Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti
|This article relies on references to primary sources. (October 2012)|
The Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) is a non-profit organization based in Boston, Massachusetts, USA that seeks to accompany the people of Haiti in their non-violent struggle for the consolidation of constitutional democracy, justice and human rights. IJDH distributes information on human rights conditions in Haiti, pursues legal cases in Haitian, U.S. and international courts, and promotes grassroots advocacy initiatives with organizations in Haiti and abroad. IJDH was founded in the wake of the February 2004 coup d’etat that overthrew Haiti’s elected, constitutional government. The institute works closely with its Haitian affiliate, the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux.
IJDH, in affiliation with Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, represents victims of the 2010 Cholera Epidemic. Together they seek justice for the estimated 8,000 victims and counting since the Cholera outbreak. The Cholera epidemic originated shortly after the arrival of UN Peacekeepers from Nepal, where cholera is endemic. IJDH and the BAI allege that the haphazard and inadequate sewage piping at the UN base caused the initial spread of the disease.
In November 2011, IJDH and BAI filed 5,000 claims to the U.N demanding accountability for the cholera epidemic. The case calls for the UN to implement a national water and sanitation system, fully compensate the victims of the epidemic, and issue a public apology. Various responses were both supportive and critical of this endeavor. Victoria Fan, in a joint post with Richard Cash from the Harvard School of Public Health, suggests that the lawsuit focused on the wrong culprit. Rather than addressing the problems of the environment and seeing this as a global failure to Haitians, the lawsuit is just playing a form of the “blame game”.
In February 2013, the UN dismissed the claims, citing a confluence of factors, which contributed to the epidemic. It also invoked legal immunity per Section 29 of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, adopted by the General Assembly on 13 February 1946. Some argue that changing policy on immunity for the Cholera Case could dramatically affect the way UN Peacekeeping Missions are run in the future.
Early May 2013, IJDH and the BAI called for the UN to begin talks over the compensation claims. If talks did not begin the BAI and IJDH threatened to bring the organization to court. On July 5, 2013, the UN confirmed it would not consider IJDH’s claims in a letter responding to Congresswoman Maxine Waters May letter urging the UN to accept responsibility for the introduction of cholera in Haiti. On October 9, 2013, IJDH and the BAI filed a class action lawsuit against the UN in New York on behalf of victims of the cholera epidemic and their families.
IJDH advocates for the creation of a Haitian Family Reunification Program. In 2010, nine days before the devastating earthquake, the Department of Homeland Security granted Haiti a temporary Protected Status for 18 months. This was extended twice to its current expiration date, July 22, 2014. TPS protects Haitians, who have arrived in Haiti before a certain date, from deportation. Immediately after the earthquake many members of congress indicated support for a system mirroring the Cuban program. This would allow many Haitians to join their families in the United States while they wait for visa status.
At the beginning of 2013 pressure continued as the world marked the third anniversary of the 2010 earthquake. It is estimated that 4,000 Haitians still live in tents and makeshift homes. A reunification program would allow many refugees to safely wait for their visas in the United States, rather than in Haiti.
- Brian Concannon Jr. Esq., Director, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti.
- Laura Flynn, MFA, Fellow, Human Rights Program at the University of Minnesota
- Ira Kurzban, Esq.
- Bryan Stevenson, Esq., founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama, professor of Clinical Law, NYU School of Law
- Irwin Stotzky Esq., Professor of Law, University of Miami School of Law, Director, Center for the Study of Human Rights
- The Center for Justice and Accountability
- Harvard Law School: Human Rights Program
- Seton Hall Law School: Immigration and Human Rights Clinic
- TransAfrica Forum
- University of California, Hastings Law School: Human Rights Project for Haiti
- University of San Francisco: Center For Law & Global Justice
- Northeastern University School of Law
- Yale Law School: Lowenstein Human Rights Clinic
- "A Worsening Haitian Tragedy". NY Times.com. NY Times. 3 March 2013. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
- Doyle, Mark (22 October 2012). "Haiti Cholera Epidemic 'most likely' Started at UN Camp - Top Scientist". bbc.co.uk. BBC News. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
- "Cholera Litigation". The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
- Fan, Victoria; Cash, Richard (11 January 2012). "Cholera in Haiti: The Blame Game". Center for Global Development. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
- Roshan Lall, Rashmee; Pilkington, Ed (12 February 2013). "UN will not compensate Haiti Cholera Victims, Ban Ki-moon tells president". guardian.co.uk. The Guardian. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
- "UN will not compensate Haiti Cholera Victims, Ban Ki-moon tells president". Opinion Juris. 21 February 2013. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
- Kayyem, Julliette (28 February 2013). "UNs Cold, But Correct, Call on Haiti". bostonglobe.com. The Boston Globe Opinion. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
- Brice, Makini (9 May 2013). "Cholera Victims to UN: Start Talks for Compensation or We'll Sue for Billions". counselheal.com. Counsel & Heal. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
- "Groups Call UN Secretary General’s Response to Cholera Victims and Congress an "Outrage"". Center for Economic and Policy Research. 8 July 2013. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
- "U.N. sued for "bringing cholera to Haiti," causing outbreak that killed thousands". CNN. 10 October 2013. Retrieved 17 October 2013.
- Abrams, Elliot (22 January 2010). "What Haiti needs: A Haitian diaspora". The Washington Post. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
- Forester, Steven (12 July 2012). "Haiti Earthquake 2 Years Later: Homeland Security has Failed Haitian Families". The Grio. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
- Bastien, Marleine; Forester, Steven (11 January 2013). "Reuniting Haitian families in U.S. an easy fix for Obama". The Miami Herald. Retrieved 18 July 2013.