Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Letter to Congressman: Protection of Haitian Human Rights Attorney Mario Joseph, Victim of Death Threats

Octo­ber 26, 2012

Karen Ansara

The Honorable John F. Tierney
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC

Dear Representative Tierney:

I am sorry I cannot join you tomorrow morning for the breakfast in Gloucester, but was grateful I could say hello a couple weeks ago at the reception at the Hawthorne Hotel.  I know this is an absurdly highly pressured time for you, and so I regret having to make an urgent request.  As I briefly mentioned to you in Salem, I am extremely concerned for the safety of the leading human rights attorney in Haiti, Mario Joseph, Esq.  Given your position as Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, I am hoping you can intervene on behalf of Mr. Joseph.  I am attaching a number of documents for background, including an appeal from over 100 signatories – among them  leading attorneys, law professors and U.S. based advocacy organizations – to curtail death threats and other acts of intimidation aimed at Mr. Joseph and other human rights defenders, most likely from individuals within the Government of Haiti.

As you know, the U.S. government has spent and designated over $2 billion towards humanitarian assistance and the reconstruction of Haiti since the earthquake of 2010.  Further, it has been estimated that half of American households have contributed to Haiti since the earthquake.   These funds – whether through foreign aid or private philanthropy — can only achieve their intended impact in an environment where the rule of law is respected, citizens have a voice, and the government is held accountable when corruption is suspected.  All Americans have a stake in the growth of democracy in Haiti.

In a nutshell, Mario Joseph is the Martin Luther King, Jr. of Haiti.  He has been the lead voice for civil and human rights  for over twenty years as director of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, which is powered by a number of pro-bono legal fellows, and via a partnership with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, which is based in South Boston.  The latter, IJDH, is led by Brian Concannon, Esq., a highly regarded human rights attorney himself.  Both Mr. Joseph and Mr. Concannon have wide visibility in the Boston area.  Last night the Boston Bar Association and Lawyers for Haiti hosted a speaking engagement with these two partners.  Earlier this year the Haiti Fund at the Boston Foundation hosted a public forum with them at the Boston Foundation.

While I am writing you as a private citizen, you know that my husband and I have given the last three years of our lives and over $1 million to rebuilding Haiti.  During this time we have come to understand the complexities and deep structural fissures in Haitian society and to believe that no amount of redevelopment aid will matter if civil society is not strengthened and true democracy not achieved in Haiti.  As such, there is no organization we value more in Haiti – out of the scores we support – than the Institute for Justice and Democracy and its twin, the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux.  Mr. Joseph and Mr. Concannon and their associates have been amassing evidence from witnesses to try former President Duvalier for corruption and torture, have been defending tent camp residents from forced evictions and rape victims from their perpetrators, and have challenged the UN to pay reparations for its negligence in introducing cholera into the country.  Needless to say, the silencing of Mr. Joseph would set Haiti back many years and would occasion a political earthquake.

Respectfully, I am requesting that you  a) call the State Department, at the highest appropriate level, b) express your concern about the reports of harassment and intimidation against lawyers in Haiti, and c) ask the Department of State how it will ensure that US taxpayer dollars are not used to support persecution or the silencing of dissent or denial of basic human rights in Haiti.

Again, I apologize for making this very direct and urgent request during the most critical time of your campaign.  I do so only because a life – and a country’s future – is on the line.  I remain grateful for all you have done over many years as my U.S. Congressman and proud of the courageous stands you have taken to protect the security and welfare of Americans and others around the globe.

With deep gratitude,

Karen Keating Ansara

Contact IJDH

Institute for Justice & Democracy In Haiti
15 Newbury Street
Boston, MA 02116

Telephone: (617) 652-0876
General Inquiries: info@ijdh.org
Media Inquiries: media@ijdh.org

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