FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Mario Joseph, Av., Managing Attorney, Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), Mario@ijdh.org, +011 509 2943 2106/07 (Haiti) (speaks French and Kreyol)
Nicole Phillips, Staff Attorney, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), Nicole@ijdh.org, +1 510 715 2855 (United States) (speaks English, French and Spanish)
Haitian Mothers of Children Abandoned by UN Peacekeepers Initiate Paternity and
Child Support Claims
Port-au-Prince, August 3, 2016 – Today, human rights law firm Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) initiated paternity claims to nine United Nations peacekeepers from Uruguay, Argentina and Sri Lanka on behalf of nine Haitian mothers who were forced to take sole responsibility of the child(ren) after being abandoned by the soldiers who fathered them. One of the mothers was 17 years old when she gave birth, which amounts to statutory rape under Haitian law. The mothers ask that the biological fathers assume legal and financial responsibility per a Haitian Decree of September 14, 1983 that authorizes child support claims.
The mothers also served notices on Sandra Honoré, the head of UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti (known by its French acronym “MINUSTAH”), and Pierrot Delienne, Haiti’s Minister of Foreign and Religious Affairs, requesting their cooperation with the paternity claims, including identifying the defendants and releasing DNA tests.
According to Mario Joseph, BAI managing attorney who represents the mothers, “The UN Secretary General adopted an official ‘zero tolerance’ policy in 2003 that prohibits sexual relations between peacekeepers and recipients of UN assistance, as well as the abandonment of children born out of these sexual relationships. Nonetheless, the UN has not taken sufficient measures to assist victims and children or maintain accountability for those who break these rules.”
The paternity claims come on the heels of increasing reports of UN sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers in Haiti and other countries, as well as lack of accountability for their acts. The UN has also refused to accept responsibility for injuries MINUSTAH peacekeepers caused by contaminating the water supply in Haiti with cholera, which has so far resulted in 800,000 reported illnesses and over 9000 deaths.
Nicole Phillips, staff attorney with the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti says she hopes these paternity claims will “challenge the UN to comply with its own principles and its promises to better address sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers in Haiti and around the world.”
Joseph cautions that if the peacekeepers responsible, Ms. Honoré and Minister Delienne do not respond within 30 days, the mothers will take legal action in a Haitian court.