Fighting for the Human Rights of Haiti’s Poor
IJDH Fall Newsletter
Letter from the Director
Help IJDH Move Into an Office
We have had a busy last three months at the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH). We moved to Boston, hired two more lawyers in Haiti, scaled up our Rape Accountability and Prevention Project, launched our Housing Rights Advocacy Project, conducted a follow-up survey of camp conditions with a delegation of students from the University of San Francisco, and issued two major reports.
We are particularly excited about the move. We have already had some great discussions with existing partners and members of the Haitian community in Boston about expanding our collaborations, and we have received many offers of volunteer help from students, activists and professionals in Massachusetts. We are confident that a city office will allow us to multiply the services we provide for victims of injustice in Haiti.
We do need some help moving in. IJDH has been offered a great space in a conveniently located building housing other social justice organizations. We need $20,500 for a year’s rent, build-out and some office equipment. IJDH has never paid rent before (we have operated out of a spare bedroom), and we cannot pull resources from our urgent work on the ground in Haiti, so we are looking for dedicated funding for the office. Generous donors have already committed $8,500; we need $12,000 more. If you would like to support this campaign, please consider making a tax-deductible donation byclicking here.
Your Generosity Keeps Us Fighting for Justice
We would like extend a special thank you to all of our supporters andvolunteers. Your generosity has allowed us to expand our staff in Haiti and the U.S., provide direct assistance and supplies to earthquake victims easing suffering, support fact-finding delegations investigating human rights violations to support international advocacy, and upgrade our website improving our communication. Simply put, our work would not be possible without you. We are happy to report that we have been able to leverage your generous support through the Lawyers’ Earthquake Response Network (LERN) that now has over 400 members.
Click here to see a full list of our donors and volunteers.
We are excited to welcome several new additions to our legal staff in Haiti: Haitian Attorney Esther Felix and Paralegal/Grassroots Coordinator Jocie Philistin on the gender violence cases and Patrice Florvilus on the evictions cases. We are grateful to the Goldin Institute whose generous support made Jocie’s position possible and are seeking additional support for the continued work of Esther and Patrice. The BAI will get another infusion of legal talent later this month, when U.S. lawyers Annie Gell, Beatrice Lindstrom, and Jeena Shah, all on fellowships or volunteering, arrive.
In the U.S., lawyer Tamara Brown joins our team as a volunteer staff attorney. Tamara went to Haiti on our May 2010 gender-violence investigative delegation, and got hooked on Haiti justice work. Long-time volunteer and intern Sarah Dougherty joins us for another semester to focus on our prison project and earthquake response work, and this semester IJDH intern Laura Coquard, will focus on our immigration policy work. We are also happy to have volunteer attorney Seher Khawaja and law student Sarah Davila on board helping on the housing and gender-based violence work in a myriad of ways.
Four interns and volunteers bolstered our Haiti work this summer:Christopher Eves, our Human Right to Technology Intern, spent three months upgrading the BAI’s systems and finding a thousand ways to be useful. Samantha Diamond researched the impact of illegal detention on prisoners’ families, Boaz Anglade conducted an econometric analysis of camp conditions, and U.S. attorney Kim Seelinger gave a jump start to our new gender violence team.
We are sad to see Blaine Bookey, BAI staff attorney and IJDH Development Associate, take a leave of absence for a U.S. Court of Appeals clerkship. Blaine is still pitching in on our work in her free time, and we look forward to her return next year.
Rape Accountability and Prevention Project (RAPP)
In July, we released a major report on gender-based violence in the displacement camps in Haiti: Our Bodies Are Still Trembling: Haitian Women’s Fight Against Rape, based on a fact-finding delegation coordinated by IJDH in May. After releasing the report, IJDH/BAI Attorney Blaine Bookey spent three weeks in Haiti with our partners from MADRE and KOFAVIV working on advocacy with the UN and the Haitian Government to improve security for women and girls, develop domestic prosecutions, and to improve the conditions forcing women to flee. This month, IJDH worked with our partners at Digital Democracy, MADRE, TransAfrica Forum and law schools at NYU and UVA to bring grassroots women’s leader Eramithe Delva to the United States to discuss gender violence before Congress, the Administration and other influential decision makers.
Housing Rights Advocacy Project (HRAP)
Despite the outpouring of international support to Haiti, conditions in the approximately 1,300 makeshift tent camps in Haiti are miserable, and some cases even getting worse. IJDH, along with the BAI, LERN, LAMP for Haiti, and the USF Center for Law and Global Justice, released a report this week, “We’ve Been Forgotten”: Conditions in Haiti’s Displacement Camps Eight Months After the Earthquake, which documents this lack of progress and makes recommendations for a rights based approach to relief and reconstruction in Haiti
As bad as life in the camps can be, thousands of Haitian families are finding it worse to be thrown out of them. IJDH and BAI are fighting illegal evictions from camps by police and landowners by helping vulnerable communities organize press conferences and demonstrations, providing legal representation on the ground and calling for a moratorium on forced evictions until proper alternative housing has been established.
Enforcing the Right to Vote in Haiti
IJDH has been a leading voice explaining the intricacies of Haiti’s electoral process and advocating for respect of the constitutional and human rights of Haitian voters. In June, IJDH released a position paper explaining the electoral process, recounting recent flawed elections, and asking that the international community pressure the Haitian government for free and fair elections. On July 13, the BAI’s Mario Joseph spoke at an event hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus asking for the same.
We have also been working with a coalition of advocacy organizations in Washington. We drafted a letter to Secretary Clinton urging her to work with the Haitian government to ensure the elections proceed in line with Haiti’s constitution and international law. IJDH and BAI have been cited frequently in the news media – BBC, Newsweek, and the New York Times in August alone– as election rights authorities. IJDH Board Chair Ira Kurzban published an op-ed in the Miami Herald explaining the importance of inclusive elections for Haiti’s democracy, and testified before Congress in July. We will continue to pressure for inclusive elections and support grassroots organizations demanding that their rights be respected.
Securing Safe Haven in the United States
IJDH’s Immigration Policy Coordinator Steven Forester has secured extensive support for the creation of a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program (FRPP) to parole 55,000 Haitian beneficiaries of already-approved visa petitions to help Haiti recover via the consequent remittances. Support includes nine editorials from the Miami Herald, Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Boston Globe, Los Angeles, and Star-Ledger editorial boards; a June 14 unanimously-passed United StatesConference of Mayors resolution which he wrote; and a letter to DHS Secretary Napolitano from leading U.S. House members of both parties. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro Mayorkas, on July 12 publicly announced that this is under consideration.
Health & Human Rights in Prisons Project (HHRPP)
The HHRPP has made great strides in the last few months. In August, theInternational Senior Lawyers Project (ISLP) sent a criminal attorney from Belgium, Delphine Kips, to Haiti to work with our on-site lawyers. Delphine followed up on the work of Canadian attorney Daniel Tardif (sent by ISLP in May). The presence of international attorneys has helped increase the Project’s profile and establish the credibility of the BAI attorneys with the courts in their respective cities, as they have held meetings with judges and prosecutors to discuss the challenges in the criminal justice system in Haiti and legal strategies for indigent defense.
Yale MPH student Samantha Diamond spent three months in Haiti this summer researching the social costs of incarceration on prisoners’ families and streamlining our prison census process. In July, BAI conducted a third census of the Hinche prison, this time interviewing every inmate. The census system is functioning now and, soon, we hope to be able to meet our goal of conducting a full census every 2-3 months to obtain statistically relevant data without detracting too much from the attorneys’ individual case-work.
– Brian Concannon Jr., Esq.
– Paul Farmer, MD, PhD
– Laura Flynn, MFA
– Ira Kurzban, Esq.
– Bryan Stevenson, Esq.
– Irwin Stotzky, Esq.
The BAI’s Mario Joseph conducted human rights training at the BAI office with women’s groups.
Camp residents hosted a press conference at the BAI expressing their concern over the threat of forced eviction.
BAI Fellows (left to right) Jeena, Beatrice and Annie organized a fundraiser in New York to support their work in Haiti.
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