaluate that argument and issue an opinion and that’s what the ICJ is explicitly created for. The members, the treaties, the parties to the treaty in 1945 and 1946 evaluated this question and evaluated how disputes can be resolved among sovereign nations and they specifically granted that right to the International Court of Justice in 1946 so any dispute about whether or not the UN’s interpretation of Section 29 is incorrect, any dispute about whether or not the UN has breached Section 29 and any dispute about whether or not that breach, in any way, affects Section 2’s immunity belongs to the member states and it belongs in the forum of the ICJ.

J. Parker: But the ICJ can’t give any relief to these individuals, these Haitian victims, is that right?

Blain: Well, your honor, these individuals would not be parties to the ICJ –

J. Parker: That’s my point.

Blain: Right, so playing this out if the ICJ were to, down the line, issue an opinion that either well first that the UN must establish this Standing Claims Commission or anything else under Section 29, then presumably the government of Haiti and in every other portion of the UN affected by the ruling would then establish a Standing Claims Commission.

J. Lynch: Could you tell me if I’m right about this? Is it the case that the United Nations has created some standing alternative dispute resolution procedure and that the issue in this case is whether the claims made by the plaintiffs in this case are disputes of a private law character?

Blain: Yes, your honor, there is currently two ways for disputes concerning the UN to be evaluated and resolved. One is the United Nations has an internal dispute resolution mechanism for its own employees. It’s not at issue here. The second way is in every mission that I’m aware of the United Nations has created a “Board of Inquiry” and the Board of Inquiry resolves these tort claims at a local level within the mission and that’s reflected in the record at A-265, 266 and 277. So the UN has always acknowledged that it needs to provide tort compensation in effect and does so in this way in the missions themselves, but has never, sorry, your honor –

J. Lynch: No, go on, finish, I’m sorry.

Blain: And has never, however, established a “Standing Claims Commission” under the Status of Forces Agreement because as the Secretary General has said, specifically Secretary General Annan, in these places in the record, the Secretary General has always concluded that such a thing was not necessary because of these boards of inquiry.

J. Lynch: In terms of the Board of Inquiry process, does that mean that if I were visiting Haiti and got run over by a jeep operated by the, someone wearing a blue helmet of the United Nations, I would have some ability to seek compensation under this to this Board of Inquiry?

Blain: Presumably, your honor, but as to why that potentially was not available to the plaintiffs – – you know, I’m not here as the United Nations’ lawyer so I can’t –

J. Lynch: I understand. I’m just trying to understand, you know, what is the scope of the Board of Inquiry and what kind of claims, because to the extent that the issue is not, we’re not just going to set anything up, but is instead we have set something up but this particular claim doesn’t fall under private law character. I’m just trying to get a sense of the scope of that argument. Does that mean, for example, that anything done by troops in the mission is not really a private law character as opposed to somebody, I don’t know what, has a contract to provide services to the mission and they claim they weren’t paid.

Blain: Your honor, I can answer it as a practical matter, torts on a smaller scale have been compensated generally by the United Nations. In addition, mass torts I will call it, lump sum payments to specific countries have been made by United Nations, but as to what the United Nations’ legal analysis was as to these plaintiffs’ claims –

J. Lynch: You’re not able to speak because that’s not your, is that what you’re telling me, that’s not your, you’re not privy to it.

Blain: Correct, your honor, and, of course, the government’s position is even if the UN’s reading and conclusion were incorrect that still does not eviscerate the immunity in Section 2.

J. Cabranes: Ms. Blain, up to now my colleagues have been going for the jugular as it were dealing with the UN Charter and the Convention of Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, maybe I can go for the capillaries. What happens if we decide in favor of the Appellant? I’m just trying to understand what the posture would be of this case. Is there any recourse for the United Nations at this stage and, for example, taking an adverse decision in this case to the Supreme Court? They are not here as a party, right?

Blain: That’s correct, your honor.

J. Cabranes: They never entered an appearance?

Blain: That’s right, your honor.

J. Cabranes: So what would be the procedural posture of this case if your adversaries were to prevail?

Blain: Well, your honor, obviously first the government’s response is we do not believe our adversary should –

J. Cabranes: Of course, of course.

Blain: Assuming that –

J. Cabranes: You’re an amicus, you’re not a party.

Blain: Yes, assuming that, I’m not sure procedurally exactly how the United States, as an amicus, can seek a petition for, you know, seek cert. from the Supreme Court. I’m not sure procedurally how that would work, but if the Court would like, I’m happy to provide additional briefing on that.

J. Lynch: Or whether it would work. I guess the first question is do you have any standing to do that?

Blain: That’s a question I’ve honestly never thought of, but we can certainly submit a brief if that would be of use to the Court.

J. Cabranes: Thank you very much.

J. Parker: In the other, you adverted to specific and individual specific torts and mass torts. Can you just tell us a little bit more about those procedurally. How would those tort judgments be obtained?

Blain: Well, there’s never been a tort judgment obtained so a court has never evaluated the UN’s liability under any common law or treaty or otherwise for a tort, but the UN does set up these boards of inquiry and the individuals on the ground do an investigation as far as I understand and evaluate whether or not the UN has, you know, hurt somebody with a jeep to use Judge Lynch’s example and therefore is entitled to some sort of compensation. That’s sort of one set of claims and then another set of claims, and I think this happened twice, the UN has given a lump sum payment to a country for, you know, I think it was 13 million dollars in one case, you know, a substantial amount for a larger problem that doesn’t just affect one individual within that country.

J. Parker: And how is the payment effectuated? Who is the paying entity and who is the claimant?

Blain: Your honor, I think it was just a diplomatic settlement so there wasn’t actually a tribunal that overlooked this or decided this –

J. Parker: This is presumably the Haitian Ambassador pressing the UN.

Blain: Well this was never given to Haiti.

J. Parker: Not to Haiti, but the country’s ambassador.

Blain: Yes, and I don’t have a window into that particular procedure but I know that the outcome of the procedure, the procedure was diplomatic and the outcome was some sort of negotiated payment between the parties, and by the parties I’m using that term loosely.

J. Parker: I take it that that’s publicly reported somewhere.

Blain: Yes, your honor. It’s actually in the record as well, specifically in those pages I’ve mentioned because in A-266 is an evaluation that the Secretary General provided to the Security Council about how the UN goes about resolving third party claims.

J. Cabranes: Your bottom line, your basic position is that there’s absolute immunity here? And if the UN did nothing or cared to do nothing, none of the things that we’ve been discussing in the large, if it did nothing and indeed said that it would do nothing, it has absolute immunity.

Blain: Yes, your honor, and that’s based on several things, just briefly, the text of the Convention, the drafting history of the Convention, this Court’s ruling in Brzak, which unfortunately, the plaintiff’s claims here cannot be brought here and they cannot be brought by these plaintiffs.

J. Lynch: Anywhere?

Blain: It would be up to the members of the signatory, the signatory countries of the General Convention. So it would only be if it’s a dispute between the UN and Haiti it would go to the ICJ under Section 30 of the Convention, if it’s a dispute between MINUSTAH and the UN, it goes to tribunal arbitrators and that’s under the Status of Forces Agreement at Section 58.

J. Parker: Would the United States government concede that that was a, this is a, the result that you urge is a very, very bad result.

Blain: The result that the United States urges is a bad result?

J. Parker: Would the United States government concede that if you’re right and these people are completely remedyless, that that is a very bad result?

Blain: Well, I think the United States certainly recognizes that this is an unfortunate and tragic humanitarian catastrophe, but again, at the end of the day, the United States is here to urge one interpretation of the treaty that the member states have always held so, yes, we would say that it would be unfortunate for these particular plaintiffs. On the other hand, it is not necessarily a “bad result” as your honor is suggesting because the member states of the UN has conferred absolute immunity on the UN for a very important reason.

J. Lynch: Sovereign immunity like absolute immunity for judges, like absolute immunity for prosecutors, like qualified immunity for police officers? There are lots of situations where people are left without a remedy even though they were wronged.

Blain: That’s right. And those immunities are vital and particularly for the United Nations to carry on its peacekeeping mission around the world.

Cabranes: Thank you.

Blain: Thank you, your honors.

J. Cabranes: Ms. Lindstrom, you have reserved two minutes.

J. Lynch: May I just ask you, Ms. Lindstrom, you started by saying that what the UN is asking is unprecedented. Is there any precedent for a domestic court in any country awarding tort damages against the United Nations?

Lindstrom: Your honor, there are in other countries. In the United States –

J. Lynch: No, in other countries as well for awarding tort damages against the United Nations, not UNESCO under the Paris Court’s interpretation of a treaty between UNESCO specifically and France and I might make it even narrower, for tort damages arising out of the peacekeeping mission. You mentioned the Cyprus case, that went against the plaintiffs. The Srebrenica case essentially goes against the plaintiffs. Is there any case that has gone in favor of the plaintiffs that is remotely analogous to this one? That’s not saying anything about the substance of your argument, it’s just about what is precedented and what is unprecedented.

Lindstrom: Sure, cases against the United Nations headquarters itself arise almost exclusively in the United States because that is where the United Nations headquarters are found and so that is why you see cases against UNESCO arising in France, you see cases against the Food and Agricultural Organization arising in Italy. And so it’s not that courts have sat in judgment of this question have decided on the merits that or as a matter of a jurisdictional inquiry that it could not issue, it could not hold the UN liable in tort, it’s simply that those questions are –

J. Lynch: I’m not suggesting there’s necessarily a square precedent against you, I’m just trying to figure out if there is any case in which any court in any country has awarded tort damages against the United Nations (a) at all and (b) specifically out of a peacekeeping mission’s activities?

Lindstrom: This is a sui generis case, your honor, and I think that that’s partly going back to Ms. Blain’s point that the UN settles claims every day. It settles claims for tort disputes and for contract disputes, including in peacekeeping operations. If the UN contracts to have somebody supply paper to its mission and it breaches that contract, it would settle that claim. And the way that it does that is by engaging in amicable attempts to settle with claimants. With individual claimants, it is not dependent on a government raising those claims and, importantly, in the Status of Forces Agreement, the Standing Claims Commission is a Commission of last resort. In A-266, the document that was referenced by Ms. Blain earlier, it is, the Secretary General also assessed that provision and said, in fact, that there is a reason to retain it because otherwise the UN could be seen as acting as a judge in its own case. And it also, the Secretary General also noted that one of the reasons why the Standing Claims Commissions have not been invoked previously is because the victims have not asked for it. And, your honors, in this case, victims have asked extensively for a standing claims commission and that has been rejected.

J. Parker: Thank you, Ms. Lindstrom, very much.

Lindstrom: Thank you.

J. Parker: We reserve decision and we’ll hear the second case on the calendar.

 

Click HERE for a pdf of this transcript.

UN’s own experts denounce Ban Ki-Moon reaction to cholera outbreak

March 3, 2016 - 14:17

In a special report sent to Ban Ki-Moon in October 2015, five UN human rights experts denounced the secretary general of the UN for denying UN responsibility and the unwillingness of the Organization to review claims by those affected by the disease. This report by the UN’s own experts clearly demands justice for those affected by the outbreak of the disease. The report is reemerging because of the recent appeal by IJDH against the UN in a Manhattan federal court.

Click HERE for original article.

Cholera in Haiti: UN experts chastise Ban Ki-moon over handling of outbreak

Ed Pilkington, The Guardian

March 3, 2016

The secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, has been chastised by five of the UN’s own human rights experts who accuse him of undermining the world body’s credibility and reputation by denying responsibility for the devastating outbreak of cholera in Haiti.

In a withering letter to the UN chief, the five special rapporteurs say that his refusal to allow cholera victims any effective remedy for their suffering has stripped thousands of Haitians of their fundamental right to justice. The letter is believed to be the first time that the UN’s guardians of human rights have turned their spotlight onto the UN hierarchy itself, as opposed to individual nation states that are the usual target of their criticism.

The five experts tear apart the secretary-general’s insistence that the UN is immune from any obligation to compensate victims despite overwhelming evidence that UN troops brought cholera to Haiti five years ago from an infected area of Nepal. Such an approach, the rapporteurs write, “undermines the reputation of the United Nations, calls into question the ethical framework within which its peace-keeping forces operate, and challenges the credibility of the organization as an entity that respects human rights”.

Haiti’s cholera epidemic erupted in October 2010, nine months after the earthquake that ravaged the capital Port-au-Prince killing about 220,000 people and leaving more than 2 million homeless. It was the first known appearance of the disease in the country for at least 150 years.

Latest figures suggest that some 9,202 people have died from the disease, with a further 769,080 treated in hospital since the outbreak began.

A panel of independent experts commissioned by Ban himself traced the source of the outbreak to the Meille river which it found to have been contaminated with the Asian strain of cholera as a result of human waste being dumped straight into the tributary. In 2013 the same panel concluded by a “preponderance of the evidence” that the carriers were UN peacekeepers from Nepal billeted in the Mirebalais barracks close to the river.

Lawsuits brought against the UN on behalf of victims have alleged that the UN troops had been based in an area of Nepal that has endemic cholera yet were not properly screened for the disease before being relocated to Haiti for post-earthquake duties. Sanitation arrangements at the base were grossly inadequate, leading to the disposal of feces into a river that is widely used by thousands of Haitians for drinking, bathing, washing clothes and irrigation.

The letter from the five special rapporteurs was sent to the UN secretary general in October but has only now been made public in a report issued by the office of the high commissioner on human rights. The experts are responsible for investigating human rights records in Haiti, as well as safe drinking water and sanitation, poverty, physical and mental health and housing.

They said that the world body’s denial of responsibility for the catastrophe was difficult to reconcile “with the UN’s commitment to promote and encourage respect for human rights”.

Several lawsuits have been brought on behalf of Haitian victims of the outbreak in an attempt to force the international organization to rethink its approach. A class action lawsuit that is currently being heard by the federal district court for the southern district of New York accuses the UN of recklessly failing to avoid the spread of the disease.

Beatrice Lindstrom, a staff attorney with the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti who is lead counsel for the plaintiffs on the lawsuit, said the handling of the crisis was “a huge stain on the credibility and moral conscience of the UN, an organization founded on promoting human rights and equality around the world.”

Lindstrom added that the special rapporteurs’ letter showed that concern about the secretary general’s unbending position was rising up to senior levels within the UN system. “People are no longer prepared to stand by and watch this play out.”

The UN is protected under international agreements with a wide immunity against prosecution within the domestic courts of nation states. However, international conventions also stipulate that the organization must make provision for the appropriate settlement of disputes where the UN is accused of causing damage to private interests or individuals.

In the case of Haiti, UN lawyers leant on a previously unused get-out clause by arguing it was not responsible for any such settlement because a review of any of the cholera claims would force a consideration of “political and policy matters”. In a letter issued to the special rapporteurs by UN chiefs in November 2014, they argued that “claims based on political or policy-related grievances” were excluded from any obligation on the body to provide a settlement to disputes.

But the special rapporteurs said they were mystified by such legalistic obfuscations. “The result of this approach is that five years after the outbreak of the disease in 2010, victims have effectively been denied access to a body that is competent to hear their case and decide on its merits.”

Click HERE for original article.

 

 

U.S. Appeals Court Analyzes UN Immunity in Haiti Cholera Case

March 3, 2016 - 12:47

In a March 1 hearing with Beatrice Lindstrom (IJDH Staff Attorney) representing Haitian cholera victims, a U.S. Appeals Court scrutinized UN immunity in this particular situation. The argument centered not on whether the UN brought cholera to Haiti but whether the organization has the right to hide behind immunity when it has provided the victims with no alternate method of seeking justice. An assistant US attorney argued in favor of absolute UN immunity.

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

U.N.’s immunity from Haiti cholera responsibility comes under challenge

Tom Murphy, Humanosphere

March 3, 2016

Victims of Haiti’s cholera outbreak may soon have their day in court. The U.S. Court of Appeals in New York announced a hearing to determine whether the U.N. lost its immunity for not providing a justice mechanism for people sickened by cholera imported to Haiti by a Nepalese peacekeeping unit. Lawyers for the victims made their arguments on Tuesday.

“Immunity does not mean impunity,” said Beatrice Lindstrom, a lawyer for the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), a legal advocacy group based in Boston that represents the cholera victims, to the judges.

The U.N. and its lawyers did not appear before the court. It has taken the stance that it does not have to answer to the courts because of its immunity status. Based on the line of questioning by the three appellate judges, there might be a breakthrough for the case against the U.N.

 

Click HERE for the full text.

UN Human Rights Experts Demand Access to Justice for Victims of UN Cholera in Haiti

March 3, 2016 - 09:06

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Kermshlise Picard, Communications Coordinator, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, media@ijdh.org+1-617-652-0876 (Interviews available in English, French & Kreyòl)

UN Human Rights Experts Demand Access to Justice for Victims of UN Cholera in Haiti
Human Rights Groups Welcome Mounting Pressure from UN Insiders

March 3, 2016 – Five UN-appointed human rights experts have sent a letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, arguing that the UN’s rejection of Haitian cholera victims’ claims for remedies “undermines the reputation of the [UN], calls into question the ethical framework within which its peace-keeping forces operate, and challenges the credibility of the Organization as an entity that respects human rights.”

“The UN’s own experts are challenging the Secretary General to live up to the organization’s founding principles,”  said Brian Concannon, Jr. Esq., Executive Director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, which represents the cholera victims. “This is an opportunity for Secretary Ban to choose between a legacy of honoring accountability and human rights or a legacy of squandering credibility and causing preventable, avoidable death.”

The Special Rapporteurs’ forceful admonition of the UN’s refusal to provide remedies to cholera victims was made public on February 25, 2016. It was signed jointly by Philip Alston (Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty), Dainius Pūras (Special Rapporteur on the right to health) Léo Heller (Special Rapporteur on the right to water and sanitation), Gustavo Gallón (Independent Expert on human rights in Haiti), and Leilani Farha (Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing). One of the key roles of these Special Rapporteurs is to send allegation letters to states that are not fulfilling their obligations under human rights law. It is exceptional for Special Rapporteurs to file letters against the UN Secretary-General for allegations of rights violations by the organization itself.

The public release of the letter coincided with a last-minute decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to hold oral argument in the litigation brought against the UN by victims of cholera. The hearing took place in a packed courtroom at the Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse in New York on March 1, 2016. The judges peppered both sides with questions, including questioning the U.S. Government extensively on both its own and the UN’s inaction on out-of-court remedies.

The five UN experts reminded the organization that under international human rights law, victims are entitled to a remedy for the harm caused by the UN’s introduction of cholera into Haiti. They find that the UN’s rejection of the cholera claims on the basis of ‘non-receivability’ is “problematic” and “difficult to reconcile with the United Nations’ commitment to promote and encourage respect for human rights.” Their position echoes the statements of then-High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay, and of former high-level UN officials who filed an amicus curiae brief with the Court of Appeals.

“The UN’s response to the Haiti cholera victims baffles and disappoints the human rights community,” added Baher Azmy, Legal Director for the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents amicus curiae human rights organizations in the lawsuit. “If the UN won’t respect human rights in the vulnerable countries that host peacekeeping missions, who will?”

Seeking access to justice has been a protracted fight for cholera victims, who first sought to have their claims heard by the UN in November 2011. According to the UN experts, “it is essential that the victims of cholera have access to a transparent, independent and impartial mechanism that can review their claims and decide on the merits of those claims in order to ensure adequate reparation, including restitution, compensation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition.”

In addition to addressing the right of the cholera victims to a fair hearing and remedy for their harm, the experts also note that the UN’s attempts to eradicate cholera in Haiti, and mobilize funding for that purpose, “appears to be clearly insufficient.”  The UN cholera epidemic in Haiti is the worst single-country cholera epidemic of modern times, with more than 753,000 documented cases, and more than 9,000 deaths. The UN’s eradication plan remains drastically underfunded, while cholera continues to kill an average of 37 Haitians per month.

###

6 years later, cholera still killing many in Haiti

March 3, 2016 - 08:45

The Associated Press reports that cholera is still killing dozens of people every month in Haiti, six years after UN peacemakers brought the illness to the country after the 2010 earthquake. The World Health Organization is now considering cholera as “endemic” in Haiti, underlining the continuous presence of the preventable disease for the past six years. The article reports that “new research published by the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention suggests cholera’s death toll in Haiti could have been significantly higher due to inadequate reporting early in the outbreak.”

Click HERE for the original article.

Cholera quietly still kills dozens a month in Haiti

David McFadden, Associated Press

March 3, 2016

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — More than a dozen people reclined on cots inside the clinic in the Haitian capital, a few so sick they were receiving intravenous infusions to rehydrate their bodies and spare them an agonizing death.

The worst off one recent morning was a thin and spectral man, weak from the vomiting and diarrhea caused by cholera. But all were expected to survive. The disease spread by contaminated water is easily treatable but can lead to death within hours if unattended.

“However I got it, I really hope I never get this sick again,” another patient, Estin Josue, said as he recovered inside an immaculately clean and orderly treatment center in downtown Port-au-Prince run by Gheskio Centers, a Haitian medical organization.

Josue and his fellow patients were relatively lucky, getting sick close to the country’s first permanent cholera treatment center. Many others are not as fortunate as Haiti continues to wrestle with the worst outbreak of the disease in recent history.

Cholera, which arrived in Haiti in October 2010, has sickened more than 770,000 people, or about 7 percent of the population, and killed more than 9,200. So far this year, it has sickened more than 6,000 and is killing an average of 37 people a month, according to the latest government figures.

The persistence of the preventable disease has alarmed public health experts who fear that attention and resources have been diverted by newer challenges, including the regional spread of the Zika virus and the political crisis that recently halted Haiti’s elections.

World Health Organization spokesman Gregory Hartl said cholera is now considered “endemic” in Haiti, meaning it’s an illness that occurs regularly. Others have noted the cholera bacterium could very well be firmly established in Haiti’s rivers, estuaries and even coastal waters.

“Once it is established in a country’s aquatic reservoir it is extremely difficult to eradicate,” said Afsar Ali, a researcher at the University of Florida who has led studies of cholera in Haiti for years.

Dr. Joseph Donald Francois, who coordinates the health ministry’s efforts to combat the illness, still believes Haiti, with international help, can eliminate cholera by 2022. But he acknowledged the effort is badly underfinanced.

Only $307 million, or less than 14 percent, has been funded of a $2.2 billion plan announced in 2013 to eradicate cholera from the island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic over a decade, according to a November report from the U.N.

In the first year of the outbreak, more than 200 international organizations were providing money and expertise to combat the illness in Haiti. Now, there are fewer than a dozen, Francois said.

“Having far fewer deaths has led a lot of people to believe the situation is no longer urgent,” Francois said. “But if we had the resources, people wouldn’t be dying at all.”

Cholera was first detected in central Haiti’s Artibonite Valley. Researchers say there is ample evidence the disease was introduced to the country’s biggest river by inadequately treated sewage from a base of U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal, one of the units that have rotated in and out of a multinational force in Haiti since 2004.

Victims’ advocates have sued the U.N. in the United States. A federal judge ruled last year that the international organization was immune from a lawsuit seeking compensation. The U.S. Court of Appeals this week heard arguments for the plaintiffs challenging the U.N. immunity claim. A decision is not expected for months.

Cholera showed up 10 months after a devastating earthquake in the south of Haiti, deepening the country’s misery at a time when it was ill-equipped to cope with a second crisis.

New research published this month by the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention suggests cholera’s death toll in Haiti could have been significantly higher due to inadequate reporting early in the outbreak.

While the number of cholera cases has been significantly reduced from its first wave and the mortality rate has been slashed to lower than 1 percent from a high of 9 percent in December 2010, the fact that cholera is still killing Haitians more than five years on is galling to public health experts.

“We need to raise our expectations of what’s possible to do in Haiti and other countries in terms of these diseases that we’ve completely eliminated from our own societies,” said Dr. Louise Ivers, a senior policy adviser with Boston-based Partners In Health.

Ivers was working in Haiti’s central plateau when cholera started sickening and killing so many people that it gave the nation the globe’s highest rate of cholera one year after it was introduced. She said there hasn’t been nearly enough progress addressing the lack of sanitation and access to clean water that are key to eliminating cholera and believes progress has stalled.

Only 24 percent of Haitians have access to a toilet, sewage is rarely treated and safe water remains inaccessible to many.

Jean Bertho, an unemployed laborer walking by a trash-strewn gully shook his head when asked about the disease.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if cholera lasts for another 50 years here,” he said. “There’s so much garbage everywhere and Haitian people can’t get good water easily.”

 

Click HERE for the original article.

Live Cholera Case Update Thursday March 3! [Recording]

March 3, 2016 - 07:25

We had a remarkable hearing at the Second Circuit court of appeals Tuesday, March 1. We packed not only the courtroom but also the overflow room! The judges asked so many thoughtful and interesting questions noting their concern about denial of justice for the victims. We also got some great insights into the United States’ position in the case.

We held a conference call Thursday, March 3 at 7pm ET to update our supporters on the hearing and the case. Kertch Conzé one of the amici who signed the Haitian American brief in support of our appeal, gave his impressions of the hearing and the need for UN accountability to Haiti’s cholera victims. He described how the UN’s actions so far have denied the cholera victims justice. Beatrice Lindstrom, the IJDH Staff Attorney who argued the case, described the legal aspect of the case. She explained how the issue of UN immunity is being considered in court and why we feel that immunity should not apply in this particular case. Jack Regan, one of our pro-bono lawyers who has decades of appeals experience, gave a layman’s explanations of the case timeline and what can be expected going forward. Finally, we closed off with a question and answer session.

Listen to the conference call recording HERE.

 

Photo Credit Edgar Lafond/Haiti Liberté

Center for Economic and Social Rights Now Hiring

March 2, 2016 - 11:20

TWO PROGRAM OFFICER POSITIONS AVAILABLE AT CESR

Application deadline: March 31, 2016

The Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) is an international NGO founded in 1993 to promote economic and social justice through the realization of human rights.  CESR undertakes rigorous, interdisciplinary research on economic and social rights issues across the globe, and advocates for reforms to unjust socioeconomic and development policies to bring these into line with human rights standards. CESR also develops innovative methods for monitoring and claiming economic and social rights, building civil society capacity to hold governments and others accountable for deprivations through a range of human rights mechanisms at the global and national levels.  Much of CESR´s work is carried out in close collaboration with national partners, as well as with relevant regional and international organizations.

CESR currently has three program areas: Human Rights in Economic Policy, aimed at promoting human rights in contexts of economic crisis, recession and fiscal austerity; Human Rights in Development, aimed at securing human rights accountability in global development processes, including in countries in transition; and Rights Claiming and Accountability, aimed at strengthening the capacity of civil society organizations and human rights accountability bodies to monitor, demand and enforce economic and social rights.

CESR is seeking to recruit two qualified and experienced Program Officers to help advance the organization’s research and advocacy agenda. While both positions will contribute to CESR’s objectives across the three above-mentioned program areas, one will focus primarily on the intersections between economics and human rights while the other will focus on strategies for legal accountability and rights monitoring.

For detailed descriptions of each position, please click on the links below:

  1. Program Officer (economics and human rights)

: http://cesr.org/article.php?id=1814
  2. Program Officer (accountability and rights monitoring)
:  http://cesr.org/article.php?id=1816

Location:

Both positions are based in CESR’s offices in New York. CESR offers a competitive salary and benefits package, commensurate with experience, and reflecting best practice in the sector.

How to apply

:

To apply, please send a cover letter, a CV, an original writing sample (preferably in English) and the names and contact information of two references to jobs@cesr.org. Please indicate in the subject line of your message and cover letter the position you are applying for: Program Officer (economics and human rights) or Program Officer (accountability and rights monitoring)
.

Applications should be received no later than March 31, 2016.  Because of the anticipated volume of applications, CESR regrets that it is unable to answer individual queries in relation to posts or on the progress of individual applications.

CESR is an equal opportunity employer committed to equality and non-discrimination in the workplace and in its hiring practices.  It actively seeks to strengthen the diversity of backgrounds and approaches in its staff team. Candidates from the global south and under-represented groups are particularly encouraged to apply.

For more information about CESR, please see www.cesr.org.

IJDH exposes cholera reparations case to appeals court

March 2, 2016 - 07:39

On March 1st, the New York Appeals court heard IJDH’s case on behalf of the victims of the deadly cholera epidemic brought to Haiti by UN troops. The appeal contested the absolute immunity that was invoked to defend the UN when the case was dismissed at first in January 2015. IJDH staff attorney Beatrice Lindstrom was pleased with regards to the process of the hearing, as the three judges of the appeals court seemed engaged with the argument and posed very pertinent questions regarding UN accountability to the assistant US Attorney Elle Blain, who argued on behalf of the UN. No UN representatives spoke at the hearing.

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

Appeals Court Hears Arguments on Cholera Reparations

Kim Ives, Haiti Liberté

March 2, 2016

On Mar. 1, 2016, the U.S. Appeals Court in New York heard oral arguments on whether the United Nations has immunity from a class action lawsuit charging its soldiers negligently dumped their sewage into Haiti’s largest river, thereby unleashing the world’s worst cholera epidemic.

In October 2010, an outpost of Nepalese blue-helmets, several scientific studies have found, allowed feces from their outhouses to flow into the headwaters of the Artibonite River, which is used for drinking, washing, and irrigation of Haiti’s rice fields. As a result, over the past five and half years, close to 10,000 Haitians have died from the fecally-transmitted cholera bacteria, and close to 900,000 have been sickened.

On Jan. 9, 2015, Judge J. Paul Oetken dismissed the claims made by lawyers from the Boston-based Institute for Democracy and Justice in Haiti (IJDH) and the Port-au-Prince-based Office of International Lawyers (BAI) on behalf of Haitian cholera victims and their families in the case known as Georges vs. United Nations. Despite vigorous arguments from the IJDH that its clients and Haitians in general had no other recourse to justice and compensation for the injuries they’ve endured, Judge Oetken found that “the United Nations, [the UN military occupation force] MINUSTAH, [UN Secretary General] Ban Ki-moon, and [then MINUSTAH chief] Edmond Mulet are absolutely immune from suit in this Court.”

[…]

Click HERE for full article.

IJDH demands UN accountability in federal appeals court

March 2, 2016 - 07:21

This article summarizes the March 1st hearing of IJDH’s case against the UN’s total immunity with regards to the outbreak of cholera in Haiti. The unexpected hearing, as well as the judges engagement during the hearing, were positive signs for the IJDH team. The results of the hearing are expected to come out in the next few months.

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

Cholera Victims’ Fight for Justice Reaches US Appeals Court

Tele Sur TV

March 2, 2016

A U.S court heard arguments Tuesday from a defense team representing cholera victims in a class action lawsuit against the United Nations, which accuses the international body of recklessly introducing cholera to Haiti in 2010. The hearing, which included a panel of three judges, considered the cholera victims’ claims that the U.N. lost its immunity in the case when it refused to fulfill its obligations to provide victims with an alternate mechanism for justice.

Until now, the global organization has asserted that a 1946 convention on privileges and immunities insulates it from such legal action — a defense that the appellate judges are now weighing.

[…]

Click HERE for full article.

New York Times’ Excellent Analysis of the Cholera Hearing

March 1, 2016 - 18:03

On March 1, Beatrice Lindstrom, IJDH Staff Attorney, represented Haiti’s cholera victims before a U.S. Federal Court. At this hearing in our cholera case against the UN, a panel of three judges analyzed the question of UN immunity. Much of the hearing was spent on the UN’s denial of justice. UN lawyers again did not attend the hearing, with a U.S. attorney arguing in favor of absolute UN immunity.

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

Court Hears Suit Against U.N. on Haiti Cholera Outbreak

Rick Gladstone, The New York Times

March 1, 2016

A legal battle by the Haitian victims of a cholera epidemic against the United Nations reached its highest level in an American court on Tuesday, as lawyers for the plaintiffs were permitted to argue before a federal appeals panel why they believe the United Nations is not entitled to immunity.

Based on the questions asked by the three judges hearing the arguments in a packed Manhattan federal courtroom, they appeared sympathetic to the victims.

The outcome of the case, in which United Nations peacekeepers are accused of having negligently brought cholera to Haiti after their deployment in 2010 following a disastrous earthquake, could have enormous implications for the United Nations. The global organization has asserted that a 1946 convention on privileges and immunities insulates it from such legal action — a defense that the appellate judges are now weighing.

Their decision is expected in the next several months, and if they agree with the cholera victims the case could be returned to a lower court for trial. If the judges deny the appeal, lawyers for the victims said, they would seek to bring the issue before the United States Supreme Court.

“Immunity does not mean impunity,” Beatrice Lindstrom, a lawyer for the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, a legal advocacy group that is helping represent the cholera victims, told the appellate judges.

Click HERE for the full text.

 

*Photo Credit Edgar Lafond/Haiti Liberté

Cholera Victims’ Fight for Justice Reaches Appeals Court

March 1, 2016 - 11:40

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Kermshlise Picard, Communications Coordinator, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, media@ijdh.org; +1-617-652-0876 (Interviews available in English, French & Kreyòl)

Cholera Victims’ Fight for Justice Reaches Appeals Court

U.S. Court of Appeals reviews UN’s immunity claims

(New York City, March 1, 2016)—The U.S. Court of Appeals in New York today considered Georges v. United Nations, the case of the victims of the deadly cholera epidemic brought to Haiti by UN troops. In a promising development, the Court announced on February 25 that it would hold an oral hearing. The hearing will evaluate the cholera victims’ claims that the UN lost its immunity in the case when it refused to fulfill its obligations to provide victims with an alternate mechanism for justice.

Brian Concannon, Executive Director for the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), which represents the cholera victims in their U.S. lawsuit, noted that “today’s hearing means that that the judges are looking carefully at the UN’s attempt to expand its immunity beyond anything previously recognized by courts in the US or anywhere else.”

Georges v. United Nations was filed in October 2013, against the United Nations (UN), the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and former head of MINUSTAH Edmond Mulet, for recklessly introducing cholera to Haiti in 2010. Since its introduction, the epidemic has killed over 9,000 people and infected over 800,000.

The UN has refused to appear in the case, but the U.S. Department of Justice asked the District Court to dismiss the case on the grounds of the UN’s immunity based on Section 2 of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the UN (CPIUN). The District Court ordered the case dismissed in January 2015. The cholera victims appealed, asserting that the UN cannot benefit from the immunity under the CPIUN unless it complies with its own obligations under Section 29 of the CPIUN to provide alternate mechanisms for justice.

“Immunity is a two-way street,” said Beatrice Lindstrom, IJDH Staff Attorney, who argued the case for the victims at the hearing. “The UN does not seriously deny that it brought cholera to Haiti and its own documents declare that it has an obligation to provide justice to people injured by UN activities. The UN’s position is that nothing can compel it to comply with its undeniable legal obligations.”

“It is outrageous that the UN—which receives billions of taxpayer dollars to promote the rule of law—is holding itself above any law,” said Mario Joseph of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux in Haiti, the lead lawyer for the cholera victims. “This impunity is literally killing us.”

In support of the appeal, 86 scholars, Haitian-American leaders, human rights experts, and former UN officials submitted six legal briefs in June 2015. In July 2015, 154 Haitian-American leaders and organizations sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanding UN accountability. On December 10, UN Human Rights Day, cholera victims and their families delivered thousands of letters to the UN also demanding justice.

“The UN lectures Haitians about accountability, then incongruously refuses to submit itself to the rule of law,” said Attorney Emmanuel Coffy, Counsel for Haitian-American organizations that filed an amicus curiae brief supporting the appeal. “This hypocrisy deprives the UN of any credibility to promote the rule of law in Haiti.”

“The UN’s response to the Haiti cholera victims baffles and disappoints the human rights community,” added Baher Azmy, Legal Director for the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents amicus curiae human rights organizations. “If the UN won’t respect human rights in the vulnerable countries that host peacekeeping missions, who will?”

In a letter made public in February 2016, four UN Special Rapporteurs and a UN Independent Expert noted that the UN response to the cholera case has resulted in “the inability of the victims of the cholera outbreak to vindicate their rights and to obtain access to a remedy for the harms suffered to which human rights law entitles them.” The UN human rights experts warned that the UN’s hiding behind immunity to deprive the victims of a chance at justice “undermines the reputation of the United Nations, calls into question the ethical framework within which its peace-keeping forces operate, and challenges the credibility of the Organization as an entity that respects human rights.”

###

For more information, including legal documents and background materials, see http://www.ijdh.org/advocacies/our-work/cholera-advocacy/

 

 

 

  

 

Widespread Accusations of Sexual Exploitation Committed by UN Peacekeepers

February 27, 2016 - 13:40

This article sheds light on the sexual abuse perpetrated by UN peacekeepers in the Central African Republic since 2014. According to the Washington Post, there have been 42 cases of sexual abuse or exploitation by UN soldiers in CAR since the start of the mission. This phenomenon does not limit itself to CAR, as similar cases have occurred in Kosovo, Liberia and Haiti. Indeed, in 2007, 114 members of the Sri Lankan peacekeeping contingent were accused of sexual exploitation during their mission in Haiti. The article denounces the inaction of the UN in investigating and prosecuting the implicated soldiers. Unfortunately, in repeated cases throughout the years, those who were often seen as saviors, have brought despair and horror to the people they were supposed to protect.

Members of a U.N. peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic allegedly turned to sexual predation, betraying their duty to protect

Kevin Sieff, The Washington Post

February 27, 2016

The neighborhood is a patchwork of low-slung buildings scorched and looted at the height of the civil war, a place where the United Nations was supposed to come to the rescue. But in a number of homes, women and girls are raising babies they say are the children of U.N. troops who abused or exploited them.

“Peacekeeper babies,” the United Nations calls such infants.

A 14-year-old breast-feeds her 3-month-old son in Bangui, Central African Republic. She says she was raped and made pregnant by a U.N. peacekeeper from Burundi.

“A horrible thing,” says an elfin 14-year-old girl, who describes how a Burundian soldier dragged her into his barracks and raped her, leaving her pregnant with the baby boy she now cradles uncomfortably.

The allegations come amid one of the biggest scandals to plague the United Nations in years. Since the U.N. peacekeeping mission here began in 2014, its employees have been formally accused of sexually abusing or exploiting 42 local civilians, most of them underage girls.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called sexual abuse by peacekeepers “a cancer in our system.” In August, the top U.N. official here was fired for failing to take enough action on abuse cases. Nearly 1,000 troops whose units have been tied to abuses have been expelled, or will be soon. Among them is the entire contingent from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

But the victims appear to be more numerous than the United Nations has reported so far. In a corner of the capital city known as Castors, near the U.N. headquarters in the country, The Washington Post interviewed seven women and girls who described contact with peacekeepers that violated U.N. regulations against sexual exploitation and abuse. Five of them said they exchanged sex for food or money — sometimes as little as $4 — while their country was rocked by civil war and families were going hungry. Only two had reported their cases to the United Nations.

Five of the seven interviewed by The Post said they had borne the children of their abusers. The 14-year-old mother said she was assaulted by a Burundian soldier, but the United Nations recorded her case not as rape but as “transactional” sex, in which acts are exchanged for money or food.

“Sometimes when I’m alone with my baby, I think about killing him,” the teen said, holding the little boy. “He reminds me of the man who raped me.”

■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■

There has been only one criminal charge filed in the 42 cases of sexual abuse or exploitation that have been officially registered in the Central African Republic, according to U.N. officials.

The accounts by the women and girls could not be independently verified. But their stories are consistent with other accounts of abuse in the Central African Republic collected by independent groups and the United Nations.

The Washington Post does not identify minors who are alleged victims of sexual abuse or exploitation.

The U.N. system responsible for handling and prosecuting such cases has been widely criticized as dysfunctional, even after scandals involving peacekeepers in other parts of the world. Only one criminal charge has been filed in relation to any of the 42 cases of sexual abuse or exploitation that have been officially registered in the Central African Republic, according to U.N. officials.

U.N. officials did file a report on the 14-year-old mother’s case, and a U.N. spokeswoman, Ismini Palla, said the organization was “monitoring the case of the girl closely.” But nine months after the girl reported the alleged rape, investigators have not reported any results. U.N. officials had no comment on why they had classified the case as exploitation rather than assault.

The sexual abuse scandal is the latest horrific development in a war already marked by extreme brutality. The conflict began in late 2013 when mostly Muslim rebels overthrew the government in this Christian-majority country, setting off a cycle of revenge killings that in Bangui fell largely along religious lines. About 6,000 people have been killed. The U.N. mission, a 12,000-member organization which includes troops from 46 countries and is known as MINUSCA, was established to provide security and protect civilians.

In recent months, numerous allegations have emerged of peacekeeper abuse of vulnerable residents. Human Rights Watch issued a report this month documenting the cases of eight women and girls allegedly raped or sexually exploited by U.N. peacekeepers in late 2015 in the central city of Bambari. Amnesty International said last August that it had obtained evidence of a U.N. peacekeeper’s rape of a 12-year-old girl in the capital.

U.N. officials recognize that they are grappling with a serious breakdown in their peacekeeping forces. This month, they said they were investigating the cases of four girls who were allegedly exploited or abused at a camp for internally displaced persons in central Ouaka prefecture. In January, they said that at least four peacekeepers had allegedly paid girls as little as 50 cents for sex at a camp in Bangui. Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, the newly appointed head of the U.N. mission, said he fears that the cases discovered so far may be the “tip of the iceberg.”

“We’re going to be flooded by paternity claims,” he said in an interview.

“There was no way to get food or money at the time
and they promised to help us if we slept with them.”

Rosine Mengue, 18, who said she received the equivalent of $4 in each of two encounters with a peacekeeper. She was 16 at the time.

Mission was quickly tainted

It is not the first deployment in which U.N. forces have been accused of sexual abuse. In Bosnia in the 1990s, peacekeepers were accused of soliciting sex from women who had been trafficked and virtually enslaved in local brothels. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the early 2000s, more than 150 allegations of abuse and exploitation were registered against peacekeepers, and U.N. investigators found that many of the alleged victims were orphans. U.N. missions in Kosovo, Haiti, Liberia and other places also have been tarnished by such allegations.

The United Nations has conducted internal investigations and revamped training programs. But the complaints continue to roll in.

Perhaps no mission in recent U.N. history has been as quickly tainted by abuse allegations as the one in the Central African Republic,  which is expected to cost $814 million this year. The first cluster of sexual abuse cases appeared within months of the mission’s September 2014 launch.

Even before the U.N. mission officially began, French troops were accused of sexually abusing a number of local children. In a report issued last year, a United Nations-appointed review panel sharply criticized U.N. officials in the Central African Republic as failing to take action or report the cases after uncovering them.

“The welfare of the victims and the accountability of the perpetrators appeared to be an afterthought, if considered at all,” the report said.

U.N. bases in the Central African Republic are now plastered with posters that list the rules that troops are already supposed to know.

“Sex with anyone under the age of 18 is prohibited.”

“Exchanging money, goods or employment for sex is prohibited.”

“Zero tolerance for sexual exploitation.”

But the Castors neighborhood is a shocking illustration of how brazen the peacekeepers became. Residents say that troops skulked around the neighborhood looking for girls during the day and sneaked out at night to meet them in rented rooms or abandoned houses, or to take them into the barracks. Moroccan troops broke holes in the perimeter wall of their bases, witnesses said, so that they could leave undetected.

“There are so many girls here who slept with [peacekeepers],” said Thierry Karpandgei, a resident. “You can see their babies all over here.”

Most of the alleged cases of abuse and exploitation occurred at the peak of the conflict, in 2014 and 2015, when the fighting pushed residents to the edge of survival.

[Despite harsh conditions, life continues inside the Central African Republic’s camp for the displaced]

“There was no way to get food or money at the time, and they promised to help us if we slept with them,” said Rosine Mengue, who explained that she received the equivalent of $4 in each of two encounters with a peacekeeper. She was 16 at the time. She spent the money on cassava leaves, which fed her family for two days. Mengue, who is now 18, told The Washington Post it could use her full name.

Like the rest of the women, Mengue never heard from the man after she became pregnant, she said. He went back to Morocco. She dropped out of school and is raising her son in her family’s home, surrounded by charred palm trees and the ruins of half-destroyed buildings.

“We don’t have enough food for everyone,” her mother said.

U.N. officials have said that peacekeeping contingents from around 10 countries have been implicated in the sex-abuse scandal.

Most of the women interviewed by The Post said they did not report their cases to the United Nations because they felt ashamed and did not think the organization would be able to help them. One of the women did approach the United Nations seeking financial assistance for her baby after his father returned to the Congo Republic. But U.N. officials say she did not specify that she had received money from the peacekeeper — as she later told The Post — so the case was not recorded as involving exploitation. Such an act would have violated U.N. rules for peacekeepers on sexual relationships.

A sense of impunity

Castors is along the road from the sprawling U.N. headquarters, where Onanga-Anyanga, 55, a veteran U.N. official from Gabon, is scrambling to solve the problem. In an interview this month, he sat in front of a sheet of paper that said in bold print: “Talking points — Sexual Exploitation and Abuse.” When he looked up, he spoke angrily.

“We inherited troops that we cannot call troops. I realized that what was sent here was trash,” he said.

There are a range of explanations for the rampant abuse, including the poor training and discipline of many battalions, which are dispatched here for years-long rotations, said U.N. officials and analysts. Some troops were sent in 2013 as part of an African Union operation and then were “re-hatted” as U.N. peacekeepers with little or no additional instruction.

■  ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■  ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■

In the early 2000s, the United Nations launched an investigation into allegations of more than 150 instances of sexual exploitation and abuse in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“We can’t just put a blue helmet on them and assume their mind-set will change overnight,” Onanga-Anyanga said.

U.N. officials here have tried to encourage the reporting of sexual abuse by setting up a hotline for victims and buying radio ads in which they are encouraged to come forward. Victims of abuse whose cases are documented are eligible for medical and psychological help and possibly other assistance. But many women are still unaware of how to register complaints.

Even as the United Nations has tried to improve training on sexual abuse, there have been mistakes. Many of the new lessons, for example, are taught only in English and French, and some troops lack fluency in either language, said one U.N. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the issue.

Perhaps most problematic is that the United Nations leaves the adjudication of sexual abuse allegations to the troops’ countries of origin. But those nations’ investigations are often weak, U.N. officials said. That has contributed to a sense of impunity, according to U.N. officials and outside experts.

For peacekeepers in the Central African Republic, “the message is clear: You can rape or abuse women and girls, and you can get away with it,” said Lewis Mudge, an Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Until troop-contributing countries bring peacekeepers accused of these crimes to justice, we can expect more of these cases in the future.”

“We inherited troops that we cannot call troops.
I realized that what was sent here was trash.”

Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, a veteran U.N. official from Gabon stationed in Bangui

‘You just feel used’

The 14-year-old mother still watches the troops drive near her faded-yellow home, where broken beer bottles are glued on top of the outside wall to keep trespassers out. She and other residents said they first saw the peacekeepers as a sign of security, proof that the world hadn’t forgotten about them.

But when the soldiers began arriving in 2014, there was still a massive food shortage. Some peacekeepers recognized their leverage over a city of starving women and girls.

Two teenage girls recalled approaching a base of Moroccan peacekeepers to beg for food. Neither had ever had sex, they said in a recent interview, but they agreed to sleep with the soldiers after the men suggested they would give the girls water, food and money. The older girl, then 16, said she met one man in a vacant house. The younger girl, then 15, said she met another soldier next to a base. Both girls said they regretted what they had done almost immediately.

“You just feel used,” said the younger girl.

The 14-year-old said that when she went to a U.N. base last year to ask for food, a Burundian soldier gently beckoned to her from his barracks, calling, “Come here.”

Then, she said, he pulled her into a room full of empty beds. He ripped off her clothes.

The teenager and her aunt said that three months later, they told two U.N. employees what had happened. The pregnant girl was then taken to a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders, the medical group said. But aid workers who followed the girl’s case over the next few weeks said they were dismayed at how little help she received from the United Nations.

“There was absolutely no immediate or concrete measure of assistance available to this girl,” said Ondine Ripka, an international legal adviser with Doctors Without Borders.

A UNICEF spokesman, John Budd, said the organization does not comment on aid provided to individuals. The 14-year-old mother said she had not received any psychological counseling or financial assistance.

In a 2005 internal report recognizing the problem of “peacekeeper babies,” U.N. officials wrote that “there is a need to try to ensure that fathers, who can be identified, perhaps through blood or DNA testing, bear some financial responsibility for their actions.”

But it is often difficult to identify offenders who have returned to their home countries, U.N. officials say. Even if victims know the names of their abusers, armies in many nations have proved uncooperative in pursuing DNA tests, U.N. officials say.

The teenage mother’s case was referred to the Burundian military, which appointed an investigator, according to U.N. officials, but no results have so far been reported. That country has been consumed in civil strife in recent months, and experts said it was unlikely the military would follow through on an investigation.

That leaves girls like the 14-year-oldto raise their babies on almost nothing, as the war rages on. Earlier this month, she sat outside her home, five rooms where more than 20 relatives sleep. Nearby, a man sold liquor from a plastic table. A white U.N. surveillance blimp flew overhead. Two hundred yards away, a group of Burundian troops was on patrol.

The teenager handed her baby to her mother, who looked at the ground. She fears that her daughter has been ruined by the abuse.

“If someone destroys what you love, what do you do?” the mother said.

Click HERE for original article.

UN Abuses of Power Will Have Serious Consequences

February 26, 2016 - 17:43

Aid to impoverished countries can often have unintended consequences. The “unintended consequences of UN peacekeepers’ presence in Haiti, however, have become symbols of the lack of accountability for injustices committed by UN personnel. Victims of a cholera epidemic brought to Haiti by the UN have been fighting five years for compensation, water and sanitation infrastructure, and an official apology from the UN. Meanwhile, sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel has gone vastly under-reported and silenced. How the UN deals with these issues will have serious consequences for its image and authority going forward.

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

Taking the ‘Unintended Consequences’ of Peacekeeping Seriously – How Haiti Has the Potential to Revolutionize World Politics, Again

Nicolas Lemay-Hebert, MUNPlanet

February 26, 2016

Haiti has long been described a perennial ‘failed state,’ a ‘basket case’ of the Western Hemisphere, where all good development initiatives ‘go to die.’ Obviously, this semantic severely underplays the international factors in the Haitian failed statebuilding process; but this is to a certain extent beyond the point here. Most commentators tend to forget – or are not interested to know – that Haiti was the first black republic to gain independence through a bloody uprising against the French plantation owners. The Haitian Revolution started in August 1791 – that is right in the middle of the upheavals of the French Revolution that started two years before in 1789 and seven years after the Treaty of Paris that ended the American Revolutionary War. The Haitian Revolution would play a crucial role in future emancipation movements in the Americas and beyond, proving that it was possible to stand against slavery and European colonial powers. The repercussions for this crime of lèse-majesté would be terrible: Haiti had to ‘buy’its independence from France in 1804, a debt that is equivalent to 17 billion Euros in today’s money, and which Haiti finally managed to finish paying in the 1950s.

Now, Haiti is once again in a position to transform and shape world politics. However, this time, it is not through voluntary leadership of a leader like Toussaint L’Ouverture, or through the collective exasperation vis-à-vis the exceptionally brutal slave regime in Haiti. This time, it is through the unfortunate consequences of the intrusion of cholera in Haiti by UN Peacekeepers in 2010. The epidemic that started in Mirebalais in the Artibonite region has had terrible repercussions for Haitians: killing more than 9,000 people and sickening over 745,000 since, making it the ‘Haitian 9-11’ (to use an analogy that speaks to most Westerners). It is also widely recognised that the origin of the outbreak lies in the Nepalese camp in Mirebalais. The camp had inadequate toilet or sanitation facilities, and raw faecal waste flowed from that camp into a nearby tributary (Meille River) that feeds into the Artibonite River. The strain of cholera identified in Haiti is a rare one typically found in the same area of Nepal from which a contingent of UN peacekeeping troops had recently been deployed. This ‘unintended consequence’ of the external presence in Haiti puts to the forefront the various issues of individual and collective accountability for all undesirable impacts of peacekeeping, including sexual abuse and exploitation, and of course, mortality resulting from an illness that was not endemic to the country for over a century. This crisis has the potential to drastically reshape peacekeeping practices, shifting the emphasis from the mandate of peacekeeping missions and what is achievable (see: Brahimi Report), to the evaluation of all consequences of peacekeeping practices, positive as well as negative ones. That is, if the UN is ready to engage seriously with this agenda, moving beyond mere rhetoric about “minimizing the impact on the local and regional environment by the deployment of a peace operation” (UN 2015, 78) to seriously tackle the consequences of existing peacekeeping practices.

 

Click HERE for the full text.

Over 200 Individuals and Organizations Demand State Department Action on DR Crisis

February 26, 2016 - 14:30
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 26, 2016
Contact:  France Francois, france@rights4allindr.com, (305)502-3373
Carl Lipscombe, carl@blackalliance.org, (718)715-8610

Media AdvisoryOver 200 Members of the Dominican and Haitian Diaspora, Community Organizations, & Law Professors Denounce State Department’s Inaction on Human Rights Abuses in the Dominican Republic

Concerned individuals and organizations send letter to Secretary of State John Kerry asking him to prioritize the hundreds of thousands rendered stateless in the Dominican Republic

Washington D.C – Across the Dominican Republic, over 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent are languishing in limbo following an inhumane ruling retroactively stripping them of citizenship, and the violence and intimidation that has followed. Now, hundreds of thousands have fled and many of them reside in squalid refugee camps along the Haitian border.

To coincide with Dominican Independence Day on February 27ththe Black Alliance for Just Immigration and #Rights4ALLinDR coalition sent a letter to Secretary Kerry signed by over 200 members of the Dominican and Haitian diaspora, legal scholars from universities across the United States, and community organizations at the forefront of social progress denouncing the Department of State’s inaction on the human rights crisis in the Dominican Republic.

The signatories stress that, in the time of the global Black Lives Matter movement, the State Department’s concern for human rights can not solely extend to the plight of certain segments of Dominican society while callously dismissing the pernicious impacts of institutionalized racism and political scapegoating  faced by people of Afro-descent there. Given the lack of noticeable progress on the issue at the  State Department and in Congress even as  the human rights situation becomes more dire, the signatories ask for a meeting with Secretary Kerry directly  to discuss policy changes  that address these issues in the Dominican Republic.

Copies of the letter in English and Spanish are available here.

 

Interviews available – Members of the media interested in interviews may contact:

France Francois, the co-coordinator of #Rights4ALLinDR, a coalition of organizations advocating for the restoration of citizenship and real due process in the Dominican Republic; or

Carl Lipscombe, Policy & Legal Manager, Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI).

###

Cholera Appeals Hearing Set for March 1

February 26, 2016 - 10:43

In a last-minute decision, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has granted oral argument for Tuesday, March 1 in Georges v. United Nations, 15-455-cv, the ongoing case against the United Nations (UN), the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and former head of MINUSTAH Edmond Mulet, for recklessly introducing cholera to Haiti in 2010. Victims of the resulting epidemic filed the case in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in October 2013. In January 2015, a district judge dismissed the case, and the cholera victims appealed. The panel of judges presiding over Tuesday’s Second Circuit hearing are Judges Jose Cabranes, Barrington Parker and Gerard Lynch. The Panel is set to review the District Court’s decision to grant the UN immunity from jurisdiction in this case, which has effectively denied the cholera claimants a remedy in US courts. The hearing is open to media and the public.

What: Second Circuit appeals hearing in Georges v. United Nations.

When: Tuesday, March 1, 2016 at 2pm

Where: Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse

17th Floor, Room 1703

40 Foley Square

New York, New York 10007

Attorneys for the Plaintiffs, as well as amici curiae who filed support briefs during the appeal, will be available for interviews immediately following the hearing. Interviews will be available in English, French, and Haitian Creole.

Here’s the full PRESS ADVISORY.

Background Information

The hearing follows several months of briefing on whether the Defendants have immunity from suit and service of process. Plaintiffs served summons on the Defendants in early 2014, but the Defendants have not responded or appeared in the lawsuit.

-In March 2014, the U.S. Government filed a Statement of Interest asserting that the case should be dismissed because the Defendants have immunity from service and suit in domestic courts.

-Plaintiffs responded with an opposition brief. Plaintiffs argue that the UN does not enjoy immunity in this case because its failure to establish an alternative process for adjudicating victims’ claims violates its treaty obligations and denies victims their fundamental right to a remedy.

-25 prominent international law and human rights experts—several with current or former affiliations at the UN—signed amicus briefs in support of the Plaintiffs’ position.

-The District Court’s hearing on October 23, 2014 was the first court proceeding in the case. After that judge dismissed the case, plaintiffs filed an appeal to the Second Circuit.

-In support of the appeal, a multitude of leading scholars, human rights experts, Haitian-American leaders and former United Nations officials throughout the world submitted six amicus briefs opposing the UN’s attempt to expand its immunity in U.S. Courts.

-Recently, a letter from four UN human rights experts rejecting the UN’s legal defenses was made public. The letter stresses that the UN’s response to the case has resulted in the victims being unable to access justice.

All other court briefings, including the initial complaint, are available here. In the last five years, over 9,000 people have died and more than 753,000 have been infected by cholera.

Privert appoints new Prime Minister: Fritz Jean

February 26, 2016 - 10:32

On February 26th, Fritz Jean was introduced as the new Prime Minister by interim President Jocelerme Privert. Fritz Jean was the chair of the Haitian Central Bank from 1999 to 2002. In the past, he has been affiliated to the Lavalas Party. Former prime minister Evans Paul boycotted the ceremony in an effort to express his disapproval of Privert’s use of executive power to appoint what he perceived as an ally.

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

U.S.-educated economist is new interim Haiti prime minister

Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald

February 26, 2016

Fritz Alphonse Jean, a U.S.-educated economist who once headed Haiti’s central bank, was installed Friday as the country’s new prime minister to help lead a caretaker government and complete suspended elections that have left Haiti without an elected president or full parliament.

In his acceptance speech, Jean acknowledged that his task is huge: He must not only create the conditions necessary for Haiti to hold free, fair, and transparent presidential and partial legislative elections by April 24, but simultaneously re-establish macro-economic stability.

“I am aware of the task … that you have entrusted to me to win the trust of all stakeholders in this crisis,” Jean said.

…Click HERE for the original article.

PRESS ADVISORY: Appeals Hearing Set For UN Cholera Case

February 26, 2016 - 09:11

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Press Contact:

Kermshlise Picard, Communications Coordinator, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, media@ijdh.org, +1-617-652-0876

PRESS ADVISORY: Appeals Hearing Set For UN Cholera Case

Second Circuit to hear oral arguments on UN claim to absolute immunity from justice

(New York, February 26, 2016)— In a last-minute decision, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has granted oral argument for Tuesday, March 1 in Georges v. United Nations, 15-455-cv, the ongoing case against the United Nations (UN), the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and former head of MINUSTAH Edmond Mulet, for recklessly introducing cholera to Haiti in 2010. Victims of the resulting epidemic filed the case in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in October 2013. In January 2015, a district judge dismissed the case, and the cholera victims appealed. The panel of judges presiding over Tuesday’s Second Circuit hearing are Judges Jose Cabranes, Barrington Parker and Gerard Lynch. The Panel is set to review the District Court’s decision to grant the UN immunity from jurisdiction in this case, which has effectively denied the cholera claimants a remedy in US courts. The hearing is open to media and the public.

What: Second Circuit appeals hearing in Georges v. United Nations.

When: Tuesday, March 1, 2016 at 2pm

Where: Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse

17th Floor, Room 1703

40 Foley Square

New York, New York 10007

Attorneys for the Plaintiffs, as well as amici curiae who filed support briefs during the appeal, will be available for interviews immediately following the hearing. Interviews will be available in English, French, Haitian Creole, and Spanish.

Background:

The hearing follows several months of briefing on whether the Defendants have immunity from suit and service of process. Plaintiffs served summons on the Defendants in early 2014, but the Defendants have not responded or appeared in the lawsuit. In March 2014, the U.S. Government filed a Statement of Interest asserting that the case should be dismissed because the Defendants have immunity from service and suit in domestic courts. Plaintiffs responded with an opposition brief, and 25 prominent international law and human rights experts—several with current or former affiliations at the UN—signed amicus briefs in support of the Plaintiffs’ position. Plaintiffs argue that the UN does not enjoy immunity in this case because its failure to establish an alternative process for adjudicating victims’ claims violates its treaty obligations and denies victims their fundamental right to a remedy.

The District Court’s hearing on October 23, 2014 was the first court proceeding in the case. After that judge dismissed the case, plaintiffs filed an appeal to the Second Circuit. In support of the appeal, a multitude of leading scholars, human rights experts, Haitian-American leaders and former United Nations officials throughout the world submitted six amicus briefs opposing the UN’s attempt to expand its immunity in U.S. Courts. Recently, a letter from four UN human rights experts rejecting the UN’s legal defenses was made public. Tuesday’s hearing will be the second opportunity to present the case in court.

All prior court briefings, including the initial complaint, are available here. In the last five years, over 9,000 people have died and more than 753,000 have been infected by cholera.

 

###