Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Common Dreams Reviews ‘How Human Rights Can Build Haiti’

This review of Fran Quigley’s How Human Rights Can Build Haiti includes many of the history lessons Quigley brings in throughout the book. It describes how BAI and IJDH’s work fits in with that history, and why this book is a must-read for anyone interested in human rights.

Part of the review is below. Click HERE for the full text.

‘How Human Rights Can Build Haiti’

Marjorie Cohn, Common Dreams
February 2, 2015

Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world. It has suffered a devastating earthquake followed by a deadly cholera epidemic, both set in the backdrop of a history of oppression by corrupt rulers and foreign exploitation. In spite of incredible challenges, two intrepid human rights attorneys – one Haitian and one American – have worked diligently to vindicate the rights of the people of Haiti, with some notable successes.

Fran Quigley’s important book, How Human Rights Can Build Haiti, tells the story of Mario Joseph and Brian Concannon, whose Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) has given hope to untold numbers of Haitians. They opt for a ‘bottom-up’ rather than a ‘top-down’ approach. Their preference is to help to empower the Haitian people to make change themselves, instead of relying on outsiders – particularly the United States and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) – which establish ‘rule of law programs’ and provide charity, generally with strings attached.

Mario Joseph

Often called the leading human rights lawyer in Haiti, Mario Joseph is president of BAI. “We had an earthquake, yes, but far too many people died in this earthquake. And that is because we in Haiti have no respect for the rule of law,” he says, attributing the deaths to poorly built homes crowded onto steep hillsides. It is estimated that more than 200,000 were killed, 300,000 were injured, and two million were rendered homeless by the earthquake.

Joseph has developed a reputation in Haiti as a fearless advocate, in the face of numerous death threats. While court proceedings take place in French, Joseph speaks Creole so his clients can understand the proceedings. “The justice system is unaffordable for the people of Haiti,” Joseph observes, “but if you are rich or important and your rights are not respected, you can find justice. Conversely, if you are powerful and you abuse human rights, you can find ways to avoid the consequences of your actions.”

 

Click HERE for the full text.

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