Grass­roots Groups Present Counter-Perspective on Haiti’s Human Rights Record

Saturday, March 26, 2011

(Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 24, 2011) — A coali­tion of 58 Hait­ian grass­roots groups, inter­nally dis­placed per­sons (IDP) camps, human rights orga­ni­za­tions, and aca­d­e­mic insti­tu­tions pre­sented a set of 13 reports on human rights in Haiti to the U.N. Human Rights Coun­cil this week as a part of the Uni­ver­sal Peri­odic Review (UPR).

The coalition’s reports cov­ered issues rang­ing from vio­la­tions of the right to vote and vio­lence against women to the respon­si­bil­ity to imple­ment a rights-based approach through­out Haiti’s rebuild­ing after the earth­quake. They are designed to pro­vide the Human Rights Coun­cil the per­spec­tive of civil soci­ety as it con­ducts its review of Haiti’s record from now until the final hear­ings in Octo­ber. The reports are avail­able at: http://ijdh.org/projects/universal-periodic-review-upr.

“As a Hait­ian, I felt it was my respon­si­bil­ity to par­tic­i­pate in the UPR process in order to shed light on the human rights sit­u­a­tion in Haiti, specif­i­cally the right to edu­ca­tion. The Hait­ian Gov­ern­ment has failed to meet its oblig­a­tion to pro­tect human rights and this process is a tool to use to pres­sure the Gov­ern­ment to play a more active role in real­iz­ing human rights,” said Esaie Gelin Jules who runs a school in Solino, a poor neigh­bor­hood Port-au-Prince, and sub­mit­ted a report on the right to education.

Col­lec­tively, the reports make 147 rec­om­men­da­tions to the Gov­ern­ment of Haiti and mem­bers of the inter­na­tional com­mu­nity active in Haiti on con­crete steps they should take to improve human rights over the next four years, when Haiti will be reviewed again.

“While the UPR mech­a­nism focuses on the Government’s duty to rec­og­nize and pro­tect the human rights of Haitians, a dis­cus­sion of rights in Haiti must also include the respon­si­bil­ity of donor coun­tries and inter­na­tional actors that have played a large role in the coun­try, both before and after the Jan­u­ary 12 earth­quake.” said Nicole Phillips, Staff Attor­ney at the Insti­tute for Jus­tice & Democ­racy in Haiti (IJDH).

The rec­om­men­da­tions will be pre­sented to Haiti at a hear­ing before the Human Rights Coun­cil in Octo­ber, where the gov­ern­ment will explain its actions and poli­cies. The gov­ern­ment will be expected to pub­licly state which rec­om­men­da­tions it agrees to implement.

The UPR was estab­lished in 2006, and pro­vides an unprece­dented mech­a­nism to pub­licly review UN mem­ber states’ human rights records. Haiti is the last coun­try to be reviewed in the first cycle, and the gov­ern­ment is obliged to con­sult with civil soci­ety as it devel­ops its own report on its enforce­ment of human rights.

“The UPR pro­vides a unique oppor­tu­nity to engage with the Gov­ern­ment on human rights, and we plan to advo­cate for mean­ing­ful con­sul­ta­tion with civil soci­ety. The per­spec­tive of grass­roots groups rep­re­sent­ing Haiti’s poor and dis­placed com­mu­ni­ties is par­tic­u­larly impor­tant, and we hope that the Gov­ern­ment and Coun­cil will lis­ten to their voices,” said Mario Joseph, Man­ag­ing Attor­ney at Bureau des Avo­cats Inter­na­tionaux (BAI).

The coali­tion of groups were coor­di­nated by the Lawyer’s Earth­quake Response Net­work (LERN), a net­work of 400 lawyers, law pro­fes­sors and stu­dents that came together after the earth­quake to defend human rights in Haiti. LERN is led by the BAI in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and IJDH in Boston, MA.

Their efforts were sup­ported by the U.S. Human Rights Net­work and You.Me.We, who pro­vided train­ing on the role of civil soci­ety in the UPR process.

For more infor­ma­tion, visit ijdh.org.