- News & Reports
- Take action
- Donate to CHAN Site
Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti
Updated: 37 min 31 sec ago
This is a great story that sheds light on the incredible work (and life story) of BAI Managing Attorney Mario Joseph and makes clear why there is no way around justice for cholera victims. It not only portrays Mario’s struggle to bring justice Haitians but also contrasts it with the current Tourism Minister’s opposing view that attracting tourists will create a better future for Haiti.A Damned Paradise: Does Haiti Need Tourism? Or Does It Need Justice?
Samiha Shafy, Der Spiegel
July 18, 2014
The attorney stares at a hut next to the grave. It’s made of wood and mud, and is covered with a plastic tarp. “I used to live like that,” Mario Joseph says quietly, more to himself than to the three women crouching behind him in the shade of a tree.
The women are keeping watch over a rectangle of freshly dug up earth, surrounded by loose stones. One of them, Itavia Souffrant, says it is the grave of her mother. Two weeks ago, the mother had diarrhea and was vomiting, but because of heavy rains the family was unable to take her to the doctor. The mother died of cholera, the same fate suffered previously by Souffrant’s three-year-old daughter and by so many others in the vicinity of Mirebalais, north of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince.
The three women at the gravesite have also had cholera, but they survived. They knew that they shouldn’t have been drinking from the river, they say, but it was the only water available. The tablets to disinfect it are unaffordable, and they don’t have enough charcoal to boil it.
Attorney Joseph believes that he has found a way to help them and all other victims of the cholera epidemic in Haiti. About 750,000 people have been infected with the disease and the death toll now stands at 8,500. Officials expect there to be about 45,000 new cases in 2014.
The culprit is the international community. A few months after the earthquake that rocked Haiti on January 12, 2010, United Nations peacekeepers from Nepal emptied their latrines into the Artibonite River, and thus introduced the pathogen to Haiti. Until then, cholera was one of the few plagues that this poor country had been spared.
This explains why the attorney is now standing in front of a mud hut on a humid green hill, from which vapor rises in the heat. He has returned to the world from which he came in the hopes of changing it.
Joseph, 51, is a burly man with a moustache. Wearing a long-sleeved shirt, jeans, a straw hat and sunglasses, he takes large gulps from his Diet Coke. He is asking the women questions in the search for information could help him realize his plan. It is as obvious as it is ludicrous: He wants to take the United Nations to court.
Justice for Haiti’s Victims
It isn’t actually possible to sue the UN; the organization invokes the principle of immunity, which seems cynical in this case. Nevertheless, Joseph, a well-known human rights attorney in Haiti, has filed a class action lawsuit in a federal court in New York, where the UN has its headquarters. “The peacekeepers knew that Haiti is a poor country without a waste water system,” says Joseph. “They should have been extra careful, instead of dumping their fecal matter into the river!”
Joseph wants justice for Haiti’s victims. In addition to his fight against the UN, he wants to see former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier brought to trial in Port-au-Prince. He also represents women who were raped in tent cities in the capital after the earthquake.
Joseph believes that for wounds to heal, they need to be examined and cleaned — so that his wounded country can eventually recuperate. He wants to prevent the world from forgetting Haiti’s suffering.
Joseph’s adversary is sitting in her office in a yellow government building in Port-au-Prince. Stéphanie Villedrouin, Haiti’s tourism minister, doesn’t want the world to constantly hear any more tales of suffering coming from her country. She wants a Haiti that looks to the future and markets itself more effectively.
Four PR consultants are gathered around a table in Villedrouin’s office. They have flown in from France, Great Britain, the United States and the Dominican Republic to hear about Villedrouin’s vision of Haiti as the next vacation paradise in the Caribbean. The minister wants the marketing specialists to campaign for this vision in their respective countries.
“Which language should we speak?” asks the minister, smiling at her guests. She is fluent in English, Spanish, Creole and French. At 32, Villedrouin is the youngest and undoubtedly most attractive minister Haiti has ever had.
On this afternoon, she is wearing a pink silk blouse, black trousers, pumps, a diamond ring and diamond earrings. She has slightly wavy, caramel-colored hair, a smooth face and light skin. In Haiti, skin color is still a sign of social status. The poor are mostly black while the country’s few white citizens usually have money and influence. Villedrouin is from the upper class.
Changing the Image
“The first thing people always tell me is that Haiti is a devastated country,” she says. “We have to change that image.”
The earthquake that struck Port-au-Prince in January, 2010, was the worst in a series of natural disasters that have ravaged vulnerable Haiti, a country torn by regime changes and civil wars. More than 220,000 people died.
Still, something bordering on hope emerged for a short time after the tremor. Might it this time be possible to build a better country out of the ruins? When, if not now — now that Haiti was in the global spotlight and governments and private donors alike were promising billions of dollars for reconstruction? Aid organizations had muddled along in Haiti for decades. This time, though, they pledged to do everything differently — and everything right.
More than four years later, most Haitians have given up hope. The tent camps in Port-au-Prince have all but disappeared, but they have been replaced by new slums on the surrounding hillsides. They look as if the next heavy rain could flush them into oblivion. The government had some of the shacks painted in bright colors so that the view from new hotels in Pétionville wouldn’t be quite so depressing.
And yet, despite everything, does hope still exist in Haiti?
Villedrouin embodies the way she would like to see Haiti: dynamic, modern and elegant. She grew up in Venezuela, where her father served as the Haitian ambassador under the Duvalier regime. When the dictator was ousted in 1986, the family returned home, where it owned restaurants and hotels. Villedrouin attended a tourism school in the Dominican Republic, returned to Haiti and began convincing important people to support her vision. The fact that she became a cabinet minister at 29 is partly due to her connections, but also a result of her talent to fill people with enthusiasm for ideas that sound almost as audacious as Mario Joseph’s plan to take the UN to court.
“We have to start with France,” says Villedrouin. France, she notes, has a large community of Haitian immigrants who could easily be won over as tourists. She also points out that the French have a historic connection to their former colony and might be interested in visiting the country.
The next stops in the marketing campaign are Germany, Great Britain, Spain and Russia.
Villedrouin believes that her plan could help Haiti pull itself out of poverty. Tourist attractions and hotels create jobs. Hotel owners can support Haitian farmers by buying local meat and produce. And the general population also benefits from the roads and airports built primarily for tourists, such as the Hugo Chávez International Airport in Cap Haïtien, modernized with Venezuelan aid. Once the tourists arrive, says Villedrouin, things will begin looking up for Haiti.
From listening to Villedrouin and Joseph, it becomes apparent that although they represent contradictory approaches, they sometimes have the same goal: to save Haiti. Many have failed at the task. Indeed, everyone who has tried has failed, and some have even spent their entire lives in the process. Haiti was once the richest colony in the world. Today, countless tragedies later, it is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.
The current list of the “25 most interesting people in the Caribbean,” published by the magazine Carib Journal, lists names such as Usain Bolt and Rihanna, but it also includes two Haitians: Mario Joseph and Stéphanie Villedrouin. After being made aware of that fact, Joseph is so amused that he almost chokes on his Diet Coke. “The government would be overjoyed if the minister were the only Haitian on that list,” he says.
Joseph walks down the path leading from the shack and the old woman’s grave to the road, where his car is parked. One of the three women, whose name is Lizette Paul, walks behind him so that he can give her a lift. Joseph drives past a gray shell of a building without windowpanes. Inside, small children are sitting on wooden benches, singing at the top of their lungs.
Looking grim under his straw hat, the attorney says that missionaries built the school. Only a 10th of all schools in Haiti are government-run, he explains, while foreign aid workers operate the rest — a shameful state of affairs, Joseph says. Lizette Paul concurs. In fact, she says, she voted for singer Michel Martelly in the presidential election because he had promised free schools for the poor. But now, three years into Martelly’s term, she still cannot send her three children to school.
Paul, 43, first met Joseph in a church. He had come to Mirebalais to speak with victims of the cholera epidemic and tell them about his plan to file a class action suit on their behalf. Paul’s one-and-a-half-year-old daughter died in the epidemic, as did her father and her brother, who had supported her and the children financially.
“At least there is someone like him in the government, someone who does his job,” says Paul, pointing at the attorney. She says that she very much hopes to receive her compensation from the UN soon. Joseph shakes his head. He looks tired. “I’m not part of the government, Lizette, you know that,” he says. “I’m an opponent of the government.” The woman looks at him uncomprehendingly and says nothing.
‘This Is About Emotions’
Joseph’s Haiti, the land of the wounded, is everywhere. One would have to be blind to ignore it. Villedrouin’s promising Haiti also exists, but it isn’t immediately apparent.
The minister has sent her PR advisers on a tour. “This is about emotions — either you love Haiti or you hate it,” she told them as they left. “To find out, you have to see it, sense it, taste it and feel it.”
The four men are now sitting in a white, air-conditioned minibus as it rattles along hellish roads throughout the country. They say nothing as the bus passes piles of debris, mountains of garbage and slums. Finally, they arrive in gated oases of calm: hotels with private beaches that charge between $15 and 20 (€11-15) for their use.
Most Haitians live on less than $1 a day. Most of the people basking in the sun on the hotel beaches are aid workers, UN employees and groups of American missionaries. They are no tourists yet.
Two of the tourism experts, the Frenchman and the Dominican, visit a place that is normally off-limits to anyone arriving by land: the Labadie Peninsula. It lies 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Port-au-Prince, and is hidden behind a tall, black, barbed-wire fence patrolled by security guards.
About two dozen men are loitering outside the fence. They watch silently as a gate into the restricted zone opens for the visitors. Royal Caribbean, the American cruise line, has leased the peninsula and developed it into a sort of high-security playground for cruise-ship passengers. Those who go on land here remain behind the fence, where they can swim, snorkel and go jet-skiing.
The two men are taken along the coast in a boat. Wild, green and untouched mountains rise from the blue waters of the Caribbean. Citadelle Laferrière, a 19th-century fortress on the UNESCO World Heritage list, sits atop a 970-meter (3,180-foot) mountain in the distance.
He sees potential, says the Frenchman. What a gorgeous landscape, and what a pretty little spot of sand, that tiny island back there, he exclaims.
One-Eyed Among the Blind
That’s Amiga Island, says the skipper. Christopher Columbus supposedly landed on that spot of sand in 1492 during his voyage of discovery to the New World, and gave it its name. The Frenchman looks at the captain with amazement.
Tourism? In Haiti? Attorney Joseph shakes his head. “You’d have to sprinkle sand in the tourists’ eyes so that they’d see a different reality,” he says. But his next words are surprising: The minister’s ideas aren’t all that preposterous. Perhaps she can achieve something positive, he says, even if she is part of an incompetent government. “She’s a one-eyed person among the blind.”
On his way back to Port-au-Prince, Joseph travels along dirt roads filled with potholes, past scrawny horses carrying heavy loads and garishly painted vehicles to which too many people are clinging. Joseph drives an air-conditioned SUV with bulletproof windows, which he had installed because of the death threats that come with his work.
The road passes through the village of his childhood. Frail goats wobble around, and there are mud huts, but there are also small concrete houses and a small school. Joseph slows down to look out the window. “My life here wouldn’t be any different that Lizette’s,” he says, “if I hadn’t been lucky enough to go to school.”
Raised by their mother, Joseph and his three siblings grew up in a mud hut. Their father left the family when they were small. His mother took in washing for a living and sometimes sold rice. “The primary school cost nine Gourdes a year, and my mother could hardly scrape together the tuition for us,” he says.
As one of the most gifted pupils, Joseph was permitted to attend secondary school and a group of missionaries paid his tuition. Beginning in the 10th grade, he started working as a teacher, which enabled him to continue going to school, graduate and study law.
“Baby Doc” ruled Haiti at the time. Nineteen-year-old Jean-Claude Duvalier came into power in 1971 after the death of his father and he ruled the country the way he had learned from “Papa Doc” François. Joseph remembers how the Tontons Macoute, Duvalier’s paramilitary force, would beat farmers in his village. His aunt’s husband was arrested one day and then disappeared, he says, and the family never found out what had happened to him.
Indifference and Friendliness
Joseph began campaigning for human rights. In 1996, he joined the Bureau Des Avocats Internationaux in Haiti, which had been founded a year earlier with the support of American attorneys, and Joseph now runs the institute’s office in Port-au-Prince. “I was really excited when Duvalier returned,” he says. “His return could be an opportunity to show the world that abuse of power will no longer remain unpunished in Haiti.”
“Baby Doc” accumulated an estimated $800 million before he was forced to flee in 1986. Some 25 years after his ouster, he returned unexpectedly from French exile, where he had squandered much of his fortune. Since then, he has been seen dining with politically influential friends in the better restaurants of Port-au-Prince.
The political elite received the former dictator with reactions ranging from indifference to friendliness. Joseph, however, announced on the radio that he was searching for witnesses to Duvalier’s crimes. More than 50 people contacted him, he says, and told him about people who had been arrested for no reason, spent years in prison without trial and were tortured.
Since then, Joseph has been spending a lot of time in court. The trial was already suspended once and now it is proceeding very slowly. Still, the dictator was at least summoned once to appear in court, where Joseph and other lawyers were allowed to question him. It was a historic victory, says Joseph, but not enough. “We cannot build a country without principles.”
Joseph has a wife and three children. Ten years ago, they fled to Miami because life had become too dangerous in Haiti and he visits his family once a month. “My wife understands me, sometimes,” Joseph says with a smile.
Stéphanie Villedrouin hasn’t seen her husband and three children very often in recent years, either. She travels around the world, searching for partners to convince of Haiti’s potential as a vacation destination. She has been traveling in the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Dominican Republic in recent days. In the spring, she spent a day at the International Tourism Exchange in Berlin. A travel agency in the southwestern German state of Baden-Württemberg now wants to attempt to “bring Haiti closer” to its customers, as an employee puts it.
When the minister is in Haiti, she frequently attends the openings of new luxury hotels, like the Royal Oasis and the El Rancho. There are plans to build a luxury resort on an island in the south. A Marriott is under construction in Port-au-Prince, signs are being made for the city’s chaotic streets so that tourists can find their way around and a tourist police force of 110 officers patrols the areas around hotels and sights. Villedrouin is developing a strategy document for the next 15 years although she has less than two years remaining before a new government is elected, provided the current administration can remain in power until then.
Villedrouin is sitting in a suite in one of the new hotels in Pétionville, enjoying a quiet moment between appointments. The El Rancho, part of a Spanish chain, has pleasantly bland rooms and a pool, and it’s easy to forget where you are if you don’t leave the premises. Villedrouin says that she hopes to attract private investors. “I always say to them: You guys have to keep investing in tourism in this country.”
And what about her? She smiles. “Well, three years ago I had no idea that I would assume such an important position for my country.” She says that she is grateful for the opportunity to promote her vision. Then she abandons the attempt at modesty, which doesn’t suit her. “In any case, I also want to be in a leadership position in the future. That’s just the way I am,” she says.
Villedrouin seems to be winning her personal battle. But can she change Haiti? She says that she respects Mario Joseph for the fact that he wants to help his country, in his way. “The Carib Journal honored him because he is apparently a capable attorney,” she says. “He is doing something that he believes is helping his sisters and brothers.”
The minister has no budget to build roads and she has no power to make poverty and disease disappear. The question is how far optimism goes in making things happen in Haiti’s reality.
The Perfect Photo
On the tour of Haiti, Villedrouin’s PR advisers visit a former sugar plantation on the Côte des Arcadins that is now a hotel. With them are two French travel writers, guests of the ministry who have been invited to write a promotional article.
A museum in the garden commemorates a bloody colonial history. Haiti is the only country in the world where slaves were able to depose their tormentors and establish their own country. The PR agents learn how brutally the country was victimized, exploited and occupied by foreign powers. To this day, Haiti has never had a chance to become a healthy country.
To lighten the mood, the hotel owner takes the group out to a reef in a speedboat, and they splash around in the water and drink chilled fruit punch. And then, just once during their tour, the two Haitis collide, that of the minister and that of the attorney.
A fisherman in a dilapidated little boat paddles up to the group. He looks like the old man in Hemingway novel: toothless and with leathery skin, calloused hands and cracked fingernails. He says nothing. He merely gazes in astonishment at the scene and waits. The group on the speedboat looks down at the fisherman, equally astonished. The foreigners ask the old man to hand them a fish, and then they take pictures and hand it back to him. It’s the perfect photo, they say.
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
Click HERE for the original.
Nearly four years after UN peacekeepers began a cholera epidemic in Haiti, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited to convey his and his wife’s sympathies. He also re-launched a sanitation initiative, which is suspiciously similar to the previous UN cholera initiative which has gotten very little funding. Haitians protested Ban Ki-moon’s visit, citing the UN’s continued promises and lack of action.FOUR YEARS AFTER CHOLERA OUTBREAK, UN SECRETARY GENERAL VISITS HAITI
Kim Ives, Haiti Liberte
July 16-22, 2014
For the first time since cholera began racing across Haiti in late
2010, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited Haiti on
Jul. 14-15 in an effort to resuscitate a stalled $2.2 billion UN plan
to eliminate the deadly disease from the country over the next decade.
Launched in December 2012, the UN “initiative” was really nothing more
than the repackaging of the “Initiative for the Elimination of Cholera
in the Island of Hispaniola” launched by the Haitian and Dominican
governments in January 2012, as Jonathon Katz and Tom Murphy pointed
out in a scathing “Foreign Policy” article.
“Shifting around aid money — making the same promises over and over
without fulfilling them — is an old game in the development world,”
the authors wrote. “But in this case it’s especially bold.”
Since the UN rebranded the plan, it has been unable in over 18 months
to raise even the $400 million needed to fund the project for its
first two years. Meanwhile, the UN spent some $609 million to deploy
about 7,000 UN soldiers in Haiti during FY 2013/2014 as part of the
thoroughly despised and almost weekly protested decade-old UN Mission
to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH).
It was, in fact, MINUSTAH soldiers from Nepal who imported cholera
into Haiti by allowing sewage from their outhouses to flow into the
headwaters of Haiti’s largest river in October 2010, at least ten
scientific studies, including one commissioned by the UN itself,
However, the UN has refused to accept legal responsibility for causing
what is now the world’s worst cholera epidemic, which has killed over
8,500 and sickened over 704,000 Haitians. Three lawsuits have been
filed in New York courts demanding reparations and an apology from the
UN for its negligence in Haiti. The UN has claimed it has immunity,
and UN officials have been hiding from court officers trying to serve
them with papers, although one server caught up with Ban Ki-moon at
The Asia Society in late June.
In Haiti, Ban Ki-moon and his wife, joined by Prime Minister Laurent
Lamothe, engaged in an extended photo-op to deflect criticism and say
that the UN had a “moral duty” to help stop the spread of cholera in
“This is a necessary pilgrimage for me,” Ban told villagers in a
church in Los Palmas on Haiti’s Central Plateau near where the
epidemic started. “My wife and I have come here to grieve with you. As
a father and grandfather, and as a mother and grandmother, we feel
tremendous anguish at the pain you have had to endure.”
Along with Lamothe, Ban also helped launch the Haitian government’s
“Total Sanitation Campaign,” a five-year plan, already funded with $14
million from Canada and Japan, which aims to improve sanitation for
3.8 million Haitians in 20 cholera-plagued rural communes.
The Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH)
and the Port-au-Prince-based Office of International Lawyers (BAI)
were the first lawyers to bring a lawsuit in the New York courts on
behalf of 5,000 cholera victims in October 2013. The lawsuit came
after the UN claimed immunity after the IJDH/BAI lawyers attempted to
seek redress through the UN’s own grievance system in November 2011.
On Jul. 7, the U.S. Justice Department wrote to the Judge J. Paul
Oetken in the New York case to say that the “United States has
consistently asserted the absolute immunity of the UN to lawsuits
filed against it in U.S. courts” and “urges the Court to dismiss this
The IJDH/BAI lawyers are trying to have the case litigated as a
“Secretary-General Ban’s visit demonstrates why Haiti needs justice,
not charity,” IJDH lawyer Brian Concannon, Jr. told Haïti Liberté.
“His talk of ‘moral duty’ and new programs on this visit just add to
his other empty gestures, such as the 2012 launch of the Cholera Free
Hispaniola Initiative that has not started almost two years later.
Haitians are dying of the UN cholera epidemic, the UN has a legal
responsibility to stop that killing, and has the resources to do so.
It is time for all of us to join with Haitian grassroots activists and
make sure that the UN obeys the law.”
Ban also met with President Michel Martelly as well as the presidents
of Haiti’s House of Deputies and Senate to discuss the political
impasse over Haiti’s unconstitutional electoral council, which
Martelly has sought to unilaterally impose.
On Jul. 15, about 50 protestors gathered outside a stadium being
constructed on Route Neuf outside Cité Soleil, in which Ban, Martelly,
and Lamothe took pictures with International Olympic Committee
president Thomas Bach. The protestors sang chants and held signs which
said: “MINUSTAH = Cholera”, “Ban Ki-Moon Go Home”, and “Down with the
UN Occupation of Haiti.”
“We are outraged that Ban Ki-Moon comes here to hypocritically say he
cares about our plight while at the same time he refuses to take
responsibility for unleashing cholera in Haiti,” said Oxygène David of
the party Dessalines Coordination (KOD), whose militants made up more
than half of the demonstrators at Route Neuf. “We demand that UN
troops to leave Haiti, and Ban is deaf. We ask for cholera
reparations, and Ban is deaf. Through massacres carried out by their
soldiers and the importation of cholera, the UN is responsible for
thousands upon thousands of Haitian deaths. So don’t try to tell us
that you’re the solution to the problems you’ve created.”
After Haiti, Ban Ki-moon travels to the Dominican Republic, where he
will meet with President Danilo Medina.
Cliquez ICI pour la version française.
This piece outlines the responsibility of leaders like the Secretary General of the United Nations, and how Ban Ki-moon is shirking those responsibilities. Haiti’s cholera victims have sought justice for four years and the UN is still failing to protect their human rights. Instead, Ban Ki-moon dodges questions and makes statements of sympathy without effective actions to eliminate cholera from Haiti. The UN does have a moral responsibility, and also a legal and financial responsibility, to give justice to cholera victims and their families.Ban Ki-moon heads to Haiti, offers an apple for an orchard
Wesley Laine, Let Haiti Live
July 17, 2014
A few days ago, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited Haiti. It was his first visit to Haiti since the cholera outbreak. During his trip, the Secretary General toured the “Sports for Hope Centre”, a project of the International Olympic Committee. Additionally, in the same sports complex, Mr. Ban inaugurated the newest class of Haitian recruits poised to take their first step toward joining the National Haitian Police (HPN).
During his remarks, the Secretary General emphasized that the Haitian State will have to show the people that it can enforce the law and demonstrate that in a democratic nation, no one – including political authorities and the police themselves – is above the law. The Secretary General’s remarks echo one of the core guiding principles of the United Nations establishment—the rule of law. Or perhaps what it once proudly stood for, prior to the egregious mishandling of the Haitian cholera disaster.
The numbers continue to increase with each passing day, more than 700,000 have gotten sick and over 8,500 Haitians have lost their lives since October of 2010. And despite indisputable evidence that negligence by the United Nations leadership and its peacekeepers are responsible for introducing the vibrio cholera bacterium in Haiti’s largest and most important river, Mr. Ban has refused to own up to his responsibilities as the head of one of the most important international institutions of our age.
The Secretary General, in a very real sense, is entrusted with the power and responsibility to make meaningful the moral force of the world community. For four long years, the people of Haiti have patiently waited for Mr. Ban to acknowledge them as dignified human beings deserving of an apology and compensation for their suffering. So far, Mr. Ban has lacked the courage to recognize the humanity of the Haitian victims and their inalienable right to justice—outlined in the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Perhaps it is well to ask whether Mr. Ban understands how much the Haitian people have suffered. It appears that the Secretary General is unable to come to terms with his own natural human empathy. On different occasions, he has offered half-hearted words of regret, deferred questions to UN lawyers, and offered to mobilize donor countries to fulfill their pledges for the dysfunctional cholera response plan. On this particular trip to Haiti, the Secretary General spent time playing Ping-Pong inside the new sports complex with the country’s prime minister, avoiding protestors braving the scorching heat to demand accountability and justice.
To deal with the tragic cholera crisis, the UN needs a Secretary General who is willing to look unblinkingly at the circumstances, confront the realities, face the tears of the wounded, and harness all stakeholders to a great collective effort toward justice. Unfortunately, Mr. Ban has shown that he is unfit to be that leader. It is easy to forget now, but this is essentially what happened in past failures, especially at the leadership level, of the United Nations to take bold actions to stop genocides or other wrongful acts. In all these failures, the passage of time should not obscure the facts, lessen responsibility, or turn victims into villains.
The task of strengthening justice lies with all of us, and especially with those who are entrusted with leadership positions. The Secretary General’s failure to lead has damaged the credibility and mandate of the United Nations. Moreover, it has set a terrible precedent for future peacekeeping efforts.
Most of the cholera victims in Haiti are people living in settings of chronic poverty, which are, by definition settings of structural violence. They have suffered enough. Suffering does not ennoble, it embitters. The cholera crisis has destroyed homes, left orphans, and deepened refractory poverty in countless communities. Consequently, the majority of Haitians have called for the departure of the UN troops.
Without an apology and a plan for compensation, it is clear that Mr. Ban’s trip to Haiti, which he called ‘a necessary pilgrimage’, was a photo-op and an attempt to save face. Furthermore, it shows that the Secretary General is out of touch with the plight of the poor and the daily struggle of Haitians to have access to clean water. The empty promises of the Secretary General are not going to stop the lawsuit filed in New York on behalf of the victims.
In Haiti, many may live in poverty, but they are not poor people. They are proud and hard working people. The Secretary General went to Haiti, hoping to trade an apple for an orchard. Mr. Ban, we do not do that in this country. We want justice.
Click HERE for the original.
IJDH Staff Attorney Beatrice Lindstrom and KOFAVIV Associate Director Malya Villard-Appolon speak about cholera accountability and gender-based violence in an hour-long NPR show about Haiti. Joining them are Dr. Ludovic Comeau of GRAHN-World, and Dr. Evan Lyon of Partners in Health. Bringing perspectives from the legal, medical and economic development fields, they answered questions like “What might happen now that Ban Ki-moon said the UN bears a “moral responsibility” to eliminate cholera,” and “What impact are grassroots organizations having on rapes in Haiti?”Cholera lawsuit against U.N. in Haiti, and death threats for Haitian advocate for women’s safety
July 16, 2014
Click HERE for the original.
Although it took courage for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to admit that the UN bears a “moral responsibility” to eradicate cholera from Haiti, more still needs to be done. The UN needs to be accountable for the negligence that caused the epidemic by apologizing to the victims and their families, building water and sanitation infrastructure, and compensating the victims. A claims commission would establish a fair method of compensation.Justice for Haiti OUR OPINION: U.N. needs to do more than take ‘moral responsibility’ for cholera epidemic
Editorial, Miami Herald
July 15, 2014
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon greets residents of Hinche, Haiti, upon the launch of a program to fight cholera.
" src="http://media.miamiherald.com/smedia/2014/07/15/18/50/xCkNH.Em.56.jpeg" />
It’s been a long time coming, but finally this week U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon acknowledged that the world body bears “moral responsibility” for introducing cholera into Haiti. Now the United Nations needs to be held accountable for the consequences of its actions.
Although he was only admitting the obvious, it took courage for the secretary general to go as far as he did in an interview with the Herald’s Jacqueline Charles, considering that the United Nations has been in denial for four years regarding its role in the cholera epidemic. No doubt, U.N. lawyers warned him against taking any kind of responsibility for the tragedy that killed some 8,500 Haitians and infected roughly 700,000.
But this should be only the beginning of the U.N.’s effort to make things right with the people of Haiti. “Moral responsibility” requires that the United Nations take concrete steps to back up the secretary general’s admission. Otherwise, it amounts to nothing more than hollow words.
The first thing the secretary general needs to do is apologize to the victims and their survivors on behalf of the United Nations. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, yet it would mean a lot to those who have been wronged. The U.N.’s failure to apologize, even though its own panel of experts pointed the finger at peacekeeping troops from Nepal for inadvertently introducing cholera into the country because of the lack of sanitary waste removal, has added insult to injury and created an enormous reservoir of resentment by Haitians.
Second, the United Nations needs to embark on a campaign to bring clean water and sanitation to Haiti. On this score, Mr. Ban is moving in the right direction. He is in Haiti this week on what he called a “necessary pilgrimage” to promote efforts to alleviate the epidemic, seeking support for a $2.2 billion, 10-year cholera-elimination campaign.
The program is commendable, but what’s needed is a U.N. commitment to ensure that there is no repetition of the epidemic and other infectious diseases endemic in the Haitian countryside. That means creating pilot projects around the country promoting clean sanitation, similar to the one Mr. Ban launched this week in the community of Los Palmas. U.N. donor countries need to step up here. Without clean sanitation, Haitians are condemned to perpetual misery and disease.
Finally, there is the troubling issue of compensation. The cholera outbreak is the subject of three lawsuits in U.S. courts, which the United Nations and Mr. Ban have rejected by citing the U.N’s claim of diplomatic immunity.
The law may be on the U.N.’s side, but diplomatic immunity (also called “sovereign immunity”) seems a flimsy response when 700,000 people have been victimized by the possible negligence of U.N. peacekeepers. And surely, it makes a mockery of Mr. Ban’s admission of “moral responsibility.” Accepting responsibility while refusing compensation rubs salt in the wound.
Last fall, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for an investigation of the cholera epidemic and supported compensation for victims. Mr. Ban cannot in good conscience ignore this statement from one of the U.N’s own top officials.
The best way to establish a fair system of compensation would be to create a claims commission, not unlike the one that followed the BP oil spill on the Gulf Coast. A claims commission has its own complexities and aggravations, but it beats years of lawsuits and endless wrangling. It’s the right way to hold the United Nations accountable for its moral responsibility.
Click HERE for the original.
Job Description: The Digital Media and Website Associate will act as the administrator of the CEPR website and work closely with the CEPR staff to promote our research and analysis on various social media channels. This position will be responsible for the following duties:
- Maintaining CEPR’s website, including daily posting and content management, security upgrades, troubleshooting, and server maintenance
- Updating and ensuring a user-friendly and easily navigated site.
- Managing CEPR’s online “public face” though the organization’s website and through social networking tools, including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc.
- Maintaining and, when appropriate, improving the website’s layout and design.
- Upgrading website as technology allows.
- Generate web traffic through social media, SEO and other tools.
- Track web and social media traffic and mentions.
Organization Description: The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) was established in 1999 to promote democratic debate on the most important economic and social issues that affect people’s lives. It is an independent, nonpartisan think tank based in Washington, DC. CEPR conducts the highest quality research in an effort to inform the media, policy-makers, and advocates working on economic issues.
- Demonstrated experience using social media tools for organizing or advocacy.
- Familiarity with the integration of multimedia including, streaming video, maps, and charts into standard web design.
- Commitment to social and economic justice.
- Solid editing/writing skills, for social media and websites,
- Can work independently and as part of a team.
- Ability to operate in a fast-paced environment.
- Experience building components/modules for Joomla! and WordPress.
- Strong graphic design skills.
- Familiar with version control via GitHub.
- A sense of humor.
Salary & Benefits: CEPR offers a competitive salary and an excellent benefits package. This is a full-time position based in Washington, DC. This position will be represented by the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, Local #70, AFL-CIO.
Closing Date of Position: July 25, 2014
To Apply: Send resume, cover letter, examples of websites you have designed/managed, and salary requirement to firstname.lastname@example.org. No telephone calls or faxes please.
CEPR is an equal opportunity employer that considers applicants for all positions without regard to race, color, religion, creed, gender, national origin, age, disability, marital or veteran status, sexual orientation, or any legally protected status.
Nearly four years after causing a cholera epidemic in Haiti, the UN still hasn’t taken responsibility. Ban Ki-Moon is visiting Haiti, taking trips to cholera centers and giving speeches, but they seem just empty words and photo opportunities. During the trip, Ban announced the launch of a new sanitation campaign in Haiti but the UN’s cholera elimination plan still remains substantially underfunded.UN Chief Slammed for Taking Photo-Op, Not Responsibility for Cholera Epidemic It’s “an insult to all Haitians,” said Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux
Andrea Germanos, Common Dreams
July 15, 2014
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is under fire for using his first visit to Haiti since the cholera outbreak began to deliver what critics see as empty words and an insult to those killed by the UN-caused epidemic.
Yet, 1365 days since the UN troops introduced cholera to Haiti, over 8,000 Haitians have died and hundreds of thousands have been sickened, there has been no apology from the body. Nor has the UN taken responsibility or provided compensation to the victims.
This has prompted three pending alwsuits against the UN.
“I know that the epidemic has caused much anger and fear,” Ban said Monday at church service in the Haitian village of Los Palmas. “I know that the disease continues to affect an unacceptable number of people.”
The UN chief also announced launch of “Total Sanitation Campaign” to improve sanitation and hygiene interventions in Haiti, and called upon the global community to help fund the effort.
Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe and Ban have declared that the UN has “a moral responsibility” to address the epidemic, yet without accepting responsibility, the UN continues to evade its legal obligations while offering under-funded campaigns, advocates for Haitian victims say.
“It is an insult to all Haitians for the Secretary-General to come to Haiti for a photo-op when he refuses to take responsibility for the thousands of Haitians killed and the hundreds of thousands sickened by the UN cholera epidemic,” Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), which has been working with cholera victims on their years-long battle for justice.
Brian Concannon, Jr., Esq., who directs the Boston-based, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), added, “The Secretary-General lectures others on the importance of accountability and the rule of law, but refuses to comply with long-established and clear legal obligations to compensate Haitians harmed by its reckless introduction of cholera into Haiti.”
Click HERE for the original.
BBC News has also picked up the story of Ban Ki-moon’s visit to Haiti. Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney of BAI, has called it an insult for the Secretary General to visit Haiti for a photo op while the UN continues to dodge responsibility for the cholera epidemic.Ban Ki-moon: UN to help Haiti fight cholera epidemic
July 15, 2014
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says he will try to raise $2.2bn (£1.3bn) in aid money to fight the spread of cholera in Haiti.
Mr Ban, who is visiting Haiti, said it was the “moral duty” of the UN to help tackle the disease.
More than 8,500 people have died in the cholera epidemic which has swept through the country since 2010.
Evidence suggests UN peacekeepers introduced cholera to Haiti, but it has so far rejected compensation claims.
‘Anger and fear’
Speaking at a church service in one of the villages worst affected, Mr Ban said that he was aware that the epidemic had “caused much anger and fear” in Haiti and continued to affect “an unacceptable number of people”.Haitians gathered to demand more financial assistance from the UN
The United Nations is facing three lawsuits in connection with the epidemic, but has claimed legal immunity.
A lawyer for the victims said it was an insult to all Haitians for Mr Ban to come for a photo-opportunity when he refused to take responsibility for thousands of deaths.
In December 2012, Mr Ban launched a $2.2bn plan to eliminate cholera from Haiti within 10 years, but donors have been slow in coming forward with the needed funds.
The UN says it has not yet been able to raise the $400m needed to fund the programme in its first two years.
Mr Ban and Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe on Monday launched an initiative aimed at improving hygiene in rural areas of Haiti, where one in two people lack adequate sanitation.
More than 700,000 people in Haiti have been infected with cholera, which is spread by infected sewage, since late 2010.
No cases of the bacterial infection, which causes diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and muscle cramps, had been recorded in Haiti for a century until the outbreak started.
Click HERE for the original.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is travelling all over Haiti, visiting cholera victims, meeting with the President and Prime Minister, and trying to reassure people that the UN is working to end cholera as quickly as possible. Yet, the UN still hasn’t claimed responsibility for the epidemic and their 2012 cholera elimination plan still hasn’t attracted enough donors.UN Chief in Haiti Launches Sanitation Program
Pierre-Richard Luxama and David McFadden, New York Times
July 14, 2014
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited rural Haiti on Monday to help launch a program to improve sanitation and fight the spread of cholera, a disease many Haitians blame U.N. peacekeepers for introducing to the impoverished Caribbean country.
An outbreak of the disease that followed Haiti’s devastating earthquake in 2010 has killed more than 8,500 people and sickened about 700,000. Studies have shown cholera-infected waste likely was inadvertently introduced in one of Haiti’s biggest rivers by troops from Nepal, where the disease is endemic.
The outbreak is the subject of three lawsuits in U.S. courts, including one filed this year by nearly 1,500 Haitians seeking compensation from the U.N. A previous claim by cholera victims was rejected by Ban and the U.N., which cited diplomatic immunity.
At a church service in the village of Los Palmas, Ban said that he knew the cholera epidemic “caused much anger and fear” in Haiti and that the disease “continues to affect an unacceptable number of people.”
“As secretary-general of the United Nations, I want to assure you that the United Nations and its partners are strongly committed to ending the epidemic as quickly as possible,” he said.
In 2012, Ban announced a $2.2 billion initiative to help eradicate cholera in Hispaniola, the island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. But the program has not attracted nearly enough foreign donors.
Ban’s visit was criticized by some in Haiti who said the U.N. must accept responsibility for introducing the disease and provide compensation to families.
“It is an insult to all Haitians for the secretary-general to come to Haiti for a photo-op when he refuses to take responsibility for the thousands of Haitians killed and the hundreds of thousands sickened by the U.N. cholera epidemic,” said Mario Joseph, a leading lawyer for Haitian cholera victims.
On Monday, Ban and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe launched an initiative dubbed “Total Sanitation” aimed at boosting sanitation and hygiene in rural areas. Most of Haiti’s 10 million people have no access to bathrooms, giving the country the worst sanitation access in the Western Hemisphere and providing fertile ground for cholera.
Later in the capital, Ban met with President Michel Martelly and discussed Haiti’s upcoming legislative and municipal elections, among other topics.
An accord setting Oct. 26 as election day has not been authorized by the Senate, where a group of Martelly opponents argue it is unconstitutional.
Ban said he was encouraged by Martelly’s “strong commitment” to holding the long-delayed elections in October, but expressed some concern there was still disagreement between the executive and legislative branches.
Click HERE for the original.
A summary of the current controversy regarding UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s visit to Haiti. This is the first time he’s visiting Haiti since the cholera epidemic was started and the UN still does not take responsibility for causing it, though much evidence shows UN peacekeepers did.UN Chief in Haiti to Launch Sanitation Program
Associated Press, Yahoo News
July 14, 2014
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in rural Haiti on Monday to help launch a program to improve sanitation and fight the spread of cholera, a disease that many Haitians blame U.N. peacekeepers for introducing to the impoverished Caribbean country.
A deadly outbreak of the disease that followed Haiti’s devastating earthquake in 2010 has killed more than 8,500 people and sickened roughly 700,000. Studies have shown cholera-infected waste likely was introduced in one of Haiti’s biggest rivers by U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal, where the disease is endemic.
The outbreak is the subject of three separate lawsuits in U.S. courts. Earlier this year, nearly 1,500 Haitians filed a suit seeking compensation from the U.N. A previous claim by cholera victims was rejected by Ban and the U.N., which cited diplomatic immunity.
In an interview with The Miami Herald before his trip to Haiti, Ban said of the cholera outbreak: “Regardless of what the legal implication may be, as the secretary-general of the United Nations and as a person, I feel very sad.” He said the U.N. has a “moral responsibility” to help Haiti fight the epidemic.
In 2012, Ban announced a $2.2 billion initiative to help eradicate cholera in Haiti.
The U.N. chief’s visit was criticized by some human rights activists, who said the U.N. must accept responsibility for introducing the disease to Haiti and provide compensation to families.
“It is an insult to all Haitians for the secretary-general to come to Haiti for a photo-op when he refuses to take responsibility for the thousands of Haitians killed and the hundreds of thousands sickened by the U.N. cholera epidemic,” said Mario Joseph, a leading attorney for Haitian cholera victims.
On Monday, Ban was scheduled to visit a village in central Haiti with Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe to launch the “Total Sanitation” effort, which the U.N. says aims to boost sanitation and hygiene interventions in rural areas.
Ban is also expected to meet with Haitian families affected by cholera, a waterborne disease caused by bacteria found in tainted water or food. It can kill through dehydration if not treated in time.
Click HERE for the original.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Mario Joseph, Av., Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, (in Haiti), email@example.com, +509-3701-9878 (French, Creole, English)
Brian Concannon, Jr., Esq., Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, firstname.lastname@example.org, +1-541-263-0029 (English, French, Creole)
Beatrice Lindstrom, Esq., Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, email@example.com, +1-404-217-1302 (English, Creole, French)
UN Chief Makes First Haiti Visit Since Cholera Introduction
Victims and Advocates Call for More Action, Less Empty Words
(Port-au-Prince, July 14, 2014)— On July 14-15, 2014, United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is visiting Haiti for the first time since the UN introduced a deadly cholera epidemic to the Caribbean nation in 2010. The UN reports that the Secretary-General will meet with victims of the UN-caused disaster, and announce the launch of a sanitation campaign that “aims to scale up sanitation and hygiene interventions in rural areas.”
“For four years now, the UN has been launching new initiatives and making statements of sympathy, without taking any real action. Over 8,000 people have died and cholera keeps killing, and the UN still won’t even issue an apology, let alone provide funding to eliminate cholera in Haiti” said Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), which has been working with cholera victims to seek justice since 2010.
Under increasing fire from UN insiders, members of the U.S. Congress and legal experts to respond seriously to the crisis, Ban told the Miami Herald last week that “the international community, including the United Nations, has a moral responsibility to help the Haitian people stem the further spread of this cholera epidemic.”
But the organization has not accepted responsibility for having caused the epidemic in the first place. Nor has it provided compensation to cholera survivors, as it is required to do by its own international agreements.
Over two and half years ago, Ban launched an initiative to eliminate cholera in Haiti, but to date the UN has furnished only 1% of the total funding needed, and gathered another 9% in recycled earthquake pledges. As a result, the plan remains critically underfunded and the effort has yet to get off the ground.
The UN also announced the establishment of a joint committee to address cholera in October 2013, but the committee only met for the first time in May 2014, and has yet to release information publicly about its mandate or operations.
“It is an insult to all Haitians for the Secretary-General to come to Haiti for a photo-op when he refuses to take responsibility for the thousands of Haitians killed and the hundreds of thousands sickened by the UN cholera epidemic,” Attorney Joseph added.
Cholera continues to afflict Haiti’s vulnerable population. The UN itself has warned that the disease may kill up to 2,000 more people in 2014.
“The Secretary-General lectures others on the importance of accountability and the rule of law, but refuses to comply with long-established and clear legal obligations to compensate Haitians harmed by its reckless introduction of cholera into Haiti,” said Brian Concannon, Jr., Esq., who directs the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), a Boston-based non-profit that represents plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit against the UN. “The double standard is outrageous, and deeply undermines the UN’s credibility throughout the world.”
Three lawsuits are currently pending against the organization and the Secretary-General for their reckless oversight and management that caused the cholera outbreak.
For more information, including case documents and background materials, see www.IJDH.org.
POUR DIFFUSION IMMÉDIATE
Mario Joseph, Av., Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, (Haïti), firstname.lastname@example.org, +509-3701-9878 (français, kréyol, anglais)
Brian Concannon, Jr., Esq., Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, email@example.com, +1-541-263-0029 (anglais, français, kréyol)
Beatrice Lindstrom, Esq., Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, firstname.lastname@example.org, +1-404-217-1302 (anglais, kréyol, français)
Le numéro un de l’ONU fait première visite depuis l’Introduction du choléra
Victimes et avocats réclament plus d’Action, moins de mots vides
(Port-au-Prince, 14 juillet 2014)— Le 14 et 15 juillet 2014, Ban Ki-moon, Secrétaire général des Nations Unies (ONU) va rendre visite en Haïti pour la première fois depuis l’introduction du choléra en 2010 dans cette nation des Caraïbes par l’ONU à travers le traitement des déchets de manière imprudente à sa base de maintien de la paix. Les rapports de l’ONU indiquent que le Secrétaire général rencontrera des victimes de la catastrophe et annoncera une campagne «visant à intensifier l’assainissement et l’hygiène des interventions dans les zones rurales.»
« Depuis quatre ans maintenant, l’ONU a lancé de nouvelles initiatives ainsi que des déclarations de sympathie, sans prendre de véritables mesures. Plus de 8.000 personnes sont mortes et le choléra continue à réclamer des vies; l’ONU ne présente même pas des excuses, ni donner de fonds pour éradiquer le choléra en Haïti. » selon Mario JOSEPH, Directeur du Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), qui travaille avec les victimes de choléra pour obtenir justice depuis 2010.
L’organisation est sous le feu des initiés à l’organisation, les membres du Congrès des États-Unis, et les experts juridiques de n’a pas avoir répondu sérieusement à la crise. Dans une interview avec le Miami Herald la semaine dernière, Ban a déclaré que “la communauté internationale, y compris les Nations Unies, a une responsabilité morale pour aider le peuple haïtien à endiguer la propagation de cette épidémie.»
Cependant, l’organisation n’a pas accepté la responsabilité pour avoir causé l’épidémie en premier lieu, ni n’a fourni une indemnité aux victimes du choléra, comme c’est requis de le faire par ses propres accords internationaux.
Il y’a plus de deux ans, depuis que l’ONU a lancé une initiative visant à éradiquer le choléra en Haïti. Cependant, l’organisation a donné seulement 1% du financement totale requis et recueilli 9% en plus en promesses de dons. Ainsi, le plan reste gravement sous-financé et les efforts n’ont pas encore véritablement commencé.
En Octobre 2013, l’ONU a annoncé l’établissement d’un comité mixte chargé d’aborder le choléra mais le comité s’est réuni seulement pour la première fois en mai 2014, et n’as pas encore communiqué au public les détails concernant son mandat ou ses opérations.
Maître Joseph a noté « C’est une insulte pour tous les Haïtiens que le Secrétaire-Général vient en Haïti pour une occasion de photos pendant qu’il refuse de reconnaitre ou de prendre la responsabilité pour les milliers d’Haïtiens morts et les centaines de milliers rendus malades par l’épidémie du choléra de l’ONU.»
Pendant ce temps, le choléra continue à affecter la population vulnérable d’Haïti. L’ONU lui-même a averti que la maladie peut tuer jusqu’à 2,000 personnes de plus en 2014. A présent, l’épidémie a tué plus de 8.500 et a rendu plus de 700.000 malade.
« Le Secrétaire-Générale fait la morale aux autres sur l’importance de responsabilité et l’état de droit, mais il refuse de se conformer aux obligations claires et établie de longue date à dédommager les Haïtiens touchés par son introduction imprudent du choléra en Haïti » a dit Brian Concannon, Jr., Esq. qui dirige l’Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) (l’Institut pour la justice et la démocratie en Haïti), une organisation à but non lucratif qui représente les plaignants dans une action en justice contre l’ONU aux Etats-Unis. « Le double standard est scandaleux et réduit gravement la crédibilité de l’ONU partout dans le monde. »
Trois actions en justice sont actuellement en cours contre l’organisation et le Secrétaire-Générale pour leur négligence et gestion imprudentes ayant causé l’épidémie du choléra.
Pour plus d’information, y compris les documents relatifs à l’affaire, visitez www.ijdh.org.
Our very own Staff Attorney, Beatrice Lindstrom, was featured on Swedish radio explaining whether we think that Ban’s ‘moral responsibility’ statement signals a change in their position vis-a-vis the lawsuit. Below is a rough translation. (The segment starts at 16:45.)
July 15, 2014
Reporter 1: Right now, the UN’s Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is visiting Haiti. The UN is still not accepting legal responsibility for the cholera epidemic that was spread by UN troops four years ago, but several organizations have sued the UN. One of them is the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, where Beatrice Lindstrom is a lawyer.
Beatrice: More and more people who work within the UN are speaking out against the way that the Organization has handled this catastrophe. So we hope that the UN will eventually change its position. The ultimate end goal for us is of course not a trial in itself, but to obtain justice for the families that have been sickened and those who have lost family members.
Reporter 2: It was in January 2010 that Haiti was hit by a devastating earthquake. Ten months later a cholera epidemic spread across the country, which until now has killed 8,000 people. The cholera came via UN soldiers, who carried the disease which then spread into Haiti’s largest river.
When Ban Ki-moon arrived in Haiti yesterday, he visited a few of the country’s cholera impacted families. Before the trip, he said that the UN has a moral responsibility to help Haiti end the epidemic. But this does not mean that the UN accepts any legal responsibility. Instead, they are pointing to international immunity enjoyed by the UN.
Ola Engdahl, who is an expert in human rights, says the UN could waive it’s immunity so that the case be tried legally and liability assigned.
Ola: This would be a step in the right direction, I think, because until now, we have seen a dearth of good practice on UN responsibility for acts undertaken in peacekeeping operations.
Click HERE for the recording.
Klicka HÄR för att lyssna.
As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon prepares to go to Haiti, he makes one of his strongest statements on cholera yet, admitting that the UN has a moral responsibility to help stop the epidemic. Unfortunately, the UN is struggling to raise money to fight cholera due to lack of credibility because they don’t admit to causing the epidemic; donors’ “Haiti fatigue;” and political uncertainty, particularly with the long-overdue elections. Perhaps if the UN takes their “moral responsibility” more seriously, international donors will do the same.United Nations top official goes to Haiti to promote cholera elimination, elections While not offering an apology or admission, the head of the United Nations says the global body bears “a moral responsibility” in helping Haiti tackle what experts say is the world’s worst cholera epidemic.
Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald
July 13, 2014
UNITED NATIONS, N.Y. – In his strongest statement since a deadly cholera epidemic erupted in Haiti almost four years ago, the head of the United Nations said the global body bears “a moral responsibility” to help the Caribbean nation end the outbreak.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made the declaration in an exclusive interview with the Miami Herald as he prepared to visit Haiti, where he will travel to the region where the contamination happened and meet with families hard hit by cholera. Detected 10 months after Haiti’s devastating Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake, the waterborne disease has killed 8,563 people and infected 704,245.
Since then, the U.N. has refused to admit responsibility for the outbreak, which scientific evidence and its own independent panel of experts suggested was brought to Haiti by Nepalese peacekeepers stationed at a military base in the Central Plateau region.
Nor has the world body offered an apology, which victims and their families are seeking along with compensation, in three separate lawsuits filed in United States courts.
“Regardless of what the legal implication may be, as the secretary general of the United Nations and as a person, I feel very sad,” Ban said. “I believe that the international community, including the United Nations, has a moral responsibility to help the Haitian people stem the further spread of this cholera epidemic.”
Ban’s statement on the eve of his arrival Monday comes after Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe called on the U.N. last fall to take “moral responsibility” for cholera, and after the U.N.’s independent human rights expert on Haiti earlier this year demanded “full compensation” for cholera victims. In the Feb. 7 report, Gustavo Gallon criticized the silence while publicly disagreeing with the U.N., which has rejected compensation and invoked immunity in the legal cases.
“The diplomatic difficulties surrounding this issue must be overcome to ensure the Haitian people that the epidemic can be stopped in the shortest possible time frame and pay full compensation for the damages suffered,” Gallon said.
By the U.N.’s own admission, foreign donors have been slow to contribute to a $2.2 billion, 10-year cholera-elimination campaign that Ban launched in December 2012 with the presidents of Haiti and the neighboring Dominican Republic. The organization has struggled even to raise an initial $400 million it says is needed in the first two years to contain the epidemic and build clean water and sanitation infrastructure.
Getting donors to deliver the money will be a key issue during his visit, Ban said, noting that Haitians “have suffered a lot” under the world’s worst cholera epidemic. The way to prevent a repeat of cholera, he said, is to help Haiti address the root cause: poor sanitation.
“The international community has been struggling to overcome this global financial difficulty, and we have so many crises happening at the same time around the world,” said Ban. “That is one reason why we have not been able to effectively mobilize.”
While the humanitarian crises have also put pressure on Ban to reduce the size of the peacekeeping mission in Haiti, observers say they believe donors are holding onto the purse strings for other reasons.
Some blame Haiti fatigue, which has some donors quietly reassessing and reducing financial aid to the country. Others say another factor is the U.N.’s refusal to accept that leaking sewage pipes at its base were to blame for cholera’s spread.
There is also Haiti’s political gridlock, which continues to threaten the staging of long-overdue local and legislative elections in October.
With every disagreement, observers say, Haiti’s politicians get further from reaching a compromise for the balloting.
“My political message to Haitian leaders, government and parliamentary leaders will be that it’s crucially important that this election be held as agreed and scheduled in October,” Ban said.
Helping Haitians break the gridlock, and the future of the U.N. Stabilization Mission’s (MINUSTAH) 5,000 blue helmets and 2,600 police officers in Haiti will also top his agenda, he said.
“Haiti cannot afford drifting without . . . a full Senate, a full Assembly and executive branch,” said Mark Schneider, senior vice president for the International Crisis Group, which monitors Haiti. “He needs to play the convening role in bringing the still very widely divided political actors together to produce a compromise that will help Haiti reach parliamentary elections this fall.”
While Schneider welcomes Ban’s visit and his acknowledgment of “the debt owed to the Haitian people as a result of the introduction of cholera,” he noted the U.N.’s failure to apologize for cholera has caused it to be the target of criticism, including growing calls for its departure.
“The U.N. and MINUSTAH have played a fundamental role in helping to deal with the aftermath of the earthquake, to help build Haitian institutions, and continues to play a critical role,” Schneider said. “But with respect to the issue of cholera, they have simply failed to recognize how deeply this has hurt their image in Haiti.”
Brian Concannon, an attorney with the Boston-based rights group, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, said he isn’t surprised by donors’ reluctance to aid the U.N.’s anti-cholera campaign.
“Certainly the U.N.’s refusal to accept responsibility and comply with its legal obligations undermines its mission to promote the rule of law in Haiti and elsewhere,” said Concannon, whose group was the first to file claims on behalf of 5,000 cholera victims and their families.
“Somewhere this afternoon, a police trainer is giving Haitian police officers a lecture about how they need to sacrifice their personal and friends’ interests and respect the rule of law so that Haiti can advance,” he said. “The trainees are looking at the logo on her/his shirt and laughing.”
Longtime Haiti observer Robert Maguire said Haiti’s current political reality also cannot be dismissed in tackling the cholera crisis.
“Does the fact that Haiti is once again manufacturing a political crisis discourage international donors from solving what is more of a social crisis?” said Maguire, director of the Latin American and Hemispheric Studies Program at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs in Washington, D.C. “If Haiti didn’t have elections that are two years delayed, constant provocation, these eternal disputes and gridlock, wouldn’t that perhaps encourage international donors to be more generous with Haiti?”
Cholera aside, Maguire said Ban serves an important purpose.
“The United Nations remains committed to leaving behind in Haiti an effective and independent police force. That is probably among the most salient objectives of MINUSTAH,” Maguire said about the force, whose strength and ability to secure Haiti is viewed as a key benchmark for the U.N.’s eventual departure.
“Over the past three years, there has been some discomfort about whether there could be political erosion in Haiti and the independence of the police force,” he said. “This is one of MINUSTAH’s objectives in maintaining a presence, mitigating any tendencies in Haiti to politicize the police force. I think that is quite clear.”
In June, the U.N. marked a decade in Haiti. Even as military troops quietly pull out of some regions, leaving security to the local police, questions and uncertainty remain about the mission’s future configuration.
“We are not going to completely withdraw,” Ban said from his 38th-floor office at the U.N.’s New York headquarters. “We are going to try and reduce our soldiers so that the Haitian government and people can really enhance this capacity and stand on their own.”
Ban said he is encouraged, for instance, by the progress the government has made in building up the 11,000-member Haitian National Police force. But there is more work to do, he acknowledged.
“The Haitian people and government have made considerable progress, first of all in ensuring stability, of course with the help of MINUSTAH, and enhancing the [national police],” he said. “But at the same time, we hope there could be more progress in justice and accountability areas. Common, ordinary people should be able to get some support and protection from the government.”
Click HERE for the original.
Join the Haiti Support Group in London for their annual general meeting.
“The Haiti Support Group warmly invites HSG members, supporters and Haiti watchers to attend our Annual General Meeting which will take place on Saturday July 12 2014 in London. We would like to welcome all those interested in helping our work so that we can continue to amplify the voices of Haitian civil society and ensure that progressive, participatory groups in Haiti are included in shaping the future of their country. With the five-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake of January 12 2010 just around the corner, we believe that 2014-2015 is a pivotal moment to place Haiti back on the international agenda.”
Institute of the Americas, University College London
51 Gordon Square
London, England WC1H 0PN
Saturday July 12, 2014 @ 3-6pm
Click HERE for the original post.
This article explains why elections in Haiti have been delayed so long: After the executive branch stalled for years, President Martelly has appointed an unconstitutional Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), which is biased in his favor. Opposition parties refuse to accept this CEP. If elections, scheduled for October 26, 2014, don’t occur this year, Martelly will rule by decree.Opposition sides claim Haiti elections jeopardized
Associated Press, The Washington Post
July 10, 2014
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Leading opposition factions are alleging that Haiti’s presidentially appointed electoral council is stacking the deck in favor of President Michel Martelly, who has scheduled long-delayed legislative and municipal elections for October.
Parties complaining of exclusion and unfair advantages include the Unity party of former President Rene Preval and the Lavalas Family founded by former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. They are among the major opposition groups that boycotted election talks earlier in the year and have refused to register with the Provisional Electoral Council, which they contend is rigged.
An accord setting Oct. 26 as election day has not been authorized by the Senate, where a group of staunch Martelly opponents argue it is unconstitutional.
The electoral council picked by Martelly has only seven of its mandated nine members and its president, Fritzo Canton, is a lawyer who is defending former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier against charges of embezzlement and human rights abuses.
“What Haiti needs is an impartial electoral council that won’t take sides for either the government or the opposition,” said Dieudonne Saincy, Unity’s spokesman. “We are now in a political crisis because this electoral council is entirely under the control of Martelly.”
Former Lavalas senator Louis Gerald Gilles asserted that Martelly’s government “is doing everything it can to take over the election process.”
Martelly’s administration has brushed off the criticism as the intransigence of his political opponents, some of whom have organized street protests to demand his resignation. Martelly insists he has made several concessions to opponents, including forming a new Cabinet, and has actively tried to make compromises with members of the Senate.
Despite pressure from the United Nations, the U.S. and other major supporters of Haiti, previous efforts to hold the legislative and municipal vote over the last couple of years were snarled by political infighting between the executive and legislative branches. In April, Washington warned Haitian authorities that $300 million earmarked for the country’s coast guard, health ministry and various projects was at risk because of the tardy vote.
In May, Martelly announced he had appointed a new council to oversee the balloting in Haiti, where elections have never been easy. The Oct. 26 election date was announced in early June, and Martelly said late last month that the Caribbean country was committed to that date.
The Organization of American States has said it will provide support. But political observers have expressed skepticism that the elections can take place in late October, and opposition figures are promising a fresh wave of street protests in coming days.
The long-overdue elections would fill 20 seats in the 30-member Senate, all 99 seats in the lower chamber and 140 municipal positions. The terms of 10 senatorial seats are due to expire in January, which would leave the body with only 10 senators, not enough for a quorum. If the election isn’t held by then, Martelly would rule by decree.
Click HERE for the original.
For more information on the issues with Haiti’s election, please read our Elections FAQ.
The Assessing Progress in Haiti Act, which seeks aid accountability and has been stalled for some time, finally passed the Senate. Given the failures of foreign aid to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, this Act is a promising accountability mechanism. It will now go back to the House for further action.Senate passes bill to assess post-earthquake Haiti
Ramsey Cox, Yahoo News
July 10, 2014
The Senate passed a bill Thursday that would authorize an assessment on the progress Haiti has made after a devastating earthquake.
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) introduced S. 1104, the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act, which would require the secretary of State to give Congress an annual report until 2017 on post-earthquake recovery and development efforts in Haiti.
The Senate also passed S. 653, the Near East and South Central Asia Religious Freedom Act, from Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).
Blunt’s bill would authorize the president to appoint a special State Department envoy to promote the freedoms of religious minorities in Asian countries.
Both bills were passed through unanimous consent agreements before the Senate adjourned for the day. They now head to the House for further action.
Click HERE for the original article, with the Senate report.
Medika mamba, a local product that can restore malnourished children to health, is made by a nonprofit that uses sustainable methods – like buying peanuts from local farmers – to affect systemic change in Haiti. Because of free and subsidized food aid from USAID, this nonprofit, Meds & Food for Kids, is having trouble staying afloat.The west’s peanut butter bias chokes Haiti’s attempts to feed itself Local provider of food to tackle malnourishment faces closure because aid agencies buy subsidised products from abroad
Rashmee Roshan Lall, The Guardian
July 10, 2014
Bedline is 17 months and weighs just 5.3kg. She lies feverish and quiet in her grandmother’s arms, eyes glazed, her pale blue nylon frock hanging off thin shoulders.
Nearly 30 toddlers and their carers are crammed into the airless room at a makeshift malnutrition clinic atop a hill in Bahon, northern Haiti. This is a sleepy town along the Grande Riviere, an extravagantly named river that is a mere summer trickle through the north of Haiti.
Barring the odd snuffle, the room is silent. These children are not up to the mischief common among toddlers. They wait, listlessly, to be weighed and fed medika mamba, Haitian Creole for peanut butter medicine.
Medika mamba is a local product, manufactured by the non-profit Meds & Food for Kids (MFK) to standards approved by the World Health Organisation and the UN children’s agency, Unicef. Internationally trademarked as Plumpy’Nut by the French company Nutriset, a 150-sachet carton can restore a severely malnourished child to health in six to 12 weeks. About 22% of under-fives in Haiti are chronically malnourished.
Soon, medika mamba will be rolled out in Guatemala and beyond through Unicef’s programmes for malnourished people. But Haiti’s newest export will not be the measure of success it sounds.
“The World Food Programme (WFP) rang in December and said they wouldn’t be buying anything from us for four years because they had a corn-soy blend from USAid – for free. That was half of our annual income gone. We nearly closed in June,” says American paediatrician Patricia Wolff who founded MFK 10 years ago to make a local malnourishment product that would feed children, as well as benefit farmers.
An official explains that the donation of US corn-soy blend was bought by WFP last year with emergency USAid funding in advance of Haiti’s generally calamitous hurricane season. But it was not needed and “in 2014 USAid approved a WFP request to use the already in-country corn-soy blend stock for their ongoing programme of treating malnutrition”, the official said.
No one seems to have pondered the local implications of the decision. The official said it was standard practice for unused goods from one programme to be transferred to another. But, as the experience of medika mamba demonstrates, it is a risky policy for Haitian workers – closing the factory would have cost 42 local jobs, and hundreds of Haitian peanut farmers would have lost a reliable buyer. Wolff lobbied heavily against the “market-distorting” effects of importing a therapeutic food when a local one exists.
In April, she won a year’s grace, landing the Unicef export order. The factory – built in 2012 with a $732,000 (£427,000) loan from the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (Gain) and LGT Venture Philanthropy –stayed open. This year, MFK expects to buy 50 tonnes of peanuts from local farmers, nearly 50% more than in 2013.
Wolff believes that with assured international aid buyers for medika mamba, the factory could boost production year on year, creating economies of scale and a sustainable local loop of supply and demand. “Producing 550 metric tonnes makes us sustainable because it covers the cost of everything,” she says.
In theory, that is development economics at its best – saving lives while sustaining change in low-income countries. It will tackle acute child malnutrition, which rose from 5.1% in 2012 to 6.5% last year, according to the Haitian government. And it creates much-needed jobs in a country where unemployment hovers around 40%. It is also able to redouble ongoing efforts to improve peanut farmers’ productivity and post-harvest handling and storage.
In the longer-term, Gain, a foundation that supports public-private initiatives that address malnutrition, sees the rising global demand for Plumpy’Nut as an export opportunity for Haiti’s MFK.
But whether this optimism is borne out in Haiti is dependent on whether Unicef, or other agencies, renew their order. Wolff says she lives from month to month and order to order, having no idea whether the factory will still be open next year. The loan from Gain, repayable over seven years at 6.75% interest, will need to be repaid.
The 300 peanut farmers in the north of the country, who have been selling their produce to MFK, will also be adversely affected if the factory closes.
There is little disagreement about the inherent value of localism in tackling child malnourishment in Haiti, and the WFP in Haiti says local food purchase remains a priority. But a WFP official admits that this year its nutrition activities are taken up by USAid’s Kore Lavi food voucher programme, which means it can’t buy from MFK at present.
But the politics, perverse logic and lack of coordinated thinking on aid from the west means well-meaning international agencies sometimes prefer to feed countries like Haiti rather than give them the means to feed themselves. As a result, local ventures such as MFK are constantly at risk of being forced out of business.
None of which bodes well for children like Bedline, who will inherit this poisoned legacy.
Click HERE for the original.
This article describes the origin of the cholera epidemic the United Nations brought to Haiti in 2010, what has happened since, and what BAI/IJDH are doing to seek justice for the victims. The UN continues to be unaccountable for the actions that caused the epidemic, and also hasn’t raised enough money for improved water and sanitation in Haiti.Attorneys in the Time of Cholera
Mary H. White, MD, JD Supra
July 9, 2014
This is the story of how lawyers are fighting the cholera epidemic in Haiti.
I am a physician with a subspecialty in infectious diseases. Since 2003, I have periodically travelled to Haiti to deliver basic medical care in underserved areas. I was also in Haiti two months after the earthquake that devastated the country and led to a quarter million deaths, reduced innumerable homes to rubble, abruptly terminated livelihoods and educations, and resulted in chronic disability for many.
In March, 2010, I worked at a field hospital about an hour outside of Port-au-Prince. Patients were assigned to each of about 50 large canvas tents, but each patient was accompanied by one or more family members, so conditions were crowded. The rainy season had not yet arrived, and it was hot, dry, and dusty. Many patients were immobilized by amputations or external hardware holding shattered bones in place. These sweaty conditions contributed to an already substantial risk for bacterial wound infections.
I met people whose responses to the earthquake were not just related to their physical injuries: one man unashamedly declared he was abandoning his wife because of the new large scar on her face; another man refused to go to a nearby clinic for removal of his infected metal rods until he was reassured that it was in a one-story building that was seismically-engineered; a pregnant woman receiving prenatal care for the first time learned she had HIV and she left the camp, abandoning her toddler to the category of “unaccompanied minor”; and someone stole a prosthetic foot.
In sum, the earthquake of January 12, 2010 left a population that was extremely vulnerable to many other traumas, besides the physical ones. So, when cholera was first introduced into Haiti in October 2010, the bacteria laid siege to an undefended population.
Haiti had plenty of waterborne dysentery-like illnesses previously, but a case of cholera had not been seen in over 100 years. Since cholera’s introduction nearly four years ago, 700,000 people have developed the severe diarrheal illness, and at least 8,500 have died.
How did this happen? In mid-October, United Nations (“UN”) peacekeepers from Nepal arrived at their base camp situated on the banks of Haiti’s principle river system in the Artibonite Valley. Days later, several Haitians, who lived downstream from the UN base, were carried to local clinics with profound dehydration secondary to copious vomiting and continuous “rice water” diarrhea, the classic description of cholera. Over the ensuing weeks, Haiti’s already taxed and partially destroyed health care system was overrun with patients.
Epidemiological and microbiological studies as well as forensic molecular technology showed that Haiti’s cholera strain is identical to the strain that is endemic (or commonplace) and often asymptomatic in Nepal. Associated Press and Al Jazeera reporters visiting the Nepalese base documented the UN workers dumping sewage where it flowed into the Artibonite River tributaries.
The UN’s own panel of independent experts has confirmed that the cholera outbreak coincided with the arrival of UN peacekeepers from Nepal, and that the strain of cholera present in Haiti is a perfect match with the strain in Nepal. The UN panel also reported that the Nepalese peacekeepers were not tested or treated for cholera prior to their deployment in Haiti, and that the sanitation piping on the base was cracked and haphazard. Finally, they confirmed the press reports that the base dumped their untreated human waste in open air pits that overflowed into the river when it rained.
Enter the United States-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (“IJDH”) and its Haitian partner, Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (“BAI”), who together recognized the fundamental responsibility for this medical disaster lay with the UN. Both IJDH and BAI are small non-profit organizations made up of human rights attorneys. In Haiti, they have advocated for women who were victims of sexual assault and helped them face their perpetrators in court; they have also been instrumental in bringing Jean-Claude Duvalier (“Baby Doc”) to court for the brutalities committed during his regime as Haiti’s president during the 1970s and 1980s.
Now IJDH and the BAI are holding the UN accountable for the cholera epidemic and are suing for restitution. In November 2011, cholera victims, represented by the BAI, sought to invoke the settlement procedures that the UN had agreed to in international treaties, namely, that they agreed to provide out-of-court settlement mechanisms to victims of UN wrongdoing. The BAI submitted claims to the UN in a petition asking for: 1) a public acknowledgement of responsibility from the UN; 2) just compensation for the victims; and 3) installation of water and sanitation infrastructure needed to combat the ongoing epidemic.
The UN did not respond until February 2013 when it dismissed the claims as “not receivable,” because “consideration of these claims would necessarily include a review of policy or politics.” The UN refused to engage in mediation or discussion. Since there is no appeals process, Haitian cholera victims had no access to a mechanism that would result in justice.
As a result of the UN’s refusal to abide by the legal requirements of its own agreements, cholera victims filed a class-action suit against the UN in the Southern District of New York in October 2013. The case is pending, and the question of UN immunity is currently being briefed for the judge.
Cholera remains a very real threat to public health in Haiti, and the UN itself has warned that up to 2,000 people could die from the disease in 2014. This is because Haiti has a chronically inadequate water and sanitation infrastructure that is perpetuating the infection. Major rivers are used by the Haitian people for many daily purposes: drinking and cooking water, bathing and washing clothes. These open water systems continue to be contaminated by absent or flawed methods of handling human waste. The vicious cholera cycle will continue as long as this condition persists.
By the UN’s own definitions, the cholera epidemic in Haiti is a humanitarian crisis. But independent of the legal situation, the UN has not responded adequately to this crisis; to date, the UN has provided only 1% of the funding needed and repurposed another 9% from earthquake donations to install the water and sanitation infrastructure needed to control the epidemic. Sadly, some experts believe that cholera is now entrenched in and may never be eradicated entirely from Haiti.
From the medical perspective, cholera treatment clinics were set up across the country. Haitians have been educated about the symptoms and where to go—quickly—for treatment. Shipments of antibiotics, intravenous fluids, oral rehydration solutions, protective gloves and gowns continue, and a moderately effective cholera vaccine has been distributed to portions of the population. But none of this will stem the epidemic as long as water and sanitation are not secure. In addition, 75% of the cholera treatment clinics are now closed.
So, Haitians must now wait to learn if IJDH and BAI can control the cholera epidemic with legal argument, asking the UN to be accountable for the neglect and lack of appropriate supervision over health and sanitation practices that led to this humanitarian and health crisis.
Disclosures: Mary White is a supporter of IJDH and is a member of its Advisory Board. She was assisted in the writing of the legal details in this post by Brian Concannon, Executive Director of IJDH.
Click HERE for the original.
Despite the unconstitutional nature of the Electoral Council appointed by President Martelly, and Martell’y unilateral actions in planning elections, the international community has promised funding for the elections and continues to rush the process along. Please join us in urging these organizations not to back elections unless they are fair, inclusive and democratic.Despite Flawed Electoral Process, International Community Support Continues Unabated
Center for Economic and Policy Research
July 9, 2014
While Haitian President Michel Martelly has unilaterally scheduled long-delayed elections for October 26, 2014, the composition of the electoral council continues to cause controversy in Haiti. The current problems stem from the deeply flawed electoral process in 2010 that saw Martelly emerge victorious after the intervention of the international community. There have yet to be elections since then, with one-third of the 30 member Senate having their terms expire in 2011 while some 130 local mayors have been replaced by Martelly appointments. Another one-third of the Senate and the entire lower house will see their terms expire in January 2015 if elections are not held. In a “frequently asked questions” document released last week, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) provides a legal analysis of the reasons behind the delays and why the current electoral council is unconstitutional. In an accompanying press release, IJDH notes:
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.”
Joseph explains that “The current Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) put into place by President Martelly per the El Rancho Accord is unconstitutional.” The El Rancho Accord, which rules the government’s plan for elections, has not been approved by Parliament and the procedure for selecting a CEP conflicts with the Haitian Constitution. The CEP only has seven of the required nine members due to these legitimacy concerns. Parliamentarians and political opposition call the El Rancho Accord a political coup d’état.
Despite the problems associated with the “El Rancho Accord,” the international community has been supportive of the process. After praising the accord in March, the U.N. issued a statement in early May, co-signed with the “Friends of Haiti” grouping of countries, warning “that certain important decisions to advance toward the holding of the elections have yet to be made.” Days later Martelly announced the formation of the electoral council, unilaterally. In early June, the date of October 26 was announced by the government, even though the electoral body is tasked with scheduling elections. Last week, after meeting with Martelly, the Secretary General of the OAS committed “to back the holding of free and fair elections, in a process planned for October.” The OAS also said they would send an electoral observation mission.
The international community is also providing the lion’s share of the funds for the election. IJDH, for its part, has called on the U.S. and other members of the international community to “support rule of law and democracy by conditioning election funding on a lawful and independent electoral council that can run fair and inclusive elections.” Haiti’s last several elections have been criticized for not being inclusive, as several political parties – including the most popular, Fanmi Lavalas – have been arbitrarily kept off the ballot under various pretexts.
The U.S. has pledged $10 million toward the elections, but a review of contract spending shows that a significant portion of this has already been allocated and spent in coordination with a previous electoral body that no longer exists. In April of 2013, USAID awarded $2.3 million to the International Federation of Electoral Systems (IFES) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) for “electoral process support.” In April 2014, the award was raised to $3.4 million. An IFES press release from October 2013, well before elections had been scheduled, notes that the organization had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Transitional College of the Permanent Electoral Council (CTCEP) to provide technical assistance. The CTCEP has since been replaced by the electoral body that emerged from the controversial “El Rancho Accord.” Repeated requests for comment to clarify IFES’s support have yet to be answered.
Additionally, a USAID factsheet reports that $6.5 million will go toward “pre-election planning and capacity building for the” CTCEP. Those funds are part of a multi-donor project run by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Previously called “Support to Electoral Process in Haiti: 2012-2013”, the only recent update to the project’s webpage has been to change to dates to “2013-2014.” Overall, the UNDP project will have a budget of $32 million and had already spent over a $1 million as of October 2013. It remains unclear if the donors – the U.S., Brazil, Canada, Mexico and the EU – have already deposited their contributions with the UNDP.
Click HERE for the original.
New Media Advocacy Project writes about their excitement about their latest video, Advancing Justice Through Expert Testimony in Haiti. This video and post explain the importance of expert testimony not just in Haiti but anywhere, particularly in cases of rape. Haitian courts don’t currently use expert testimony enough but increased use of expert testimony will help ensure justice for rape victims and improve the system.Expert Witnesses: Advancing Justice for Women in Haitian Courts
Abby Goldberg, New Media Advocacy Project
July 8, 2014
It is with great enthusiasm that N-Map launches our newest film: Advancing Justice Through Expert Testimony in Haiti.
(Pou kreyol, tanpri klike isi)
In November 2013, our partners—the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) —invited us to Haiti to produce a film that advocates for the greater use of expert witnesses in Haitian courts. The film is primarily intended for Haitian judges, prosecutors and lawyers yet the message remains universal: expert testimony is vital for all criminal trials—especially in the case of rape.
Judges are not doctors; nor are they forensic psychologists or ballistic experts. Yet they issue rulings on cases built upon evidence from these fields. Consequently, many courts call on experts to help judges understand the specificities of a case or to help lawyers best substantiate their case according to relevant scientific evidence. In Haiti, however, there is little use of expert witnesses in criminal trials. Without guidance, judges cannot provide informed decisions for the complainant or the accused. And this absence of expertise delivers only partial justice.
While it is important for Haitian courts to employ expert witnesses in all criminal trials, this need is ever more urgent for cases of sexual violence. Last summer, judges dismissed numerous sexual assault cases because female victims exhibited common symptoms of trauma: failing to remember some details of the crime or inconsistently recounting their testimony. Modern psychiatric literature recognizes this behavior as common among rape victims who experience trauma. Yet judges are not familiar with the behavioral patterns of post-rape trauma and leverage inconsistent testimony as evidence that a crime did not occur. In these cases, the Haitian justice system—in addition to the defendant—wronged the victim.
The need for medical expertise also highlights the importance of expert testimony in rape cases. In a case profiled in the film, a complainant under the age of 10 was seeking justice for her rape, but judges believed inaccurately that any child of that age would have not yet been sexually active and thus, would have bled from a broken hymen when raped. The gynecologist explained to the court that although most children do bleed in cases of rape, there are exceptions. She was able to tell the judges during trial that the fact that the child did not bleed is not evidence that she had not been raped. She successfully convinced the judges, who otherwise may have ruled differently, that rape can occur without blood loss in such cases.
In a more recent case, a woman who worked as a housekeeper was brutally raped in the home of her employer. When she brought the case to court, a prosecutor and later an appeals court chamber ruled that because she did not flee the situation, and since escape was possible, it proved the sexual activity consensual. It was not. Again, it is common for women to stay with their accusers due to trauma and fear. An expert helps judges understand this phenomenon, and by extension, helps rape victims find justice.
N-Map and our partners at BAI will distribute this video throughout the summer to judges and prosecutors as trials resume after a several month hiatus. Our goal is twofold: first, to convince judicial actors of the importance of expert testimony and second, to show that expert testimony is effectively employed by peers and easy to implement. Additionally, several women’s rights groups–such as our partners at KOFAVIV–requested to incorporate the video into their training. We plan to work with the Haitian Bar Association to include the video in the required curriculum for all new lawyers in Haiti as well.
The capacity of this video to advocate for expert testimony beyond Haitian courts leaves me with great hope. It also fully reaffirms my belief that expert testimony proves a prerequisite for true justice and thankfully I am not alone.
“There is a lot of injustice done at this level,” explains Carlos Hercule, President of the Haitian Bar Association. “And to solve this problem the [courts] must use scientific expertise and proof.” Many of the judges and prosecutors I interviewed agreed with Carlos. In fact, during our week of production in Haiti, I met few dissenters. Yet surprisingly, the two interviewees who expressed resistance to the incorporation of expert witness testimony into Haitian courts were the experts themselves: a gynecologist and a psychologist. Feeling confused; I asked why. Both replied with the same concern: the more time spent in court testifying on behalf of victims translates to less time in practice—offering medical or psychological services desperately needed by Haiti’s under-served population.
Those unexpected answers certainly sparked new thinking about the potential for video to alleviate the cost and the human-resource burden of expert testimony—not only in Haiti but in other under-resourced justice systems as well. Even here in the United States the expense of expert witnesses favors well-funded law firms. For public defenders—like Brooklyn Defender Service—the expense of experts proves prohibitively costly and expert testimony often favorably affects the outcome of cases. This begs the question: even with the ubiquitous use of expert testimony, what advantages come to those who can afford it?
So can video or new media ensure that marginalized complainants, and for that matter defendants, have equal access to expert witnesses? Well that’s a topic for another post…
Click HERE for the original.