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Haitian Lawyers Overcome Obstacles to Fight for Human Rights
Lawyers at the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) have continued to fight for the human rights of prisoners languishing in Haitian jails. Last month, through our Health and Human Rights in the Prisons Project (HHRRP), BAI lawyers secured dismissal of charges brought against a woman who killed her husband in self defense during a particularly brutal attack. This victory helped demonstrate the importance of our medical-legal collaboration with Partners in Health as well as helped that the justice system in Haiti, despite all odds, can work for the poor if pushed. We will continue to fight so that men and women receive the fair process they deserve and return to their families who are suffering more than ever.
Help Haitian Women Fight Against Rape
Sign Petition to Demand An Adequate Response
“The way you saw the earth shake, that’s how our bodies are shaking now” described one woman of a secondary humanitarian crisis facing the women and girls of Haiti.
As Haiti’s earthquake toppled buildings, it also toppled social structures that provided Haitian women some protection against sexual violence. Rape was widespread before January 12, but the hundreds of thousands of women now living on the streets or in camps, often without their family and neighborhood networks, are more vulnerable than ever. As of March 21, grassroots outreach workers had tracked[i] 230 cases of rape in 15 camps, over 15 incidents per camp, in a partial survey. There has been no comprehensive survey and, sadly, UNIFEM’s database for collecting data on sexual violence was destroyed[ii] in the earthquake. But, with over 500 camps in Port-au-Prince alone, it is clear that sexual violence is widespread.
There have been some efforts by Haitian officials and the international community to provide protection and post-rape services, but these efforts have fallen short. This is unacceptable. Numerous international standards[iii] and guidelines[iv] warn of heightened levels of gender-based violence in the wake of disaster and provide recommendations for ensuring women’s safety, care and legal recourse. Contrary to the recommendations, Haitian women have been systematically excluded[v] or underrepresented in earthquake response decisions. Women’s repeated requests[vi] for inclusion[vii] in the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA[viii]) process and the UN Donor meetings[ix] on March 31 went unanswered. By leaving Haitian women themselves out of the discussion, so too were their needs.
On her visit to Haiti last weekend, UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha Rose Migiro listened to women’s fears[x] of being sexually assaulted or beaten. She also noted the critical conditions people are living in (see a video on conditions in the camps and sign a petition demanding improved aid distribution[xi]). The UN Independent Expert on Human Rights in Haiti, Michel Forst is in Haiti this week[xii] where he too will reportedly listen to women and other vulnerable populations.
The UN has taken the first step by listening to women. Action must follow. To call on the UN, and more specifically the Security Council, MINUSTAH, UN Member states and the Government of Haiti, to take the next step, sign the petition by clicking here.
Yukio Takasu, President UN Security Council
Michel Forst, UN Independent Expert on Human Rights in Haiti
Rashida Manjoo, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women
Asha-Rose Migiro, UN Deputy Secretary General
Edmond Mulet, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General
Force Commander Major General Luiz Paul Cruz, MINUSTAH
Major General Gerardo Christian Chaumont, UNPol, MINUSTAH
I sign this petition to express my concern about the inadequate response to the rampant sexual violence Haitian women and girls face daily. I applaud the three-day visit of UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha Rose Migiro to listen to the people of Haiti in this time of crisis and her attention given to these issues. More can and should be done. Independent Expert Michel Forst should build on the work of Deputy Migiro. When the Security Council meets on April 28, 2010, to discuss implementation of MINUTSAH’s mandate, gender-based violence issues should be at the top of the agenda.
The UN, tasked with security and protection, must provide for the protection and promotion of women’s human rights in Haiti immediately. At the same time, the UN must be looking towards long-term solutions outlined in the reconstruction plan for Haiti, including incorporating women’s voices and assuring justice for victims of sexual violence. A women’s perspective is critical to avoid recovery policies that inadvertently reproduce discrimination against women and leave them vulnerable to gender-based violence. Such actions would comply with the principles outlined in key humanitarian documents, including the UN Guiding Principles on Internally Displaced Persons and the UN Gender in Humanitarian Response Working Group’s Guidelines on Gender Mainstreaming.
I urgently request that the UN and more specifically the Security Council, MINUSTAH and UN Member states respond more efficiently and effectively to Haiti’s earthquake. This includes measures aimed a prevention, protection and participation:
- Strengthen security in displacement camps, with specific attention to protecting women from gender-based violence. To this end, secure safe spaces for women to meet and organize and encourage, duplicate and finance initiatives of women’s groups, such as citizen camp surveillance committees.
- Consult with and include Haitian political, non-governmental and grassroots women leaders in needs assessment, and in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of relief and reconstruction programs.
- Urge police-contributing Member States to answer the call of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) to deploy to Haiti more female UN police officers trained as sexual and gender-based violence specialists.
- Work with the Bangladesh Government to dispatch, in a timely fashion, the promised all-women Formed Police Unit (FPU).
- Provide the means for victims to report incidents of sexual violence, and emergency health services for physical and psychological support.
- Ensure the effective collection of evidence for accountability and prosecution.
- At the Security Council meeting on April 28, urge members to take strong measures and actions to address the situation of gender-based violence, especially in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in Haiti.
- Urge the Government of Haiti to draft a National Plan of Action to implement UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 (2000), 1612 (2005), 1820 (2008), 1882 (2009), 1888 (2009), and 1889 (2009) with an appropriate timeframe and budget.