Fighting for the Human Rights of Haiti’s Poor
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.
Rape Accountability and Prevention Project (RAPP)
The BAI continues to work with Haitian women to enforce their rights through legal advocacy, empowerment and grassroots organizing.
RAPP and our partners have made significant progress in forcing the justice system to handle rape cases fairly and effectively. Our first rape case went to trial on Tuesday, and our client won a conviction. The BAI has two more trials scheduled for this Friday, and two additional trials in this court session. Our cases are moving throughout the system—This year 30 percent of the complaints we filed have reached the formal investigation stage, while last year only 19 percent made it that far.
The BAI has expanded its monthly victim-client meetings into a regular, weekly workshop called “Samdi Fanm BAI Yo” (BAI Women’s Saturdays). Thus far, there have been workshops on floral art and embroidery, with ongoing workshops in sewing and self-defense. The workshop serves a three-fold purpose: 1) to establish stronger relationships between the BAI and its clients; 2) to build the self-esteem and social bonds of women and girl victims of sexual violence; and 3) to offer practical skills to victim-clients to expand the sphere of economic opportunities available to them.
Another important component of RAPP is the “Rezo Fanm BAI,” (BAI Women’s Network), which continues to be a site of organizing, coordination and capacity building for women’s groups. The Network has organized several press conferences in the past year to influence debate on the marginalization of poor women’s groups by the Haitian government (February 2012), and women’s rights under the Constitution of 1987 on its 25th anniversary (March 29, 2012).
In order to manage the heavy RAPP caseload and provide better services to clients, the BAI hired four female Haitian attorneys, who are being trained in the victim-centered approach for rape prosecution and gender-based violence litigation. The BAI is excited to have them on our team!
Cholera Accountability Project (CAP)
The BAI and IJDH filed claims with the UN in November 2011 on behalf of over 5,000 victims of the cholera epidemic that erupted in Haiti in October 2010 and has since killed over 7,400 Haitians and sickened over 586,600.
The case is based on extensive evidence that UN peacekeepers caused the outbreak through reckless waste disposal practices on one of its bases in Mirebalais, Haiti. The Cholera Accountability Project challenges the UN to provide justice in the form of clean water and sanitation infrastructure, compensation and an apology.
Since the filing, we have persuaded UN member states, national legislators, and human rights advocates to join our calls for a just UN response. The BAI also collaborates with a grassroots collective of 14 local groups to mobilize advocacy actions by cholera victims, including five peaceful demonstrations so far.
In the eight months since the BAI and IJDH filed the cholera claims, we have made substantial steps towards our goal of obtaining installation of the necessary water and sanitation infrastructure in Haiti, including:
We have also engaged in a broad-based advocacy and media campaign, which exposes the UN’s responsibility in the outbreak and the need for accountability. Our work has been covered in hundreds of Haitian and international outlets, including CNN, BBC, The Economist, The New York Times, and NPR.
The BAI and IJDH also continue to build the legal case for our individual cholera clients by collecting and preserving evidence of the UN’s malfeasance.
Housing Rights Advocacy Project (HRAP)
The BAI and IJDH play a key leadership role in the campaign to enforce the housing rights of Haiti’s poor and displaced through reporting, research, and litigation.
In a February 19 article, the Washington Post quoted a report by IJDH Staff Attorney Nicole Phillips that found it likely that many of the displaced persons who had left tent cities were now living in conditions worse than those found in the camps. This report recommended that the government’s housing plan include protections against violent and unlawful evictions, and that camps remain open until families are able to be resettled to locations that meet minimum security and living standards.
More recently, the BAI and IJDH, with help from the Disaster Relief Network at Fordham University School of Law, conducted a survey of 50 families who were relocated under the Haitian government’s housing program, called the “16/6” Program. The program, which is being implemented by the International Organization of Migration (IOM) and is intended to be a model for camp resettlement, aimed to relocate 5,239 families from six internally displaced persons camps and subsidize residents with up to $500 to pay their rent for a year.
According to a press release issued by the BAI and IJDH this month, the 16/6 plan is moving earthquake victims out of the visible camps around the country’s capitol, but is not providing a durable housing solution to earthquake victims. Forty percent of families relocated under the government’s housing program reported living in worse conditions than before the January 2010 earthquake, two-thirds of respondents said the money offered under the 16/6 Program was not enough to resettle, and eleven percent have already been asked to leave the home they relocated to. The BAI and IJDH will soon be releasing a report with the details of the survey results.
The BAI and IJDH continue to pursue complaints filed in May 2011 against Mayor Wilson Jeudy of Delmas for his spree of illegal evictions. At least three camps housing approximately 1,000 displaced persons were destroyed last year when the Mayor’s armed security personnel and units from the Haitian National Police raided the camps with little to no warning. The case is currently in the pretrial investigation stage, and we will keep you updated our progress.
We will continue to push the Haitian government to adopt and fund a comprehensive national rehousing strategy that provides affordable housing and ensures that people living in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps are not forced to leave until adequate housing alternatives are provided.
Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program (HFRPP)
IJDH leads national efforts to expedite family reunification for Haitians approved for U.S. visas, who are stuck on waiting lists in Haiti.
IJDH has generated national support for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to create a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program (FRPP) to “mirror” the Cuban FRPP that DHS created in 2007 and renewed in 2010, under which 30,000 Cubans have been paroled since 2009. Approved Haitians, too, should be permitted to wait for their “green cards” with their petitioning families in the United States, rather than in Haiti.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has already approved family-based visa petitions for 112,000 Haitians who nevertheless remain on wait lists of two and a half to eleven years in Haiti, where cholera is killing thousands and post-earthquake conditions are extremely hazardous. Since the January 2010 earthquake, IJDH has advocated that approved Haitians’ be allowed prompt “parole” into the United States to save lives and help Haiti recover.
Earlier this year, IJDH coordinated nationwide efforts that helped secure over 6,000 signatures on Massachusetts State Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry’s petition to President Obama urging him to establish a Haitian (FRPP). A special “thank you” to all supporters who signed the petition!
IJDH coordinated similar efforts in New York, Florida, and nationally. We drafted and worked with New York City Council members and volunteers on a resolution passed by New York’s City Council on February 29, 2012 urging President Obama to create a Haitian FRPP. Our work also helped secure a February 2012 resolution from the Republican-controlled Florida State Senate urging the Obama administration to create a Haitian FRPP.
IJDH regularly discussed family reunification efforts on the weekly Haiti Advocacy Working Group (HAWG) calls and coordinated with Haiti Diaspora Federation (HDF), National Haitian American Elected Officials Network (NHAEON) and other Haitian American leaders to push the issue in their advocacy efforts.
We will continue to advocate until a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program is established.
Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier Prosecution
The BAI and IJDH continue to fight for a fair and effective prosecution of Mr. Duvalier. In 2012 we have filed an appeal of the dismissal of the political violence charges against Duvalier. We expect the appeals court hearing in October, and are prepared to keep fighting up through the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, until Duvalier’s victims have their day in court.
Here is a timeline of events around the Duvalier Prosecution:
Both the BAI and IJDH have experienced significant growth throughout the past year:
The BAI has increased our legal staff in Haiti to sixteen in the past year, including one American lawyer working full time on an externally-funded fellowship. We are excited about the growth of the BAI and hope that the emerging public interest lawyers who are participating in the Apprentice Lawyer Project will join the BAI staff after receiving their law licenses.
IJDH has also grown significantly over the past year, as our staff has doubled with the hiring of an Administrative Assistant, Stanley Rodriguez, and a new Staff Attorney, Beatrice Lindstrom.
Stanley grew up in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and after moving to the United States in 1999, received a BA in Economics from the University of Massachusetts in Boston. In addition to his new position as IJDH Administrative Assistant, Stanley is a part time Microsoft Office instructor at a local technical school where he teaches basic computer skills to Haitians in the area. When the earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, Stanley felt that he had to do something to help, and he is thrilled to have the opportunity to join IJDH in the fight for justice and human rights in Haiti.
Beatrice joined the BAI-IJDH team in 2010 as a Lawyers’ Earthquake Response Network (LERN) Fellow at the BAI. As a Staff Attorney with IJDH, Beatrice works primarily on litigation seeking accountability from the UN for its role in causing Haiti’s cholera outbreak. Beatrice is a graduate of New York University School of Law, where she was a Root Tilden Kern public interest scholar, and she holds an undergraduate degree in political science and economics from Emory University.
We are thrilled to welcome Stanley and Beatrice to IJDH!
Table of Contents
– 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.
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