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In Post-Hurricane Haiti, Hunger, Suffering & Vulnerability Continue

April 3, 2017 - 07:49

What does life look like today for many Haitians, 6 months after Hurricane Matthew? The ongoing effects of the hurricane, and its implications for the coming months, create a bleak situation in which desperate community members cannot feed their families, but cannot make the changes necessary to ensure stability in the future. There is no food, and thousands of people still reside in temporary shelters, tents or caves without proper sanitation, rendering them vulnerable to cholera. Many children that were forced to leave school have not yet returned or are unable to do so, and farmers and fishermen lost the resources upon which they depend to make a living. Clearly, the “chaotic” situation in post-Matthew Haiti continues to leave many vulnerable Haitians at risk.

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

Six months post-hurricane, hunger gnaws at southern Haiti

AFP

April 3, 2017

Crouching beside the makeshift shelter shared with his parents and five siblings, Fanfan Edouard slowly sharpens his machete. But there’s no rush to cut firewood, because there is no food to cook.

“I’ll try to buy rice on credit and find work, anything to pay later,” the 26-year-old says, speaking without much conviction.

Since Hurricane Matthew destroyed their two small homes, the Edouard family makes ends meet in a shelter just a few square meters large.

But corrugated tin roofs do little to protect the two beds they share. When it rains, the family spends their nights in a nearby cave.

“We’re not comfortable because we have to pile up on each other, but it’s a chance for us to have a dry space,” says Edouard’s mother, Marguerite.

Having just one cave for shelter is hardly the main concern of the approximately 100 people who live in Fond Rouge, on the outskirts of Jeremie in the southwest of Haiti.

Matthew slammed the region around Jeremie in October 2016. The storm, which tore through the Caribbean, killed more than 700 people — mostly in Haiti — and caused some $2.8 billion in damage.

Click HERE for the original article.

Lettre Ouverte a la Police Nationale d’Haïti sur les droits de manifester | Open Letter to Haitian National Police RE Right to Protest

April 2, 2017 - 13:20

(The English translation of this letter is below.)

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

 

LETTRE OUVERTE

 

Port-au-Prince, le 28 Mars 2017

Monsieur Michel-Ange Gédéon

Directeur Général de la Police Nationale d’Haïti (PNH)

En ses bureaux.-

 

Monsieur le Directeur Général,

Le Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), dans sa mission première de défendre les droits des plus démunis, les droits inaliénables, imprescriptibles et inhérents à la personne humaine, en particulier ceux des victimes du choléra importé par la MINUSTAH, des femmes victimes de viol, d’agression sexuelles et autres abus de droit, prend acte du refus systématique de la Police Nationale d’Haïti (PNH) dont vous êtes son Directeur Général de donner suite aux notifications des organisations de Victimes de choléra, du Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) et du MOLEGHAF,  relatives aux droits de manifester du peuple haïtien garantis par l’article 31-2 de la Constitution de 1987.

Entre le 13 octobre 2015 et le  19 décembre 2016,  le BAI cumule dans ses archives au moins dix (10) notifications qu’il a envoyées à la PNH en conformité aux exigences constitutionnelles qui ont été refusées par la Direction Départementale de l’Ouest de la PNH (DDO) pour des raisons injustifiées et inavouées, mais contraires aux normes démocratiques et constitutionnelles. Une situation qui se détériore davantage depuis les évènements conduisant à l’accession de monsieur Jovenel Moïse au pouvoir car de janvier 2017 à aujourd’hui, toutes les sept (7) notifications qu’on a envoyées à la DDO ont été systématiquement refusées dont celle en date du 24 mars 2017, et ce dans un contexte politique caractérisé par une proposition de loi sur la diffamation déjà votée au Sénat qui, de toute évidence, s’inscrit dans une démarche de fouler aux pieds les libertés d’expression.

En effet, conformément à l’article 31-1 de la loi mère du pays,  les victimes de choléra, le BAI et le MOLEGHAF, par voie d’huissier, ont signifié à  la PNH leur notification  relative à une marche pacifique qu’ils vont organiser ce mercredi 29 mars, à l’occasion de la commémoration du trentième anniversaire de la constitution haïtienne du 29 mars 1987,  pour demander au parlement d’exiger le pouvoir exécutif à se positionner clairement en faveur du droit à la réparation des victimes  de choléra et du départ de la MINUSTAH. Cependant la police a prétexté dans un premier temps que l’huissier doit signifier les copies des pièces d’identités avec les signatures de trois (3) organisateurs de cette marche, alors que cette notification a été déjà signée par Me Mario Joseph, responsable du BAI ; dans un second temps, après avoir accepté de répondre à ces exigences susmentionnées,  elle a malgré tout refusé de recevoir la notification susdite au retour de l’huissier.

Le BAI prend acte également qu’en date du sept (7) mars 2017, la Société Haïtienne d’Aide aux Aveugles (SHAA), une organisation partenaire du BAI militant pour l’inclusion sociale des personnes handicapées qui voulait organiser, de concert avec le BAI et d’autres organisations des personnes handicapées,  un sit-in le vendredi 10 mars dernier pour marquer le premier anniversaire de l’assassinat en toute impunité  de trois femmes sourdes  à Cabaret,  a été forcée de vous écrire personnellement pour avoir accès à la sécurité de la PNH, suite au refus de la DDO de recevoir leur notification. Donc, vous ne pouvez pas prétexter que vous n’étiez pas au courant de ces incessants actes arbitraires de la DDO, en violation de la constitution haïtienne de 1987 et du Pacte International relatif aux Droits Civils et Politiques (PIDCP).

A cet effet, le BAI  tient à vous rappeler que la liberté de réunion et d’expression sont la pierre d’assise de toute société libre et démocratique.  Car, l’article 31 de la Constitution Haïtienne  garantit « la liberté d’association et de réunion sans armes à des fins politiques, économiques, sociales, culturelles ou toutes autres fins pacifiques est garantie ». Lorsque la PNH rejette arbitrairement les notifications préalables selon article 31.2, elle viole la liberté de réunion du peuple haïtien et les obligations faites par la loi internationale au gouvernement haïtien. Selon l’article 276.2 de la Constitution, les traités internationaux, une fois ratifiés, deviennent  partie de la législation d’Haïti et abrogent toutes les lois préexistantes, contradictoires.

Or, l’article 15 de la Convention Américaine des droits de l’homme, ratifiée par Haïti en 1977, et l’article 21 du Pacte Internationale des droits de l’homme ratifié par Haïti en 1991,  obligent le gouvernement haïtien à prendre toutes les mesures possibles en vue de renforcer et de protéger la liberté de réunion de toute personne, et de ne pas imposer des restrictions arbitraires.

Donc, au regard de ces faits avérés constituant une entrave à la jouissance des libertés publiques,  le BAI tient à vous demander, monsieur le Directeur Général, de vous ressaisir et surtout de ne pas vous faire complice d’une situation d’instrumentalisation de la PNH comme une force de répression contre les droits démocratiques et constitutionnels du peuple haïtien.

 

Mario JOSEPH, Av
Bureau des Avocats Internationaux

 

 

CC :         Madame Florence ELIE, Office  Protecteur du Citoyen (OPC)

Monsieur Jose de Jesus Orozca Hernandez, Rapporteur Spécial de la Commission Interaméricaine des Droits Humains (CIDH)

Monsieur David Kaye, Rapporteur Spécial sur la Promotion et la Protection du Droit à la liberté d’Opinion et d’Expression

 

——————————————-

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

 

OPEN LETTER

Port-au-Prince, March 28, 2017

 

Mr. Michel-Ange Gédéon

Executive Director of the Haitian National Police (PNH)

In his offices.-

 

Dear Executive Director,

The Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), in its primary mission of defending the rights of the most deprived, the inalienable, imprescriptible and inherent rights of the human being, particularly those victims of cholera imported by MINUSTAH, women victims of rape , sexual assault and other human rights abuses, takes note of the systematic refusal of the National Police of Haiti (PNH), of which you are Director General, to follow up on the notifications from cholera victims’ organizations, the BAI and the MOLEGHAF, concerning the Haitian people’s rights to demonstrate guaranteed by article 31-2 of the 1987 Constitution.

Between October 13, 2015 and December 19, 2016, the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) accumulated in its archives at least ten (10) notifications sent to the PNH in accordance with the constitutional requirements that have been refused by the West Departmental Office of the PNH (DDO) for unjustified and unavowed reasons, but contrary to democratic and constitutional norms. This situation is deteriorating further since the events leading to the accession of Mr. Jovenel Moïse to power because from January 2017 to today, all seven (7) notifications sent to the DDO were systematically refused, including the one from March 24, 2017, and this in a political context characterized by a bill on defamation already voted in the Senate, which obviously is part of a process to trample freedoms of expression.

In accordance with article 31 (1) of the country’s parent law, the victims of cholera, BAI and MOLEGHAF, through a bailiff, notified PNH of their notification of a peaceful march they will organize this Wednesday, March 29, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Haitian constitution of March 29, 1987, to ask the parliament to demand that the Executive clearly position itself in favor of cholera victims’ right to reparations and of the departure of MINUSTAH. However, the police initially alleged that the bailiff must denote the copies of the identity documents with the signatures of three (3) organizers of the march, although this notification was already signed by Mr. Mario Joseph of BAI. In a second step, after agreeing to meet these requirements, they nevertheless refused to receive the aforementioned notification on the return of the bailiff.

BAI also acknowledges that, on the 7th of March 2017, the Haitian Society for the Assistance of the Blind (SHAA), a partner organization of BAI which is active in the social inclusion of persons with disabilities, that wanted to organize a sit-in on Friday, March 10 along with BAI and other disability organizations, to mark the first anniversary of the murder of three deaf women in Cabaret with impunity, was forced to write to you personally to access the PNH’s security, following the refusal of the DDO to receive their notification. Therefore, you cannot pretend that you were not aware of these incessant arbitrary acts of the DDO, in violation of the 1987 Haitian Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

To this end, BAI wishes to remind you that freedom of assembly and expression are the cornerstone of any free and democratic society. Article 31 of the Haitian Constitution guarantees “freedom of association and unarmed assembly for political, economic, social, cultural or other peaceful purposes is guaranteed”. When the PNH arbitrarily rejects prior notifications under Article 31.2, it violates the freedom of assembly of the Haitian people and the Haitian government’s obligations under international law. According to article 276.2 of the Constitution, international treaties, once ratified, become part of Haiti’s legislation and repeal all pre-existing, contradictory laws.

Article 15 of the American Convention on Human Rights, ratified by Haiti in 1977, and article 21 of the International Covenant on Human Rights, ratified by Haiti in 1991, require the Haitian government to take all the necessary measures to strengthen and protect the freedom of assembly of any person, and not to impose arbitrary restrictions.

Therefore, in view of these proven facts, which constitute a hindrance to the enjoyment of public freedoms, the BAI wishes to ask you, Mr. Executive Director, to remind you, and above all, to ensure that you are not complicit in a situation where the PNH is used as a force of repression against the democratic and constitutional rights of the Haitian people.

 

Mario JOSEPH, Attorney

Bureau des Avocats Internationaux

 

CC: Mrs Florence Elie, Office of the Citizen’s Protector (OPC)

Mr. Jose de Jesus Orozca Hernandez, Special Rapporteur of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)

Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression

What Does Immunity Really Mean for UN Perpetrators of Sexual Assault?

April 1, 2017 - 08:45

The United Nations has been heavily criticized for high incidences of rape perpetrated by peacekeepers and for its policies in response to such allegations. Despite a “zero tolerance” approach, the UN has shielded its perpetrators from consequences under immunity laws and, in a few instances, doled out punishments that are shockingly disproportionate to the crime. For example, impregnating a minor resulted in only a nine-day suspension. Many UN officials, including the Secretary-General and the the UN director of the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Management, have committed the organization to end impunity, hold peacekeepers accountable and stop sexual exploitation and assault, but many are wary that the promises they have heard for decades will continue to disappoint without a critical look at the immunity laws and how far they can reach.

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

Liberia exclusive: “There is no longer going to be impunity” – Saunders on UN rape crisis

Cholo Brooks, Global News Network Liberia

April 1, 2017

For decades, United Nations (UN) peacekeepers accused of sexual exploitation and abuse have operated under an umbrella of impunity.

Last week, Christian Saunders, the UN director of the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Management, told Al Jazeera’s The Stream that this was about to change.

“There is no longer going to be impunity,” he said, adding that UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres is going to work with member states to ensure abusers are “held criminally responsible” for sexual abuse.

He highlighted that Gutteres had committed to “zero tolerance” and the creation of a “high-level task force.”

“This was almost the first thing he did taking office,” said Saunders.

Click HERE for the original article.

Will impunity for violent Haitian mayor continue?

April 1, 2017 - 04:17

Last month, three plaintiffs sued former Haitian mayor Jean Morose Viliena for human rights violations in Haiti, including an attack on a radio station that caused one of them, Nissage Martyr, to have a leg amputated. Viliena was appointed mayor of Les Irois by ex-president Michel Martelly despite an open case against him in Haitian courts. Now that a case has been opened against Viliena in U.S. courts, and an investigation is underway for the mysterious death of Martyr after the suit was filed, many are looking to see whether the new Haitian president will continue this pattern of impunity.

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

Haiti’s Violent Politics Are Taken to Court. In Boston

Frances Robles, The New York Times

April 1, 2017

A mysterious death, a decade-old murder and a human rights lawsuit in federal court in Boston are casting a light on the patronage politics of Haiti and its culture of impunity.

The lawsuit stems from a 2008 attack on a radio station run by a local government opposition party in Les Irois, Haiti, in which one man was left blind in one eye and another, Nissage Martyr, lost his leg. The suit also accused the mayor there of orchestrating a murder in the middle of a street and ordering thugs to burn down an entire community.

In an interview in late March, Mr. Martyr said that during the raid, the mayor, Jean M. Viliena, had put a foot on his chest and a 9-millimeter handgun to his ear, beaten him and ordered someone else to shoot. The gunshot wound led to the loss of his leg.

Mr. Viliena was indicted in the attack, but was released from jail and fled Haiti, moving to suburban Boston, where he became a school bus driver and drove for Uber.

 

Read the full article.

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

March 31, 2017 - 12:53

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

POUR DIFFUSION IMMÉDIATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

###

Will victims of former Haitian mayor find justice?

March 31, 2017 - 09:42

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

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

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

Nestor Ramos, The Boston Globe

March 31, 2017

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

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

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

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

 

Read the full article.

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

March 31, 2017 - 06:19

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

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

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

David McFadden, Associated Press

March 31, 2017

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

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

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

Click HERE for the original article.

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

March 30, 2017 - 07:10

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

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

What They Knew, and When They Knew It

Jonathan Katz, Slate

March 30, 2017

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

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

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

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

Click HERE for the original article.

Webinar on Haitian Asylum Claims

March 29, 2017 - 13:22

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

Criminal Haitian Mayor Loses His Massachusetts Jobs

March 29, 2017 - 08:09

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

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

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

David Boeri, WBUR

March 29, 2017

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

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

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

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

 

Read the full article.

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

March 28, 2017 - 07:37

 

Building stability and prosperity in Haiti through justice

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

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

Justice for Cholera Victims

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

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

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

Justice for Human Rights Defenders

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

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

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

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

Justice for Victims of Peacekeeper Sexual Assault

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

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

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

Other News

Attack on Ex-President Aristide

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

Justice for Detained Haitians

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

Other Key News

Grand’Anse, la faim gagne du terrainLe Nouvelliste

After lengthy mission, UN peacekeeper pullout looms in HaitiAssociated Press

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

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

March 27, 2017 - 11:57

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

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

BREAKING: STATEMENT ON THE DEATH OF CJA CLIENT NISSAGE MARTYR

The Center for Justice and Accountability

March 27, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

We will update the statement should new facts be determined.

**

About the Center for Justice and Accountability

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

About Dentons

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

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

 

Click HERE for the original statement.

Cholera Affects Thousands as Haiti Waits for UN Action

March 27, 2017 - 09:01

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

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

Haiti is still waiting on promised UN help for cholera epidemic

Editorial, The Boston Globe

March 27, 2017

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

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

Click HERE for the original article.

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

March 27, 2017 - 07:24

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

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

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

Adrian Walker, The Boston Globe

March 27, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Click HERE for the original article.

Haitian Seeking Justice Against Criminal Ex-Mayor Dies Suddenly

March 25, 2017 - 09:52

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

Plaintiff in Boston Lawsuit Against Former Haitian Mayor Dies

Reuters, The New York Times

March 25, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He could not be reached for comment on Saturday.

Online court documents did not list an attorney for Viliena.

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

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

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

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

Read the full article here.

US Senators & Reps Urge DHS to Extend TPS for Haiti

March 24, 2017 - 13:22

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

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

March 24, 2017

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

Dear Secretary Kelly:

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

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

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

Read the full letter here.

Lengthy Indictment of Guy Philippe Not Enough to Throw Out Case

March 24, 2017 - 09:41

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

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

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

Jay Weaver and Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald

March 24, 2017

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

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

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

Click HERE for the original article.

Suffering Continues Months after Hurricane Matthew as Death Toll Rises

March 24, 2017 - 06:27

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

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

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

Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald

March 24, 2017

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

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

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

Click HERE for the original article.

 

Former Haitian Mayor Hiding in Massachusetts Sued for Human Rights Violations

March 23, 2017 - 17:35

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

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

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

Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald

March 23, 2017

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

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

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

Click HERE for the full text.

Haitian Nationals Sue Former Mayor in U.S. Court

March 23, 2017 - 12:30

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

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

Former Haitian mayor sued in Boston over human rights abuses

Scott Malone, Reuters

March 23, 2017

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

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

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

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

Click HERE for the original article.