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Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti
Updated: 7 min 39 sec ago
Join our live conference call on the new BAI/IJDH book, How Human Rights Can Build Haiti: Activists, Lawyers, and the Grassroots Campaign.
The new book about BAI and IJDH, How Human Rights Can Build Haiti: Activists, Lawyers, and the Grassroots Campaign comes out this month! To introduce it, we’ve invited the author and the two human rights attorneys he profiles to tell you all about it. Fran Quigley, BAI Managing Attorney Mario Joseph (expected), and IJDH Director Brian Concannon will give a brief intro to the book, BAI and IJDH’s unique partnership, and how you can help. Afterwards, we look forward to answering your questions!
To join, dial (712) 432-1212 and enter the meeting ID, 416-399-999. Some countries have free conference numbers available, HERE. Just make sure to use the meeting ID to get on our call. Long-distance charges may apply for international callers not listed but a calling card will work as ours is a US phone number.
Thursday, July 24, 2014 @ 2-3pm
Click HERE for more info about the book.
Analyzing Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe’s recent public activity, many think that he is making plays for the presidency. Without Senate certification that he hasn’t misused government funds, Lamothe can’t run for President but with elections still delayed, Lamothe has a chance: If elections don’t happen by January 2015, President Martelly will rule by decree and thus, have the final say regarding Lamothe. Follow this link to find out why elections have been so long delayed.Borrowing from Hillary Clinton, Haiti Prime Minister raises profile As an ongoing political stalemate in Haiti fuels an electoral crisis, many are focusing attention on Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamonthe’s constant campaign-style stops.
Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald
July 24, 2014
PORT-AU-PRINCE – For a man who says he’s not a presidential candidate, Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe is campaigning like one.
From visiting a remote central Haiti village with United Nations head Ban Ki-moon to stumping at a Haitian diaspora town hall in North Miami, Lamothe last week was everywhere a candidate needs to be — although the start of the 2015 Haitian presidential race is more than a year away.
“That is how prime ministers run,” said Robert Fatton, a University of Virginia politics professor and Haiti expert. “That is not a Haitian thing. This is politics.”
Lamothe, 41, the tech savvy businessman-turned-politician, insists that he’s not a candidate.
“This is part of my job; what I am doing as prime minister, it is to govern; it is to manage,” Lamothe said before joining more than a dozen flown-in members of his cabinet in front an overflow crowd for his televised town hall in North Miami. “I am prime minister today, and I am focusing on that.”
But Lamothe’s schedule reflects a Hillary Clinton-like method of raising a future candidate’s profile without officially announcing for office. And that is prompting concern and panic in Haiti where observers say the presidential posturing is intensifying a crisis prompted by legislative and local elections that are three years behind schedule.
In order to run, Lamothe would need certification that he has not misused government funds. But the opposition-controlled Senate is unlikely to support giving him the décharge, leaving opponents and some supporters of President Michel Martelly to see delaying the Oct. 26 elections until next year as key. Martelly will rule by decree, practically guaranteeing that Lamothe will get the needed clearance. Opponents believe the delay would lead to Martelly’s downfall.
If the elections are not held, Haiti risks being thrust into chaos a decade after a U.N. Peacekeeping mission arrived to strengthen democracy, observers warn.
“I am particularly concerned that the political transition in Haiti will undergo regression,” Ban, the U.N. secretary general, warned last week at the end of an overnight visit. “Holding inclusive elections in October is essential for the continuity of parliament in 2015, and for the consolidation of democracy and the rule of law.”
With President Michel Martelly and the opposition still at logger heads over the delayed elections, analysts say the future doesn’t look bright for Haiti. Increasingly, October elections look impossible. And while a first-round in December remains do-able, there is growing fear the elections won’t take place until next fall alongside the presidential balloting.
That would leave Haiti with no lower chamber and just 10 out of 30 senators come the second Monday in January.
“That would be catastrophic for the country even if there are sectors who think it would work in their favor; a devastating political tsunami,” said Sauveur Pierre Etienne, national coordinator for the opposition Organization of People in Struggle (OPL), which has ended its boycott of the elections. “It feels as if the focus is no longer on the delayed local and legislative elections, but on the presidential elections.”
Fueling the political friction, say analysts, is Lamothe’s constant campaign-style stops that are generating suspicion and intrigue even among foreign diplomats about his presidential ambitions. One former prime minister, Jacques-Édouard Alexis, has even publicly called for “a common front” to stop Lamothe’s rise to the presidency, prompting push-back from Lamothe’s supporters.
“The prime minister is in an electoral campaign,” Etienne said, “and the political parties are panicking, other candidates are panicking.”
The major hurdle that elections supporters face is the lack of a law governing the election. Six senators have refused to support an amended law, saying they lack confidence in the nine-member provisional electoral council (CEP) that will have to oversee the balloting. Also, four of the largest opposition parties are boycotting the elections, saying they also have no confidence in the CEP.
“We changed the CEP four times in order to organize this election; we went 28 steps already,” Lamothe said. “Unfortunately, not all the cards are with us.”
“Everybody knows we will not have elections this year,” opposition Senator Steven Benoit said, accusing Martelly and Lamothe of “pretending they want to have elections but of course they know very well, they are not going to have it.” Benoit is not among the senators refusing to amend the election law.
For his part, Martelly has yet to officially anoint his successor.
Still, the singer-turned-president who overshadowed Lamothe at the North Miami meeting by singing and swinging his waist on stage, has made several veiled references that lead watchers to believe Lamothe will get his blessing — although nothing is guaranteed.
“The way Martelly was talking, he clearly said at one point, ‘I will put my hand on the anointed candidate,’” Fatton said about the North Miami gathering. “Clearly that was an indication that he’s going to put his hand on Lamothe.”
Fatton believes reports of conflict between the two friends have been grossly exaggerated.
“I think there is an agreement there. He is the logical candidate,” Fatton said of Lamothe. “The guy has a wonderful PR machine. You go to all of the social media, he’s there. He’s all over the country traveling, inaugurating things without saying he’s running and obviously, without also saying anything bad about Martelly, and pushing Martelly as ‘The Man,’ and then he’s just in the background.”
Lamothe’s schedule provides a textbook case in running for president:
Monday: Lamothe shook hands and distributed free government food to the poor as he hosted Ban amid a gaggle of TV cameras.
Tuesday: Lamothe played table tennis with Ban and other diplomats as he helped to inaugurate an Olympics-financed sports complex.
Friday: In Miami, he glad-handed with Haitian Americans, pitched post-earthquake progress and attended a reception in his honor, where he took no questions.
Saturday: Lamothe was center stage at a televised town hall in North Miami.
Sunday: He threw out the first pitch at a Miami Marlins game, much like any major U.S. candidate for office or cultural figure.
“There is no one else in the cabinet who is a serious candidate. If he says he’s a candidate now, they can attack him more. It’s very much like Hillary,” Fatton said. “He’s looking at the scenery; he’s using the position of prime minister to be prime minister but obviously also to be a candidate.”
Click HERE for the original article.
Click HERE to learn more about elections in Haiti.
July 22, 2014
UN Independent Expert on human rights in Haiti, Gustavo Gallón, recently made strong statements on cholera, renewing his request for a commission for reparations for cholera victims to hear damages, identify those responsible, and stop the epidemic. He also talked about abolishing illiteracy, pre-trial detention, elections, impunity in the justice system (including Duvalier), and the need for durable housing for Internally Displaced Persons. The statement is in French but here’s a translation of the part about cholera (bottom of page 4):
As for cholera, the independent expert noted that the Secretary General of the United Nations visited the country and traveled on 14 July to the Central Plateau, where cholera first appeared. He launched a sanitation campaign there. I hope that this visit will contribute to the implementation of the recommendation I made in my report of March 2014 on the necessity of creating a reparations commission for the victims of cholera, in order to allow the evaluation of damages, corresponding compensation or indemnification, the identification of those responsible, the stopping of the epidemic and other measures. As Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti, I take this opportunity to reiterate this recommendation.
Click HERE to read the statement.
The United Nations has revealed that it appointed a Task Force to address the recommendations of the 2011 Independent Panel of Scientific Experts who originally looked into the cholera epidemic. That original panel established that the UN likely caused the epidemic and made 7 recommendations on how to stop it. Most of those recommendations have not been completed, despite the appointment of this new Task Force. Cholera advocates are now wondering what exactly the purpose of the Task Force is, and why the recommendations are being ignored.Secretary General in Haiti for Cholera “Photo-op” as Transparency Questions Continue to Dog the UN
Center for Economic and Policy Research
July 23, 2014
Last week, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon travelled to Haiti to raise awareness of the ongoing cholera epidemic that scientific studies have continually shown the U.N. troops in Haiti to be responsible for introducing. In an interview before his trip, Ban told Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald that the U.N. and international community had a “moral responsibility” to help Haiti eradicate the disease, already the world’s worst cholera epidemic having killed over 8,500 and sickened more than 700,000. Also last week, the U.N. quietly posted a document online (PDF) which provides information on its follow up to the Independent Panel of Expert’s recommendations, made in May 2011. The U.N. convened the panel in the aftermath of cholera’s introduction to study how it was introduced, how it can be stopped and efforts to prevent future epidemics.
In Haiti, during remarks at a church service in Las Palmas, the Secretary General told those present that, “I know that the epidemic has caused much anger and fear. I know that the disease continues to affect an unacceptable number of people.” Ban later ensured the Haitian people that, “You can count on me and the United Nations to do our part.”
But the visit by the Secretary General also put the spotlight on the U.N.’s own efforts to evade responsibility for cholera’s introduction, the subject of multiple lawsuits. “It is an insult to all Haitians for the Secretary-General to come to Haiti for a photo-op when he refuses to take responsibility for the thousands of Haitians killed and the hundreds of thousands sickened by the UN cholera epidemic,” said Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) and one of the leading lawyers working to hold the U.N. accountable for cholera’s introduction to Haiti.
In December 2012, Ban pledged to “use every opportunity” to raise funds for an ambitious $2.2 billion ten-year cholera eradication plan. Yet over a year-and-a-half later, the plan remains woefully underfunded. According to the U.N. Office of the Secretary General’s Coordinator for Cholera Response in Haiti, at the current rate of disbursement, it “would take more than 40 years to fund the water, sanitation and hygiene” sectors of the elimination plan. Even the $485 million needed for the critical first two years of the plan, now nearing its end, is only 40 percent funded.
As part of the Secretary General’s trip, Ban launched a “Total Sanitation Campaign.” While it was presented as another new effort, according to the Office of the Secretary General’s Coordinator for Cholera Response in Haiti, it “is part of the sanitation component of the overall elimination plan.” Further, the U.N. itself has committed just 1 percent of the funds needed for the eradication plan. Meanwhile, since the earthquake, the U.N. troops that introduced cholera have cost the international community well over the $2.2 billion needed to fully fund the plan.
The Independent Panel’s Recommendations
In October 2010, the U.N. appointed an independent panel of scientific experts to study the introduction of cholera to Haiti. The panel concluded that it occurred as “a result of human activity,” and likely began in a river near a U.N. troop base, but that the “outbreak was caused by the confluence of circumstances” and that no single party should be blamed. Two years later, after additional scientific research was published, the authors followed up with a report that determined the U.N. was the “most likely” source.
As part of the Independent Panel’s original report, the author’s offered seven recommendations for the U.N.: using prophylactic antibiotics or screening U.N. personnel deployed from cholera endemic regions, use of antibiotics or the cholera vaccine when deploying personnel to locations with concurrent epidemics, improving on-site treatment of fecal waste at U.N. installations, taking the lead in improving case management, prioritizing programs to provide piped drinking water and sanitation, investigating the potential of cholera vaccines and increasing the use of advanced microbial techniques to improve surveillance and detection of cholera.
Upon the report’s release in May 2011, Ban announced that he would convene another task force to review the report and “ensure prompt and appropriate follow-up.” The Task Force was made up of senior U.N. officials from various agencies, including personnel from the UN Haiti team. However there has been little information as to what has been implemented in the intervening three-years, at least until a nine-page fact sheet was posted online last week by the U.N.
The U.N. has adopted some of the recommendations, but did not accept others. The U.N. has supported vaccination campaigns as well as increased use of advanced microbial techniques, as per the panel’s recommendations. The U.N. has also changed policies on the treatment of waste water at their bases around the world, noting that “All [U.N.] missions have provided action plans to ensure that all their wastewater facilities meet the minimum required standards set by the Organization’s Environmental Policy,” and that actions include “improvements to and better monitoring of existing facilities, installation of independent wastewater treatment plants, and inspection and closer supervision of contractors involved in wastewater disposal.”
The U.N. cites its work supporting the national elimination plan in response to the recommendations that it invest in water and sanitation infrastructure. But as described above, the lack of financial resources and the U.N.’s own role in the disease’s introduction have prevented a more robust response on this front.
A Second, Secretive Panel of Experts
“Overall, it does seem like progress is being made,” says Dr. Rishi Rattan, Chair of the Advocacy Committee for Physicians for Haiti. In a report he authored last year, Dr. Rattan evaluated the U.N.’s response to the independent panel’s recommendations, concluding that of the seven recommendations “the UN has not implemented three and only partially implemented two others.” The recently released fact sheet provides a glimpse into the rationale behind the lack of implementation and the role of a secretive second task force that was convened after the panel of experts presented its report.
While the formation of the Task Force was announced publicly at the time, little has been revealed about its actions. Though the Task Force was meant to implement the independent panel’s recommendations, in reality it had little contact with the panel members. In their follow up report (PDF) last year, the original panel members wrote that:
The Task Force did submit one request for additional information from the Independent Panel, which was answered. To date, no further contact has been initiated, and no results from the Task Force released.
Despite this, the U.N. decided against following recommendations one and two, which concerned the use of antibiotics, screening and vaccinations of U.N. personnel deployed from cholera endemic regions or into areas with cholera outbreaks. The U.N. cited the work of the Task Force, determining that there is a lack of scientific evidence to support the panel’s recommendations. While the Task Force’s original stated goal was to ensure “appropriate follow up,” the fact sheet provides an alternative explanation, describing the Task Force as being formed to “review the recommendations,” of the Independent Panel.
According to Dr. Rattan, while the U.N. may be “technically correct,” he added that there “is a lack of evidence to support either position.” For Dr. Rattan the bigger issue is the lack of transparency around this Task Force and how it has reached their decisions. Given that the U.N. itself selected the panel members because of their unique expertise on cholera-related issues, any decision in the opposite direction should be well documented.
“When a topic is controversial, complete transparency is ideal and when disagreements arise, each party goes back to the lab, conducts more tests, and presents all data. This is not what is happening here,” says Dr. Rattan. Even if the most likely outcome would be to agree with the U.N. interpretation, “the fact they are not doing it leaves a very bad taste in the mouth,” he adds.
While the fact that the U.N. has, after three years, publicly released a status update is welcome, says Beatrice Lindstrom of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, “it doesn’t provide nearly enough information to explain why their internal experts’ views should trump the findings of the panel of independent experts they appointed in 2011.”
A request for further information on the makeup of the U.N. Task Force, and any documentation of its work was not answered by the U.N. cholera team. Members of the Independent Panel, contacted by e-mail, declined to comment.
Click HERE for the original.
This op-ed proposes a similar approach to disaster preparedness and relief as we did after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The reason the earthquake had such a devastating effect is an unjust system in Haiti: Too many people were living in Port-au-Prince, seeking opportunities to make a better living; buildings that weren’t built according to the codes collapsed on people; those who couldn’t afford to move to a new home faced forced eviction from tent camps; etc. When it was time for reconstruction, Haitians were rarely included in the process, although they know more about Haiti than outsiders do, leading to very little improvement. As Nicholson states, “at-risk groups” need to be treated as “active agents within the disaster risk reduction process.” The only way to change the system is to make sure everyone is included in the decision-making process.Op-Ed: Disasters and Inequality in the Caribbean Region
George Nicholson, Caribbean Journal
July 22, 2014
WE ARE all familiar with the proverb “Give a man a fish, and you will feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
While the origin of the saying is largely unknown, it is generally attributed to Moshe ben Maimon, otherwise known as Maimonides, one of the most prolific scholars of the Middle Ages.
The context in which we examine this statement is in respect to the issue of equality and by extension self determination, as it applies to vulnerability or its obverse, resilience, to the effects of natural hazards within the Latin American and Caribbean region.
Research has shown that disaster related experiences are shaped in important ways by the same issues of stratification and inequality that influence person’s lives during non-disaster periods.
Disasters are recognised as arising from the confluence of disaster agents, vulnerable built environments and vulnerable population. Vulnerability as a concept itself has gone through several different evolutions within formal disaster discourse leading the recognition of its social aspects.
More importantly, with the shift from the purely physical to the social and political realms, it is widely held that vulnerability is in part socially produced, or influenced, reflecting the fact that failures in development processes, lead to increased risk among certain groups. The social causation framework for assessment of impact presents the perspective that repeated and cumulative shocks from events erode attempts made by persons to accumulate resources and become more resilient. Some groups may return to their pre-disaster status, albeit with some difficulty, while some groups may never recover
The multidisciplinary approach towards hazards seeks to explore disaster vulnerability as a function of both the physical place as well as the social conditions that expose some social groups to the potential for greater harm when a disaster strikes and also limit their ability to cope.
Important therefore, is identifying and analysing the factors that help make differing social units more resilient, that is, able to avoid or withstand the impact of a hazard and further rapidly recovering from that which they have experienced.
It is against this backdrop that we seek to examine inequality. Generally speaking, inequality is defined as a situation in which some people have more rights or better opportunities than others.
We go further in making reference to the power relationships within the community that seek to include or exclude certain actors.
We examine here the context of the Latin American and Caribbean experience, which is one of significant income disparity between differing groups, poor social structures with respect to family life and high rural urban migration and its attendant ill effects on the foregoing.
Much has been said about the issues of inequality in the Latin American and Caribbean region. In fact while inequality in income distribution is a pervasive phenomenon across the world, our region has the unenviable title of being the most inequitable. Some statistics are used here to illustrate the point. Roughly one out of every three inhabitants of the region is poor, that is, not having sufficient income to satisfy basic needs, while one in eight, even if they spend all their income earned, are not able to meet their basic nutritional requirements.
Within the context of these disturbing figures, we must recognise that there is also disparity in income level inequality when we look at the sub-regions. Poverty rates in the Central American countries are exceeded only by Haiti; 70% of persons in the region’s two poorest countries, Haiti and Honduras, live in poverty, while in two of the richest, Barbados and Chile, only 12% live in poverty.
Large upper middle income countries like Brazil and Mexico have poverty rates which are slightly below the region’s average, no doubt a factor of their large populations; half of the region’s poor live between these two countries.
While vulnerability has often been associated with poverty, it also stands apart. In recognising that poverty is a dynamic state, more so in the aftermath of a natural hazard, we must also accept the intertwining of vulnerability and poverty in our assessments.
Family structure and Gender
Gender is a significant dimension of vulnerability as it is intrinsically linked to other factors associated with socio-economic well-being. Women are largely marginalised within the region, being more likely than men to be unemployed.
No reference to gender can be made without mentioning the increase in “female-headed” households in the region and by extension its association with poverty.
Matri-focal families, that is, a single parent family consisting of a mother and her children are disproportionately represented in the region. On average, 35% of all households in the Caribbean are headed by women with the proportion of female-headed households being as high as 44% in Barbados and 42% in Antigua and Barbuda.
In these households the number of children depending on the mother averages between three and five.
Startlingly, the proportion of these families is rising as the highest rates of non-marital childbearing occur in Latin America (55–74%). This has an unmistakable impact on issues concerning vulnerability as these types of households comprise the largest percentage within the poorest cohort.
Many of the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have undergone a fast process of urbanization and internal rural to urban migration with very little regulation and a paucity of social services to support the increased population.
Migration of poor households to urban areas has caused the acquisition of housing in areas characterised by non-existent public infrastructure- physical and social, unsafe dwellings and overcrowding.
These factors create fertile ground for a disaster, as the impact of a natural hazard brings disproportionate impacts on these informal settlements.
The unfortunate case within the region is that it is increasingly difficult to regularise unplanned communities, because of the attendant political and power relationships within them and those that support them externally.
The context in which inequality and the vulnerability of marginalised people or communities is apparent suggests that a multipronged approach to disaster risk reduction and poverty reduction is required if we are to reduce the overall impact of an event.
Attention must be given to improving the economic and social wellbeing of communities if we are to reduce sensitivity of poor households to disasters.
Economic development strategy and physical planning, as well as risk management strategies must be sensitive to the needs of the poor living in hazardous areas.
The political change needed in the approach to disaster management requires that improving a person’s ability to respond to and cope with a disaster event must be placed on equal footing with the process to encourage economic development.
In the shift in approach from disaster response to disaster risk reduction, one position should remain foremost, that is, all disasters are local. In recognition of the need for effective management, the failure of the traditional top-down management approach becomes more evident. Historically, this approach has been unsuccessful in addressing the needs of communities considered vulnerable.
It must be recognised that in the face of recurrence of many small events vis-à-vis the large national tragedy, communities are the best judges of their own vulnerabilities and are best able to make decisions regarding their own wellbeing.
This necessarily involves a new strategy, one which directly involves the so-called marginalised people in the planning and implementation of mitigation measures.
Social stratification constitutes the means by which power privilege and access to resources are distributed within societies.
Understanding social inequality and its effects is therefore important to understanding the impact of disaster on societies and by extension the mechanism for the development of community-based resilience. Research on the effects of disasters worldwide shows that communities resent the traditional approach by agents of the government: one which views them as problem areas rather than allies in the attempt to develop resilience and to respond and recover from disasters.
Risk reduction strategies should be focused on reducing economic vulnerability while simultaneously seeking to capitalize the social capacities of marginal communities.
Although vulnerable, we must not make the mistake of ignoring the reality that marginal communities can also be resilient.
The onus then lies on those of us within the disaster risk reduction arena to encourage nations to provide appropriate forms of support that can transform at-risk groups from being potential victims to active agents within the disaster risk reduction process.
Click HERE for the original.
The Haitian government has begun demolishing homes in Port-au-Prince to make way for modern reconstruction of the capital and its government buildings. Some families were only given minutes to vacate their homes before the demolition began and many have lost their belongings in the rubble. Many of these families had only just moved into subsidized housing from their post-quake tents and are now back in tent camps or living with relatives. Haiti needs respect for housing rights in order for reconstruction to truly be successful.Plans to rebuild Haiti capital displace families
David McFadden, My San Antonio
July 21, 2014
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — The broad avenues in the Haitian government’s promotional material are clean and unbroken, dotted with palm trees, parks and manicured expanses of grass. The new ministry buildings are sleek and modern but retain some of the neo-classical architecture of the former structures lost to natural disaster.
This is the grand, dreamlike vision of central Port-au-Prince that President Michel Martelly says will replace what was toppled when a 7.0-magnitude earthquake left much of Haiti’s capital in ruins on Jan. 12, 2010. Sketched plans look more like a wealthy Miami suburb than the gritty downtown of old that housed both state institutions and shabby tenements.
“These plans will take a long time to finish, perhaps another 10 years,” says Harry Adam, executive director of the government agency that is responsible for the construction of public buildings and housing. “But I think it’s realistic. We can do it.”
Demolitions began in June for construction of an “administrative city” covering 30 hectares (75 acres) downtown.
But the plan hailed as a sign of post-quake rebirth by some residents has also set off a firestorm of criticism for creating a new wave of homelessness after many poor renters were given just minutes to vacate their dwellings before bulldozers arrived.
While there are no available figures on the number of people left homeless by the demolitions, the city center has become dotted with new encampments of tarp shacks in recent weeks. Hills of rubble left by bulldozers have grown so large it almost looks like a fresh quake just hit.
Bitter quake survivors, some who only recently were moved by aid groups from squalid tent camps to downtown apartments, are back to living beneath tarps or staying with friends.
One of them is Jean-Louis Wilner, a 32-year-old father of a two-year-old boy. After a couple of years living in a tent camp, he thought he had finally made it. He had a subsidized rental apartment for a year and a small business selling cold drinks. Now Wilner wonders if he’ll make it through the hurricane season. Like others, he claims his possessions were either lost beneath rubble or stolen by thieves when he rushed items out into the street.
“This country doesn’t respect human beings. I’m worse off than after the earthquake. It’s humiliating,” Wilner says.
Opposition politicians say they plan to mobilize the newly displaced families in street protests against Martelly’s government.
“They only give them a warning of a few minutes and then they start bulldozing? I consider that a crime. These families have nowhere to go and are now homeless again,” said Sen. Moise Jean-Charles, a staunch opponent of Martelly.
Government officials say communication about the demolitions could have been better and contend that some building owners who were notified did not tell their tenants of the coming bulldozers.
Public notary Jean-Henry Ceant, who is helping people with their claims, says owners of buildings with proof of their investments are being quickly compensated. But that’s a tall order in Haiti, where the land registry is in shambles and it’s not always clear who owns what.
Renters are also being compensated, but only the few who can prove they lived in their now-demolished homes for about a decade and paid their utility bills, the head of the agency overseeing the project said.
“If you can bring proof with receipts that you paid the electricity, you paid the water — if you bring that and you have them for like 15, 10 years — then we’ll consider that we’re going to pay you,” Adam said in English.
For now, it’s hard to see the promised shiny, orderly city center arising amid the cracked streets, where steel reinforcing bars twist out of the rubble and are a prized commodity for scavengers. The hope is to consolidate all the government ministries on elegant boulevards and revive a business district that was already dying before the quake.
Evidence of the reconstruction is evident in the skeleton frames of a few new ministry buildings. Most of the work has been funded so far through debt relief money and Venezuela’s Petrocaribe fuel program. Authorities declined to provide a total estimate, but the first phase of construction is expected to cost $150 million.
Richard Morse, manager of the storied Hotel Oloffson, which Graham Greene immortalized in his novel “The Comedians,” asserts the government’s vision of a new capital city is dishonest. The hotelier is a first cousin to Martelly and worked as his special envoy to Washington before quitting early last year over what he says is “outright corruption” in the government.
“They’re just trying to pour as much cement as possible in order to get as many kickbacks as possible. They’re not really fixing anything,” Morse said at the three-story gingerbread hotel not far from the razed blocks.
Adam, the government official, insists the ambitious rebuilding program will transform downtown Port-au-Prince if the country has success drumming up the money year after year.
“We have to rebuild better,” he said. “But it will cost a lot.”
For some Port-au-Prince residents, the message of renewal is powerful.
“I would love for my city to have a different image. I want a Port-au-Prince like New York, Miami, Canada,” off-duty policeman Evens Simon said as he gazed up at construction workers on scaffolding.
Click HERE for the original.
This is a great story that sheds light on the incredible work (and life story) of BAI Managing Attorney Mario Joseph and makes clear why there is no way around justice for cholera victims. It not only portrays Mario’s struggle to bring justice Haitians but also contrasts it with the current Tourism Minister’s opposing view that attracting tourists will create a better future for Haiti.A Damned Paradise: Does Haiti Need Tourism? Or Does It Need Justice?
Samiha Shafy, Der Spiegel
July 18, 2014
The attorney stares at a hut next to the grave. It’s made of wood and mud, and is covered with a plastic tarp. “I used to live like that,” Mario Joseph says quietly, more to himself than to the three women crouching behind him in the shade of a tree.
The women are keeping watch over a rectangle of freshly dug up earth, surrounded by loose stones. One of them, Itavia Souffrant, says it is the grave of her mother. Two weeks ago, the mother had diarrhea and was vomiting, but because of heavy rains the family was unable to take her to the doctor. The mother died of cholera, the same fate suffered previously by Souffrant’s three-year-old daughter and by so many others in the vicinity of Mirebalais, north of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince.
The three women at the gravesite have also had cholera, but they survived. They knew that they shouldn’t have been drinking from the river, they say, but it was the only water available. The tablets to disinfect it are unaffordable, and they don’t have enough charcoal to boil it.
Attorney Joseph believes that he has found a way to help them and all other victims of the cholera epidemic in Haiti. About 750,000 people have been infected with the disease and the death toll now stands at 8,500. Officials expect there to be about 45,000 new cases in 2014.
The culprit is the international community. A few months after the earthquake that rocked Haiti on January 12, 2010, United Nations peacekeepers from Nepal emptied their latrines into the Artibonite River, and thus introduced the pathogen to Haiti. Until then, cholera was one of the few plagues that this poor country had been spared.
This explains why the attorney is now standing in front of a mud hut on a humid green hill, from which vapor rises in the heat. He has returned to the world from which he came in the hopes of changing it.
Joseph, 51, is a burly man with a moustache. Wearing a long-sleeved shirt, jeans, a straw hat and sunglasses, he takes large gulps from his Diet Coke. He is asking the women questions in the search for information could help him realize his plan. It is as obvious as it is ludicrous: He wants to take the United Nations to court.
Justice for Haiti’s Victims
It isn’t actually possible to sue the UN; the organization invokes the principle of immunity, which seems cynical in this case. Nevertheless, Joseph, a well-known human rights attorney in Haiti, has filed a class action lawsuit in a federal court in New York, where the UN has its headquarters. “The peacekeepers knew that Haiti is a poor country without a waste water system,” says Joseph. “They should have been extra careful, instead of dumping their fecal matter into the river!”
Joseph wants justice for Haiti’s victims. In addition to his fight against the UN, he wants to see former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier brought to trial in Port-au-Prince. He also represents women who were raped in tent cities in the capital after the earthquake.
Joseph believes that for wounds to heal, they need to be examined and cleaned — so that his wounded country can eventually recuperate. He wants to prevent the world from forgetting Haiti’s suffering.
Joseph’s adversary is sitting in her office in a yellow government building in Port-au-Prince. Stéphanie Villedrouin, Haiti’s tourism minister, doesn’t want the world to constantly hear any more tales of suffering coming from her country. She wants a Haiti that looks to the future and markets itself more effectively.
Four PR consultants are gathered around a table in Villedrouin’s office. They have flown in from France, Great Britain, the United States and the Dominican Republic to hear about Villedrouin’s vision of Haiti as the next vacation paradise in the Caribbean. The minister wants the marketing specialists to campaign for this vision in their respective countries.
“Which language should we speak?” asks the minister, smiling at her guests. She is fluent in English, Spanish, Creole and French. At 32, Villedrouin is the youngest and undoubtedly most attractive minister Haiti has ever had.
On this afternoon, she is wearing a pink silk blouse, black trousers, pumps, a diamond ring and diamond earrings. She has slightly wavy, caramel-colored hair, a smooth face and light skin. In Haiti, skin color is still a sign of social status. The poor are mostly black while the country’s few white citizens usually have money and influence. Villedrouin is from the upper class.
Changing the Image
“The first thing people always tell me is that Haiti is a devastated country,” she says. “We have to change that image.”
The earthquake that struck Port-au-Prince in January, 2010, was the worst in a series of natural disasters that have ravaged vulnerable Haiti, a country torn by regime changes and civil wars. More than 220,000 people died.
Still, something bordering on hope emerged for a short time after the tremor. Might it this time be possible to build a better country out of the ruins? When, if not now — now that Haiti was in the global spotlight and governments and private donors alike were promising billions of dollars for reconstruction? Aid organizations had muddled along in Haiti for decades. This time, though, they pledged to do everything differently — and everything right.
More than four years later, most Haitians have given up hope. The tent camps in Port-au-Prince have all but disappeared, but they have been replaced by new slums on the surrounding hillsides. They look as if the next heavy rain could flush them into oblivion. The government had some of the shacks painted in bright colors so that the view from new hotels in Pétionville wouldn’t be quite so depressing.
And yet, despite everything, does hope still exist in Haiti?
Villedrouin embodies the way she would like to see Haiti: dynamic, modern and elegant. She grew up in Venezuela, where her father served as the Haitian ambassador under the Duvalier regime. When the dictator was ousted in 1986, the family returned home, where it owned restaurants and hotels. Villedrouin attended a tourism school in the Dominican Republic, returned to Haiti and began convincing important people to support her vision. The fact that she became a cabinet minister at 29 is partly due to her connections, but also a result of her talent to fill people with enthusiasm for ideas that sound almost as audacious as Mario Joseph’s plan to take the UN to court.
“We have to start with France,” says Villedrouin. France, she notes, has a large community of Haitian immigrants who could easily be won over as tourists. She also points out that the French have a historic connection to their former colony and might be interested in visiting the country.
The next stops in the marketing campaign are Germany, Great Britain, Spain and Russia.
Villedrouin believes that her plan could help Haiti pull itself out of poverty. Tourist attractions and hotels create jobs. Hotel owners can support Haitian farmers by buying local meat and produce. And the general population also benefits from the roads and airports built primarily for tourists, such as the Hugo Chávez International Airport in Cap Haïtien, modernized with Venezuelan aid. Once the tourists arrive, says Villedrouin, things will begin looking up for Haiti.
From listening to Villedrouin and Joseph, it becomes apparent that although they represent contradictory approaches, they sometimes have the same goal: to save Haiti. Many have failed at the task. Indeed, everyone who has tried has failed, and some have even spent their entire lives in the process. Haiti was once the richest colony in the world. Today, countless tragedies later, it is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.
The current list of the “25 most interesting people in the Caribbean,” published by the magazine Carib Journal, lists names such as Usain Bolt and Rihanna, but it also includes two Haitians: Mario Joseph and Stéphanie Villedrouin. After being made aware of that fact, Joseph is so amused that he almost chokes on his Diet Coke. “The government would be overjoyed if the minister were the only Haitian on that list,” he says.
Joseph walks down the path leading from the shack and the old woman’s grave to the road, where his car is parked. One of the three women, whose name is Lizette Paul, walks behind him so that he can give her a lift. Joseph drives past a gray shell of a building without windowpanes. Inside, small children are sitting on wooden benches, singing at the top of their lungs.
Looking grim under his straw hat, the attorney says that missionaries built the school. Only a 10th of all schools in Haiti are government-run, he explains, while foreign aid workers operate the rest — a shameful state of affairs, Joseph says. Lizette Paul concurs. In fact, she says, she voted for singer Michel Martelly in the presidential election because he had promised free schools for the poor. But now, three years into Martelly’s term, she still cannot send her three children to school.
Paul, 43, first met Joseph in a church. He had come to Mirebalais to speak with victims of the cholera epidemic and tell them about his plan to file a class action suit on their behalf. Paul’s one-and-a-half-year-old daughter died in the epidemic, as did her father and her brother, who had supported her and the children financially.
“At least there is someone like him in the government, someone who does his job,” says Paul, pointing at the attorney. She says that she very much hopes to receive her compensation from the UN soon. Joseph shakes his head. He looks tired. “I’m not part of the government, Lizette, you know that,” he says. “I’m an opponent of the government.” The woman looks at him uncomprehendingly and says nothing.
‘This Is About Emotions’
Joseph’s Haiti, the land of the wounded, is everywhere. One would have to be blind to ignore it. Villedrouin’s promising Haiti also exists, but it isn’t immediately apparent.
The minister has sent her PR advisers on a tour. “This is about emotions — either you love Haiti or you hate it,” she told them as they left. “To find out, you have to see it, sense it, taste it and feel it.”
The four men are now sitting in a white, air-conditioned minibus as it rattles along hellish roads throughout the country. They say nothing as the bus passes piles of debris, mountains of garbage and slums. Finally, they arrive in gated oases of calm: hotels with private beaches that charge between $15 and 20 (€11-15) for their use.
Most Haitians live on less than $1 a day. Most of the people basking in the sun on the hotel beaches are aid workers, UN employees and groups of American missionaries. They are no tourists yet.
Two of the tourism experts, the Frenchman and the Dominican, visit a place that is normally off-limits to anyone arriving by land: the Labadie Peninsula. It lies 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Port-au-Prince, and is hidden behind a tall, black, barbed-wire fence patrolled by security guards.
About two dozen men are loitering outside the fence. They watch silently as a gate into the restricted zone opens for the visitors. Royal Caribbean, the American cruise line, has leased the peninsula and developed it into a sort of high-security playground for cruise-ship passengers. Those who go on land here remain behind the fence, where they can swim, snorkel and go jet-skiing.
The two men are taken along the coast in a boat. Wild, green and untouched mountains rise from the blue waters of the Caribbean. Citadelle Laferrière, a 19th-century fortress on the UNESCO World Heritage list, sits atop a 970-meter (3,180-foot) mountain in the distance.
He sees potential, says the Frenchman. What a gorgeous landscape, and what a pretty little spot of sand, that tiny island back there, he exclaims.
One-Eyed Among the Blind
That’s Amiga Island, says the skipper. Christopher Columbus supposedly landed on that spot of sand in 1492 during his voyage of discovery to the New World, and gave it its name. The Frenchman looks at the captain with amazement.
Tourism? In Haiti? Attorney Joseph shakes his head. “You’d have to sprinkle sand in the tourists’ eyes so that they’d see a different reality,” he says. But his next words are surprising: The minister’s ideas aren’t all that preposterous. Perhaps she can achieve something positive, he says, even if she is part of an incompetent government. “She’s a one-eyed person among the blind.”
On his way back to Port-au-Prince, Joseph travels along dirt roads filled with potholes, past scrawny horses carrying heavy loads and garishly painted vehicles to which too many people are clinging. Joseph drives an air-conditioned SUV with bulletproof windows, which he had installed because of the death threats that come with his work.
The road passes through the village of his childhood. Frail goats wobble around, and there are mud huts, but there are also small concrete houses and a small school. Joseph slows down to look out the window. “My life here wouldn’t be any different that Lizette’s,” he says, “if I hadn’t been lucky enough to go to school.”
Raised by their mother, Joseph and his three siblings grew up in a mud hut. Their father left the family when they were small. His mother took in washing for a living and sometimes sold rice. “The primary school cost nine Gourdes a year, and my mother could hardly scrape together the tuition for us,” he says.
As one of the most gifted pupils, Joseph was permitted to attend secondary school and a group of missionaries paid his tuition. Beginning in the 10th grade, he started working as a teacher, which enabled him to continue going to school, graduate and study law.
“Baby Doc” ruled Haiti at the time. Nineteen-year-old Jean-Claude Duvalier came into power in 1971 after the death of his father and he ruled the country the way he had learned from “Papa Doc” François. Joseph remembers how the Tontons Macoute, Duvalier’s paramilitary force, would beat farmers in his village. His aunt’s husband was arrested one day and then disappeared, he says, and the family never found out what had happened to him.
Indifference and Friendliness
Joseph began campaigning for human rights. In 1996, he joined the Bureau Des Avocats Internationaux in Haiti, which had been founded a year earlier with the support of American attorneys, and Joseph now runs the institute’s office in Port-au-Prince. “I was really excited when Duvalier returned,” he says. “His return could be an opportunity to show the world that abuse of power will no longer remain unpunished in Haiti.”
“Baby Doc” accumulated an estimated $800 million before he was forced to flee in 1986. Some 25 years after his ouster, he returned unexpectedly from French exile, where he had squandered much of his fortune. Since then, he has been seen dining with politically influential friends in the better restaurants of Port-au-Prince.
The political elite received the former dictator with reactions ranging from indifference to friendliness. Joseph, however, announced on the radio that he was searching for witnesses to Duvalier’s crimes. More than 50 people contacted him, he says, and told him about people who had been arrested for no reason, spent years in prison without trial and were tortured.
Since then, Joseph has been spending a lot of time in court. The trial was already suspended once and now it is proceeding very slowly. Still, the dictator was at least summoned once to appear in court, where Joseph and other lawyers were allowed to question him. It was a historic victory, says Joseph, but not enough. “We cannot build a country without principles.”
Joseph has a wife and three children. Ten years ago, they fled to Miami because life had become too dangerous in Haiti and he visits his family once a month. “My wife understands me, sometimes,” Joseph says with a smile.
Stéphanie Villedrouin hasn’t seen her husband and three children very often in recent years, either. She travels around the world, searching for partners to convince of Haiti’s potential as a vacation destination. She has been traveling in the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Dominican Republic in recent days. In the spring, she spent a day at the International Tourism Exchange in Berlin. A travel agency in the southwestern German state of Baden-Württemberg now wants to attempt to “bring Haiti closer” to its customers, as an employee puts it.
When the minister is in Haiti, she frequently attends the openings of new luxury hotels, like the Royal Oasis and the El Rancho. There are plans to build a luxury resort on an island in the south. A Marriott is under construction in Port-au-Prince, signs are being made for the city’s chaotic streets so that tourists can find their way around and a tourist police force of 110 officers patrols the areas around hotels and sights. Villedrouin is developing a strategy document for the next 15 years although she has less than two years remaining before a new government is elected, provided the current administration can remain in power until then.
Villedrouin is sitting in a suite in one of the new hotels in Pétionville, enjoying a quiet moment between appointments. The El Rancho, part of a Spanish chain, has pleasantly bland rooms and a pool, and it’s easy to forget where you are if you don’t leave the premises. Villedrouin says that she hopes to attract private investors. “I always say to them: You guys have to keep investing in tourism in this country.”
And what about her? She smiles. “Well, three years ago I had no idea that I would assume such an important position for my country.” She says that she is grateful for the opportunity to promote her vision. Then she abandons the attempt at modesty, which doesn’t suit her. “In any case, I also want to be in a leadership position in the future. That’s just the way I am,” she says.
Villedrouin seems to be winning her personal battle. But can she change Haiti? She says that she respects Mario Joseph for the fact that he wants to help his country, in his way. “The Carib Journal honored him because he is apparently a capable attorney,” she says. “He is doing something that he believes is helping his sisters and brothers.”
The minister has no budget to build roads and she has no power to make poverty and disease disappear. The question is how far optimism goes in making things happen in Haiti’s reality.
The Perfect Photo
On the tour of Haiti, Villedrouin’s PR advisers visit a former sugar plantation on the Côte des Arcadins that is now a hotel. With them are two French travel writers, guests of the ministry who have been invited to write a promotional article.
A museum in the garden commemorates a bloody colonial history. Haiti is the only country in the world where slaves were able to depose their tormentors and establish their own country. The PR agents learn how brutally the country was victimized, exploited and occupied by foreign powers. To this day, Haiti has never had a chance to become a healthy country.
To lighten the mood, the hotel owner takes the group out to a reef in a speedboat, and they splash around in the water and drink chilled fruit punch. And then, just once during their tour, the two Haitis collide, that of the minister and that of the attorney.
A fisherman in a dilapidated little boat paddles up to the group. He looks like the old man in Hemingway novel: toothless and with leathery skin, calloused hands and cracked fingernails. He says nothing. He merely gazes in astonishment at the scene and waits. The group on the speedboat looks down at the fisherman, equally astonished. The foreigners ask the old man to hand them a fish, and then they take pictures and hand it back to him. It’s the perfect photo, they say.
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
Click HERE for the original.
Nearly four years after UN peacekeepers began a cholera epidemic in Haiti, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited to convey his and his wife’s sympathies. He also re-launched a sanitation initiative, which is suspiciously similar to the previous UN cholera initiative which has gotten very little funding. Haitians protested Ban Ki-moon’s visit, citing the UN’s continued promises and lack of action.FOUR YEARS AFTER CHOLERA OUTBREAK, UN SECRETARY GENERAL VISITS HAITI
Kim Ives, Haiti Liberte
July 16-22, 2014
For the first time since cholera began racing across Haiti in late
2010, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited Haiti on
Jul. 14-15 in an effort to resuscitate a stalled $2.2 billion UN plan
to eliminate the deadly disease from the country over the next decade.
Launched in December 2012, the UN “initiative” was really nothing more
than the repackaging of the “Initiative for the Elimination of Cholera
in the Island of Hispaniola” launched by the Haitian and Dominican
governments in January 2012, as Jonathon Katz and Tom Murphy pointed
out in a scathing “Foreign Policy” article.
“Shifting around aid money — making the same promises over and over
without fulfilling them — is an old game in the development world,”
the authors wrote. “But in this case it’s especially bold.”
Since the UN rebranded the plan, it has been unable in over 18 months
to raise even the $400 million needed to fund the project for its
first two years. Meanwhile, the UN spent some $609 million to deploy
about 7,000 UN soldiers in Haiti during FY 2013/2014 as part of the
thoroughly despised and almost weekly protested decade-old UN Mission
to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH).
It was, in fact, MINUSTAH soldiers from Nepal who imported cholera
into Haiti by allowing sewage from their outhouses to flow into the
headwaters of Haiti’s largest river in October 2010, at least ten
scientific studies, including one commissioned by the UN itself,
However, the UN has refused to accept legal responsibility for causing
what is now the world’s worst cholera epidemic, which has killed over
8,500 and sickened over 704,000 Haitians. Three lawsuits have been
filed in New York courts demanding reparations and an apology from the
UN for its negligence in Haiti. The UN has claimed it has immunity,
and UN officials have been hiding from court officers trying to serve
them with papers, although one server caught up with Ban Ki-moon at
The Asia Society in late June.
In Haiti, Ban Ki-moon and his wife, joined by Prime Minister Laurent
Lamothe, engaged in an extended photo-op to deflect criticism and say
that the UN had a “moral duty” to help stop the spread of cholera in
“This is a necessary pilgrimage for me,” Ban told villagers in a
church in Los Palmas on Haiti’s Central Plateau near where the
epidemic started. “My wife and I have come here to grieve with you. As
a father and grandfather, and as a mother and grandmother, we feel
tremendous anguish at the pain you have had to endure.”
Along with Lamothe, Ban also helped launch the Haitian government’s
“Total Sanitation Campaign,” a five-year plan, already funded with $14
million from Canada and Japan, which aims to improve sanitation for
3.8 million Haitians in 20 cholera-plagued rural communes.
The Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH)
and the Port-au-Prince-based Office of International Lawyers (BAI)
were the first lawyers to bring a lawsuit in the New York courts on
behalf of 5,000 cholera victims in October 2013. The lawsuit came
after the UN claimed immunity after the IJDH/BAI lawyers attempted to
seek redress through the UN’s own grievance system in November 2011.
On Jul. 7, the U.S. Justice Department wrote to the Judge J. Paul
Oetken in the New York case to say that the “United States has
consistently asserted the absolute immunity of the UN to lawsuits
filed against it in U.S. courts” and “urges the Court to dismiss this
The IJDH/BAI lawyers are trying to have the case litigated as a
“Secretary-General Ban’s visit demonstrates why Haiti needs justice,
not charity,” IJDH lawyer Brian Concannon, Jr. told Haïti Liberté.
“His talk of ‘moral duty’ and new programs on this visit just add to
his other empty gestures, such as the 2012 launch of the Cholera Free
Hispaniola Initiative that has not started almost two years later.
Haitians are dying of the UN cholera epidemic, the UN has a legal
responsibility to stop that killing, and has the resources to do so.
It is time for all of us to join with Haitian grassroots activists and
make sure that the UN obeys the law.”
Ban also met with President Michel Martelly as well as the presidents
of Haiti’s House of Deputies and Senate to discuss the political
impasse over Haiti’s unconstitutional electoral council, which
Martelly has sought to unilaterally impose.
On Jul. 15, about 50 protestors gathered outside a stadium being
constructed on Route Neuf outside Cité Soleil, in which Ban, Martelly,
and Lamothe took pictures with International Olympic Committee
president Thomas Bach. The protestors sang chants and held signs which
said: “MINUSTAH = Cholera”, “Ban Ki-Moon Go Home”, and “Down with the
UN Occupation of Haiti.”
“We are outraged that Ban Ki-Moon comes here to hypocritically say he
cares about our plight while at the same time he refuses to take
responsibility for unleashing cholera in Haiti,” said Oxygène David of
the party Dessalines Coordination (KOD), whose militants made up more
than half of the demonstrators at Route Neuf. “We demand that UN
troops to leave Haiti, and Ban is deaf. We ask for cholera
reparations, and Ban is deaf. Through massacres carried out by their
soldiers and the importation of cholera, the UN is responsible for
thousands upon thousands of Haitian deaths. So don’t try to tell us
that you’re the solution to the problems you’ve created.”
After Haiti, Ban Ki-moon travels to the Dominican Republic, where he
will meet with President Danilo Medina.
Cliquez ICI pour la version française.
This piece outlines the responsibility of leaders like the Secretary General of the United Nations, and how Ban Ki-moon is shirking those responsibilities. Haiti’s cholera victims have sought justice for four years and the UN is still failing to protect their human rights. Instead, Ban Ki-moon dodges questions and makes statements of sympathy without effective actions to eliminate cholera from Haiti. The UN does have a moral responsibility, and also a legal and financial responsibility, to give justice to cholera victims and their families.Ban Ki-moon heads to Haiti, offers an apple for an orchard
Wesley Laine, Let Haiti Live
July 17, 2014
A few days ago, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited Haiti. It was his first visit to Haiti since the cholera outbreak. During his trip, the Secretary General toured the “Sports for Hope Centre”, a project of the International Olympic Committee. Additionally, in the same sports complex, Mr. Ban inaugurated the newest class of Haitian recruits poised to take their first step toward joining the National Haitian Police (HPN).
During his remarks, the Secretary General emphasized that the Haitian State will have to show the people that it can enforce the law and demonstrate that in a democratic nation, no one – including political authorities and the police themselves – is above the law. The Secretary General’s remarks echo one of the core guiding principles of the United Nations establishment—the rule of law. Or perhaps what it once proudly stood for, prior to the egregious mishandling of the Haitian cholera disaster.
The numbers continue to increase with each passing day, more than 700,000 have gotten sick and over 8,500 Haitians have lost their lives since October of 2010. And despite indisputable evidence that negligence by the United Nations leadership and its peacekeepers are responsible for introducing the vibrio cholera bacterium in Haiti’s largest and most important river, Mr. Ban has refused to own up to his responsibilities as the head of one of the most important international institutions of our age.
The Secretary General, in a very real sense, is entrusted with the power and responsibility to make meaningful the moral force of the world community. For four long years, the people of Haiti have patiently waited for Mr. Ban to acknowledge them as dignified human beings deserving of an apology and compensation for their suffering. So far, Mr. Ban has lacked the courage to recognize the humanity of the Haitian victims and their inalienable right to justice—outlined in the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Perhaps it is well to ask whether Mr. Ban understands how much the Haitian people have suffered. It appears that the Secretary General is unable to come to terms with his own natural human empathy. On different occasions, he has offered half-hearted words of regret, deferred questions to UN lawyers, and offered to mobilize donor countries to fulfill their pledges for the dysfunctional cholera response plan. On this particular trip to Haiti, the Secretary General spent time playing Ping-Pong inside the new sports complex with the country’s prime minister, avoiding protestors braving the scorching heat to demand accountability and justice.
To deal with the tragic cholera crisis, the UN needs a Secretary General who is willing to look unblinkingly at the circumstances, confront the realities, face the tears of the wounded, and harness all stakeholders to a great collective effort toward justice. Unfortunately, Mr. Ban has shown that he is unfit to be that leader. It is easy to forget now, but this is essentially what happened in past failures, especially at the leadership level, of the United Nations to take bold actions to stop genocides or other wrongful acts. In all these failures, the passage of time should not obscure the facts, lessen responsibility, or turn victims into villains.
The task of strengthening justice lies with all of us, and especially with those who are entrusted with leadership positions. The Secretary General’s failure to lead has damaged the credibility and mandate of the United Nations. Moreover, it has set a terrible precedent for future peacekeeping efforts.
Most of the cholera victims in Haiti are people living in settings of chronic poverty, which are, by definition settings of structural violence. They have suffered enough. Suffering does not ennoble, it embitters. The cholera crisis has destroyed homes, left orphans, and deepened refractory poverty in countless communities. Consequently, the majority of Haitians have called for the departure of the UN troops.
Without an apology and a plan for compensation, it is clear that Mr. Ban’s trip to Haiti, which he called ‘a necessary pilgrimage’, was a photo-op and an attempt to save face. Furthermore, it shows that the Secretary General is out of touch with the plight of the poor and the daily struggle of Haitians to have access to clean water. The empty promises of the Secretary General are not going to stop the lawsuit filed in New York on behalf of the victims.
In Haiti, many may live in poverty, but they are not poor people. They are proud and hard working people. The Secretary General went to Haiti, hoping to trade an apple for an orchard. Mr. Ban, we do not do that in this country. We want justice.
Click HERE for the original.
IJDH Staff Attorney Beatrice Lindstrom and KOFAVIV Associate Director Malya Villard-Appolon speak about cholera accountability and gender-based violence in an hour-long NPR show about Haiti. Joining them are Dr. Ludovic Comeau of GRAHN-World, and Dr. Evan Lyon of Partners in Health. Bringing perspectives from the legal, medical and economic development fields, they answered questions like “What might happen now that Ban Ki-moon said the UN bears a “moral responsibility” to eliminate cholera,” and “What impact are grassroots organizations having on rapes in Haiti?”Cholera lawsuit against U.N. in Haiti, and death threats for Haitian advocate for women’s safety
July 16, 2014
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Although it took courage for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to admit that the UN bears a “moral responsibility” to eradicate cholera from Haiti, more still needs to be done. The UN needs to be accountable for the negligence that caused the epidemic by apologizing to the victims and their families, building water and sanitation infrastructure, and compensating the victims. A claims commission would establish a fair method of compensation.Justice for Haiti OUR OPINION: U.N. needs to do more than take ‘moral responsibility’ for cholera epidemic
Editorial, Miami Herald
July 15, 2014
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon greets residents of Hinche, Haiti, upon the launch of a program to fight cholera.
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It’s been a long time coming, but finally this week U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon acknowledged that the world body bears “moral responsibility” for introducing cholera into Haiti. Now the United Nations needs to be held accountable for the consequences of its actions.
Although he was only admitting the obvious, it took courage for the secretary general to go as far as he did in an interview with the Herald’s Jacqueline Charles, considering that the United Nations has been in denial for four years regarding its role in the cholera epidemic. No doubt, U.N. lawyers warned him against taking any kind of responsibility for the tragedy that killed some 8,500 Haitians and infected roughly 700,000.
But this should be only the beginning of the U.N.’s effort to make things right with the people of Haiti. “Moral responsibility” requires that the United Nations take concrete steps to back up the secretary general’s admission. Otherwise, it amounts to nothing more than hollow words.
The first thing the secretary general needs to do is apologize to the victims and their survivors on behalf of the United Nations. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, yet it would mean a lot to those who have been wronged. The U.N.’s failure to apologize, even though its own panel of experts pointed the finger at peacekeeping troops from Nepal for inadvertently introducing cholera into the country because of the lack of sanitary waste removal, has added insult to injury and created an enormous reservoir of resentment by Haitians.
Second, the United Nations needs to embark on a campaign to bring clean water and sanitation to Haiti. On this score, Mr. Ban is moving in the right direction. He is in Haiti this week on what he called a “necessary pilgrimage” to promote efforts to alleviate the epidemic, seeking support for a $2.2 billion, 10-year cholera-elimination campaign.
The program is commendable, but what’s needed is a U.N. commitment to ensure that there is no repetition of the epidemic and other infectious diseases endemic in the Haitian countryside. That means creating pilot projects around the country promoting clean sanitation, similar to the one Mr. Ban launched this week in the community of Los Palmas. U.N. donor countries need to step up here. Without clean sanitation, Haitians are condemned to perpetual misery and disease.
Finally, there is the troubling issue of compensation. The cholera outbreak is the subject of three lawsuits in U.S. courts, which the United Nations and Mr. Ban have rejected by citing the U.N’s claim of diplomatic immunity.
The law may be on the U.N.’s side, but diplomatic immunity (also called “sovereign immunity”) seems a flimsy response when 700,000 people have been victimized by the possible negligence of U.N. peacekeepers. And surely, it makes a mockery of Mr. Ban’s admission of “moral responsibility.” Accepting responsibility while refusing compensation rubs salt in the wound.
Last fall, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for an investigation of the cholera epidemic and supported compensation for victims. Mr. Ban cannot in good conscience ignore this statement from one of the U.N’s own top officials.
The best way to establish a fair system of compensation would be to create a claims commission, not unlike the one that followed the BP oil spill on the Gulf Coast. A claims commission has its own complexities and aggravations, but it beats years of lawsuits and endless wrangling. It’s the right way to hold the United Nations accountable for its moral responsibility.
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Nearly four years after causing a cholera epidemic in Haiti, the UN still hasn’t taken responsibility. Ban Ki-Moon is visiting Haiti, taking trips to cholera centers and giving speeches, but they seem just empty words and photo opportunities. During the trip, Ban announced the launch of a new sanitation campaign in Haiti but the UN’s cholera elimination plan still remains substantially underfunded.UN Chief Slammed for Taking Photo-Op, Not Responsibility for Cholera Epidemic It’s “an insult to all Haitians,” said Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux
Andrea Germanos, Common Dreams
July 15, 2014
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is under fire for using his first visit to Haiti since the cholera outbreak began to deliver what critics see as empty words and an insult to those killed by the UN-caused epidemic.
Yet, 1365 days since the UN troops introduced cholera to Haiti, over 8,000 Haitians have died and hundreds of thousands have been sickened, there has been no apology from the body. Nor has the UN taken responsibility or provided compensation to the victims.
This has prompted three pending alwsuits against the UN.
“I know that the epidemic has caused much anger and fear,” Ban said Monday at church service in the Haitian village of Los Palmas. “I know that the disease continues to affect an unacceptable number of people.”
The UN chief also announced launch of “Total Sanitation Campaign” to improve sanitation and hygiene interventions in Haiti, and called upon the global community to help fund the effort.
Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe and Ban have declared that the UN has “a moral responsibility” to address the epidemic, yet without accepting responsibility, the UN continues to evade its legal obligations while offering under-funded campaigns, advocates for Haitian victims say.
“It is an insult to all Haitians for the Secretary-General to come to Haiti for a photo-op when he refuses to take responsibility for the thousands of Haitians killed and the hundreds of thousands sickened by the UN cholera epidemic,” Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), which has been working with cholera victims on their years-long battle for justice.
Brian Concannon, Jr., Esq., who directs the Boston-based, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), added, “The Secretary-General lectures others on the importance of accountability and the rule of law, but refuses to comply with long-established and clear legal obligations to compensate Haitians harmed by its reckless introduction of cholera into Haiti.”
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BBC News has also picked up the story of Ban Ki-moon’s visit to Haiti. Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney of BAI, has called it an insult for the Secretary General to visit Haiti for a photo op while the UN continues to dodge responsibility for the cholera epidemic.Ban Ki-moon: UN to help Haiti fight cholera epidemic
July 15, 2014
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says he will try to raise $2.2bn (£1.3bn) in aid money to fight the spread of cholera in Haiti.
Mr Ban, who is visiting Haiti, said it was the “moral duty” of the UN to help tackle the disease.
More than 8,500 people have died in the cholera epidemic which has swept through the country since 2010.
Evidence suggests UN peacekeepers introduced cholera to Haiti, but it has so far rejected compensation claims.
‘Anger and fear’
Speaking at a church service in one of the villages worst affected, Mr Ban said that he was aware that the epidemic had “caused much anger and fear” in Haiti and continued to affect “an unacceptable number of people”.Haitians gathered to demand more financial assistance from the UN
The United Nations is facing three lawsuits in connection with the epidemic, but has claimed legal immunity.
A lawyer for the victims said it was an insult to all Haitians for Mr Ban to come for a photo-opportunity when he refused to take responsibility for thousands of deaths.
In December 2012, Mr Ban launched a $2.2bn plan to eliminate cholera from Haiti within 10 years, but donors have been slow in coming forward with the needed funds.
The UN says it has not yet been able to raise the $400m needed to fund the programme in its first two years.
Mr Ban and Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe on Monday launched an initiative aimed at improving hygiene in rural areas of Haiti, where one in two people lack adequate sanitation.
More than 700,000 people in Haiti have been infected with cholera, which is spread by infected sewage, since late 2010.
No cases of the bacterial infection, which causes diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and muscle cramps, had been recorded in Haiti for a century until the outbreak started.
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UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is travelling all over Haiti, visiting cholera victims, meeting with the President and Prime Minister, and trying to reassure people that the UN is working to end cholera as quickly as possible. Yet, the UN still hasn’t claimed responsibility for the epidemic and their 2012 cholera elimination plan still hasn’t attracted enough donors.UN Chief in Haiti Launches Sanitation Program
Pierre-Richard Luxama and David McFadden, New York Times
July 14, 2014
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited rural Haiti on Monday to help launch a program to improve sanitation and fight the spread of cholera, a disease many Haitians blame U.N. peacekeepers for introducing to the impoverished Caribbean country.
An outbreak of the disease that followed Haiti’s devastating earthquake in 2010 has killed more than 8,500 people and sickened about 700,000. Studies have shown cholera-infected waste likely was inadvertently introduced in one of Haiti’s biggest rivers by troops from Nepal, where the disease is endemic.
The outbreak is the subject of three lawsuits in U.S. courts, including one filed this year by nearly 1,500 Haitians seeking compensation from the U.N. A previous claim by cholera victims was rejected by Ban and the U.N., which cited diplomatic immunity.
At a church service in the village of Los Palmas, Ban said that he knew the cholera epidemic “caused much anger and fear” in Haiti and that the disease “continues to affect an unacceptable number of people.”
“As secretary-general of the United Nations, I want to assure you that the United Nations and its partners are strongly committed to ending the epidemic as quickly as possible,” he said.
In 2012, Ban announced a $2.2 billion initiative to help eradicate cholera in Hispaniola, the island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. But the program has not attracted nearly enough foreign donors.
Ban’s visit was criticized by some in Haiti who said the U.N. must accept responsibility for introducing the disease and provide compensation to families.
“It is an insult to all Haitians for the secretary-general to come to Haiti for a photo-op when he refuses to take responsibility for the thousands of Haitians killed and the hundreds of thousands sickened by the U.N. cholera epidemic,” said Mario Joseph, a leading lawyer for Haitian cholera victims.
On Monday, Ban and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe launched an initiative dubbed “Total Sanitation” aimed at boosting sanitation and hygiene in rural areas. Most of Haiti’s 10 million people have no access to bathrooms, giving the country the worst sanitation access in the Western Hemisphere and providing fertile ground for cholera.
Later in the capital, Ban met with President Michel Martelly and discussed Haiti’s upcoming legislative and municipal elections, among other topics.
An accord setting Oct. 26 as election day has not been authorized by the Senate, where a group of Martelly opponents argue it is unconstitutional.
Ban said he was encouraged by Martelly’s “strong commitment” to holding the long-delayed elections in October, but expressed some concern there was still disagreement between the executive and legislative branches.
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A summary of the current controversy regarding UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s visit to Haiti. This is the first time he’s visiting Haiti since the cholera epidemic was started and the UN still does not take responsibility for causing it, though much evidence shows UN peacekeepers did.UN Chief in Haiti to Launch Sanitation Program
Associated Press, Yahoo News
July 14, 2014
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in rural Haiti on Monday to help launch a program to improve sanitation and fight the spread of cholera, a disease that many Haitians blame U.N. peacekeepers for introducing to the impoverished Caribbean country.
A deadly outbreak of the disease that followed Haiti’s devastating earthquake in 2010 has killed more than 8,500 people and sickened roughly 700,000. Studies have shown cholera-infected waste likely was introduced in one of Haiti’s biggest rivers by U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal, where the disease is endemic.
The outbreak is the subject of three separate lawsuits in U.S. courts. Earlier this year, nearly 1,500 Haitians filed a suit seeking compensation from the U.N. A previous claim by cholera victims was rejected by Ban and the U.N., which cited diplomatic immunity.
In an interview with The Miami Herald before his trip to Haiti, Ban said of the cholera outbreak: “Regardless of what the legal implication may be, as the secretary-general of the United Nations and as a person, I feel very sad.” He said the U.N. has a “moral responsibility” to help Haiti fight the epidemic.
In 2012, Ban announced a $2.2 billion initiative to help eradicate cholera in Haiti.
The U.N. chief’s visit was criticized by some human rights activists, who said the U.N. must accept responsibility for introducing the disease to Haiti and provide compensation to families.
“It is an insult to all Haitians for the secretary-general to come to Haiti for a photo-op when he refuses to take responsibility for the thousands of Haitians killed and the hundreds of thousands sickened by the U.N. cholera epidemic,” said Mario Joseph, a leading attorney for Haitian cholera victims.
On Monday, Ban was scheduled to visit a village in central Haiti with Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe to launch the “Total Sanitation” effort, which the U.N. says aims to boost sanitation and hygiene interventions in rural areas.
Ban is also expected to meet with Haitian families affected by cholera, a waterborne disease caused by bacteria found in tainted water or food. It can kill through dehydration if not treated in time.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Mario Joseph, Av., Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, (in Haiti), email@example.com, +509-3701-9878 (French, Creole, English)
Brian Concannon, Jr., Esq., Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, firstname.lastname@example.org, +1-541-263-0029 (English, French, Creole)
Beatrice Lindstrom, Esq., Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, email@example.com, +1-404-217-1302 (English, Creole, French)
UN Chief Makes First Haiti Visit Since Cholera Introduction
Victims and Advocates Call for More Action, Less Empty Words
(Port-au-Prince, July 14, 2014)— On July 14-15, 2014, United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is visiting Haiti for the first time since the UN introduced a deadly cholera epidemic to the Caribbean nation in 2010. The UN reports that the Secretary-General will meet with victims of the UN-caused disaster, and announce the launch of a sanitation campaign that “aims to scale up sanitation and hygiene interventions in rural areas.”
“For four years now, the UN has been launching new initiatives and making statements of sympathy, without taking any real action. Over 8,000 people have died and cholera keeps killing, and the UN still won’t even issue an apology, let alone provide funding to eliminate cholera in Haiti” said Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), which has been working with cholera victims to seek justice since 2010.
Under increasing fire from UN insiders, members of the U.S. Congress and legal experts to respond seriously to the crisis, Ban told the Miami Herald last week that “the international community, including the United Nations, has a moral responsibility to help the Haitian people stem the further spread of this cholera epidemic.”
But the organization has not accepted responsibility for having caused the epidemic in the first place. Nor has it provided compensation to cholera survivors, as it is required to do by its own international agreements.
Over two and half years ago, Ban launched an initiative to eliminate cholera in Haiti, but to date the UN has furnished only 1% of the total funding needed, and gathered another 9% in recycled earthquake pledges. As a result, the plan remains critically underfunded and the effort has yet to get off the ground.
The UN also announced the establishment of a joint committee to address cholera in October 2013, but the committee only met for the first time in May 2014, and has yet to release information publicly about its mandate or operations.
“It is an insult to all Haitians for the Secretary-General to come to Haiti for a photo-op when he refuses to take responsibility for the thousands of Haitians killed and the hundreds of thousands sickened by the UN cholera epidemic,” Attorney Joseph added.
Cholera continues to afflict Haiti’s vulnerable population. The UN itself has warned that the disease may kill up to 2,000 more people in 2014.
“The Secretary-General lectures others on the importance of accountability and the rule of law, but refuses to comply with long-established and clear legal obligations to compensate Haitians harmed by its reckless introduction of cholera into Haiti,” said Brian Concannon, Jr., Esq., who directs the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), a Boston-based non-profit that represents plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit against the UN. “The double standard is outrageous, and deeply undermines the UN’s credibility throughout the world.”
Three lawsuits are currently pending against the organization and the Secretary-General for their reckless oversight and management that caused the cholera outbreak.
For more information, including case documents and background materials, see www.IJDH.org.
POUR DIFFUSION IMMÉDIATE
Mario Joseph, Av., Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, (Haïti), firstname.lastname@example.org, +509-3701-9878 (français, kréyol, anglais)
Brian Concannon, Jr., Esq., Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, email@example.com, +1-541-263-0029 (anglais, français, kréyol)
Beatrice Lindstrom, Esq., Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, firstname.lastname@example.org, +1-404-217-1302 (anglais, kréyol, français)
Le numéro un de l’ONU fait première visite depuis l’Introduction du choléra
Victimes et avocats réclament plus d’Action, moins de mots vides
(Port-au-Prince, 14 juillet 2014)— Le 14 et 15 juillet 2014, Ban Ki-moon, Secrétaire général des Nations Unies (ONU) va rendre visite en Haïti pour la première fois depuis l’introduction du choléra en 2010 dans cette nation des Caraïbes par l’ONU à travers le traitement des déchets de manière imprudente à sa base de maintien de la paix. Les rapports de l’ONU indiquent que le Secrétaire général rencontrera des victimes de la catastrophe et annoncera une campagne «visant à intensifier l’assainissement et l’hygiène des interventions dans les zones rurales.»
« Depuis quatre ans maintenant, l’ONU a lancé de nouvelles initiatives ainsi que des déclarations de sympathie, sans prendre de véritables mesures. Plus de 8.000 personnes sont mortes et le choléra continue à réclamer des vies; l’ONU ne présente même pas des excuses, ni donner de fonds pour éradiquer le choléra en Haïti. » selon Mario JOSEPH, Directeur du Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), qui travaille avec les victimes de choléra pour obtenir justice depuis 2010.
L’organisation est sous le feu des initiés à l’organisation, les membres du Congrès des États-Unis, et les experts juridiques de n’a pas avoir répondu sérieusement à la crise. Dans une interview avec le Miami Herald la semaine dernière, Ban a déclaré que “la communauté internationale, y compris les Nations Unies, a une responsabilité morale pour aider le peuple haïtien à endiguer la propagation de cette épidémie.»
Cependant, l’organisation n’a pas accepté la responsabilité pour avoir causé l’épidémie en premier lieu, ni n’a fourni une indemnité aux victimes du choléra, comme c’est requis de le faire par ses propres accords internationaux.
Il y’a plus de deux ans, depuis que l’ONU a lancé une initiative visant à éradiquer le choléra en Haïti. Cependant, l’organisation a donné seulement 1% du financement totale requis et recueilli 9% en plus en promesses de dons. Ainsi, le plan reste gravement sous-financé et les efforts n’ont pas encore véritablement commencé.
En Octobre 2013, l’ONU a annoncé l’établissement d’un comité mixte chargé d’aborder le choléra mais le comité s’est réuni seulement pour la première fois en mai 2014, et n’as pas encore communiqué au public les détails concernant son mandat ou ses opérations.
Maître Joseph a noté « C’est une insulte pour tous les Haïtiens que le Secrétaire-Général vient en Haïti pour une occasion de photos pendant qu’il refuse de reconnaitre ou de prendre la responsabilité pour les milliers d’Haïtiens morts et les centaines de milliers rendus malades par l’épidémie du choléra de l’ONU.»
Pendant ce temps, le choléra continue à affecter la population vulnérable d’Haïti. L’ONU lui-même a averti que la maladie peut tuer jusqu’à 2,000 personnes de plus en 2014. A présent, l’épidémie a tué plus de 8.500 et a rendu plus de 700.000 malade.
« Le Secrétaire-Générale fait la morale aux autres sur l’importance de responsabilité et l’état de droit, mais il refuse de se conformer aux obligations claires et établie de longue date à dédommager les Haïtiens touchés par son introduction imprudent du choléra en Haïti » a dit Brian Concannon, Jr., Esq. qui dirige l’Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) (l’Institut pour la justice et la démocratie en Haïti), une organisation à but non lucratif qui représente les plaignants dans une action en justice contre l’ONU aux Etats-Unis. « Le double standard est scandaleux et réduit gravement la crédibilité de l’ONU partout dans le monde. »
Trois actions en justice sont actuellement en cours contre l’organisation et le Secrétaire-Générale pour leur négligence et gestion imprudentes ayant causé l’épidémie du choléra.
Pour plus d’information, y compris les documents relatifs à l’affaire, visitez www.ijdh.org.
Our very own Staff Attorney, Beatrice Lindstrom, was featured on Swedish radio explaining whether we think that Ban’s ‘moral responsibility’ statement signals a change in their position vis-a-vis the lawsuit. Below is a rough translation. (The segment starts at 16:45.)
July 15, 2014
Reporter 1: Right now, the UN’s Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is visiting Haiti. The UN is still not accepting legal responsibility for the cholera epidemic that was spread by UN troops four years ago, but several organizations have sued the UN. One of them is the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, where Beatrice Lindstrom is a lawyer.
Beatrice: More and more people who work within the UN are speaking out against the way that the Organization has handled this catastrophe. So we hope that the UN will eventually change its position. The ultimate end goal for us is of course not a trial in itself, but to obtain justice for the families that have been sickened and those who have lost family members.
Reporter 2: It was in January 2010 that Haiti was hit by a devastating earthquake. Ten months later a cholera epidemic spread across the country, which until now has killed 8,000 people. The cholera came via UN soldiers, who carried the disease which then spread into Haiti’s largest river.
When Ban Ki-moon arrived in Haiti yesterday, he visited a few of the country’s cholera impacted families. Before the trip, he said that the UN has a moral responsibility to help Haiti end the epidemic. But this does not mean that the UN accepts any legal responsibility. Instead, they are pointing to international immunity enjoyed by the UN.
Ola Engdahl, who is an expert in human rights, says the UN could waive it’s immunity so that the case be tried legally and liability assigned.
Ola: This would be a step in the right direction, I think, because until now, we have seen a dearth of good practice on UN responsibility for acts undertaken in peacekeeping operations.
Click HERE for the recording.
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As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon prepares to go to Haiti, he makes one of his strongest statements on cholera yet, admitting that the UN has a moral responsibility to help stop the epidemic. Unfortunately, the UN is struggling to raise money to fight cholera due to lack of credibility because they don’t admit to causing the epidemic; donors’ “Haiti fatigue;” and political uncertainty, particularly with the long-overdue elections. Perhaps if the UN takes their “moral responsibility” more seriously, international donors will do the same.United Nations top official goes to Haiti to promote cholera elimination, elections While not offering an apology or admission, the head of the United Nations says the global body bears “a moral responsibility” in helping Haiti tackle what experts say is the world’s worst cholera epidemic.
Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald
July 13, 2014
UNITED NATIONS, N.Y. – In his strongest statement since a deadly cholera epidemic erupted in Haiti almost four years ago, the head of the United Nations said the global body bears “a moral responsibility” to help the Caribbean nation end the outbreak.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made the declaration in an exclusive interview with the Miami Herald as he prepared to visit Haiti, where he will travel to the region where the contamination happened and meet with families hard hit by cholera. Detected 10 months after Haiti’s devastating Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake, the waterborne disease has killed 8,563 people and infected 704,245.
Since then, the U.N. has refused to admit responsibility for the outbreak, which scientific evidence and its own independent panel of experts suggested was brought to Haiti by Nepalese peacekeepers stationed at a military base in the Central Plateau region.
Nor has the world body offered an apology, which victims and their families are seeking along with compensation, in three separate lawsuits filed in United States courts.
“Regardless of what the legal implication may be, as the secretary general of the United Nations and as a person, I feel very sad,” Ban said. “I believe that the international community, including the United Nations, has a moral responsibility to help the Haitian people stem the further spread of this cholera epidemic.”
Ban’s statement on the eve of his arrival Monday comes after Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe called on the U.N. last fall to take “moral responsibility” for cholera, and after the U.N.’s independent human rights expert on Haiti earlier this year demanded “full compensation” for cholera victims. In the Feb. 7 report, Gustavo Gallon criticized the silence while publicly disagreeing with the U.N., which has rejected compensation and invoked immunity in the legal cases.
“The diplomatic difficulties surrounding this issue must be overcome to ensure the Haitian people that the epidemic can be stopped in the shortest possible time frame and pay full compensation for the damages suffered,” Gallon said.
By the U.N.’s own admission, foreign donors have been slow to contribute to a $2.2 billion, 10-year cholera-elimination campaign that Ban launched in December 2012 with the presidents of Haiti and the neighboring Dominican Republic. The organization has struggled even to raise an initial $400 million it says is needed in the first two years to contain the epidemic and build clean water and sanitation infrastructure.
Getting donors to deliver the money will be a key issue during his visit, Ban said, noting that Haitians “have suffered a lot” under the world’s worst cholera epidemic. The way to prevent a repeat of cholera, he said, is to help Haiti address the root cause: poor sanitation.
“The international community has been struggling to overcome this global financial difficulty, and we have so many crises happening at the same time around the world,” said Ban. “That is one reason why we have not been able to effectively mobilize.”
While the humanitarian crises have also put pressure on Ban to reduce the size of the peacekeeping mission in Haiti, observers say they believe donors are holding onto the purse strings for other reasons.
Some blame Haiti fatigue, which has some donors quietly reassessing and reducing financial aid to the country. Others say another factor is the U.N.’s refusal to accept that leaking sewage pipes at its base were to blame for cholera’s spread.
There is also Haiti’s political gridlock, which continues to threaten the staging of long-overdue local and legislative elections in October.
With every disagreement, observers say, Haiti’s politicians get further from reaching a compromise for the balloting.
“My political message to Haitian leaders, government and parliamentary leaders will be that it’s crucially important that this election be held as agreed and scheduled in October,” Ban said.
Helping Haitians break the gridlock, and the future of the U.N. Stabilization Mission’s (MINUSTAH) 5,000 blue helmets and 2,600 police officers in Haiti will also top his agenda, he said.
“Haiti cannot afford drifting without . . . a full Senate, a full Assembly and executive branch,” said Mark Schneider, senior vice president for the International Crisis Group, which monitors Haiti. “He needs to play the convening role in bringing the still very widely divided political actors together to produce a compromise that will help Haiti reach parliamentary elections this fall.”
While Schneider welcomes Ban’s visit and his acknowledgment of “the debt owed to the Haitian people as a result of the introduction of cholera,” he noted the U.N.’s failure to apologize for cholera has caused it to be the target of criticism, including growing calls for its departure.
“The U.N. and MINUSTAH have played a fundamental role in helping to deal with the aftermath of the earthquake, to help build Haitian institutions, and continues to play a critical role,” Schneider said. “But with respect to the issue of cholera, they have simply failed to recognize how deeply this has hurt their image in Haiti.”
Brian Concannon, an attorney with the Boston-based rights group, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, said he isn’t surprised by donors’ reluctance to aid the U.N.’s anti-cholera campaign.
“Certainly the U.N.’s refusal to accept responsibility and comply with its legal obligations undermines its mission to promote the rule of law in Haiti and elsewhere,” said Concannon, whose group was the first to file claims on behalf of 5,000 cholera victims and their families.
“Somewhere this afternoon, a police trainer is giving Haitian police officers a lecture about how they need to sacrifice their personal and friends’ interests and respect the rule of law so that Haiti can advance,” he said. “The trainees are looking at the logo on her/his shirt and laughing.”
Longtime Haiti observer Robert Maguire said Haiti’s current political reality also cannot be dismissed in tackling the cholera crisis.
“Does the fact that Haiti is once again manufacturing a political crisis discourage international donors from solving what is more of a social crisis?” said Maguire, director of the Latin American and Hemispheric Studies Program at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs in Washington, D.C. “If Haiti didn’t have elections that are two years delayed, constant provocation, these eternal disputes and gridlock, wouldn’t that perhaps encourage international donors to be more generous with Haiti?”
Cholera aside, Maguire said Ban serves an important purpose.
“The United Nations remains committed to leaving behind in Haiti an effective and independent police force. That is probably among the most salient objectives of MINUSTAH,” Maguire said about the force, whose strength and ability to secure Haiti is viewed as a key benchmark for the U.N.’s eventual departure.
“Over the past three years, there has been some discomfort about whether there could be political erosion in Haiti and the independence of the police force,” he said. “This is one of MINUSTAH’s objectives in maintaining a presence, mitigating any tendencies in Haiti to politicize the police force. I think that is quite clear.”
In June, the U.N. marked a decade in Haiti. Even as military troops quietly pull out of some regions, leaving security to the local police, questions and uncertainty remain about the mission’s future configuration.
“We are not going to completely withdraw,” Ban said from his 38th-floor office at the U.N.’s New York headquarters. “We are going to try and reduce our soldiers so that the Haitian government and people can really enhance this capacity and stand on their own.”
Ban said he is encouraged, for instance, by the progress the government has made in building up the 11,000-member Haitian National Police force. But there is more work to do, he acknowledged.
“The Haitian people and government have made considerable progress, first of all in ensuring stability, of course with the help of MINUSTAH, and enhancing the [national police],” he said. “But at the same time, we hope there could be more progress in justice and accountability areas. Common, ordinary people should be able to get some support and protection from the government.”
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Join the Haiti Support Group in London for their annual general meeting.
“The Haiti Support Group warmly invites HSG members, supporters and Haiti watchers to attend our Annual General Meeting which will take place on Saturday July 12 2014 in London. We would like to welcome all those interested in helping our work so that we can continue to amplify the voices of Haitian civil society and ensure that progressive, participatory groups in Haiti are included in shaping the future of their country. With the five-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake of January 12 2010 just around the corner, we believe that 2014-2015 is a pivotal moment to place Haiti back on the international agenda.”
Institute of the Americas, University College London
51 Gordon Square
London, England WC1H 0PN
Saturday July 12, 2014 @ 3-6pm
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