Presentation by Nicole Phillips of the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa, of the College of Arts and Sciences, University of San Francisco, to Maître (Attorney) Mario Joseph on December 14, 2012. Phillips is assistant director for Haiti programs and adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law, and staff attorney with the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH).
This October, Amnesty International issued an urgent action alert in defense of today’s honoree, Mr. Mario Joseph, Haiti’s most prominent human rights attorney. Mr. Joseph has been subjected to an escalating series of death threats, harassment and intimidation for his tireless work to seek justice for the victims of the Duvalier dictatorship, shelter for the victims of government enforced evictions who were made homeless after the catastrophic 2010 earthquake and to hold parties accountable for the ongoing cholera epidemic the United Nations troops allegedly brought to Haiti after the earthquake. Because of his daily and heroic struggles on their behalf, it is no surprise Mr. Joseph’s clients proudly and affectionately refer to him as “met pa nou,” or “our lawyer.”
The importance of the University’s support of Mr. Joseph must not be underestimated. Since 2006, the School of Law’s Center for Law and Global Justice has worked with Mr. Joseph and the Institute for Justice and Democracy to nurture human rights and the rule of law in Haiti. Moreover, the University’s conferral of an honorary doctorate to the late human rights activist Father Gerard Jean-Juste, Mr. Joseph’s client and friend, was instrumental in ending government harassment of Fr. Jean-Juste before his death.
For the last sixteen years, Mario Joseph has led the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux in Port-au-Prince as its managing attorney, representing political prisoners and victims of political violence. He is committed to making Haiti’s justice system work for all of Haiti’s citizens. He believes a fair and equitable justice system is essential to the effective, non-violent resolution of societal conflicts that are too often marred by corruption and violence in Haiti.
Every day, Mr. Joseph risks his life knowing that his work is dangerous, but he refuses to abandon his commitment to the defense of human rights, repairing the flawed justice system and ending the pervasive corruption in Haiti. Most importantly, he refuses to abandon his commitment to his fellow citizens. He continues to represent political prisoners and dissidents and to speak out against repression even though many of his friends, colleagues and clients have been jailed or killed.
The awarding of this honorary degree recognizes Mr. Joseph as a fearless and resolute defender of human rights and calls urgent and immediate attention to the human rights abuses in Haiti. The University does, therefore, proudly confer upon Mario Joseph, the degree of Doctor of Humane letters, honoris causa, with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereunto, given this 14th day of December, in the year of our Lord two thousand and twelve, and of the University, the hundred and fifty-seventh, in San Francisco, California.
Click HERE to See Mario Joseph’s Speech for Receiving Honorary Doctorate from USF