FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (New York and Boston): email@example.com, +617-652- 0876
Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (Port-au-Prince): firstname.lastname@example.org, +011 509 4645-2888
No Justice, No Credibility: Ignoring Legal Obligations to Victims Guarantees Ineffectiveness of MINUJUSTH
(BOSTON AND PORT-AU-PRINCE, October 11, 2017)—As the UN closes its Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) after thirteen years and opens a new mission, rights groups warned that the UN must be accountable to victims of MINUSTAH’s human rights abuses if the successor mission is to have credibility. MINUSTAH has engaged in a pattern of abuse and impunity since its arrival in 2004, including causing the worst cholera epidemic of modern times. When it closes on October 15, MINUSTAH will be succeeded by the UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH), a smaller peacekeeping force with a mission to build rule of law and promote justice.
MINUSTAH was deployed in 2004 following a coup that removed democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. It was the only peacekeeping mission in history deployed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter—which authorizes the use of force in response to a threat to international peace and security—without an active conflict or peace agreement to enforce. Many Haitians have objected to the Mission as an occupation force and an affront to Haitian sovereignty.
“Replacing one peacekeeping mission with another does not erase the UN’s debts to Haiti. From causing the world’s worst cholera epidemic to failing to hold peacekeepers accountable for cases of sexual abuse and abandoned children, the UN has a lot of wrongs to right,” said Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI).
The cholera outbreak in Haiti was caused by improper MINUSTAH waste disposal that contaminated the Artibonite river system, the largest in the country and primary source of water for tens of thousands of Haitians. Cholera has killed 9,700 and infected over 815,000 others since the epidemic began in 2010. Despite overwhelming evidence of its responsibility, UN for years responded with denial, obstruction, and a refusal to meet with or remedy victims.
It was not until December 2016 that the UN announced its “New Approach” to cholera in Haiti, publicly apologizing and promising $400 million for cholera treatment and remedies for the hundreds of thousands of victims. As of October 2017, however, only 3% of the total has been raised, and the UN has yet to even begin consulting with victims on implementing the plan, despite repeated assurances that it would place them at the center of its work.
“The UN has spent $7.2 billion on MINUSTAH, a peacekeeping mission that has hurt, not helped, the people,” Joseph added. “It will spend hundreds of millions more on a new mission to supposedly promote justice, but when it comes to acting justly towards those killed or injured by its cholera epidemic, the UN can spare only $10 million. The priorities are clear.”
Other problems have tarnished MINUSTAH’s legacy alongside the cholera epidemic. Early in its mission, in a raid ostensibly targeting street gangs, MINUSTAH peacekeepers fired over 22,000 bullets into the thin-walled houses of the Cite Soleil neighborhood, killing dozens of civilians. MINUSTAH peacekeepers are also responsible for widespread sexual exploitation and abuse, whose victims are left without remedies or paternity support while the perpetrators return home without prosecution or accountability.
“For Haitians, the UN logo has come to symbolize impunity, for cholera, sexual abuse and other misdeeds”, added Brian Concannon, Jr., Executive Director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), and former UN Volunteer in Haiti. “When someone wearing that logo lectures them on the rule of law, Haitians see hypocrisy.”
MINUJUSTH is opening in Haiti on October 16, but the UN has yet to appoint a Special Representative to lead the Mission, or define the new mission’s work plan. The lack of vision is especially problematic given the tarnished legacy and credibility deficit that MINUJUSTH will inherit.
“If MINUJUSTH is to have any shot at fulfilling its rule of law and justice mandate, the UN must deliver on its promises to remedy the harms caused by MINUSTAH. This is not an issue that goes away by changing the name on the sign outside the UN base,” Concannon stated.
“The accountability gaps of MINUSTAH remain. The UN still has never established the promised standing claims commission that is supposed to deliver remedies to victims. This sets the groundwork for more immunity, more impunity,” added Joseph.