Event Announcement: Scholar of Haitian Human Rights Struggle to MN

September 21, 2014

There is a powerful saying in Haitian Creole: Konstitisyon se papye, bayonet se fè. (“The constitution is paper, the bayonet is steel.”) It reflects the fact that simply securing rights on paper is never enough. Rather, any human rights campaign must grapple with issues of power as much as it does with issues of law. That begins with creating popular pressure to even get to the metaphorical “day in court.” And it continues after the people have won their hard-earned “paper” rights.

In short, successful human rights work requires building a social movement.

This perspective permeates the pages of Fran Quigley’s new book, How Human Rights Can Build HaitiIt is fundamentally a book about the “rule of law.” But as longtime followers of this blog know, “rule of law” rhetoric has historically been deployed to justify horrendous abuses of power in Haiti.QuigleyBookCover

That’s part of why this book deserves a wide audience. It recognizes that Haiti’s material hardship is exacerbated because they can’t enforce their rights (ranging from political sovereignty to business contracts to labor rights).

But Quigley doesn’t call on the military or UN peacekeepers to secure those rights at gunpoint, which is the typical international community approach (and which, unsurprisingly, often results in violating more rights than it secures). Rather, he recognizes that those rights must be articulated in a way that reflects commonly held values, and enforced by civil society as well as institutions of law.

Leading “the Struggle” – Grassroots Human Rights Advocacy

Enter Mario Joseph and Brian Concannon, the protagonists of this book, who are integral to both the legal and grassroots branches of this fight in Haiti. They are the heads of Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) and the Institute for Justice And Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), respectively. Quigley’s book documents their work to advance the rights of everyday Haitians, and shines a light on several of the actors and systems that persistently lead to gross violations of those rights.

Rather than beginning with the familiar rundown of Haiti’s travails, Quigley mainly focuses on key dimensions of this struggle:

He gives ample attention to the “beyond-the-courtroom” strategy for raising the profile of these issues, changing the terms of the debate, and increasing the resilience of civil society.

As a result, this book is a welcome contribution to the burgeoning literature on post-quake Haiti. First, because it focuses on the agency of everyday Haitians in the face of various oppressors. And second, because it marries granular detail about the struggle on the ground with awareness of the international mechanisms that perpetuate inequality and rights violations in Haiti.

Event Details: Fran Quigley to Minnesota

Thus, it is with great pleasure that we announce Fran Quigley will be joining the Haiti Justice Alliance in Minnesota for a series of events in Northfield and Minneapolis.

Quigley is a law professor at Indiana University, where he teaches in the Health and Human Rights Clinic. In addition to working in human rights advocacy, much of his scholarship focuses on the intersection between building human rights/rule of law and social movement principles.

As such, he is well-positioned to peel back the layers and give a holistic portrayal of the inner workings of Haiti’s human rights struggle. We hope you’ll join us for one of the events listed below.

Minneapolis – Wed., Oct. 22

University of Minnesota:

  • Building Human Rights in Haiti: Book Event
    4:30 PM, 235 Blegen Hall

Northfield – Thu., Oct. 23

Carleton:

  • Coffee with Prof. Quigley: a chance to explore career paths and human rights work
    9:00 AM, Sayles-Hill 252

St. Olaf:

  • Lunch with Prof. Quigley: Building Human Rights in Haiti + conversation
    11:00 AM, Sun Ballroom, Buntrock Commons 3rd Floor

Carleton:

  • How Human Rights Can Build Haiti
    4:30 PM, Leighton 305

For other opportunities to connect with Prof. Quigley, or questions about these events, contact Natalie Miller at mill5118@umn.edu.


The Anniversary of President Aristide’s Overthrow

February 29, 2012

This is a personal reflection from Paul Miller, the director of the Haiti Justice Alliance.

President Jean Bertrand Aristide

I remember very well where I was when I learned that President Aristide had left Haiti in the early morning hours of February 29, 2004.  It was my “where were you when you heard JFK was shot” moment, although I have that memory, too.  It was at Caribou Coffee in Woodbury, Minnesota and my friend, who had traveled with me to Haiti in December of 2003, 3 months earlier, informed me that news reports were saying that Aristide had left Haiti.  “Left Haiti?  No way,” was my first thought. I didn’t think that Aristide would ever abdicate his presidential term in Haiti by his own choice after the 1991 coup against him and his 1994 return. Stunned and devastated would accurately describe how I received this most depressing news.

The facts would come to show that my instincts were right.  President Aristide had no intention of leaving Haiti on that night or on any night during the remaining time of his presidency.  Clearly he did not leave that night of his own volition.  You can choose to believe whatever you want to believe about US actions on this or any other given day.  However, if you choose to value the truth, then you must accept that the facts show that Jean Bertrand Aristide was removed by US force/s as yet another coup d’état took place in Haiti.  The only evidence offered of an alternative scenario are self-serving statements from those at the top of our government, chiefly George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and the sycophantic Colin Powell.

It’s not ancient history, like a lot of our nefarious actions towards Haiti.  It was 8 years ago.  Monday it was announced that President Aristide is being investigated for drug violations. Our hypocrisy really knows no bounds.  What a coincidence that once again we are asked to question Aristide’s integrity and ethics rather than to be reminded that a US-sponsored coup undermined Haiti’s hope for democracy and stability on this day, 8 short years ago.


MINUSTAH’s Deadly Denials

February 16, 2012

…Violent abuses are MINUSTAH’s (the UN Haiti Mission’s) basic modi operandi for protecting US & other Western economic interests by targeting poor Haitians…

-Council on Hemispheric Affairs

A UN Security Council delegation is currently in Haiti to “review its mandate” and “evaluate” its efforts in the country. At the conclusion of this 4-day trip, the delegation will report on its findings. Given that the UN formally denies responsibility for the cholera outbreak ravaging the country, it won’t tally the 7,000 cholera deaths as part of its impact.

In light of this, it’s tempting to review yet again the “mountain of evidence” proving the UN’s fault for the outbreak. But there’s no need. The only remaining question about UN culpability is not whether they’re to blame for introducing cholera to Haiti, but whether the tools of international law will work on behalf of justice or on behalf of the powerful.

Instead, this post provides historical context for evaluating MINUSTAH’s public statements about the ongoing cholera crisis. Specifically, we compare similar public statements about a previous scandal to internal documents that only came to light years after the fact.

For those who aren’t familiar with the UN Mission’s history in Haiti, this post will show that MINUSTAH has used public denials not just to deflect responsibility, but to provide cover for continuing its “violent abuses.”

Read the rest of this entry »


Weekly News Round-Up: Human Rights and International Investment

December 10, 2011

Human Rights in Haiti

Yesterday was the UN-sponsored International Day of Human Rights – a day laden with irony for the people of Haiti. The occasion sparked protests, writing, and petitions from Haitian activists.

Pairs well with: Haitians protesting in St. Marc, Haiti, to demand respect for their human rights in front of a UN sign bearing the mission’s name, MINUSTAH (left). A boy at the protest holding a sign that says, “Haitians have rights like everyone!” (right).

Photo credit: @gaetantguevara

Also pairs well with: This piece from Etant Dupain covering the protests: “It is a contradiction for the UN to celebrate their International Day for Human Rights while members of the mission are violating human rights in Haiti.”

Action Alert: Our partner group, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, began a petition asking the UN to honor cholera victims’ human rights in honor of human rights day. Consider signing here.

More International Forums on Reconstruction

After last week’s Invest in Haiti forum (critiqued here), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Haiti Reconstruction Forum took place in Miami on Thursday. The goal of the event was similar: promoting investment in Haiti.

Pairs well with: Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald reporter, live-tweeted the event. Her coverage was the only source for details of what was discussed at the forum, including:

    1. the announcement of a potential IDB-financed “portable school” project;
    2. praise for the industrial park;
    3. more support for the hotel industry ;
    4. an IDB-supported $700 million agriculture plan.

Also pairs well with: Carlson Hotels visited Haiti on the day of the forum to look into starting a hotel to rival the new, 173-room hotel built by Marriott. It appears that the international community plan for Haiti’s economy has distilled itself into the two T’s: Textiles and Tourism.


The Right Kind of Food Activism For Haiti: An Event Announcement

October 26, 2011

“It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but… it was a mistake. I have to live everyday with the consequences of the loss of capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people because of what I did; nobody else.” – Former Pres. Bill Clinton

The above quote speaks to a profoundly important shift in Haiti since the 1980s: the replacement of most locally grown rice with US imports. Although Haiti produced enough rice to feed itself just 35 years ago, that era has long since passed. Today, the USA Rice Federation brags that Haiti is one of the 5 largest export markets (PDF) for American rice.

In this quote, Bill Clinton admitted something that Haitians have long known. By destroying its rice production system, the US “imposed” upon Haiti decades of devastating hunger. One of the Haitians fighting to reverse this trend is a visionary agricultural activist named Lavarice Gaudin. The Haiti Justice Alliance is thrilled to announce that Lavarice will be joining us in Minnesota from Nov. 6-10.

Read the rest of this entry »


ILLEGAL TENT CAMP EVICTIONS: The Buck Stops Where?

June 16, 2011

Among the newest, most pressing human rights issues in Haiti is the illegal eviction of tent camp dwellers. Mario Joseph, who heads our partner group – the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) – is lead author of yesterday’s briefing about evictions for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The text describes the “terrorization and brutality that accompany threats of forced evictions” from the camps:

Forced evic­tions in Hait­ian dis­place­ment camps are increas­ing… For exam­ple, dur­ing the week of May 23, 2011, the Hait­ian police and agents of a local mayor raided and destroyed at least three dis­place­ment camps in the city of Del­mas… Secu­rity forces beat sev­eral peo­ple… Res­i­dents were unlaw­fully evicted with lit­tle to no advance warn­ing… Three weeks later, the mayor’s inhu­mane and ille­gal actions appear to have gone unpun­ished.

While President Michel Martelly officially “distanced himself” from the evictions, Mayor Wilson Jeudy – who organized these evictions – claims Martelly sent him. The discrepancy has ignited controversy and pointed speculations about Martelly’s real stance.

My question is this: does it matter? Two prominent features of President Martelly’s “100-day plan” are:

1) establish internal security, in part by resurrecting the Haitian army, and

2) manage the relocation effort, starting by closing 6 tent camps in 100 days and the rest within 6 months.

If these evictions happened without his blessing, that means the Mayor of Delmas – Port-au-Prince’s largest municipality – is carrying out massive, illegal eviction raids using both private security forces and Haitian National Police less than 3 miles from the National Palace… with complete and utter impunity.

Had Martelly acted swiftly and decisively to punish Mayor Wilson Jeudy or the Chief of Police (himself a presidential appointee), this would be a different story. But not only did he fail to respond to these human rights abuses, his failure comes in the arenas he identified as top priorities: internal security and camp relocation.

President Martelly is either responsible for encouraging human rights abuses, or else he’s failing to take action on issues that are (by his own assessment) among the most pressing in Haiti today. Whatever the case, he’s failing in his duty as head of state.

Our civil society partner groups are taking action, however. On June 1, BAI filed a lawsuit against Mayor Jeudy. Hopefully their work will help end the pattern of impunity for human rights abusers in Haiti.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 69 other followers