Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Quarterly Newsletter: Fall 2012

BAI & IJDH Quarterly Newsletter

Fall 2012

Dear Friend,

I have a lot to be thankful for. I have the privilege of working with a dedicated and growing staff at BAI and IJDH, and committed and talented volunteers–6 working hard in our Boston office as I type. We have inspiring grassroots collaborators in Haiti–the BAI office buzzes with activity every day. Outside Haiti, top law firms, Members of Congress, human rights groups and solidarity organizations contribute their impressive expertise to our fight for justice in Haiti. All this is made possible by our generous donors, who year after year keep us fighting on the front lines for justice for Haiti’s poor.

What makes me most grateful is that all these contributions are producing results. They are providing justice for individual people—rape victims, earthquake survivors, political prisoners and more–while making concrete changes to the unjust structures that keep the majority of Haitians poor and the country vulnerable to disaster.

Please take a minute to read more about the impressive results that this community of Haitian grassroots partners, lawyers, volunteers, activists and political leaders has produced in the last quarter. And consider taking a few more minutes to produce more results. Consider joining our “GivingTuesday” campaign by committing to organizing a screening of the award-winning Baseball in the Time of Cholera with your friends, or contributing to IJDH’s end-of-year campaign.


Brian Concannon Jr., Esq.

Director, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti

Who We Are

Your Generosity Keeps Us Fighting for Justice

The Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), the largest and most successful public interest law firm in Haiti, and the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), a Boston-based human rights nonprofit, fight with the people of Haiti in their non-violent struggle for the consolidation of constitutional democracy, justice and human rights. The BAI and IJDH use litigation, advocacy, documentation, and grassroots empowerment to advance the rule of law and challenge the unjust structures that violate the human rights of Haiti’s poor majority.

Follow @BAIhaiti and @IJDH on Twitter and Like and Share our Facebook page.

Gender Violence

Rape Accountability and Prevention Project (RAPP)

RAPP provides individual legal representation to victims of rape while systematically addressing the policies that make rape easy to commit and difficult to prosecute. IJDH and BAI launched the project as a response to an increase in gender-based violence in the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps that sprang up after the 2010 earthquake. In a country that rarely prosecutes rape, and even more rarely prosecutes rape against poor victims, we have made sexual assaults against poor women a significant part of the courts’ dockets.  Here are some of BAI’s exciting achievements:

RAPP’s first four rape trials, held in July and August, all resulted in convictions for the perpetrators and changed the way that the courts handle rape cases.

  • We have over 60 total cases in the investigation stage and 11 cases that have received the equivalent of indictments. We are expecting as many as 15 more trials in the next few months.
  • RAPP helped secure the arrest of 72 alleged perpetrators since January 2012.
  • The project has provided legal intake for over 100 additional victims of sexual violence since October 2011. Of the resulting cases, 33% have advanced to the investigation stage—a 14% increase from last year’s 19% advancement rate.
  • In two of BAI’s four cases this summer, the judge found the accused guilty and sentenced him to the maximum sentence of 15 years for rape of a minor under 15 years old. In another case, in which the perpetrator was the father of the victim, the judge administered the maximum sentence of life in prison without parole. Two of the cases received large civil damages awards, and BAI is pursuing civil damages for the other cases in separate hearings.

The resounding success of these cases demonstrates that the legal system in Haiti can and will change how it responds to gender-based violence. We have already received requests from judicial officials to help them improve their handling of rape cases. After the fourth trial, the Rezo Fanm BAI (BAI Women’s Group) announced at a press conference that the Rezo “is informing everyone who gets an idea to commit an act of violence against women or girls in our society that total impunity is no longer, that justice will not give second chances, it will not play around.”


For more information on our Rape Accountability & Prevention Project, click here.


Cholera Accountability Project (CAP)

The BAI and IJDH filed claims with the UN in November 2011 on behalf of over 5,000 victims of the cholera epidemic that erupted in Haiti in October 2010. The epidemic has killed over 7,600 Haitians and sickened over 610,000. There is extensive evidence that UN peacekeepers caused the outbreak, and the Cholera Accountability Project challenges the UN to provide justice in the form of clean water and sanitation infrastructure, compensation, and an apology. The infrastructure alone would save an estimated 4,000 lives per year. Since the filing, we have persuaded UN member states, national legislators, and human rights advocates to join our calls for a just response. BAI also collaborates with a grassroots collective of 14 local groups to mobilize advocacy by cholera victims. BAI and IJDH also continue to build the legal case for our individual cholera clients by collecting and preserving evidence of the UN’s malfeasance.

IJDH has been working to build solidarity in the international legal community and spur conversation around the case. We have been guest lecturers at law schools and featured on panels at International Law Weekend in NYC and the Boston Bar Association. Kristen Boon, Seton Hall Law Professor, The Haiti Cholera Case against the UN, featured the cholera case in theOpinion Juris, a prominent online forum on international law. We have organized 7 movie screenings of the documentary film Baseball in the Time of Cholera to keep the UN’s role in the outbreak in the popular consciousness. The film is available on YouTube, and there have been 320,000 views and counting worldwide.

We have engaged in a broad-based advocacy and media campaign, focusing on the need for accountability. Our work has been covered in hundreds of Haitian and international outlets, including CNNBBCThe EconomistThe New York Times, and NPRFidel Castro issued a statement, and an op ed published in theKorea Times influenced Korean Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to encourage the UN to take responsibility for the cholera epidemic.

Over the past year, we have made substantial steps toward our goal of obtaining installation of the necessary water and sanitation infrastructure in Haiti, and we are finally starting to see results: in October, the UN’s own independent expert appointed to investigate the source, Dr. Danielle Lantagne,confirmed that the UN was “the most likely source.”

To see our new Cholera Accountability Project webpage and to learn more about the project, click here.

Health and Human Rights in Prisons Project

Health and Human Rights in Prisons Project (HHRPP)

The Health and Human Rights in Prisons Project challenges systemic violations of prisoners’ rights. HHRPP represents illegally detained prisoners at Hinche, Mirebalais, and St. Marc prisons, providing legal and health services (with Partners in Health’s Haitian affiliate, Zanmi Lasante) and coordinating legal and medical workers to challenge systemic violations such as prolonged pretrial detention and inhumane prison conditions. Each prison is monitored by one Haitian lawyer, who visits the prisoners weekly, identifies cases meriting representation, discusses cases informally with judges, police and prosecutors, and participates in formal hearings and trials.

The combined prison population at the three prisons where HHRPP works

was about 700, crowded into buildings designed for 1/5th this number of people. Since HHRPP began, pretrial detention rate at all three sites has fallen below 50%, while the national rate exceeds 90%.

  • HHRPP assisted 154 prisoners, of which 74 were freed from prolonged pretrial detention and inhumane prison conditions*, 23 were found guilty (of which 2 are appealing the judgment), and 57 are in the investigation stage.
  • In both Mirebalais and St. Marc the pretrial detainment rate is consistently below 50 percent, whereas the national level is about 90%.

*By contrast, USAID reported in September 2012 that its multi-million dollar program to reduce pre-trial detention “led to the release of 49 detainees and is moving forward 616 cases towards final deposition” over 22 months

To learn more about our human rights in prisons advocacy efforts, click here.

Political Prisoners

Political Prisoners

BAI and IJDH defend grassroots activists and political dissidents who are illegally arrested or harassed for their organizing activities. Grassroots organizations like Movement for Liberty and Equality by Haitians for Fraternity (MOLEGHAF) have shown their frustration with the Martelly administration through organized peaceful protests, but the protests resulted in government retaliation. Activists Oxygène David and Dukens Charles were incarcerated after protests in June 2012 and spent two harrowing months in Haiti’s notorious prison system before being released in September. Both men were represented by attorney Mario Joseph in a pre-trial hearing; the judge dismissed the case and freed both men. In an interview after their release, David claimed to have been warned of his coming arrest and was even offered bribes to stop protesting but stated that his conscience would not allow him to take them. Despite systematic attempts to suppress their voices, Haitians are determined to be part of the political process and make themselves heard.

To read more about Political Prisoners (HFRPP) click here.

Threats Against Mario

Threats against Mario

While Attorney Mario Joseph has received numerous threats over the past year, they have escalated to an alarming level, including radio threats, police surveillance of BAI, and death threats. This spike in organized, persistent intimidation, sometime perpetrated by government agencies, has led to a call for action from numerous human rights organizations around the world. The extent of the harassment was revealed in a Sep­tem­ber 29, 2012 statement by Jean Renel Senatus, the former chief pros­e­cu­tor of Port-au-Prince. Senatus claimed that he received an order from Haiti’s Justice Minister Jean Renel Sanon to arrest 36 government opponents, including human rights lawyer Mario Joseph, and that he was fired due to his refusal to do so.

Here are letters from various groups condemning the attacks against Mario:Amnesty International, Human Rights WatchCenter for Constitutional Rights, andCongressman John Conyers and the Haitian Government’s response.

To learn more about Threats Against Mario, click here.

Freedom of the Press

Report on Freedom of the Press

IJDH and the Center for Law and Global Justice at the University of San Francisco recently released a report titled Freedom of the Press in Haiti: The Chilling Effect on Journalists Critical of the Government. The report documents issues facing Haiti’s journalists, from stonewalling (refusing access or information) to intimidation, destruction of media equipment, and even threats of retaliation from President Martelly and his administration. It also offers recommendations for protecting freedom of expression in Haiti. Freedom of the press is essential to democracy, and in publishing this report IJDH hopes to encourage the Haitian government to strengthen its democracy by strengthening its journalists. The report was delivered at a Congressional briefing and is forced a government response.

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