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.
Jean-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.
Stephen Lewis, a former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations who has also served at the world agency in several other prominent postings, says the international organization must accept responsibility for the cholera epidemic that broke out in Haiti in October 2010. He says he supports the legal action against the UN that was formally launched in New York City on October 9 on behalf of the victims of the epidemic.
Lewis spelled out strongly-held views in a nine-minute interview on the national, Saturday morning newsmagazine of CBC Radio One, Day 6 on October 12.
The CBC host began the interview by asking Lewis whether he supports the action. He replied, “I do. I think it is unequivocal, the responsibility of the United Nations for the cholera outbreak.”
Lewis dismissed suggestions that definitive proof of the origin of Haiti’s cholera epidemic has not been established. The disease was not present in modern Haiti before October 2010. The epidemic, he said, “has been traced definitively to the Nepalese peacekeeping force” of the UN military mission in Haiti termed MINUSTAH.
Even the UN’s own study on the matter, he said, “came within a hair’s breath of saying ‘we were responsible’, and in fact, the independent investigations by scientists show there is no question of the origin of the cholera”.
by Rashmee Roshan Lall and Ed Pilkington. Originally posted at The Guardian
The UN has taken the rare step of invoking its legal immunity to rebuff claims for compensation from 5,000 victims of the Haiti cholera epidemic, the worst outbreak of the disease in modern times and widely believed to have been caused by UN peacekeepers importing the infection into the country.
Citing a convention laid down in 1946, the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, telephoned President Michel Martelly of Haiti to tell him that the UN was not willing to compensate any of the claimants. The epidemic has killed almost 8,000 people and stricken hundreds of thousands more – about one out of every 16 Haitians.
For the UN to claim immunity for a crisis that most experts are convinced it unwittingly caused through its own disaster relief mission is highly contentious. The infection is thought to have been carried into Haiti by UN peacekeepers from Nepal sent to help with disaster relief following the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
Court’s order that Jean-Claude Duvalier appear in court is another victory for the victims
The 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.”
The first in a series of four reports on housing conditions and relocation was published today. Based on research conducted in July and August 2012 by Mark Schuller, with funding from the National Science Foundation, Homeward Bound? Assessing Progress of Relocation from Haiti’s IDP camps is available on the Institute for Justice and Democracy (IJDH) website.
Striking Haiti on its way to the United States’ eastern seaboard in late October, Hurricane Sandy exposed the precariousness of the estimated 370,000 people still living under tents almost three years after the devastating earthquake.
Yet the population of internally displaced persons (IDPs) peaked at 1.5 million. As a report from the US State Department pointed out, the current IDP population is estimated at 25% of this total. Much has been said about the efforts of the international community to rehouse this vulnerable population, particularly President Michel Martelly’s “16/6” program and the NGO programs that have followed.
Here’s a video passed along from the IJDH. This video is part of a series called “A Soapbox in Haiti,” which presents the voices of Haitian citizens on topics significant to the country’s post-earthquake recovery. This particular video gives us human rights lawyer Mario Joseph talking about the justice system in Haiti: