Recent Feature Articles

By Roger Annis, Nov 14, 2013

A very informative and revealing story about the lawsuit against the United Nations over cholera in Haiti was broadcast on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s national evening news program, The World At Six, on November 13. The report began, “The United Nations is among those leading the effort to get aid to the Philippines. But even as it helps out with this natural disaster, it is haunted by the ghosts of another.”

It is the most comprehensive news report to date by the CBC on the Haiti cholera story. The report broke some new ground by looking at the implications worldwide for UN operations as a result of the world body’s conduct in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake, including its stonewalling of the victims of the cholera epidemic. Those implications, says the CBC report, are playing out in the Philippines in the wake of the Typhoon Haiyan tragedy.

Reporter Laura Lynch said the UN’s responsibility for the cholera outbreak in October 2010 is now established beyond dispute. In the broadcast, she speaks to one of the victims who is suing the UN.

She also speaks to former Canadian ambassador to the UN, Stephen Lewis. He says the UN should own up for its conduct and compensate the victims. When asked if that could harm the UN or compromise future UN operations, he replies, “No, I don’t think it would compromise the UN. In fact, I think it would do the UN a lot of good to be seen as principled in the face of having caused so much devastation.”

Lewis says the lawsuit is already affecting UN operations. He cites the fact that the world body has dispatched its top emergency relief official to the Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. Valerie Amos is the UN Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs and is…

By Roger Annis, October 14, 2013

Stephen Lewis, a former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations who has also served at the world agency in several other prominent postings, says the international organization must accept responsibility for the cholera epidemic that broke out in Haiti in October 2010. He says he supports the legal action against the UN that was formally launched in New York City on October 9 on behalf of the victims of the epidemic.

Lewis spelled out strongly-held views in a nine-minute interview on the national, Saturday morning newsmagazine of CBC Radio One, Day 6 on October 12.

The CBC host began the interview by asking Lewis whether he supports the action. He replied, “I do. I think it is unequivocal, the responsibility of the United Nations for the cholera outbreak.”

Lewis dismissed suggestions that definitive proof of the origin of Haiti’s cholera epidemic has not been established. The disease was not present in modern Haiti before October 2010. The epidemic, he said, “has been traced definitively to the Nepalese peacekeeping force” of the UN military mission in Haiti termed MINUSTAH.

Even the UN’s own study on the matter, he said, “came within a hair’s breath of saying ‘we were responsible’, and in fact, the independent investigations by scientists show there is no question of the origin of the cholera”.

Lewis accuses the world body of hiding behind the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations. It was adopted by the fledgling agency way back in 1946. He explained that the convention is “clear” in providing for a lifting of immunity in cases where the UN secretary-general concludes that it…

October 9, 2013, New York- Attorneys from the human rights groups Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) and Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), and civil rights law firm Kurzban, Kurzban, Weinger, Tetzelli & Pratt (KKWT), announced today the filing of a class action lawsuit against the United Nations (UN) on behalf of victims of the deadly cholera epidemic in Haiti. Since October 2010, when the UN contaminated Haiti's principal river with cholera-infected human waste, the disease has killed over 8,300, sickened more than 650,000, and continues to kill about 1,000 Haitians per year.

Speaking from Geneva, where he is being honored as a finalist for the Martin Ennals Human Rights Award, BAI Managing Attorney Mario Joseph said: "The filing of this lawsuit marks a critical step towards justice for Haiti and all those who have suffered and are suffering because of cholera." Joseph is co-counsel on the case and has led the fight for justice for cholera victims since 2011.

The plaintiffs in the case are five Haitians and Haitian-Americans whose family members died of the disease or who were infected but managed to survive life-threatening cholera. The plaintiffs are asking the court to certify the case as a class action, which will allow the plaintiffs to represent and obtain relief for the hundreds of thousands Haitians and Haitian-Americans who suffered injuries or died from cholera.

"The Plaintiffs have undergone indescribable suffering as a result of cholera and have to live with the knowledge that cholera can strike again. They have rights to have a Court hear their case and rights to damages that will help them go on with their lives and access clean water," said Brian Concannon, Jr., Esq., director of IJDH and co-counsel for the plaintiffs.

The 67-page complaint, filed today in federal court…

A cornerstone of post-earthquake 'reconstruction', the Caracol park is not living up to its backers' lofty promises

By Jonathan M. Katz, published on Al Jazeera, September 10, 2013

CARACOL, Haiti - The young men playing dominoes in this tin-roofed fishing village used to have high hopes for the industrial park being built up the road. They had heard of the U.S. government's plans to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in a part of Haiti where most people are barely scraping by, and promises from a South Korean garment manufacturer to create tens of thousands of jobs.

But less than a year after Caracol Industrial Park's gala opening — with Bill and Hillary Clinton, Sean Penn, designer Donna Karan and Haiti's current and former presidents among the guests — the feeling these days is disappointment. Hundreds of smallholder farmers were coaxed into giving up more than 600 acres of land for the complex, yet nearly 95 percent of that land remains unused. A much-needed power plant was completed on the site, supplying the town with more electricity than ever, but locals say surges of wastewater have caused floods and spoiled crops.

Most critically, fewer than 1,500 jobs have been created — paying too little, the locals say, and offering no job security. "We thought there was going to be some benefit for us," says Ludwidge Fountain, 34, laying his domino with a satisfying smack. He worked for two months at the park as a guard, taking home about $3.40 a day, until his contract ran out. "Maybe it’s good for some of the people inside the park. Everyone else got nothing."

The industrial park near Caracol is the centerpiece of U.S.-led reconstruction of Haiti after its January 2010…

By Beverly Bell and Alexis Erkert, published on Other Worlds, April 25, 2013

As we mourn the deaths of nearly 200 people in yesterday’s garment factory collapse outside of Dhaka, Bangladesh, we publish this article about the very issue of garment labor exploitation on the other side of the world. Economist Paul Collier's 2009 report "Haiti: From Natural Catastrophe to Economic Security" recommends for Haiti the same model that in Bangladesh has resulted in a race towards lower pay, disastrous working conditions, and the deaths of more than 800 garment workers since 2006. This article begins to explore the implications of sweatshop labor as a model for development.

 “Haiti offers a marvelous opportunity for American investment. The run-of-the-mill Haitian is handy, easily directed, and gives a hard day’s labor for 20 cents, while in Panama the same day’s work costs $3,” wrote Financial America in 1926.[i] That may be the most honest portrayal of the offshore industry in Haiti to date. Today, the US, the UN, multilateral lending institutions, corporate investors, and others are more creative in their characterizations. They spin Haiti’s high-profit labor as being in the interest of the laborer, and as a major vehicle for what they call “development.”

In the export assembly sector, the minimum wage is 200 gourdes, or US$4.76, a day. According to the…

By Kim Ives, published in Haiti Liberté weekly, edition of April 10, 2013

A chorus of outrage is building against former Haitian president Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier as he sits in the dock of a Haitian court, charged with crimes against humanity during his 15-year rule. However, the U.S. government remains strangely and completely silent. A 40-year-old trove of diplomatic cables, newly unearthed by WikiLeaks and reported exclusively here on Haiti Liberté, helps explain why.

Around midnight in the early morning hours of July 23, 1973, a fire broke out in the packed armory of Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier’s National Palace. Almost immediately, “President-for-Life” Duvalier and his Army Chief of Staff, General Claude Raymond, telephoned the U.S. Embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission, Thomas J. Corcoran, to tell him about the fire and ask for U.S. assistance in putting it out.

The destruction of Haiti’s large weapons cache became, in the following days, the perfect excuse to resume the sale of military weapons as well as military aid and training to the Duvalier dictatorship, after it had been halted during the 1960s under the notorious regime of François “Papa Doc” Duvalier.

Haïti Liberté has been able to reconstruct a clear picture of this pivotal historical moment thanks to a new website constructed by WikiLeaks called the Public Library of U.S. Diplomacy or PlusD. The site enables searching of over 1.7 million State Department cables from 1973 to 1976 which had been declassified and stored in the U.S. National Archives, but which were all but inaccessible due to the form in which they were kept.

Haïti Liberté is one of 18 media partners worldwide to which WikiLeaks provided exclusive access to the PlusD search engine in early March, prior to its unveiling for public use on April 8. This article is one of…

By Isabeau Doucet.
An earlier version of this article was published in The Nation. This version is published in the weekly Haiti Liberté, issue dated March 27, 2013.

I contracted cholera two years ago by the breezy beaches of Port Salut, while attempting to escape burnout, a broken heart, and the lingering pangs of Dengue fever in Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital.

Cholera's not a whole lot different from food poisoning and is no big deal if you have a clean toilet, potable water, know how to treat it, and aren't malnourished.

But in malnutrition-wracked Haiti, where there is no sewage system and where water and sanitation are almost completely privatized, cholera has been a death sentence for over 8,000 people. According to a host of scientific studies (including the UN's own investigators), the South Asian strain of the disease was likely imported by UN troops from Nepal in October 2010. Having sickened over 640,000, it is now the worst cholera epidemic in modern history.

A week before the long-delayed release of an international $2.2 billion 10-year eliminate-cholera plan at the end of February, the UN rejected outright a legal claim filed by over 5,000 cholera victims seeking financial compensation, an apology for the UN's gross negligence, and a commitment that the world body rebuild Haiti's water and sanitation infrastructure.

Invoking immunity under its1946 convention, the UN snubbed the suit as "not receivable." It has not apologized and has committed only 1% ($23.5 million) to the plan, recommending Haiti get the rest from the "private sector" or from "major venture philanthropist individuals," according to Nigel Fisher, the new head of the UN military occupation force in Haiti known as MINUSTAH.

"Combating water born diseases, cholera, is actually a good investment if you want to attract investors," Fisher added.

With some 9,000 armed soldiers and police officers, MINUSTAH had an…

UN human rights expert: Haiti and international community should "throw light" on cause of cholera outbreak

By Haiti Relief and Reconstruction Watch (CEPR), March 21, 2013

According to reports on Twitter yesterday, the United Nations independent expert on the human rights situation in Haiti, Michel Forst has resigned for “personal reasons,” even though his mandate was supposed to continue for another year. In one of his last acts, Forst’s report for the U.N. Human Rights Council was presented yesterday, recommending to Haiti and the international community that they “throw light” on the cause of the cholera outbreak and “respond to any compensation requests”. The cholera outbreak has killed at least 8,050 and sickened over 650,000 more.

In his report Forst notes that the “question of what caused the outbreak of the epidemic in Haiti remains a burning issue that has attracted significant public controversy.” Over the last few years, a number of scientific reports have identified U.N. troops as the source of cholera’s introduction. Forst’s report, which was issued before the U.N.’s denial of victims’ compensation claims, notes “that silence is the worst response.”

The U.N. broke their “silence” on the issue by rejecting the victims’ claims, yet they have continued to stonewall on the issue of responsibility. While Forst “deplores” the exploitation of the issue by “certain organizations…

On Second Anniversary of Illegal Election: Martelly and Washington push for another “electoral hold-up”

By Kim Ives, Haiti Liberté, March 20, 2013

March 20, 2013 marks the second anniversary of a patently illegal and exclusionary election that brought President Michel Martelly to power.

The first round of that election, held on Nov. 28, 2010, was a complete fiasco, marred by disorganization, voter fraud, and disenfranchisement. Furthermore, months earlier, Haiti’s largest party, the Lavalas Family of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, had been illegally and arbitrarily excluded from fielding a candidate.

Thirteen of the 18 presidential candidates held a joint press conference and issued a joint statement the same day calling for the election to be annulled and reheld. But Edmond Mulet, the head of the UN military occupation force known as MINUSTAH, called two of the candidates – Mirlande Manigat and Michel Martelly – and assured them they were front-runners. Jettisoning principle, the two about-faced and backtracked on their call for annulment.

Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced first round results on Dec. 7, saying Manigat had placed first and Jude Célestin of the ruling party, Unity, second. Martelly had placed a close third, edged out by about 7,000 votes, the CEP said. The Haitian Constitution says that the CEP is the “final arbiter” of all Haitian elections.

As Martelly’s supporters launched violent demonstrations, Washington mobilized the Organization of American States (which Cuba wryly dubs the U.S. “Ministry of Colonial Affairs”) to send a delegation of mostly North American “election experts” to recalculate the vote and pronounce Martelly the second place finisher.

“There was enormous political pressure brought to bear by the United States and its allies – the same countries who dominated the OAS Mission – for Haiti’s CEP to accept the…

UN News Center, March 11, 2013

See also these recent stories:
Urgent Action: Displaced face arbitrary arrest (Grace Village camp)
By Amnesty International, March 6, 2013
UN expert urges World Bank to increase protection and promotion of the right to adequate housing
Press release, Office of the High Commissioner for Humn Rights (UN), March 6, 2013, and re-posted to the Under Tents campaign website, March 7, 2013
FRAKKA denounces arson attacks on displaced persons camps
Press release, Feb. 28, 2013

11 March 2013 – The top United Nations humanitarian official in Haiti has expressed grave concern about recent incidents of forced evictions of internally displaced persons (IDPs), following his visit to a site in the capital, Port-au-Prince, from which thousands of people were forced to leave.

While recognizing the right of owners to enjoy their property, the acting UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Haiti, Ross Mountain, recalled that the practice of forced eviction often results in violations of human rights such as the right to life and security of the individual.

Following a visit to the Acra 2 camp on 2 March, Mr. Mountain stressed that “these families have suffered intimidation, physical violence and the destruction of their shelters, including through arson.”

His visit comes after the eviction of about 1,000 displaced persons in Acra 1 and Acra 2 on 17 February.

Nearly 350,000 IDPs are…