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Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction

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Two Die as Fire Sweeps Through Camp Lycèe Toussaint Print

By Mark Snyder and Ellie Happel

At two in the morning on Monday March 12th, 2012, the tents of Camp Lycèe Toussaint in downtown Port-au-Prince became engulfed in flames.  Within an hour, 96 of the approximately 120 emergency shelters, home to some of Haiti’s internally displaced, burned to the ground.  Although most of the camp residents escaped without serious injury, the families lost the few belongings they had accumulated in the two years and two months since the earthquake.  Camp residents reported that they did not have water to extinguish the fire.  For months, five Red Cross water tanks have sat empty at the entrance to the camp.

The cause of the fire remains unknown. Neither the Government of Haiti nor the International Organization for Migration (IOM), responsible for camp management, has released an official statement about the fire.

Community members reported that a twelve-year old boy died in the fire.  His brother died in the hospital.  Their mother remains in critical condition.  Many people in the camp reported suffering burns.

By Monday afternoon, camp residents reported that they had yet to receive a visit from a local or national government representative. Residents said that IOM staff came to the camp for "only some minutes" and added that they "told us nothing." 

Community organizers arrived at the site to remind the victims of the fire that they were not helpless: the Haitian Constitution and international conventions grant specific rights to the internally displaced and place a duty on the government to respect and fulfill these rights.  As the organizers spoke, a small group of residents grew larger and the conversation became more animated.  Residents decided to hold a spontaneous protest to call attention to their situation.  Within a half hour, the residents found a bullhorn and a driver willing to use his minibus and charred shelter to block the road.  They rallied their displaced neighbors to block the side street that borders the camp.

When the protestors lit a tire in the road, the Haitian National Police (PNH) arrived within minutes.  They extinguished the low flame and aggressively broke up the protest.  On two occasions officers leveled their assault rifles and shotguns on the crowd, forcing them to disperse. One of these incidences was recorded on video, just after the PNH officer rushed into the camp with his weapon drawn and chased a young boy who yelled of the injustice of the situation. The boy ran from the officer and disappeared through an opening in an earthquake-damaged building. Additional armed officers arrived and charged into the crowd with assault rifles, shotguns, and a teargas gun.

Camp residents commented that their entire camp can burn along with their children, and the Haitian Government does nothing.  But when residents burn a tire in the street, the police respond.

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MINUSTAH Officers Found Guilty of Rape – But Get Just One Year in Prison Print

The UN announced today that three Pakistani officers were found guilty of sexual exploitation and abuse. Although the UN did not discuss many specifics, Reuters reported earlier that two members of the UN stabilization mission (MINUSTAH) had “been sentenced to a year in prison for raping a 14-year-old Haitian boy.” Reuters also notes that:

It was the first time that members of the U.N. military on deployment in Haiti have been tried and sentenced within its borders.

The Haitian government had previously requested the lifting of immunity for the Pakistani officers and the Senate passed a resolution requesting they be tried in Haitian courts.  Yet, while the trial was held in Haiti, it was a “military justice procedure…undertaken in accordance with the national laws of Pakistan.” Those found guilty will serve their sentence in Pakistan. As Reuters reports, “Haitian government authorities were given no advance notice of the military tribunal.” Had the Pakistani police officers been tried in a Haitian court they likely would have faced much harsher penalties. Haiti’s Justice Minister, Michel Brunache told Reuters it was a “small” step, adding:

"We expected more from the U.N. and the Pakistani government, but now we want to focus on the proper reparation that the victim deserves."

The case is but the latest in a long string of sexual abuse cases involving MINUSTAH personnel. In 2007 over 100 Sri Lankan MINUSTAH soldiers were repatriated (PDF) after allegations of “transactional sex with underage girls”. To this date no information on if they were ever prosecuted has been made public. More recently, five Uruguayan MINUSTAH troops were repatriated and jailed after a cell phone video showing them sexual assaulting a young Haitian man was reported by the press. The soldiers have since been released from jail and the trial has stalled.

This case, however, differs from the Sri Lanka and Uruguay cases in that the abuse involved members of a Formed Police Unit rather than military personnel. Of the 11,241 MINUSTAH personnel in Haiti, 3,542 are police. The UN announced the case in January, noting a significant difference from previous cases of sexual abuse my MINUSTAH troops:

However, unlike cases involving UN military contingent personnel, investigations into allegations involving UN police fall under the responsibility of the United Nations.  For this reason, a team was dispatched to Haiti, on 21 January 2012, to investigate these allegations with the utmost determination

Despite the UN’s “zero tolerance” policy on sexual abuse, they have few means to actually ensure legal prosecution of troops as the responsibility for investigating and prosecuting abuses falls on the troop contributing country. In the case of Formed Police Units (PDF), the UN has the power to investigate, but “responsibility for disciplinary action in these units rests with the commanders of the national units, who must keep the Head of Mission fully informed in all disciplinary matters.” Although Pakistan was responsible for the disciplinary action, it is unclear if it was prompted by the UN investigation. It seems likely, however, that because the guilty officers were police rather than soldiers, the UN had a greater ability to influence the case and actually enforce their “zero tolerance” policy. Still, the circumstances in which the Pakistani officers’ abuses were investigated and prosecuted remain murky at best.  The UN could take an important step toward fostering an environment of transparency and accountability by releasing their internal investigation into the rape committed by the Pakistani police officers, and clarifying their role in the prosecution. 

 
Gender Action: IFI’s Fail to Adequately Address Gender Based Violence in Post-Quake Investments Print

To mark International Women’s Day, HRRW is highlighting recent research concerning issues relating to women’s rights in Haiti.

Gender Action released a report this week analyzing the extent to which the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) address gender-based violence (GBV) in their post-earthquake loans. Gender Action applies their Essential Gender Analysis Checklist to five different projects implemented by the two international financial institutions. The report finds that:

[N]either the World Bank nor the IDB adequately address GBV within other critical post-earthquake investments. Sadly, this lack of attention to GBV is hardly surprising: according to Interaction, an alliance of international non-governmental organizations, “the humanitarian community continues to see women’s protection as a second-tier concern in crises, particularly natural disasters, and is slow to address GBV at the onset of an emergency” (Interaction, 2010). This case study underscores the urgent need for the World Bank and IDB to strengthen their own gender policies and explicitly address GBV across all sectors.

The report does salute the World Bank for a recent grant to combat GBV in Haiti, which was the result of advocacy efforts on the part of Gender Action and other groups.

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Lack of Access to Basic Services a Driving Factor Behind Sexual Violence in IDP Camps Print

To mark International Women’s Day, HRRW is highlighting recent research concerning issues relating to women’s rights in Haiti.

Recent research
from the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice sheds light on factors contributing to an increase in sexual violence since the earthquake over two-years ago. The report, “Yon Je Louvri: Reducing Vulnerability to Sexual Violence in Haiti’s IDP Camps,” is based on surveys conducted in four IDP camps in January 2011 and additional follow up research throughout 2011. While the small sample size and logistical constraints prevent the research from being representative of the IDP population at large, it nonetheless provides an important analysis of the factors contributing to gender-based violence (GBV) and steps that can be taken to remedy the situation using a human rights based approach.

The report found that in the four camps visited, 14 percent of surveyed households reported that at least one member of the household had been a victim of sexual violence since the earthquake, while 70 percent of those surveyed were “more worried” about sexual violence after the earthquake. The report explains that because of underreporting this “is particularly striking because it likely captures a minimum level of sexual violence within the studied IDP camps.” Other studies have estimated significantly higher levels of sexual violence.

The vast majority of victims, 86 percent, were female. The study also found a significant correlation between a lack of services in IDP camps and the likelihood of being a victim of sexual violence. The report finds four significant factors other than gender:

• Suffer from limited access to food. Individuals who reported that they went at least one day without eating in the previous week were more than twice as likely to come from a victim household, as compared to those who did not report insufficient access to food;

• Confront limited access to water. The average victim household had less consistent access to drinking water than their non-victim counterparts. Four out of ten respondents from victim households did not obtain water from a free connection inside their camp during the previous week;

• Face limited access to sanitation. Participants who felt that the nearest latrine was “too far” from their shelter were twice as likely to live in a victim household, and among victim households, 29 percent indicated that they knew someone who was attacked while using the latrines;

• Live in a camp that lacks participatory and responsive governance structures. The survey found that camps with lower levels of consultation regarding camp management had a higher proportion of households reporting that one or more of their members had experienced sexual violence.
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Groups Peacefully Protest for MINUSTAH Accountability on International Women’s Day Print

To mark International Women’s Day today, human rights groups and cholera victims are peacefully protesting “against the cholera and sexual violence that the UN and its peacekeeping mission, MINUSTAH, have inflicted on Haitians.” (You can follow updates from the march via the twitter feed of BAI, @BAIayiti as well Alexis Erkert of Other Worlds, @aerkert). In a statement released earlier this week to announce the march Rose Getchine Lima, the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) Women’s Network Coordinator stated:

Despite its ‘protection’ mandate, the UN’s militarization of Haiti has harmed women. MINUSTAH soldiers themselves have been guilty of sexual violence and the deadly cholera the UN brought to Haiti has destroyed families. Women, often the heads of their households, have been most vulnerable to these harms. They continue to suffer while the UN’s wrongs go unpunished.
The UN security council met today to discuss the Secretary General’s bi-annual report on MINUSTAH and Haiti, with many members expressing the need for the UN to redouble their efforts to prevent future abuses and hold those responsible accountable. The representatives of Pakistan and Uruguay, whose troops have been implicated in abuses, both pledged thorough investigations. As of yet, however, no MINUSTAH troops have been held accountable for the myriad of crimes committed against Haitians. These issues are not new. In 2007 over 100 Sri Lankan MINUSTAH soldiers were repatriated after allegations of “transactional sex with underage girls”. To this date no information on if they were ever prosecuted has been made public.

As BAI Managing Attorney Mario Joseph has noted:
The United Nations says it acts to ‘advance the status of women.’ Yet it won’t hold its personnel accountable for raping Haitian women, girls, and boys, or take responsibility for the cholera epidemic that has killed over 7,000 Haitians. The UN needs to act or the rapes and the cholera deaths will continue to decimate Haiti’s people
 
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