Haiti Committee Annual Report

To: NLG International Committee
From: Haiti Subcommittee
Date: December 25, 2010
Re: Annual Report

The Haiti Subcommittee has had a busy year. Although Haiti was devastated repeatedly by natural and political disasters, the progressive legal community in the United States stepped up to the task in solidarity with our Haitian colleagues including many Guild members.

I. Subcommitee Leadership
The NLG Haiti Subcommittee has seen an infusion of new leadership. Lisa Davis, Nicole Phillips, and Blaine Bookey have joined Brian Concannon Jr., Bill Quigley, and Ira Kurzban in coordinating the subcommittee and have been working to recruit new members and strategize the Subcommittee’s role in the larger movement for justice and rule-of-law in Haiti.

II. Organizing
NLG members, in collaboration with the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti and the Center for Constitutional Rights, established the Lawyers’ Earthquake Response Network (LERN), a network of over 400 U.S. lawyers and law students working with Haitian lawyers to implement a legal response to the earthquake. LERN facilitated several human rights fact-finding delegations to Haiti throughout the year.

III. Domestic and International Advocacy
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR): Guild members worked with the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), MADRE, and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) to file for precautionary measures before the Commission on behalf of women at risk of rape and communities at risk of forced eviction, both receiving favorable and precedent setting results. On November 18, the IACHR issued precautionary measures in favor of five displaced communities facing threats of forced evictions and made six recommendations for the Government of Haiti to protect all displaced communities faced with evictions, including an immediate moratorium on forced evictions.

United Nations: Lisa Davis and Blaine Bookey accompanied a Haitian woman to testify before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva in June, submitted communication to the Commission on the Status of Women, and attended the UN Economic and Social Council session in September.
U.S. Congress: Ira Kurzban testified before the House of Representatives in June regarding conditions in Haiti, providing policy recommendations. Brian Concannon spoke at an event hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus in March. Guild members have led efforts to study the Wikileaks documents for cables related to U.S. foreign policy in Haiti in an effort to advocate for adherence to democratic principles and a more reasoned policy moving forward. We have issued action alerts urging the U.S. to withhold funding from the elections in Haiti until they could be guaranteed to be free and fair.

Government of Haiti (GOH): Guild members have engaged in advocacy efforts with the Haitian Government to improve access to justice and improving the humanitarian response. International attorneys have provided support to Haitian lawyers working in rural prisons (overcrowded and neglected as a result of the earthquake and long-standing violations of prisoners rights) working on individual cases as well as larger efforts to collect data and encourage systemic reform. We held a thematic hearing before the IACHR in March with the GOH on implementing a human rights-based approach to the relief and reconstruction effort.

Advocates: Nicole Phillips attended the United States Social Forum in Detroit in June and the NLG National Convention in September with well-known Haitian human rights attorney, Mario Joseph, as well as the International Bar Association conference in Vancouver in October. We spoke at several law schools, CLE events, and issued several joint press releases highlighting the breadth of NLG members’ involvement in Haiti.

IV. Fact-Finding and Publications
News Outlets: Bill Quigley has authored several articles for various news outlets regarding the ineffective humanitarian response and providing recommendations for the international community, in particular the United States. Brian Concannon and Ira Kurzban published pieces regarding the elections in the Boston Globe and Miami Herald, respectively. Subcommittee leadership have been featured in print, television and radio dozens of time throughout the year including on Democracy Now!, the BBC and Newsweek.

Guild lawyers with the IJDH/BAI helped coordinate a delegation of unofficial election observers that observed 50 polling stations. The lawyers spoke with dozens of international journalists and appeared on CNN, CBC, Al Jazeera, and the BBC about the flawed election process leading up to November 28 and the irregularities observed on November 28. A report with the delegation’s findings will be released soon.

Major Reports: Guild members led two fact-finding delegations to Haiti on gender-based violence and violations of the right to housing producing two comprehensive and oft cited reports, titled respectively, Our Bodies Are Still Trembling: Haitian Women’s Fight Against Rape (July 2010) and We’ve Been Forgotten: Conditions in Haiti’s Displacement Camps Eight Months After the Earthquake. The reports were produced as a result of broad collaborations including law students, lawyers, legal workers and activists. In addition, guild members released seminal literature regarding the flawed elections in Haiti and recommendations for ensuring free and fair processes.

Guild Notes: Blaine Bookey has contributed two pieces on developing a legal response to the disaster.

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