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Plaignant Nissage MARTYR est mort après qu’il a déposé plainte aux États-Unis contre Jean Morose VILIENA, ancien maire des Irois, pour Assassinat, Torture et Incendie

March 31, 2017 - 12:53

BUREAU DES AVOCATS INTERNATIONAUX
3, 2ème rue Lavaud
B.P. 19048
Port-au-Prince, Haïti
Tel : +5092943-2106/ 07
Email: avokahaiti@aol.com

POUR DIFFUSION IMMÉDIATE

Contact :
Mario JOSEPH, Av., Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, mario@ijdh.org +509-3701-9879 (français, kreyòl)
Nicole PHILLIPS, Esq., Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, nicole@ijdh.org +509-4645-2888, (anglais, français, kreyòl)

Plaignant Nissage MARTYR est mort après qu’il a déposé plainte aux États-Unis contre Jean Morose VILIENA, ancien maire des Irois, pour Assassinat, Torture et Incendie

Port-au-Prince, le 31 mars 2017 – Le Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) regret d’annoncer que notre client Nissage MARTYR est décédé subitement dans la soirée du vendredi 24 mars 2017. Sa mort intervient un jour après que lui et deux autres clients ont annoncé le dépôt d’une plainte au tribunal fédéral à Boston contre Jean Morose VILIENA, l’ex maire des Irois en Grande-Anse, qui habite à présent aux alentours de Boston.

Maitre Joseph dit, « nos condoléances les plus sincères vont à la famille et les amis de MARTYR. Nous demandons au gouvernement d’Haïti de diligenter rapidement une enquête pour déterminer la cause du décès de MARTYR et protéger les autres deux plaignants et leurs familles. »

Le 23 mars 2017, le Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) et co-conseil Dentons ont intenté cette action civile aux États-Unis au nom de MARTYR et deux autres citoyens haïtiens qui furent violemment persécutés après qu’ils aient osé défier la corruption et la brutalité de leur gouvernement municipal. La plainte allègue qu’à la tête d’une bande armée de partisans du mouvement KOREGA (Komite Reziztans Grand-Anse), VILIENA a déclenché une campagne de terreur visant des représentants des médias et des défenseurs des droits humains.

En juillet 2007, le demandeur David BONIFACE, un activiste des droits humains, a dénoncé VILIENA au tribunal de paix pour avoir agressé une voisine. Plus tard cette nuit, VILIENA et ses partisans ont brutalement assassiné le jeune frère de BONIFACE en représailles.

L’année suivante, en avril 2008, VILIENA a annoncé à la radio qu’il allait clore la station de radio communautaire hébergée dans la maison de MARTYR. Peu de temps après, VILIENA et ses partisans armés ont envahi la maison de MARTYR, où ils ont violemment agressé MARTYR et Juders YSEME, avant de leur tirer dessus avec une arme à feu, entraînant la perte de la jambe de MARTYR et l’aveuglement de YSEME.

Ce complot pour faire taire toute dissidence aux Irois a abouti dans une frénésie d’incendies criminels en octobre 2009. Tout au long d’une seule nuit, les partisans de VILIENA ont mis feu à 36 maisons appartenant aux membres de l’Organisation du Peuple en Lutte – le principal rival politique du mouvement KOREGA dans la région, y compris celles des trois demandeurs dans cette action civile.

Depuis 2007, BONIFACE et les autres victimes ont déposé plusieurs plaintes contre le maire VILIENA et ses complices dans les tribunaux d’Haïti. En 2009, VILIENA a pris la fuite pour les États-Unis après que les autorités haïtiennes ont ouvert une enquête contre lui pour meurtre. En janvier 2010, le Tribunal de Première Instance de Jérémie a formellement accusé VILIENA d’assassinat, de coups et blessures et de destruction de biens publiques. Cependant, à chaque étape, leurs efforts ont été contrecarrés par la subornation des témoins, l’intimidation et l’ingérence politique.

Malgré sa mise en accusation pour meurtre, VILIENA a été reconduit au pouvoir le 27 août 2012 par l’ex-président Michel Martelly, qui a nommé VILIENA « agent exécutif intérimaire». En 2015, dans une mesure conservatoire, la Commission interaméricaine des droits de l’homme (« CIDH ») a ordonné le gouvernement haïtien de protéger les victimes, ainsi que des membres de leur famille proches et d’enquêter sur les abus des droits humains commis aux Irois. VILIENA continue néanmoins de bénéficier d’une impunité totale.

Le 24 mars 2017, Nissage MARTYR avait regardé un match de football avec environ 60 voisins aux Irois, quand il tomba subitement malade. Il mourut en route à l’hôpital. MARTYR n’a montré aucun symptôme de maladie avant sa mort.

« Jean Morose VILIENA s’est enfuit aux États-Unis, pensant qu’il pourrait échapper au long bras de la justice », a dit Nissage MARTYR après que la plainte soit déposée. « Tout ce que nous voulons, c’est la justice. Nous voulons vivre en paix. Nous voulons parler librement, sans craindre que les partisans de VILIENA vont tirer sur nos familles ou bruler nos maisons. »

Maitre Mario JOSEPH, le dirigeant du BAI, a représenté les victimes des Irois en tant que parties civiles dans l’affaire pénale contre VILIENA et ses complices aux Cayes en Juillet 2015. Maitre Joseph demande, « Il faut que le gouvernement Haïtien se conforme à l’ordre de la CIDH pour protéger la sécurité de la famille de MARTYR, témoins dans l’affaire, y compris nos autres clients jusqu’à ce que la cause du décès de MARTYR est déterminée. » Maitre Joseph exhorte le gouvernement « d’enquêter rapidement pour déterminer la cause du décès de MARTYR. »

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Will victims of former Haitian mayor find justice?

March 31, 2017 - 09:42

The former mayor of Les Irois in Haiti led murderous mobs against political dissidents.  Seven years after he fled to Malden to avoid charges against him there, three plaintiffs were able to sue the ex-mayor, Viliena, under the Torture Victim Protection Act. The day after the suit was made public, one of the plaintiffs died suddenly, so his death is now under investigation as well. IJDH’s Nicole Phillips and Center for Justice and Accountability’s Scott Gilmore comment on this case that they are leading against Viliena.

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

Accused in Haiti, Malden man is latest to face lawsuit here

Nestor Ramos, The Boston Globe

March 31, 2017

As the mayor of a remote Haitian coastal town, Jean-Morose Viliena was above the law, according to those who say they suffered his wrath.

He incited mobs on murderous rampages in his native Les Irois, they allege, and burned his political opponents’ homes to the ground.

And when his alleged reign of terror appeared to be coming to an end, he fled — to Malden, of all places — and spent much of three years driving a school bus in the region. During that time, he also allegedly served as the appointed executive agent of Les Irois, despite a pending murder indictment and a residence in Malden.

Now, seven years after he fled Haiti, the law may have caught up with Viliena, who is the latest in a string of foreign officials brought before US courts to answer for alleged human rights violations committed in distant lands under a 1992 federal law.

 

Read the full article.

Lawyers Urge Investigation to Determine Cause of Plaintiff’s ‘Suspicious’ Death

March 31, 2017 - 06:19

Nissage Martyr, one of three plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit against the former Haitian mayor Jean Morose Viliena, died one day after filing the lawsuit. The plaintiffs’ lawyers describe the death as “suspicious,” given the timing and Martyr’s apparent health. Martyr suddenly collapsed while watching a football game in Les Irois, Haiti, but little else is known as to the cause. His lawyers urge the Haitian government to immediately investigate and complete an autopsy to determine the cause of Martyr’s death. Additionally, they urge the protection of Martyr’s family and the two remaining plaintiffs in the case.

Part of the article is shown below. Click HERE for the original article.

Lawyers: Death of Haiti plaintiff in US suit ‘suspicious’

David McFadden, Associated Press

March 31, 2017

Lawyers in a U.S. lawsuit against the former mayor of a remote Haitian town called Friday for a full investigation into the death of a plaintiff in the case and sought government protection for his relatives and the family of two other complainants.

Nicole Phillips, a human rights attorney in Haiti, described the sudden death of 56-year-old Nissage Martyr as “suspicious” and called for an autopsy to determine the cause. He died after collapsing while watching a soccer game with at least 60 other people in Les Irois on the tip of Haiti’s southern peninsula a day after the U.S. lawsuit was filed against ex-Mayor Jean Morose Viliena.

Les Irois is the isolated town where Viliena is accused of leading an armed group in attacks on his critics and political opponents while in office from 2006 to 2010.

Click HERE for the original article.

Newly Released Emails Incriminate Top US Officials in UN Unaccountability for Cholera

March 30, 2017 - 07:10

Newly revealed emails indicate that high-level American officials knew about the United Nation’s role in causing the cholera epidemic in Haiti from the beginning of the outbreak. Thus began a cover-up to protect the reputation of both the U.N. and the U.S., incriminating a wide range of people. The emails suggest that the investigation was flawed and “unenthusiastic,” despite growing evidence of the U.N. peacekeepers’ roles. It took six years from the outbreak of the disease for the public to hear an official apology from the U.N.; six years in which cholera killed more than 9,500 people and crippled Haiti’s healthcare system, infrastructure and access to clean water. Experts suggest that the real death toll could even be 2-3 times higher than this estimate, and cholera continues to kill approximately one Haitian per day.

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

What They Knew, and When They Knew It

Jonathan Katz, Slate

March 30, 2017

Halfway through her confirmation hearing in January, the nominee for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, found herself navigating a river of human waste in Haiti.

Some suspected the then–president-elect had picked the South Carolina governor, who had no foreign policy experience, in order to exile a potential rival to an institution he’s derided as “a waste of time and money.” But for two and a half hours, as senators probed her on places like North Korea, Ukraine, and Israel, the nominee held her own, shoring up talking points with governor’s office banter.

That’s when Sen. Ed Markey, the junior Democrat from Massachusetts, asked about a crisis that threatens nothing less than the legitimacy of the United Nations itself. The crisis is the cholera epidemic in Haiti, a still-unfolding catastrophe that all available evidence shows began when U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal infected the country’s most important river system in October 2010. Yet still, after more than 10,000 people have died and incalculable damage has been done to a country the United Nations swore to protect, no one has been held accountable.

Haley’s first stab at an answer reflected the confusion at the heart of the new administration’s foreign policy. “What happened in Haiti is just nothing short of devastating,” she said. “It’s also why I think it’s so important that the contributing countries take responsibility and take actions against those violators that are doing anything to harm the people that they’re supposed to be protecting.”

Click HERE for the original article.

Webinar on Haitian Asylum Claims

March 29, 2017 - 13:22

Join IJDH, CGRS Hastings, and Harvard Law’s Immigration Clinic for a webinar on Haitian asylum claims. This webinar is geared towards lawyers but anyone interested in helping is welcome to join. If the webinar is at capacity when you try to join, don’t worry – we will send the recording to registrants afterwards. Register here.

Criminal Haitian Mayor Loses His Massachusetts Jobs

March 29, 2017 - 08:09

Jean Morose Viliena managed to become a school bus and Uber driver in Massachusetts despite being accused of murder, arson and crimes against humanity in Haiti. Viliena had been charged with crimes in Haiti but escaped before his co-defendants were convicted, and passed criminal background checks due to his low profile in the U.S. After stories came out about Viliena’s crimes, the school bus company fired him and Uber has said he no longer has access to the service.

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

School Bus Driver Certificate Suspended For Malden Man Accused Of Murder In Haiti

David Boeri, WBUR

March 29, 2017

A school bus driver from Malden accused of murder, arson and crimes against humanity as a former mayor in Haiti has now lost his job in Massachusetts.

The owner of the school bus company that employed Jean Morose Viliena says he kept Viliena from taking a bus out on the road after learning of a WBUR report early Friday morning.

On Thursday, an attorney for three Haitian men filed a suit against Viliena in federal court in Boston under the Torture Victim Protection Act. WBUR also reported that there has been an open indictment in Haiti since 2010 charging Viliena with the same crimes. He never showed up at two trials there, which ended with the convictions of six co-defendants.

The bus company owner says he promptly notified the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, and within an hour the DPU acted.

 

Read the full article.

BAI and IJDH Keep Human Rights in Haiti on the World’s Radar

March 28, 2017 - 07:37

 

Building stability and prosperity in Haiti through justice

March 28, 2017BAI and IJDH Keep Human Rights in Haiti on the World’s Radar

Over the past week, IJDH has garnered national and international media coverage on five of its program areas. Our innovative program work and persistent communications keep human rights in Haiti on decisionmakers’ radar screens despite a challenging media environment. We will keep fighting for more coverage and more progress. But in the meantime, here are the highlights:

Justice for Cholera Victims

-On Tuesday March 21, The New York Times revealed that the UN has only raised $7 million of the $400 million it promised Haiti’s cholera victims in December. The article cited a recent letter from BAI and IJDH to UN Secretary-General Guterres.

-On Tuesday March 21, the Times wrote a scathing editorial calling the UN’s refusal to keep its promises “today’s lesson in evading moral responsibility.”

-On Monday March 27, the Boston Globe Editors called on the U.S. to exert leadership to ensure the UN keeps its promises, and quoted from BAI’s Mario Joseph and IJDH’s Brian Concannon.

Justice for Human Rights Defenders

-On March 23, Reuters, Miami Herald and Star Tribune all wrote about a case that BAI and the Center for Justice and Accountability have been working on: Three plaintiffs filed suit against the former Mayor of Les Irois, Jean Morose Viliena, who had been hiding in the Boston area since fleeing charges in Haiti in 2009.

-On March 24, NPR wrote about it as well, and also ran the story in their morning radio program in the Boston area.

-Yesterday, March 27, The Boston Globe wrote about this and cited IJDH by name for our work on the case.

Sadly, one of the plaintiffs in the case died mysteriously the day after Viliena was sued. His death is under investigation. The New York Times covered this story on March 25.

Justice for Victims of Peacekeeper Sexual Assault

Last year, BAI began helping women who were left with children by peacekeepers seek support from the fathers.

-On March 22, Al Jazeera English, aired a compelling film on the topic, which includes an interview with BAI’s Mario Joseph. They also aired it on television a few times to make sure the message got out. The AJ+ promo clip got 1,923,539 views as of today, and the actual film has 5,621 views on YouTube so far.

-On March 22, “Haiti Relief and Reconstruction Watch” broke the news of a detailed report on this problem by independent investigator Mark Snyder.

Other News

Attack on Ex-President Aristide

On March 21, BAI’s Mario Joseph and IJDH Board member Ira Kurzban were cited by Jamaica Observer in an article about an attack on former President Aristide. Aristide’s vehicle was shot at after he appeared as a witness in court. Mario and Ira are both attorneys for the former president.

Justice for Detained Haitians

On Friday, 10 Senators and Representatives from Florida wrote to DHS Secretary John Kelly urging DHS to extend Temporary Protected Status for Haitians. TPS for Haitians is set to expire this July. IJDH has been leading advocacy efforts to extend TPS since last year.

Other Key News

Grand’Anse, la faim gagne du terrainLe Nouvelliste

After lengthy mission, UN peacekeeper pullout looms in HaitiAssociated Press

*Don’t forget to apply for our Be Just Legal Fellowship by Saturday, April 1*

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The Center for Justice and Accountability Releases Statement on Death of Client Nissage Martyr

March 27, 2017 - 11:57

On Friday, March 24, 2017, Nissan Martyr died suddenly in Les Irois, Haiti. Martyr was one of three plaintiffs in a lawsuit against their former Mayor, who is alleged to have perpetrated a range of human rights abuses during his term in office. The Center for Justice and Accountability represents the plaintiffs and filed the lawsuit in a Massachusetts federal court. Martyr’s cause of death is unknown, and CJA urges the Haitian government to launch an immediate investigation into the circumstances of his death. CJA’s statement expresses condolences to Martyr’s friends and family and provides background information on the case.

The statement is shown below in its entirety. Click HERE for the original statement.

BREAKING: STATEMENT ON THE DEATH OF CJA CLIENT NISSAGE MARTYR

The Center for Justice and Accountability

March 27, 2017

On the evening of Friday, March 24, 2017, our client Nissage Martyr died suddenly. Martyr had been enjoying an evening watching football with approximately 50 neighbors in Les Irois, Haiti, when he became violently ill.  He died en route to a hospital.  Martyr showed no symptoms of illness prior to his death.  His death comes one day after he and two other clients announced the filing of a human rights lawsuit against Jean Morose Viliena, former Mayor of Les Irois, who has been charged in Haiti for attempting to kill Martyr in 2008.

Scott Gilmore, Martyr’s attorney with the Center for Justice and Accountability, said, “Our heartfelt condolences go out to Martyr’s family and friends. We call on the government of Haiti to expeditiously and completely investigate to determine the cause of Martyr’s death.”

On July 28, 2008, Mayor Viliena led an armed group of men in an attack on Radio Nouvelle Vision, a community radio station operated from Martyr’s home.  During the raid, Mayor Viliena and his associates brutally beat Martyr and opened fire on him, resulting in the eventual amputation of one leg.  Mayor Viliena now lives in the Boston suburbs where he works as a school bus driver.

Since 2008, Martyr had faced repeated threats from Mayor Viliena’s associates in the political group KOREGA.  Nevertheless, he continued to file criminal and civil complaints with Haitian authorities and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), with the assistance of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI)/Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH).

In July 2015, the IACHR issued precautionary measures ordering the Haitian government to protect Martyr, his family, and other witnesses in the case. They did not.  After exhausting all legal avenues in Haiti, Martyr sought to hold Viliena accountable in a federal court in Massachusetts.  On March 23, 2017, CJA and pro bono co-counsel Dentons filed a lawsuit against Mayor Viliena under the Torture Victim Protection Act on behalf of Martyr and two other victims.

Gilmore said, “Martyr dreamed of a better future for Haiti, free from political violence, where all Haitians can express themselves without fear of retaliation.  From founding Les Irois’s first community radio station to filing human rights cases, he understood the risks of fighting for freedom and he never gave up on that vision. We ask that until the cause of Martyr’s death is determined that the government comply with the IACHR order to protect the safety of Martyr’s family, witnesses in the case, including our other clients ”

We will update the statement should new facts be determined.

**

About the Center for Justice and Accountability

CJA is a San Francisco-based human rights organization dedicated to deterring torture and other severe human rights abuses around the world and advancing the rights of survivors to seek truth, justice and redress.  CJA uses litigation to hold perpetrators accountable for human rights abuses, develop human rights law, and advance the rule of law in countries transitioning from periods of abuse.

About Dentons

Dentons is the world’s largest law firm, delivering quality and value to clients around the globe.  Dentons is a leader on the Acritas Global Elite Brand Index, a BTI Client Service 30 Award winner and recognized by prominent business and legal publications for its innovations in client service, including founding Nextlaw Labs and the Nextlaw Global Referral Network.  Dentons’ polycentric approach and world-class talent challenge the status quo to advance client interests in the communities in which we live and work. www.dentons.com

Media Contact  Lisa Cohen    +1 (310) 395-2544    lisa@lisacohen.org

 

Click HERE for the original statement.

Cholera Affects Thousands as Haiti Waits for UN Action

March 27, 2017 - 09:01

The United Nations has been unable to move beyond mere promises in its efforts to support cholera victims and alleviate the epidemic in Haiti. After concrete evidence tied the cholera outbreak to infected UN peacekeepers, the UN is only at 2% of its goal to fund “The New Approach” to support Haitian victims and cholera projects. The United States has not joined the efforts, a notable absence after many pleas for contributions from the UN. However, as the Boston Globe Editorial Board writes, “there is still time for the US State Department to assert moral leadership.” The number of infected Haitians continues to climb, and an estimated 30,000 more will be infected this year; there is an urgent need, and cholera victims deserve justice now.

Part of the article is shown below. Click HERE for the original article.

Haiti is still waiting on promised UN help for cholera epidemic

Editorial, The Boston Globe

March 27, 2017

Late last year, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon offered an apology for the UN’s role in bringing deadly cholera to Haiti, during a speech that moved from Creole to French to English. Since then, there has been little more than silence.

Ban’s long-awaited apology came with a promising plan to help victims of the savage epidemic, called “The New Approach,” which envisions spending $400 million to support survivors and address the nation’s crumbling water and sanitation systems. But fund-raising — based thus far on voluntary contributions — has brought in only 2 percent of that total. As of last week, donors included South Korea, India, and Liechtenstein, among others, but not the United States. Without assessed contributions from member nations, the future looks grim indeed. Advocates and rescue workers estimate another 30,000 people in Haiti will get cholera this year. The often-lethal scourge has already killed more than 9,000 and sickened 800,000.

Click HERE for the original article.

MA Resident Sued After Escaping Haiti’s Justice System for Years

March 27, 2017 - 07:24

Three plaintiffs filed a federal lawsuit against the former Mayor of Les Irois, Haiti in an attempt to bring justice against the man accused of murdering political opponents, burning 36 houses and using terror and violence during his term in office. Jean-Morose Viliena was elected Mayor in 2006, but fled to Massachusetts three years later after criminal investigators began looking into his behaviors. Since then, he has failed to show up to criminal trials and manipulated the already-weak justice system in Haiti, escaping prosecution for his crimes. This lawsuit was a step in the right direction to bring justice against him. However, on Friday, one of the three plaintiffs died in a sudden and unexpected manner, raising questions about the plaintiffs’ safety and Viliena’s lasting influence in Haiti. The Center for Justice and Accountability and IJDH are leading the efforts against Viliena, and they urge Haitian officials to thoroughly investigate the plaintiff’s cause of death.

Part of the article is shown below. Click HERE for the original article.

Has a murderer in Haiti been hiding in plain sight in Massachusetts?

Adrian Walker, The Boston Globe

March 27, 2017

Jean-Morose Viliena is a wanted man, under indictment for heinous crimes, including murder, in his native Haiti.

Improbably, he is also a resident of Malden, where he has a Social Security card and a license to drive buses. Probably few of his Massachusetts neighbors are aware that he is alleged to have participated in the murder and mutilation of constituents during a terrifying reign as mayor of Les Irois, a town of 22,306 in southwestern Haiti.

Viliena has thus far escaped trial, or justice in any form, but that could change. A federal lawsuit filed last week in Boston under the Torture Victim Protection Act seeks damages for his alleged offenses. It is spearheaded by two human rights organizations, the Center for Justice and Accountability and the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.

Viliena was elected mayor of Les Irois in 2006. Not long after that, he began his alleged reign of terror against his political opponents, members of the Struggling People’s Party. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit — originally three, now two — are residents of Les Irois.

The suit alleges that Viliena directed a brutal campaign against opponents of his political organization. It says Viliena and his associates killed one man, Ecclesiaste Boniface, in an attack that originally targeted his brother. In addition, Viliena and his associates badly beat and maimed two men in a raid against a local radio station established by the opposition party. Finally, it says that he and his cronies burned down 36 houses in what the suit describes as “a rampage of arson.” That attack, in 2009, left hundreds of people homeless.

Click HERE for the original article.

Haitian Seeking Justice Against Criminal Ex-Mayor Dies Suddenly

March 25, 2017 - 09:52

One of the three plaintiffs in the case against a former Haitian mayor who engaged in political repression and murder has died suddenly in Haiti. The plaintiff, Nissage Martyr, had had a leg amputated after Viliena (the former Mayor)’s gang beat at and shot at him for his involvement in a community radio station. Martyr received repeated threats from Viliena’s associates but, unable to find justice in the Haitian legal system, he and the other plaintiffs were able to begin the legal process in Massachusetts where Viliena was hiding. Now, Martyr’s lawyers are calling for an investigation into his sudden death.

Plaintiff in Boston Lawsuit Against Former Haitian Mayor Dies

Reuters, The New York Times

March 25, 2017

(Reuters) – One of three Haitian men who recently sued the former mayor of their village accusing him in Boston federal court of murdering, torturing and burning the homes of his political opponents has died, his attorney said on Saturday.

Nissage Martyr, a plaintiff in the lawsuit filed Thursday against ex-mayor Jean Morose Viliena, fell suddenly ill while watching football with neighbors Friday night in Les Irois, a town on Haiti’s far western coast, and died on the way to hospital.

Lawyers for the three plaintiffs said Viliena now works as a school bus driver and lives in Malden, Massachusetts, where he fled after Haitian courts began investigating his conduct while in office.

“Our heartfelt condolences go out to Martyr’s family and friends. We call on the government of Haiti to expeditiously and completely investigate to determine the cause of Martyr’s death,” Scott Gilmore, Martyr’s attorney from the Center for Justice and Accountability, said in a statement.

Lawyers from the San Francisco-based human rights organization said they filed the civil lawsuit on Thursday seeking unspecified monetary damages in Boston because Viliena had not been convicted or prosecuted in his native Haiti.

The lawsuit said Viliena, backed by an armed militia, committed human rights abuses by routinely using violence against perceived political opponents or people who complained about how he governed Les Irois, a town of about 22,300 people.

Viliena fled from Haiti around January 2009, according to the lawsuit.

He could not be reached for comment on Saturday.

Online court documents did not list an attorney for Viliena.

In July 2008, the lawsuit said, Viliena led a gang that attacked Radio Nouvelle Vision, a community radio station operated from Martyr’s home. During the raid Martyr was beaten and the gang opened fired on him. One of Martyr’s legs had to be amputated as a result of the attack.

Since 2008, Martyr had received repeated threats from Viliena’s associates and had exhausted legal avenues in Haiti, the Center for Justice and Accountability said.

According to the lawsuit, Viliena also led a gang that killed Eclesiaste Boniface, 23, in July 2007 after his brother, David Boniface, another plaintiff in the lawsuit, intervened in a dispute between the official and a neighbor over trash disposal.

(Reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Read the full article here.

US Senators & Reps Urge DHS to Extend TPS for Haiti

March 24, 2017 - 13:22

U.S. Senators and Representatives from Florida wrote to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kelly asking him to extend Haiti’s TPS designation when the current 18-month period expires on July 22. They emphasized Haiti’s continuing struggle to rebuild after the 2010 earthquake and 2016 Hurricane Matthew, as well as the cholera epidemic. Signatories include US Senators Rubio and Nelson and US Representatives Alcee Hastings, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart, Ted Deutch, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Carlos Curbelo, Frederica Wilson, and Lois Frankel.

Part of the letter is below. Read the full letter here.

March 24, 2017

Honorable John F. Kelly
Secretary
Department of Homeland Security
3801 Nebraska Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20016

Dear Secretary Kelly:

We write to encourage you to exercise your authority under Section 244 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1254a) to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haitian nationals who have been residing in the United States and benefitting from this program.

Through TPS, our country has been committed to providing a safe haven to individuals unable to securely return to their home country due to ongoing environmental disasters and violence that have severely impacted their country. On January 12, 2010, Haiti was hit by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake causing massive devastation throughout the country. The earthquake is estimated to have directly affected 3,000,000 people, nearly one-third of Haiti’s population. In addition, the earthquake destroyed government buildings, hospitals, schools, and vital aid offices, including the United Nations’ mission headquarters. Haiti, to this day, continues to rebuild from this debilitating earthquake.

Since the earthquake hit Haiti, the country has not only suffered a cholera outbreak that is responsible for the deaths of, to date, 9,000 Haitians, but also Hurricane Matthew, which made landfall on October 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew was the worst to hit the country in 50 years, taking the lives of over 1,000 people and directly affecting 2.1 million Haitians. The hurricane was responsible for the internal displacement of 175,000 people and left 1.4 million in need of urgent humanitarian aid.

Read the full letter here.

Lengthy Indictment of Guy Philippe Not Enough to Throw Out Case

March 24, 2017 - 09:41

After over 11 years under indictment, Haitian Senator-Elect Guy Philippe awaits federal trial after a Miami judge delayed the trial until May 1st. The judge criticized US federal authorities for not making a “consistent effort” to arrest Philippe during this 11-year span, although she stopped short of throwing out the case. Philippe was ultimately taken into U.S. custody on January 5, 2017, mere days before he was to swear in to the Haitian Senate, and the judge ruled that his status as Senator-Elect at the time of the arrest precludes political immunity.

Part of the article is shown below. Click HERE for the original article.

Miami judge won’t toss drug charges against ex-Haitian rebel leader Guy Philippe

Jay Weaver and Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald

March 24, 2017

A Miami federal judge has rejected a motion to throw out a drug-trafficking indictment against Guy Philippe, a prominent public figure in Haiti who was arrested on the island by U.S. agents on Jan. 5, just days before he was going to be sworn in as a senator.

U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga faulted federal authorities for not making a consistent effort to arrest Philippe since his indictment in late 2005, but found prosecutors did not violate his constitutional right to a speedy trial because he had “reneged” on a promise to turn himself in.

The judge also found that Philippe, 49, did not have immunity against prosecution as an elected public official in Haiti because he had not been sworn in before his arrest.

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Suffering Continues Months after Hurricane Matthew as Death Toll Rises

March 24, 2017 - 06:27

Months after Hurricane Matthew, the levels of desperation and suffering are approaching a humanitarian crisis in Haiti. The storm left over 800,000 hungry, and many regions are still recovering in the aftermath of the storm. Severe food insecurity and the recent end of emergency response programs have impeded many Haitians’ access to basic needs, and major sources of income for some farmers, such as fruit and cacao trees, will be unable to produce this year as a result of the storm. The death toll due to starvation is rising, and many Haitians lack access to safe shelter, clean water and food. Aid workers warn that the situation could deteriorate rapidly, and more will continue to lose their lives if the food shortage is not addressed.

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Desperate Haitians living in caves, eating toxic plants in post-hurricane Haiti

Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald

March 24, 2017

Almost six months after deadly Hurricane Matthew destroyed crops and livestock along Haiti’s southern peninsula, life has become so desperate that Haitians are eating poisonous plants and living in caves to survive, aid workers say.

On Wednesday, 240 people, including 84 women and 62 children, were found in a mountain cave near Fonds Rouge Dahere on the outskirts of Jérémie, the capital of Haiti’s Grand’Anse region. They were discovered by an agricultural director with the South-Florida based charity Food For The Poor, and had been living in the cave ever since Matthew’s 145-miles-per-hour winds hit the southern peninsula in October.

“They have no food. They have no water. They have no shelter,” said Robin Mahfood, President/CEO of Food For The Poor. “It really is a crime against humanity.”

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Former Haitian Mayor Hiding in Massachusetts Sued for Human Rights Violations

March 23, 2017 - 17:35

Jean Morose Viliena fled Haiti when he was indicted on murder, battery and property destruction charges by Haitian courts in 2009. Since then, he has apparently been working as a licensed school bus driver and an Uber driver in Massachusetts, despite his history of silencing political dissidents in the town he oversaw. Instead of being prosecuted for his crimes, the Martelly government appointed Viliena mayor of Les Irois in 2012. Now that there is a case against Viliena in the U.S., this will be a test for Haiti’s new government to see whether it will allow human rights abusers to continue getting away with their crimes.

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

Boston bus driver and former mayor in Haiti sued for human rights abuses in U.S. court

Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald

March 23, 2017

A Boston school bus and Uber driver who was appointed mayor of a small Haitian village in 2012 by former Haitian President Michel Martelly despite a murder indictment in the Haitian courts is being sued in U.S. federal court for human rights abuses.

A civil lawsuit, filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, accuses Jean Morose Viliena, the former mayor of Les Irois in Haiti’s Grand’Anse region, of torture, extrajudicial killing, attempted extrajudicial killing and arson. The suit was filed by the San Francisco-based Center for Justice & Accountability and the multinational Dentons law firm. Lawyers are seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages against Viliena on behalf of three victims.

“The problem in Haiti … is if you have political connections, you can literally get away with murder,” said Scott Gilmore, a human rights attorney with the Center for Justice & Accountability. “You can be handpicked to return to office.”…

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Haitian Nationals Sue Former Mayor in U.S. Court

March 23, 2017 - 12:30

Three Haitian nationals are taking to the U.S. federal court system to seek justice years in the making. They sued Jean Morose Viliena, the former mayor of their village in Haiti, for murdering his political opponents and committing routine human rights abuses during his time as mayor. Viliena fled from Haiti after the courts launched investigations into his behaviors in office, and the plaintiffs are now hoping that the U.S. court system will help them accomplish what could not be done in Haiti.

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Former Haitian mayor sued in Boston over human rights abuses

Scott Malone, Reuters

March 23, 2017

Three Haitian nationals sued the former mayor of their rural village on Thursday, accusing him in Boston federal court of murdering, torturing and burning the homes of his political opponents.

Lawyers for the three plaintiffs said the ex-mayor, Jean Morose Viliena, now works a school bus driver and lives in Malden, Massachusetts, where he fled to after Haitian courts began investigating his conduct while in office.

The lawyers, who are with the Center for Justice and Accountability, said they filed a civil lawsuit seeking unspecified monetary damages in Boston because Viliena had not been convicted or prosecuted in his native Haiti.

“He fled from Haitian justice, he fled from the courts, he fled from years of our clients’ efforts to have him prosecuted in Haiti, and he found safety in the Boston suburbs,” said Scott Gilmore, a lawyer with the center. “U.S. territory should not be used as a safe haven for people who commit these sorts of crimes.”

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Haiti’s New Prime Minister Seeks to Unite and Heal Country

March 22, 2017 - 08:52

After confirmation by the Haitian Senate and Chamber of Deputies, physician Guy Lafontant rose to second-in-command in the Haitian government. As the new Prime Minister, he urged the country to unite and build bridges between polarized, unequal and marginalized communities. Lafontant also stressed the importance of major reforms, and, like President Jovenel Moise, he committed the new administration to prioritizing agricultural investments.

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

New prime minister urges Haitians to heal deep divisions

David McFadden, Associated Press

March 22, 2017

Haiti’s new prime minister on Tuesday urged this deeply polarized country to bridge divisions, and he vowed to bring steady advances even while acknowledging that the struggling nation has no shortage of accelerating problems.

Dr. Jack Guy Lafontant, a physician and political outsider approved as Haiti’s No. 2 official after clearing a final parliamentary hurdle early in the day, took the oath of office in front of politicians and dignitaries on the grounds of the national palace.

“Time is serious and the legacy is heavy. I inherited the prime minister’s job at a time when inflation is rampant, the depreciation of the (Haitian) gourd is accelerating, and where agriculture, the main backbone of our economy, continues to lose its competitiveness,” Lafontant said.

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Investigative Report Highlights Systemic Nature of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in MINUSTAH

March 22, 2017 - 07:01

While instances of sexual exploitation and abuse have been widely documented in the MINUSTAH peacekeeping mission, a new investigative report suggests that the number of formal allegations drastically underrepresents the extent of the crimes; sexual exploitation and abuse in MINUSTAH indicates a systemic problem in both the peacekeeping mission and the UN’s approach to bringing justice to the survivors. UN actions to address issues of sexual exploitation and abuse have been inadequate to affect real change, and have even deterred more people from reporting. This report highlights the preliminary findings from a 27-day investigation by independent investigator Mark Snyder, and strongly urges the UN to launch an immediate and in-depth investigation into the abuses.

Click HERE to watch a new Fault Lines documentary entitled “Haiti By Force: UN Sex Abuse.”

Part of the introduction to the investigative report is shown below. Click HERE for the full report.

UN SEA: Sexual Exploitation and Abuse at the Hands of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (Investigative Report)

Mark Snyder, Center for Economic and Policy Research

January 2017

Investigative Overview: A preliminary independent investigation conducted in areas close to existing or abandoned bases for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) brings to light the alarming magnitude of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA) at the hands of United Nations personnel in Haiti. The purpose of this investigation is to determine if the initial unreported cases brought to the attention of the author were isolated incidents or are instead a result of a systemic problem present in the UN’s mission in Haiti. In consultation with Haitian civil society partners, the following report considers that a further, in-depth investigation into these abuses is vital and urgent.

The results of our investigation strongly suggest that the issue of SEA by United Nations personnel in Haiti is substantial and has been grossly underreported. Using the same methodology in all areas where MINUSTAH bases are or have been located[i], a thorough and in-depth investigation would be expected to identify close to 600 victims who would agree to in-person interviews. This number in itself indicates a victim count that requires immediate attention and significant modifications to current MINUSTAH peacekeeping operations, including with regard to the manner in which UN SEA cases are investigated and reported. These preliminary findings are based on the work of one investigator during 27 days of investigation. Through a network of community contacts in eight areas where there currently is, or where there has been a MINUSTAH base, the investigation identified 42 UN SEA victims who agreed to be interviewed. With a professional investigative team, comprised of individuals with specialized expertise and the resources to cover the entire country, the likely number of documented UN SEA allegations from victims would be expected to be significantly higher.

Click HERE for the full report.

Click HERE to watch a documentary about UN sexual exploitation and abuse in Haiti.

UN Emphasizes Development Cooperation for Water and Sanitation Improvement

March 21, 2017 - 06:45

       

“Development cooperation is key to realizing rights to safe drinking water and sanitation” – UN expert

GENEVA (21 March 2016) – Everyone involved in development cooperation is being urged by a UN expert to work together to ensure that the human rights of water and sanitation are available to all people around the world.

The appeal comes from the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to water and sanitation,  Léo Heller, on World Water Day (22 March) and aims to shed light on the key role of development cooperation in the realization of the rights to water and sanitation.

Mr. Heller says: “development cooperation is a crucial element in the funding of these services in many developing countries and seems to be increasing in accordance with commitments outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”  

Although many States and multilateral organizations have declared their intention to realize the human rights to water and sanitation through development cooperation, the Special Rapporteur notes that a human rights-based approach in development programmes and projects appears to be more the exception than the rule.

“It is clear that development cooperation can establish a benchmark for those involved in the water and sanitation sector, including the governments of countries in development cooperation partnerships,” Mr. Heller says.  “If such moves are guided by a human rights approach they can contribute to the realization of the rights to water and sanitation. But if not, they can instead have a negative impact.”

The Special Rapporteur calls for a framework solidly based on human rights, prioritizing projects that benefit the poorest and most disadvantaged and supporting states to progressively realize those rights. “For outcomes to be effective and sustainable, States need strong legal, regulatory and policy frameworks. Development cooperation hence needs to focus on capacity-building activities that strengthen local authorities,” he says.

“Funding for development cooperation is on the rise but water generally receives more money than sanitation,” Mr. Heller notes. “Large systems regularly get about twice as much as smaller ones, suggesting that urban areas are being favoured to the detriment of those more rural.”

The Special Rapporteur is conducting further research involving talks with key actors, as well as field visits. His findings and related recommendations will be reflected in a report to be presented to the UN General Assembly in October.  


ENDS

Léo Heller is the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, appointed in November 2014. He is a researcher in the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Brazil and was previously Professor of the Department of Sanitary and Environmental Engineering at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil from 1990 to 2014. Learn more.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

For more information and press inquiries, please contact Ms. Viktoria Aberg (+41 22 917 9790 / vaberg@ohchr.org) or write to srwatsan@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Bryan Wilson, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9826 / Mediaconsultant1@ohchr.org)  

You can access this media advisory online

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Secretary-General Guterres Must Ensure the UN’s Moral Debt to Haiti is Paid

March 21, 2017 - 06:38

In December 2016, after six years of trying to avoid blame for the cholera epidemic it brought to Haiti in 2010, the United Nations apologized for its role and announced a $00 million New Approach to dealing with cholera. Months later, the fund has only raised about $2 million – from voluntary contributions from South Korea, France Chile, India and Liechtenstein. It is now up to a new Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, to make sure the New Approach continues.  He “needs to use every bit of skill and good will to compel and cajole member nations and philanthropies to make the cholera campaign succeed — and with it, to settle the United Nations’ moral debt to Haiti.”

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

U.N. Accepts Blame but Dodges the Bill in Haiti

Editorial Board, The New York Times

March 21, 2017

Today’s lesson in evading moral responsibility comes to us from the United Nations. The organization says it is terribly concerned about the cholera epidemic in Haiti and wishes to eliminate it. But it has not figured out when and how this is going to happen, and with what money.

The “who” and “why” are well known. The United Nations has the duty to end the cholera crisis because the United Nations caused it. The disease was unknown in modern Haiti until peacekeepers, from Nepal, introduced it. They let their raw sewage flow into a river that people use for drinking water. That was in 2010. Cholera has since killed more than 9,000 Haitians and sickened 800,000 others.

The United Nations has spent nearly all that time trying to avoid blame. Only last December did it apologize and promise to make things right. The secretary-general at the time, Ban Ki-moon, promised strenuous efforts, called the “New Approach,” to eradicate cholera from the country.

 

Click HERE for the full text.