Human Rights Group Sues Mayor in Haiti for Terrorizing Earthquake Victims During Unlawful Eviction (BAI)

Posted on June 5, 2011

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For Imme­di­ate Release:
May 31, 2011

Con­tact:
Mario Joseph, Av., Man­ag­ing Attor­ney, Bureau des Avo­cats Inter­na­tionaux, mario@ijdh.org, +509-3701-9879/ +509-3554-4284 (in Port-au-Prince) (French)
Jeena Shah, Esq., Legal Fel­low, Bureau des Avo­cats Inter­na­tionaux, jeena@ijdh.org, +509-3610-2781 (in Port-au-Prince) (English)
Human rights group sues mayor in Haiti for ter­ror­iz­ing earth­quake vic­tims dur­ing unlaw­ful evic­tions (BAI)

On Wednes­day, June 1, 2011, the Bureau des Avo­cats Inter­na­tionaux (BAI) will file a com­plaint with Haiti’s National Pros­e­cu­tor against Del­mas Mayor Wil­son Jeudy for his recent spree of ille­gal evic­tions in dis­place­ment camps cre­ated after the Jan­u­ary 12, 2010 earth­quake. Grass­roots human rights orga­ni­za­tions and tent camp res­i­dents also plan to stage a protest at 10 am at the Min­istry of Jus­tice, while the com­plaint is being filed, to draw atten­tion to their griev­ances. The protest will end before the nation’s Parliament.

At least three camps hous­ing approx­i­mately 1,000 dis­placed per­sons in the Port-au-Prince sub­urb were destroyed last week by Mayor Jeudy, his armed secu­rity per­son­nel and units from the Hait­ian National Police, as a part of the Mayor’s declared mis­sion to remove camps from pub­lic lands. The police came with lit­tle to no warn­ing and raided the camps under the pre­text of search­ing for crim­i­nals, slash­ing tents with machetes and assault­ing res­i­dents try­ing to protest the raids.

BAI’s com­plaint on behalf of indi­vid­ual vic­tims of the evic­tions charges Mayor Jeudy with vio­la­tions of the rights to life and hous­ing pro­tected by Haiti’s Con­sti­tu­tion and crimes against the per­son and prop­erty, artic­u­lated in the Hait­ian Penal Code. “As a pub­lic offi­cial, Mayor Jeudy is not above the law,” said BAI Man­ag­ing Attor­ney Mario Joseph. “Hait­ian law only per­mits him to enter pri­vate domi­ciles, regard­less of where they are located, with a judi­cial man­date or a Munic­i­pal Decree pub­lished in advance, nei­ther of which the Mayor had to jus­tify his acts.”

Last week’s evic­tions in Del­mas are just a snap­shot of a larger epi­demic of forced evic­tions that began almost imme­di­ately after the earth­quake struck 16 months ago. The Inter-American Com­mis­sion on Human Rights issued direc­tives to the Hait­ian gov­ern­ment last fall to impose a mora­to­rium on evic­tions and pro­tect dis­placed com­mu­ni­ties from the vio­lence often asso­ci­ated with forced evic­tions. How­ever, due in large part to gov­ern­ment inac­tion, the Inter­na­tional Orga­ni­za­tion on Migra­tion esti­mated that 166,000 peo­ple were still fac­ing immi­nent threats of evic­tion as of April.

Mayor Jeudy tried to defend his actions by argu­ing that the pub­lic spaces occu­pied by tent camps needed to be open to the com­mu­ni­ties at large. “Mayor Jeudy is ignor­ing his duties as a State agent,” said BAI attor­ney Jeena Shah. “Since Haiti is a party to the Amer­i­can Con­ven­tion on Human Rights and a host of other human rights treaties, Mayor Jeudy has a duty to not only pro­tect dis­placed per­sons from forced evic­tions, but also facil­i­tate their reset­tle­ment into decent housing.”

While the Mayor believes that many of the camps’ res­i­dents have hous­ing but were stay­ing in camps to access free ser­vices, the appalling con­di­tions of dis­place­ment camps make appar­ent the fact that if the earth­quake vic­tims had some­where else to go, they would have left long ago.

Founded in 1995, the Bureau des Avo­cats Inter­na­tionaux (BAI) is the only pub­lic inter­est law firm in Haiti. With the sup­port of the Insti­tute for Jus­tice & Democ­racy in Haiti, the BAI uses lit­i­ga­tion, advo­cacy, doc­u­men­ta­tion and grass­roots empow­er­ment to advance the rule of law and chal­lenge the unjust struc­tures that vio­late the human rights of Haiti’s poor major­ity. Visit haitijustice.org. Fol­low @IJDH.

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