Human Rights Organizations Respond to Devastating Earthquake in Haiti
Organizations Demand Accountable Aid and Historical Justice
August 19, 2021, (Port-au-Prince, Boston, New York)–In the aftermath of this weekend’s deadly 7.2-magitude earthquake, and in the context of tropical storms, a caretaker government, and the COVID-19 pandemic, human rights organizations issued the following statement:
We grieve the tragic loss of more than 1,900 people in Haiti, the injury of thousands more, and the destruction of homes, infrastructure, and livelihoods, as tropical storms are threatening relief efforts.
Prior to Saturday’s earthquake, Haiti was in a constitutional crisis that was inflamed by the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise, but is rooted in decades of policy and undue international influence that has destabilized the rule of law and Haiti’s democratic progress. This destabilization has weakened Haiti’s institutions and the ability of the Haitian people to protect themselves and each other in the face of disaster.
So, while we mourn, we must also call out the failures of government institutions that have made Haiti vulnerable to the extreme impacts of climate catastrophe. Developing sustained capacity for Haiti to effectively respond to environmental and political stresses requires that both the international community as well as Haitian leaders allow the development of democracy that is accountable to the people of Haiti.
Aid is important to save lives right now, but the experience of Haiti’s 2010 earthquake demonstrates that international aid is only effective to the extent that it respects Haitians’ rights. Humanitarian assistance needs to reimagine aid away from approaches rooted in imperialism and capitalism that only further entrench structural violence. We call on the international community to take a rights-based approach to aid delivery, that is a) accountable, b) transparent, c) participative, and d) non-discriminatory. The international community must guarantee that material support reaches the most vulnerable, and that all international government and development efforts support the rights of Haitians to full self-determination.
We also call on the international community to take serious action towards achieving historical justice in Haiti, including by providing restitution for the debt that Haiti was forced to pay to France as reparations to slaveholders; effectively punishing the Haitian people for securing their own freedom. As an initial, immediate step towards fundamental repair and remedy, we urge the United States to protect and promote the rights of Haitian immigrants by: extending temporary protective status to Haiti and updating the eligibility cut-off date from July 29 to August 14; halting all deportation flights and proceedings; and reinstating the Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program.
We stand with the people of Haiti and commit to supporting all efforts to immediately improve material conditions, hold the powerful to account for their responsibility and complicity in human suffering, and fully dismantle the global systems of oppression so that Haiti may finally begin a meaningful recovery.
The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) is a U.S.-based human rights non-profit organization. IJDH works in partnership with its Haiti-based sister organization, the law firm, Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), bringing together litigation, advocacy, training, and grassroots solidarity to tackle the root causes of injustice, which impacts basic human rights in Haiti. Founded in 1995, BAI is a public interest law firm that has worked for over two decades in constitutional and international human rights law. In 2004, BAI staff established IJDH as a U.S-based solidarity organization and partnership of human rights advocates in Haiti and the U.S. For over a combined 25 years, BAI and IJDH have achieved outsized impact for justice and human rights, and addressing the challenges that affect how the legal system protects, delivers justice, and safeguards rights, in Haiti. For more information about IJDH’s work across rule of law, access to justice, and accountability please visit:https://ijdh.org.