Bureau Des Avocats Internationaux
Défenseurs des Opprimés
Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti
1. The Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (“BAI”), Défenseurs des Opprimés (“DOP”), and Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (“IJDH”) respectfully request that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (“Inter-American Commission,” or “Commission”) issue precautionary measures pursuant to Article 25(1) of its Rules of Procedure on behalf of certain internally displaced persons (“IDPs”)1 living in Haiti, who are facing the risk of imminent forced eviction and accompanying irreparable harm.
2. BAI, DOP, and IJDH make this request on behalf of four individuals who were displaced in the aftermath of the January 12, 2010 earthquake and are currently living in an IDP camp on land known as Grace Village (“Grace Village”). We also represent the entire community of 576 families (approximately 3000 people) that lives within Grace Village. The residents of Grace Village are at risk of serious and irreparable harm due to the Haitian government’s assistance in and failure to prevent an ongoing series of extrajudicial forced evictions at the camp and the accompanying violence, threats, mistreatment, and deplorable living conditions currently plaguing Grace Village.
3. The Haitian government has an obligation to protect individuals being forcibly evicted from privately owned camps. The Haitian Government should fulfill its responsibility towards the displaced community, but is instead assisting private parties like Grace Village authorities in carrying out unlawful, violent evictions. The government’s inaction and complicity in the evictions have created a serious, urgent situation that necessitates the issuance of precautionary measures. Except for former Grace Village resident Marcel Germain, a human rights defender who fled the camp to protect his safety, petitioners have asked that their identities remain confidential from the State of Haiti under Article 28 of the Rules of Procedure.
4. This request asserts a serious and urgent situation in which IDP victims living in Grace Village have suffered and continue to suffer irreparable harm and are unable to obtain protection or relief from the pertinent domestic authorities. As Amnesty International and several media outlets have reported, residents have been routinely terrorized by authorities who manage Grace Village to leave the IDP camp since at least 2011.2 The situation has become more urgent in the last few days. On February 15, 2013, Grace Village authorities removed the front metal gate to
1 Internally displaced persons (“IDPs”) are persons who are forced to flee their homes or residences as a result of armed conflict, violence, human rights violations, or man-made or natural disasters, but who have not crossed an internationally recognized border. UN Doc. E/CN/4/1998/53/Add/2., Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs.
2 See Amnesty International, Urgent Action: Families at Risk of Forced Eviction in Haiti (May 15, 2012) [hereinafter Amnesty International, May 15, 2012), available at http://www.amnestyusa.org/sites/default/files/uaa13512.pdf (urging citizens, human rights advocates to send a petition to the mayor’s office to stop forced evictions); Invisible Grace, PRI’s The World, Amy Braken (Aug. 27, 2012) http://www.theworld.org/2012/08/invisible-grace/; Church vs The Displaced at Carrfour, Haiti Reporters, http://vimeo.com/34788206 (2012); Homeless Families Face Forced Intimidation and Forced Eviction from Church Property, Etant Dupain (May 16, 2012) available at http://www.lethaitilive.org/news-english/2012/5/16/homeless-haitian-families-face-intimidation-and-forced-evict.html.
the camp, leaving the 3000 or some residents in tarp shelters vulnerable to intruders such as gangs and thieves. Residents learned that Grace Village authorities had obtained an arrest warrant on behalf of two residents, including Petitioner Marcel Germain, causing both residents to flee in hiding. Two cars with armed Haitian police officers in uniforms arrived at the site that evening, but only spoke with Grace Village authorities next to the camp; they did not enter the camp or speak with residents. Later that evening, Grace Village security threw rocks at the shelters. The residents reported being unable to sleep and spent the night "standing on their two legs” for fear of an attack from security, the police or outside gangs who could freely enter their camp. On February 18, 2013, residents reported that police came to the camp and arrested one of the camp committee members. Police indicated that they had a list of several camp residents that they will be arresting, including members of the camp committee.
5. Residents believe they will continue to be terrorized and wrongfully imprisoned until and unless the Commission issues precautionary measures to the Haitian government requiring them to recognize residents’ human rights and protect them against the ongoing unlawful and violent forced eviction.
II. SUMMARY OF ARGUMENTS
6. Grace Village is an IDP camp located at 54 Lamentin in the Carrefour Commune in Zone St. Charles. The camp is one of the many makeshift camps that were formed in or around Port-au-Prince in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. According to the International Organization for Migration (“IOM”) Displacement Tracking Matrix (“DTM”), approximately 567 families live in Grace Village, accounting for a little over 3,000 individuals.3
7. Pastor Joel Jeune, founder of the Grace International church and Grace International Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization registered in Florida, is the alleged owner of the land upon which Grace Village is located. Although Pastor Joel Jeune has delegated the administration of Grace Village to his son Michael Jeune and camp administrator Marc Antoine, he remains in charge. Residents’ testimonies reveal that nothing occurs inside the camp without the Pastor’s knowledge. He is very influential in the local city of Carrefour, just outside Port-au-Prince. Close ties to the mayor’s office and the local police force him to enlist the help of Haitian police to carry out illegal evictions. With his private security forces and the Haitian police, Pastor Joel Jeune has orchestrated and participated in violent, forced evictions of displaced families living inside Grace Village. According to residents, Yvon Jerome, the former mayor of Carrefour, was reluctant to assist the displaced community inside Grace Village because of his personal relationship with Pastor Joel, and because the Pastor’s son, Danny Jeune, works in the Mayor’s office.
8. Although residents have never seen proof of ownership of the land on which Grace Village is located, Pastor Joel has taken great efforts to reclaim the land from camp residents. Since the camp was established in 2010, Pastor Jeune and his employees have instituted a rule of terror inside the camp, harassing, brutalizing, and terrorizing residents with forced evictions.
3 See Displacement Tracking Matrix, INT’L. ORG. FOR MIGRATION, http://iomhaitidataportal.info/dtm/index2.aspx (follow “DTM Report-English version” hyperlink) (last visited December 12, 2012).
Pastor Joel’s plans for the land are still unclear, but his actions show that he is willing to use disreputable means to evict the displaced community living there, or in the alternative, force these vulnerable families to leave by making their lives unbearable. Recent interviews of Grace Village residents conducted by human rights activists reveal that residents live in inhumane conditions with little to no access to food, shelter, clean water, health services, and are under constant fear of violent evictions from Pastor Joel and his hired security forces.
4 This is in direct contrast to claims by Grace International, Inc., through which Pastor Joel receives donations for managing the camp, that it runs a “model” camp that provides well water, showers, toilets and garbage disposal.5
9. The unsanitary living conditions inside the camp are attributed to Pastor Joel’s refusal to allow aid organizations inside the camp to provide services to residents, and his refusal to allow these residents to maintain a clean environment.6 As late as December 1, 2012, the IOM attempted to build latrines on the property but were stopped by Pastor Joel. Impending forced evictions, coupled with the lack of security inside the camp and the numerous health hazards that exist, make it highly likely that Grace Village residents are at risk of imminent, irreparable harm.
10. To make matters worse, due to its location along Haiti’s eastern coastline, Grace Village is at risk of the destructive effects of hurricanes, tropical storms and landslides.7 The lack of adequate sanitary infrastructure within Grace Village makes this risk even more serious. Children are especially vulnerable to life threatening infectious diseases such as cholera, which has already killed more than 8,000 Haitians since the earthquake.8
11. Grace Village residents have been subjected to forced evictions from both Haitian officials and alleged private landowners since the camp was established in 2010. In October of 2010, the increasing concern for the safety and well-being of similarly situated displaced communities all over the Port-au-Prince area compelled a group of organizations, including Petitioners BAI and IJDH, to file a request for precautionary measures for five IDP camps.9 During a Thematic Hearing before the Commission in October 2010, the BAI, IJDH, and several other organizations expressed concern for the safety of displaced communities in Haiti and requested that the Commission take notice of the Government of Haiti’s failure to protect this vulnerable group. Detailing the factual circumstances in five particular IDP camps, we requested that the Commission grant precautionary measures on behalf of the displaced community within
4 See Amnesty International, May 15, 2012, supra note 2 (urging citizens, human rights advocates to send a petition to the mayor’s office to stop forced evictions).
5 Grace International, Inc. website, http://www.graceintl.org/pages.asp?pageid=97692, last viewed Feb. 17, 2013.
6 Factual Declaration of Marcel Germain. All factual declarations are on file with Petitioners. The factual declarations of Nicole Phillips, Ellie Happel, Maria-Elena Kolovos, and Patrice Florvilus were all made in support of the petitioners’ request for precautionary measures based on interviews and events they personally witnessed. The factual declarations of EJ, JL, and AD all reflect the testimony of individuals living within Grace Village who asked to remain anonymous. Marcel Germain, a former Grace Village resident, gave permission for his identity to be disclosed.
7 NOAA raises hurricane season prediction despite expected El Niño, NAT’L OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADM. (Aug. 9, 2012), http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2012/20120809_atlantic_hurricane_season_update.html.
8 Haiti Earthquake Facts and Figures, DISASTERS EMERGENCY COMMITTEE, available at http://www.dec.org.uk/haiti-earthquake-facts-and-figures (last visited December 12, 2012).
9 See Precautionary Measures, INTER-AM. C.H.R., Report No. MC-367-10 (November 16, 2010) [hereinafter Precautionary Measures] (describing the vulnerability of displaced communities inside IDP camps).
each of these five camps.
10 Although Grace Village was not one of the five named IDP camps in the 2010 request for precautionary measures, this request nevertheless also sought remedies for all similarly situated displaced communities, which would have included Grace Village. In a February 2012 letter to the Commission, we also provided updates on the precarious living conditions in Haitian IDP camps, including the particular circumstances facing Grace Village residents.11
12. Grace Village residents live under the constant threat of forced evictions, a pervasive practice that involves the “involuntary removal of persons from their home or land.”12 These evictions are often associated with violence, with both private security guards and the Haitian police harassing and terrorizing displaced families during these forced evictions. Some residents have reported being suddenly woken up by security guards slashing machetes through their tents, and still other residents have been forced to lie on the ground during these forced evictions as police officers kick them. In addition, the evictions also lack any form of judicial review, and any attempts to redress these wrongs through the proper judicial channels in Haiti have been consistently met with indifference from Haitian authorities. These actions are inconsistent with the IDP communities’ right to adequate housing and to be free from forced evictions, which is enshrined in Article 11.1 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (“ICESCR”) and General Comment 7, which Haiti ratified in January 2012, and also in Article 22 of Haiti’s own constitution.13 The Haitian government is therefore violating its obligations under the ICESCR and its own domestic legislation by failing to prevent forced evictions and failing to take appropriate action against either its own agents or private individuals who carry out forced evictions in Grace Village.
13. Furthermore, the Haitian government’s failure to protect a vulnerable group, while simultaneously assisting non-state actors in brutalizing this vulnerable group, violates the Equal Protection clause enshrined in Article 24 of the American Convention on Human Rights.14 Finally, the Haitian government’s failure to protect displaced families in Grace Village from forced evictions interferes with these individuals’ exercise of fundamental rights, including the right to life, personal liberty, privacy, family, property, and judicial protection, as guaranteed by the Inter-American Convention.
10 See IACHR Hearing on Unlawful Forced Evictions in Haiti: Testimony of Mario Joseph, INST. FOR JUSTICE & DEMOCRACY IN HAITI (Oct. 2010), available at http://ijdh.org/archives/15232; see also Precautionary Measures, supra note 9. The measures requested were as follows: (1) adopt a moratorium on evictions of camps of internally displaced persons until a new government is in place; (2) ensure that persons who were illegally evicted from camps are rehoused in locations that meet minimum levels of salubrity and security; (3) guarantee internally displaced persons effective recourse before tribunals and other competent authorities; (4) implement effective security measures to safeguard the physical security of camp residents, guaranteeing special protection to women and children; (5) train law enforcement personnel on the rights of displaced persons, in particular the right to not be forcibly evicted; and (6) ensure international agents of cooperation access to camps of internally displaced persons.
11 See Letter to IACHR on Forced Evictions in Haiti and Request for New Precautionary Measures, INST. FOR JUSTICE & DEMOCRACY IN HAITI (Feb. 27, 2012), available at http://ijdh.org/archives/25449 (updating the Commission on the situation of five IDP camps that were granted Precautionary Measures, and drawing attention on the deplorable situation in Grace Village camp).
12 Housing Rights Legislation: Review of International & National Legal Instruments, UN HOUSING RIGHTS PROGRAMME, Report No. 1, 1, 45 (2002), available at http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/HousingRightsen.pdf
13 U.N. Comm. on Econ., Soc., & Cultural Rights, General Comment 7: The right to adequate housing (art. 11.1 of the Covenant): forced evictions, 16th Sess., U.N. Doc. E/1998/22 (May 20, 1997) [hereinafter CESCR General Comment 7]; see also HAITI CONST. ART. 22 (1987), available at http://pdba.georgetown.edu/constitutions/haiti/haiti1987.html (recognizing “the right of every citizen to decent housing, education, food, and social security).
14 American Convention on Human Rights, art. 24, Nov. 21, 1969, 1144 U.N.T.S. 143 [hereinafter American Convention].
14. Precautionary Measures for Grace Village are necessary to prevent irreparable harm and stave off a humanitarian catastrophe. The Haitian government’s inaction and indifference to the plight of the displaced community living in Grace Village constitute clear violations of the government’s obligations under its own constitution, the American Convention on Human Rights to which it is party, and several other international conventions. While there is no duty to provide housing for every citizen, the government of Haiti has a duty to protect its most vulnerable citizens, and the Equal Protection clause of the Inter-American Convention prohibits discriminations based on individuals’ race, sex, or economic position.15
15. Human rights activists working with displaced communities in Port-au-Prince collected the information about conditions and events in Grace Village for this petition for precautionary measures based on their own observations of the camp and in-person interviews with camp residents and local officials. The most recent visit to the camp by investigators was February 16, 2013. Interviews were conducted at the camp in Carrefour and in a law office in Port-au-Prince. Investigations and interviews were conducted by human rights lawyers associated with one or more of Petitioner organizations. Interviewees were either a client of Maitre Patrice Florvilus, a lawyer working for Petitioner DOP who has been representing Grace Village residents in filing criminal complaints against camp administrators, or were referred to DOP by Marcel Germain. As a former Grace Village resident and president of a committee representing Grace Village residents, Marcel is very familiar with this particular IDP camp. Residents were asked questions about how they have been treated while living in Grace Village and any types of threats they may have witnessed or received. Interviewers asked each interviewee to assure that he or she was telling the truth, and explained that their statements would be used in a petition to the Commission.16
a. Inhumane Conditions in Haiti Since the January 12, 2010 Earthquake
16. The Republic of Haiti is located in the Caribbean Sea, occupying one third of the Island of Hispaniola.17 Like many countries in the world, Haiti has a history of natural disasters such as tropical storms, hurricanes, flooding, landslides and recently, health epidemics such as cholera.18 But due to the state’s extreme poverty and underdevelopment, Haitians lack the resources for emergency management to deal with these natural catastrophes.19 For instance, prior to the 2010 earthquake, more than 70 percent of the Haitian population of approximately 10.1 million people was living on less than US$2 per day, making Haiti the poorest state in the Western
16 Factual declaration of Maria-Elena Kolovos, Sept. 27, 2012.
17 CIA World Fact Book, Haiti: Country Profile, available at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ha.html.
18 Haiti: Country Profile, BBC NEWS (last updated Oct. 17, 2012), http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/country_ profiles/1202772.stm.
19 Vulnerability Risk Reduction, and Adaptation to Climate Change: Haiti, WORLD BANK GROUP (April 2011), available at http://sdwebx.worldbank.org/climateportalb/doc/GFDRRCountryProfiles/wb_gfdrr_climate_change_country_profile_for_HTI.pdf.
20 In addition, 86 percent of the population in Port-au-Prince, the nation’s capital, was living in slum-like conditions. Half the population in Port-au-Prince lacked latrines and other sanitary equipment, and a third of the population in Port-au-Prince did not have access to clean water.21 The effects of these natural disasters on the population were exacerbated by the extreme poverty and lack of resources.
17. Despite a long history of natural disasters, the worst one to have ever hit Haiti came in the form of a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit Port-au-Prince on January 12, 2010.22 The earthquake killed an estimated 220,000 people and injured more than 300,000.23 It also affected approximately 3.5 million people who were already vulnerable due to extreme poverty.24 The 2010 earthquake destroyed over 200,000 homes, forcing 1.5 million people out of their homes and into makeshift camps where they endured deplorable living conditions and faced harassment and intimidation from landowners. 25
18. The plight of communities displaced by the earthquake was so severe that it prompted international concern.26 Some international officials noted that the fate of these communities in Haiti was a “protracted humanitarian crisis”27 because of the horrible living conditions of camp residents, the health hazards that they present for the displaced community, as well as the increasing human rights abuses that residents face from both government officials and non-state actors.28 In addition to recovering from the trauma of a 7.0 magnitude earthquake, displaced families were also facing forced evictions and the violence associated with these evictions perpetrated by both the Haitian government and non-state actors. Moreover, the unsanitary living conditions inside these IDP camps (such as the lack of sanitary facilities, clean water, and emergency healthcare) exposed already vulnerable displaced communities to life threatening infectious diseases.29 On November 2, 2010, growing concern for the safety of the displaced communities prompted a group of human rights organizations, including Petitioners BAI and IJDH, to file a request for precautionary measures before the Commission against the government of Haiti for its failure to protect camp residents from illegal forced evictions and the associated violence that occurred during these evictions.30
19. Although the number of persons officially living in IDP camps reportedly dwindled from
20 Haiti Earthquake Facts and Figures, DISASTERS EMERGENCY COMMITTEE, available at http://www.dec.org.uk/haiti-earthquake-facts-and-figures (last visited December 12, 2012).
26 Deborah Sontag, Years After Haiti Quake, Safe Housing Is a Dream for Many, N.Y. TIMES (Aug. 15, 2012), http://www.nytime s.com/2012/08/16/world/americas/years-after-haiti-quake-safe-housing-is-dream-for-multitudes.html?pagewanted=all.
29 See Precautionary Measures, supra note 9.
30 Id. The measures requested were as follows: (1) adopt a moratorium on evictions of camps of internally displaced persons until a new government is in place; (2) ensure that persons who were illegally evicted from camps are rehoused in locations that meet minimum levels of salubrity and security; (3) guarantee internally displaced persons effective recourse before tribunals and other competent authorities; (4) implement effective security measures to safeguard the physical security of camp residents, guaranteeing special protection to women and children; (5) train law enforcement personnel on the rights of displaced persons, in particular the right to not be forcibly evicted; and (6) ensure international agents of cooperation access to camps of internally displaced persons.
1,536,447 people in July 2010 to 369,353 people by August 2012,
31 the living conditions of the remaining displaced persons three years after the earthquake remain precarious, if not worse.32 Moreover, recent data on the remaining people living in IDP camps also fails to properly reflect the thousands of people that were forcibly evicted without alternate housing provisions, many of whom are now living on the fringes of society in their own makeshift camps.
20. Three years after the earthquake, Haitians continue to be victimized, this time by the Haitian government’s unwillingness to provide long-term, sustainable housing solutions, and its refusal to stop non-state actors from terrorizing, harassing, and brutalizing the vulnerable communities living inside these camps.33 The situation in Haiti is still so unstable that on October 1, 2012, the United States Department of Homeland Security announced it would extend for another 18 months Temporary Protected Status for Haitians coming to or already in the United States.34
21. Billions of dollars in recovery aid has been pledged by the international community to assist in rebuilding efforts, but three years after the earthquake, the government still has yet to meet victims’ most basic needs, including access to clean water and health care, adequate housing, and security. Although over 200,000 homes were destroyed after the 2010 earthquake and 1.5 million individuals became homeless as a result, less than 19,000 houses had been repaired and only 6,000 permanent houses had been built.35 While some ten thousand families were able to secure a modicum of reconstruction assistance to rebuild their lives, several thousand Haitians still live in “fetid camps,” lacking the most basic needs and under constant threat of forced eviction.36 Grace Village, is facing a situation so precarious as to require immediate attention to prevent imminent harm to the more than 500 families still living there.37
b. The Precarious Post-Earthquake Housing Situation in Haiti
22. Over a million people lost their homes in the earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010. Most survivors sought refuge in camps constructed of tents and tarpaulins on open land, including highway medians, public parks, golf courses, and land in front of the collapsed National Palace. Included in the ranks of those evicted are families with small children, single mothers, orphaned children, the elderly, and other vulnerable populations most in need of aid and assistance.
23. As of January 2013, some 358,000 Haitians have still not been able to find housing since
31 See Displacement Tracking Matrix, supra note 3.
32 See Sontag, supra note 26 (describing the terrible living conditions inside IDP camps two and a half years after the earthquake).
33 See Amnesty International, May 15, 2012, supra note 2.
34Temporary Protected Status Extended for Haitians, US CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES (Oct. 1, 2012), http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=29a2c566e8c1a310VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=68439c7755cb9010VgnVCM10000045f3d6a1RCRD.
35 See Haiti Earthquake Facts and Figures, supra note 8; see also From Camps to Communities: Haiti Emergency Shelter & Camp Coordination Camp Management, available at http://www.eshelter-ccmhaiti.info/jl/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=101&Url= (last visited December 12, 2012); see also Haiti by the Numbers, Three Years Labor, Center for Economic and Policy Research (January 9, 2013) (last visited February 19, 2013).
36 See Sontag, supra note 26.
37 See Displacement Tracking Matrix, supra note 3.
the earthquake and are forced to live in IDP camps.
38 In general, people living in camps have nowhere else to go. According to surveys, over 90% of residents living in camps cannot return to their pre-earthquake homes because they were still damaged from the earthquake.39 Approximately one in five IDP camp residents is facing constant threat of eviction.40
24. Most of the post-earthquake humanitarian services stopped in 2011 when the 18-month disaster relief mandate for most humanitarian organizations ended. A survey conducted in six IDP camps in August 2011 found dire circumstances, which are emblematic of the problems existing throughout Haiti’s camps:41