FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Mario Joseph, Av., Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), Mario@ijdh.org, +509 3701-9879 (Haïti) (English, French, Kreyòl)
Sienna Merope-Synge, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), firstname.lastname@example.org, 509 4875-3444; +1 917 864-6901 (English, French, Kreyòl)
The BAI Welcomes the UN’s Victims’ Rights Advocate Meeting with Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in Haiti, Calls for Broad-Based Reforms and for Victim Assistance
A French version of this press release can be found here.
Port-au-Prince, April 27, 2018 – The Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) welcomes its meeting this week with Jane Connors, the UN Victims’ Rights Advocate, and Lynne Goldberg, senior political affairs officer in the office of the UN Special Coordinator on Improving the UN Response to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, to discuss UN obligations to the 11 mothers of the 14 abandoned children of UN peacekeepers represented by the BAI. The meeting, which took place at the BAI, was held nearly two years after the BAI’s intention to file suit were served on the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the UN in Haiti and on the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Religion, requesting UN cooperation in the child support processes.
“This meeting represents a positive first step towards respecting the dignity and the right to compensation of Haitian victims who have been subjected to heinous sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers,” said attorney Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney of the BAI. “It is now up to Ms. Connors to follow through on this meeting with concrete acts in favor of these 11 mothers and 14 children, and other victims of sexual exploitation and abuse. The victims have already waited too long.”
During the meeting, Mr. Joseph of the BAI outlined the demands of the 11 mothers of 14 children represented by the BAI, including their needs for assistance and support, and emphasized the UN’s obligation of cooperation in their actions for child support. The BAI also presented a briefing note with key requests and recommendations for change.
“We stressed the need for the UN to adopt a rights-based rather than one based on charity, as well as the UN’s obligation of cooperation in cases of paternity and child support, which Ms. Connors was in agreement with” said Joseph.
Following the meeting, Ms. Connors met individually with each victim represented by the BAI to hear directly from them about their living situations and claims. She pledged to continue the dialogue with the BAI and noted that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is committed to making real changes in the UN’s response to sexual exploitation and abuse. Although major reforms will take time, she believes there is a way forward in the cases of the mothers and children represented by the BAI.
According to the UN’s comprehensive strategy of assistance and support to victims of sexual exploitation and abuse committed by UN personnel or “related personnel”, the UN is obliged to provide assistance and support to victims, including medical care, psychosocial support, legal aid and material needs such as food, clothing and safe housing. Victims represented by the BAI are also calling for direct economic support from the UN.
Meanwhile, the BAI is awaiting judgment from the courts of first instance of Jacmel and Port-au-Prince concerning the actions in paternity and child support that it brought against the responsible peacekeepers. These actions are an opportunity to test the good faith of the UN’s commitments, as Ms. Connors’ mandate provides that she has the obligation to ensure that victims have access to judicial proceedings and remedies and must ensure that the “full effect of local laws, including remedies for victims, are exercised”.