Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Syndicate content
IJDH.org
Updated: 1 hour 40 min ago

Toussaint Louverture Exhibit Closing

September 23, 2014 - 15:00

Catch this historic exhibit at Boston Public Library before it’s gone!

WHAT:

Toussaint Louverture exhibition closing event

WHERE: 

Boston Public Library, Copley Sq

WHEN:

Tuesday, September 23 at 6pm

 

Click HERE for more info.

200 personnes et organisations soutiennent Aristide dans une lettre ouverte

September 21, 2014 - 22:45

Récemment, plus de 200 personnes et organisations ont paraphé une lettre ouverte de soutien a l’ancien président Jean-Bertrand Aristide. L’acteur américain, Danny Glover, est l’un des signataires et il a écrit un autre article excellent sur ce sujet. Cet article décrit les autres signataires et les développements récents concernant Aristide.

Haïti-Justice : Deux cents personnalités et institutions dans le monde apportent leur soutien à Aristide La plainte contre le juge Lamarre Bélizaire « n’est pas encore évacuée », selon le président du Cspj

AlterPresse
22 septembre 2014

P-au-P, 22 sept. 2014 [AlterPresse] — Plus de 200 personnalités, associations et organisations dans le monde, ont paraphé une lettre ouverte de soutien à l’ancien président Jean-Bertrand Aristide, visé par la justice pour corruption et trafic de drogue, entre autres.

« Arrêtez les attaques contre le président Aristide et le mouvement Lavalas », demandent ces personnalités et institutions, qui estiment « urgent » d’agir en ce sens, dans un document dont a pris connaissance l’agence en ligne AlterPresse.

Les signataires du document d’appui à Aristide sont des artistes, des professeurs d’universités, des journalistes, des prédicateurs, des coalitions d’anciens prisonniers politiques, des organisations internationales de défense des droits humains, des éducateurs et des parlementaires.

L’acteur américain, Danny Glover, qui a toujours soutenu Aristide, fait partie de la liste, de même que le célèbre journaliste américain condamné à mort, Moumia Abu-Jamal.

Les signataires demandent la « révocation définitive » du « mandat d’arrêt », émis contre l’ancien chef d’État, et des « accusations » portées contre les lavalassiens.

Pour eux, ces attaques viseraient « une consolidation de la dictature » en Haïti.

Toute cette démarche judiciaire contre le « leader symbolique » et des proches du parti « Fanmi Lavalas » n’aurait d’autre objectif que les empêcher de participer aux prochaines élections, qui doivent se tenir dans le pays, considèrent les 200 signataires du document.

Des professeurs à l’instar de Mattias Gardell, de l’Université D’Uppsala en Suède (Europe), et Susan Roberta Katz, de l’Université de San Francisco, ont paraphé le document aux côtés des leaders religieux comme Francis Ackroyd, ministre d’église à Ilford en Angleterre, Thomas Gumbleton, monseigneur de l’archidiocèse de Detroit (États-Unis),

Parmi les organisations, on retient le Comité pour la solidarité Latino-Américaine de la région de la baie (Balasc), l’Unité africaine américaine (Ouaa) et le Réseau international juif anti-sioniste entre autres.

Au début du mois d’août 2014, le juge d’instruction Lamarre Bélizaire a publié une liste de plus d’une trentaine de personnes, frappées d’interdiction de départ, parmi elles Aristide et des proches de son parti.

Le juge a émis un mandat de comparution, qui allait vite se transformer en mandat d’arrêt.

Entre-temps, les avocats d’Aristide ont présenté une demande en récusation du juge Lamarre Bélizaire, en charge de l’instruction du dossier, dans lequel est cité le nom de l’ancien chef d’État, pour détournement de fonds, blanchiment des avoirs et trafic de stupéfiants.

Dans la foulée, le juge aurait décidé de placer Jean-Bertrand Aristide en résidence surveillée.

Une intention, qui a poussé les sympathisants lavalassiens, indignés, à aller camper devant la demeure de l’ancien président, en guise de solidarité.

Depuis quelques jours, un véhicule de l’Unité départementale de maintien d’ordre (Udmo) est remarqué non loin de la résidence d’Aristide à Tabarre, municipalité au nord-est de Port-au-Prince. Auparavant, des policiers administratifs y étaient déployés.

Une situation qui inquiète les parents d’élèves d’établissements se trouvant à proximité. Ces parents craignent d’éventuelles turbulences, qui pourraient occasionner l’utilisation de gaz lacrymogènes…

Dans la nuit du jeudi 11 au vendredi 12 septembre 2014, ont été rappelés les agents de l’Unité de sécurité générale du palais national (Usgpn), qui assuraient la sécurité de Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Sur la base des faits signalés, les signataires de la lettre appellent à la « suspension » du juge Bélizaire.

Cet appel des signataires de la lettre de soutien arrive dans un contexte, où le Conseil supérieur du pouvoir judiciaire (Cspj) a commencé une période de certification des juges dans le système judiciaire du pays.

« Tous les juges de la république » devront être certifiés, fait savoir à AlterPresse, le président du Cspj, Anel Alexis Joseph.

Les juges, concernés par des plaintes non évacuées, « tomberont » dans le processus de validation, souligne Anel Alexis Joseph.

Des avocats ont déjà déposé une plainte au Cspj contre le juge Bélizaire, relative au dossier des frères (Enold et Josué Florestal).

La dernière ordonnance de Bélizaire sur le dossier des frères Florestal est qualifiée d’ avilissante pour la justice par le Réseau national de défense des droits humains (Rnddh).

La plainte contre le juge Lamarre Bélizaire « n’est pas encore évacuée », « pense » le président du Cspj. [srh kft rc apr 22/09/2014 1:45]

 

Cliquez ICI pour l’original.

Danny Glover Says Stop Persecuting Aristide

September 19, 2014 - 14:54

Actor, Producer, and humanitarian Danny Glover has joined in the call to end the political harassment of former president Aristide. In this article, Glover describes US involvement in the 2004 coup against Aristide and in supporting the current president in the deeply-flawed 2011 elections. Finally, he calls for the US government to “stop standing in the way of the popular will of the Haitian people.”

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

Stop the Political Persecution of Aristide and Fanmi Lavalas Once and for All

Danny Glover, The World Post
September 19, 2014

In March of 2011 I accompanied Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide on his trip home to Haiti following years of forced exile in South Africa. I did so in support of Haitian democracy and Aristide’s civil rights, and in protest against my country’s role in illegally removing him from power in 2004 and then preventing him from returning to his native land for seven long years. Today, Haitian democracy and the rights of Aristide are again under threat and the U.S. government appears to be turning a blind eye.

Since returning to Haiti, Aristide has focused his energy on rebuilding and reactivating a medical university that he founded in 2001 and that had been closed down during his time in exile. Though he hasn’t been directly involved in politics, he remains a popular figure and is the leader of Fanmi Lavalas (FL) — a political party that has won the majority of votes in every election in which it has participated. However, FL has been kept off the ballot by Haiti’s authorities ever since the 2004 coup that led to Aristide’s forced exile.

Haiti’s parliamentary elections, originally scheduled for 2011, are now three years overdue and the UN and other foreign entities have repeatedly called for them to take place before the end of the year. With Aristide back in Haiti it would appear to be more difficult this time around for the government to prevent FL from participating. This is perhaps why the deposed president is once again under attack.

Last month, a Haitian judge reportedly issued an arrest warrant for Aristide. The case being mounted against him reeks of political persecution directly tied to efforts to suppress a popular alternative to the current administration of Michel Martelly, who is supported by conservative Haitian elites and the U.S.

The charges against Aristide stem from an investigation conducted by the illegal government established by the 2004 U.S.-backed coup. Under that government, human rights researchers found that some 4,000 people were killed for political reasons, while many others were imprisoned on bogus charges. Despite his powerful enemies’ best efforts, and a grand jury investigation in the U.S., no evidence has been produced that could support criminal charges against Aristide. In the meantime, the persecution of Lavalas and human rights defenders continues. On August 20, Lavalas activist Clifford Charles was killed following a protest demanding the release of fellow activist Louima Louis Juste.

The judge who issued the warrant for Aristide’s arrest has been disbarred from practicing law for 10 years — as soon as he steps down from his position as judge — for his role in the arrest last year of Andre Michel, an attorney investigating corruption within the Martelly administration. Lawyers for Aristide contend that they never received the initial summons from the judge and that when they did go to the court at the required time, the judge himself was a no-show. Now, in an apparent attempt at saving-face, the judge has ordered house arrest for Aristide, something that is not even legal in Haiti. The National Network for the Defense of Human Rights, Haiti’s most prominent human rights organization, has pointed out that these are not the actions of a neutral third-party.

On the night of September 11th, Haitian authorities went a step further, removing the security detail that had been with Aristide since his return from exile, a move that put him, his family, and his supporters at risk.

 

Click HERE for the full text.

How Can You Help with Cholera Advocacy

September 18, 2014 - 11:54

Half-Hour for Haiti Action Alert:
Thursday September 18, 2014
Help spread the word: It’s been almost 4 years and still no UN accountability

Be Part of the Solu­tion for Haiti: Make a Dif­fer­ence a Half Hour at a time

9/18/2014

Dear Friend,

Thank you so much if you attended yesterday’s conference call on cholera justice. We had a lively conversation about the history and status of the ongoing legal case and how it advances the goal of UN accountability. We also heard about upcoming opportunities for advocacy. If you missed it, dial (712) 432-1219 and follow the instructions using Meeting ID 416-399-999 and Reference Number 2 to listen.*

As promised, here’s how you can help us advocate for justice:

Take Action!

The cholera epidemic was brought to Haiti by UN peacekeepers in 2010, shortly after an earthquake already devastated the country. The epidemic has killed more than 9,000 people and nearly 800,000 have become ill. Through advocacy by our supporters, journalists, human rights organizations, government officials and more, the UN response to cholera has changed drastically. But there’s still work to be done! It’s been almost four years since the epidemic began and we need your help to make sure the cholera victims’ stories aren’t forgotten.

Please help us keep the pressure on by:

  • Tweeting about the anniversary. Tell your followers why justice for cholera victims matters to you. Use #ICareBecause each week until the 4th anniversary of the cholera epidemic, October 19. Remind everyone that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
  • Helping with translations. To make sure we partner with Haitians for cholera advocacy, we often need quick translations to or from Haitian Creole and French. If you can help on short notice, please email volunteercoordinator@ijdh.org.
  • Hosting a screening. A key part of advocacy is informing new supporters about a cause. Spread the word about cholera in Haiti by screening Baseball in the Time of Cholera for your organization, friends, or family.

Mesi anpil!

Kermshlise Picard
Communications Coordinator

Public Conference Call on Cholera

September 17, 2014 - 10:00

Learn more about the cholera litigation against the UN in our public conference call. The cholera team just completed their final brief on the question of UN immunity, and now await the court’s decision. IJDH Staff Attorney Beatrice Lindstrom, Legal Fellow Shannon Jonsson, and Executive Director Brian Concannon will discuss recent updates, how the case has progressed since it began, and how you can help fight for justice for cholera’s victims. There will also be lots of time for your questions.

WHEN: 

Wednesday, September 17 1-2pm

HOW:

Dial (712) 432-1212* and enter the meeting ID, 416-399-999.

*Long-distance charges may apply for international callers but a calling card will work as it’s a US phone number. Your country may also have a free conference call number available here.

Next Mile Project Interviews Brian Concannon

September 17, 2014 - 08:23

August 19, 2014, Brian Concannon spoke about our work at a Next Mile Project brown bag lunch. He explained the connection between BAI and IJDH and how the two organizations collaborate with each other and with other organizations. Next Mile Project made a great short video compiling Brian’s interview and the slideshow he presented during the lunch.

ADAPTING TO CHANGES IN SOCIAL JUSTICE ADVOCACY TRENDS

Next Mile Project
September 2, 2014

 

For the PowerPoint slides and NMP’s short bio of Brian, click HERE.

Maxine Waters exhorte Kerry à intervenir en Haïti

September 16, 2014 - 13:48

Représentant américaine Maxine Waters a écrit une lettre au secrétaire d’État John Kerry, exprimant ses préoccupations au sujet de le retrait de la sécurité d’Aristide 11 septembre. Sa plus grande préoccupation citée est une confrontation potentielle entre les partisans d’Aristide et la police: Elle craint que cela qui puisse mener à des pertes de vie et d’instabilité politique en Haïti. Rep. Waters exhorte Kerry à intervenir immédiatement.

Haïti – Politique : La Congressiste Maxine Waters demande l’intervention de John Kerry

HaitiLibre
September 16, 2014

Dans une lettre adressée au Secrétaire d’État John Kerry, la Congressiste Maxine Waters, dit craindre une situation dangereuse après le retrait des agents chargés de la sécurité de l’ancien Président Aristide et lui demande d’intervenir sans délai, afin d’éviter une confrontation dangereuse entre les forces de l’orde et les partisans d’Aristide.

« L’Honorable John Kerry
Secrétaire d’État
Département d’État
2201 C Street, NW, Room 7226
Washington, DC 20520

Cher Secrétaire Kerry:

Je suis profondément concerné par la situation en Haïti.

J’ai été informé que des ordres ont été donnés de rappeler tous les officiers du commissariat de police qui fournissait la sécurité à la maison du Président Aristide et tous les policiers ont quitté les alentours ce matin aux environs de 1h00 a.m. [jeudi 11 septembre 2014]. Cela rend le Président Aristide et sa famille, totalement exposés.

Je suis extrêmement concerné qu’il existe un effort d’arrêter de manière illégale le Président Aristide. Étant donné que les supporteurs du Président Aristide se sont rassemblés autour de sa maison au cours des derniers jours pour montrer leur soutien envers lui, on peut raisonnablement s’attendre qu’ils aillent encercler sa maison pour prévenir son arrestation. Personne ne devrait vouloir une confrontation entre les partisans du Président Aristide et la police. Je crains qu’une situation dangereuse se développe, qui puisse mener à des pertes de vie et d’instabilité politique plus profonde en Haïti.

S’il vous plait intervenez immédiatement pour éviter une confrontation inutile et dangereuse et éviter que s’en suive le chaos en Haïti.

Sincèrement,
Maxine Waters
Membre du Congrès

cc: Thomas C. Adams, Haiti Special Coordinator
Ambassador Pamela A. White, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Haiti»

Par ailleurs nous apprenons que ce mardi 16 septembre 2014, des sénateurs de l’Opposition anciens membres de l’organisation politique Fanmi Lavalas, des politiciens d’allégeance lavalassienne, des membres du MOPOD et des représentants d’organisations populaires, ont la ferme intention, en signe de solidarité, de rendre visite au Président Aristide, à sa résidence de Tabarre, sans demander l’autorisation au Juge Lamarre Bélizaire

 

Cliquez ICI pour l’original.

Reports Sent to UN Human Rights Committee

September 16, 2014 - 13:06

We are pleased to announce that on Friday, Sept 12, six reports were sent to the UN Human Rights Committee for review of Haiti’s obligations under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The Committee will review Haiti in Geneva October 8th and 9th.

The reports are on the following topics:

(1) ICCPR Violations in the Context of the Cholera Epidemic in Haiti
(2) The Plight of Restavèk (Child Domestic Servants)
(3) Freedom of Expression in Haiti: Violations of the Freedom of the Press
(4) Prison Conditions and Pre-Trial Detention in Haiti
(5) The Right to Vote
(6) Access to Judicial Remedies in Haiti (includes Duvalier, gender-based violence, human rights defenders, labor, and forced evictions)

Links to each report are below.

  1. HRC_Cholera_Sept 12
  2. HRC_Restavek Sept 12
  3. HRC Freedom of Press_Sept 12
  4. HRC_Criminal Justice Sept 12
  5. HRC_Right to Vote_Sept 12
  6. HRC_Access to judicial remedies_Sept 12

International Community Misplaces Blame for Election Delays

September 16, 2014 - 12:29

For years, the international community has been aware that elections in Haiti were being delayed and have called for elections that respect Haiti’s Constitution. Now that elections have been delayed further, the international community seems more focused on the holding of elections than on having them be fair, democratic, and Constitutional. Instead, they blame the delay on the 6 opposition Senators who are pushing for Constitutional elections. This post outlines the change international community’s response to the delays from 2010 to today.

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

U.N. and U.S. Blame Haiti’s Opposition for Delayed Elections, Ignore History

Center for Economic and Policy Research
September 16, 2014

At the United Nations Security Council meeting last week, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power did not mince words regarding who was to blame for Haiti’s electoral impasse. Power, speaking to the assembled members, stated bluntly [PDF]:

But a group of six senators seems intent on holding elections hostage to partisan concerns, even going so far as to prevent a debate on the electoral law.

Legislators in a democracy have a responsibility to defend their constituents’ rights. But when elected officials take advantage of democracy’s checks and balances to cynically block debates and elections altogether, they stand in the way of addressing citizens’ real needs.

It wasn’t just the U.S. referencing the so called “Group of 6.” The head of MINUSTAH, the U.N. mission in Haiti, also blamed a “group of Senators opposed to the El Rancho Accord.” Today, in a separate action, 15 U.S. members of Congress wrote to the Senate president Simon Desras. As the Miami Herald reports, the lawmakers wrote that:

“We are deeply concerned that the Haitian Senate has been unable to pass the requisite legislation to authorize elections this year….We believe that Haitians deserve better than to have this fundamental democratic right continually delayed.”

But, the Herald continues, “[i]n addition to the senators, several large political parties in Haiti are also opposed to the agreement and were not part of the negotiations [the El Rancho Accord]. In addition to raising constitutional issues, Martelly opponents have also raised questions about the formation of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) tasked with organizing the vote. Many feel that it is currently being controlled by the executive.”

Opposition leader Mirlande Manigat, a conservative who lost to Martelly in a run-off election in 2011 and is a constitutional scholar, responded to the comments from the U.S. and the U.N., saying it was unreasonable to overlook the role that Martelly has played in the delay:

“For three years, he refused to call elections. A large part of this is his fault…It is unfair to accuse the six senators for the crisis.”

As we have noted previously, there are legal and constitutional reasons behind the oppositions’ electoral stance. According to Mario Joseph, managing lawyer for the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, “Prompt elections are much needed, but elections will only remedy Haiti’s political crisis if they are run fairly by a constitutionally-mandated electoral council. President Michel Martelly has delayed elections for three years because he does not want to lose the political control he has enjoyed without full parliamentary oversight.”

Given the outrage coming from the U.S. and other foreign powers about the delayed elections and the focus on this group of senators, it could be easy to forget that indeed, as Joseph and Manigat point out, this issue has been developing for years, a fact of which the international community is well aware. For starters, much of the current political stalemate arises from the deeply flawed presidential elections in 2010, through which Martelly was elected only after the arbitrary intervention of the Organization of American States. Since that election, every year, without fail, the Martelly government has pledged to hold elections and then subsequently failed to live up to its promises. By overlooking this background and simply blaming a group of six senators, the international community and the U.S. are once again prioritizing the holding of any election, without regard to the quality of said election.

To illustrate just how long this has been an issue, and the changing viewpoints and criticisms from the international community one need only look back over the last few years of U.N. Security Council meetings.

In September 2011 Martelly had been in office for less than 6 months. With partial legislative elections on the horizon, then head of MINUSTAH Mariano Fernandez Amunategui spoke to the council [PDF]:

“It will also be important to support the electoral process in Haiti, which is preparing for partial legislative and local Government elections in November. In that respect, I stress that electoral reform, including the establishment of a credible permanent electoral council, is indispensable if Haiti hopes gradually to reduce its dependence on international electoral assistance.”

One year later, after those scheduled elections had not taken place, Fernandez once again addressed the Security Council [PDF]:

An exceptional situation in Haitian political life is currently being played out in that the Senate, which is theoretically made up of 30 members, today has only 20 members… That continues to distort political life, with negative consequences for the democratic stabilization process in Haiti In addition, there is at present a serious impasse in the formation of the Permanent Electoral Council.

Fernandez continued:

The formation of an electoral body of nine members in accordance with the stipulations of the Constitution is an unavoidable prerequisite for any elections; its establishment will determine how soon the pending elections can be held to renew a third of the Senate as well as to elect all municipal mayors and councillors. That is why MINUSTAH is currently working in coordination with the international community to promote dialogue and prepare the way for the soonest possible establishment of a Permanent Electoral Council that is legitimate and legal and that enjoys the broadest possible support.

That year (another with no elections held), the terms of some 130 mayors expired. Rather than let them continue until elections were held, they were replaced by appointees of Martelly. Fast forward another year, and MINUSTAH has a new head, Sandra Honoré. In her address to the Security Council, she states [PDF]:

Turning to the political situation, the continued delay in the holding of long-overdue partial senatorial, municipal and local elections is of increasing concern and poses a series of risks to the stabilization process. Yesterday’s long-awaited submission to Parliament by President Martelly of the draft electoral law that is required to launch the electoral process is a most welcome development. However, there have been protracted delays caused, in part, by the eight months that it took the three branches of Government to designate the nine members of the Electoral Council…

 

Click HERE for the full text.

Aristide Safety Concerns Distract from Delayed Elections

September 16, 2014 - 06:30

US Representative Maxine Waters recently expressed concern for Aristide’s safety in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry. Though many others have expressed similar concerns since the former president’s security was withdrawn, there has been no response from Kerry yet. Meanwhile, there is still no set date for elections in Haiti, which are years overdue. While prominent members of the international community, like Samantha Power, blame opposition senators for the current delay, the senators maintain that they are trying to uphold the Constitution.

Click HERE for more on the delay and what’s at stake.

As Haiti election delays continue, Aristide remains focus

Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald
September 16, 2014

Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was put under house arrest as part of an ongoing criminal investigation into corruption and drug trafficking allegations, is expected to get some moral support Tuesday.

A group of opposition leaders and senators opposed to a political accord the international community had hoped would lead to elections this year, say they plan to visit the former priest-turned-twice deposed president despite a judge’s order requiring visitors to seek approval before entering Aristide’s gated compound on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince.

“There is no such thing as house arrest under Haitian law,” said opposition Sen. Jean Baptiste Bien-Aime, who plans to join the delegation.

Aristide was ordered to stay put last week by investigative Judge Lamarre Bélizaire who is reviewing allegations that he and his associates stole millions from the Haitian treasury and pocketed kickbacks from drug traffickers between 2001 and 2004. Days later, police officers assigned to Aristide were recalled without explanation.

The actions were the latest in a series of moves by Bélizaire. They have perplexed and outraged Aristide supporters, including U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who is calling on Secretary of State John Kerry to intervene “to avoid an unnecessary and dangerous confrontation and ensure that chaos does not ensure in Haiti.”

“No one should want a confrontation between President Aristide’s supporters and the police,” Waters wrote to Kerry, whose office has yet to respond. “I fear that a dangerous situation may be developing that could lead to a loss of life and further political instability in Haiti.”

Waters, a long-time Aristide supporter, told the Miami Herald that she is “really concerned” about Aristide’s safety.

“He is at risk down there,” she said, noting that she has been fielding calls from equally concerned individuals such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson and soon plans to mount a letter-writing campaign. “I don’t understand the legality of what’s being done and a lot of people don’t understand it. Where is Bélizaire getting his orders from? What gives him the authority to do this? How does Bélizaire, a judge, have the ability to reach over into the police and remove police from security operations? We just don’t understand this.”

Equally confused Haitians say they believe the Aristide saga might be an attempt to test his popularity while some supporters say it’s a way of preventing his political party, Fanmi Lavalas, from staging a comeback. Martelly’s government has not commented on Aristide’s case but has said that it will not interfere in the work of the judiciary.

The house arrest and police removal came the same week in which Haiti’s lower chamber recessed without approving an electoral law, and Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, accused the six opposition senators of blocking political progress.

“A group of six senators seems intent on holding elections hostage to partisan concerns, even going so far as to prevent a debate on the electoral law,” Power said during a U.N. Security Council meeting on Haiti.

“Legislators in a democracy have a responsibility to defend their constituents’ rights,” Power said. “But when elected officials take advantage of democracy’s checks and balances to cynically block debate and elections altogether, they stand in the way of addressing citizens’ real needs.”

Power’s strong statement immediately drew rebuke in Port-au-Prince from the senators and other opposition leaders, who said her characterization of Haiti’s complex deepening political crisis was unjust and misinformed.

“We are not obstructionist. We are a group of senators who are defending the Haitian constitution,” said opposition Sen. Francky Exius.

Opposition party leader Mirlande Manigat said the international community consistently overlooks the role President Michel Martelly has played in delaying the vote for two-thirds of the Senate, the entire lower chamber of deputies, municipal administrations and local councils.

“For three years, he refused to call elections. A large part of this is his fault,” said Manigat, a constitution expert who lost to Martelly in the 2011 presidential runoff. “It is unfair to accuse the six senators for the crisis.”

Manigat’s party is among several that are also refusing to acknowledge the political agreement known as the El Rancho accord. The group has also taken issue with how the nine-member provisional electoral council was formed, saying it doesn’t instill confidence.

Ahead of the U.N. Security Council meeting, Martelly’s spokesman announced that the president was ready to resume talks with opposition parties, civil society and the six senators over elections. But so far, opposition leaders say, no talks have been scheduled.

Sandra Honoré, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s special representative to Haiti, told Power and other council members that “given the need for logistic preparations, the window for holding the elections before the end of the year is now rapidly closing.”

“This is particularly worrisome since without elections, parliament would be rendered dysfunctional on 12 January, thereby creating an institutional vacuum until elections are held and a new Legislature is installed,” she said.

Ban’s report to the council noted that Bélizaire’s efforts to question Aristide had erupted into controversy, starting with an Aug. 13 warrant for Aristide to be brought to court after he failed to show.

Aristide’s lawyers have said the warrant wasn’t properly served. Haiti’s leading human rights group, the National Human Rights Defense Network, has noted that while no one is above the law, it is concerned by “the arbitrary ways” in which Bélizaire has decided to pursue the case. His “actions defy logic,” it said in a statement.

For instance, when Haitian lawyers sought house arrest for former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier in his legal case, they were told it doesn’t exist, allowing him to leave home at will.

“Today, they are trying to create a crisis to hide all of the problems in the country like the hunger and the misery that are ravaging the population … and the elections that they haven’t done since 2011 and won’t do this year,” said Aristide’s spokeswoman, Dr. Maryse Narcisse.

 

Click HERE for the original.

Click HERE for more on the elections delay and what’s at stake.

Supporters Petition to End Political Harassment Against Aristide

September 13, 2014 - 06:51

In recent months, old charges of corruption have been brought against former President Aristide again. Charges of this nature are usually dropped before Aristide can challenge them in court. Now, Aristide supporters all over the world have come together against the latest political harassment campaign.

Part of the petition is below. Click HERE for the full text and list of signers.

As former Haitian President Aristide is placed on house arrest, supporters worldwide demand immediate halt to attacks on him and Lavalas Movement

By the Haiti Action Committee, in The San Francisco Bay View
September 13, 2014

On Aug. 21, Haitian police wearing black masks and carrying heavy arms appeared in front of the home of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide as a Haitian judge issued calls to arrest him. Hundreds of people courageously surrounded the house to protect him.

One week before, President Aristide was summoned to court on false corruption charges. On Sept. 10, he was placed on house arrest and barred from leaving the country.

This is the fourth time since his return to Haiti in 2011 that he has been the target of a politically motivated legal case. Previous charges were dropped before he could even challenge them in court.

The judge in this case, Lamarre Bélizaire, has been suspended for 10 years from practicing the law by the Port-au-Prince Bar Association for using the court to persecute opponents of the present regime. His suspension is due to begin once he steps down as judge.

President Aristide, a former priest, was Haiti’s first democratically elected president. He is loved and trusted by the majority of Haitians. While in office he built schools and hospitals, encouraged agriculture and doubled the minimum wage.

He was removed and forced into exile with his family in 2004 by a U.S.-backed military coup. Thousands of members of his Lavalas movement were killed, raped or falsely imprisoned in the aftermath of the coup.

In 2011, after seven years of grassroots organizing in Haiti backed up by an international campaign, President Aristide and his family returned home. Tens of thousands of people welcomed him.

President Aristide, a former priest, was Haiti’s first democratically elected president. He is loved and trusted by the majority of Haitians. While in office he built schools and hospitals, encouraged agriculture and doubled the minimum wage.

He promised to work for education and the inclusion of all Haitians in the democratic process. He has done just that – reopening the Aristide Foundation’s university, UNIFA, where today over 900 students from all sectors of society, including those who cannot afford higher education, are training to become doctors, nurses and lawyers.

Legislative elections due to take place in Haiti in October are triggering a new chilling wave of repression aimed at President Aristide and his supporters. Lavalas has overwhelmingly won every election in which it has participated, but since the 2004 coup the party has been barred from elections.

 

Click HERE for the full petition and list of signers.

Security Withdrawal Puts Aristide and Family at Risk

September 12, 2014 - 11:35

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

Is the Martelly Government Putting Former President Aristide in Danger?

Center for Economic and Policy Research
September 12, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Click HERE for the original.

Housing Rights Activism in Haiti: International Alliances & Challenges

September 11, 2014 - 09:30

Discuss ways to combat homelessness and forced evictions in Haiti.

WHAT: 

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

WHERE: 

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

WHEN: 

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

ABOUT THE SPEAKERS:

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

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

 

Click HERE for more CHRGJ events and programs.

Aristide Supporters Rally Against His Arrest

September 11, 2014 - 08:54

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

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

Haitian ex-president supported amid arrest fears

Evens Sanon, AP
September 11, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Click HERE for the original.

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

IADL Calls for Cholera Accountability at Human Rights Council

September 9, 2014 - 12:33

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

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

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

Micòl Savia
September 9, 2014

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

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

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

Click HERE for the full text.

Elections Still Scheduled for 2014?

September 6, 2014 - 06:28

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

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

 

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

HaitiLibre
September 6, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

S/ HaitiLibre

 

Click HERE for the original.

Read more about elections in our FAQ, here.

How Human Rights Can Build Haiti

September 4, 2014 - 07:13

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

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

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

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

By Health and Human Rights editorial intern Laura Faas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Click HERE for the original.

Tahirih Justice Center Now Hiring

September 4, 2014 - 06:46

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

Job Posting Children’s Attorney, Tahirih Justice Center

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

Lessons Learned from Post-Quake Aid Failures

September 2, 2014 - 07:00

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

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

How Humanitarian Aid Weakened Post-Earthquake Haiti

Michelle Chen, The Nation
September 2, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Click HERE for the full text.

Why Aristide Allegations Always Resurface Before Elections

August 31, 2014 - 04:58

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

Haiti’s Fragile Democracy

Lauren Carasik, Jurist
August 31, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Click HERE for the original.