Toronto Haiti Action Committee

Solidarity. Not Charity. Never Occupation

Toronto Haiti Action Committee - Solidarity. Not Charity. Never Occupation

In the News: Secrecy shrouds Canada’s role in Aristide’s ouster from Haiti

by Sue Montgomery. Originally printed in the Montreal Gazette February 28, 2014

MONTREAL — Ten years after Haiti’s first democratically elected president was removed from his country in the middle of the night and dumped in Africa, Canada’s role — and that of Montreal’s current mayor — has been shrouded in secrecy.

Aristide in South AfricaJean-Bertrand Aristide, the former priest from Haiti’s slums who is reviled by the elite minority and revered by the poor masses, claims to this day he was blindfolded and forced to sign a letter of resignation before being airlifted out and dropped in the Central African Republic.

The United States, Canada and France all claim he left voluntarily. They say they told Aristide that no one would come to help him — despite the trio’s signed commitment just four years earlier to do so — and that he, his family and supporters would be killed.

“In some ways, the competing stories are a distinction without a difference,” says Brian Concannon, a lawyer with the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. “It is hard to say that in that situation he had a meaningful choice.”

It was another blow to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere — made destitute by two centuries of racism, greed, revenge and a series of inept and corrupt governments backed by the United States. The Caribbean nation, which shares an island with the better-off Dominican Republic, has had 22 constitutions since winning its freedom in 1804 and lived through 32 coups — 33, if one counts the 2004 ouster of Aristide.

Now, Haitians want an apology from Canada, and particularly Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre.

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Press Release: Court’s Order That Jean-Claude Duvalier Appear In Court Is Another Victory For The Victims

Press release from the IJDH.

Court’s order that Jean-Claude Duva­lier appear in court is another vic­tory for the victims

Baby Doc Duvalier returns to HaitiThe Bureau des Avo­cats Inter­na­tionaux (BAI), in its mis­sion to defend Haiti’s poor and the inalien­able rights inher­ent to all human beings, con­sid­ers the appel­late court’s reit­er­a­tion on Feb­ru­ary 7, 2013, of the sum­mons to Jean-Claude Duva­lier to per­son­ally appear in court another vic­tory for his victims.

Addi­tion­ally, this was the first time that the Court rec­og­nized Jean-Claude Duvalier’s sta­tus as the accused, so his per­son­nel appear­ance at a hear set for Feb­ru­ary 21, 2013, will be required or he risks arrest. Accord­ing to lawyer Mario Joseph of the Bureau des Avo­cats Inter­na­tionaux, one of the victim’s lawyers, “the Court’s order is also a vic­tory for the vic­tims claim­ing civil dam­ages because the Court also con­firmed our stand­ing as civil claimants despite efforts from the lawyers for the accused to derail the process. Their strat­egy was to block Duva­lier from appear­ing before the court to be questioned.”

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In the News: Cholera case against UN stalls in Haiti

by Jason Hayes
Originally posted at Global Post

Mojes, a cholera victim who spent five days in the hospital to survive the diarrheal bacterium, and the UN, a conglomeration of 193 countries that will spend $793 million on MINUSTAH this year, might appear to be a mismatch. But Mojes is not alone.

With over 7,000 dead and annual epidemics after the rainy season, more than 15,000 cholera-affected Haitians joined together to file a legal complaint against the UN on November 3, 2011. The case asserts that UN troops from Nepal brought cholera to Haiti when their sewage contaminated a tributary of the Artibonite River in October 2010. Asked what he hopes for from the case, Mojes said, “Make the damages better.”

Now, seven months after the complaint was filed, their case sits idle because the UN denies responsibility for bringing cholera to the country. So, where will Mojes and his fellow Haitians go now? When it comes to the largest international organization in the world, one built on the shoulders of almost every country in the world, there is no appeals court: there is no higher governing body.

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Short Film: Baseball in the Time of Cholera

A mailing from the IJDH alerted me to this powerful short film, Baseball in the Time of Cholera. Brian Concannon writes:

Baseball in the Time of Cholera is a powerful 29-minute documentary that tells the true story of 14 year-old Joseph Alvyns and the ways in which the cholera epidemic changed his young life forever. Baseball also prominently features BAI’s managing attorney, Mario Joseph’s tireless work to achieve justice for victims of cholera. This film will bring Haitians’ fight for justice to the world stage.

By making this film freely available online, our partners at Ryot, led by Directors David Darg and Bryn Mooser and Executive Producer, actress Olivia Wilde, are igniting a global campaign to share the message with as many people as possible: it’s time for the UN to “UNdeny.”

Ryot decided to feature our work in their film because they recognized that the fight for justice is an essential part of the solution to Haiti’s cholera epidemic. As IJDH supporters, you are an important part of this opportunity. Social media is changing the face of advocacy, and showing the UN that huge numbers of people support our clients’ fight.

The film includes many good moments with Mario Joseph and Brian Concannon.

One of the important points that Concannon makes in the film is that the UN is quick to find funding for an elaborate and long-term MINUSTAH presence in Haiti, but that it’s comparatively sluggish about finding funding to halt the spread of a disease that it caused.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that the IJDH takes donations to support their case to hold the UN accountable for its role in the cholera epidemic. Sadly, the IJDH is not a registered charity in Canada, so Canadians can’t get a tax deduction. But the IJDH’s work is incredibly important and they can use anything you can offer.

In the News: The legality or not of President Martelly’s proposed constitutional changes

Interview with lawyers Mario Joseph and Brian Concannon: How President Martelly’s proposed constitutional changes are illegal

Interview by Kim Ives and Roger Leduc, published in Haiti Liberte, June 14, 2012

Haitian President Joseph Michel Martelly recently announced his intention to publish amendments to Haiti’s 1987 Constitution during the month of June. Once published in the government’s official journal Le Moniteur, laws are supposed to go into effect. But according to Haiti’s existing 1987 Constitution, amendments made during one administration are not supposed to take effect until the following administration.

Martelly’s plan to publish the amendments, which were partially and faultily drafted under Haiti’s last president, René Préval (2006-2011), has provoked a storm of protest among constitutional scholars, lawyers, politicians, and activists who charge that it would be patently illegal. But the U.S. and its allies continue to push Martelly to publish the amendments despite widespread and vehement objections.

On June 7, Kim Ives and Roger Leduc interviewed Mario Joseph, the lead lawyer of the Office of International Lawyers (BAI) based in Port-au-Prince, and lawyer Brian Concannon of the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) on the radio program “Haiti: The Struggle Continues,” broadcast every Thursday from 9 to 10 p.m. on the Pacifica Network’s WBAI-FM in New York (streamed live and archived on www.wbai.org). What follows is an edited version of that interview. Mario Joseph’s responses in Kreyòl have been translated into English.

Kim Ives: Brian, can you briefly explain what are the key amendments to the Constitution that have been drafted, and what has gone wrong with their publication?

Brian Concannon: One overarching theme which is often lost in this discussion is the whole idea of why you have a constitution. Constitutions are by design hard to amend because they are supposed to set down your bedrock principles that can’t be changed quickly or easily. Constitutions are hard to change, you have to do it with a two-thirds vote, and, in almost all constitutions, you need to do it through some specialized procedure. The basic problem here is that the Haitian Constitution’s drafters made amendments a fairly easy procedure.

The way you’re supposed to do it is this. An outgoing legislature in its last session votes a law, and then the next legislature – which comes in with the next president – votes on the same law, up or down, just after an election, after the people have had an opportunity to have some say. The people get their input by having the elections.

What happened was this: in October 2009, the outgoing legislature voted a law, and then in 2011, a new legislature changed it, making a very different law. The hard part is that nobody really knows what that law is. The legislature claims that it has one version; former President Préval claims that he has another version. There’s lots of problems with both versions, and nobody really knows what’s in both.

A lot of people like some of the proposed changes, like those which allow double nationality and set a goal of 30% participation of women in government. But some of the changes might affect the fundamental democratic structure of the country. For example, the new law allows the president to name local officials instead of having them be elected; it changes the terms of senators and deputies in ways that might suggest the changes should not be made in the haphazard way they’ve been done.

Read the rest at the CHAN website.