Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

A Positive Experience (Heart of Haiti Blog)

By Joegodson Déralciné and Paul Jackson, Heart of Haiti Blog
July 11, 2011

This is a small update in reference to Wilberta’s traumatic experience two weeks ago. After much reflection, two of Wilberta’s sisters and her husband Yves accompanied Joegodson to see Mario Joseph of the Bureau des avocats internationaux (BAI) on Wednesday. They were very happy to have finally gone. We won’t discuss the details of the issue here for obvious reasons, but we will take a moment to acknowledge the positive role that the encounter with the advocacy office has had on the people involved.

Two of Wilberta’s sisters participated in the meeting. The participation of one is particularly important since she was with Wilberta throughout the entire ordeal. Since Wilberta was at times unconscious, her testimony is crucial in reconstructing the events of that night.

Wilberta’s husband Yves was opposed to asking a lawyer for help; Yves has no money whatsoever and he – along with everyone else – presumed that the lawyer would simply take borrowed money and compound his problems. Wilberta’s two sisters who represented her (she’s still in the hospital) were also frightened and anxious. Both of their husbands told them that if they were to make any complaint against the state, they would be doing it on their own. The two husbands refuse to offer any moral or logistical support. They say that it is dangerous to make an official complaint against the state; unofficial complants are, of course, commonplace and irrelevant. So, the two women and Yves had to steel themselves before even honouring the rendez-vous at the BAI. They were scared.

Yves was relieved when Me Joseph immediately told them that there would be no fee. His advocacy office exists to allow the poor to defend themselves against the powerful. They were dumbfounded for a moment, but soon understood that Me Joseph was serious. Joegodson noted that Me Joseph read the anxieties of the family and helped them to see that they had the right to demand justice and accountability. He finally left them to reflect upon their course of action, which they are doing now. They are already changed by the experience. They see that there exists an apparatus through which they can hold the powerful accountable. That had never occurred to them. (They now worry that they might get people in trouble, which they want to avoid – they have lots of things to consider.) The argument that seems to be pushing them towards pursuing the complaint is that other mothers might be spared the indignities that Wilberta experienced and that other babies might enter a more caring world.

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