[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

28073: Varma: Robert F. Kennedy Memorial (news) IACHR Hearing on Haiti last Friday (fwd)

From: Monika Kalra Varma <monika@rfkmemorial.org>

For Immediate Release March 6th, 2006
Contact: Jeffrey Buchanan, 202-463-7575 ext 241
Monika Kalra Varma , 202-463-7575 ext 228

Hearing Investigates Human Rights Abuses in Haiti and Role of OAS Member
States RFK Memorial, Partners in Health and NYU Law testify on the human
rights obligations of intervening Member States in Haiti

Washington, DC -- The Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR)
heard testimonies today about economic and social rights violations in
Haiti since June 2004. The hearing included testimony from members of
the Haiti-based Zanmi Lasante (Partners in Health www.pih.org), The
Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights (www.rfkmemorial.org)
and New York University School of Law International Human Rights Clinic.

The groups told the commission about the daily violence of poverty that
persists despite efforts by the Haitian government and the international
community.  They outlined how OAS Member States have human rights
obligations when acting in Haiti, especially since some OAS Member
States have taken their obligations seriously at home and are in a
position to provide their understanding and expertise to Haiti, but have
not yet done so.

"When the international community came to the Central Plateau of
Haiti...we had hope," said Loune Viaud, Director of Strategic Planning
and Operations of Zanmi Lasante and recipient of the 2002 RFK Memorial
Human Rights Award. "We thought they could help the government do its
job so that people would have access to clean water, to housing, food,
and sanitation. Since there was no war, only poverty, we thought the OAS
Member States would attack the poverty which kills people every single
day." Still Viaud noted that most Haitians believe the international
community has failed to do any of this in Haiti and act as if "they are
here on vacation."

Haiti is the most impoverished country in the Western Hemisphere. It has
the highest HIV prevalence rate outside of Sub-Saharan Africa. Haiti
shares, together with Afghanistan and Somalia, the worst daily caloric
deficit per inhabitant in the world (460 kcal / day). Nearly half of the
entire population of Haiti is undernourished and the average life
expectancy for a Haitian is 52.

They called on the Commission to actively engage in ending economic and
social violations with a focus on the responsibility of those Member
States that have intervened in Haiti. The groups also asked the
Commission to visit Haiti to see firsthand the human rights violations
currently occurring.

The Commission was specifically interested in whether OAS Member States
were empowering and involving Haitians in the way they have intervened
in Haiti.  Ms. Viaud indicated their was a gulf between the rhetorical
understanding of what should be done and how it is being done.

"Traditionally, the host Member State [has] the human rights
obligations. Meanwhile, the international community...have none;
regardless of their relative power to make change" said Todd Howland,
Director of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights and former UN
human rights official in Angola and Rwanda. Howland noted that "the UN
Peacekeeping mission to Haiti's yearly budget is larger than the entire
annual budget of the government of the Republic of Haiti."

Howland questioned, "How in the age where corporations have human rights
obligations... could countries that had human rights obligations in
their own country all of a sudden have none when working in another -
either directly or through their agent like the OAS or UN?"

The Commission indicated that Haiti was "on the front burner" and that
they would do their part to mobilize the international community to
respond and to respond in a way that respects the rights of the

For copies of the testimonies and other related documents visit:

For interviews with those who presented testimony, please contact
Jeffrey Buchanan, (202) 463-7575 ext 241


Committed to achieving Robert Kennedy's goal of a more peaceful and just
world, the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights is a
non-profit non-governmental organization that engages in long-term
partnerships with activists who win the RFK Human Rights Award. The
Center has 36 laureate partners in 21 countries and advocates for their
social justice goals using a broad array of innovative tools.