Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti


Bureau des Avocats Internationaux
Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti

Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI)


B-A-I-2IJDH’s Haiti-based partner, the Bureau des Avo­cats Inter­na­tionaux (BAI), in Port-au-Prince, has helped vic­tims pros­e­cute human rights cases, trained Hait­ian lawyers and spo­ken out on jus­tice issues since 1995. The BAI used to receive most of its sup­port from Haiti’s con­sti­tu­tional gov­ern­ments, but since Feb­ru­ary 2004, it has received most of its sup­port from the Insti­tute for Jus­tice& Democ­racy in Haiti (IJDH), and no sup­port from any polit­i­cal organizations.

Victim-Centered Approach

earthquake-response-2The BAI has pio­neered a “vic­tim cen­tered approach” that com­bines tra­di­tional legal strate­gies with empow­er­ment of vic­tims’ orga­ni­za­tions and polit­i­cal advo­cacy. BAI lawyers argue in court, but also help vic­tims engage judi­cial and gov­ern­ment author­i­ties through media advo­cacy, writ­ing let­ters, meet­ings with offi­cials and even orga­niz­ing demon­stra­tions. The office helps its clients advo­cate on a global level as well, through inter­na­tional courts, media appear­ances, and help­ing orga­nize inter­na­tional cam­paigns in sup­port of its clients. BAI lawyers advo­cate beyond the con­fines of their cases in sup­port of the rule of law in Haiti.

Grass­roots Advo­cacy Component

The BAI cal­i­brated its strat­egy to the pos­si­bil­i­ties and frus­tra­tions of Haiti’s demo­c­ra­tic tran­si­tion. It under­stood that Haiti’s jus­tice sys­tem was unac­cus­tomed to pro­vid­ing jus­tice for poor vic­tims, but that it could be induced to change through the tools of demo­c­ra­tic par­tic­i­pa­tion. The BAI helped estab­lish an informed, activist grass­roots con­stituency that could hold the elected gov­ern­ment account­able and effec­tively advo­cate for jus­tice over the long term. Although Haiti’s demo­c­ra­tic devel­op­ment was, like any other country’s, slow and frus­trat­ing, these strate­gies achieved sig­nif­i­cant victories.

Raboteau Mas­sacre Trial Victory

The BAI’s most promi­nent case, the Raboteau Mas­sacre trial, was the best com­plex pros­e­cu­tion ever in Haiti, and one of the most sig­nif­i­cant human rights cases any­where in the Amer­i­cas. The trial con­victed fifty-seven defen­dants, includ­ing the top mil­i­tary and para­mil­i­tary lead­er­ship of Haiti’s 1991–1994 de facto dic­ta­tor­ship. The Raboteau case suc­ceeded because BAI clients and other human rights groups forced it through the sys­tem, step by step, a process chron­i­cled in the award-winning film, Pote Mak Sonje. The BAI had sev­eral other promis­ing cases in the pipeline at the time of the coup d’etat. The BAI’s approach has become a model for tran­si­tional jus­tice pro­grams, and was a focus of a case study at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Gov­ern­ment.

Civil Soci­ety Development

The BAI also helps NGOs in Haiti develop a strong inde­pen­dent advo­cacy capac­ity. The BAI space pro­vides grass­roots groups with tele­phones, com­put­ers and work­ing space, along with human rights report­ing train­ing, legal analy­sis, and intro­duc­tions to poten­tial for­eign col­lab­o­ra­tors. Many of these orga­ni­za­tions receive little or no sup­port, because they do not yet have the skills nec­es­sary to get on fun­ders’ radar screens (com­mu­ni­ca­tion, account­ing, even lit­er­acy). The BAI helps groups move their advo­cacy beyond the jus­tice sys­tem to crit­i­cize poli­cies that com­pro­mise the civil, polit­i­cal eco­nomic and social rights of poor Haitians, whether imple­mented by their own gov­ern­ment or by the inter­na­tional com­mu­nity. TheBAI’s train­ing pro­gram for appren­tice Hait­ian lawyers gave young lawyers the skills and ori­en­ta­tion to effec­tively rep­re­sent the poor.

Transna­tional Justice

The BAI suc­cesses are not limited to Haiti. Three mem­bers of the Army High Com­mand were deported from the U.S. to face charges for Raboteau, includ­ing the for­mer Assis­tant Com­man­der in Chief, the high­est ranked sol­dier ever deported from the U.S. on human rights grounds. The inter­na­tional grass­roots cam­paign forced the U.S. to return the FRAPH/FADH doc­u­ments stolen from Haiti in 1994.

Focus Post-2004 Coup

After the Feb­ru­ary 29, 2004 coup d’etat, the BAI switched gears from pros­e­cut­ing human rights vio­la­tors to defend­ing vic­tims of human rights vio­la­tions. The BAI rep­re­sents over 100 polit­i­cal pris­on­ers. Our legal inter­ven­tion, com­bined with polit­i­cal pres­sure on the Hait­ian author­i­ties, has led to the lib­er­a­tion of sev­eral high pro­file polit­i­cal pris­on­ers, includ­ing Catholic Priest Fr. Ger­ard Jean-Juste, sev­eral for­mer gov­ern­ment offi­cials and jour­nal­ists. The BAI also brings cases out­side of Haiti on behalf of its clients, notably before the Inter-American Com­mis­sion on Human Rights.
The BAI also helps doc­u­ment human rights vio­la­tions in Haiti. It pro­vides infor­ma­tion for reports and action alerts by IJDH, but also to jour­nal­ists, mem­bers of the U.S. Con­gress, and to del­e­ga­tions from the United Nations, the Inter-American Com­mis­sion on Human Rights and U.S. law schools, and to inter­na­tional human rights organizations.

Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH)


The Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) and the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) are a partnership of Haitian and US human rights advocates. We support the Haitian people in their struggle to achieve universal human rights, access to a just legal system, social justice, a society without violence, and the right to participate fully in choosing their government. Using models like the US civil rights movement, we are active in the courts, both in Haiti and internationally, in the streets and in poor neighborhoods. We work in partnership with grassroots movements, to transform the structural injustices that stand in the way of stability and prosperity for the majority of Haitians.

What We Do

To achieve our mis­sion, we:

Work With Grass­roots Orga­ni­za­tions to Pro­mote Human Rights In Haiti

IJDH works with grass­roots groups in Haiti to help develop an effec­tive human rights advo­cacy pro­gram with global out­reach. In the U.S., IJDH col­lab­o­rates with grass­roots orga­ni­za­tions, includ­ing faith-based, sol­i­dar­ity, devel­op­ment, and human­i­tar­ian orga­ni­za­tions to coor­di­nate advo­cacy on human rights in Haiti, and net­works with sol­i­dar­ity and Hait­ian Dias­pora activists through­out the world. Our work seeks to change the inter­na­tional envi­ron­ment that allows such mas­sive dis­re­spect for social, eco­nomic, civil and polit­i­cal rights to flourish.

Doc­u­ment Human Rights Violations & Disseminate Accu­rate Infor­ma­tion

The Insti­tute gath­ers infor­ma­tion on human rights vio­la­tions in Haiti, and relays it to the inter­na­tional human rights com­mu­nity, media and grass­roots groups.We work closely with oth­ers inves­ti­gat­ing human rights in Haiti, and pro­vide train­ing and analy­sis to indi­vid­u­als and orga­ni­za­tions inter­ested in Haiti, includ­ing vis­it­ing del­e­ga­tions. Our long col­lab­o­ra­tion with Hait­ian grass­roots groups and our legal expe­ri­ence in Haiti allows us to pro­vide con­sis­tent, cred­i­ble infor­ma­tion and analy­sis. Our doc­u­men­ta­tion is rou­tinely used by advo­cates and deci­sion mak­ers, and we are often cited in the press. Shin­ing a sharp spot­light on human rights abusers and their for­eign sup­port pro­vides pro­tec­tion to poten­tial vic­tims and empow­ers pro-democracy advo­cates in Haiti.

Pur­sue Legal Claims in Haiti and Abroad

IJDH helps vic­tims of human rights vio­la­tions pur­sue cases in national and inter­na­tional courts. In Haiti, its lawyers rep­re­sent polit­i­cal pris­on­ers and per­se­cuted jour­nal­ists, and doc­u­ment cases of mur­der, tor­ture and destruc­tion of prop­erty. Out­side Haiti we help pre­pare cases for inter­na­tional courts and assist in civil lit­i­ga­tion in the U.S. This work aims to stop cur­rent human rights vio­la­tions, deter future human rights vio­la­tions and obtain com­pen­sa­tion for vic­tims of past violations.

Contact IJDH

Institute for Justice & Democracy In Haiti
666 Dorchester Avenue
Boston, MA 02127

Telephone: (617) 652-0876
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